September 23, 2034 – Vancouver, B.C.

Honestly, Pops, if the words “back in my day” come out of your mouth one more time, I’m going to disconnect you from this flight. All I said was this drone trip was wearing me out.

Yes, yes – I understand you didn’t have virtual cockpits back in your day. Yeah, yeah, no solid-state laser drills, instantaneous particulate assays or real time hi-def MRI satellite scans either.

It’s still tiring being hooked up to this thing, testing 100,000 metres a day. I think the ground clamps got bent on that last target. I’m having to do a lot of manual checks, too. Bloody nuclear fuel bill is going to be a killer this week. The no-fossil-fuel restrictions sure haven’t made it any cheaper.

What? No, you know we can’t fly up and fix it. Minimum-impact rules mean we can’t physically step on the claim!

Shareholders? Pops, are you feeling OK? It’s just you, me and Billy. Capital intensive – well sure, but it’s not like we’re taking huge risks with this anymore. Bid on the government auction, identify all the bloody minerals in the patch in a season, maybe two, then sell the data back to government and let them decide who will suck it out of the ground.

Pardon my French – “quantum cryptographic dematerialize” it out of the ground. Sheesh.

Pops, just check the Gaia-consciousness monitors and make sure she’s OK with this test. No, not that one, no – look, is the light green for go? ’Cause I, for one, don’t want the Earth pissed at us again. Remember what happened to Billy when he decided to go fishing after his shift!

And for the last time, leave that hand pick and loupe at home!