> Seth Underwood Stories: Sefectio Cholil, a. k. a. The Pox (Est. Reading Time- 8 min.)

Sefectio Cholil, a. k. a. The Pox (Est. Reading Time- 8 min.)

The Mining Colony on 

225088 Gonggong and Xiangliu

This story takes place during the early years of the First Era of the Third Age of Humanity. Mankind had just started to colonize the stars using heavy grav lines and gravity fold drives. These drives propelled mankind at half the speed of light, making places like Alpha Centauri just a mere eight-year journey. It was also during this time that humanity had managed to increase the average life span to 200 years.

Since this was the First Era, the Corporate Empire had yet to be established. Politically colonies were corporate owned, part of a nation-state, or a mix of both. An effort of the Armenian Government and a Local Mining Company originally established the Altounian Mining & Processing Colony. They nearly abandoned the colony because of a viral infection until the colony came up with a unique solution.


Jacob Garrison

Jacob Garrison, a man in his early 100s, had boarded the small automated transport at the Triton colony to start his probationary period at the Altounian Mining & Processing Colony on 225088 Gonggong and Xiangliu.

This would be his twelfth mining job in the outer system. Jacob had skipped having a family and went straight into working after college. He first started on Mars where he was born, and then worked what was known as skimming in the asteroid belt where a miner flew around gathering up leftover waste. Eventually Jacob settled in the outer system and did tholin ice mining.

By this point, mining in the Sol system was on the decline. The inner system had already been picked clean. Much of the outer system had been stripped cleaned of tholin ices, and other raw chemicals. Only the large gas giants were left to be slowly sucked dry of their caustic vapors.

Much of humanity was working on the development of the heavy grav-lines to nearby star systems. Mining efforts had shifted to places like Alpha Centauri and Bernard’s Star. But Jacob was one who just couldn’t leave Sol. It was his home. He’d had been saving up for this cabin location back on Mars where he could retire and fish in a nearby lake for tumble walleye.

But the Altounian job would allow him to retire early because of the pay. It was the highest pay in the entire system, but the word was it came with a massive chance of death. This made no sense to Jacob. He’d worked with tholin ice bodies before, and there wasn’t any more danger than any other mining operation. Most of his friends thought he was insane to even apply, but Jacob thought it was just a conspiracy theory. A way for a few miners to keep the pay for themselves longer by having as few people working the site as possible. The idea made sense to him since it was one of the last large tholin ice bodies left.

As Jacob sat strapped in a white plasti-seat, he leaned forward as the straps became taught straining to see out of a port window what was floating past the transport. “That can’t be right? Those look like processed tholin cylinders. Shit, there must be thousands of them!” He sat back and his eyes became narrow, while he bit his lower lip with the confusion of why a mining colony would be dumping its finished product into space.


Jacob stepped out of the transport holding a large denim bag. He walked on to the main flight deck of the colony’s residency on the smaller Xiangliu satellite orbiting 225088 Gonggong. In front of him stood a man in a standard vacuum suit.

From the suit’s speaker on the front issued the tinny male voice of William Vinther, “You must be Jacob Garrison.”

“Yes. Is the colony in lockdown?” Jacob bit his lower lip nervously as he put down the denim bag.

“No. It’s standard protocol to greet newcomers in a vac suit until they are checked out by the doc-o-bot.”

“I don’t understand. I had to submit to a med check on Triton before I came here. Don’t you have those records?”

“Yes, Faig A.I. got the information. But colony policy still requires all probationary employees to be re-checked by the doc-o-bot. I know it all sounds bureaucratic, but it’s our way.”

Jacob rubbed his hand across his bald head as he sighed. He then picked up his bag and threw it over his shoulder. “Fine. Take me to the doc-o-bot.”


William led Jacob to a small white plasti-lined cabin. There was a built-in bed, a small table attached to the wall with a plasti-chair, a wall food dispenser, and a toilet with a wash basin next to it. Jacob walked in and tossed his bag onto the bed.

“Well, the doc-o-bot will be here soon.” William closed the door, locking Jacob in the cabin.

Jacob ran up to the door, which had no handle on his side and kicked it. “Asshole! Let me out! What the fuck!”

After about a minute of this Jacob gave up and just sat on the bed with his bald head sunk to his chest.

“I should have known. They’re probably organ harvesters. Molli was right. The pay was too high for ordinary mining.”

He sat there moping for about an hour. No one was coming. He could hear nothing, except the fan blowing in the vent. Jacob realized that he was up shit’s creek. He then moved his bag to the floor and laid down. He knew at some point they’d knock him out and then his head would be hooked up to a cyber-link stored in a closet somewhere. Until they sold him to some rich fucker who collects heads. They would parcel the rest of his body out to the colonists for parts. It wasn’t long before Jacob fell asleep.


