Abigail stood slowly, her crimson skin glittering with sweat. It wasn’t easy to mine on this land, the dirt was hard and well packed, deep crevices littering the skyline, threatening to crumble and take the land around it with it. They had no idea what lay in the deep cracks. Even the light from the two suns could not penetrate that far. Some of the miners on the lower levels claim to have heard the rumbles of large animals and the skittering of small insects. The Owners did not listen to them though, laughing at the superstitions of her race. They had known this planet for a long time, staring at it from the continents of her home world as it grew closer to them in its orbit of their suns.
Someone called from below, a bell ringing at the top of the miner’s ladders, alerting those on the surface to a problem down below. Abigail stumbled as an earthquake shook the ground. Others were crying out, two of the strongest workers had grabbed the rope that worked the utility bin, and were frantically pulling at it, trying to stop several tons of glowing gems from dropping back into the shaft. The Circle Point shaft was the closest one for two miles, and Abigail tried hard to stop herself from imagining what would happen if this one was blocked.
‘Girl! Get the spittle hammer!’ A worker yelled at her as he ran past, his arms full of heavy nails made from a strong metal. Abigail nodded; dropping the small nails and hammer she had been working with and running across the shaking land to the bigger construction site. They had been working on making an office for The Owners, though their visits were few are far between they still liked to have somewhere out of the suns to watch their worker toil.
It wasn’t hard to find the hammer, it being one of the largest tools they used, but it was heavy. The metal head weighing more than Abigail could easily lift. But she was strong and this was an emergency. Adrenaline coursed through her tiny body, helped along by her two hearts.
When she got back to the Circle Point two more men had grabbed the rope, all four of them were pulling, straining against the twine. Normally there were pulleys and leavers to pull up the bins however they had been rebuilding the shaft covering, trying to fortify it against the sand storms that were due with the beginning of summer. Now there were only the bare four poles that stood as markers to the entrance, and a team of people setting the big pins in strategic locations. The man who had sent her for the hammer plucked it from her hands as soon as she was close enough. He slammed it down with a practised grace.
The man closest to the end of the rope wasted no time in wrapping it around the pin, revealing some of the weight. In no time at all they were pulling the rope through a quickly made series of pulleys, easing the bin up and over the edge. As soon as it was out the way a stream of miners followed it. The ground still shook, and the workers paused, gathering their breath. A man made his way towards Abigail, smiling at her despite the weariness she could see in his face.
‘Da, What happened?’ Abigail asked, echoing the question that had been in many of the workers minds.
‘Cave in.’ He grunted. He was covered in more sweat than her, his hair sticky with mud. ‘The ground just slumped away, covered half the Going Crew.’ He sighed, ‘S’all the warning we got.’
The Going Crew were four or five children that drilled smaller tunnels to test the rock before the miners got there. They usually worked about 50 yards in front, small lights on their helmets all that they had to signal their position. If things went wrong and there were cave ins, it was the Going Crew that found out first. The man sniffed, staring at the shaft.
‘N’way, what ’bout you, Abigail?’ He said, wiping his nose on his glove. Abigail shrugged.
‘We’re not finding what they want, that’s f’sure.’ Abigail was part of a team that was digging south of the shaft. The Owners were hoping that they would find some of the gems closer to the ground in order to save costs in mining. All Abigail had found so far was a lot of sand and one sharp rock. The earthquake rumbled to a stop, allowing the workers to take a moment of peace.
‘Hey! What’s going on? Why are you all up here?’ It was the dig leader, recognisable only by his pristine clothes, ‘You still have ten minutes of your shift left!’ He was out of breath by the time he got to the edge of the group. Abigail saw one of the miners pointing to the shaft, explaining what had happened. But she knew too that the leader wouldn’t care. He was here to make sure the owners got more gems than they could count. They didn’t care about the people working for them. It was proven when the miners started shuffling towards the shaft again; deadly earthquakes and moving rocks didn’t matter to him. The rest of the workers dispersed just as slowly.
‘Abigail!’ Someone whispered, prodding her in her side, Abigail turned swiftly.
