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24 November 2012 @ 07:41 am
FIC: The Windmines of Bora Bora - 2/11  
Author: Osiris Brackhaus
Story Title: The Windmines of Bora Bora
Part: 2/11
Rating: R
Configuration: /
Warnings: slavery, despair, previous rape and torture mentioned, off-screen rape, frequent and graphic violence
Word Count: 1.800/30.000
Setting: 'Phoenix Empire' verse, see Phoenix Empire Timeline & Index
Characters: Ivan, Smelly
Summary: Former Dracon pet Ivan is shipped off to the mines as punishment for a temporarily successful runaway attempt. But there is a lot more than just slaves hiding in the Windmines of Bora Bora...
Feedback: Yes, please!

It was the relentless noise of the engines that forced Ivan back to consciousness.

At first, he tried to stay in that blissful state a little longer, but little by little, reality forced its way back into his mind. Soon enough, he had to move into a different position where he didn’t get a new bruise from every lurch and jump of the freighter he was in. Instantly, he regretted the decision, as all his muscles screamed in pain, having been forced to remain motionless after he had been shot down with a stunner. Cursed be his gloating sister!

Another heavy lurch of the freighter made Ivan wince, mostly because another prisoner next to him toppled over and fell on Ivan’s cautiously stretched leg. Trying to get away from the other man in the half-dark of the cargo bay, Ivan slipped to the other side, only to find himself sitting in a puddle of something probably too disgusting and organic to warrant any further investigation.

With a low curse, he pushed himself up, against the corrugated steel wall, noticing with another muttered curse that their cell wasn’t even high enough for him to stand up straight. Then again, nobody expected a cheap freighter bringing freshly convicted slaves to the mines of Bora Bora to be comfortable.

The only light in the cargo bay came from a tiny emergency bulb above one of the doors. In the dull red glow, Ivan could make out the huddled shapes of about two dozen men in the same cage with him. More, similar cages were stacked next to and on top of the one he was in, easily one hundred new slaves for the mines.

The air was stale and damp, full with the stench of unwashed men and human excrements. Probably, the crew had switched off the life support for the cargo bay, Ivan mused. The trip to Bora shouldn’t take more than a few hours, and no one really would complain about a few dead slaves. Offering fresh air to condemned slaves would just have narrowed the profits on an already meager trip.

All of a sudden, searingly bright light filled the cargo bay, inciting howls of outrage and pain from the prisoners. Blinking through tearing eyes, Ivan realized that the cargo bay had long, narrow windows after all, and that they had just entered the day side of Yaiciz moon, the unfiltered sunlight blinding after the long darkness.

Slowly, his eyes got used to the light again, and the shapeless creatures sharing his prison turned into people. Men of every age, all of them slaves, ragged and dirty, hunched over with the dead look in their eyes of men who had abandoned all hope. Many were wounded, cuts and bruises only cared for in the cheapest way possible, so they wouldn’t bleed on the floor.

Grimacing at the sight, Ivan wished for the darkness to return.

But the sunlight kept gleaming into the freighter, casting long, slanted rays through the bars of the stacked cages. Searching for anything to look at that did not fill him with repulsion, Ivan found himself staring at an especially dirty prisoner on the other side of his cage in disgusted fascination. Wearing nothing but a soiled, mud-crusted tunic, his hair and beard an indistinguishable thicket of filthy hair, the guy looked less like a prisoner but more like some homeless drunkard tramp. The guy even smelled bad enough to stand out in a cell full of unwashed slaves.
Only when the tramp cracked a smile of bright yellow teeth, Ivan managed to look away. He couldn’t say for sure, but he had the vague suspicion that the tramp had also winked at him seductively. That, really, was a new low even for Ivan’s pretty miserable standards.

With a deep, resigned sigh, Ivan instead tried to focus on what little he could see of the moon’s surface through the window behind him. It was only a narrow strip of plastcrete glass, covered with orange grime and soot, but then again, Bora Bora wasn’t exactly the most interesting place to look at.

The moon’s surface was nothing but endless, rocky hills and dunes of gravel, orange sand filling the valleys like water. Every now and then, a giant wind funnel broke the monotonous rock desert, each one looking like a battered iron shell washed up on a giant’s beach.

Originally, Bora Bora had been a dead rock like almost every other moon, without atmosphere, water or any trace of life. But when Yaiciz became too crowded and too dirty, the moon was picked out as possible refuge for the rich and powerful, the ultimate gated community. The moon was rechristened after a legendary island on Earth, and an unprecedented terraforming effort was launched.

