Hell_or_High_Lava

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 3 (v.1)

Submitted: October 01, 2013

Reads: 132

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 01, 2013

A A A

A A A

“This is highly unorthodox!”

 

“What isn’t these days?”

 

“What if a Priestess came?”

 

“You’re bound to have goggles laying around somewhere. Throw a blue shirt on me and tell them I’m an Ant.”

 

“With that scar on your face?”

 

“Since when do you care?”

 

The voices were familiar.  Her left eye hurt too much to open, and was bandaged by the feel of it. Vision out of her right eye was not steady enough to make out the speakers’ features, and the lights were dimmed, but she distinguished two voices, one male and one female.

 

“I like them safe, so did she, and you know exactly what I mean. What happens after?” snapped the female voice.

 

“It’s not the first time we do this. Tell the Priests she died and you handed her over for recycling, pays to have Ants handy, that kind of thing.”

 

“It’s not the Priests I’m worried about, the Fish…”

 

The word Fish sent a jolt of pain through her face. She let go of a moan, lifting herself up from the mattress a brief moment and falling back into the pillow. The man approached the bed, leaned over her, and ran his hand soothingly through her hair. Her first impulse was to recoil, but every movement was painful.

 

“Don’t worry little sister, he’s been dealt with, I’m here to take you out.”

 

Eitan came suddenly into focus; his face was harder than she remembered, the scar across his left eye still showing signs of healing.

 

“Good. She’s awake.” Rina recognized Adina’s sharp tone; rather she recognized the no-nonsense undertone in the old maid’s voice. Adina rose from her chair, and approached the bed but did not spare Rina a glance. She turned to Eitan.

 

“The Fish will come back. You take her now. You might have done this before, but it’s the last you do it with me understood?”

 

Eitan nodded at her, and bent down over Rina.

 

“It’s gonna hurt.” He snatched her off the bed and started walking towards the wall at the far end of the room.

 

Rina was too dizzy to feel pain. She had not visited her family in four years. It was not uncommon, every year new children were born, mothers changed, sisters left for their husband and your brothers labored until sunset. Sometimes visiting your family was more confusing than the carrousel of patrons at the comfort house. On her last visit she had barely seen Eitan at all, and spent most of her days tending to the newborn twins, two boys that Nirit, Eitan’s wife, had delivered a few weeks earlier.

 

It was then that she had realized the irony of her position; on the one hand she would never have to suffer the tremendous pressures of childbirth that Chaya had made seem so easy. On the other hand, she would never know what owning her freedom would mean. If she were going to be passed from man to man until she passed away, or was cast away, then it would be the houses for her. That was before she had met her first Fish patron.

 

Adina ran up to them and stuck a syringe in her arm, a surge of energy pulsed through her legs, the dizziness faded along with the numbness in her face.

 

“Careful not to talk girl. It only feels like you can.”

 

Eitan clicked a stone on the wall and a trap door appeared in the basement floor, sending a gush of hot air from the tunnel beneath it.  Her brother lowered her to the floor and whistled down the tunnel, footsteps rushed towards them. Eitan lifted her up, and lowered her into the hole.

 

A group of three Moles was waiting for them with glowsticks. They turned them on and touched the glowstrips[1] along the tunnel walls with them. Iridescent strips lining the walls and ceiling spread light and color down their segment of the tunnel, too intensely for Rina’s weak eye to handle. When she opened it again, the Moles were wearing high-intensity light visors, made for prolonged exposure to lava, and drill sparks for when Moles dug new caves. They wrapped her in a blanket; Eitan started lowering himself into the tunnel. She heard Adina’s voice through the opening.

 

“Is it worth it boy? Are they any happier down there than in here?”

 

Eitan paused holding himself up on the edge of the opening.

 

“You can’t compare happiness Adina. How happy are you? Stay safe.”

 

Eitan landed next to her, hit a dial on the wall, the door slipped shut overhead, followed by the slamming and suction of a plastic seal, blocking any air from the tunnel from slipping into the basement rooms. In her eight years at the comfort house she had never suspected the tunnel even existed. Eitan grabbed her shoulder.

 

“We have to hurry, the overseers won’t be much longer. Try to keep up, I’ll be right behind you. Dov, cover our back, and kill the light.” The three lifted their visors with what sounded like relief. “Ethel, Davi, cover the front, if a Fish or anybody you don’t recognize pops their head,” he patted an elongated black metal tube on his left leg, “aim to kill. That’s for you too Dov. We’ll deal with bodies later. Now go!”

