Dirty walls. Filthy lights. A frozen void spun carelessly through twenty centimetres of pressed silica.
The band was busy setting up while the crowd murmured their assent. They were all here for the same reason. Not just music; that was implied by the posters, the homemade shirts, the thin station hallway packed full of stitched-together styles and clashing hairdos. Most of these people were miners, haulers, maintenance workers – the ones that did the work so others could live. Even with the small boosts to pay last quarter, these were thankless tasks, and the crowd was clearly a sea of comrades in arms, all frustrated beyond a doubt and looking for an out.
Microphone feedback. Guitars slowly tuning like a ship’s engine before takeoff. Space-age cymbals echoing the past as they resonated.
“Herxes Station!” Aulie shouted over the din, xer voice carrying high up to the fifth floor rafters. Murmurs turned to cheers, yells – like a magnesium strip, all that anger getting released at once.
“We hear you!” Porter echoed, fists raised high from behind her drumkit.
Sallid raised the colours: a sign as old as Earth, meant to imitate some old folklore demon’s horns. Fists shot up in reply, and the entire hab looked ready to riot. Sallid could smell them, feel their energy rippling around like engine wash.
“We are the Silent Backbone!” The words had barely left Aulie’s lips before the band ricocheted into their first number, and the walls of the station started to rattle. People left too long in the lull of society were let off their chains, and the chaotic dance of bodies and voices filled the air.
Aulie’s high, cracked voice cheered them on:
And tomorrow’s come too soon
You’re all drunk in the afternoon
Without a cause to call your own!
Echoes and fists.
Those that pay the worker’s wage
Have bought their costumes, set the stage
They can’t be told; let them be shown!
It was as if they were casting some old magic, all chanting in unison, sweat and drink and liquid rage all roiling together.
If I ever get out of this hole alive
If I ever get out before I die
I’ll fill that fucker in so high
They’ll never find me out!
Aulie was dancing across the stage, xer fingers flowing over strings forged out by xer own hands. Xe was wearing an old jumpsuit – xer hauler’s outfit, from some defunct company – pulled down to reveal xer tattooed chest and scarred arms. A dark chrome augment latched onto Aulie’s pecs as if some horrific bug had settled in, varicose veins bulging around the perimeter. An old injury that had cost xer a tit and half xer left lung; seeing xem tear through a solo, sweating in sheets to the raucous applause of the crowd set Sallid’s skin on fire.
If I ever get out of this hole alive
If I ever get out of this hole alive
If I ever get out of this hole!
“ALIVE!” Echoed the crowd
They’ll never find me now!
Deafening applause. A thick vacuseal water bottle whipped from the back with awesome speed. The subtle twist of Aulie’s wrist as xe caught it and effortlessly drank from it. Sallid was already ablaze, but somehow watching xem drink greedily of the water just made it that much more intense. So much so that they had to shake themselves free when Aulie offered them some.
“Herxes station, you are amazing! You go any louder, we’re gonna get sucked outside!” Aulie jeered and gestured towards the window behind xem, and Sallid could almost hear the plexiform vibrate with how loud the crowd was. No joke.
“This one’s for the haulers in the crowd – we know you!”
Ain’t no one gonna take my lane
I’ve got a hundred little parcels
Down Baress Falls and Harrod’s Mane
I’ve got a tonne (a Tonne) to lug
Before I leave my tug
And it’s been six months since I’ve been lain!
Rhythmic thumps in time. Porter’s shouts and whoops as her sticks launched to and fro across the stretched neo-skin drums. Raucous noise as Sallid’s keytar ripped through every solo.
Down the Warrens
Up the Streets
Ain’t no path
That I ain’t beat!
Bitter saliva. The smell of merc-lung inhalers. Thick, heavy musk against cold tungsten and titanium. Sallid could taste the whole station as they screamed into the mic with Aulie:
Outta the way! You gotta move!
I’ve a hold full of fuck-all
And nothing to lose!
And I ain’t gonna make my quota this week
If your ass has got something to prove!
MOVE IT ON OUT!
It felt like they were falling into atmo; the station walls could have shaken apart from the sheer force of voices, feet and hands. They were a weapon all their own, an intangible energy, these people that had to do jobs so mundane and dehumanizing that they were almost a punishment with a wage.
And as mad as the band was, the crowd was twenty-fold at the least.
“Let’s hear it for the haulers! It’s a bitch of a job, and so are we!” Aulie fanned xer hands out and let the ovation wash over xem, bathing in it.
“Fuck the Corpos!” Came a cheer from the higher levels, and it wound its way down like a vine, thick with contempt and history, fat on the hate they all shared for the corporations.
It brought a few hot tears to Sallid’s eyes as they raised a fist, and Porter was standing on her drums, orchestrating the chant with her drumsticks like some bizarre conductor. After a few more minutes, the crowd was so riled up it felt like they might rush the makeshift stage.
Sallid almost wanted them to; it was intoxicating watching them.
