Author: Findswoman Title: Sparks Era: Saga—PT; about 31 BBY Characters: OCs from the Lasan Series Genre: Childhood origin story, drama Contents: Short multichapter: One (below) | Two | Three | Four | Five (Epilogue) Summary: A shy kit from a mining town on Lasan discovers powers she did not know she had while working in the mines during school break. Notes: Part of the Lasan Series, written for the OC Revolution Summer/Fall 2019 challenge: Once again, I thank @Raissa Baiard for advice, encouragement, and beta-reading. One The small town of Flowstone Vale, nestled at the edge of the Gosrrallan Mountains of Lasan’s mid-northern continent some twenty-five klicks southeast of the capital of Lira Zel, was proud of its mining heritage. While by no means the largest, it was one of the planet’s oldest mining settlements, dating from the arrival of the earliest settlers from Lira San. Even after millennia the Flowstone Vale mines were among Lasan’s richest sources of copper, strontium, and quorodium ore. Virtually everyone in town was employed by the mine in one way or another, whether in the mines themselves or in mining administration or research. Even the Royal Lasat Mining Ministry boasted several high-ranking officials hailing from “the jewel of the Gosrral.” Even the kits of Flowstone Vale took part in their hometown’s mining industry. From the age of twelve dust seasons, every kit would spend most of the interseason school break periods working at the mine. The younger kits started with lighter tasks in the above-ground part of the complex, such as sorting and cleaning the ore or repairing miners’ tools and equipment. Older kits, once they had experience in these above-ground tasks, would assist with routine extraction and hauling underground. Although these tasks were performed by machines and droids most of the time, it was considered essential for the young Lasat of the village to learn them, both to instruct them in the fundamentals of the mining trade and to foster in them an appreciation of their local heritage. And the kits of Flowstone Vale, in turn, looked forward to their shifts each interseason: for them it was a chance to build toughness, show off their skills, and take a step toward adulthood. * * * It was the first day of the growing season–harvest season interim. An orange-gold sun hung low in the sky, casting a flamelike glow on the buildings and headframes of the mine complex. On the terrace outside Ore Processing Unit Aurek-Two, the newest group of kits were gathering. A few were still taking their leave of their parents, who hovered nearby with instructions and reminders, but most were talking or laughing or playing loudly with each other. The unit foreman, a wiry, blue-gray-furred Lasat male in gray coveralls with a large metal whistle hanging around his neck, stood on the steps of the long, squat, metal-walled building, glancing at the regulation chronotower atop the administration office a few buildings down. Two other miners, in the same coveralls, walked about with databoards taking attendance. At the back of the group a slight, pretty girl-kit with lilac fur stood quietly by herself, fidgeting with one of her two long, dark braids. She had arrived before any of the others, for her father was a foreman elsewhere in the mine, and her mother worked in the mining ministry in Lira Zel. Occasionally she would glance nervously around her, at the mine buildings, the chronotower, the other kits, and the unit foreman. The foreman’s assistant stopped and eyed her quizzically as he walked by taking attendance. “You’re Trilasha’s daughter, aren’t ya?” “Yes, sir,” came the meek reply. “First name?” “Shulma.” “Shulma,” the assistant repeated, marking it down on his databoard, and moved on. Presently the electronic chimes of the chronotower began signaling 0700, and the foreman blew a shrill blast on his whistle. The kits quieted and followed him into Unit Aurek-Two; the last few parents said their goodbyes and departed. Shulma, the lilac-furred girl with the braids, still hung at the back of the group, half-hiding behind a group of tall boys. Once they had all assembled in the vestibule of the building, the foreman addressed them. “ALL RIGHT, LISTEN UP! Just a few things before we get started. Today you’re gonna be separating ore from the base rock and sending it over to Unit Besh-Two for crushing and cleaning. So, first thing you’re gonna do is go over there”—he gestured to a rack at one side of the room crammed with aprons and other protective gear in the same gray as his coveralls—“and put on your aprons and foot covers. Then you go inside, go to one of the stations, and the distribution belt will bring you the yield from the last extraction. Your job’s easy: use your vibrochisels to cut the ore out of the host rock, throw it in its correct collection basket, and toss the host rock into the waste cart. Now how do you know which is which?” The foreman tapped his databoard. A full-color, high-resolution holoprojection materialized high on the wall, showing rotating chunks of different types of ore—copper, lead, tin, strontium, quorodium. These, he said, were the metals most likely to turn up in this morning’s yield from shafts 38 and 39. He detailed the physical qualities of each, covering color, texture, hardness, and conductivity; he explained how to tell apart those that could be easily confused with others. Shulma listened closely, trying to keep it all straight in her mind as she craned her neck to see. “Got any questions?” the foreman asked at last. No one did. “You’re Lasat miners now. And as Lasat miners you gotta do your job right. All the ore has to go into the collection baskets, and all the host rock goes into the waste cart. An’ that means all of it. Now Trothidd, Gondrav, an’ I are gonna come around to check on you all. You better not let us see any ore pieces bigger than a claw tip in the waste cart, or any host rock pieces bigger than a claw tip in any of the baskets. And don’t you dare let us see anyone slacking off. Otherwise you’ll find yourself staying after to scrub down the counters and belts. And your parents know it. Got that?” Various half-hearted sounds of assent went up from the kits, including a barely audible “yes, sir” from Shulma. “An’ another thing. When I tell you to do somethin’, the only correct answer is ‘Yes, Foreman Novalos.’ Understood?” “Yes, Foreman Novalos,” chorused the kits. “Good! Now get your gear on and get to work!” * * * Now suited up in their aprons and foot covers, the kits began filing into the main workspace of Ore Processing Unit Aurek-Two. At one end of the room, the old mechanical distribution apparatus hung on the wall and ceiling above a low metal rolling door. The door opened, and in trundled a large mine cart, heaped with rock chunks. At once the distribution apparatus sprang into operation, clanking and rumbling as it scooped the rock chunks from the cart onto distribution belts that took them around the room and deposited them in the collection bins on the counters that lined the room. The kits got to work. Shulma, feeling unsure of herself amid the noise and chaos, took a spot in the far corner of the room, farthest from the distribution apparatus and as separate as possible from any other kits. She sat on the stool that was there, took a piece of rock from her collection bin, and examined it. It was formed almost entirely of dull gray host rock except for one knobby corner of bronze-colored material—probably either quorodium ore or one of the copper ores, from what Foreman Novalos had told them. She ran her finger over it to feel its texture— —and twitched with a gasp as a yellow spark shot up from under her finger. She glanced quickly around; fortunately Foreman Novalos and his two assistants were in another part of the room. Well, Foreman Novalos had said that some ore types had a tendency to pick up a static charge under the right conditions, and it was a dry day, after all. Shulma picked up the vibrochisel and got to work, picking away at the edge of the knob of ore until it was fully and cleanly separated from the rest of the rock. Even with the sparking, she had been able to tell from its very jagged crystalline texture that it was one of the copper ores. Shulma picked up the ore chunk to throw it into the basket for copper. As she did, several yellow sparks shot up. She shuddered and yelped slightly as she dropped the rock back on the table, her fingers twitching with shock. What was happening? This wasn’t just static charge or dry air—that much Shulma could tell—but what was it? She looked at some of the other kits at the sorting counters nearby. They were all working through piles of the same kind of ore—and none of it was sparking. She put a fingertip on the ore piece on the table, watched another tiny glint arise, and took her finger off again. It reminded her a bit of an old fairy story her mother liked to tell her: the story of Bright Valthya, who had lightning in her touch and could command the Sacred Light from the very stones on the ground. Of course, she knew it couldn’t be anything like that. She was just little Shulma Trilasha of Flowstone Vale. Once again she glanced about. The foremen had still not noticed her, but they were making their rounds: Trothidd walking down the rows with his hands clasped behind him, Gondrav helping one boy hold his vibrochisel properly, Novalos berating another who had accidentally put all his tin ore in his quorodium basket. They would soon be nearby. She simply had to go on with her work. Quickly, but gingerly, Shulma began sorting through the collection bin for another rock piece. First she looked for one that was all or mostly host rock and tossed it in the waste cart that stood behind her, between her row of counters and the next. She found another similar piece and did the same—then another and another. After that she found no others, so she looked to see if she could find at least a different kind of ore, in case that would make a difference and not shock her. But virtually all the rocks in her bin contained the same kind of copper ore, and even as she sifted through them sparks flew up and stung her fingers. It was only at the very bottom of the bin that she found a rock that looked different from the others. It was large, part milky-chalky white, part brilliant, light blue crystal; she recognized it from Novalos’s introduction as strontium ore. She craned closer to admire it and take in its beauty. What Lasat did not know strontium: the mineral that flowed in their blood, that beat in their hearts, that gave the soil and mountains their hues of blue and purple! She reached for it— —and multiple bolts of crackling golden energy sprang up to envelop both her hands. Electric pain coursed upward through her fingers, through her arm, and through her whole body. A blinding white-gold-iridescent blaze exploded like a supernova into her vision, engulfing everything around her. Three Lasat-shaped figures emerged from the light: a strongman with a spear, a comical dancer leaping and laughing, a tiny kit reaching skyward. From different directions they ran toward each other, colliding and merging into a single, large, magnificent figure— —who had bright leaf-green eyes and the brightest, handsomest smile Shulma had ever seen— A searing ache shot through Shulma’s head, from one temple to the other and back again. She felt herself crying out, dropping the piece of ore, collapsing onto the counter... ...and then nothing. * * * Shulma jolted awake with a shriek as rough hands shook her, pulled her from her stool, and spun her around. Foreman Novalos scowled down at her through angry amber eyes. “Well, well,” he growled. “Won’t Trilasha be charmed to learn how his little girl was slackin’ off on her very first shift!” “But Foreman