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Diamond - Pod and Pilot 8,000 Suns entry

Arataka Research Consortium
#1 - 2013-11-10 23:52:56 UTC
13.04YC115 - Nourvukaiken III - Caldari Navy Assembly Plant

Diamond is cheaper than glass.

You think about strange things when someone's half-empty beer mug is crushing your nose. Time slows down, your movements seem to stop, and in that one instant as the mug hits but before the pain flares: diamond is cheaper than glass.

Someone explained it to him once. You see, diamond is compressed carbon. Carbon's cheap. Carbon's everywhere. Glass is mostly silicon. It's also common, but there are other uses for it. The problem with diamond is the need for heat and pressure. When fusion reactors became common all those hundreds of years ago, heat and pressure ceased to be issues.

He should know. He worked in a refinery aboard the Caldari Navy station in Nourvukaiken - one of many in the system, and one of hundreds in the State.

Millions of cubic meters of ore flowed through these refineries on a daily basis. The methods varied, but the easiest, the simplest was this: to put ore through a fusion blast furnace, to centrifuge off the slag, and to store the resulting mineral content.

And the slag? Carbon. Lots of it.

Even with how well-sealed refineries are, carbon dust coated everything. Displays, machinery, air filters, uniforms, hair, food. The joke was that a meal in the refinery's commissary had a week's ration of free carbon in it, and tasted like it.

Hell, it was even here in the bar. Most workers had showered in the locker room, packed their gear away, and came up in civilian clothes, but it was still here. There was a powdering of carbon at the bottom of glasses, or in corners that hadn't been swept recently enough, or on the tables closest to air vents. And of course there was diamond here, as well.

The mug, for instance. A diamond mug is surprisingly cheap to make, and isn't prone to shattering. It keeps costs down. Just requires heat and pressure. Easy.

The brief moment of clarity passed, pain arrived, and he went down. It wasn't even a proper fight, not that there ever were in an establishment like this. Workers went here to relax after a long day, and sometimes this meant someone got worked over. Security didn't intervene so long as the injuries didn't put someone out of work, so long as there was reason for the fight, and so long as one didn't assault someone of a higher station. The last tended not to happen, though; supervisors didn't mingle with work crew, just as managers didn't mingle with supervisors. Occasionally, an overworked supervisor might end up here prowling for a fight-- but word spread of that quickly, and it was frowned upon by management. Demotions had happened for less. Of course, pay raises also happened when crew kept rumors tight over a drunk supervisor's misbehavior; guilt, gratitude, and indebtedness were a potent mix.

Genharis started to pick himself up, but two factory men were already hoisting him to standing, and shoving him to the door with a beer- and blood-soaked towel. Military police, watching. But he was a civilian, and they kept the unspoken rule: he walked out, and they walked on. He had to, really; he'd been in the brig too often, too recently, and any more incidents would compel his supervisor to report these fights to management.

He deserved it, he had to admit. Naval station crew tended to be a patriotic lot, and he'd made a snide comment about Tibus Heth's speech. Genharis had been making a lot of these comments, been stepping on a lot of toes since the Shiigeru fell.

And it's clear his supervisor had noticed, from the fact that the man sat on his bunk, with two steaming cups of tea set beside him. His supervisor smiled politely, but was dressed in his work clothes. It wasn't a social call, then. "Genharis Laitami. Sit, join me, please."

Genharis sat on the bunk opposite, accepting the tea offered by his supervisor. "Mr. Kuvaanan." His face was a bloody mess, he couldn't smell the tea, but still: he sipped dutifully, after Otro Kuvaanan sipped his.

"How has your work been, Laitami?"

"Good, sir. Productive. Educational, but not too challenging."

"Excellent. And your work crew?" Otro's eyes were on Genharis as he asked this, as Genharis feigned a casual sip of tea.

"We remain an effective team."

Otro made a noncommital noise in response. They sipped tea in silence.

The burning sensation from the blow had transformed into a throbbing headache. The lights were dim at this hour, but they still caused his eyes to sting. Genharis realized he'd need to visit the infirmary to make sure he didn't have a concussion.

Otro, Genharis noticed, was still watching him.

"You know, Laitami, we've never had an accident on the refinery floor." Genharis Laitami felt his mouth dry. "And while I know you're capable, and I know everyone on the refinery floor is capable, a miscommunation..." Kuvaanan let that statement hang.

"I always pay attention, Mr. Kuvaanan." The steam from the tea, the stress of the conversation, had caused his nose to start bleeding again. It ran down to his jaw, where it caught in stubble. Genharis was glad he didn't have a mirror nearby.

Otro made another noncommital noise. Blood dripped into Genharis's tea. A soot-covered, overall-clad worker bustled in, saw Otro and Genharis sitting there, and bustled out after hurriedly grabbing civilian clothes.

Time passed slowly as the men sipped tea, surveyed each other, and waited.

"Laitami, I think it's time you cleaned yourself up."

"Yes, sir."

"And until you clean yourself up, you'll be assigned to night shifts, where you'll be handling carbon recovery."

