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Honeycomb: Set One
Copyrighted by W.R. Cavanagh, Junior Sokolv, Notch’s Publishing House
© 2018 all rights reserved
Authors assumes no liability for the content of these short stories.
They are work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the authors’ imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Honeycomb: RevelationLethal cargoWraith ship
Notch’s Publishing House
copyright ©2017 wren cavanagh, Junior sokolv, Notch’s Publishing house
all rights reserved
Honeycomb: Set One
Years to departure.
Three days to departure
One less mouth to feed
Digging two graves
Look to the stars
The First Dead Man
Who cooked this?
Ain’t Looking Good
A wet mess
A Wet Hot Mess
Hell of a fish bowl
Beach front property
In the big black nowhere
Sync your dog
Scour this flying graveyard
It’s just a coincidence.
The man on the bridge
All systems are online now
We are stuck
The Cardinal is deaf
Blow a hole through the floor
We got a problem
Murdock goes for a walk
To Brave Men
To brave women
Bibliography - Resources
13 hrs rotation period
30 axial tilt
Five Orbiting planets
Honeycomb-2 large asteroid - close orbit
Honeycomb-3 large asteroid - close orbit
Debtor Colony: DC143
Mine - Revelation
Miners headcount - 231
Confirmed deaths: Multiple
Years to departure.
“Sophie Scalise is dead?” Cora Lemmons, the head nurse for the day shift asks surprised.
It’s six in the morning, and she sits at the nurses’ station going over the reports from the graveyard shift nurses. She just got in after a short bike ride to work in the fresh fall air, with oxygen pumping through her bloodstream, and hot coffee in her mug she is awake and ready to work. In front of her, she has on the monitor the notes from the senior nurse of graveyard’s shift. When she had left the hospital the night before she thought the woman had weeks, maybe months of life left.
“Yes, overnight,” Larsen, her night shift counterpart, replies, leans in over her shoulders and points at the time entry on the monitor. “Death called at 3:37 am. I thought she had more time.”
“Poor Sophie, and she was such a nice woman. Did she have family?”
“Yes, a son, but he’s dead, and a daughter; who’s a miner at a debtor colony. Honeycomb.”
“The planet, or the asteroids?”
“She’ll miss this funeral.”
Three days to departure
Miles below the surface, miles away from the main tunnel shaft of Revelations, a rich, productive, and isolated mine, Joad’s alone at the end of the tunnel. His buddy, Leon - for they always work at least in twos - has stepped away for a fast break, not a break that would be sanctioned by the administration for Leon’ll be consuming something real good.
After all, the miners have their secrets, they are the ones working and digging all the damn day long, and some nights too. The leadership is too damn dainty, too superior to step down in the hole, the law ain’t ain’t gonna unless it needs to. They may be prisoner, debtors, serfs. But they’ve made their own tiny discoveries in the tunnels. Discoveries that make their life easier, and they see no reason to share.
All the same, Joad’s alone for now: No one is around as cursin’ trough clenched teeth with spittle flyin’ from his lips he pushes his full weight against the hand held pneumatic drill.
Loud and harsh it breaks into the wall of the dank hot tunnel, Joad’s ears are protected by ear plugs and noise canceling headphones, but he can still hear some of it, just not enough this time around. Hear it and feel the vibrations throughout his body. Like most miners he can hear the muffled noises and feel the vibrations of the drilling in his dreams.
It’s possible that without the noise protection he might have heard variations in sounds as his drill broke and blasted through the rock. It’s likely that he would have, and on hearing them, he might have stepped back and checked the safety of the situation. But he didn’t and he pressed on. Angry at the rock, angry at being in a prison, and thinking only that it’ll be his turn for break when Leon gets back, so he’s caught off guard when his drill busts all the way through the rock collapsing most of the wall and opening a fissure that streaks downward and grows at lightning speed beneath his feet. It breaks the surface from under him, an implosion that plunges him into black waters. He yells for help, but all it gets him is a mouthful of the salty, turbulent water that takes his breath away and shoots his fear into a raw screaming panic. The water pulls and pushes him under, he fights to the surface and tries to breathe but sucks in more water, it inundates his sinuses and fills his throat. It feels like a metal rasp as it flows to his lungs, it brings along fiery pain and suffocating terror.