‘Lena! I didn’t know you were working here.’ Abigail said, wiping her neck with the scruffy towel her friend offered.
‘I weren’t, but I found one, di’n’t i?’ Lena said, winking, ‘Reckon they brought me ‘ere to give ’em a bit more luck.’ Lena was like Abigail with her crimson skin, but unlike her she had been able to keep the long curly hair of their mother, while Abigail had been forced to cut it short while she worked in the fields.
It was normal to keep twins apart, especially working twins. The Owners believed in a prophecy that twins would bring about their ruin when working together. The workers thought it was utter rubbish. However every twin was now separated at birth, the father taking one to work in the mines and in the fields, the mother taking the other to work in the mills and with the animals.
‘Hows mama?’ Abigail asked, trying to play it cool. Lena smiled at her.
‘About as well as Da I ‘spect. She’s been taken into our Owners household. Keeps encouraging the cook to spit in his wineglass, silly bugger.’ Abigail laughed with her sister. Every Owner took a few of the women from their land to work in their estate, be it child care or cleaning. However it was unusual for an Owner to take a woman who had borne children. Normally they preferred to have the younger ones, so that they could have mistresses by the dozen.
‘Still, better than the fields.’ Abigail said. Lena hummed, picking up a leftover shovel and starting to carve a trench next to Abigail’s. All around them the workers were settling back into routine. The excitement of the earth quake been eaten up by monotony once more. In the distance she could see the leader making his rounds.
‘How long are you out here for?’ Abigail asked.
‘Only until they get board ‘gain.’ Lena said, ‘Nowt up here.’
‘I hope they send us back to the fields.’
‘With ‘ny luck.’
The fields were pleasant work, mainly because it was on their home planet where the air was cooler and shade easier to find. There were crunching footsteps as the leader made his way over, his shoes moving the loose sand on top.
‘Find anything today girls?’ He said in a pleasant voice.
‘No sir.’ Abigail said, leaning against her shovel. Lena stopped, letting her hair brush forward to cover her face.
‘Pity, pity. Maybe dig a little deeper tomorrow. And you,’ he said, looking at Lena, ‘Your trench is not nearly close to the desired length. You’ll have to work hard out here to get your privileges.’ Lena nodded silently. He stared at her a little longer, before glancing at Abigail and turning away.
As soon as he had gone far enough Lena pulled her hair away from her face, long strands of it stuck to her. Abigail smiled, pulling out her towel. It took a bit of tugging and a word she was chastised for but she managed to rib a strip from it. Once Lena’s hair was out of her face they returned to shovelling.
‘Twins. Good god. You’re twins.’ They looked up, started to find the Leader stood in front of them once more. This time instead of a patronising smile he was staring at them in horror. Lena and Abigail looked to each other, but no excuse came to them. ‘You’ll have to be reported! You can’t stay here! I’ll be shot!’ He grabbed Abigail’s arm, pulling her from Lena.
‘We’re not trouble! She’s only just gotten here! Let go!’ Abigail cried, tugging at her arm where his fingers were digging in. Lena followed after them, shouting at him. Their cries caught the workers attention, many of them putting down their shovels. Abigail had worked here a long time now, since she was 12. They all knew her name, and they all knew Lena and her father. Abigail thought she saw one scramble down the mine shaft but couldn’t be sure. She was dragged into the Leader’s tent, Lena scrambling in after. He paid them no mind, already reaching for the communication port.
‘Hello? Yes, it’s Kidi Lumbarge of Circle Point. I have twins here. Working twins.’ He paused, listening to someone on the other end.
‘Are they going to kill us?’ Lena whispered, Abigail shook her head.
‘You’re not his to kill.’ But she was, and they both knew it, Lena gripped her hand so tight it hurt. They pushed closer together, stood in the middle of the tent, dirty thin shoes contrasting with the thick plush rug.
‘Well now. See, we’ll soon have order. Yes, yes, order soon.’ Leader looked like he had gone slightly mad, his forehead twinkling with sweat. They were saved from answering by a tearing sound; they turned to find their father, silhouetted against the sun.
‘You’ll be leavin’ my girls be now.’