“We’ve got one more song before that fucking bell rings-” Aulie hollered and jabbed a finger at the wall, pointing out the caged siren that signaled shift changes. “So let’s give it some real juice, you fucking beauties!”
Sallid almost didn’t hear their notes in the roar that rose up in the crowd.
We’ve been down down down
down under the boot for so long
That we forgot what it’s like
To dance to our own song
Tears shed freely. Pain in the chest, arms aching. Skull shooting off sparks and fireworks as if it were a pyrotechnic display of emotion.
But i’ll tell you what
You corpo slut!
You’re more than your work
Sallid could see people screeching, faces full of righteous fury, all of them seeming to move as one flesh, one body.
I say give ’em a taste
Of that fucking paste
They call your bread and butter!
If they want us to work
Then here’s a fuck you!
And fuck your police Cutter!
Porter’s timing was perfect; she filled the half-second silence between verses with a repeated “FUCK YOU!” to thunderous applause.
And we’re done!
DIGGING DITCHES FOR OUR FRIENDS
UNDER HATEFUL EYE AND LOADED GUN!
The work siren blared, an uncaring klaxon, about two minutes too early.
Aulie didn’t miss a beat. Xe looked at Sallid with a kilometre-wide grin and gestured to the mic, then started scaling the amps up the wall. Sallid took over the chant, heart pounding in their ears as they watched Aulie’s scampering ass ascend the patchwork station hull. The crowd was practically electric, and their feet marched in unison as the call carried on, drowning the work siren’s alarm in sheer anarchy.
As Aulie jumped and grabbed the cage that surrounded the siren some four metres off the ground, xe whipped their head to audience and flashed a middle finger, tongue wagging. Someone in the crowd shouted and held aloft a small laser torch, and Aulie howled with approval – it was passed across waiting hands like a tumultuous river, then launched upwards to the singer.
“WE’RE HUMAN!” Demanded the crowd as Aulie fired the torch up.
“AND WE’RE DONE!” The people responded to themselves, Sallid and Porter’s voices joining the chorus as the laser cut through reinforced bars.
“DIGGING! DITCHES! FOR OUR FRIENDS!” The cage was unceremoniously tossed onstage, sizzling and molten hot. The work siren seemed to scream, recoil in horror as Aulie descended on it with the torch.
“UNDER HATEFUL EYE! AND LOADED GUN!” A piercing cry went out from the klaxon as it shorted out, sparks and fire gouting out. Aulie landed on the tallest amp, jumping down them like stepping stones, and managed to kick the cage square off the stage and into waiting gloved hands, launching back into the song’s ending solo as if xe had only been gone for a moment.
Sallid and Porter gave each other a look of panicked joy, laughter and fear mingling as they backed Aulie’s minutes-long parade on xer poor guitar.
“FUCK THE CORPO!” Shouted Aulie as xe held the guitar aloft; Sallid thought xe looked like some old painting, a worker holding their axe up in protest.
“FUCK THE CORPO!” Every voice spoke at once, like a spell. An incantation to wear at the foundations that cracked but never crumbled.
“Herxes Station, you’re human!” Aulie walked into the crowd, guitar still raised high. “And from this moment on, you’re free!”
Sallid smiled as wide as they could, following in the wake of people Aulie left behind xem, Porter calling out and continuing the call. It felt surreal, like a dream tearing itself into reality.
Doors hushing open. Heavy faux-leather boots. A faceless horde of black and steel.
And we’re Free
The chanting hit the walls, the Corporate agents, the plexiform ceiling. Filled the space.
Again the call sounded, and people who hadn’t joined in the performance were trickling in, taking up the cry. Sallid saw the agents looking at one another through thick carbon-plated visors. Felt their trepidation.
And we’re Free
Aulie lead the mass, the body of the people. Axe held high.
Sweaty, grungy – Human.
“Hey, resistors. Ohm Barrick here, and I’ve got a big newsflash for you. You ever hear of Herxes Station? Fucking unlikely; backwater little dive around a dead moon in the corner pocket of SolSpace. Thousands like it. Unnoticed.
“Guess what. You’re gonna be hearing about it more from now on. Because that little station, full of down-and-outs? Folks so stuck under the boot they practically eat leather? That station just revolted – freed itself.”
Hard static filled the line for a moment, then a recording of the chanted cry shot out over the airwaves as the announcer continued.
“Hear it? Feel it? That’s real freedom, folks. Homegrown, no Corpo stamp; turns out some voidpunk thrash metal band incited a full-scale rebellion during their concert, and they rallied the whole hab against the hired guns. Forced ’em all into shuttles and out of the station.”
A heavy, humid cough. The soft drag of an inhaler.
“These folks aren’t the only ones. News is spreading faster than junk itch in a pod relay. People taking up the cause, shaking their asses free. It’s enough to bring a tear to ‘ol Ohm’s eye.
“But instead of just crying, i’m gonna do you one better, resistors: I’m gonna help you get free, too.”