Chapter 1918 Rion Aaden
While Calabast and Gloriana plotted to find a way to rescue the captured Larkinsons, Ves remained blissfully ignorant.
As his body quietly rested in a recovery pod, his consciousness had traveled far away.
Dragged across both time and space, Ves had barely been cognizant of where the System was taking him before his consciousness finally smacked into someone else's mind!
This wasn't his first rodeo. Upon arrival, Ves immediately sought to hide presence!
His methods were a bit more skillful and refined since the last time he underwent a Mastery experience.
Through the strength of his detached mind and spirit, Ves immediately became a nonentity in the mind of his host.
Only after Ves made sure that his consciousness was sufficiently hidden and secure did he venture his senses outwards.
The mind he occupied looked very dull. Ves immediately felt a bit disappointed, but what could he expect from a first-tier Mastery Sub-Skill that cost only 40,000 DP?
He was not in a hurry to perform an intrusive inspection. He wanted to observe everything he needed to know in a passive way. Only after he gathered enough information would he contemplate other actions.
As Ves mysteriously connected to the senses of his host, he experienced a brand new life.
We are not slaves.
A strong and rough hand let loose of the controls. Rion Aaden's suited form exited the mining vehicle and swept his resentful eyes at the vast cavern turned into a mining outpost.
Vast stretches of mining vehicles and mining equipment occupied the open ground before the entrance of the outpost.
Alloy walls and menacing turrets prevented anyone from stirring any trouble. Numerous tall and menacing armored guards patrolled the interior of the crudely-constructed base.
The planet of Desala X was interspersed by lots of underground outposts like these.
The giant, terrestrial planet was a frozen rock orbiting a listless red giant. Due to its harsh conditions, humanity decided not to turn Desala X into a livable planet.
Instead, House Kantis of the Paramount Kingdom opted to turn Desala X into a resource extraction site.
The Smiling Samuel Star Sector was an old and poor star sector in the galactic rim. Its glory days, however short they lasted, was long over. The star sector was so poor in resources that its decline hit every single state hard!
The Paramount Kingdom was no exception. Once a great and powerful third-rate state, it had now degenerated into a shell of its former self.
From the way its royals and nobles revelled and feasted, it was hard to see that! House Kantis was no exception. Its long existence stretched back all the way to the heyday of the Age of Conquest. Subsequently, its descendants inherited the pride of their predecessors at their peak!
Everyone who worked and toiled in the mines were very much aware that the cold, frozen, radioactive and lifeless planet they called their home was a cash cow to House Kantis.
It wasn't enough for the greedy nobles to extract every possible value from Desala X. They wanted to reduce their expenses as much as possible, thereby raising the profit margin from the relatively low-value bulk exotics they extracted!
Rion hobbled over to the security checkpoint where a number of tall guards contemptuously ignored the suited miners that passed through the scanning devices.
No one was allowed to smuggle any weapons or unauthorized objects into the outpost.
Anyone who violated this rule would immediately be shot down on the spot!
Rion shuddered in his suit as he remembered the blood that sprayed on his hazard suit when he witnessed the guards gunning down his friend!
His crime? Trying to smuggle a single pebble of Xantur iron into the outpost!
Xantur iron was one the most abundant and least valuable junk exotic on Desala X. A single pebble wasn't worth much at all, and it wasn't as if the miners could smuggle it out from an outpost that was almost completely controlled by House Kantis!
Yet the rules had to be obeyed. For this reason, Rion meekly subjected himself to the penetrating scan before shuffling through the gates while trying to attract as little attention as possible.
A bedraggled town came into view. The cheaply-made prefab structures showed lots of signs of wear and tear. An unending number of assembly, disassembly and moving caused the container-like structures to gain an unending number of scratches! In addition, it was rare to see any structure that was devoid of at least some form of corrosion.
In his entire years of existence, Rion lived in these kinds of settlements without experiencing anything better.
He lifted his helmet towards the cavernous ceiling. No sun or star shone down on him. Living underground was all he knew for his entire life.
He couldn't imagine what it would be like to live under an open sky that was as blue as a verdant ocean.
Such sights only belonged to the nobles and the privileged, Rion had been taught.
In contrast, poor and dirty miners like him deserved to live in poor, restrictive settlements like this outpost!
His gloved fist clenched as he realized the indignity of it all! He was not a slave! He was a human!
It was futile. House Kantis cared little for the miners. They saw people like Rion as little more than free labor.
There was almost no way for those born on this planet to escape the fate of becoming a miner. What passed for school on Desala X were only meant to give future miners the necessary knowledge to operate the mining equipment.
Those who did well in school got to be in charge of better machines!
Their reward? A better hovel to live in! Nothing else!
There was no way for the miners to quit and depart from this planet. House Kantis fully controlled the only ships and shuttles that descended and ascended from the outposts.
The miners weren't able to solicit help or make their distress known in the hopes that someone might come and rescue them. None of the miners had access to the galactic net. They didn't even own the fabled comms that Rion had seen on wrists of the guards and overseers!