 

______________________________________________________________________________

 

The Blank Book of Scriptures was written by the Gods. Each wrote his own chapter, and only He knew his own mind. How could a man behold the mind of a God? The simple breath of a God could span eons, how could a man hope to grasp his meaning in words? The words of a God spell life with each letter, how could a letter grasp the meaning of the word it spells or its role in the story? Men could only read the signs, and hope that they had guessed his mind. 

 

There came a winter when the snow did not melt, when the land remained frozen out of season. The Priests had been waiting for a sign for two hundred years, a sign that would reveal Hades’ coming, Neptune’s last and greatest punishment, and hail a return to the Cave.

 

The Priests knew that something dangerous lurked inside every Fish, and while the other casts were blind to the changes the Priests knew they were slowly falling apart.  They saw it in the council, and sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, in the young, subtle signs, but enough to see patterns emerge. Whatever was happening to the Fish would not be sudden, and as long as they held larger numbers than all the other casts save the Moles, they could not be turned against. They still held the respect, fear and admiration of the inhabitants, patrolled the colony and manned the walls; everything that went reported was reported to the Fish. Since leaving the caves only the fear of Hades kept the Priests in high standing, but that fear was fading as the colony grew, less people came to worship, and their council went unheeded by the casts if the Fish weighed in. The Fish had to lose their aura first, and Neptune had given them a sign.

 

It took three years for the other casts to realize that something permanent was wrong with the weather, and started blaming the Fish for failing in their predictions. The Priests called for calm, after all, who can read the mind of a God? Even children do not know what their parents hold in store for them.  The casts were foolish to blame the Fish for Neptune’s anger, even they were not infallible, and should focus their hearts on Hades. Thus the Divine Undertaking was born, the Priests spoke of the religious imperative to bring about Man’s salvation by foregoing the outside world, returning to the cave, and embracing Hades’ awakening.

 

An interminable downward spiral began for the Fish. The Priests were right, the Fish were going mad, but as long as new members came from other casts, fresh blood kept insanity at bay. Their downfall, subtly orchestrated by the Priests, cost them the support of the other casts, new recruits were fewer, and portents of the madness that was part and parcel to the gift that was the Dream became visible to the Ants, Bees, Beasts, and Moles who, like the Priests, had long suspected their masters of hiding the cost of their power.

 

For two hundred years, numbers shrank and insanity rose in a mutually reinforcing cycle. They still held larger numbers, and the weapons, but respect was gone, admiration was gone, and fear played against them.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

Rina stretched her arms alongside her body, and let herself drop. Halfway through the fall she activated the cleats inside her boots and landed on the rocky surface, knee down, with a crunch.

 

She was on a tiny, rocky island inside a smaller sub cave, in the middle of a lava swirl. Left, right and all around her, boiling lava spun and flowed in a stream leading out of the cave and deeper underground. Her fire suit and helmet’s sensors absorbed the heat, powering the functions in her equipment[2].

 

She shot her arms out at an angle in front of her, lodging hooks into the ceiling, swinging herself from the rocky island onto a larger ridge by the cave wall.  The hooks shot back into her suit as she landed, she loosened the drill on her back, and tightened her helmet. The helmet was equipped with a light-deflecting visor, but Rina, and the other comfort house girls, had no use for them.

 

Running through the pitch dark tunnels three years earlier, Rina had wondered how her brother and his friends managed to stay afoot and find their way in the maze of illegal tunnels that seemed to stretch through every quarter in the colony without using the glowstrips. Eitan had told her that eventually, she would not need light either. She had not believed him then, but he had been right.

 

The helmet was a nuisance. If not for absorbing the heat, it was uncomfortable; and the light-deflecting function got in the way of her eyesight. Not by much, but enough for discomfort, and distracting when passing through different types of lighting. She could not remove it or her face would break out in blisters.  The other comfort girls had the same difficulties; Eitan said they would have to deal with it. Smuggling equipment was a crime, and an unsupervised request for modifications would be suspicious. Ants were discrete, but their discretion might end with a Fish inquiry in their affairs, they had things of their own to hide, or again it might not. One never knew, but Eitan would not risk failure because his soldiers were uneasy[3].

