excerpt from Uranium West by Toni Roman
copyright © 2013
scene one -- board room of headquarters
mining company president: "I hear that your corporate recruiter tried hiring mine workers from Europe,
from Asia, from all over Earth but few takers."
human resources manager: "Even South African miners who are used to extreme levels, passed on this.
Why not use robots?"
president: "We do use robots but they keep breaking down. Something about Uranus screws up their
electronics. Humans are cheaper even with all the associated costs of dental plans and pensions and
HR: "I don't know what else to try."
president: "Yes you do. I happen to know that you have South American and Mexican and US miners
willing to go."
HR: "They are demanding special conditions so I rejected their union's contract offer."
president: "I don't care what their conditions are. Meet them and meet their conditions. I have
investors screaming at me. I don't want to discuss it further!"
HR: "Yes you do."
The president of the mining company resists an urge to punch the head of his human resources
department. He counts to ten and then lets out a long breath.
president: (sigh) "What are their conditions?"
HR: "One, they want to bring their families--"
president: (interrupting) "--hell, a larger population out there is what we want. It will boost the local
HR: "Two, they want free land for their families on one of the larger Uranine moons."
president: "Done. I'll even throw in nice houses."
HR: "Three, free transportation to Uranus."
The company doesn't bother to respond to this stupidity on the HR manager's part since both men and
the general public is aware that free passage to mining colonies is standard and provided by all the
major space mining companies.
HR: (blushing) "Four, they get to keep their ancestral land back on Earth where the vast majority of
their clans would continue to live."
president: "Klans. As in Ku Klux? We got enough trouble with those roving bands of neo-
Confederates robbing banks and holding up supply convoys."
HR: "No, as in tribal clans
president: "Ancestral land?"
president: "Well why didn't you say Native Americans? I thought that you were talking about Andeans
like Aymara and Quechua from Bolivia but then you sounded like you were talking about teamsters and
white suburbanites from Simi Valley." (thinks for a moment) "Tell them that we are not the
government and we are not relocating entire tribes. Of course they would keep their reservations on
Earth, now that the United Nations and NGO's and tribal lawyers are making sure that treaties are
enforced. This company has no power to take away that land nor motivation to do it even if we had the
HR: "Five, extraordinary guarantees that they will not be used for target practice."
president: "Oh, I see. They don't want a repeat of history. Racist Indian-fighters and genocide. This
condition is easy. We put them in an elite gated community with armed guards and cavalry to protect
them. You make sure they understand that the army troopers will be protecting them this time instead
of killing them. They are valuable." (mutters to himself) "A lot more valuable than white trash space
drifters and outlaws" (referring to the neo-Confederates) "What's the sixth condition?"
HR: "That's it. There is no sixth condition."
president: (bridling in anger) "You mean you held up a multi-trillion Euro project over conditions I
could have agreed to in my sleep? I should demote you back to the mail room."
scene two -- Titania, largest moon of Uranus
Posters of Thorkildsen-Mather Borax Company, large poster-sized color photos of Death Valley
California, a 20 Mule Team, Zabriskie Point, and Groom Lake of ufology fame are on the walls of the
field office. The HR manager has been sent to make sure the families of the new miners settle in okay.
He looks out across the glass walled mezzanine and down to the atrium one floor below where a group
of housewives and their children are being given a tour.
meeter-greeter: "On behalf of the chamber of commerce, welcome to not so sunny Titania! You won't
be needing sunshades or sunscreen. It's pretty dark out here yet. But we already have sunlight buckets,
we are placing light sats in parking orbit, and next will come reflectors."
settler woman: "What are those things?"
meeter-greeter: "Buckets look like giant sunflowers. They gather what scarce sunlight there is and pipe
it to underground houses by optical fibers. Light satellites will shine down half the time to approximate
the day and turn off during the night time to recharge for the next artificial day. Reflectors are simply
giant mirrors in space to concentrate what little solar heat there is and thus help out terraforming efforts
to raise average temperature on the moons of Uranus."
settler woman: "Breathable atmosphere and warm enough to go outside without a space suit?"
meeter-greeter: "That's the goal. Creating light is not a problem. Humans know how to artificially
illuminate and Earth even has light pollution from most of its cities each night. The problem is creating
heat around the coldest planet in the Solar System."
a kid: "Baloney! Colder than Neptune? Colder than Pluto?"
meeter-greeter: "Yep. Temperatures have been recorded in the Uranine subsystem that make Neptune
and Pluto seem tropical by comparison. Now ladies if you all will step this way, we will next see a
demonstration hydroponic garden that might give you some ideas."
Another mining company employee, the PR manager, steps to the balcony alongside the HR man.
PR: "That's good. Distract their attention away from the lack of roads, mass transit, cars, and any other
local transportation. They'll be stir crazy with cabin fever by the end of the first twenty four hours."
The eyes of the HR man dart sideways to glance at the PR woman before flicking back to see the last
stragglers of the group go around a corner. He says nothing.
PR: "And then they will be contacting their husbands on Uranus to demand that their family moves
back to Earth with the next planetship. And then I refer them to legal or to you and you refer them to
legal to remind them that the contract is binding for the first five years and that planetships don't come
this way that often. There are four times as many of them headed to Neptune and Pluto than to Uranus.
Why am I here?"
HR: "Same as me. Punishment. Except I took the psychological orientation to adjust to life around
Uranus. You must have skipped out on that course. A mistake. You might commit suicide."
PR: "It's not as bad as that. More companies are setting up shop here. One multiplanetary has offices
on Ariel, Umbriel and Oberon."