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27 December 2012 @ 06:32 am
FIC: The Windmines of Bora Bora - 8/11  
Author: Osiris Brackhaus
Story Title: The Windmines of Bora Bora
Part: 8/11
Rating: R
Configuration: /
Warnings: slavery, despair, previous rape and torture mentioned, off-screen rape, frequent and graphic violence, minor character death
Word Count: 3.300/36.000
Setting: 'Phoenix Empire' verse, see Phoenix Empire Timeline & Index
Characters: Ivan, Smelly
Summary: The fact that Ivan is now working with an alleged Phoenix Knight does not mean Madrigal is going to ignore him...





Only a few hours after Ivan and Smelly had returned from their nightly excursion, they were woken by the loud blaring of a horn that signaled the beginning of a working shift here on Bora Bora. Groaning, Ivan peeled himself from his pallet, feeling that he had barely closed his eyes. Every little pebble underneath his blanket seemed to have left a dent in his back and left him feeling all-round miserable.

Perversely, Smelly seemed to be up and running already, greeting Ivan with a wide smile of yellow teeth, blinking out from his ample facial hair.

“Don’t you ever get tired?”

“What?” Smelly retorted with fake innocence. “We’ve had three full hours of sleep! I don’t really see how you could be tired.”

Instead of a proper answer, Ivan only flipped him a finger.

Silently, they got in line with the other slaves to pick up their morning ration of water. Breakfast, as usual, consisted out of a NutriBar or two, the little gray blocks just being poured down to the slaves in a big chute not unlike a giant bird feeder. Once again, Ivan grimaced at the subtle cruelty of feeding them the only substance known that could sustain a man’s body but slowly chipped away his soul.

There were the usual squabbles about the water, with slaves higher up in the local pecking order insisting on their share. Not that they really needed more, but it was a nice way to show their superiority and a good way to ensure the weak ones remained weak.

Unsurprisingly, no fights broke out over the NutriBars.

Retreating to their little cave, Ivan and Smelly sat down in silence. Not that water and NutriBars would ever make a meal, but still, it was better than nothing. Ivan had just opened his mouth to ask Smelly about the plans for tonight, as two tall slaves walked up to them, clearly looking for trouble.

“You owe Madrigal water,” the first one said, crossing his massive arms in front of his chest. “He wants the first bottle now.”

“You got to be fucking kidding me.” Ivan hadn’t heard a word from the local ‘capo’ in weeks, and had silently hoped that the matter had been resolved in a pact of mutual ignorance. Apparently, he had been wrong. “Listen, boys, I’ve killed enough of your men even you ought to know I won’t just hand over some water, now. Go tell Madrigal he can kiss my lily-white ass, and if he wants anything, he’d better come in person.”

“Just give us the water, man.” The other guy tried a pleading approach. “You must have a whole stack by now, and we really don’t want to die just because you and Madrigal have some weird pissing contest.”

“What?! This is MY fault, now?”

“Well,” the ganger argued cautiously, “you insist on defying Madrigal, so he has to try and put you down. You know, he’s gotta be strong, else others will think his position is up for grabs, and that only means more fighting. More dead.”

This revelation stunned Ivan into uncharacteristic silence. But the guy made sense, of course. Had he really thought he could enter the local power structure and nothing would change? It was still Madrigal who had sent several of his minions into their deaths, but Ivan could have cut this short if he had killed that madman the day he had arrived.

“On the other hand...” the ganger continued, hesitating and with sidelong glances at his companion. “If you were to challenge Madrigal, there are quite a few of us who’d stand with you.”

Ivan almost laughed out loud at the thought. Sure, that would solve many of their problems if Ivan took over Madrigal’s place. He’d be powerful enough to create at least a semblance of civility down here. A week ago, that would have looked like a decent option.

But today, there was that psychic who might or might not be a Phoenix Knight, who might or might not take him off this blasted rock once his mission here was completed. What if he killed Madrigal now and then left a few days later? Would that have improved anyone’s lot down here?

