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21 December 2012 @ 05:37 am
FIC: The Windmines of Bora Bora - 7/11  
Author: Osiris Brackhaus
Story Title: The Windmines of Bora Bora
Part: 7/11
Rating: R
Configuration: /
Warnings: slavery, despair, previous rape and torture mentioned, off-screen rape, frequent and graphic violence,
Word Count: 2.700/36.000
Setting: 'Phoenix Empire' verse, see Phoenix Empire Timeline & Index
Characters: Ivan, Smelly
Summary: Now that Ivan knows Smelly's secret, together they try to find out what making the slaves of Bora Bora disapppear...





“Ivan, now! RUN!”

Smelly’s yelled command was the only thing Ivan had still been waiting for. Hurling a last blast of flames at the pack of snarling beasts in the dark tunnel ahead, he just hoped for the best, spun around on his heel and ran as fast as he could.

Mere seconds later, the roof of the tunnel caved in right behind him, burying some of the beasts, scaring others, but most effectively closing off the tunnel.

A few meters ahead, Smelly stood with his naked feet buried into the ground, grinning behind the thicket of his beard.

“What the hell took you so long?” Ivan asked, still a little out of breath from the fight. “And what the fuck were those things?”

Smelly shrugged. “Native Bora Bora wildlife, I guess. And I tried to concentrate, trying to pinpoint the location of that factory I keep hearing.”

“Wildlife, huh?” Taking a deep breath, Ivan forced his body to ignore the adrenalin that was still rushing through his veins. “I was always taught BoBo was a dead rock.”

“And you believe what people tell you?” Grinning again, Smelly gestured at the air around them. “Can’t you smell it in the air?”

“With you around, I can hardly smell anything else.”

Smelly crossed his arms in front of his chest, but by the sparkle in his eyes, Ivan could tell he was smiling. And as oddly as it sounded, he was actually getting used to Smelly’s stench by now. Also, he was getting used to reading the gestures of his weird friend and mentor, and the way Smelly was standing there clearly meant that he expected Ivan to figure something out.

So Ivan closed his eyes, drew another deep breath and tried to identify was Smelly expected him to notice.

“It is quite moist down here, and a lot less dusty.” Taking another breath, he added: “It smells moldy, but apart from that there’s nothing unusual.”

“Yes..?” As Ivan didn’t react, Smelly prodded: “And what do you know about mold?”

A little confused, Ivan looked back at him, wondering if he was asking the question seriously. It was a little difficult to figure out whether Smelly was acting his normal, quiet and soft-spoken slave persona, or if he was slipping into his quiet, soft-spoken but very firm and irritatingly observant Phoenix Knight mode. Said Phoenix Knight had also decided not only to teach Ivan about his ‘visceral’ style of pyrokinetics, but to educate him in all kinds of tricks of the trade. And apparently, this was one of those moments, too.

“Not much, I guess. It needs darkness and moisture, both of which are quite abundant down here.”

“They never teach you to start at the beginning, do they?” Scratching his ass, he added: “Where does mold grow?”

“In the dark...?” Ivan replied hesitantly, quite sure he was missing something very obvious.

“On organic material.”

“Yeah, but - “ Ivan started, breaking off as he realized what Smelly was getting at. “You mean there IS organic material down here somewhere? Enough to sustain, like, a whole ecosystem?”

“Smart boy.” Giving Ivan an approving pat on the shoulder, he turned around to further walk down the tunnel. “There must be another passage somewhere to the left, maybe I can get a better signal from there.”

Smelly’s astounding talents allowed him to sense the system of tunnels better than any map or technical appliance. In combination between his affinity for rocks and his ability to sense even minute vibrations in the air, he was about the most useful guide one could wish for in this maze.

On most other planets, Smelly would be able to pinpoint pretty exactly any place with high human activity or working machinery. But here on Bora Bora, the constant hum of the storms and the incessant howling of the wind-catchers limited his ‘sight’ to a few miles.

