"When is this going to stop?" asked Sharon. Her throat and mouth were parched. Her teeth felt loose.
"Shhh!" pleaded the man next to her. He looked up and watched a drone. He cowered as it passed slowly overhead. They both kept digging.
"We have to sleep sometime," said Sharon, looking down at her mangled, bleeding fingers.
"We slept a few days ago," said the woman digging on her other side. Sharon looked at her. The woman was covered in a thick layer of rock dust, like everyone else. She wore what looked like had been a pink ball gown, but it was in tatters. Sharon felt slight comfort that she herself had been taken when she was camping and wearing sensible, durable clothes, though how much longer they would last was debatable. Sharon stopped digging and looked up at the drone. Its blue lights cut two swaths through the night. It was alway night. Sharon assumed they had been brought to an immense cavern since the temperature was always the same.
Behind them two small, dusty children with ratty hair dragged the body of an emaciated man. The man's fingers were worn down to the first knuckle, scabbed and still weeping. His clothes were already scavenged. His eyes were rolled up in his head. The children were dragging him to the body pile, which was cleared out every few days by a machine with scraping jaws. Sharon assumed that the bodies were recycled into their food. There was always hair in the crackers they were given once a day with few liters of water, and some sort of amphetamine tablet, all distributed by the children. She tried not to think about it too much.
One of the children fell, collapsing on a game leg. The other child cursed him. Sharon leaned down and picked him up. As thanks he scratched and spat at her, with a feral look on his face. She stepped back. The boy picked up the arm of the man and they continued dragging.
"What are you doing?" said the man. Sharon stood up fully and cracked her back. Pain shot back and forth along her spine. She sat down on the rock pile and put her head on her knees.
"You've got to dig!" said the woman in the ball gown. The man shuffled away as far as he could. "It's going to see you!" hissed the woman.
"Not for another minute or so," said Sharon. "I need to rest."
"We all do, but if you bring that drone here, it will punish us too! Get up!" said the woman. She grabbed Sharon by the arm and tried to pull her up.
"Get off me!" Sharon screamed. She formed a fist with the opposite arm and swung at the woman, connecting with her in the shoulder. The woman fell and sprawled against the rocks, dazed. Sharon picked up a large rock and held it over her head, about to slam it into the woman's head, but the woman looked up at her, in the eyes, shocked. She held up her hands in front over her.
"Don't," said the woman. Sharon froze, suddenly appalled. She looked up at the rock. It was outlined in the illumination from the returning drone. She lowered the rock and looked at the drone. It started to buzz and pulsate. It focused one of its beams of light on her body, and it sped closer. She extended her hand holding the rock behind her, and she started to run towards the drone. It stopped advancing and pulsated rapidly. She wrenched her arm in the direction of the drone and let go of the rock. She fell forward on the rocks, but looked up to see the rock smash into the drone. It whirled and spun, its lights careening around the near wall. The sound of digging ceased. All eyes were on the machine as it sparked and turned. Finally it fell in a heap. A green glowing liquid seeped out of it. Sharon got up and walked towards it. She picked up another rock, and stood for a moment over the dead object. Then she smashed the rock over and over again into the twisted pile. Green glowing dots arced in the air. Finally she stood up and looked around. Thousands of dusty faces stared at her, motionless.
More pulsating drones entered the cavern. Multiple beams of light lit up Sharon's figure. To the people behind her she was haloed. Thousands of hands picked up rocks, ready to strike.