But that had been before the Fall, and the project was never finished.

At least, that was the official version.

Ivan knew that the project had long been abandoned before the collapse of human civilization, mostly because of cost explosions. The scientists and engineers had managed the incredible feat of increasing Bora Bora’s gravity to almost the level of Yaiciz and adding a stable, breathable atmosphere, all this while keeping the overall gravitational mechanics of the system unchanged.
But the project had run into prohibitive costs when they tried to implement any kind of ecosystem that would turn Bora Bora from theoretically inhabitable to hospitable. Frequent, heavy storms wrecked the surface, any imported water disappeared into the cracks and caverns of the crust, never producing any mentionable humidity.

But the people of Yaiciz were industrious, if nothing else. When after the Fall, humanity emerged again and started looking for new ways to make profits, it didn’t take long for the first enterprising spirit to realize Bora Bora’s real, untapped potential: energy.

The constant storms that rendered the moon’s surface basically uninhabitable were pure energy, free to be harvested by anyone who could tame them. It took several decades and many flamboyantly failed attempts, but in the end a system evolved that was both simple enough to withstand the harsh environment and effective enough to be profitable.

Giant wind-catchers were erected strategically all over the moon’s surface, acting as funnels that led parts of the storm down into the ubiquitous caves. Subterranean trough pits collected all the gravel and sand the storms carried with them, until the air was clean enough to be ejected through massive turbines. The energy generated was then led towards the equator, where a huge microwave array sent the energy down to Yaiciz. As Bora Bora was in rotational lock with it’s planet, this was a fairly simple and reliable process, and there had been only very few incidents of scorched neighborhoods on Yaiciz.

Ivan grimaced at the thought. Sure, the cheap energy from Bora Bora had paved the way to make Yaiciz the industrial powerhouse of the Empire. But it only came cheap in terms of money, not in terms of human lives.

For even as sturdy and reliable as the engines on Bora Bora were designed, there was one problem that could only be resolved by hard slave labor.

All the storms invariably carried dirt and rocks with them, the stronger ones even hurled boulders the size of small cars around. So the wind-catchers all sported massive grids to keep out the worst of the rubble that would threaten to clog the tunnels. Naturally, whatever size of grid you chose, there would always be a number of rocks just the right size to get wedged in, reducing the airflow and in consequence the profitability of the plant. Mechanical cleaning solutions were nice, but breaking down much too fast in the constant assault of dust and sand. Energy shields were prohibitively expensive, and that only left one solution.
Every time the storms calmed down sufficiently, crews of slaves were sent out to the wind-catchers, cleaning the grids with sledgehammers and their bare hands. It was hard, unskilled work in an unforgiving environment, with living conditions dictated only by cost efficiency. Life expectancy was less than a year for most slaves on Bora.

The fact that Bora Bora was a moon, with a surface that made survival almost impossible, made it almost impossible to escape, on top of everything else. Always eager to make yet another credit, the owners of the power plants were quick to catch on and offered to take in those slaves too useless or unruly to be kept around - turning Bora Bora into the biggest hard labor prison camp of humanity over the years.

In a way, Ivan wondered, it was kind of an accolade, being sent to the mines, now. After all, it still beat being a Dracon pet by miles. It was a definite step down from his life as gang leader in the slums of Yaiciz, though. But then again, he wasn’t too picky.

Of course, he couldn’t entirely ignore the nagging feeling of hopelessness that gathered in his stomach. Nobody ever returned from the mines. And as much as Ivan told himself he didn’t mind hard work, he shuddered at the thought of hauling rocks for the rest of his life.

But he didn’t want to give in to despair. He never had, not when his godforsaken sister had sold him like a cheap slave. Not when he had been the laughing stock for his relatives, raped and beaten and displayed as a novelty item on countless occasions. If anything at all, it had turned him all the more determined.

He had been a boy when he was sold, eager to please and so worried about failing. But that boy was long gone. Only, Ivan wasn’t too sure what was in his place these days.

A sudden shift in the incessant hum of the freighter told him that they were entering Bora Bora’s atmosphere. Other prisoners also noticed the change, and a wave of chatter branded through the dimly lit cargo hold.

Looking out of his window, Ivan once again wondered if this was a new low point in his life or actually an improvement. Up here on Bora Bora, life would be hard, but simple, and probably short. In a way, it felt like a relief to him after the years of fear and loathing that he had spent on Yaiciz. But he doubted it would be enough.

Outside, craggy orange rock formations rushed by, bizarre shapes cut out of the ground by the storms, obscured by roiling clouds of orange dust.