For the last three days, they had been hunting some sort of ‘factory’ Smelly had been sensing down here in the area, something that was too deep and too remote to be a part of the regular guild operation here. But so far, they had only managed to narrow down their search on a few miles radius. And of course, this far down, other things walked the dark tunnels besides them – biggest so far the pack of beasts Ivan had been forced to fend off only minutes earlier.

About the size of large cats, with proportions that simultaneously reminded of rats and wolves, they seemed to be the first predators they had come across. At least, their impressive teeth and the fibrous, frayed scales on their back made them look rather combat ready.

The more Ivan thought about it, the more sense Smelly’s earlier remark made. When the people of the Gilded Republic imported water to Bora Bora by the cubic mile, they sure hadn’t sterilized the stuff. Combining biospheres from different planets made for an exciting mix already by itself. But at least since the end of the Dark Ages, there were hundreds, if not thousands of people living here on Bora Bora, all of them just dumping their waste into lower tunnels, effectively boosting any food-chain that had developed in the deeper caverns.

“Those disappearing slaves that you are looking for, you think it’s the beasts that eat them?”

Smelly shrugged. “I am sure some slaves get lost in the tunnels and get eaten. But that can’t make up the numbers we are looking for, else we’d be stumbling over some anthropophagous beast around every corner down here.”

It was still indescribably odd to hear Smelly use words like ‘anthropophagous’. Even Ivan, with all his noble education, would have said ‘man-eating’.

“So you think we’re looking for something else?”

“Someone else.”

There had been such conviction in Smelly’s reply that Ivan found himself once again reminded that even though the whole story was entirely unbelievable, he didn’t really doubt it. Maybe Smelly was still not telling him the entire truth, and maybe Smelly wasn’t even a Phoenix Knight to begin with. But he sure as hell was one powerful and resourceful psion, and Ivan wouldn’t let this chance pass for all the money in the empire. In the last three days, he had learned more about his powers than in all his life before. And slowly, he was beginning to feel what Smelly meant when he always said that they were still merely scratching at the surface of Ivan’s abilities.

Where he had struggled to light a candle before, now he could hurl balls of flame the size of melons as easily as he was flinging insults. More often than not, he produced more fire than intended, each time singeing off the hems of his tunic’s sleeves by another inch. Luckily, Ivan seemed to be immune to his own flames, else he’d be in a very sorry state by now indeed.

So far, the only drawback of his deal with Smelly seemed to be a profound lack of sleep.

They worked their shifts with the other slaves as if nothing had changed. But as soon as they were back in their caves and most of the other slaves had dozed off, their real work began. Which meant there wasn’t much sleep for either of them by now. But Ivan couldn’t have cared less.

It was easy for Smelly to create a personal tunnel just for the two of them that led into the lower networks, and from there on they went on their little expeditions. Guided by Smelly’s fine hearing and infallible bearing, they searched the caverns section by section, going for each clue, each disturbance that could give them another hint about what was happening to the slaves.

Wordlessly, Smelly raised his hand, gesturing Ivan to halt.

Well used to such interruptions, Ivan didn’t even ask. Smelly’s hearing was so much finer than his own, probably he was hearing some tunnel rat walking ahead of them.

A moment later, Smelly signaled Ivan to follow him, and to remain silent. Nothing new there, either. And anyway, the dangerous stuff only happened when Smelly was not paying attention. Like a few minutes ago, when the alleged Phoenix Knight had been intently listening out for that ‘factory’ he was suspecting somewhere down here. Smelly had been so lost in concentration that he hadn’t noticed the pack of tunnel rats approaching through a narrow crevice. Fending them off had been quite a challenge, cowardly and nimble as they were, but Ivan had managed long enough until Smelly was able to cover their retreat.

Again, Smelly gestured him to halt.

A little down the tunnel ahead of them, Ivan could hear voices arguing. Two men, by the sound of it, and apparently unaware that they were no longer alone.

“How can you be sure it’s the rat’s again?” the first man asked, sounded rather annoyed. “You’re getting paranoid. I can’t hear anything.”

