Day One Slipshot

May 21, 2024

Time to Go

I didn't think today would be the day that I saw my first deconstruction event.

I would have to admit that I didn't exactly witness it directly. That would be the job of the more experienced Mechanics. The ones who've been out in the field for a while. Today was my first day where I'd actually be working on the Slipshot. Or, at least, helping other Mechanics to do things like fix the Vérkatrae when they needed repairs. Probably I'd be carrying spare parts around and handing them off to whoever wanted them.

Which wasn't bad, really. It was much better than sitting in the classroom all day, reading about the history of Griddish and how the Slipshot was critical to the economy of Ashen Fissure. Or maybe some long forgotten stories about the dome that supposedly protected us from the dangers of deep space.

Or maybe it was about the Engineer Class Citizens. Ugh, I hated the Engineers. All the Mechanics hated the Engineers. It wasn't that the Engineers were all that bad. I mean, some of them seemed nice enough. It's just that they were always so into themselves. Like, they were better than everyone else. And of course, we Mechanics always had to carry out their orders. It just seemed like they didn't like doing any of the dirty work.

That really fell on our laps. The dirty work, that is. Mechanics always talked about having to go to different Vars to take care of some problems. Mostly logistical stuff, like weather anomalies, or unexpected land shifts. Stuff like that. They always talked about how they'd have to use the Slipshot, and how bad that sucked for them. Like being slurped through a straw and spit out the other end. At least, that's how some described it.

Whatever. It had been like this for, like, ever. Things never changed. So why did I have to sit in these boring-ass classes and learn them all over again, day after day?

Well, all that is over now, because today I'm an official Mechanic Class Slave. Graduated near the bottom of my class, but who cares about that? Soon, I'll be traveling to the Vars. Var 1,457,989 is my assignment and I'm ready to go.

My name is Opal Fremmitty and I am a Mechanic Class Slave.

The day started out well enough. Since I graduated from Ashen Academy, I was given my own apartment in Ashen Fissure. Pretty exciting stuff. Not that I'd really do anything fun or interesting in my own apartment. Ashen Fissure was not exactly a fun place. Mostly, it was where Slaves would all live. As far as cities went, it couldn't compare to some of the cities on some of the Vars. At least, that's what I've heard. I never went to a Var city, so I couldn't say for sure. Some of the more experienced Mechanics would tell us about all kinds of experiences that could be had down there. I have to admit, I was a little jealous.

Here in Ashen Fissure, we'd go to our apartments, rest, go to work, then back to our apartments, then to work, and on and on like this until we were dead.

Come to think of it, this could be the reason there are so many Vars out there. Maybe we're all just bored to death and are looking for some more entertaining pursuits. The Vars seemed to provide that for some. Others, though, couldn't handle the Vars too well. Something about the Vars and the Slaves just don't mix. Funny, because we're always the ones going down to them. Or up. Or over. I've been told it has something to do with the Slipshot. To be honest, I never really paid much attention in the classes that covered it, so I don't really care. Not really my problem just yet. Not for a while.

Yep, it would be my first day. I had it all planned out, which was kinda weird for me. I don't think I've ever been much of a planner. Just kinda let things go however they please. That really infuriated my professors over at Ashen Academy. Maybe that explains my low scores. Whatever. It's all over now, and here I am.

First thing I'd do is put on my new uniform. I guess you could say it was more like a work outfit. It came with the apartment, because in Ashen Fissure, and all of Griddish really, you're born to your position. There are so many classes of Slaves here. Too many to keep track of. All doing different things. And no one ever changes classes. I think it's because some classes were just designed to do certain things well. Like us Mechanics, who are good at fixing things. Try to get an Admin or a Psyche to initialize a Sleeper Class Vérk and see how they handle it. It'd be one hell of a mess, let me tell you.

