The boy noticed a frozen bite of food earlier this morning, while the camp's guards did their usual corralling. Slave children were formed into their usual work teams, the youngest being by far the largest group. They'd cough, and they'd wallow, and then slowly march into the mine shafts. Staggering with their tired, covered with lesions feet, did they carry the bulky digging gear, dressed in raggedy “protective” suits.
The healthiest could be immediately picked out of the bunch. Their skin was yet to be blemished by radiation-induced scars, they still had most of their hair and... teeth. Whoever was the unfortunate and most probably now dead child, they couldn't bite well, chew or even swallow their food. Meaning, he now had another chance to put his recently conceived plot into motion.
Careful to not stick out of the miserable mass of child miners, the boy checked if his fake scars looked convincing enough. Studying his face, covered with mixed with dirt excrements, reflected off a frozen, muddy puddle of piss, he smiled internally. While his column was passing inspection, he made sure to fake a twitch or two, shudder and even wallow on his feet.
As soon as the welcoming dark of the mine shrouded his features, the boy could allow himself to walk with a much faster pace. In the hell that was this uranium mine, protection and food was everything. Medicine the unfortunate slaves had virtually no access to, unless they debased themselves. This was the only way for those who were stupid and wished to suffer even more, to steal a bit of comfort before death.
Any and all descent into soul devouring degeneracy, was by no means part of his plan...
Two of the older boys slowly walked out of the mine, the body of a crushed by rocks child in their hands. They did what he was also ordered to do; oftentimes carrying the irradiated corpses was yet another form of punishment, another way for the guards to have their fun. If you were singled out or did not know to keep your silly gob shut, they'd force you to drag bodies every day, all day.
Not only it was a tiresome task, but mind altering too. One child could see only that many mutilated by rot and radiation faces before they'd snap. Then there was the “graveyard” itself – the Pit Of Glow Death. Filled with thousands of slowly rotting away cadavers, those who were forced to work around it, soon fell prey to radiation sickness themselves.
He was an exception; in his culture tradition dictated that children would learn basic survival skills since early age. The suits which every miner wore offered a laughingly weak amount of radiation protection, yet they were cheap, easy to fix and therefore perfect for a slave operation. Careful to not raise suspicions and avoid lethal levels of radiation, the boy picked spare bits and pieces only from those bodies, which looked the healthiest.
It wasn't long, before his shoddy-looking suit was triple padded, and the otherwise junk of a face mask, actually filtered the deadly uranium dust. Anything more complicated and he wouldn't be able to fix, let alone modify with the jerry-rigged from odd pieces of scrap metal, tools.
Food, however, was entirely another deal.
The corpse-carrying duo vanished from his view and soon he found a promising-looking crack in the rock. Like him, many other small children struggled to dig ore after they've squeezed through one or another crevice. In such a confined space, doing anything was nigh impossible, yet they had to work. Everyone had a quota to fill, and those who, for some reason, were capable of producing more, could bargain with the guards for extra water or food.
This is how he managed to keep himself from rotting away, and staved off dehydration. One big lump of ore was the cost of a small sip of water, yet for a child it was more than enough.
For his plan to succeed, the boy canned every little bit of anger. He kept his gob tightly shut, eyes and ears open, his mind alert. After surviving unnaturally long period for a child of his age, he noticed how the internal “economy” of this slave camp operated. It wasn't easy watching those who sold themselves for bites of food and medicine, slowly degrade before his very eyes.
Then there were the bullies who preyed upon them; not all slaves were alike, and though most shared in their misery, others caused more of it. These individuals were bad to begin with and after some time spent in the pit, they fully embraced their parasitic nature. Slave guards tolerated the bullies, fed them better quality food and gifted their “pets” with a small amount of drugs even.
Entertainment in a slave camp was, generally, non-existent. Here, however, there were sponsored by the camp Intendant gladiatorial fights and participating in them was an integral part of his plan. Yet, only the healthiest even had a chance in winning these deadly bouts. Depending on what their guards would decide that day or better yet, bet on, the fighters would use digging gear or even their bare hands.
The boy was a Terran and all Terrans were quite vicious in their hatred of bullies.
This is why most would rather put a railgun round or laser beam in their head, than become slaves. The boy had failed in doing this, he was stunned, captured and then sold to this slave mine. This was actually a fate luckier than the most, who would otherwise get a mind control chip implanted in their brains, pumped full of meds or mindwiped by a telepath. Then, they'd be sold as sex slaves to some degenerate alien, to be used, abused, and then discarded as some toy made of flesh.
Gladiatorial fights were always brutal and to the death. Since the healthiest slaves could only be those protected by the camp guards bullies, the boy could kill two birds with one stone. Secure better nourishment and take out these disgusting degenerates. One by one, starting from the weakest, he'd kill them, make sure they get their just rewards for all the extra misery they caused.
Some nights he couldn't sleep – so loud were the cries of pain, and the tortured voices begging for mercy.
To witness what was happening in the camp, daily, the boy had to wage a constant war with the ever-growing rage inside him. He'd bottle it up, label it, shelve and ration his hate, save it for the day of death. When he could finally unleash his own blocked by the mine's psychic nullifiers telepathic power.
For the sparks of those children who endured terrible suffering and died, those whose irradiated cadavers rotted away, piled like garbage in the pit of glow death, the boy could hear their screams too. Dead were they, yet he clearly heard every word, listened to their plea and finally, embraced it.
Boris was a Terran and Terrans were most vicious in their vengeance. Relentless in their preparations of it, their minds unbound and unbroken, they employed every single resource at their disposal. He would not adopt the most degenerate course of action, however, because for a Human of this modern age – the ends never justified the means. For a creative Terran mind, there was more than one way to kill a slaver.
The boy would carefully pocket that extra bite of food later; after consuming it and an extra sip of water or two, he'd fight. Boris studied his opponent for days, observed how he fought and learned his weaknesses. While his mind analyzed every bit of information he'd so far gathered, he crawled further inside the rocky crevice. Sparingly he used his strength, chipped lumps of ore, careful not to get stuck and rupture his suit.
Every breath of air, every calorie spent, every gulp of moisture measured. No unnecessary movements – only in his thoughts Boris exerted himself, imagined how he would counter his opponent's every move. But all of that would not happen until tomorrow, and only after all of his preparations were complete. Because those who did not play the game couldn't win, and yet those who changed the rules of the game itself – they could win without playing.
Study the villains, exploit their everything and finally, crush them with merciless efficiency.
Tomorrow was not just another day... tomorrow was that day.
This is episode one of the Starshatter Clips, a new series inspired by reader feedback. I will write and post these on my Patreon page. You can read many short stories there, all set in the Starshatter scifi universe of my books.
First scene - Dying Starlight
Second scene - Tiny eyes of doom
Art by @lillyput , you can visit her page here.