Depths of Dvonia
by Matt Saddoris
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Armis lay in his bunk, trying to drown out the sounds of the crowd around him. He had spent the last two days thinking of how he was going to do it, how to get rid of Git’ah.
He had contemplated making a weapon from one of his tools. But the B’Colou had a hard, chitinous exoskeleton that was like armor, plate. He scrapped that idea. He had contemplated a pistol, but that would put him more in debt. He finally decided the best way to deal with a bug was by squashing it. He ran through scenarios all day as he sifted rock next to the Diggers.
On the second day during their shift, Jase whispered to him, “The shuttle is coming in tonight. We’re finally getting out of here! I just got word from one of the other Egg Heads.”
Armis laughed and said, “It’s coming? Oh man, it’s happening!” Armis calmed himself and continued, “Let’s try and keep our heads down and get through this last shift. You and me are getting out of here.”
Armis gave Jase a smile, but his heart was beating wildly. His eyes darted around the dig site. He needed to make it happen now, or else Jase and he would both be stuck.
Armis watched Git’ah patrol his watchtower that overlooked the dig site, chirping orders at the Hard Heads below. Several other B’Colou managers were inspecting the carts, but Git’ah sat atop his perch surveying the entire operation. Armis watched as the Diggers bore into the crust, spewing dirt and smoke as the drill bits ate away at Dvonia’s belly.
Armis took a deep breath and muttered to himself, “Now or never.”
Jase looked up from his work. “What did you say?”
Armis excused himself and walked over to the work station near the top tier. He placed his pickaxe down on the table and began to inspect the other instruments. The B’Colou assigned to the workstation didn’t pay him much attention and watched the machinery plunge deeper into the crust.
Armis’s hands shook, his eyes clouding over. He quickly wiped away the mucus and steadied himself. He could hear the distinctive clicking sound of the B’Colou shifting their vocal chords, and the stench of their breath.
“Cliuk. Armis Betoan. You are not working. Did you damage more company equipment?”
Armis shook his head and turned around to face the large creature. “No, sir. I just wanted to get your attention. See... I think there is a manager here that is... sullying the company’s honor. Taking product.”
Git’ah’s compound eyes glistened and his mandibles clicked furiously. “Cliuk. That is a very serious allegation, from one with no honor.”
“Yes, sir, I wish to get my honor back and prove myself.” Armis shifted and pulled in closer to Git’ah. The stench made him gag, but he stifled the reaction. “Sec’ah is stealing from the company. I saw it with my own eyes; he has one on him right now. Don’t tell me you haven’t smelled him before? Smelled his dishonor?”
Git’ah shifted and stood tall. Armis couldn’t read the expression on Git’ah’s face. He had never learned to understand their expressions. But he knew that the manager was processing his words, so he waited for his plan to unfold.
“Cliuk. Show me,” said Git’ah as he extended an arm out to have Armis lead the way.
Armis turned and walked down to the tier just below the top. He was nervous to turn his back on Git’ah, in case his plan went wrong, but he walked briskly down the metal walkway. Armis passed several other workers who glanced quizzically but quickly got back to their duties as Git’ah chirped at them.
As they approached a set of Hard Heads, Sec’ah stopped investigating the load and bowed to Git’ah. He chirped in the B’Colou native language, and the two exchanged words.
The B’Colou stood in the shadow of a nearby Digger, its tri-head drills screaming against the stone. Sec’ah shouted at Git’ah and gestured towards Armis, but Git’ah quickly slapped his arm down and began to sniff around him.
Armis knew he had only had a few moments to get the job done. As Git’ah was investigating Sec’ah, Armis snuck away behind the Digger as everyone stared at the scene that was unfolding.
Armis picked up a stone the size of his fist and climbed the stationary tracks of the Digger. He pulled himself up to the open cockpit where the Egg Head sat, oblivious to the scene below. His eyes were covered with goggles and his ears stuffed with cloth. Armis reached the cockpit and hit the operator solidly over the head.
Armis reached past the unconscious Egg Head and pulled its lever to the right as hard as he could. The machine whirred and strained to pull itself through the stone. But the titanium drill heads blasted away rubble as the tips exploded out of the stone. The B’Colou let out a high-pitched screech, but it was too late. The wall erupted in a wave of destruction and buried them in an avalanche of debris.
The workers that had crowded around fled from the debris. The collective wail of the B’Colou filled the pit and drowned out the other Diggers. Armis snuck down from the Digger as the B’Colou swarmed the area. Armis crept into the mass of workers that had converged, and made his way to the back.
The Hard Heads around him frantically pushed their way towards the chaos, muttering to each other about the accident. Excited voices whispered, “It was Git’ah? Really, he’s finally gone?” When Armis was mid-way through, he felt the pressure of someone grabbing his arm.
“What have you done?!” exclaimed Jase as he held him tight, fear and tears streaming from his eyes. “Are you insane?”
“I did what I had to... I... It was for us. The dream,” said Armis as he stared back. He gathered his composure. “We need to go now. We’ll catch the flight out of here and we’ll ditch this heat. I just have to go see Rence before we do.”
“Rence? Why do you need to see that drug pusher?” asked Jase. But comprehension washed over him like a cold wave of dread.
Armis shook his head and tried to pull away. “I had to... otherwise we would both have been stuck here. Now come on!”
* * *
Armis pushed his way through the crowd; Jase stood still as his friend disappeared in the chaos. The Hard Heads around them were cheering, asking each other what had happened as word spread of Git’ah’s demise. The sounds of the other B’Colou grew louder as they vaulted towards the site, their terrible screeches filling the void as Diggers stopped their work.