The uniform was made up of some heavy boots, a thick, clean apron, some goggles, a peaked hat to keep the sweat of my brow from dripping into my eyes. The apron was pretty nice now, but it won't be that way for long. Some of the old Mechanics, the really cranky ones, their aprons are pretty messed up. Lots of dirt and grime from the Vérks and the Slipshots and everything else we gotta fix around here.

Then would come breakfast. I didn't really care much for all those foods made of Waftring. Waftring was kinda our thing. It was everywhere. I think it was the spiciness of it I didn't like. It just seemed to burn the inside of my nose every time I put some of it to my lips. The liquor wasn't any better either, so I pretty much stayed away from it. Yes, breakfast. Maybe something simple. The mists of Griddish were designed to sustain us, but they weren't one hundred percent. Not anymore, in any case. So, some simple food to fill my belly and sustain me the rest of the day.

Well, that was the plan. Nothing ever went according to plan. Not for me, anyway. I was pretty much forced to wake up when the shutters to my apartment window rattled open rather noisily. The light from outside pretty much blinded me. The thing about Griddish is that it's always light here. Not like the Vars, where there's a time called day and a time called night. The Engineers are always experimenting, but they seemed to think that the day-night Var was the best possible model, and so all the other Vars were designed according to its spec.

But in Griddish, there's the dome which always emits a kind of soft, white light. Not that it's a problem or anything, it's just that I've never seen a Var day or night, so I'm not really sure what it feels like. I hope I can go to one of the Vars one day. Some Mechanics do. They become field techs for the Vars and they travel all the time. I'm not sure I'm too keen on traveling all the time, but I guess there's an exchange for freedom. I mean, it would be kinda nice to get away from Griddish for a while. Try new things. Maybe there's something better than Waftring liquor out there. Phbbb! It wouldn't be hard to come up with one, I'm pretty sure of that.

So I pretty much threw on my stiff, new uniform, slammed through the front door of my apartment, jumped into the tube that would suck me down to the ground floor, and ran like a Constructor Class Vérk exiting a deconstruction event to the train that would take me to Var 1,457,989.

In other words, fast. And reckless. So, maybe I crashed into a few Slaves along the way. I'm sure they can handle it. Maybe not the Admins or Psyches, but they were never out here anyway. They hid away mostly in their little, not little, fortress. The Bastion! That's what they named it. I hear it's pretty depressing. They pretty much sit and stare at holographs all day. Keep things running in Griddish. Make sure the dome and our disk-shaped world stay in one piece. Seems like an important job, I guess. Not one that I'd want, though.

Not that I'd want any job, actually. I mean, Slaves were designed to work. It's what we do. "To keep the economy of Griddish rolling along," or some similar crap. That's all we ever did was work. If it was up to me, I'd just stare at the dome all day while I laid back on some grassy hill and watch those rainbow colored flashes whenever we ran into some asteroid field. Let the admins and the Vérks keep the dome in check. Why do they even need us Mechanics after all? To keep the Slipshots running? And the Vérkatrae? Ok, well, maybe we would still need the Vérks, but without the Slipshot, my life would be one thousand percent better.

Listen to me. I haven't even started my first job and I'm already complaining about it. I guess nothing really changes for us. Well, whatever.


I pushed through the crowds of people in my apartment lobby and made my way outside. There was really no time to mess around. I had to get to the central train station and catch the line towards Sanguine Heap. At least, I would be passing Sanguine Heap on my way to my Var. It was not gonna be easy because this was the time everyone was going to some particular Var or other to do their work. They said lots of Mechanics would show up late, like it wasn't a big deal. But since it was my first day on the job, I didn't want to get off on the wrong foot.

