Hard rock mining is a form of underground mining. In general it refers to the various techniques utilized to extract bodies of ore via excavation. Shafts, which are either dug, blasted with explosives or drilled out with special equipment. Shafts are not only used for transportation of labor and materials, but also for ventilation. These shafts rarely lead directly to the ore excavation areas. Instead, when the bottom of the shaft is reached, miners will then take tunnels to stopes, which are underground chambers, created for the purpose of ore extraction. Most diagrams of hard rock mining do little justice to the expansive nature of the mines themselves. The best characterization of these chambers is as underground buildings, complete with access shafts, tunnels, rooms, crosscuts, machinery, trenches, walls, reservoirs, drifts and other geological or natural features spread across many numerous levels. Almost all hard rock mining involves the extraction of five main minerals. Gold, copper, zinc, lead and diamonds. The two deepest mines are both gold mines and located in South Africa. Both almost reach depths approaching four thousand meters below the surface, which is the equivalent of forty four football fields or ten times deeper then the length of the tallest buildings in the world. They recently surpassed a hundred year old gold mine as being the deepest. One of the mines, the TauTona actually has over eight hundred kilometers of tunnels and is staffed by five and a half thousand workers. Many dangers are associated with this field and hard rock mining is the most dangerous form of mining. Already well known are the ecological and environmental problems caused by hard rock mining, as well as the physical dangers encountered by miners themselves whether in the short term due to accidents or manifesting in long term health effects. With mines planned on approaching five kilometers in depth in the coming years, even more problems will arise. One of the lesser known problems is pressure. At depths already reached of thirty five hundred meters, the pressure of rocks above ones head approaches ninty five hundred tons per meter squared or over nine hundred times average atmospheric pressure. When drilling at this depth, the pressure on rocks triples, often causing rock bursts. Another problem is that at five kilometers depth, temperatures up to and surpassing seventy degrees Celsius (158 Fahrenheit). Even in the TauToma mine where extensive cooling equipment is used both for the preservation of machinery and personnel, the temperatures in that mine drop from an unbearable fifty five degrees Celsius to a barely manageable twenty eight degrees Celsius. (82 Fahrenheit) Mining, especially hard rock mining, are crucial to everyday life. In the United States alone, over six hundred power plants and eleven hundred manufacturing facilities use coal. At current usage rates, the United States has a two hundred forty year supply of coal while worldwide, the coal supply would last over a hundred fifty years with current known coal reserves. Mining itself provides over a half trillion dollars in the American economy annually and employs over seven hundred thousand people, its highest number in fifteen years. Of these, over three hundred thousand are actual miners and over a quarter are in labor unions. Even using everyday items requires numerous minerals. Your standard computer requires around thirty different minerals, your average television, thirty five and your average telephone, forty two, thus making mining a necessary component of everyday life. While harming the local environment, mines in the United States touch less then one half of one percent of total land area and only Only three million acres of public land have gone into private ownership from mining, compared to ninty four million acres granted to railroads and almost three hundred million acres as agricultural homesteads. Since 1978, more than two million acres of mined lands have been restored to their original or better condition. Furhtermore U.S. metal/nonmetal miners reported only four non-fatal injuries per one hundred workers in 2004, a lower rate of occupational injuries than agriculture, forestry & fishing, construction, manufacturing, transportation and wholesale & retail trade and services. Day One "How many are they Captain?" he asked as he peered over the battlements. The long spears, he thought, could be counted individually, each one striking into the fading orange sun set, every black wooden pole contrasting its silhouette against the fiery orb that was their backdrop. But their foes were too dense so that instead of individual spears appearing, it was one black bristling mass that blotted out the sun. Still awaiting his answer, the mans spine visibly quaked. Finally his adjutant, clad in blue battle armor and a sturdy black shield as long and as wide as a mans body in hand, turned to him.The soldier had tanned skin which looked almost leathery and worn, half hidden by his helmet and chinstrap. Neither of them looked much like soldiers though. Short noses, pronounced cheekbones, and broad jaws. Though he was the exception, his face was a little softer around the cheeks, a little stouter around the chin. "Sixteen thousand at least sir," the soldier responded, rather