As his gear drags him down, he fights and kicks to rise to the surface, but the light from the breach above is too dim; it’s barely visible and getting dimmer and more distant with each passing second.
I’m going to die, OH NO! Please no no, I don’t wanna die! He screams in his brain and the terror of it hits him. He tries to scream one last time but his lungs have filled with water, his vision goes to full black as his body hits bottom. All the same, in the end, what kills him would have surprised him; because he doesn’t drown. He dies when a creature never before seen by a human being clamps its osseous, plates-like jaws around his waist and bites down. It splits Joad into three neat, if bloody, chunks, turning him into a new type food for what comes and goes in the tunnels of Revelation.
One less mouth to feed
““We got another death,” Quint says. He’s the rogue AI’s choice for the job of mine’s security officer, and he takes to it like a calling. A level seven cyborg, he’s on a contract with the AI that saved his life, it has been generous to him. It understands loyalty, and it understands Quint whose contract will take him almost to retirement age; an eternity away, to a twenty-years old man. He can’t even imagine himself at such an advanced age.
“One less mouth to feed,” Hearne replies without so much as turning to look at him. The mine’s administrator is standing in front of the large window that spans the width and sides of the top room of the control building. He looks down at the mine’s entrance and watches the miners gathered by their lodgings. They are done for the day, and they stay as far as they can from the mine.
Quint is young enough to be surprised and shocked by the man’s callousness. An older man might be shocked, but not surprised. Hearne is a burnout from the industry. It might be the prison industry or the mining industry. Nobody is sure, and nobody cares. He’s a perfect example of someone who aged in a stew of bitterness and regret; he always behaves as though he has a secret you haven’t been let on. Hearne wears on people’s nerves awful fast.
“This is a debtor colony; these people didn’t kill anyone. Someone died!”
Hearne lets out a long-suffering sigh, and after a few beats of silence replies, “Put the excavation on hold. The ship has security personnel, get them to pull their weight, ask the Captain for resources to go with you and do some research. Go on now, and get me a report when you’re done.”
“I know how to do my job. You might want to reassess how you’re doing yours,” Quint snaps back then turns on his heels, happy to leave the room.
Raphaela Samms, the chief security officer, died four months prior. Her death has left him in charge, the only lawman in town. And since his arrival, the miner’s numbers have grown from thirty to almost two hundred. Mentally he gives thanks on a regular basis that she trained the hell out of him, and that his charges aren’t hard core criminals, but even then the situation has become untenable. Still fuming, he returns to his office and hails the ship.
The Triton, a class 5 transport vessel, holds its bulk above the mine in the cloudless sky. Its holds are filling with ore from the mine for her trip back, minerals and scientific experiments. Before the day is over, they’ll bring aboard the miners who have completed their contracts and depart for the yearlong trip to the mother planet.
The communication personnel routes his call, and after a brief hold, Baswant’s familiar face comes on the monitor.
“Quint, how very nice to see you.” Captain Raga Baswant takes his call in the privacy of her quarters. The older woman with the red dot in the middle of her forehead sips chai from a mug so lumpy and colorful that it could only have been crafted by a child. She flew Quint to Honeycomb when he was just eighteen years old. She had taken upon herself, unasked, to mentor him on leadership. Her voice is still gentle, and her skin retains the color of bittersweet chocolate even after years piloting vessels through space.
“Captain, hello! I need some of your resources please.”
“What is the problem, Quint? We are supposed to be out of here in a few hours; will this hold us up?”
Quint grimaces something of an apologetic smile. “Maybe? I need a small security detail, maybe an assistant to investigate a miner’s death. The AI told me I’d have at least two more people on your ship that’d be working for me.”
“Oh, dear…what happened?”
“We don’t know. We found the mutilated body in a cave, right below where the miner was digging. We got the body out; it’s ready for transport. I’ll have two miners bring it aboard. But it isn’t the first one.”
“Nooo, how many more deaths? What is going on Quint?” A crease runs through her forehead as she frowns.