The station was some sprawling, glassy arrangement in the center of Ashen Fissure. Maybe glassy isn't exactly the word. Maybe bubbly is a better word. It's just that in Griddish, we like our domes. In fact, we like them so much that we tend to build domes inside of domes. And this station was one of them. One giant dome. One giant dome that was incredibly mismanaged because the second I got inside of it, I felt like I was the only one in a rush. Crunched between bodies, bumping into fences and posts, getting glares from musty old Mechanics. Like it was my fault this place was so damn crowded. If I ever move up in the world, I swear the first thing I'm gonna do is demo this place and start over again. It would take no time for the Vérks to do it. That's what they do. Destroy stuff. Or, deconstruct stuff, as they put it.

I pushed through some hairy, grunting Mechanics until I saw my train. Next stop, Sanguine Heap. At least it was the right direction. Var 1,457,989 would be beyond that. I ran up to the shimmery portals of the train and pushed myself through to the inside. It was like being forced into the center of a long, shiny tube, and when the train lurched forward, the whole thing would bend as it followed the curves of the track underneath it. Not really track, actually, more like guiding rails, since the train itself never touched them. I suppose the train didn't really need those rails at all, but it just kept them so that it would always follow a regular, predictable path to the Vars. Mechanics liked regularity and predictability, and we had it in heaps, day in, day out, for all eternity.

Like we did with the Tenddrome, which was always there. Or maybe, Mechanics were always there for the Tenddrome. Makes my head hurt, to be honest.

The top of our long, twisty train was completely transparent. And when we left the center of Ashen Fissure, that's when we could see all the Slipshot Silos. There were so many, they were literally everywhere. And they all kinda looked different. Some were tall and slender. They would swoop up into a narrow tip. There was a kind of portal near the top, almost like a giant eye. Others were shaped more like obelisks, kind of chunky and rigid. It's because they were built in different times. Some eons ago. Some much more recent. I suppose each Slipshot Silo was a reflection of a particular time in Griddish. So it would make sense that they looked different from each other.

I was debriefed on my Slipshot, the one built for Var 1,457,989. This particular Var was nothing spectacular, really. A small, dry planet that had some form of life on it, I was told. The Mechanics were busy maintaining it. My job would be to gather tools and parts and bring them to the various Mechanics who needed them at any particular moment. Mostly Vérk or Slipshot repair. Nothing more until I got enough experience that I could start doing my own repairs.

I shuddered when the train snaked past Sanguine Heap. I never was told what this fortress was built for. Sometimes, I'd get some data about it over the Tenddrome. Slaves always got data over the Tenddrome. It's how we gathered info and learned. Some Slaves were better than others at using the Tenddrome. Most could get basic info, but a few others could traverse much farther, looking into the past even. I was never very good at traversing the Tenddrome, and I don't think I ever will be. To be honest, you need a certain level of craziness to want to go so deep. In my humble opinion, there's nothing really worth looking at there. Just send me the info I need, like which tool to use to fix a Vérks hover mechanism, or how to use an Init Caster on a Slipshot Silo. That's the useful stuff. Everything else is just a waste of time.

The facts on Sanguine Heap were spare, to say the least. Not really my business to poke and prod.


The train snaked up to the Slipshot to Var 1,457,989, my Var now. At least, that's how I'd refer to it from now on. I might be here for a while. I mean, who knows how long I would be stationed here? If I did well, I might get my own Var one day. Or, I'd be one of those traveling Mechanics who'd use the Slipshot to get slurped down to the Var on the reg. I'd get to wander around the surface of a new planet, I'd get to see it develop into something. I'd help it along when it needed it. I'd party it up in one of its big cities. But for now, I'd be lugging tools around.

When the train stopped, I got pushed out onto the platform by a rush of sweaty smelling bodies. It was a little overwhelming sometimes. The smell, that is. Whatever. Not my problem if Mechanics didn't like to bathe or keep themselves clean. Maybe I'd be like that some day. For now, I wore a clean apron. I'm sure it wouldn't stay that way.