Armis made his way up the walkway and to the elevator tunnel. He turned to see that Jase was not with him. Armis gestured for him to follow and then looked back to the walkway. Jase ran his hands over his face, a look of exhaustion and despair flushed across his haggard features.
Armis began to walk back but was immediately tackled by one of the B’Colou that had flooded the scene. Jase yelled out in defiance and ran towards Armis, but was held back by some of the other workers.
Gaven whispered in his ear, “No, my friend. He has chosen his path.” Jase pulled away from him and got near the mass of B’Colou that swarmed Armis.
Armis managed to speak from behind the cluster: “See Rence. He’ll explain every...” but he was stifled as a B’Colou grabbed his head and closed his mouth. Other B’Colou grabbed his arms and legs.
Jase stood and wept as Armis was dragged away by the B’Colou. The hysteria of the Hard Heads began to be stifled as “Cliuk” reverberated repeatedly throughout the cavern, followed by orders bellowed out to the frantic workers.
The cavern grew quiet as a few B’Colou left with Armis. The workers stood and watched. Even the remaining B’Colou stopped shouting to observe. The Hard Heads all knew what the B’Colou did to those that refused to work or were caught stealing. This was different; this was murder. The punishment would be more severe than the usual depraved things the B’Colou came up with. Everyone knew this was the last time they would ever see Armis.
* * * Armis sat in darkness, the metal chains digging into his wrists and ankles. The room was empty as far as he could tell, an unremarkable cave like any other in the moon. It was a small cell the B’Colou had crafted for those they deemed dishonorable, before they carried out their sentence.
He shifted uncomfortably and shielded his eyes as a light drew near. He flinched as it drew close, but relief filled him as Jase stood on the opposite side of his cage, a glow rod in his hand.
“Jase... you’re okay?” asked Armis as he squinted, adjusting his vision to the light. He tried to smile, but his muscles ached from where the B’Colou had beaten him.
“Okay? I’m fine... you look like crap,” said Jase as his light fell upon Armis’s face. It was covered with bruises and cuts, and one eye was swollen shut.
“Could be worse. I could have ended up with your ugly mug.” Both laughed, but Armis grimaced as he struggled to take in a breath.
“Rence told me about your deal. You’re a moron... But Rence was a man of his word. He gave the money back.”
“I knew he would follow through. He may be a drug dealer, but he’s got honor.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? We could have thought of something together.” Jase sighed, his features cloaked in shadow from the small glow rod. “Now the B’Colou are going to keep you imprisoned, or worse... We could have found another way.”
“I’ve been dragging you down ever since you got here, Jase. You’ve always been smarter than me. I showed you the ropes, but you quickly outgrew me. I didn’t want to keep dragging you down. It was my decision to make, my mistake to correct.”
“We had a plan, you idiot. Get off Dvonia, travel to Xlinor and start up shop. How am I supposed to do that now? What about the company?”
Armis laughed bitterly and fought through the pain. “I was never leaving Dvonia. I dreamt of it. It was the only thing keeping me going.” Armis’s eyes turned to the floor. “But I know I don’t have the chops for making it out there. I got no certification or credits. I got no chance. Besides, they don’t have skall there. It was just a dream.”
“Armis, you just don’t get it. You never gave yourself the chance. We would have been free. It would have been a struggle, but it would have been freedom. It’s not like we didn’t go through hard times before.”
“I’m sorry,” said Armis with a shaky grin. “Just... take my share and set up shop. Get yourself off Dvonia and make something of yourself.”
“Oh, I’m taking your share,” said Jase with an uneasy chuckle. “That you can be sure of.”
Silence fell upon the room as heavy as the shadows cast by Jase’s glow rod. Neither one wanted to be the one to finally say it. Armis couldn’t stand the thought of this being the last moment with his only friend. He savored each second as if it were a gasp of air for a drowning man.
“Take care of yourself, Jase, you’re going to make something of yourself out there. Now go, before the B’Colou catch you.”
Jase nodded. “Goodbye, Armis. I’ll be seeing you someday.” With a sigh, he disappeared back into the darkness.
As the light faded away, Armis sat back against the stone wall of his prison and began to daydream. A smile crept upon his bruised and bloodied face. He could feel the warm sensation of the blue sun. He felt Jase’s first steps off the ship and onto the surface of Xlinor. He was glad that Jase would get to experience that. He drifted away into his dreams, ignoring the reverberating sound of “Cliuk” as it echoed down the dark expanse.
* * *
Jase gave his ticket to the pilot of the shuttle. He stood with a small bindle of the few items he called his own. The other crew members unloaded the supplies and workers they had brought.
“Welcome aboard the Pioneer,” said the pilot. “We’ll get you to Xlinor in a few minutes after we finish unloading the goods and pack up some of those rocks of yours. Just sit back and relax.” He gave Jase a nod and left to help the others unload.
Jase walked into the shuttle and took a seat near the front. No one else was joining him on his journey, but that didn’t surprise him. Nobody really left Dvonia, just more and more came to whittle away at its earth, digging deeper and deeper until there was nothing left.
He looked out the bow window, past the console that was a few feet ahead. In the distance, he could see the blue giant lazily drifting behind the horizon of Xlinor, the city sparkling like a magnificent jewel. The light of the star shimmered across the glass and metal that covered the planet. Jase looked at the empty seat beside him and placed a hand on the hard metal. He closed his eyes and drifted away into the first peaceful sleep he had experienced in years.
Copyright © 2017 by Matt Saddoris