Smelly was picking his toe nails right now, and obviously not going to be any help in his decision.

For a moment, Ivan was tempted to send them back and wait a few days to make up is mind. But whatever he did, it wouldn’t solve the problem – if he sent them back without water, their comrades would give them hell for weeks to come, if he gave them the water, Madrigal would think him weakened and send more goons to finish him off.

Grinding his teeth, Ivan finally nodded.

“What’s your name?” he asked the second and apparently much smarter ganger.

“Dink.”

“Go back to Madrigal, Dink, give him this bottle and tell him I am challenging him. Then keep out of trouble, I will be needing you.”

Dink’s eyes went large. “Now?”

“When else?”

“We only have, like, half an hour before the guards will take us to work. If they find you fighting...”

“Don’t worry, dear.” With a wolfish grin, Ivan added: “It’ll all be over by then, one way or another.”

Dink nodded, vaguely stunned but impressed, and rushed off, instantly followed by his companion.

Rolling his eyes, Ivan turned around to Smelly who was still inspecting his feet intently.

“Are you with me on this one?”

“Why do you even care?” Smelly asked back without even looking up. “What’s it to you if you kill some of them?”

“I’ve killed way too many already. They were idiots, but there is no such thing as a worthless life. This has to end.”

Smelly looked up, intrigued. “A lot of people would argue that the slaves on Bora Bora are about as worthless as they come, and criminals to boot who don’t deserve better.”

“So and? Since when do I care about the opinions of ‘a lot of people’? I am not worthless, and neither are they.” Wrinkling his nose, he added: “Most of them, anyway.”

Smelly only harrumphed something unintelligible in return, concentrating on his feet again.

“Now, are you with me or not?”

“Sure.” Rising, Smelly dusted off his tunic, but somehow only ended up getting more dust onto himself. “Madrigal isn’t going to give you a fair fight.”

“Who said I intended to fight fairly?” Ivan released a puff of flames from his hand for emphasis. Making flames these days came as easy as breathing to him.

“I hope you’ve got more of a plan than just to incinerate him.”

“And what would be wrong with that?”

“That the Mining and Engineering Guild will have some psion under contract, scanning the region here for unscheduled activities?”

“If they had, they’d have found you ages ago.”

“I am cloaked.”

“Now you tell me? Really?” Casting his companion a wry look, Ivan stopped walking. “So what to you suggest?”

“You fight like you always do, and I do what I always do?”

“And that would be?”

“Not being noticed.”

There was a point to that, Ivan had to admit. With Smelly in the background, any opponent he’d be facing would have to fight against extremely uncooperative ground, slipping and snagging everywhere, while Ivan would have the opposite advantage. That alone should even the odds against a lot of fighters.

Suddenly, Ivan felt something creep up the leg of his pants, like a long, slithering, many-legged insect. Slapping the particular area of his calf hard, the sensation stopped, but there was nothing in his pants that could have caused this. Only when Ivan noticed a fine trickle of sand coming out and heard Smelly snicker softly, he got the hint.

“Sometimes, small things confuse more than big ones,” he said, adding a puppeteering motion with his fingers. “Anything below a visible flame should be too faint for anyone to notice. I am sure you’ll come up with a nasty surprise or two.”

The last remark brought a dark grin onto Ivan’s face. He might not be the best fighter he had ever known, but he sure was one of the dirtiest.

As they had come to the part of the cave that Madrigal and his goons were currently gathering, Ivan shot Smelly a parting nod. He almost chuckled as the alleged Phoenix Knight slipped away and disappeared into the crowd like a fish in murky water. A genuinely dangerous talent, that.

Ivan, on the other hand, did quite the opposite. Already he had everyone staring at him, but he intended to make this as showy as he could. He really wasn’t in the mood to have some of Madrigal’s lieutenants entertaining ideas. So he climbed one of the larger rocks at the rim of the cave from where he had a great view of Madrigal, sitting comfortably on a pillow, together with a few of his closest allies.