The platform itself was wide and round. It looked like it was made of small, round tiles, and when I stepped on it, it made a light clangy sound, which became pretty noisy with all the Mechanics pattering around on it. The Slipshot Silo itself was huge. It was much bigger than I imagined it to be. When I looked up, I could barely see the tip. It seemed to disappear into the dome's inner light. There were also tall, black posts that lined up next to each other and formed a circle. At one point, on the platform's surface where the posts came together, there was a block splotch, like something had been burned there. Like a fire had been lit there, except there were no ashes or any sign of an actual fire. I sniffed the air, and it smelled faintly of burning metal.

All along the edges of the platform were Vérks. Big, giant Vérks, four legged, really heavy looking. They had these horn-like extrusions on their backs and a row of red eyes that ran along the base of their chassis just above their thick legs. The eyes looked like they were closed, or maybe turned off. Probably they were in stasis, they seemed awfully still.

These Vérks were Sleepers. I knew about them. I studied them in class. They had one job, and that was to go to the surface of a Var and start a soporification event. Which is a fancy way of saying that they would put every living creature into a state of deep sleep. It was those horn-like extrusions on their backs that gave them that ability. It was said that the sound they emitted was so deep that it made the ground rumble and vibrate.

In other words, terrifying. If a Varling was to witness one, there would be sheer panic. But that wouldn't happen, because the Vérks had the ability to hide themselves from Varling eyes. Although they roamed the Var in plain view, they were able to obfuscate themselves. As long as the Slipshot was still open, still connected to the Var, they would have this ability.

After the Sleepers were established on a Var, next would come the Constructor Class Vérkatrae. They were shorter than the Sleepers. Their noses, pointed down towards the ground, would emit plasmic arcs that would tear the Var apart. That was their job. To obliterate the Var. To turn it back to cosmic dust. I hope I never have to lead a group of Constructors to a Var. Never, ever. I would not want to witness something like that with my own eyes.

I pushed through the crowd of Mechanics and looked around. They were starting to disperse now. Some walked over to the large storage units that bordered the platform. Others moved towards the Sleeper Vérks. Others still pulled on weird looking exoskeletal Vérks that would help them to do some heavy lifting.

I spotted a Mechanic who stood by the metal posts, next to the black smudge on the platform. I stepped towards him. He looked like someone who was in charge, and who probably didn't have much work to do. He just stood there, looking belligerent. Like he was gatekeeping something and you had to go through him if you wanted access to it. His apron was stained, probably with various fluids from the machines. His face was covered with a scratchy beard, and a pair of goggles was pushed up onto his forehead. His shoulders were broad and his head lacked hair in most places.

"Ahem!" I started. "I'm Opal Fremmitty, Mechanic Class Level 1, graduate of Ashen Academy, reporting for duty."

The man glanced at me and then scoffed. He looked away.

"Um, I'm here to start working?"

"Well, start, then," he grumbled.

"Eh...." I glanced around. "On what?"

"They didn't tell you?" he said, frowning deeply.

"Well, no, not that I know of."

"Stupid," he grumbled and then spit. A gooey wad landed on the platform and stuck there. I felt my stomach turn. He reached into his apron and pulled out a small device. "Take this," he said, holding it in front of me.

I lifted my hand and let it fall to my palm. It was a small rod whose length was about as wide as my palm. "Um, what is it?"

"You don't know?" scoffed the man.

I searched my memories, trying to recall all the classes I took on Griddish devices. "An Init Caster?"

"Very good," said the man, smirking. He lifted his hand and scratched his beard. "I guess they actually do teach you something at the academy."

"So, what should I do with it?"

He snorted. "What do you normally do with an IC?" he said with a sneering, mocking tone.

"Well...." I started to feel my heart pound in my chest. I heard that the first day on the job was tough. But this guy was just plain mean. "To initialize a Node?"

"Indeed," he said, with a little less sneer to his tone. "And what is a Node?"

"Everything is a Node within the Tenddrome," I recited as if reading from a textbook.

"But what specifically would you use an IC for?"

"A Vérk?"

"Very good. Now, do you see those Vérks over there?" he said, nodding towards the edge of the Slipshot Silo's platform.