 

Rina adjusted the zoom on her visor and scanned the cave. The crust she stood on circled it almost entirely, except for two holes on either end allowing the lava to flow.  There was no exit she could see except for the hole she had come down through. Rather than circle the cave, she repeated the operation to the opposite wall, bouncing off the central island just long enough to lunge to the other side.

 

The moment she landed her suit and helmet registered large volumes of heat radiating from the cave wall directly ahead of her. She applied her hands to the surface; the effect was immediate, her bodysuit ‘s power gauge filled up to full capacity in less than a second. She was at a dead end.  She stuck her helmet to the surface, powering it, activating audio-sensors, scanning for the slow motion grinding of hot stone behind the wall.

 

Small fissures were appearing on the rock, and closer examination showed that longer, thin cracks reached halfway around the wall from either opening in the cave base, turning the wall into a spider web of connecting cracks in the rock. She only had a few minutes, likely less, before the magma broke through and inundated the cave.

 

The rumble deepened, and small flakes of stone started crumbling from the wall, high-pressured sulfur blasted stone chips at high speed at Rina and into the lava stream, droplets of magma leaked through, sending ripples through the cracks and a powerful crunching sound as the wall’s structural integrity gave way to the superheated basalt behind.

 

Rina landed on the small central island, instinctively sent her hooks through the hole and into the ceiling of the grotto above, and shot herself upwards in a spin.

 

The explosion hurled large chunks of rock across the cave, red-hot slag poured from one cavern to the other, filing it to the brim with incandescent liquid stone.  Rina pierced through the hole just as the smaller sub cave’s ceiling collapsed under toe, connecting both caves into a pool of fire directly beneath her.

 

Her options were limited, but her suit and helmet were operating at full power. Fire-suits were built to withhold the immense heat and weight of magma for up to fifteen seconds while retaining freedom of motion.  She should not need that long.

 

She plunged headfirst into the boiling swirl, supercharging her suit, propelling herself straight ahead under the lava surface towards the opening she had drilled to get inside what was then the upper cave. It should remain open above the onslaught, but the shaking inside could bring stones down and trap her out. She only had a few seconds left before the suit melted, but the magma gave her almost unlimited energy. She shot herself out of the lava, connected her hooks to the ceiling and threw herself through the hole seconds before it crumbled and closed in on her, catching the hooks’ chains, pulling her sharply back, and slamming her hard into the floor.

 

The suit and helmet glowed orange, red and yellow on the outside, radiating heat from the magma in huge volumes away from her. Anybody who approached her unequipped would instantly combust. Inside the suit, the effect was of intense cool. She got to her knees and disconnected what was left of her hooks and drill. She turned back; her suit had burned her imprint into the rock she had landed on.

 

Rina raised her visor to catch her breath. The suit was cooling down fast, the timer read three seconds; she would need a better suit, and no matter what Eitan thought she would get the modifications she wanted. Fifteen seconds was not enough for one, and she would do something about that blasted helmet. And someone else would finish the tunnel. They would have to slag the rock to glass, seal the hole shut and double back, but they were close, very, very close…

 

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Emotions are to people what laws are to physics, the litmus test to how far anything can be pushed. Had the Fish known what to listen for, they might have killed them all. Another storm was brewing, but it was not the whooshing sting of frozen winds, it was the deep rumble of the cave, the bubbling of molten rock breaking slowly through the crust. The Moles knew that sound, their lives depended on it, but the Fish were as deaf to it as Moles were blind to the Dream…

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

The caves’ collapse sent a ripple through the illegal tunnels, opening a large sinkhole directly under the Fish quarters, swallowing up houses, crushing scores of Fish, Beasts and Ants in the middle of the night.

 

Luckily, it was Eitan and his crew who were called in by the Priests to investigate the damage and prevent another crater from opening.

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

 

Dror’s beating and subsequent death were a significant loss to the Moles, and set the rebellion back by more than a decade. Eitan had tried to take over where his father had left off, but he was still too young for respect. He began by presenting offerings of Fish’s severed heads to his father’s former acolytes, stalking patrons to the comfort houses, murdering those who had assaulted Mole girls, and many who had not. Unmarried Fish who patron the comfort houses would often do so soon before the Dream took them, it was little surprise that they went missing, and no Fish would dare raise an alarm over mass suicides. They were foolishly unaware that the Priests had leaked their secret since the early days of the Divine Undertaking.

