Hell_or_High_Lava

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

Chapter 4 (v.1)

Submitted: October 01, 2013

Reads: 150

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Submitted: October 01, 2013

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Three days in solitary confinement gives you time to reflect, and despite the pain, and thirst, she found traces of clarity between blackouts, she was certain of two things: that she, and the comfort girls, those who were willing to fight for it, deserved as much respect in the rebellion as the men, and short of Eitan giving it to her, she would take it. The look on the comfort girl’s face and her words in the hallway stung as she shifted uncomfortably from warm rock to warm rock, but whatever she had meant, she would make sure it changed.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

She woke up inside a healing tank[1]. Two Priests were leaning over it, sending low-level radiation over her burns, activating the healing agent in the thick, translucent ointment that glowed on her skin.

 

Naked under the Priests scrutiny, a memory of the comfort house flashed across her mind and anger bubbled up under the slight tingling of the ointment binding itself to her burns. It hit her in the stomach and spread through her body to her toenails, to the tip of every hair strand like static electricity. The feeling grew warm, turning her muscles to jelly and making her bones ache. The warmth turned to shaking, an uncontrollable quiver shattering every rational thought.

Every emotion she had swept away, night after night, built walls and lies around shot through every nerve, a flood of images of shame, satisfied confusion, blinding pleasure and agonizing pain, hit her in waves.

 

In the midst of mindless sensations, one thought seemed to make its way against the gales of primitive instincts, steadying her with every heartbeat. Never again. First it was one thought in the flood of vengefulness and self-loathing, but it started echoing each violent thought, settling in her spine, answering each trampling of her esteem, violence endured, and submissive humiliation. Never again.

 

When she opened her eyes, the anger was gone, the memories were there, but they read like someone else’s story. The shame, the itch under her skin, the prickling she could never scratch was gone. In its place she sensed a strange sense of calm, of being both supercharged, and yet at her most peaceful. She had not felt the electric tingle ahead of a storm for almost ten years, the nanosecond when the wind abated, and the world froze before unleashing Hell, but she recognized it in herself. No storm could shake her anymore, no stone could burn her. Never again.

 

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

“Don’t you feel any regret for the lives lost girl?

 

Standing in a helmetless fire-suit across the dais from councilwoman Majidi, Rina sensed that the question was loaded.

 

The hulking woman was sitting on a chair next to Eitan, atop a flight of steps. The room was not completed yet, finishing abruptly behind the podium, the walls and ceiling still filled with cracks and holes. Only the entrance was finished, the stone doors plated with bronze, and the walls smoothed and decorated with a fresco of Hermes carving a hammer out of a mountain on one side. The lower half of the mountain was shallow; in it a dragon held on a leash by his master desperately blew flames in vain towards the chimney. The tiny puffs of smoke rising from the mountain, barely as large as Hermes eye’s. They all knew the story of how Hermes kept Azhi-Dahaka at bay while he shaped the world. On the other side, Fereydoon and David, at the foot of the hill left by Hermes’ labor, were tying Zahak to two pillars under Hermes’ watchful eye. Whatever the room was, Eitan had big plans for it.

 

“They died well. We all will.”

 

“They died for your recklessness little sister, there is no glory to this.” Eitan interjected.

 

Her eyes turned to her brother.

 

“No Eitan they died for yours. What is this place? A throne room? Has Hades crowned you king? We are slaves Eitan, where’s the glory in that?”

 

Eitan did not move, but his body tensed. The cut across his eye had left a deep scar, and it drew all the blood in his face.

 

Majidi smirked. “Dror’s blood aye?” She looked slyly at Eitan. “Well girl, we’ll find out soon enough if you’ve learned your lesson, off to your comfort duties with you…”

 

Rina launched herself at her. Majidi moved faster than she had thought possible, leaving the chair vacant, appearing behind Rina, her hands locked on either side of her head. If she moved her neck would snap.

 

“Miss your helmet girl?” Majidi’s voice held no satisfaction. Eitan’s face even less.

 

He rolled a leaf into a cone, sparked a match on the chair and lit it. His face had changed. She remembered the gentle giant who had pushed her out of the room the last night she saw her father. That was the last memory she had of him before he carried her out of the comfort house. This man was not her brother. He might think he still was, but the man sitting in that chair was not Dror’s son. He was whatever the Fish had made him, and what he had allowed himself to become: something else, something cold.

 

Majidi released her grip.

 

“We never stop being comfort girls.” She said dejectedly. ”That’s how you buy your allies.” A giggle built up in her stomach and exploded in laughter. “You’re a fool to count on those men Eitan.” She could not stop the fit of laughter at the irony and naïve callousness of her brother’s plan. “A fool.”