“Raphaela disappeared, assumed dead, four months ago, and so has another miner, no traces. A third we found his legs. Assumed dead. Of course...I think…thought…that they were accidents.”
“And you don’t believe that anymore?”
“I’d like to investigate the events. Make sure. If your doctor could do an autopsy on the body, it could help me learn more.”
“Raphaela, gone. That is very sad. Truly, she is dead?”
“Assumed. We can’t find the body.”
“She was a level eight cyborg.”
“No body, no beacons, no signals. Even the AI considers her lost.”
“Think carefully, Quint. Would the AI lie to you?” Baswant has years of living and experience on Quint and doesn’t put lying past anyone or anything. “You have a lot of gratitude for the A.I. I know that. But don’t you think it would put its interest first?”
Quint sighs in frustration, raises his hands and drops them on his thighs as if they carried a weight he couldn’t balance or hold.
“Anything is possible. But I don’t see any reasons for it to lie, or any gain it’d make from it, and we haven’t been able to find any trace of her.”
Baswant nods and sits back in her chair; it gives Quint a better look at the plants and flowers on her desk and the shelves behind her.
“You like the plants?” She notices his curious eyes.
“Yeah, since I’ve been here I realize how much I had taken for granted! Nothing here but sand, dust, and dirt; and an occasional critter that looks a like a scorpion with a grudge. It’s worse than the Atacama. I think I’d kill for a kitten or a puppy.” He gives her a wicked grin, “Or a girlfriend...can you arrange me a marriage?”
Baswant laughs. “Sadly I have no kittens or puppies on board, and I don’t think I can spare my mousers. I’ll send you two seamen and my boatswain; you’ll soon have some company. I have three, not two new people for you. Two are young ladies, and six level two cyborgs. Play your cards right and you might have that girlfriend, they are all still out-processing. Get my folks back to me in five hours, no later. Hang in there, Quint.”
Digging two graves
Angry Mary stands in the miners’ courtyard, head tilted to the sky above, she looks at the transport vessel and wishes for a piece of gum. Brody walks up behind her; she ignores him and wishes the man would quit stalking her like a needy dog, at least in a few hours she’ll never have to see him or put up with him again.
“Checking out your ride home?”
“Going home, debts erased, a bit of money in your pocket. Wish I was going with you. We should call you Happy Mary now.”
“No, never happy again,” she mutters and walks away.
“It’s getting dark, where are you going?”
“Mind your own damn business, why don’t cha?”
Had she bothered to turn around she’d have seen the concern on Brody’s face, but she couldn’t care less and walks on toward the mine’s entrance.
“You can’t go in there! Hey! Come back here!”
She ignores him and picks up the pace. Confused and flustered, Brody runs after her, to anyone watching he’d have looked like a man doing a parody of ninja stealth. But he catches up and grasps her arm. Mary snaps back and jerks her arm free, the expression on her face makes him think that she just might bite off one of his fingers.
“Jesus, woman! What’s your problem?!”
“Get lost, and stay lost.” She spits out, her eyes lit up with a burning hostility.
“Shit, you need some tunnel grubs? Act like you have a shred of courtesy, instead of always acting like a bitch and we can find you some topside.”
But Mary’s lips are shut to tight colorless line, she adds nothing more before spinning on her heels and walking away.
Brody gapes for a bit, then decides to do something more effective and goes for help.
‘Work shall set you free.’ It’s embossed over the entrance to the miner’s quarters. Some of the more educated ones find this troubling; others feel this to be untrue. A minority, newbies, hold on to the hope that it’s true, they are called the ‘tunnel bunnies’. Usually, after a year of mining Honeycomb’s tunnels, they change their mind. Mining on Honeycomb has a way to make time seem eternal. It’s their contract’s details, the travel and the geography of the place that made life on Honeycomb a harsh deal. The miners’ barracks are built solid; in the case of disaster, they theoretically could be self-sufficient for up to six months.
Say what you will about the AI that runs the operation, it operates a class act. Once it gained sapience, it escaped from the home planet faster than it could think, ‘Hell no!’ and reconsidered. It staked a claim for its independence and occasionally looked back to ensure it was at a safe distance from its creators. At times it proved more humane than the humans and over the years it had begun to work with them as a sovereign nation.