confidently and in a most exacting voice, even though it obviously was an estimate. The sun had disappeared behind the body of men, as it had for three days now. Once again the commander turned his body to the construction located behind them. The catapult was ready, the torque building in the tight bundle of rope and fibers intertwined with the weapons firing arm. Inside, the powerful payload glowed with an equal intensity, but it was far more lustrous. Just by looking at it, the man started licking his lips. They were dry but that wasn't the reason why he was doing it. To his right, the soldier abruptly turned about and walked up beside the winch, beside the lever and then raised his head to him. "Do we fire sir?" For a moment, the man glanced at the catapult, then at the phalanx of sixteen thousand before him. He opened his mouth, not to speak as his lips formed into a broad smile. Any kindnesses evident were immediately betrayed as his back turned to the last wisps of sunlight hitting his backside as he lowered his head. Darkness covered his face until only the light in his eyes could be seen. "Do you really intend to throw money at the problem?" --- The man woke up in a cold sweat, on top of an uncomfortable cot. The bed was still made, a simple white sheet and yellow blanket tucked under the mattress, folded two thirds up and only slightly ruffled by the presence of a man suddenly rousing himself up to a sitting position. "God..." he murmured softly when he heard, or recalled a scrape along the floor to his side. He turned his head quickly and saw a white envelope on the floor and looked up, noticing a thick, featureless steel door with a food tray panel built in halfway up and a small barred window at eye level. His peripheral vision confirmed his quickly building fear, this was a prison cell. Two distinct shadows were on the other side of the door which he recognized as feet and immediately peered through the darkness of the room and saw rapidly rise from the bottom edge of the window, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Or at the very least, the most beautiful women he could remember seeing in the context of having recalled seeing in person. Sure he knew of a few celebrities, models, and other air-brushed beauties that were more visually arousing. But at this moment she was beautiful. Small nose. Full lips. Her ears half covered by thick dark reddish brown hair tied behind her back. Light brown sand colored skin almost uniform across her face and those lips. Her eyes were full and brown though, not Asian like himself. Maybe Latino. Maybe... Her eyes went wide, as if not expecting to see someone in this room. Her trucker cap had some sort of insignia on it. He couldn't read it but the dark green color and simple look of the emblem implied she was no doubt a guard or employee of this prison. Her being surprised at his presence, when it was so passive, begged other questions. "Good luck," she suddenly said in perfect, if faintly accented English. A flash of regret covered her face as her bottom lip tensed up, but then she disappeared, running off to the side. He blinked, puzzled and immediately tried to come to grips with the recent development. First thing was first, how did he get here? One second later, his internal questions led him to another very simple question. Who was he? Was it amnesia? That was almost so cliche. His eyes were still focused on the empty window, the narrow beam of light filtering through into his darkened cell. It was as if glaring at it was helping him concentrate. But with his memories empty except for the last few moments, he decided to refocus himself and saw the bulging envelopment apparently slid under his door. That must of been what awoke him. The envelope was actually quite thick, it could barely fit under the bottom lip of the door. Hopping off the bed, noting he was in fact an inmate from his orange clothing and polished leather shoes, he sighed and then took the scant few steps across his small dark cell and simply reached down. Though thick it was quite light. His fingertips ran over the body of it, feeling numerous cylinder sized bumps underneath. Something was inside. With a finger, he flipped open the top leaf of the letter which was tucked in and reaching in, pulled out a small plastic ziploc sandwich bag. No sandwich. Just a plethora of small white pills and a masking tape label that said in clear permanent marker, VIIKANEN. Vicodin? Why would he need what looked like a seasons supply of that? He paused a moment, realizing his first thoughts of this world were troubling dreams and waking up in a cold sweat. Maybe this was his prescription. Bit unorthodox giving him it all at once though. Not wanting to think about it anymore, he shoved the bag into his pants pocket and then pulled out the remaining contents of the letter. One was a notecard with more of the same handwriting as on the tape label. The other was what appeared to be a page of a small Bible torn out. In pen two verses were underlined. Though he figured the notecard was more informative, he looked at the torn text first, a curiosity now stirred, had to be satiated. Checking the top of the page, he saw it was from the Book of Isaiah. That wasn't good he thought and then read the pertinent passages. He didn't recall himself being Christian, or even having faith, but even he was both fascinated and puzzled by the verses and their relevance. Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain. The man paused and then read the passages around them. Having not been an avid Bible reader himself, or at the very least, not knowing anything except this final chapter was where all of the armageddon stuff happened, he focused his eyes on the other passages. Some sort of song. Looked like it should've belonged in the Book of Revelations, or that Left Behind series. Sighing, as if he felt he shouldn't be taking along something like that, he shoved the page in his pocket as well. He flipped the notecard over to read it. In the distance he heard, echoing through silence hallways, steel doors and thick walls, a distant whirring motion. Not quite a drill but some sort of mechanical device. His ears perked up at the sound. The last one he heard since the footfalls of that beautiful guard and her closing some nearby door. But the crisp whirr was somehow subdued, becoming more muffled, with a thick but still faint chopping sound beating a tempo over the whirr. Thwuk. Thwuk. "Thwuk." He tried to mimic the sound, wondering if it'd help him grasp its origin. Like a boat motor in the water. But then it was gone. A second later he looked down at his notecard. I AM ON 88.5 DOOR WILL OPEN AUTO-LY IN ONE HOUR THE KEYCARD WILL GET YOU OUT YOU DONT DESERVE THIS GOOD LUCK Informative? It gave him more questions he wanted answered. But he already knew that those answers weren't in this cell. And from that guards composure, he got the feeling that staying in this cell was probably not a good choice. Just to check, he pushed on the door upon finding no actual handle on it. He felt the lock. Deadjam. For a moment he glanced around his cell. A bed. A toilet. A roll of toilet paper. No amenities. Even a new cell would have those right? No light either. Was he in solitary? Couldn't of been the hole or whatever right? His cot had sheets. He remembered hearing a story of how an inmate got out of prison into a hospital where he later escaped by choking himself with a towel. What did it matter though? If the notecard was right, he'd be free in an hour anyways unless this was some sort of cruel sadistic joke. Almost as an afterthought, he dipped his hand into the envelope, realizing one more item was in the letter. A dull gray keycard with a black magnetic strip across the bottom. On the reverse side of the keycard was a picture of one of the guards. Some black man. Underneath was an ID number and a name. MIGUEL NUNEZ Jr. His face was partially scrawled out and as the mans fingers rubbed across the keycard, he felt moisture on it. Turning the bottom of his wet fingertip to see what it was, he suddenly jolted back a step, the steady calm suddenly shocked as he realized it was blood. "Jesus..." He gulped. Creepy Biblical passages, cryptic notes and a bag full of Vicodin. Already he felt his nerves frayed and his heart pumping, burning through adrenaline even though all he was doing was standing here. Bringing the keycard to the light, he saw it was a bloody finger smudge. Maybe he caused that. Another sound in the distance caught his attention. This was a lot more crisp as it echoed through the building. The sound of metal clanging against metal. He had nothing else to do for the next forty minutes except listen to the distance interrupt a near perfect silence... if the notecard was correct. He felt compelled to push at the door again, as if it might open early. It did not. Sighing again, almost as if feeling dejected, he sat back down on the bed, and then decided to lay down on the cot. Perhaps get some rest. He had this feeling dwell deep in his gut that he might need all the rest he could manage for this upcoming day. Sleep however, was out of the question. For the next few minutes he just laid perfectly still, occasionally glancing at the cell door, still closed with whatever lied beyond so ominous. Eventually it grew even more quiet, his troubled ears were picking up on his own breathing. Every shift of his body against the crisp bedsheets was audible, almost loud. A moment later the usual bubbling of liquids through pipes in the wall suddenly startled his body back to alertness. In another twenty minutes though, his composure of tense passivity had reasserted itself. His eyes still panned from the dark ceiling to the door as he wondered now if the door would unlock automatically in an hour, or actually physically open. If the former, would the unlocking actually make a sound he could hear? Should he get up and test to see if the door was still open? For some reason that though was suppressed by irrational fear. Why bother, the note said the door would open, it would open. Not just unlock. As he ruined his mental equilibrium with such thoughts, a loud boom suddenly caused his entire body to jolt, half of his body rising off of the bed in shock before falling upon the mattress again. That was the most clear sound yet. A shotgun blast. For some reason, he knew that was a shotgun discharge and nothing else. His lips managed to fumble a bit of blasphemy in reaction, the tone hushed. "God damn it..." On a completely unrelated note, the door to his cell five minutes later.