Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Staff Writer

When I was sixteen, they gave me the viruses to force my body to adapt to the heat. The process was…painful. It’s the most pain I can ever remember experiencing. Nerve and muscle and bone, all being stretched into new shapes, all at once.

The first virus was a super-splicer. A giant thing, packed with retrofitted transcriptases. It rewrote portions of my DNA and edited out the junk, and did it fast enough that my body didn’t have a chance to reject the new cells. By the time my immune system could react, my entire body held the new code. Including my immune system, which was upgraded significantly.

The second virus forced new connections to develop in my mind, making my new body match my self image, and filling my memory with knowledge about my capabilities, and about the mines.

The last virus rapidly killed the first two. That one hurt a lot.

They said that the changes would help to hold hell at bay. That they would make the conditions in the deep mines bearable.

That was a half-truth. The hab suddenly became terribly cold.

I was taller and thinner. Crests of bone ran down my back and along my arms, webbed with blood vessels to maximise surface area. My core temperature was ramped to three hundred and thirty three degrees, same as ambient for the deep mines.

The hab was maintained at two-nine-eight. Fine for baselines, but it left me shivering and numb whenever I visited, and I never wanted to stay long.

The revolution wasn’t my idea, but I welcomed it with open arms. We stole coldsuits from the overseers, and made our own. We broke in at midnight. We killed the executives and the guards. We forced the virus down the throats of the doctors. We made certain ‘modifications’ to the hab’s environmental systems, to make it feel more like the mines.

We destroyed the stock of the final virus. Without this to check them, the changers became contagious.

We sneered at the baselines, called them weak and cold and slow. We were the pinnacle of humanity, we said, even as we clung to the heat of planetary cores.

We fired scoutships filled with contagion and infected other mining worlds with resistant viruses. Before long there were millions of us: both freed miners and forced thermophiles ‘brought round’ to our way of thinking.

We are hot, we are fast. We are the spark of sentience embodied. We are the fire that burns at the heart of humanity. We are hell.

Let’s see the rest of the galaxy hold us at bay.

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