For a Rich Man to Enter
by Susan Forest
The speeder came to a halt. Helmeted against construction debris, Mandira jumped to the
gravel and hurried through the unfinished tunnel to the cavern, stark in the glare of wall-mounted
sodium diode floodlights. A scatter of workers looked on with concern at a man on a stretcher
attended by two women in medic-green. Christine, the foreman, spotted Mandira and detached
herself from the huddle of overalled workers. "Help just arrived. He's stable."
Below a high, jagged ceiling that would one day dome a "village green," an array of
machines, from forty-foot stone saws to towering bucket wheel excavators, gnawed at the far
wall of the cavern. Echoes from the cavern walls and overlapping shadows rising up like ghosts,
cast by the horizontal yellow lights, gave the construction site a Hellish appearance. The air,
churned up by beetle-like haulers, was made choking-soft by clouds of dust. Nearby, a handful of
two-man runabouts and three elevator scaffolds shooting steel fibre-reinforced shotcrete, idled. A
dozen or so black gaps in the cavern walls indicated future living, shopping, office and industrial
complexes for the colony's expansion.
Colony. Mandira made her way over the uneven rock of the construction site to the fallen
man. She had to get that language out of her head. Mercury was no longer an Earth colony. They
were their own city, their own planet with their own name. Mosaic. She knelt by his side. "Hey,
Ahbed quirked a cramped smile. "Mandira." Her name sounded exotic on his tongue.
"What the hell are you doing down here?"
"Ducking out of work to check on a friend. But I could ask you the same," she chided.
The engineer, born on Earth, was short and muscular but prone to an array of physical ailments
like swollen discs, back pain, and fragile bones. "Your doctor put you on a reduced schedule.
You're supposed to be home, taking Vitamin D and full spectrum light." Not this yellow glare.
"There were details I wanted to inspect," he grimaced.
She had to admit the work was going well, probably because Ahbed was in charge.
One of the medics lifted her head from her handheld. "It's his back this time, Mandira."
The medic returned to Ahbed's stretcher. "Ahbed, face it. You're going to have to let Christine
supervise this project."
"I'm an Earthling. Need to pull my weight."