Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 03 - "Shipwrecked"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Pullman Uprising, Justin's escape

Category: Fantasy - Rating: R - Genres: Fantasy - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2008-10-07 - Updated: 2008-10-07 - 2850 words - Complete

For nineteen days Justin languished and toiled in the bowels of Pullman Mine Camp, but unbeknownst to him, today would be the last.

It would be one of the most grueling trials he would face in his entire life. Especially since he would start it off in such a worn-out and utterly unprepared condition. Not that escape was ever far from his mind, but so far he had seen no way that had any chance in hell of succeeding.

And recent days had been particularly draining. The Director of Operations was certain that they were on the verge of the most concentrated crystal vein in Pullman Island’s history, and crews had been worked around the clock for more than two days in preparation. One group or another, at least some of the prisoners were working on it at any given time, even at night. Not that it mattered; it was
always night down here. Justin hadn’t even seen his bunk in what felt like a week, and he and the other prisoners were now allowed to sleep for only three hour shifts. At least they said it was three hours, though to him, it seemed more like they woke him up three minutes after he passed out.

Much like days, hours had become subject to speculation in this place of eternal night, whether he sat against the earthen wall with his head resting on his knees or he was back on the line shoveling a bottomless supply of dirt. Justin could only guess whether or not the sun was shining above. He had of course lived in darkness all those years in the Ruins, but even then he could still see the sky when he wanted to. He was sure that, even years later, this place would often be the first thing that came to mind when others spoke of hell.

Though his injuries had largely healed, his perpetual fatigue was only beginning to fade when they were forced onto this ruthless new schedule.

Yet Justin hardly noticed; he had more urgent things to worry about. Jimbo. Trevor. Slash. All had reason to want him dead, so he lived in constant fear of being shanked by the three or four Cyexian prisoners, bludgeoned by Gwanga prisoners, or simply being taken aside and shot by the guards. So far, no attempts had been made on his life, but that did nothing to ease his mind in the slightest.

Mostly, he just kept his head down and tried to learn as much about his prison as possible.

Little did he know that his tactics closely resembled those of another prisoner who had been here a lot longer than himself. He had asked around about the mysterious inmate known only as Jasper, the only exception to his “lay-low” strategy, but was able to learn little. Jasper himself spoke only when he had to, and none of the others knew much, save that he was forced into blasting not long after he was sent here. And that, as Justin had seen for himself, the man appeared to place no value on his own life.

Broken. That was the general consensus of both guards and prisoners alike. And like the others, Justin could only wonder what the Authority had done to him to crush him so utterly.

Though it would not be long before all of them would learn just how disastrously they had miscalculated.

Justin leaned against one of the support beams, trying to stay awake. All of the prisoners had been moved to a tunnel near the entrance as Jasper set the charges below. As he strained to keep his eyes open, reminding himself that he would only be awakened by the blast in a few minutes anyway, he tried to remember something from his last rest break, something almost like a dream…

His semi-conscious reverie was jolted back into waking reality when he heard a hoarse, desperate laugh echoing from the depths, followed by harsh words that made everyone sit up and take notice.

“You murdering bastards destroyed everything in life that I cared about!… That I might live to see this day…”

And more of that laugh, the stoic façade of years crumbling to reveal the true face lurking behind it, exposing a soul full of pain and loss, where all that dwelt now amid the ruins of his shattered psyche was revenge.

Even as Justin pondered these impressions, wide-eyed, sleep forgotten, the guards looked among themselves in confusion and horror, some of them moving to pursue Jasper.

“You hear me!? Now I take away the only thing you care about!…”

Unlike the others, as Justin looked around, seeing his surroundings in a whole new light, he happened to look up at the power cables and finally understood. Laced through cables running from lamp to lamp, distinguishable only because they were thinner, were detonator wires. His eyes followed the line down the tunnel to where he now suspected he would find blasting charges snuggly concealed behind one of the support beams. Even as it dawned on him that Jasper had clearly taken advantage of everyone’s preoccupation and fatigue to do this, he saw what no one else had caught on to yet.

Not just the new shaft—
this whole place was wired to blow.

Before he could utter a word of warning, Jasper finished:
“Emily! I’m comin’ home!!”

In that peculiar moment of silence, before all hell broke loose, he remembered the voice he had heard in his sleep. Run, boy… You still have a future… Don’t ever let them do to you what they did to me… He was now certain it had been Jasper.

