It was another playful day with friends, and we chose to spend it away from home. Looking back at what was barely an existence, I could clearly see that “home” was nothing more than a Minmatar slave community on another homogeneous Amarr world, and another playful day was our local Holder trying to win favour with us at a young age. He did this through the utilization of a man I would later know to be a devil. A man who would become my mentor for many years. A man I called Master Cho.

Master Cho had given us a commlink in case something went wrong. But aside from getting blisters on our feet and aching calves and backs, I couldn’t imagine what could possibly happen.

Then, before we’d even gone a full day’s trek, the ground opened up and swallowed me whole.

There were caves all over the hills, among them the deepest and longest in all of the southern continent. People had been coming to the region to chart and explore caves for centuries, and if you’d asked me at the time, I would have figured that every cave that could be discovered had been discovered. And then I fell into one that no one seemed to have found before.

One of the other kids fell in with me, but the other two managed to scramble back out of the way quickly enough not to get dragged down as well. Apparently, we’d stepped where no one else had stepped, in the history of forever, because the roof of the cave was separated from the ground above by a layer of dirt and gravel only a few centimeters thick, and with our weight on it, the whole thing just gave way.

Tiony was knocked unconscious by the fall, but for all I knew, he was dead. It was almost pitch black, with only a hazy light streaming down from the hole we’d made far overhead. I’d landed at a bad angle, my legs tangled up in stalagmites, both of them broken in multiple places and my left arm pulled out of its socket. Only my right arm could still move at all, but any attempt to drag myself across the floor sent waves of nausea and pain ripping across my body, so I quickly decided to give that a rest.

I had the commlink in my pack, but after spending long, bone-grinding minutes digging it out, I discovered it didn’t work, the signal blocked by the ceiling of rock and dirt overhead.

Jayce and Arati shouted down that they were going to go for help, and I discovered that one of my lungs must have punctured in the fall, since I couldn’t catch enough breath to shout up that one of them, at least, should stay behind.

They both ran off back the way we’d come, and I was left down in the darkness, with the unconscious Tiony and a body racked with pain.

Then night fell.

I’m not sure what was worse – the pain or the waiting. Waiting, not knowing whether Jayce and Arati would bring back help in time, or if they did come back, whether they’d be able to find the site of the cave-in again. Waiting, not knowing whether I was bleeding internally, and not sure how long I’d last if I were. Waiting, unsure whether I’d ever see daylight again. But ever present, and inescapable ,was the pain.

That’s what it was like, bound to the wall in the Tuskers mining platform. Senses numbed by pain, waiting for the hatch to open again and for new torments to begin. And I felt the same, dull ache in the pit of my stomach now as I did then, the same sick sense of expectation and anticipation.

The only difference was, this time there was no chance that Master Cho would show up in the morning to rescue me.

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