 

Eitan became well known among Moles especially with younger diggers, a generation removed from Dror’s former team, and disappointed by the old men’s failure to lead since he had passed. When Eitan grew too popular for comfort the older Mole leaders pulled the Fish’s coat by spreading rumors among the Beasts that Fish disappearances may not be as benign as they seemed.

 

Word spread through the colony, and for several years, fear kept the casts at each other’s throats, outdoing one another to report neighbors and friends to the Fish. The Priests were swift to defer justice to the Fish, allowing them to forego it for immediate revenge against any person whose name came to their knowledge.

 

The old Moles had been foolish where the Priests, once again, seemed to read inside the minds of the colony.  The Fish predictably unleashed their anger on the Moles, but their anger carried over in daily interactions with other casts, and beatings of Beasts and Bees had been unheard of until then. Even Ants, historically the closest to the Fish were not immune from their rage. They never raised a hand on the Ants, but their relationship suffered gravely in the council.  Victims of denunciation, real or feigned, were routinely and publically lowered over the cliff and hung as bait for sea dwellers. If they were not eaten, gales of wind would smash them into the rock.

 

The older Moles had been hoping that Eitan would get caught on one of his raids, but younger Moles followed his example making him harder to catch, and they could not betray him outright. They did not expect the other casts to play into his scheme, nor the growing anger at the Fish’s behavior.  Their own plot had strengthened Eitan, and given rise to pockets of rebellion inside the other casts.

 

He now had a network of contacts that spread throughout the colony, and when he learned of how the old leadership had tried to subvert his actions and incriminate him, he had them dressed in fire-suits laced with explosives, pumped full of stimulants, and tied to the ceiling of a cave. He blew up a small portion of the wall, enough for a thin, thick stream of lava to flow into the cavern and watched them melt, conscious, from feet to knees, knees to stomach, and explode.

 

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

Eitan’s team was quick to clear out the debris and even quicker to fill the hole.  What could be identified as Ant and Beast would be recycled in the morning; the Fish would tend to their own bits. He would need someone on the council to brush off the incident and some Moles would pay for this, but they all knew the risks. Close as they were, time was running short.

 

________________________________________________________________________________

 

Do you feel the fire?

Do you fear the flame?

 

Carved on walls in the Fish quarters and the colony.

 

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

“Hmm, you could, sure, you could, you wouldn’t be able to move much, but you could. Yes.”

 

Rina turned away from councilman Tamhidi. No matter how high they rose in the community, Ants rarely raised above their station in relation to each other. The old man had built his reputation as a personal equipment mechanic, that alone had gained him enough respect from the other casts to join the Council, but that was all he would ever be to other Ants, the best personal equipment mechanic in Ant memory.

 

His underground lab was connected to the illegal tunnels, as were the three maintenance workshops he ran in the Fish, Beast and Bee quarters. Tamhidi, was one of the few Rina knew she could trust not to talk to the Fish, conspiracies have their benefits, she was not so confident he would not talk to her brother, but she would deal with him later.

 

The lab was the most cluttered place Rina had ever seen. The ceiling was lined with hanging propeller engines, experimental models, obviously too large and heavy for a person to carry. He had quickly cleared a table by brushing off all its contents on the floor, and laid out schematics of mole fire-suits and helmets that he pondered over, oblivious to Rina’s curiosity.

 

She slipped on a screwdriver, kicked it under a table, and picked up one of the books Tamhidi stacked up in a corner and used as an occasional table or seat. She could not read much beyond the title, there were more symbols than she was used to and some were missing entirely.

 

“You read the old tongue girl?” Tamhidi chuckled from the other side of the lab. He left the map and approached her, making his way around a table, stepping over a mechanical hand-drill, and crushing a roll of scrolls on the floor.

 

“There is not much for you to find in here anyway, unless you’re suddenly interested in gravity reversal, but that’s not why you’re here.” He took the book from her hand and put it back on the pile. “Try this. You should understand more.” He walked back to the map. “And if you don’t”, he chuckled again, “why you made it here once, you’ll make it again.”

 

Rina glanced at the cover.

 

“That first word is guerilla!” he laughed without turning his attention form the schematics.