Still, even as he fled the tunnel, paying no heed to the guards or their guns, he was knocked flat on his face along with everyone else when Jasper pressed the button.

The first time he tried to get up, he tripped on his own chains. Whole sections of the tunnel appeared to have sprung a leak, spewing dirt and rocks. The thunder of the lower levels’ collapse drowned out even the loudest of their cries.

Seeing his opportunity, Justin took up his shovel and bashed a fellow guard upside the head, swiping his disrupter pistol as he hobbled out of the tunnel, trying not to trip over his own shackles again.

Most of the others had a head start on him, and he barely made it out as even the entrance was swallowed up by a flood of dust and stone, tumbling down the hillside as he was thrown off his feet by aftershocks. Somehow he managed to keep his grip on his gun. As he lay sprawled on the ground, he spread his feet in the air as far apart as he could, and aimed at the chain. Two clean shots shattered the link.

He then scrambled to his feet to see that the other prisoners were fleeing in all directions, and the guards were in total disarray. Taking his chance, he shot at some of the guards, giving the others a chance to jump in and steal their guns. Unleashing all of his fury… nineteen days of Pullman Mine Camp, endless months hiding in the Ruins… years of putting up with the TSA…

Justin had shoveled the Authority’s shit long enough.

“NO MORE!!” he cried, brandishing his new weapon and firing several shots in the air, “Fuck the Authority! We’re free!!…”

A rallying cry answered unanimously by the others as the riot escalated. Two of the Cyexians were really giving it to the guards near the main gate, and others were starting to follow suit. Behind them, junk and debris exploded from the vent shafts, raining down on the shantytown beyond. Jasper’s revenge was consummate, destroying both himself and the TSA’s most profitable crystal vein.

Over thirty years of digging and shoveling, erased in one night.

Taking stock of the situation, Justin decided to let his fellow inmates storm the gate while he made his own escape route. The entire Pullman Mine compound was enclosed in chain-link and razor-wire, twelve feet of it. Justin blasted the wire, causing the taut coils to snap back out of his way, then started climbing, digging his raw fingers and work boots in for purchase every leg.

When he dropped down on the other side, tearing his baggy pantleg on the wire in spite of himself, he saw that the chaos had already spread to the shantytown of Pullman. Several fires had started. Making up his strategy as he went, he decided to cut through the woods and enter town from a different point than the others, who would draw Security away from him.

He made his way quickly, pausing only once to try to find a way to shoot off the chains binding his hands, but being unable to figure out a way that wouldn’t wound him in the process. As the fires spread, anarchy prevailed, and most of the guards were being summoned to the mines as he slipped through the crowded streets and alleyways. What few guards he encountered already had their hands full battling the growing uprising, and had no time to chase him down.

And he again failed to notice a figure on the edge of the battle noticing him.

As Justin ducked around another corner, a foot swung out of nowhere, nailing him right in the gut and sending him tumbling to the ground. He lost his grip and watched his hard-won weapon tumble across the narrow alley, and be lost to his knowledge in the chaos.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going, streetrat?”

Justin didn’t need to see Trevor’s face to know it was him. Even as he tried to crawl after his gun, Trevor kicked him again, this time in the ass.

As Justin fell on his face once more, he heard Trevor shout, “This is all your fault, isn’t it!? You little shit—”

But before he could finish, another tremor from the mine sent him sprawling. Several roof panels, already jarred loose by the previous shocks, came crashing down on him as Justin got back up and started running again.

“Goddammit…” Trevor muttered as he heaved the mostly plastic and aluminum panels off himself. He then sprang back to his feet in hot pursuit.

It was slow going at first, and he very nearly lost his quarry, but Justin was running on empty, fighting on heart alone. By the time they reached the dock, his strength was waning and Trevor was gaining.

With all the trouble in town and at the mine, there wasn’t even a skeleton crew left to watch the ships there. In this brief window, it would be child’s play even for an amateur like Justin to steal a ship. That night, more than a dozen vessels would be commandeered for parts unknown before a blockade could be formed. The two Cyexians would join forces with a couple of their sisters to hijack a whole TSA patrol cruiser and set sail for their home clan. More than half of the island’s Security forces would be dead or wounded by morning, especially after the fugitive Jimbo and a certain group of “fishermen” got into the act, and units would have to be summoned from across the Triangle State to squash the rebellion.

Meanwhile, Justin’s wild, nearly aimless flight was brought to a stumbling halt at the scene he had come in sight of.

