Scene seed from a prior unpublished flash fiction called "Structural Integrity" and another flash fiction called "Shaping the Election". This joins the two worlds, but is not directly related to either.
The door to the mining control room slid open as Shauna approached. Her boots clanked as the magnetic soles activated against the steel floor to keep her from floating away. Chinhao looked up from his display. "Didn't you get the alert?"
"I got the alert," said Shauna. "I want to know why our expedition was canceled?"
Chinhao smiled as he leaned back interlacing his hands behind his head. "Relax the icy queen business. Isn't it obvious you could use some R&R. Think of it as Piazzi Mining's generousity and don't ask too many questions."
"Since when does Piazzi cancel mining operations?" There was too little information in the alert. What was Chinhao hiding?
"Don't worry about it." Chinhao stood up wrapping an arm around Shauna's shoulder and guiding her towards the door. "Piazzi Mining wants to do what is best for its employees. Come with me to the Ceres Cantina and I'll buy you a drink."
Shauna shrugged out of his grasp pushing his shoulder away. "Something is wrong. Don't deny it. Why is the control center empty? What about the other crews."
Chinhao's smile faded. "All canceled."
"I can't tell you."
Shauna turned to face the doorway as it swooshed open and she placed an arm on the side so it wouldn't swoosh shut. "If you don't tell me, I'll take my team down and find out."
"You wouldn't. They'll suspend you, send you back home."
"What is the big deal. What are you worried about?"
"Riots." Chinhao's frivolous mask had fallen away leaving a face flat like a steely robot.
"You can trust me, I won't tell the others." Shauna stepped back towards Chinhao and the doorway swished shut.
The control room hummed while it's yellow and red LED lights reflected off Chinhao's cheeks and thin shut lips. "I will lose my job."
Shauna reached down and squeezed Chinhao's hand. "You -- Piazzi -- need my help. You have to tell me the truth so I can help."
Chinhao smiled, the first real smile he had given Shauna. "You can help by buying me a drink."
Shauna flung his hand away. "Okay, you won't tell me. I'll take my team down and find out what you are hiding."
Shauna jumped towards the door it irised open and she caught a handhold in the plasteel hallway.
Chinhao shouted after her, "There was an earthquake. It's trapped the previous team."
Shauna stopped. Ceres wasn't prone to earthquakes, and was supposed to be geologically stable. "What about rescuing them?"
"We can't risk it."
"Must. That's a living team we've stranded down there." Shauna turned to fling herself along the plasteel tubes to find her team.