Who do you work for?

The old man was digging furiously. He worked for ten minutes a time, maybe more, before discarding his pickaxe and moving the recently displaced rocks clear; all so he could dig again.
He didn’t seem to tire; indeed, every klink and clunk of his pickaxe seemed to energize him, feed his fury.
The young man watched. Carefully, as best he could, without attracting the attention of the guards. One of the men assigned to moving loose rocks paused by the young man, and joined him watching the old man.
“Shame.” He gestured at the old man. “Got the crazies. Seen it before” He said, filling his mine cart with rocks. “Dead before tomorrow” he added knowingly, pushing his cart away.
“You. Back to work.” A distant guard barked at the young man.
So he did. His section was opposite the old man’s, so, for a while, he just worked, fearful of the guard. But he still heard the old man, three clinks for everyone the young man could manage. ‘Dead before tomorrow’ echoed in his head all day. It was the last thing he thought as he fell to sleep, and the first thing that greeted him as he awoke. He prepared and walked to his assigned area slowly, turning over and over in his mind the old man’s intensity of work. He felt great pity for him. Wished he could help him somehow. He turned the corner to hear a low clink-clink-clink sound. The old man. He was still working. Furiously. Had he rested? Or had he worked all night? Where did he find his strength? The young man couldn’t help himself. He stood at the entrance of the tunnel, staring at the old man.
He was covered in sweat. The young man felt such a pang of sympathy, of pity. He took a step forward, but he didn’t get far; several things happened at once. It was only later that the young man was able to make sense of it all.
A guard had noticed the young man staring, and had shouted but been ignored, so lost in the old mans work was the young man. So the guard had walked down to him. Not bothering to shout again, the guard roughly threw the young man to the floor, and kneeled on his back. Just as the old man broke through. The wall crumbled up, up and higher, revealing a cavern beyond the tunnel. A cavern dominated by a fast flowing stream. The young man watched with a mixture of horror and jealousy as the old man threw down his pick axe, turned to the guard, and smiled and saluted, before jumping into the stream and being carried to freedom.
The guard had to choose – He stayed with the young man, but radioed in the escape.
As he lay contained, still captured, the young man thought of all the work he still had to do.
And he wondered if the old man had pitied him before he left.

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