After reaching a container-shaped housing unit, Rion pressed his suited palm against the airlock, causing the front to slide open for a brief period of time.
He hurried inside as fast as possible, which took quite some effort!
After entering the chamber, Rion briefly waited as the airlock started to scrub his suited form of contaminants before pumping in some stale-smelling air.
At least it was breathable.
Once Rion emerged from the airlock, he barely paid any mind to the battered, makeshift junk metal furniture.
Instead, he freed himself from his hazard suit as fast as possible. He carefully hung the suit onto a rack before pausing in front of a slightly-polished surface that he used as a mirror.
An ugly, dark-skinned form greeted Rion. His skin was brown and rough. His yellow eyes looked sickly on his squashed face. His dark hair hadn't been washed in days due to the scarcity of water on Desala X!
If anyone normal encountered Rion, they would doubtlessly scream and mistake him as a demon!
As Ves tapped into Rion's senses and viewed his current host's appearance, he inwardly exclaimed at the shocking sight!
Damnit, System! Are you on stimulants or something!? Of all the possible hosts you could have chosen, why pick a dwarf of all people?!
It became clear that Rion wasn't just short for a human. His short and very stocky body was clearly out of the norm compared to the standard human physique.
Though Ves estimated that Rion was only 140 centimeters tall, his muscular form probably massed more than 200 kilograms!
For someone as poor and underprivileged as Rion, there was no way he had cultivated this body through training or surgery.
Instead, he had been born as a dwarf! As the child of two heavy gravity variant humans, Rion inherited the same artificial genes that House Kantis used to form an entire population of eternally-bonded serfs!
Slaves in all but name, Rion had been taught throughout his entire life that dwarves like him were never equal to the so-called 'tall folk' who controlled their lives!
Real humans were different from lowly dwarves. They enjoyed something called human rights. That was what other dwarves had told him. If not for joining a resistance movement, Rion would have lived the rest of his life with his fat and ugly head bent towards the ground!
We are also humans!
It was futile to speak those words. Though Rion had learned from the resistance that 'human space' also counted dwarves among the human race, House Kantis resolutely denied this statement!
Rion spent an hour resting in his small and cramped home. He opened a nutrient pack stored in his pantry and ate the tasteless nutrient with a numb expression.
To dwarves like Rion, real food was a fantasy. Only tall folk deserved to eat real food!
The only food that dwarves were entitled to eat were recycled and synthesized nutrients the biochemical factories created out of the sewage produced by the outposts!
As for water, Rion carefully opened a bottle of water with his rough and clumsy hands. His strong fingers gripped the unusually-resilient bottle and carefully sipped its contents.
The water was clean and filtered. Each trickle of water that descended down his throat quenched the considerable thirst that he accumulated during his previous shift!
On Desala X, water was life. With no source of water at all, it had to be recycled as efficiently as possible.
Due to evaporation, spillage and usage in many industrial processes, water constantly circulated out of the cycle set up by House Kantis. Transport ships frequently arrived at the outposts to deliver precious water. The vessels would then depart from the planet with cargo holds filled with junk-grade exotics.
Rion never saw a real ship in his life. These immensely huge and expensive vessels were the stuff of legends to the dwarves of Desala X.
A ship represented freedom!
A ship could bring them away from the bondage of House Kantis!
A ship could provide them with a brand new future!
Though most dwarves usually discarded these thoughts, Rion was different.
He may be a dwarf, but he was also a human!
It's time. He muttered.
Rion headed to his bed and slid it aside, causing the scratchy metal legs to scrape sharply against the metal floor.
He knelt carefully, making sure not to lose stability. If Rion lost his balance and fell, he would definitely suffer a severe wound!
Desala X boasted gravity that was 4.6 times stronger than the so-called 'standard gravity' that the tall folk frequently mentioned.
Rion couldn't imagine what it was like to live on a planet where the gravity was several times weaker than what he was used to. Would he float through the roofless skies if he jumped? Would he be able to live if he fell down a kilometer-long ravine?
The dwarf may not be able to experience what it was like to live in this fabled environment in person, but there was another option available to him, courtesy of the Desala Resistance Movement!
Once Rion removed a floor panel, he pressed a button built into the side of a tunnel leading downwards.
Nothing seemed to have happened, but according to the technicians that excavated the chamber underneath his home, this was a necessary step to prevent House Kantis from finding out what was going inside!
Rion carefully descended the shallow steps until he reached a chamber that was only slightly taller than his already-short form.
With his hair brushing the smoothed rocky surface, he stepped forward while the interior of the cramped chamber lit up from the light strips installed around a damaged-looking machine.
Following the instructions of the technicians, Rion carefully stripped himself down to his underclothes before opening the crudely-repaired machine. He employed the lightest amount of force he could manage, as he was always afraid he would break some component!
Once Rion slipped in place, he manually closed the top cover, sealing him inside a dark coffin!
Locked within a lifeless cavity, the dwarf grinned savagely and spoke the phrase the technicians instructed him to say.
Simulator pod, activate!