“Just because you’re half deaf doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They are listening to us, waiting for us to be alone... It’s almost as if those beasts are laughing at us.”

“Oh good Lord, get going. We’re already running late, and the meat is out of the freezer for far too long already.”

Around the corner in the dark, Ivan quirked his eyebrow. What did these guys do down here? They almost sounded like rehearsing some kind of sit-com in a butcher shop.

All of a sudden, there was a sound on the ground a few steps ahead of Ivan that almost made him jump out of his skin. It was just the tiny clicking sound of gravel shifting under tiny paws, but after his earlier encounter with the tunnel rats, he was instantly alarmed.

Only that Smelly seemed more amused than alarmed when Ivan looked at him. The presumed Phoenix Knight was holding out his hands like a puppeteer holding strings, his fingers mimicking a small animal walking. And of course, the stones on the ground obeyed him flawlessly.

It only took a few more seconds before the two men in the corridor ahead of them noticed the sound as well.

“There!” the first one yelled, audibly alarmed. “Did you hear that?! That wasn’t just my imagination!”

The other one hesitated a moment, but then Smelly apparently figured out how to give the impression of several rats approaching. Now, it sounded very much like the scurrying of a dozen tiny feet on the rocky floor, maybe even a little spookier than the real thing.

“That sounds like a whole pack...” the second one said flatly, finally convinced. “I have never heard so many of them...”

“See!” The first guy’s voice was almost tilting. “I told you! I TOLD you all the time! We should never have started feeding them the scraps. They can smell the meat.”

“You think?”

For a long moment, neither of the two men said a word. Then, suddenly, as if on silent cue, they turned around and ran, moving away from Ivan and Smelly and their imaginary tunnel rats. Their steps resounded harshly on the loose gravel in the tunnel, and disappeared swiftly into the distance.

“You are laughing.” Ivan said once he was reasonably sure they were alone. “Why’d you scare them away? Now they won’t answer any questions.”

“They left their ‘meat’. Maybe that’s gonna answer some questions without leaving bodies behind. And besides, how can you tell I’m laughing, I thought you couldn’t see anything in this light?”

“But I can hear you snicker.” Shaking his head, Ivan dug a small glowie out of his pocket, shaking the pebble-sized lamp a little until it glowed softly, shedding just enough light for them to get a bearing. “You sure you’re a Phoenix Knight? You are kind of evil at times.”

“Who said the Phoenix Knights are the good guys?”

“The Emperor? At least, that’s what I always thought this whole thing was about.”

“Oh, well, yeah. Him. HE is one of the good guys. Me, working on it.” Smelly followed Ivan around the corner, carefully examining the low cart laden with white plastic boxes the other men had abandoned there. “Still a Dracon by birth, you know?”

“You, a Dracon? You gotta be kidding me.” For a moment, Ivan feared that Smelly was seriously delusional if he thought he could possibly pass as a member of that family. Anita’s family. His family. “If you are, you’re the worst Dracon I’ve ever met.”

“That’s what my fiancé tells me all the time.”

“A fiancé?” This excursion is getting more and more interesting. “Why have you never mentioned her?”

“Why should I have?” Smelly replied with a fiendish grin. Kneeling down, he cautiously tapped against one of the boxes before picking it up. “His name is Colin.”

“I see. Is he a Dracon, too?”

“He’s a commoner.” Looking up from the box in his hands for the first time, he smiled at Ivan. Quite enamored, he added: “I met him on my first mission. I was undercover in a village on Leichnam, and he was the town’s baker. It was... complicated, but rather romantic.”

“Damn, you sound smitten.” Whatever Smelly was, he definitely was no Dracon. No Dracon would ever be so obviously in love, and much less admit to it. “And the Emperor is all fine with you marrying some run-of-the-mill baker from some backwater hovel?”

“He’d better.” Not elaborating further, Smelly removed the protective shrinkwrap cover and popped open the box. It was filled with a milky liquid, some of it spilling on the floor, eerily glowing in the low light. “This smells like... dentist.”