Thrown from the shafts in the initial explosion, a flaming hunk of debris had landed as far away as the outer docks. And had crashed right into a very expensive-looking cruiser, by now in flames from stem to stern. Justin knew this ship, for he had had occasion to see it every now and then from his narrow vantage point under the Works; in the flickering firelight, he read:
TSS Fitzgerald. Renamed several years ago, after Brenton Fitzgerald’s hostile takeover, the Chairman’s personal transport, the flagship of the Authority’s fleet.

Justin tried to catch his breath as he watched the slowly sinking vessel burn, but that was when Trevor floored him with another vicious kick as he finally caught up.

“If my dad was on there…” Trevor snarled as he stalked Justin.

Just as he swayed to his feet, Trevor spun him around by the shoulder and decked him.

“I asked around, and you were
never Jordan Robertson, were you? Justin.” Justin’s reaction to that name was all he needed to see. “So you’re the little motherfucker who stole my backpack four years ago…” He had wondered why the term “streetrat” had popped into his head the first time he saw him. “The bag you had disappeared in the confusion when I captured you, and someone took off with your ship” (along with the secret of how “Jordan” was smuggling Slash’s arms into the Triangle State) “before it could be secured. All we got was you.”

“Probably Slash…” Justin panted. Got her money and supplies. Jimbo got his weapons. And Justin got a life sentence in the mines.

“Tell me what you know about Slash!” He had at first dismissed Justin as a mere errand boy who didn’t know jack shit. In light of his earlier claim, he now reconsidered. “Or do I have to beat it out of you?”

As he spoke, he strode up to Justin. Who at first retreated, until he saw his own laser staff, hanging from the mercenary-style bandolier of grenades Trevor had donned under his jacket before joining the street fight. This sight rekindled his rage, and he charged Trevor.

Who blocked Justin’s attack and punched him again. Justin tried to ward him off with his still shackled hands, but Trevor grabbed the chain, hauling him closer. He then proceeded to kick Justin in the nuts, doubling him over and kneeing him repeatedly.

“I’ll break every bone in your goddam body and throw your corpse at my father’s feet!” Trevor screamed as he grabbed Justin by the front of his uniform and dragged him face-to-face and head-butted him.

Dazed, seeing only shifting lights after two trying days and Trevor’s savage head-butt, Justin reached slowly. Pretending to make a feeble struggle against Trevor as he groped for his weapon… grabbing some ring-shaped item that wasn’t his weapon… then reaching again…

Lost in a rage, Trevor kneed him several more times, butting heads with him again and throwing him to the ground, saying “You’re just a fuckin’ streetrat!”

But as he drew his sidearm, the vicious grin on Justin’s face made him pause. And perhaps he was right:
once a streetrat, always a streetrat. For in his right hand, Justin had reclaimed his staff, and with his left he was flipping him off.

What held Trevor’s undivided attention wasn’t the rude gesture, but the ring on his middle finger, caught in a glint of firelight. Mostly because it belonged on one of his grenades.

Trevor looked down at his bandolier with a mixture of rage and horror. It took a second, but then Justin realized what the other item he had grabbed was. He yanked it off his finger with a cry of alarm.

Yet before Trevor could make a move, Justin flung the pin over Trevor’s shoulder purely on reflex. He found he still had enough strength left to scramble away as Trevor dove after it with a frantic cry. Trevor Fitzgerald, son of the Chairman of the Board, the brat of the Authority’s military, who had the best training money could buy. To whom this sort of thing just wasn’t supposed to happen.

Much to both of their surprise, Trevor actually managed to get his hands on it—

The noise was loud (but not as loud as Jasper’s handiwork), and the shockwave threw Justin over the edge and skidding across the water. His forward momentum barely allowing him to avoid the plane level of the shrapnel as he went under, temporarily blinded by the explosion of the other grenades. He nearly lost his grip on his staff, but hung on for dear life, determined to never let anyone else take it away from him again.

A moment later, he surfaced, sputtering oily water and blinking his eyes. He barely caught sight of Trevor’s smoking boot as it splashed next to him.

Justin Black hovered there for a long moment, gathering his strength and watching the
Fitzgerald burn down. What had started out as a desperate act of vengeance had mushroomed into the single most devastating blow ever dealt to the Triangle State Authority. He knew that if he hung around, they would execute him for this, so it was clearly time to leave.

And never return.

As he turned to search for the very getaway ship that would later land him on the Isle of Paradise, he told the raging island,
“Never again…”
Sign up to rate and review this story