 

Guerilla warfare. The old man was irritating, she was not going to ask him what it meant, choosing to nod silently instead. The Councilman raised an eyebrow, but remained silent. Tamhidi was one of the council men who frequented the comfort houses, Rina had not met him before being dragged into the rebellion, but the old man had discontinued his practice after siding with her brother. Ants were usually distracted, and engrossed in thoughts known only to themselves and understandable only by other Ants and apprentices. She had never heard of an Ant harming one of the girls, but she would not vouch for the purity of his thoughts right then and there, what she was doing was dangerous, forbidden, and, much worse according to her brother, frivolous. If Tamhidi thought he had himself a comfort house girl on his hands he would find out how precious his hands were and would never take Rina, or any of the former comfort house girls for granted again.

 

His long blue robs swooshed as he spun grinning at her from the table.

 

“Come back in a week girl! Come back in a week. You might want to hide girl, your brother being who he his…” he paused as if about to add something, but changed his mind, “well he’s been kind to you so I hear but he wouldn’t like you being here, you should know!” He winked mentioning Eitan. He would not talk, but he might ask for something in exchange. He was a councilman after all, no matter how hard he pretended otherwise. His robes were soft and thick, unlike the other Ants’ blue working shirts and slacks, meant for ease of motion, thin threaded and lose for air and comfort. Ant forges could be scalding hot, barely less than the deeper caves, it was obvious that Tamhidi had not wielded a hammer himself for years. Whatever strength he had in his youth had long gone to fat under his bulky robes.

 

He pressed a button under the table, and the wall slid into a circular opening onto the tunnel. She activated a glowstick and ignited the iridescent strips along the walls. Rina sped down the tunnel shutting the lights at every intersection, less for the Fish, than for Mole patrols. Eitan’s sister could get away with a lot, but it would not do for her to give other girls the wrong example.

 

Running in the dark would have been safer, but she had only caught a glance of the map, and the maze was complex, and booby-trapped, and she had left her helmet behind purposefully. Tamhidi might talk, but Hades was rising, Mole women would no longer be subjected to comfort houses or pregnancy duties, otherwise what were they fighting for?

 

She turned a dark corner and slammed head-on into a band of three Moles, two helmetless, heavily armed males and one female dressed in a slitted bur sack hiding her face. Rina slammed her glowstick on the wall, flooding the cavern with light, momentarily distracting both guards. The closest shut his eyes and reached for his glowstick. She spun and caught him in the back of the neck with the flat of her hand, knocking him unconscious before he hit the lights in the tunnel. The second guard was hastily tying his helmet, she tipped her weight on her right leg and slammed her left foot in his face, crushing his visor. He stumbled back and slumped against the wall. Rina turned to the girl, and ripped the sack from over her head. She did not know her name, but recognized her as one of the former comfort girls. She pinned her to the wall.

 

“Where are they taking you?”

 

The girl looked her square in the eye and grinned.

 

“Sorry, we’re not all privileged enough to be Eitan’s sister.” She said, insisting belittlingly on her kinship.

 

Rina slapped her across the face, drawing blood from her lower lip. The girl spit it on Rina’s suit.

 

“Yeah, can’t expect any better from you either can we? There’s things you don’t understand. Look at you. You’re not one of us Rina Arfazadeh. You never were.”

 

Rina did not understand what the girl meant, and could not place her. She knew her from one of the teams, but she was not a team leader, so why would she have known? But that was not what she meant. Everybody knew Rina, but she implied that everyone was in on a little secret except for her.  And she did not like the scorn in her voice.

 

The girl kept her eyes locked on Rina’s, but her hands had gotten hold of Rina’s glowstick. The lights suddenly went out in the tunnel. Rina’s eyes took only a few seconds to adjust, but not before feet shuffled on the floor and a hand grabbed her by the neck, pulling her back, twisting her arm behind her, and flung a restraining device[4] around her, locking instantly around her arms, chest and back.

 

She leapt in the air, bringing her knee up into the person’s chest, bounced back and landed on her ankle, twisting it. Her efforts only made the Coil tighter, the muscles in her arm were met with twice the resistance every time she flexed, and she could feel her chest cave in slowly as her thorax threatened to crush through her heart. She heard Dov’s voice as he flipped her over, loosened the Coil, and tied a collar around her neck.