Soon, the freighter slowed down to land, and a strange, popping and pinging noise became audible. It took Ivan a moment to realize it was a hail of pebbles that peppered the ship’s outer shell now that the shields were down.

It was a sound he’d better get used to, now. He would hear it for the rest of his life in one way or another.

Welcome to Bora Bora.

Milady OMlady_om on November 24th, 2012 07:08 am (UTC)
Interesting how cool/collected Ivan is with this and that you did not go with helpless despair/angst. It seems that Ivan grew some spine and balls in slavery :)

And props for your imagination on windmines. Would not be able to come with anything like that in a bazillion years.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on November 24th, 2012 07:51 am (UTC)
Ivan was filled with fear and despair all his childhood. When he became a pet, he tried to ignore everything and just die. And then he realized that he didn't want that, that he really, really saw no point in dying until they killed him. That's when he started making plans to run away.
Of course, his armor of cool isn't perfect (as we will get to see), but he's been though a lot already, and 'being send to the mines' isn't much worse than 'being sold as a Dracon pet', so he's got a certain been there, done that attitude.

Thanks for the props, though the windmines were actually just a word I grabbed out of thin air. Over the years, it got more and more elaborate until we suddenly realized how it would make sense and then we had Ivan... I don't really come up with things like that myself, but given a little time, I think I can make a completely preposterous idea pretty credible.

Thanks again for reading and commenting!
idolme922idolme922 on November 24th, 2012 04:04 pm (UTC)
Major kudos for an entire chapter that was captivating without one word of dialog! The descriptions and Ivan's inner thoughts paint a very intriguing picture, dismal yet not hopeless, at least for Ivan.

This is so different from anything I've read. I can't wait for the rest! Lovely job! ♥
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on November 24th, 2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, this really means a lot to me. I was a bit worried that it felt too much like the infodump it is, so I am all the more thrilled that it feels captivating. ^^

debbiemethosdeb on November 25th, 2012 12:36 am (UTC)
loved it ,even now he has nor totally givin up,he is looking at it as a step up? crazy guy but maybe that is what will keep him going.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on November 25th, 2012 01:56 pm (UTC)
He IS a bit on the strange side, but I do not think he's crazy. Damaged, maybe, but not crazy. He's just trying to see something, anything positive in this change.

Rest assured that you'll get to see how it turns out live and in color!

Thank for the comment!
BerthaBlueberthablue on November 27th, 2012 08:05 am (UTC)
I like Ivan's perspective. Very realistic, but still pretty hopeful, especially given the situation he's in. Then again, belonging to his sister couldn't have been a tea party; from what we've seen of her, the mines might be more enjoyable!
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on November 27th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! He didn't belong to his sister, who sold him to another Dracon - their father forbid it, because he wanted to get rid of this failure. But yes, the mines sound like something of a relief to him. We'll get a flashback to Ivan's time as a pet, though, so you can decide for yourself if it's a move up or down. ^^
triptyxtriptyx on November 27th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
I had really forgotten how young he was when his sister sold him!! O_O I think he can exchange notes in horrible things with Wes and Robert!!! :S :S :S

I really loved the description of Bora Bora! Not an info dump at all! :)
The energy generated was then led towards the equator, where a huge microwave array sent the energy down to Yaiciz. As Bora Bora was in rotational lock with it’s planet. and Outside, craggy orange rock formations rushed by, bizarre shapes cut out of the ground by the storms, obscured by roiling clouds of orange dust. Maybe someday I will kick myself into doing some sketching again, I felt really inspired by this landscape! :)

And yes it took only this second chapter to me already being all :( poor Ivan! :S
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on November 27th, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
I think if ever they were to compare notes, Ivan would find that he'd been through more than Robert, but definitely less than Wesley. Then again, he was a pet only for a few years, not a lifetime like Robert, so maybe that makes a difference, too.

Thanks so much for the compliment about this not being an info-dump, I was admittedly worried. But the action will start with the next chapter, and from there on it's only getting better! (Or worse, that is...)

Thanks again for commenting!
Clodiametelliclodiametelli on December 3rd, 2012 05:24 am (UTC)
I liked the description of how the windmines work - clear and ingenious. Ivan is facing a grim prospect but he is not yet crushed.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 3rd, 2012 07:38 am (UTC)
Thank you! Especially the 'clear' part made me smile - I was a little worried there.
hab318princess on December 12th, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
great chapter
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 13th, 2012 08:53 am (UTC)
Thank you!