Official Lore Office post from Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

What You Are in the Dark

Mining Facility Septem, Velorum Prime
April 2400
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They had exceeded their quota and still only been given half-rations.

With nothing more than their natural senses and the faintest ultraviolet gleam of the veins of dilithium criss-crossing the rocks around them, the Reman workers huddled together to pool what little they had. Tiskral was smaller than his comrades, wirier and younger, and knew he would be sacrificing some of his meagre fare for those who needed it more. Not just the sickly or the old, but the biggest and the mightiest whose strength they would some day need.

So it was his job to wait at the periphery of the group, keen eyes locked on the long tunnel back up the mine shaft, back towards the overseers. The Romulans often did not care what their labourers did with food, but they were wary of Reman collaboration, of any whiff of insurrection. Resak had told him to be even more vigilant of late, to keep his head down further yet watch more keenly, and while Tiskral did not understand why, when Resak spoke, everyone listened.

It was Resak who talked now in the middle of the huddle of miners, assessing their rations and portioning them out as he saw fit. Resak was not the biggest of the labourers, nor one of the placating collaborators assigned as foreman, but down here in the dark, beyond Romulan eyes and ears, he was the voice of the Remans of Velorum.

‘An extra quarter for Dorman,’ said Resak, low voice rumbling through the crowd and darkness.

‘Give it to someone who needs it more,’ at once protested the looming Dorman.

‘No arguments. We will need your strength.’

‘But Yunral -’

‘Yunral can have a fifth of mine,’ said Tiskral in a whisper that carried, not tearing his eyes from his watch.

Resak clicked his tongue, and all fell silent. ‘We all give what we have and what we can. We all receive what we need, as individuals, as a collective. Trust my wisdom.’ The small mess tin was pressed into Dorman’s hands, and the biggest Reman of the group fell silent, cowed by Resak’s simple words.

Their work break was not long. It was never long, and soon came the low thrumming of the klaxon to signal the return to work. They had come together for such a short time, and now the voices of the overseers called, summoning them back to labour in the deepest, darkest depths of Velorum’s wealth.

Resak paused by Tiskral as they stepped back from safe gloom to the searing lights of the overseers’ section above. ‘You’re impatient.’

‘I can wait,’ Tiskral insisted, but even now there was a shudder of energy to his gait.

‘You will wait. And you will have your time.’ Resak’s expression creased as he looked down at the younger Reman. ‘And when that time comes, you may not be so eager for the blood it will bring.’

‘We were promised something better here,’ Tiskral said bitterly. ‘To be partners on Velorum, not slaves as we were on Remus. Enough lies.’

‘The overseers lie. It is their nature. But they lie because they are weak. They lie because they need us.’ Resak squeeze his shoulder. ‘This new Star Empire is nothing more than a rotting corpse shrouded in the ghosts of past glory. When its back breaks, we will tear our way out.’

‘But how long -’

‘Hey!’

They had emerged from the deepest shaft, wrapped in darkness like a smothering mask, and stepped into the ring of light suffusing the open chamber where the overseers and guards waited.

Tiskral did not know all the guards by name, but he knew this one by his face, and fearful breath burned in his breast as the baton was levelled at them.

‘You should be back at work,’ the guard snapped. ‘Not talking.’

His eyes were on Resak, but Tiskral slid between them. He spent his life trying to be small, trying to be overlooked, and yet for once he needed to command attention. ‘I was – I was just asking -’ Words slid and choked, and he did not know if he was failing or if this was helping. ‘It was my fault.’

The guard stepped forward, but Resak planted a commanding hand on Tiskral’s shoulder. ‘I was helping the boy. We are returning to work.’

Tiskral had to squint in this light. In the depths, the Remans could act as freely as they pleased. Here, where processing happened, amid the hum and hiss of heavy mining machinery, in the ring of light, the Romulans could blind them as they saw all.

But still he saw the swing of the baton coming. It was not activated; there was no electric hiss, and only the heavy thud of metal cracked into Tiskral’s gut. He bent double and would have fallen had Resak not kept a firm hand on him, so he just slumped against the man who commanded his loyalty, and whimpered and wheezed.

‘There’s no need for this,’ Resak insisted, and even in the face of this cruelty his voice was clear and calm. This was no place for righteous indignation.

‘Save questions for your breaks or your supervisors,’ the guard insisted.

Resak tightened his grip on Tiskral’s shoulder. ‘He understands.’ With a squeeze of his grip, he tugged Tiskral upright. ‘We will return to work.’

Tiskral’s belly screamed in objection, but he knew he would be left with nothing but a bruise. Before Resak he would not be weak, and with an iron-tight jaw he straightened. With iron-tight control, he looked only at the guard’s feet, rather than meeting his eyes with anything that might be seen as defiance. ‘We will return to work,’ he wheezed.

The guard let them go, and as Resak guided Tiskral back towards their work station, he dropped his voice. ‘I am sorry. We will come a different way next time. Find a softer guard.’

Some guards had grown more complacent in recent weeks, as if their hearts were not in it, as if they resented their own work. Others had been spurred to shorter tempers and greater cruelty. Tiskral did not always know the difference, but Resak did – even the guards down here treated him with, if not respect, an acknowledgement of his place among his people.

‘They all wield the same batons,’ Tiskral hissed. ‘Does it matter?’

‘We will hardly kill them all,’ Resak murmured. ‘Hardly drive them all out. A guard pushed down here to feed their family lest the Empire let them starve is not our true foe. For many of them, we share a foe.’

‘Will they see it that way?’

Resak let his shoulder go and patted him once on the back, stepping away. The klaxons still sounded and they needed to get to their stations, head down one of the many lengthy shafts of the mines of Velorum, and plunder its depths for the dilithium to fuel an empire.

‘We will find out,’ Resak rumbled, eyes clear even in the light. ‘When the time comes.’

Comments

  • Reman solidarity! Down with the Star Empire!

    May 3, 2022