“Madrigal, you slimy afterbirth of a mule!” he yelled, sure to gain every attention in the room with that remark. “I am tired of killing your child soldiers. I challenge you for your position, come out and fight like -”

Ivan didn’t get to finish that sentence. With a calm that completely belied the situation, Madrigal had pulled a blaster out from the back of his jacket and fired straight at his challenger. Ivan could see the projectile leave the muzzle, a plain, standing-wave forcefield bubble containing a pea-sized ball of plasma, heading straight for him at half the speed of sound -

Plasma was fire.

In the split second that it took the blaster projectile to cover half the distance between Madrigal and Ivan, he realized that he could feel the fire inside of it, could sense its immense heat and energy. And that he could manipulate it as easily as a candle flame.

Instinctively, Ivan dropped off the stone he was standing on, mentally pushing the blaster shot away from him. He could feel the projectile react and move away, but only a few centimeters in the remaining fractions of a second that were left. But a few centimeters had been all that was needed. The blaster shot impacted in the rock wall of the cave, exploding there, showering the bystanders with glowing drops of slag.

Seeing that he had obviously missed his target, Madrigal cursed and shot again, this time aiming carefully.

But now that Ivan knew what he was dealing with, a blaster no longer held any threat for him. All it took was a slightly raised hand and the second projectile never left the barrel of Madrigal’s blaster. This time, it was Madrigal who had a split second to realize that something was wrong before the blaster exploded in his hand, showering him and his companions with bits of molten metal. Technology, Ivan thought, a stealthy psion’s best friend.

“So you ARE a coward,” he stated loudly, standing up straight and walking right at his opponent. “Scared already?”

Instead of a reply, Madrigal only cursed, shaking his singed hand, gesturing with the other.

“More of your minions?” Ivan asked theatrically as a handful of gangers the size of oak cabinets blocked of his way to their master. “Don’t you think they’ll one day stop fighting for you if they see me kill them one by one, however many you send?”

Unimpressed by his little speech, the gangers moved ahead and fanned out, clearly some of the better trained of Madrigal’s many minions. They were wielding crude bats, two of them were brandishing rebars.

“My fight is not with you,” Ivan said calmly to the approaching fighters. “Let me pass and you walk away with your lives.”

His only reply was a scoffing snort from one of them.

Nonplussed, Ivan took this as the opening shot of their fight and once again dropped into the low Ga’Un stance. They were closing in on him from three sides, while everyone else stayed back as well as they could while still getting a good view of the action.

Ivan waited until they were almost in reach before he moved. Then he dropped to the right and back, only to propel himself forward and to the right again as soon as his feet touched the ground. He came up a little behind the rightmost guy, who was still trying to understand what Ivan was doing with an almost comically puzzled expression in his broad face.

He was only beginning to turn around to face his opponent when Ivan rolled onto his side and kicked for his ankles. Ivan could feel the earth stick to him like glue, and he was able to put all his force into the kick that was meant to uproot his opponent. But apparently, Smelly was holding the ganger’s feet as well, and with a slight shock Ivan felt the crunch of overtaxed bones and cartilage under his feet.

With a loud yell of pain, the ganger collapsed, definitely out of the fight for a long while to come.

But his comrades were not willing to give Ivan another such opportunity. The closest one was already swinging his rebar at Ivan, using a lot of force and little aim, figuring that a single hit would cripple him sufficiently. The first hit Ivan managed to evade by rolling back onto his feet, the second one he had to deflect by grabbing the weapon mid-swing and forcing it to the side.

For a heartbeat, Ivan and the ganger stared at each other over the length of rebar, then Ivan indulged in a nasty, canine-revealing smile. At first, the ganger looked confused, then surprised, and then suddenly let go of his weapon with yelp of confusion and pain, his hands raw and blistered.

Ivan instantly jumped up and brought down his newly acquired rebar onto the head of the ganger in front of him with a wet crunch.

The man collapsed without a sound.