 

Majidi had an eyebrow raised. Eitan rose from his chair.

 

“Every man has a price, and once it’s paid they’re in your debt. They know it. You know it too, every Mole girl pays that price, and you chose the comfort houses, you chose to be a Mole.”

 

“No Eitan, I was trained to be a Mole. Then I was trained to blow up caves and dig tunnels.  Then I was thrown in a pit for following orders. The Fish?” she said softly. “I know where I stand with the Fish.”

 

Eitan did not blink. “And now you know where you stand with me.”

 

He smiled.

 

“Councilman Tamhidi would like you Rina.” He looked down at her, his head tilted sideways, weighing her like she had seen Bees look at cattle.” Yes. Yes, he certainly would.”

 

“No.”

 

Rina could handle the handle the old man, but she had been caught once, she would only get one shot at meeting with him again, and he was not ready, she needed four more days. It did not matter what Eitan might do to her. It was too easy for him, using the comfort girls as the Fish did, then trading them off for politics. She did not know that man, and she owed him nothing.

 

Majidi stayed silent, but seemed to enjoy the exchange. Women in all the other casts were free; there were no comfort duties for them, no pregnancy duties, no endless stream of raising and bearing children. Majidi was a Councilwoman; she knew what was at stake for the Moles. All Moles.

 

Eitan snapped his fingers. Two Mole guards unfolded from the walls and clamped her shoulders.

 

“Three more days in the sweathouse. Give her half a day’s worth of water, then take her immediately to Tamhidi, she’ll wake up there, make sure she does.”

 

Rina smiled up at her brother.

 

“I won’t take any less than four.”

 

Eitan’s jaw trembled. He nodded slowly. Majidi’s eyes appeared to twinkle before they dragged her away. Never again.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

“Let… go of…Me…”

 

Rina’s hand crushed his throat little by little, making Tamhidi’s pleas all the more enjoyable.

 

She had slipped in and out of consciousness during the four days in the sweathouse, before the heat shut her system down and allowed her to drift into painless sleep.

 

When she opened her eyes, it was to find the old lecher standing over her naked body. Her first impulse was to struggle with her restraints, but she found that she had none. His mistake, she had thought and thrown her hand up catching the old man in the throat. She could almost see the fat shivering under his plush blue robe, and only released her grip when the color of his face matched the color of his clothes, and she knew she would have enough time to roll off the table before he could respond to her assault in kind. Tamhidi was still valuable, killing him would not serve her purposes, and in spite of Eitan, he was also valuable to the rebellion.

 

“Hades, girl.” He managed between wheezy breaths, “there was no need for this!”

 

He caught on to the table. Rina would not hear any of his complaining, leapt over the table, planning to pin him to the wall and get what she had suffered for. She landed, grinning, for an instant before her bare foot slammed into a small pin lying on the floor. Her barely healed body registered the shock from toes to hair strands, until even her nails hurt.  A sudden jolt of cold numbed her out of pain and back to life. Her vision blurred from the nervous shock, but she found Tamhidi holding her gently, laying her onto the table again, pulling a syringe out of her arm.

 

“I told you there was no need for this. Damn you girl, if I wanted to abuse you, I wouldn’t have woken you up. And you know how much your brother would have enjoyed it.”

 

He covered her in a cloak. It was dusty and itched but compared to the all-encompassing agony of a moment earlier; it was the sweet itch of life returning. Tamhidi laughed.

 

“Speaking of which…hold on, don’t move it will pass…speaking of which, you did show him didn’t you? Four days. Ha! Old Majidi was rolling on the floor telling me about it, and you would know just how much a mess that made. Well you sure impressed him, and impressed her, and that is more important. Ever wondered how you’re still alive girl?”

 

She did. In the sweathouse, just when she lost conscious for the last time, knowing her water supply finished, delirious, and with no real understanding of how much time she had left, she had hoped her death would reveal her brother for what he truly was.  She had, and had not believed that she would ever find out if it had.

 

“You’re something of a legend now” he said, his back to her, removing pieces of equipment from the ceiling, “and you owe that to the old Beastess. Ha! Yes you do. I won’t take any less than four! A steady stream of girls crept in at night, hydrating you at their own risk.”

 

He unloaded the items on a nearby table. His voice picked up with the clang of metal on the table.

 

“Anyhow, you didn’t need to push your luck to prove a point…turns out”, he lost track of his thoughts, engrossed in separating the various pieces of equipment on the table, “…turns out I was already done when he sent you back in.”

 

She let go a groan.

 

“Yes, yes, would’ve said something akin to that I reckon.”

 

He lifted her up, gently again.

 

“Think I couldn’t see it in your eyes girl? Think you were one in a long list of many, didn’t you now?”