Cautiously, he poured out some more of the liquid until a dark, wobbly shape emerged.

“Uh...” cautiously sloshing the contents of the box back and forth, Smelly finally turned the whole thing for Ivan to look at. “Looks like a human kidney to me, don’t you think?”

Holding up his glowie for a better look, Ivan shrugged. “Kidney, yes. Human, no idea.” Taking the box out of Smelly’s hands, he turned it around, searching. “We might just read the label, though. As usual, hardly legible smallprint, but if I am not entirely mistaken, it says ‘kidney, human male, 22 years’. How comes I have the feeling this was not a voluntary donation?”

“Maybe because it wasn’t?” Scratching his beard, Smelly seemed lost in thought for a moment. “An organ trader ring would make sense. Stealing healthy slaves and selling them in parts can yield a decent profit.”

“You don’t sound too convinced.”

“They could just pay off the guild here and make it a legal business. Running this in secret would hardly increase their profits but maxes their trouble.”

“True. Stealing from a guild is as stupid as saying no to the Emperor.”

Smelly grinned widely, his brown eyes glittering with amusement. “You have no idea how right you are.”

“So you still think we are missing something?”

“Maybe just a piece of information.” With a determined face, Smelly knelt down and put one hand onto the trackmarks in the gravel that the organ-laden trolley had left. “But I think I found their factory.”

“In this context, ‘factory’ sounds truly disgusting. Can we please kill all of them?”

“Remember it might be a legal operation, after all.” Grinning, Smelly added: “I think we should pay them a visit. Maybe they resist and we have to smite them in self-defense.”

Despite everything, Ivan felt himself almost aroused by the thought of getting into a proper fight, now that he finally knew how to use his powers. “I so hope they resist.”

Smelly made a snarking sound that could have been a laugh. “Not tonight, though.”

“Not?”

“No. It’s late already, and if we run into trouble, folks might notice we’re missing from our cave. Can’t have that yet.”

“First you promise me we go smite some people, then you say we don’t,” Ivan pouted amiably. “I was so looking forward.”

“You’ll get your fight, I promise. But we really should head home now.”

Smelly was right, of course. But Ivan was itching to test the extent of his powers, and waiting another day full of dreary work really didn’t sound like too much fun. But Ivan shrugged, nodding calmly.

“Which way is ‘home’?”

Smelly pointed in the direction they had come from, and Ivan headed off. If there wasn’t a fight to be had tonight, he’d rather get home fast and catch a few hours of sleep.

It looked as if tomorrow night wouldn’t be restful at all.


 
 
 
idolme922idolme922 on December 21st, 2012 06:06 pm (UTC)
This just gets better and better! But kidneys? Ewe and Ick!! Ivan is very cool and I ♥ Smelly!!

Looking forward to the next part. ☺
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 22nd, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)
Well villains are bound to make villainy stuff - including selling kidneys of forced volunteers.

So glad you like the characters, hope you'll like the rest!

Thanks for commenting!
debbiemethosdeb on December 21st, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
loved it,its hard for me to imagine smelly smart & educated,I kind of thought him simple and he has a boyfriend,he is just getting better & better.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 22nd, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
Can you imagine how hard it is for Ivan to reconcile his (olfactory) perceptions with what Smelly supposedly is? But Smelly IS a real sweetheart, you're absolutely right. And I am quite sure you'll like him even better the more you get to know about him.

Thanks for commenting!
BerthaBlueberthablue on December 28th, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
Organ smuggling?! The horrors.

I'm also disturbingly wondering if they are eating/using people for meat, because that's where my mind goes.

I love the way that Smelly is helping Ivan to figure out his abilities!
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 28th, 2012 08:27 am (UTC)
I don't think that's disturbing, I think it's just showing that you've got a hang of how people work in this verse. If there's a credit to be made, be sure there's someone already doing it.

Most anthropophagous nobles, though, prefer to eat meat from prey they have brought down themselves.

(Which is to say - never mind, dear, you're in good company.)

Thanks for reading and commenting!