Chapter 18 – partial

She was about to declare this tour over when they encountered the first miners. Children sat on piles of rock, prying bits apart with small plasma cutters. Every now and then, a child would toss a glowing pale blue rock into a metal cart. A boy looked up as they paused. Amari smiled and crouched down next to him, trying to ease the blank fear she saw in his eyes.

“Hello. What is your name, please?”

“SB worker number 9537.”

“No, child. Your name. What does your mother call you?”

He blinked, “She calls me nine-five-three-seven. My sisters are nine-four-eight-four and nine-four-eight-five. They be twins. My brother was t’oldest, but he died.”

Amari looked up at Rune. He patted the boy on his bare head and walked on, “Nothing you can do for them, tatsula. Not one by one.”

“That is not iridium.”

Rune’s tone was careful, “It is not.”

“This is an iridium mine.”

“It is.”

Amari stopped, “Rune, what is going on here?”

He looked further down the tunnel, then back the way they came. They were entirely alone, but he still lowered his voice to a bare whisper, “The technical name is PA302. It’s called boom juice. And Stonehaven is the only known source anywhere.”

“You must be kidding.”

“Nope. The crystals are amplifiers on a level that baffles the best techs. If it uses energy, PA302 boosts the output and reduces the power required. Wanna guess why it’s called boom juice?”

He watched understanding blossom and darken gold eyes to a rich amber. His own stung with tears as dismay surfaced and dipped behind the legendary Kanto mask.