27 Sep

Sneak Peek: Henry’s Story Part 1

Here is the first of the villain short sneak peeks. This one is about Henry, based on the colony of Broken Hill. These are adult-flavoured shorts – you have been warned! This is just the first section of the story. Enjoy.

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The airlock shuddered closed; its angry swallowing trapped the last of the workers inside. Gases hissed and Henry turned to look over his shoulder. That airlock door panel was shivering again, the tiny whine in its motors barely detectable under the sound of pressure equalising and atmosphere filling up the empty space he stood in. He faced forward again.

A frown prickled to his right. “What?”

“Nothin’.” He didn’t look over.

The bulb that was painting them in red flashes stopped, and the clunk of the inner doors unlocking signalled everyone to take their helmets off. They rolled their heads around, stretching their necks, and sighed in the fresher station air after all day on suit rebreathers.

Henry fingered his slim metal collar as he waited for the inner doors to part. He couldn’t really feel the collar through his heavy suit gloves but he knew it was there: the physical reminder of his status in this place. He knew that it was more of a symbol than anything else – the real control mechanism wasn’t visible – but the company had to have a way to identify the inmates apart from those unfortunate enough to be born here and those stupid enough to choose the mining life.

Symbols are important. He reminded himself of this as the inner doors juddered open and his mining party filed through. They fell automatically into the correct order: party leader first, convict workers next, and their two guards brought up the rear. From a distance, they were a cluster of dirty, scarred stragglers bracketed by clean, upright suits fore and aft.

Once upon a time, the miners would have been the ones to look out of place as they clomped onto the station. These days, it was the cleaner suits of the guards and other personnel that stood out against the background, stark and sometimes painfully bright.

As the decades rolled by, the mining had gradually worked its way into the pores of the station, even into its sealed innards. The decks were stained and scored by the passing of heavy boots, and even the walls were turning from dull steel to a ruddy colour. All the decontamination procedures in the galaxy couldn’t keep the filth out.

Henry wondered if it would be any different if they didn’t use convicts. Perhaps the convicted brought the taint of their crimes with them and their histories of blood were soaking into the walls. Was their presence all it took to impregnate a place with the stain, or did it wait until they died out there on the asteroids? Did it wait until their blood was freed?

“You’re late and one short.”

Up front, the party leader was checking in with a weaselly guy from admin. Henry was big enough to see over the heads and shoulders of the three miners in front of him, and he suppressed an annoyed grunt: Cochran. An unpleasant little turd at the best of times. Sometimes Henry thought about snapping his neck while they were kept waiting.

“I reported the loss four hours ago.” He didn’t have to see his leader’s face to know she was frowning. Rena was as bone-weary as the rest of the party. “Banleight got himself killed. We’re late because we had to stay out an extra two hours to make quota.”

“You didn’t order a cleanup crew.”

“The jackass hit a gas pocket with a laser saw. There wasn’t anything to clean up.”

Cochran hummed and eyed the digisheet in his hand. “We need reports eleven-twelve-beta and–”

“I don’t give a fuck what reports you need – you don‘t need them right now. Sign us in already.”

Cochran sniffed. “There’s no need to be like that.”

Henry cleared his throat and rolled his shoulders, knowing that the little weasel could see him. There was an advantage to being big and the mining suit only added to his bulk; there was no way Cochran would miss the gesture of an impatient inmate. The little fella hmphed and flicked a fingertip over his ‘sheet.

“All right, you’re signed in. Report any damage to–”

“Yeah, I know.” Rena was already striding past the admin post and down towards the locker rooms. The mining party filed after her, heavy-footed, their empty helmets swinging level with their knees.

“One dark night,” Henry said lowly as he passed Cochran’s post. It wasn’t as good as reaching out and crushing the spindly neck, but the gaping was enough for now. Wondering just what that meant would keep the weasel distracted for hours.

Inside the locker rooms, the miners began to strip off their suits. A faint rumble under their feet indicated that the station was searching for their lockers and passing them up to the waiting ports along the room’s walls. The pods arrived with scrapes and dents, some of them fresh, but the innards were as they had been left.

The miners were all too tired for chatter. They had been out for sixteen hours, breathing bottled air and sucking down liquid food through tubes in their helmets. The suit-food stopped any arguments and meant the colony didn’t have to provide a secure canteen to feed the inmates, and the exhausting work meant that they were too tired to cause trouble when they got back to the facility. Henry grudgingly admitted that was a sensible set-up, and one that didn’t allow many opportunities for trouble-making. He’d spent a lot of time thinking about it.

Henry hung his soiled suit in his locker, same as everyone else did. He growled at the sharp-eyed girl next to him, who scowled and moved her gear away from where his helmet was sitting. He learned early on never to let anyone near his equipment; out on the asteroid field, his life depended on it. He’d seen others go down, days after an altercation, because they let their helmet or a glove out of their sight at the wrong moment.

He tossed a second glove into the locker and nudged the button that closed it. His suit only had one glove; he had lost most of his right arm in his third week on Broken Hill, and the metal prosthetic didn’t need to be covered outside in the black. His suit clipped directly into the fake forearm, leaving the metal hand bare.

The company provided the prosthetics free of charge, but they didn’t pay for skin to cover them – no catering for cosmetics. Even after two years, he still flexed his metal fingers curiously as he headed for the showers, as if contemplating their capabilities. He never felt completely naked anymore, not with the solid weight of his new arm on him.