Four seconds into the fight, he had already brought down two fighters for good, Ivan thought while falling back into a low Ga’Un crouch on top the downed fighter. The remaining gangers were looking at him now with respect, but also undiminished determination.

“I still have no fight with you,” he repeated.

“Oh now you do,” one of his attacker hissed back and charged.

This move came unexpected to Ivan and he lost a precious second wondering how to best counter it. So he rolled backwards once again, hoping to gain a moment while bringing a little more distance between them. The attacker didn’t seem to care much and just ran on, but right when he was about to bring up his nail-studded bat, he slipped on the uneven gravel. Desperate to regain his balance, he ignored his cover, giving Ivan the opening he had been waiting for. Ivan lurched forward, thrusting his rebar at his opponent’s sternum with both hands like a short sword, hoping to blow the wind out of him.

But the expected impact never came. Instead, Ivan felt his rebar pierce the man’s chest as if it was made from clay, rasp against bones and cartilage and pop out on the other side of him. The ganger coughed a spray of blood and fell onto Ivan’s shoulder, his bat rolling out of his hand.

Blinking in shock, Ivan almost missed the odd movement on the tip of his rebar. But the metal there was tapered to a needle-fine point, covered in blood and gore, and already slithering back into its original, blunt shape. Nasty surprises, indeed.

Suddenly in a grim mood, Ivan pushed the corpse off him, not even bothering to free his weapon.

“Is this enough now?” he shouted, surprising himself with the righteous anger he was feeling. “How many more of you I have to kill?”

This time, he could see his attackers hesitate. Grateful for the moment respite, he added, pleading: “I do this to end the killing. I do not have a fight with you.”

Almost as if in slow motion, the first attacker let his guard down and dropped his weapon, opening his empty hand to show he was standing down. Then, one by one, the other remaining gangers followed his example, until they moved aside to allow Ivan a clear passage towards Madrigal.

“Thank you,” he said, softly enough to be overheard only by those in his immediate vicinity, before he turned around to face Madrigal. “And now to you, you rotten little worm. Any more surprises? Anyone else you’re trying to hide behind?”

Madrigal’s eyes were widened with fear now, his orange crown of hair in odd contrast to his suddenly gray skin.

“No friends you can order to stand in my way?”

“You have no idea what you are doing, boy!” Madrigal hissed. “This will all fall apart under your hands! You’ll drown in their blood!”

“I’ll take my chances.” They were facing each other now, the outcome of their fight inevitable. “Any last words?”

“You will regret this!” Madrigal spat defiantly, jumped up, bolted and ran, dashing through the crowd like a deer through a forest. “I have powerful friends!”

And then he slipped on the loose gravel and slammed down onto the ground, face first.

“So do I, honey, so do I,” Ivan whispered to himself, leisurely following his prey.

On the ground, Madrigal was struggling to get up again, slipping again like a drunk. He was barely up on all fours when Ivan reached him.

“That was a shameful waste of a last word,” Ivan commented coldly. He kicked Madrigal against the shoulder so that he fell over onto his back.

“You will rot in hell for this,” the old man hissed, full of vitriol, his eyes blood-shot.

“Shut the fuck up.”

Without any style or consideration, Ivan stepped hard onto Madrigal’s throat, grinding down until he heard the cartilage snap.

Madrigal’s eyes bulged, he turned red and flopped on the ground like a fish out of water, until his motions died down and he finally lay still.

“Now that this is resolved,” Ivan shouted, “are there any more contenders?”

Silence answered him all around, countless eyes staring at him.

“Any other contenders?” he yelled. Silence. “Good.”

Looking around, Ivan searched for a familiar face in the crowd. “DINK?! Where the fuck are you?”

“Here.” Somewhere three rows into the crowd, the young ganger raised his hand. “I am here.”

Not in the mood to waste any more time, Ivan pushed through to him, smiling inwardly at the crowd moving away from him like whitebait from a shark.