 

He walked her to the table. Rina saw what looked like a Fire Suit hanging from a wire thread. Something about it was different, she laid a hand on it, it was cold to the touch, but seemed to drink in all the heat from her hands. She pulled back. He urged her forward.

 

“And wait till you try it! Who would have thought liquefying obsidian with lava would create an elastic rubber compound? No one! That’s because they don’t! Ha!” He laughed at his own joke, the cackle of a man lost in his own thoughts. “But Coils now, hmm, that was a finder. See? Turns out they are alive after all, and do extremely well under intense pressure. See? They bond with anything and when melted, they don’t die see!” He got a hold of himself and went on, somewhat calmer. “They transfer their properties to whatever they are melted with and shift shape!”

 

Rina was not sure she followed, but tried anyway.

 

“Do you mean to say…the suit is…alive?!”

 

“That’s what I said didn’t I?” he snapped. Rina winced but knew he had not meant rudeness. He was always three steps ahead of most people, and in her condition she could not have kept pace with her younger, naïve self. “Alive and well, and it will fit like a…well, a Coil I guess, but without any of the discomfort! Wait till you see the helmet!”

 

How wrong had she been about the old man? As it turns out, Comfort Girls had been fooling Eitan and his fanatics all along. Not all of them, many were not lucky enough to have landed on Tamhidi’s favorite list, but those who were gained a lot from him, and at no charge. Tamhidi offered healing services, food, rest and care for the girls many had thought he abused over the years. Even in the Comfort Houses, as she would find out later on, he was not the infamous patron many thought him to be, an image he cultivated carefully, even as he supported Eitan.

 

“Your brother…” he started, as if reading her thoughts, “…your brother is an aberration…” he shook his head,” An aberration! There was a man, years ago, many years ago, right about the time Neptune chocked Narcissus with his own ego, many men at that time and not just a few women I wager, but one whose name was also a number. Don’t ask! It’s damaged knowledge now, and wouldn’t matter anyhow, but he drew crowds that man, had an aura to him, a man who could have changed the world, like those kind of men, and no few women could have, but those men never do…He set the world aflame, would have sacrificed every last of those who loved him to the fire of his ambition, and he near succeeded…”

 

She did not know whom the old Ant was talking about, but she heard the truth in his words, as she recalled her brother’s aura of righteousness, sitting on his makeshift throne, even as he sentenced her to death or rape, or eventually both. A man who could have changed the world, but would not, and in the process….

 

“Well?“ he inquired, changing the topic entirely, “What are you waiting for? Try it on! Try it on!”

 

Oblivious to his looks she let the cloak drop from her shoulders and slipped into the Fire Suit. The effect was immediate; she was submerged in intense cold as the suit sucked up all her heat and energy. She began to shiver, but almost immediately, the suit started feeding her heat back into her, and stuck tightly to her skin, just as the old man had said, tight like a coil, but with no more pressure than needed to maintain contact with her body.

 

“What did I tell you? Coils, ha! Who would’ve thought? Now try this.”

 

He handed over the helmet. It was entirely black, and apparently seamless, you could not distinguish the visor from the rest of the headpiece. She slipped it on, and felt the same cooling effect on her skin and through her scalp as with the body suit.

 

There was a visor, or maybe the whole thing was a visor, if she had eyes behind her head maybe they would…instantly an image of Tamhidi standing behind her looking appreciatively at her reactions flooded her vision. She closed her eyes, opened them, and saw straight ahead again. She began to turn towards Tamhidi, reconsidered, and thought about what stood behind her, and again, Tamhidi appeared, a much wider grin on his face.

 

“Getting the hold of it already! Good, very good, it took me a while myself. I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve been working on this for a while before you asked, felt like a shame to hand it over to Eitan and his goons, although I would have had to eventually…” he sighed “Won’t go into the details of it, too technical I’m afraid, truth be told I’m not quite sure how it works myself, but why waste time wondering when it does? Wonderful things Coils, truly wonderful…what else lays beneath the waters I wonder, if only the Fish…”

 

Yes, if only the Fish…she thought, if only they were not mad, if only the winters would shorten, if only…in time Hades would come, he would, but even sooner yet, the Fish would pay.

 

“The Fish will get what’s coming for them.” She said out loud, surprised at her own voice. Fire Helmets did not carry any sound at all, and you could barely hear anything through them either. You had to know your mission better than you knew yourself, hope that your teammates did as well, and rely on the heat sensors to warn you in time to the downpour of liquid flame.

