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"The Ending Begins" -> (27 skipped) -> "The Ending Begins: Chapter 29" -> "The Ending Begins: Chapter 30"

The Ending Begins: Chapter 31  by OriginalSim
 The first two years of my slave labor were the hardest. Despite our best efforts, Tri Lando fell to the invaders. Anyone who survived the initial battle – about 200 of us – were put to work. Most of the efforts were in extracting gold from the huge asteroid or spaceship or whatever it was that had fallen from the sky.
  We were given tools – pickaxes and hammers – to chip away at the granite-like rock, exposing the golden prize. I tried in vain for those first two years to talk to someone about engineering an easier, faster way to extract the gold. Not one of our captors cared and, as usual, several of them enjoyed playing the part of the cruel masters. It was everything I'd read or seen about World War Two concentration camps. Brutal death-beatings, starvation, sickness: we had it all.
  George survived the attack, but never smiled again. His wife, Samantha, who nursed me back to health, was gone: killed during the first hours of fighting. Emma was dead, of course, at the hands of her now dead “boyfriend”. Saunders made it through the initial attack with a shattered ankle, which never did heal correctly. He died the next year, trying to lead one of the first uprisings. I had a bullet smash into my shoulder and it still pains me now, six years later, especially when the weather changes. All I remember was a thudding sound and pain and then blackness. I woke up hours later, a prisoner of the invaders.
  I thought of Jilly often. At first, it seemed that sometimes I could reach out and touch her, the memory was so vivid. Then I'd feel the sting of the master guard's whip, warning me to get back to work. After a while, I had trouble remembering what she truly looked like. Sometimes I had dreams that started out with Jilly and I: happy and laughing. But then, the image of Jilly would melt into that of Emma, mocking me as holes appeared in her head, blood spurting out as I woke screaming.
  The captors made sure we had just enough food on a daily basis to work the next day. A few poor souls tried saving back enough food for an escape. Usually, by the time they had enough, they were too worn out or sick to actually make an escape.
  Usually, the guards just shot anyone running or otherwise found trying to escape. While escape was uncommon, getting in “new blood” happened frequently. There was a sort of 'special forces' team that 'recruited' the pockets of starving humanity gathered here and there by promising work and food. What they really got was a life of enslavement.
  The mastermind behind the mining operation was a mythical Dr. Henderson. His minions usually just called him “The Doc”. Apparently, Dr. Henderson had a monopoly on asteroid mining, with slave crews at most of the major town-sized chunks all across the midwest. He never made personal visits, but new arrivals generally had some second- or third-hand horror story about him.
  About once every month, twenty to thirty people would be brought in and the same number would ship out. Almost every month there were five or six of the recent “recruits” and the balance were slaves from other work areas. Rumor was that this was a ploy to prevent people from getting too familiar with their surroundings and therefore, limit the number of potential escapees.
  I stayed at MA34, or Mining Area 34, the “new” name for Tri Lando, for almost 2 years. I guess I seemed a low escape risk because I constantly complained about my shoulder. One night I was told that I would be moved south the next day and so had to spend the night in the 'holding tank' – an area where teams were swapped in and out. The next morning, about 20 of us were loaded into several boats and taken down river to MA12. A few days later, we were near where the Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky borders meet.
  MA12 was amazing. Apparently, it was one of the first mines the Doc started. A lot of gold had been extracted and a lot of rock moved. They had quite a bit of mechanical help, as well – some industrious soul not unlike myself had rigged up a few steam engines to generate some pneumatic help. Being close to the river, steam made sense. They had a small biodiesel plant to create the fuel, and had 'air pigs' of different sizes. The air pigs held the compressed air and could be brought up to the work site to power some smaller impact hammers. While the major portion of the work was done by hand, there were hard spots in the rock that human power alone could not touch. These dense areas, or 'plugs' as the workers called them, were found to contain small quantities of platinum, tungsten, silver and a few other precious metals. However, the air-powered tools were needed to break the 'plug'.
  It was during the last two of my four years at MA12 that I discovered many things of interest. Apparently the entire US hadn't fallen into quite the decay I had supposed. Most of the east coast was intact and had resumed its lifestyle. The west coast was rebuilding slowly and I had high hopes that Jilly was part of the rebuilding process.
  Rumour had it that the Doc had an office in Georgia or Florida or both. The Doc was unloading his precious metals in foreign markets, for the most part, and getting richer by the day. He spent a lot of effort hiding his 45 mining camps from prying eyes: at first no one cared, but now, as I learned, the US was bouncing back and his rather illegal activities could be discovered at any time.
  I had 'worked my way up' the slave ladder and was now in charge of what we called the 'plug-killer'. A machine I had talked them into letting me build which was able, by steam-powered engine, to crush the hard plugs and make the precious metals within more readily available. I was working on the sorting mechanism, when everything changed for me, personally.
  Phil, an assistant of mine, had received some bad grapevine news about a friend of his being shot while trying to escape. His friend was alive, but both legs were paralyzed. If the paralysis was permanent, it was likely that he would be killed, as he was useless as a slave. No one was ever "set free".
  This friend of his had been on his way to Chicago from Atlanta, on foot, when he was “recruited”. They had spent a lot of time together at MA7, somewhere in Arkansas. They both were moved here to MA12, and then a few weeks later his friend was moved up north somewhere. I felt sorry for this man I'd never met: his wife had died, leaving him a little girl to care for. Then the asteroid hit. He needed to get to family in Chicago, but the trip was too dangerous for his daughter. He apparently sent his daughter to New York with a friend.  His plan was to get her or send for her after he was settled in Chicago. Phil promised his friend Craig, that he would find his daughter if Craig couldn't for any reason. Phil was now determined to escape and head to New York.
  “How in hell are you going to find a little girl you don't know in a giant area like New York?” I asked.
  “I had Craig drill everything into my head. I know they were headed to Goshen, New York. I have a description of both Sarah and Craig's friend, Jilly.”
  Phil stared at me as the color drained from my face. I felt weak and swayed for a moment. “I lived in Goshen. Describe Jilly,” I commanded flatly.
  Craig must have known Jilly for a while; right down to the tiny mole on her neck by her left ear. The description was perfect. I didn't know how or when, but I knew that Phil and I were headed for New York as soon as we could escape.
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  'The Ending Begins: Chapter 31' statistics: (click to read)
Date created: March 9, 2008
Date published: March 9, 2008
Comments: 2
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Word Count: 1574
Times Read: 476
Story Length: 6
Children Rank: 4.1/5.0 (5 votes)
Descendant Rank: 0.0/5.0 (23 votes)