“Everyone!” he yelled, taking Dink’s hand and holding it over his head. “This is Dink. He is my viceroy here. He will act in my place, and none of you will ever bother me.”

“What?” Dink asked faintly, but didn’t seem too shocked, either.

“If any of you sons of bitches give him any trouble, I’ll kick you down like I did Madrigal. IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?!”

A faint, approving murmur filled the cave.

“Good, very good.” Turning to Dink, Ivan added: “Only come to me if you have trouble. I’ll measure your work by how little I see of you.” Seeing Dink’s lopsided smirk, Ivan was relatively sure that he had picked the right one for the job, at least for a little while. “Now go and clean up this mess.”

Nodding, Dink tipped his imaginary hat and turned to the countless bystanders. Quickly, he had people organized who would dispose of the bodies and make sure everything would be presentable once the guards would come to fetch them.

Standing next to Madrigal’s crumbled figure, Ivan wondered if he had done the right thing. This had happened all very fast, much too fast to absorb, and he had been acting entirely on instinct.

Right then, the distinct miasma of Smelly hit him with almost inappropriate familiarity.

“Hey,” Ivan said in greeting, not even looking up. “Good job.”

“Same to you,” Smelly replied. “Are you okay?”

“I will be.”

They remained standing there in silence for a moment longer, thankful for the fact that indeed no one did bother them.

“That went unnervingly well,” Smelly remarked finally while looking down on the corpse. “We will have to be very careful tonight.”

It would take Ivan a very long time to understand just how true Smelly’s remark had been.


 
 
 
Milady OMlady_om on December 27th, 2012 09:57 am (UTC)
Hm... the last line is evil, just so you know.

I am not sure how I feel about Madrigal. Ivan might have bitten off a bit more than he should have. But, hey, he and Smelly are a fine team :)
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 28th, 2012 08:30 am (UTC)
That was the whole point of that last line. ^^ But I promise you'll get a taste of what Smelly was hinting at before this story is over.

At least for the next days, the slaves will be busy sorting out a new pecking order without bothering Ivan. And by following Smelly, Ivan will definitely end up in a situation where he is convinced that he has bitten off more than he should have. ^^ Remains to be seen if the admittedly great team of Smelly and Ivan come through unharmed. Or at least, mostly unharmed.
idolme922: sleeping sweetidolme922 on December 27th, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
Lots of action! Ivan is taking the upper hand but there is a lot yet to be revealed here.

Great chapter! ☺
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 28th, 2012 08:32 am (UTC)
Thank you, dear!

And I promise you, a lot will be revealed. A lot more, though, than either Ivan or even Smelly have anticipated. :D
Next chapter's called 'cascading failure', just as a small hint about where this is leading.
debbiemethosdeb on December 28th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
loved it ,Ivan doesn't want the power ,that makes him the best one for the job in my book.its the power hungry ones you have to watch.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 28th, 2012 08:33 am (UTC)
Yep, absolutely right.

Though I think Smelly is grooming Ivan for another job than slave leader on Bora Bora...
BerthaBlueberthablue on December 28th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
I love seeing Ivan fight! It's like watching a mountain lion devour a gazelle on the Discovery Channel. I think he's made an awesome choice by getting rid of Madrigal and leaving someone else to be in charge under his command.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 28th, 2012 08:36 am (UTC)
Ivan's quite smart when it comes to avoiding work, a very useful talent. ^^

And if you liked watching this particular mountain lion devouring that old gazelle, I can promise the next chapter will have a LOT more devouring.

Thanks for commenting, dear!
iguanacoosbay on August 31st, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
The Whole Series
I have spent the last two days reading this series from the beginning.
WOW!!
I am gobsmacked on this series.
Off to read more...
Grandma
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 1st, 2013 03:58 am (UTC)
Re: The Whole Series
Well, I can only say - welcome to our corner of the multiverse! So glad you like what we've written here, and please, if you have any questions or anything seems unclear, please do not hesitate to ask!

Have fun reading, and thanks again for commenting!