Shag’s beat-up old magrunner, old and beat-up though it was, still and yet managed to slice through the molten rock of the planet’s mantle like a hot knife through butter. It was a good old magrunner. It had a few years left in it. If it didn’t melt first.
These were the thoughts that occupied Shag’s mind as he opened a comm channel to Hephaestus Base. Hephaestus Base was named for Hephaestus, the Greek god of volcanoes, which was a very appropriate classical allusion for the name of a mining outpost that had been constructed inside the earth’s mantle. All the other mining outposts also had witty names.
The radio started buzzing as the channel opened. Shag pulled down his microphone and shoved it up into his mustache. “Hey, Hephaestus. This is Shag the Lad, and I gotta get inside you before this tin can crushes me to death; can I get a witness, over?”
The radio spat out the stationmaster’s response: “Url ohfgre oebja ubj nobhg lbh naq zr trg ubg naq zbygra.”
Shag frowned. “Uh, I think you’ve got your scrambler on backwards,” he spoke, trying to enunciate as best he could. “It sounds like you’re getting double-scrambled. Over?”
There was a hiccup in the signal, and then the stationmaster’s voice returned. The voice was thick and gooey, like a lava flow: “I was just saying, it’s nice to hear from you, Shaggy.”
Shag’s eyebrows popped up, revealing his eyes. “Is that you, Yolande?” he rasped.
“I sure as heck is, Shaggy my laddie. Now, what were you saying about getting inside me?”
Shag pulled at his collar. He could feel his body temperature rising, and he could also see it rising on his wrist-mounted body temperature monitor. With his free hand, Shag pulled open the glove compartment and pulled out a syringe full of coolant.
He poised the syringe above his thigh. He bit down on his lip. He closed his eyes.
Finally he slammed the needle into his leg, emptying the coolant into his bloodstream. The experience was excruciating, but when he opened his eyes, Shag could see his wrist monitor’s readout change from a red >:^( to a yellow :^/, and finally to a cool blue B^).
The radio crackled again, and Yolande’s warm, sticky voice oozed out to fill the magrunner’s cabin. “You still there, Shaggy?”
Shag put his microphone to his mouth again. “I sure as heck is, Yolande my lady,” he said, and he slicked back his hair, which was drenched in sweat.