From the showers, it was just a short, barefooted walk down a scarred corridor to the cells. Blank grey walls, a bed with a blanket, and clean underclothes if he was lucky. Prisoners peeled off into the cells with the tread of monotony, and metal doors clanged quietly closed, rippling unevenly down the block.

As he stepped into his assigned cell, it occurred to Henry that he had no idea what day it was. The convicts didn’t get days off, not even for religious reasons. The company gave them a half-day break at Christmas but didn’t feel obliged to have more than that single marker in the year. As the shifts wound on, it got harder and harder to keep track, and for most it was difficult to find a reason to care.

Henry wondered if it mattered what day it was. Was he missing anything important? He had stopped caring about sentimental crap like birthdays and worship a long time ago. He flexed his metal hand again, then hesitated. His cell wasn’t moving.

Usually, the cells were reshuffled as soon as a mining party were secured inside. Sleepers were packed down into a rotating system that would return them to the access corridor when it was time to suit up and head out into the field again. In the same way, their lockers were rotated while their suits were automatically cleaned and restocked. Malfunction, medical emergency, or a superior interference might stop it.

Henry turned around as his door clanged closed. Rena leaned back on it and curled her mouth up at the corners. He knew what she wanted – same as she always did. She was a legacy miner, with a family line of rock-smashers and all the freedoms a convict didn’t have. She had worked hard to be put in charge of a party and gain the related perks. It meant she could put a cell on hold and play with its contents.

He wasn’t in the mood for sex. Her timing meant that they were both naked from the showers, but bone-tired to boot. She seemed to prefer it that way, always turning up at lights-out and never first thing in the morning when he was fresh. Maybe it was because it made him rougher, less inclined to work to please her. Maybe she was just perverse that way. He didn’t much care.

He stepped over to her and slammed his flesh hand into her shoulder, pinning her back against the door panel. She grinned up at him, her short hair sticking out in a ruddy halo, and he wondered if she knew how easily he could pop her skull like a pimple with his new right hand.

She reached down to squeeze him, looking for some action; she knew that he couldn‘t risk a body in his cell. Her other hand dragged fingertips along the line of his convict collar.

“C’mon, doggie.”

Henry had never seen a dog, but he was pretty sure her pet name for the convicts was an insult.

He didn’t have to say no to know how dangerous it was. Only a fool would disappoint the party leader, the one in charge of assignments and equipment. She could kill him a hundred different ways and get away with it, if she wanted to, or give him the easiest jobs on the line. Only a fool would turn away the chance to make her happy and gain a scrap of favour. She was in a position to be useful to him. It was a no-brainer, and lost brain cells rapidly as her hands and then her mouth moved on him.

He was rough with her anyway. He took her in ways that made her cry out, hard enough to leave bruises and bite-marks, and was grimly pleased when she climaxed despite it. He didn’t stop until she begged him to and he came.

Henry had had more sex since becoming a convict than in his whole free life. Most of it was actually pretty good. He thought the horror stories that floated around the colony network were just to convince people that being a criminal was bad for them.

He was stretched out on his bed and asleep before Rena had left the room. He heard her throaty laugh as he drifted off, but he missed whatever it was she murmured on the way out. He didn’t feel the rocking of the cell as the mechanism sent him down with the rest of them.

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5 Responses to “Sneak Peek: Henry’s Story Part 1”

  1. Ellipsis Says:

    Mm, enjoyed this just as much the second time! Interesting, because I don’t necessarily see Henry as a “villain”… although I might change my mind knowing what he did to get dumped on Broken Hill… atm I have at least a little sympathy, even if there are also aspects of him I don’t like. Love this story though. Love the vibe.

  2. Melanie Says:

    Thanks, Ellipsis! I like making other people like bad guys. I’m kinda fond of Henry myself.

    I think it might be hard to make these shorts about through-and-through villains (slipping into anti-hero territory is going to be so easy), but that’s part of the challenge of them. And the fun!

  3. daymon34 Says:

    I don’t know about anti-hero, more like half the crew of our ship are all grey anyway. With an AI that would be wiped as soon as found out.

    Still wonder what Henry did to get stuck there, not a plesant place but there are worse I am sure.

  4. Melanie Says:

    Yeah, I think that at least some of the Starwalker crew would be more anti-heroes than true heroes. I love the grey. 🙂 With the villain shorts, I’m trying to go darker with it.

    I don’t know about there being worse places to be sent! Broken Hill is where they send the lifers to work until they can’t any more. Have to keep them well enough to be commercially viable, though, so I guess it’s better than dropping them in a hole in the ground!

    I’m working on a part of Henry’s story that covers why he got sent to Broken Hill. Your questions will be answered! …eventually.

  5. Starwalker Villains: Sneak Peeks! : : Adventures in Text Says:

    […] Henry started out in my head as a thug. Standard musclebound, red-shirt-wearing, mercenary, ham-fisted thug. But as I wrote him, he grew into something else – he’s smarter than I first imagined him. And he has a quirk of belief in his perspective that I wasn’t expecting, but I’m enjoying it the more I get to weave it in. The first part of this story doesn’t give much away, but there is much more – and much worse – to come. […]