"Yes, sir." It felt like being beaten again, a blow to the stomach. It was a pay cut, a public rebuke, and the his last chance to redeem himself. Genharis started to feel nauseous.

"We're done here, Laitami. Go to medical. I'll expect you signed into your shift at 2100 hours."

"Yes, sir. Thank you for the tea, sir."

Itsukame-Zainou Hyperspatial Inquiries: exploring the edge of the known, advancing the state of the art. Would you like to know more?

Arataka Research Consortium
#2 - 2013-11-10 23:53:52 UTC
- - - - -

The next three weeks were hell. Genharis soon became used to the smell of carbon, the subtle jibes about his new position, the backhanded compliments about, "how working alone must suit him," the way some crew mates would bump his bunk during shift-changes while he was trying to sleep. He couldn't, however, stand being an outcast, ostracized even as he was surrounded by workmates.

Through it, Otro would visit Genharis's duty post with tea to converse about the refinery's quirks, or about the day's load of carbon, or other minor things. Genharis started to realize that he thought of Otro as a surrogate father, or perhaps a cool but kindly uncle. Genharis realized, eventually, that Otro was re-interviewing him.

- - - - -

Isolated, alone in the cold, dark hours of the night watch, Genharis's imagination tormented him. He knew he could do the work; he was bright, he was motivated; he simply couldn't allow himself to be subsumed by the group, by an identity that wasn't his. He knew he'd have to, sooner or later; to accept the identity of the refinery workers, to accept the increasing madness of Heth's speeches, to accept the fire of perpetual war for the State. To do otherwise would be to live a pariah, one altercation away from disassociation, from becoming a ghost in the station, unknown, unlicensed, unpaid, a citizen in name only.

It was almost a relief when he received a mail late on one shift, a shift that should have seen Otro visiting with tea to continue their interviews but had left Genharis unexpectedly, worryingly alone. It was almost a relief, until he realized who it was from:

Citizen Genharis Laitami;

I write on behalf of Matild Laitami. We offer funding for extended studies with the Science and Trade Institute, with instruction and testing to establish capsule and cloning compatibility.

Your supervisor feels your talents will be wasted if action is not taken. Your cousin agrees, and invites you to join her corporation upon successful completion of studies and Capsuleer induction.

Present the attached voucher to the Science and Trade Institute office on your station if you agree.

Your alternative is reeducation.

In service,
Celes Gekkai

It was cold. For that matter, Genharis felt cold, as if the very console, deck plating, the very air around him were draining him of warmth.

His cousin. He had forgotten her, had spent years forgetting her.

A Capsuleer.

A serial immortal.

A mass murderer.

Even as an independent contractor, she held an officer's rank with the Caldari Navy, her name was known by agents of the State Megacorporations, and she had killed untold thousands in service to the State.

She was an embodiment of the very war he felt was senseless and unceasing, simultaneously a warship captain and the warship itself, joined with it as if it were her own body.

- - - - -

Weeks passed.

Otro had stopped visiting, and was preparing for Genharis's quarterly evaluation. As respectful and politely formal as Otro had been, Genharis knew what the evaluation would say.

Genharis, for what it was worth, had been attempting to bridge the rift that had been opened between the other crewmen and he. Attempting, and even Genharis had to admit he was failing. They had decided he had no place among them, and he knew he didn't.

It was during his last shift before his last quarterly evaluation that Genharis's resolve hardened.

They were right. Not the refinery crew with their love of Heth's State; but his cousin, his supervisor. They were right in that he was wasted here, too isolated, too much an individual to survive, to thrive. Perhaps if he were at Hyasoda, or Ishukone, or even one of the Practical corporations he would do well, working diligently among those more like-minded, knowing that even as he did his duty, his work was constructive, was building a future instead of destroying it.

And try as he might, he also knew that there was a risk that he'd end up on the same, doomed path if he were to accept his cousin's offer, to accept the mad idea that he might join that immortals' dance in the darkness, to serve in a war that was unceasing, that consigned until millions to death.

But there was also a chance he'd find his own path through. It was a hope, it was a chance, which was infinitely better than the certainty that he'd fall through the cracks.

When Genharis Laitami's last shift ended, he didn't proceed to the morning meeting with Otro Kuvaanan. He went, instead, to the high-speed lift to the station's upper decks, a place where he stood out like a beacon, a soot-covered workman in coveralls among executives, managers, and other elite in tailored suits abd uniforms. Military police were watching him, but he moved purposefully, and they ultimately seemed to decide that he would be reprimanded in due course.

Indeed, he was, but he didn't read the message he received from Otro, which came when he was seven minutes past the scheduled time for his evaluation. Instead, he cleared it to bring up the voucher just as he was stepping into the office of the Science and Trade Institute representative.

There, a clerk greeted him with a raised brow, a questioning look, and a hand extended toward Genharis's datapad.

"I'd like to apply to your program," was all he said as he handed over the pad, voucher on screen.

And there, covered in carbon dust, grime, he watched as the clerk began to fill out application paperwork, setting the datapad on the desk.

Of course.

Diamond is cheaper than glass.

But more importantly, having come through fire and pressure, diamond is stronger, too.

In this moment, Genharis felt kinship.

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