Novalos—please—” “None of your buts! You think I’m gonna listen to your silly excuses?! YOUR HEAD WAS ON THE COUNTER!” “Please, Foreman Novalos—” “You’ll be stayin’ after to scrub down those counters and belts and baskets, y’hear?!” “Yes, Foreman Novalos…” “Now get back to work!” He shook her loose. “Karkin’ incompetent lot of kits they give me!” He stomped off, grumbling. Shulma cast a wistful glance at the beautiful blue-purple piece of strontium ore, now lying on the floor. She didn’t dare pick it up. Instead she returned to her counter and her collection bin, her head still aching and tears welling in her eyes. * * * Later that afternoon, all the other kits had gone home. Shulma was left all alone to clean the work surfaces in Ore Processing Unit Aurek-Two—the countertops, the distribution belts, the collection bins, the sorting baskets, and even—“for making excuses”—the large central cart that had brought the rock pieces up from the shafts, which now stood empty on its length of track at the end of the room. Wistful tears flowed as she worked. Her very first shift at the mine, and what a silly mess she had made of it! All because her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she had just had to mess about with that piece of strontium! Shouldn’t she just have left it alone after seeing even what just the copper ore could do to her hands? At least, she thought with bitter relief, the rock dust and dirt that remained on the counters and belts didn’t seem to be producing any unusual effects. She paused from scrubbing a collection bin to look out the window, where the sun was just beginning to sink in an orange haze behind the mountaintops. By this time she had thought she would be home like the other kits, supping with Mama and Papa and the boys and cheerfully recounting all the things that had happened on her first-ever mine shift—an occasion that was supposed to be a happy one, or at least a novel and exciting one, for a kit of Flowstone Vale. Every so often Novalos would come in to inspect her work (lest she be so bold as to slack off on him again). So far he had at least found nothing to complain about outright, but his scowl seemed craggier and angrier with each visit, and whenever he left he would mutter something about being kept beyond his usual quitting time. Shulma glanced up at the chrono on the wall; he would probably be coming in again soon, and as she was almost done with this row of counters. If she at least got started on the central cart, he would see that she wasn’t being lazy. Once she had finished the row, she rinsed the scrub brushes and cleaning cloths and returned them to either the appropriate supply bin or the soiled cloth hamper. Then, from a hook on the wall near the distribution apparatus, she took a long-handled tool with a metal-bristled suction-brush at one end and a broad, flat vibroscraper blade at the other, and brought it over to the central cart. The cart was immense, almost as tall as she was, and she craned over to look inside; its inner walls were coated with musty rock dust, and the bottom and lower edges of the sides were thickly crusted with gray-white mineral deposits. As Novalos had instructed her, she as to first use the vibroscraper to break up the heavier deposits, then dust the sides and clean up all the residue with the suction-brush end. With some difficulty, she reached the long tool into the cart with the scraper end touching the built-up mineral crust on the cart bottom, then activated the vibroscraper and began chipping away. Masses of fierce yellow sparks flew up with each strike, climbing higher and higher up the metal handle even as the crust crumbled and broke— —and Shulma could have sworn that the cart moved. Wait, that couldn’t be; wasn’t its brake set? All the brakes of all the waste carts were set; certainly this one was, too? It had to be just her imagination. Sparks or no sparks, she simply had to keep working. She struck at the mineral crust again, and several things happened at once. A fountain of yellow lightning shot up around the handle of the scraper. The cart lurched forward on its track with such violence that Shulma was pulled off her feet and thrown into it head first, directly into the golden blaze. And the cart continued rolling, through the open rolling door, into the shaft, picking up speed… “NO!” Shulma screamed. But it was too late. Cart, kit, and scraper, all suffused in masses of yellow lightning, were now careering at full speed downward into the shaft. All Shulma could do was hang onto the scraping tool for dear life as the wild motion knocked and battered her against the sides of the cart. She clenched her eyes shut against the unrelenting pain, the building brilliance— —for it was not a dark mine tunnel that she was hurtling through but a fiery maze of gold-orange stardust blended with blinding, color-changing light. Twisting, turning, jolting, pitching, swerving—where to?— —until everything crashed to a halt, to darkness and cold. to be continued Spoiler: Notes Gosrrallan Mountains, the Gosrral: Fanon, the latter being both the region where the former mountain range is located and another name for the mountain range. Named after the historic mining town of Goslar in Lower Saxony, Germany, on the northwestern slopes of the Harz Mountains. Quorodium: Completely fictitious. Novalos: Named after the German Romantic poet Novalis (Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, 1772–1801), whose university studies centered on mineralogy and who worked as a mining official. Bright Valthya: Fanon. Strontium ore: I’m thinking here of the bluish crystalline variety called celestine (or celestite). According to our Lasat fanon post, copper and strontium are responsible for the purplish rock and soil found in many parts of Lasan; I took a bit of a leap from that and put it in Lasat blood, too, perhaps functioning the way iron does in ours.