"The Sleepers?"

"Oh, so you know what they are?"

"Well, yes, I...."

"I guess you're not a stupid as you look then."

"No sir."

"Then tell me what you would do with an IC when dealing with a Vérk."

"Initialize it?"




"I...don't understand."

The Mechanic sighed deeply. He lifted his hands and placed them on my shoulder. They were heavy and large. "Go initialize the Vérks with your IC!" He turned me around so that I faced the perimeter of the Slipshot Silo's platform and shoved me. I tripped forward, stumbling over my own feet. Regaining control of my legs, I started jogging towards the first Sleeper Class Vérkatrae that I could see.

"Shit, shit, shit," I hissed to myself. Now what was I gonna do? I didn't know how to initialize a Vérkatros. I didn't even know how to initialize an IC. Like, how does someone do that?

I stopped at the first Sleeper Class Vérk I saw. Its thick, heavy legs were curled up under its chassis as it rested on the edge of the Silo's platform. Its eyes, maybe twenty or thirty in number, ran along its base. They were still, almost as if they or the Vérk were dead.

The Vérk was tall. If I could replicate myself and stand on my own shoulders, there would need to be about ten of me to reach the top of its head, even as it sat crouched here. I looked around the hulking body of the Vérk. Think, think, think. How to initialize a Sleeper. I lifted my hand and looked down at the IC, which sat nestled in my palm. Honestly, I didn't think my first day would be initializing Vérks. I kinda was hoping to take it slow. I guess that's not going to happen.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The first thing that any Slave would need to do is enter the Tenddrome. Then, send a request to the Node. Which is the device. Which is the IC. That's what they said in the academy. Enter the Tenddrome.

I took another deep breath. My eyes twitched under their lids as I tried to keep them closed. We did this exercise in class, but this was the real thing now. Not some simulation. My body jumped at the sound of a crash and a loud, gruff voice. "Relax, Opal, this is what Slaves were made for," I muttered. Relax.

My body started to feel light, as if it were slowly being inflated with air. And then, compressed, as if I was suddenly surrounded by water. My eyes snapped open. The world around me was dark. I flailed my arms and legs, coughing and choking in the seemingly air-less environment, keeping a white knuckle grip on the IC. I forced myself to take a deep breath. I looked around, up, down. Was there an up or down? I couldn't tell, not in this inky darkness.

A point of light popped into view. Then another, and another. Then, the whole empty, dark space was filled with points of light. Some of them were chaotic, vibrating and bouncing as if they were about to explode. Others felt distant, their light weak and flickering, as if they were close to being extinguished. One point of light came close to me. It was small, about the size of my fist. It seemed to buzz and crackle, even though I couldn't hear anything in the vacuum-like space of the Tenddrome.

"That's it!" I shouted. Or, at least, it felt like I shouted. "That's the Node." I focused on the Node, sending the request to initialize. A data packet. A number. One, followed by some zeroes. The zeros didn't matter. It was the first number that mattered. "Please work, please work, please work," I whispered.

A moment later, the darkness faded and the gentle, white light of Griddish filled the space around me. My eyes hurt at the sudden brightness. I saw myself holding my hand away from my body, and the Init Caster that I had gripped in it was now a staff about half my height. I heard a clicking sound, which came from the direction of the Vérkatros. A small hatch opened on its side. I walked up to it and looked in. A socket presented itself. I glanced over the IC. Its tip was similarly shaped to the socket, as if it would fit in. I touched the tip to the socket and pushed.

The eyes of the Vérk started to click and roll, gazing in many different directions all at once. The hulking body shuddered and then stood on its heavy legs. The skin of the machine, which had a flat, gray color before, was now pulsing and vibrant. It appeared soft, yet metallic at the same time. I lifted my free hand and touched it. It felt warm, yet hard and solid and soft at the same time, if that was even possible.

