The Aeolian Master - Book One - Revival HTML version
The noise in the confined area of the pit, approximately three hundred feet across, wracked Ben's ears with
an agonizing drone of constant clamor. It was almost deafening with the thudding and clanking of fifty-eight
picks hammering the dirt in random, and the shoveling of dirt into the dirt-carts, the loading and unloading of
the crystals, and especially the machinery used to haul the crystals up the side of the two hundred foot
embankment. But the most painful to Ben's ears was the cracking of the whip as much too often the end of it
came down on a prisoner's back bringing moans and whimpering from the unlucky stiff beneath it.
"Over here," shouted one of the pickers above the loud din. He wiped the cold sweat off his brow and
gestured at a sparkling crystal-point, which was peeking up from beneath the dirt.
Ben lifted the handles and pushed his crystal cart with the one rubber tire toward the man. As he came to a
stop he noticed only part of the crystal was showing. "It's not uncovered," he said.
"Look, all you have to do is brush off a little of the dirt and pick it up."
But Ben knew better. There was no telling how big it was, and he wasn't going to be fumbling around trying
to dislodge a crystal. "Take another swing at it," he said with a growl.
"By the Zorgs," retorted the man. He slowly lifted his pick and with a heavy downward swing he popped the
crystal loose. "Happy?" he asked sarcastically.
"Yeah, ecstatic," said Ben. He bent over, picked it up, and threw it on top of the other crystals. The cart was
full enough, so he started wheeling it to the nearest unloading station.
Ben stopped next to the conveyor belt and started dropping crystals onto the small-lipped platforms, which
were rising slowly one after another toward the top of the pit.
This was Ben's third tormenting day working as a crystal loader in the open pit prison mine on the Jamarl
Plains of Ar, or as Ben always referred to it as the Jamarl Plains of Mars. It hadn't taken him long to get
familiar with the routine, and to discover who and what was a threat to his life, and who and what wasn't.
The first morning, when he fell into formation for roll call along with the other prisoners, he set his eyes
upon the largest monstrosity of a man he had ever seen, at least nine feet tall (so much for the rumors being
exaggerated). His huge frame, which was composed mostly of muscle with only a small roll of fat hanging over
his brown-leather belt, must have weighed more than seven hundred pounds. There was a long black beard,
which hung down from his Piltdown looking face and lay in waves upon his huge chest. Later, Roqford told
Ben that this giant, Og, had been imported by the warden to intimidate the prisoners. And intimidate he did. He
loved to use his whip on any prisoner who did not do as he was told or who was slacking off, not doing his job.
Every morning the warden with Roqford by his side would stand on the top walkway of the prison wall and
watch the prisoner's roll call. Near the wall to the warden’s left on the ground floor and forty meters from the
pit stood twenty guards at attention. The lieutenant with a sergeant beside him waited for the order from the
warden to escort the prisoners to the elevator, which would lower them into the deep hole.
That first morning, the prisoners, with Ben in their midst, slowly shuffled out of the cell blocks and made
their way to the plastic assembly area. There were three hundred numbers painted and circled on the dark
plastic. It was the responsibility of the prisoners to find their assigned numbers, step within the circle, and come
to attention—no talking, whispering, or moving about.
Og would make sure you followed the rules.
Ben walked over to his number, 101, and stepped into the circle. To his left was the rebel prisoner, Keegan,
who had arrived with Ben and the others. To his right was Viella, and then Em was to her right. Finally,
Samsung occupied circle number ‘104.’ During the next several weeks the five of them, including Em, but not
really since he wasn't aware of his surroundings, were going to become close friends in a hostile environment.
The prisoner in front of Ben turned slightly and said over his shoulder, "That's going to be your number for
the rest of your life, unless someone else dies first." And then he laughed a quiet, hysterical laugh.
Just then the door of the guard's cross over tube opened, and the duty officer with four other guards walked
out with Og trailing not far behind. All the prisoners became very quiet. It was Og's routine to stand in front of
the prisoners during roll call and crack his whip after the calling of every name. It was as if he couldn't wait to
get into the pit and start whipping prisoners.
"Ben Hillar," yelled the officer that first morning.