The drone’s radar sensors did nothing to help the mood, either. It was barely able to show outlines, which at least kept Tobias from crashing into the sides; but the deeper the drone got, the worse the shaft seemed. It was… off-kilter, like parts of it had been pushed out of line, but not all at once. And at the bottom was rubble, tumbled and settled. The drone carried a radar sophisticated enough to pick up anything man-sized or larger (in happier times, it had been used for moonquake emergency response calls), and as it drew closer to the bottom automated request were made to Tobias to start scanning for biological material.

He was hesitant to let it — the radar sweeps weren’t triggering a response (And just what’s supposed to be responding? asked a voice in his head), but Tobias felt an instinctive reluctance to try anything more intrusive — when he realized that there was another issue. The drone was starting to react sluggishly, like it was getting caught up on something. Only slightly at the moment, but it was definitely reacting.




In the old days — which was to say, six months ago — Tobias could have flown a drone into Jetshaft from the perfect safety of his own office pod. Humans had spent forty years creating an Lunar orbital satellite network that would do the work of a proper ionosphere, and nobody had really comprehended just how useful it had been until the whole thing had just detonated, in the space of three seconds. Trying to figure out why had driven three researchers to suicide; and from what their surviving colleagues had gathered, it wasn’t because the poor bastards had failed to find the answer.

The various Lunar facilities did have enough emergency replacement satellites on-hand to allow limited communications beyond line of sight, and things could be done with relays and cables. But if Tobias wanted to remotely pilot a search vessel out past the horizon, he’d have to stick relatively close to it. That meant firing up a hopper and parking it somewhere with a good view of the target.

And it has to be me, he thought as the drone approached the target. Everybody else is too busy with keeping us all alive. Even this trip was only justifiable because it would be malignantly helpful if they could loot Jetshaft for spare parts. Plus rescue any survivors, naturally. The other facilities all needed more workers.