I stepped back. I had never seen a Sleeper Class Vérkatros up close like this. I could feel my heart beat in my chest. I could feel the pound of my pumping blood in my ears. My stomach started to turn and flutter. I smiled.

I glanced triumphantly towards the Mechanic who shoved me towards this Vérk just moments ago. A gentle smile crossed his face momentarily, and then he flicked his forefinger towards the other Sleepers. "Go on. Finish the job," he said, a tone of gruff gentleness in his voice.

I smiled widely as I ran along the edge of the Slipshot Silo's platform. I could hear the clicking sounds of open hatches, a hollow, rattling echo along the metal tiles. I touched the tip of the IC to the socket of one, then another, then another Vérk, panting and laughing hysterically, sweat dripping down my forehead.

"It feels so good," I said, laughing.


The Mechanic reached into his apron. He pulled out a small device. I could barely see it from where I stood. He held it up a moment and glanced at me, a wry smile crossing his face. He held it between his thumb and forefinger. It was shaped like a capsule. He squeezed it and then tossed it towards the blackened surface of the platform.

"A Capsa," I mumbled. I had only studied them in the academy. We could never use one, never get our hands on a real one. They were just too dangerous. I guess they thought it was best we got trained how to use them once we were in the field. I didn't expect today would be the day.

The Capsa jumped once, then twice. A moment later, it split open. A plasmic arc shot from it and connected to the first black post in the circular array. Each post lit up, connected to each other by a plasmic arc, until the circle was completed. And then, from above, from the portal near the top which I could barely see from where I stood, another arc struck. A moment later, a thin, black line appeared vertically in the air just above the surface of the platform. It opened wide. Inside, sheer blackness. I blinked my eyes hard, it was just too disorientating. The sounds around me, of the other Mechanics, the Vérks, of Griddish itself, felt warped, indecipherable, knotted.

In unison, as if understanding some hidden cue, the Sleeper Class Vérks moved towards the Slipshot portal like giant, metal hulks. My mouth almost certainly agape, my eyes wide. The Init Caster fell from my hand and clanged on the metal surface of the platform. One after another, the Vérks fell into the portal, ten, twenty, one hundred. All the Vérks I just awakened with my IC.

And then, silence. The portal closed. Deep quiet fell upon Griddish for a moment. And a moment later, the sounds of our world rushed towards me. Voices, clashing metal, the sound of breezes blowing through tall grass, it all returned, all at once.

I felt my stomach turn. And then, I fell to my hands and knees. My mouth watered salty. My body heaved as I retched onto the platform's surface. I heard heavy footsteps, which paused in front me. I looked up.

"First time, eh?" came the voice of the Mechanic. It was deep, yet gentle.


"You'll get used to it."

I wiped my mouth with my sleeve and sat back on my haunches. "Where are they going?"

The man scoffed. "They're going down to the surface of the Var."

"But if they're going down, then that means...." I felt my stomach turn again.

"The Commission has decided."

"The Commission...." The Commission of Engineer Class Citizens. We all knew who they were. They were the ones who decided the fate of the Vars. And it was up to us Mechanics to carry out their orders.

"Don't worry about it kid," said the Mechanic. "The Sleepers will make sure everything goes easy." He glanced over his shoulder. "Well, it looks like the Constructors are just on time."

A train snaked in next to the platform and stopped. It wasn't like the one I took earlier in the day, before all of this unfolded. It had no windows, its body shimmered in the soft, Griddish light. Mechanics swarmed the train, opening wide hatches. They pulled out what looked like Vérks that were still in stasis. They were smaller than the Sleepers, much smaller, maybe the size of two or three slaves. Their faces and muzzles faced the ground, their eyes unmoving, lifeless.

The Mechanic turned towards me. "Ready to awaken some more Vérks?"

I glanced over at the IC, which had retracted back to its small form. I reached over and picked it up, turning it in the palm of my hand. "It can't be," I mumbled. "It can't be...."

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