 

“So, causing the death of three djangi[5] was not enough for you? Do you have any idea of the stakes? You’ve had it easy enough, this time…”

 

“This time I’ll talk to Eitan myself.”

 

He looked at her, his irises flashing through barely noticeable iridescent shades not unlike the glowstrips on the walls, his pupils expanding and shrinking frenetically in the dark[6].

 

“This time you will. This time I think he will want to talk to you himself. You’re gonna have to learn some things if you want this arrangement to continue.” He turned to the girl. ”Are you alright?” She nodded, and placed the sack back over her head.

 

He turned and kicked his partner awake in the chest.

 

“Get up! Drag her to the secret council hall. I’ll deliver this one to Tamhidi and meet you there, look out for that one. She thinks she’s special.”

 

The second guard lifted her up and placed a board under her body, tied it to hooks on his shoulder pads, locked her helmet around her head, turned the visor blind, and dragged her behind him down the tunnel.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

The hall, a simple, brightly lit, circular room was crowded with members of other casts, resting against walls behind a large central table, covered with maps of the tunnels and reports of weapons caches, sinkhole locations and designs for explosive devices.

 

Representatives were seated at the table, each cast occupying a separate side, with four openings, one on each side, onto an open space in the center.

 

Ants were nearest to the entrance, in shades of blue. Bees were seated further up on the right in hooded yellow wind-breaking coats, some holding cattle poles they also used for stick fighting. The poles were light, hard, expandable, and retractable; they could be split in two, reattached, and very flexible. Farming leaves a lot of time for fighting. Across from them, Beast representatives wore their characteristic reddish working clothes. Even without them, their intricate facial tattoos marked them apart from the other casts. Beasts were not by nature larger than other members of the colony, but they made it a habit to send only their largest representatives, male or female, to any meeting, secret or public, making them appear intimidatingly more powerful than the other casts, and occupy much more space at the table.

 

At the head of the table, EItan was whispering to a Priest, dressed in a white robe. No one had paid any attention to her as she was dragged in, each cast preparing themselves, agreeing on final talking points, each busy plotting their seat at the table once the Fish were overthrown.

 

The guard dragged her through the nearest opening, passed the Ant delegation and rolled her on the floor, stopping the buzz of greedy murmur around the room. Their sudden movement made the Mole delegation visible. Even with lights, especially with lights, Moles brown suit and helmet made them almost invisible against cave walls. It was hard to estimate their number until motion made them appear against the background. There must have been a hundred Moles at the meeting, as many as the other casts put together, but no more than twenty had been visible at the table. The other members reacted surprisingly, and angrily, at Moles appearing among them from what they thought was solid wall.

 

There were only three Priests, two Priests and a Priestess, but Priests never came in large numbers. At first they had wanted to keep their cast separate from the rebellion, as advisors, but Eitan had insisted on a permanent delegation that could be held accountable if, for reasons of their own, the Priests decided to throw their luck with the Fish. He could not win the rebellion without the Priests, and there was little sympathy for their presence. Priests were manipulative and deceitful, they had never given the Moles their freedom, instead they had played them as pawns in their power struggle with the Fish, but without them, the Moles would never sway the entire colony, not even with the help of those present at the meeting, and their many cells throughout the colony.

 

The slamming of the doors behind the guards was the signal for the clamor to start again. Rina could not make out the individual accusations thrown at her in the general dissonance, but she could tell from the few looks she glimpsed from her fetal position on the floor, that no one in the room was happy to see her. Least of all her brother.

 

Eitan silenced the room by rising from his chair and stepping into the open space. He flipped Rina over, for a moment the coil tightened closer, she could feel sharp needles of pain shooting down her arms, but the pressure faded as Eitan pressed the coil, removed it, and dropped it to the floor, where it recoiled with a whip like sound into a small rubbery circle, no longer than two inches across.

 

He caught a handful of her hair, yanked her up by her braid until her toes touched the floor, and then dropped her back, her scalp throbbing under the strain. She jumped up and swung at him, but he caught her blow and sent her tumbling back.

 

“Three Moles had to die for your carelessness, and you haven’t had enough?”

 

Rina had been told about the executions, the Fish had insisted on them, backed by a mob of Ants and Beasts.

 

A toweringly large Beast female bounced from her chair, slamming her hands down on the wood, sending a shock that lifted her half of the table from the ground.