Jacob felt a burning pinch in his arm. He snapped awake and sat up on the edge of the bed. He wasn’t sure how long he had drifted off but watched as the one-wheeled doc-o-bot rolled out through the open door. He stared at the door closing when his groggy mind realized he should try to grab the door before it fully closes. But he was too slow from his sleep as the door latched shut mid-way through his lunge. Now his bald head was pounding with a headache from the rush of adrenaline.

As Jacob laid on the floor, he turned his head toward a viz screen opening on a nearby blank wall. The screen filled with the flickering greenish image of William Vinther with his helmet off from his vac suit.

“Wow Jacob! I’m impressed. The doc-o-bot is already showing you have developed antibody amino acids that says your good for a managerial position. Well, I’ll let you get some sleep. Don’t forget to eat some beef broth. It helps with the nausea and headaches of the pox.”

The screen collapsed horizontally into a single point which faded out.

Jacob rolled over and looked at the stark white plasti-ceiling. His head was still pounding. He was feeling hot and was sweating. He considered stripping his jumper off, but he was so tired. All he knew was that William had infected him with something. It’s probably something already present in the colony which would explain William’s use of a vac suit. No doubt they didn’t have a cure for it, and they followed the standard protocol of letting it burn through the colony with survival of the fittest. This meant no authority in the Sol system had a cure for it either. Jacob unzipped his jumper only to notice little bluish green bumps on his hairless, defined chest. This must be what William meant by the pox. Jacob collapsed back to the floor and fell asleep.


Jacob had lost track of time. He knew several days must have past, but he wasn’t sure. Despite his fever breaking, he kept his jumper off. The little bumps were now covering his entire body. The nausea had kicked in a while back and the beef broth from the food dispenser helped with these and the headaches.

There were many times he had such horrible coughing fits that his diaphragm ached even when he was breathing normally. He felt like crap, and Jacob thought this illness would kill him. Allowing him to be infected with some disease angered him, but Jacob was so exhausted he couldn’t even verbalize his disgust.

Only when the little bumps had disappeared from his body did he feel close to normal. He still had a periodic cough, and his joints in his arms were achy. This is when he heard the door latch being undone. He was too weak to even care. He must have lost nearly 15 pounds while all he could eat was synthetic beef broth. Jacob just sat on the corner of the bed; his body slumped forward. His arms limp to his sides.

William Vinther dressed in the colony’s management neon green jumper entered the cabin clapping.

“Congratulations. You passed your probationary period.”

“What?!” Jacob looked up with hollowed eyes.

William crossed his arms behind his back. “Let me explain. All the miners living in the Altounian Mining & Processing Colony are survivors of the pox. It’s a highly contagious virus that’s resistant to antivirals and native to 225088 Gonggong. The scientists back on Earth can’t even develop a vaccine for the pox. They say it’s something with how it’s RNA is shaped. The only way to become resistant to it is through actual exposure. It’s such a persistent virus that it even contaminates the tholin byproducts we produce. Eventually the scientists will figure a way to make them clean and then the company will harvest all our output.”

“Are you saying I could have died?”

“I suppose so. Unfortunately, a few applicants who pass our initial screening do. But that’s less than 1%. The odds were really in your favor you’d survive.”

Jacob tried to flip William off, but was too weak to even do that. All he could manage was a grimace.

“Your reaction is typical. In time, you’ll get used to being here. This is a lifetime position, and your antibodies qualified you for a management position. I believe you named Molli Rees in your survivor rights. Your heir will be pleased with your inheritance. She stands to make a sizable amount of deces.”

“You fucker! The application never mentioned that!”

“It did. It was in the fine print of sub-section 17.8.A. I’m not surprised you didn’t see it. Most applicants skim read the whole document. All they see is the pay rate.”


“Well, I’ll leave you to get your strength back. It should take another week. In the meantime, I’ll have Faig A.I. show you the standard orientation vids. I almost forgot. If you kill yourself, you give up your pay, and if you try to leave the authorities on Neptune will hunt you down.” William turned around and left the cabin locking the door behind him.

Jacob was angry about his situation but was so exhausted he just fell sideways down onto the bed. Tears welled up in his eyes with the realization that everything he had worked for in his life was now gone. All his dreams for his future destroyed by some virus because he wanted to retire early.



Combined images of Medical illustration of clindamycin-resistant group B Streptococcus bacteria, By CDC, Source Unsplash & Soap bubbles_1, By Daniele Levis Pelusi, Source Unsplash


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