Part of USS Ahwahnee: Thoughts From Underground and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

Stained Yellow

Foshir III
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Tyrothan’s mottled grey skin was streaked with a dull ochre. He tried his best to scrub it off, undeterred by the futility of the task. Perhaps this time would be different? This sonic shower was certainly new. Since entering the mines, the only respite from the filth and choking dust was the ice cold shock of water from the communal bath. He scrubbed and scratched and tore at the thick, keratinous epithelium around his eyes. Here the deep yellow stain was most concentrated. Operating mining beams, scaffold welders and simple picks for decades had given the arathamite ore ample time to work its way through to the living flesh below. The molecule’s ten valence electrons, crucial for the construction of warbird singularity chambers, formed a chemical bond with any organic matter it touched. Romulans, returning home to the surface each night, would simply strigilate themselves to remove the stain. The Remans were marked forever. 

Clothed in a rough sack, he bowed his head as he was led from the holding area beneath the dock. He cast down his sunken eyes to the slekwood floorboards that creaked and groaned under the weight of his massive frame. The shackles that bound his hands were themselves tinged gold with arathamite. His heavy boots clomped up the steps and into the central cubicle. His eyes burned, his chains rattled as he heaved an arm up to shield them from the light. Dim by Romulan standards, to Tyrothan it was like looking directly into the flare of a cutting beam. Eyes scrunched into thin slits, he grunted. 

Tyrothan could barely make out the Romulan who presided over the room. He seemed typical in appearance; a smooth-haired, sour-faced figure sat in the elevated chair, holding his nose high as if reacting to a terrible smell. His pale greenish skin was clerically smooth, and it was with well manicured fingers that he held the datapad containing every detail of Tyrothan’s meagre existence.

“Miner 2841B, I am Chairman Tr’Eann. You currently stand before the Imperial Labour Inquiry Board. You will answer our questions quickly, concisely, and to the point. Understood?” 

It was the first Tyrothan had heard of any ‘Inquiry Board’. Like anything Romulan, he doubted it was real. The light shone solely from behind the Chairman, obscuring anything in the shadows that fell on either side of the room. Lie or not, Tyrothan had no choice but to go along with it. He knew what happened to those that didn’t. 

“Yes,” he called out in a hoarse growl.

“Hmm,” the Chairman flicked through the datapad, “you were seen not far from another group of miners. More than two were congregating for purposes other than work. They have been dealt with accordingly. Were you aware of this meeting?”

“No.”

The Romulan sniffed, “Have you been aware of any such meetings taking place between miners?”

“No.”

“Have you overheard any discussions regarding the Romulan Free State?” 

“What is the Romulan Free State?”

The Chairman leant forward, the corner of his mouth curling up in a smile, “Indeed,” he gave a dismissive wave of his hand, “Miner 2841B, you’re aware of the punishment if you are found to be withholding information from the Inquiry Board?”  

“Disintegration.” Tyrothan answered as if there were any other punishment. 

“You may go now.”

Tyrothan bowed his head, shuffling his ankle chains to the side before descending the wooden stairs. He allowed himself a deep sigh as soon as he was out of the Chairman’s line of sight. To even admit the existence of the Free State meant certain death. 

The lift lowered him back into the mines. No less than seven other Remans had been crammed into the small cage that juddered down from the surface. The rhythmic clank of ancient, obsolete pneumatic tools thudded in the distance, punctuated by the deep booms of ore blasted from veins and rocky crannies. Tyrothan could already see thick dust suspended in the single shaft of light that filtered through from above. It was an almost golden colour, floating and spinning in the currents of the void to which he now returned. His eyes became used to the black once more, and he was comforted. The miners around him twitched, eyes darting here and there, inscrutable if they wanted to survive. 

The chains slid off. Tyrothan flexed his arms and legs.

“Shift’s over,” the Romulan guard growled, key in hand, “back to your cells.”

They trudged in pairs through the vast entrance cavern. Their mood, subdued at the best of times, was particularly dour that evening. Their transport to the surface for questioning had taken the entire day. Yet their mining quotas remained the same. The rest of the week would be a brutal, relentless slog.  

The cells lined either side of the tunnel. Despite near total darkness, each Reman found theirs. The doors were not locked, for there was nowhere to run to in the sealed mines. Tyrothan touched the sensor and the metal shutter slid open with a rattle guaranteed to wake the others. He anticipated the resentful glares he would receive in the morning on their way out to the ore-face. 

The bed was a smooth metal block that jutted from the rock. Tyrothan first sat, then lay down to stare at the familiar patterns and cracks in the ceiling. The tiny cave had been his home for eighteen years. He turned his head, looking across to his cellmate. Norvult had lived here longer still, yet his friend slept the peaceful sleep of someone who had hope. Together, they could feel the ripples of change drifting down from the surface. Norvult’s eyes snapped open, but he did not move. His eyes locked with Tyrothan’s. Those dense, black eyes had absorbed all, and it was time to share what they had learned.

The voices were few at first. One or two, here and there, sharing the day’s trials and successes. Before long, more filtered into Tyrothan’s mind. Try as the Romulans might to police the thoughts of the Foshiran Remans, they would not succeed. Decades in the dark had honed their minds. Long into the night, all was told; the Inquiry Board, the instability of the Star Empire and the disintegrations. Then Tyrothan’s pulse began to race. A clamouring roar ripped through their link like nothing that had come before. He calmed himself and focused, clearing away the chatter until he found the thread. He sat bolt upright. Norvult followed. Free State forces were bound for Foshir. 

Comments

  • You hooked me from word one. That was poetry you wrote about arathamite ore, turning a simple shower into everything we need to know. It told us about the experience of the Remans and how they've been oppressed by Romulan society and their fictions, like the inquiry board. It told us about the way the Remans have been changed, so fundamentally, but their treatment at the hands of the Romulans. Tyrothan is such an effective point of view character. Reading every detail practically made me ache with fatigue and ennui. It made it all the more victorious as he felt the first glimmer of hope it what sounded like a very long time!

    May 31, 2022
  • Oh my good god! What a read! I loved every minute of that chapter, from the description of life in the mines to the board of inquiry and Tyrothan's doubts about its legitimacy. The same sort of stuff I imagine is happening all over the region, if not the Empire itself. He tires of their oppression, and I am thrilled that he gets to see some glimmer of hope at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Can't wait to read more!

    May 31, 2022
  • Oooo, this is certainly a great way to start off the Fleet Action for the crew of the Ahwahnee. I loved the detail here of how the Remans are being treated, it was dark, cold and upsetting. Lots of description to play on your emotions - this certainly makes the reader want to empathise with Tyrothan's current plight. I had completely forgotten about the Remans having telepathic abilities until those last two paragraphs.

    June 1, 2022