 

“Three Moles?! Three?! We lost twelve Beasts in that “accident”, Mole. Twelve!”

 

Rina did not know her, but had the sense that she had precedence over the Beasts present at the meeting. She leaned over the table glaring down at Rina.

 

“And this one gets to walk? How convenient. No one gets to walk…”

 

“What Councilwoman Majidi means.” Said a Bee, impervious to Majidi’s knuckles grinding on the table. “Is that Moles may have suffered a public execution, but that Beasts and Ants have their own grievances. Indeed the Bees…”

 

“Bees have no business in that neighborhood at night, likely he was trading favors for food, yes?” An Ant Rina recognized as Avraham Jafari started, “but we have only few grievances, three as well as a matter of fact, but they count double Eitan for they were children. The adults we recycled, but the children were too young Eitan, the children will know neither Neptune nor Hades, how do you expect to compensate us for their souls?”

 

Eitan spun on him.

 

“Compensate? Compensate? So it is only Moles who should die? Only Moles who should dig, and bleed, and lead the return to the Cave? Your involvement has a cost; you want a seat at the table when we overthrow the Fish? Then pay the price in blood.”

 

He sat back down at the table and stared at his sister. After a pause, he nodded to the wall on either side of the door. Two Mole guards unfolded themselves from the stone, only their faces visible for a short while against the rock. They donned their helmets.

 

“Strip her to her underwear and throw her into one of the sweathouses[7]. Give her one day’s supply of water, no more.” He turned to Rina. “I tried, but you’re gonna have to learn hard. I’ll speak to you in three days if you live. Get her out of here before she starts a riot.”

 

 

 

 

[1] Glowsticks and Glowstrips are used to replace electricity where installation would require too much power and labor. Electrified iridescent strips (glowstrips) are laced along tunnel walls and ceilings and activated using an electric baton (glowstick) that sends energy into, or sucks energy out of glowstrips to turn on and off portions of the tunnels.

[2] Fire suits are composed of flexible, heat-resistant body armor, and heat-resistant helmets. Suits function as an isolator, and allow for immersion in magma for limited amounts of time. They are made of flexible superconducting metals, and channel energy in the form of heat to power the suit, enhancing the bearer’s muscular power allowing for enhanced reflexes, speed, and strength. Helmets are made of the same material, adjust automatically to different lightings and include a visor, which allows for scanning, zooming with a memory function allowing the user to display coordinates and trace back his or her steps.

[3] After centuries in the caves, Moles are genetically predisposed to working in dark environments. Male Moles labor at the Divine Undertaking from the age of 5 from sunrise to sundown., and vice versa Their eyes are poorly adapted to sunlight, but have excellent night vision as a result. Mole girls carry the trait, but until comfort girls were enrolled in the rebellion, their ability was latent. As a result rebel Mole girls, after a time, are able to see perfectly in both sunlight and darkness, the helmet in these cases can cause dizziness to eyes used to adjusting to light on their own.

[4] Restraining Devices also known as Coils, are made of a rubber-like substance that contracts at the contact of air. When wrapped around a human body, coils tighten until no motion is possible short of crushing limbs, joints and ribs. It is suspected that Coils may in fact be living organisms, much like sea sponges. Fish first discovered Coils resting on cliff walls under water. They can be stretched at need and retain their elasticity until they are released, at which point they shrivel back on themselves or squeeze any organism they are applied to until it is immobile, but can be removed by applying simple pressure along the body of the device. They are used to restrain criminals and in the past to detain Moles between work shifts. Coils are seldom used anymore except in cases of public executions and temporary detention.

[5] Warriors

[6] Moles’ eyes adjusted to darkness by evolving iridescent surfaces in their irises that their pupils filter as light through perpetually expanding and contracting at different rates. The mutation is visible in the dark but not in daylight.

[7] Sweathouses are cells used by Moles to punish offenders outside of the Fish and the Priests’ justice. Dug into the rock over lava pits, sweathouses contain very little oxygen, and are subjected to intense heat waves. Prisoners are left from one day to a week, with varying quantities of water, depending on the gravity of their offense. Prolonged time in a sweathouse can leave permanent damage to the body and mind. It is told that a Mole survived a week on half a day’s worth of water for murder. He dove into the lava pit upon his release driven mad with heat and dehydration.


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