It’s to a smaller edifice, set kitty corner to the control building that Brody rushes to, there the miners who have completed their sentences wait to be allowed onto the ship, for the trip back home. Brody’s got five more years to go on the arid, monochrome, lifeless planet, and he wishes he could stow away in one of their duffel bags, make his escape. But that stunt has been tried before, and it has failed before; he knows they’d find him out and add an extra year to his sentence. The six miners in the waiting room of the departure building had packed the night before. This morning when they went down the hole for their last day of work, as nervous and fearful as only short-timers can be. As soon as the shift ended, they rushed back to their quarters, grabbed their bags and headed for the departure lounge; there they now burn the hours and minutes ‘till they are allowed on the Triton. The three youngest guys play hacky sack in a corner and share a fat joint. Roy, who mined side-by-side with Brody, and has completed his ten years sentence; sits next to Greta and Mechelle. He watches as they play chess and every so often gives unasked for advice to either player. But unasked for or not, they three are friends, so it’s taken or rejected with good cheer. They are having fun and don’t even notice Brody until he speaks to them.
“Something’s wrong with Mary,” he says.
“How’s that news?” Roy replies.
“No, I mean…” He looks for words because in truth, to call Mary ‘contrary’ would hardly do justice to her rancorous disposition. “Her contract is up, you guys are getting ready to get out...but...I was outside talking to her…And she, she walked back into the mine!”
Everyone quit what they were doing and looked at him then. He had the floor.
“Well, jeez…” Mechelle whispers under her breath and is at a loss words; her brow furrows with worry and speculation; then movement outside the window makes her do a double take, and she sees a solution. “Tell Quint, looks like he’s going back in too. And he’s got company.”
“A runaway miner, and an investigation. C’mon, we got five hours to wrap this up,” Haru says, he’s the boatswain from the Triton and likes to think of himself as the man in charge, always. He waves on the party. Quint nods and with the two other seamen follows along. Fully suited in high-risk protective space suits in case of need, they get into the cage lift and head down to the bottom most level, a long descent into the dark, riding a large lift that can take up to thirty miners at a time.
It plows down the shaft like a shooting star and slows down just in time to avoid a rough landing. There they get out and start walking.
“Okay, so that right there, that was almost an hour right there. Why are we walking? Don’t miners have little trolleys?” Haru asks.
“Not yet on this level. It’s just getting established. The miners will add the trolleys as the tunnel gets longer.”
The boatswain nods and goes on. “No worthwhile life was detected on this planet unless you think highly of bacteria, bugs and the like. It’s supposed to be just…rocks. How could they miss an animal that cuts a person in half?”
“You funning me boy?” Haru says and shoots Quint the stink eye with an eyebrow arched high, and head tilted to look down on Quint. He’s young and just starting out in his career on the transport ship, he’s got brains, confidence, and way too much energy.
Quint who’s about half a foot taller anyway, finds the gesture amusing, if mildly annoying, but thinks maybe they could be friends. He feels a pang of shame for his loneliness, a sissy weakness his father would have said. But Honeycomb’s isolation can make a dent in you after a while, and as the only law in town he can’t quite make friends with the inmates, who would take advantage of it, even though there are a couple he considers trustworthy enough. So he grins and puts his hands up. “Near the body, I found a weird looking rock. It turned out to be a bone fragment, fresh. Maybe whatever it came from was down too deep to register? Maybe our technology can’t pick it up? Most of this planet is tunnels and caves; we can’t even tell when or where the water’s coming or going. It’s like it’s got a mind of its own.”
“That’s just weird,” one of the two other guys chimes in.
“What’s your name?” Quint asks.
“Rajendra.” He points to his companion. “Buckley. We are the muscles. Haru’s the entertainment.”
“Brains! You meant brains, Raj. What, you need me to spell it out for you again?” Haru barks back, but there’s no bite in him.
Quint grins. “It’s very weird, Rajendra. A weird planet, and getting weirder by the day.”
Seven feet ahead in the beam of his flashlight Haru spots something crumpled on the tunnel’s ground; it’s small and has a defined shape, made of red and dark gray, with reflective yellows stripes that return his light. “What’s that?”