 

She picked up a small match from the table to her left, all she had to do to see it, was think left, she struck it on the table, and touched the helmet with it. The match went out; its heat went straight to the helmet and into her skin, and through the whole suit. She felt a surge of power through her entire body, as powerful as full immersion in lava with a regular Fire Suit. She grabbed the table with her hand and raised it effortlessly over her head, thought back, and saw Tamhidi nodding his head appreciatively.

 

“Getting the hold of it indeed…”

 

“Coils again?”

 

He shrugged.

 

“For some part, maybe the whole of it, maybe something else entirely. Like I said girl, the how isn’t always important when it works.”

 

Rina removed the helmet, rather peeled off the helmet, concentrating was making her dizzy, it snapped, and wrapped itself into its original shape the moment it she let go of it.

 

“Dizzy already?” laughed Tamhidi “Don’t worry it will come naturally enough.”

 

His ability to anticipate her thoughts was unnerving, but in spite of her distant demeanor, her respect for him was growing with each passing second.

 

“Your brother is not expecting you to walk out standing upright girl, you realize that, yes?”

 

She nodded somberly.

 

“Hit me.” She said calmly.

 

She expected an argument, even after years as a comfort girl, she still believed that it was hard for men to strike women, even after Eitan, but to her surprise, Tamhidi nodded gravely in turn.

 

“I might have to. I might just. Don’t want to blow my cover, and anything less than a bruise and your brother won’t buy it.”

 

Something strange was happening to her, she used to take pride in hearing people mention Eitan as her kin, but she winced when Tamhidi said it, and knew she would every time from this moment onward.

 

“Good thing you removed the helmet.” He said. He saw the question on her face. “It’s shock absorbent. I hadn’t mentioned?” He smiled faintly.

 

His uppercut caught her unexpected in the chin, she flew upwards and back, landing on it, but could only feel pain in her face and jaw. Shock absorbent indeed, she thought, and the old man still packed a punch and a surprising turn of speed under all those layers of fat.

 

She lifted herself up; his fist crashed into her eye and sent her back down.

 

“That should do it, any more and someone might wonder how I could still have a go at you afterwards. Hate doing this every time I have to…”

 

She felt the bruise growing around her eye, and tasted blood in her mouth from his uppercut. She would not be a pretty sight when she was brought to Eitan, but it was worth it. He would find out soon enough.

 

“I’ll call the guards.” He hit a switch on the wall. “Don’t worry about the suit. With Majidi on your side, I’ll have no difficulty smuggling it. She used to love your brother you know? Hard to believe from a woman that size, love, but there you have it. Women scorned, ha!”

 

She limped to the door, and heard the oncoming footsteps through the stone wall. Tamhidi grabbed her shoulder.

 

“The Fish will get what they have coming, girl, you know that as well as I do. But ask yourself, do you want what’s coming next?”

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

 

Moshe Tamhidi knew Eitan well, he believed the Ant had had his way with her, but he underestimated his cruelty. His face had been a mix of emotions, masks dancing on a soulless canvas. It was not clear if he was happy at his sister’s abuse, upset that she had so little to show for her ordeal, or disappointed that she was still alive.

 

Rina had let go of herself in the sweathouse, let go of who she thought she was, of who she had been told she was, and in that, she owed Eitan Arfazadeh a favor. Now she had to find out who she was. Fortunately, in his callousness, he gave her an opportunity to do so, by throwing her into the sweathouse yet again.

 

She found that she was no longer alone, in the early hours of the morning, before the Fish overseers prodded the Moles into the Divine Undertaking, a stream of former comfort girls would risk their freedom to see her, hydrate her and hear her. She had few words at first, but her heart did the real talking, or perhaps they were just eager to hear. Hear, and listen.

 

When she came to, lying in a cold cell, her body left to heal without a tank, she found a small note in Tamhidi’s handwriting:

 

“If you live girl, think well before you act. You’ll find the suit waiting for you when he lets you out. Wear it. It will help you heal. Do you know what a phoenix is girl? Bird from the dawn of Mars, perhaps even before we were blinded by the light, maybe it’s light shone against the cave, who knows and who cares, a bird of flame girl, a bird of flame. Think on it. The suit will give you two minutes”

 

Two minutes! She thought back to the comfort girls who opened up to her, and she knew what needed to be done. I’m gonna need a hundred.

 

 
 

[1] Healing tanks were built to treat surface wounds, by combining an organic contraceptive with very low levels of radiation. The ointment is made from recycled human flesh, ground into a paste then mixed with antiseptic chemicals, antibiotics, and a powerful grafting agent. The process acts as a skin transplant over the injured areas of the body. Moles often suffer second and third degree burns and require frequent use of the tanks. However, Moles are only authorized to use them in case of accidents involving numbers too large to be replaced. They were smuggled into the tunnels over the years by the rebellion, but are usually found in medical facilities operated by Priests.


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