Trego rubbed the badge on his leather jacket. The Skraacha had a number of things to give members that have done good deeds, but the badge was the most important. Anyone could get the colors, but without the badge you’re just a prospect, a wannabe. Trego had earned the badge when those Alamos 20K mixed with fucking Humanis goons had come in to burn the entire Underground out. They nearly even killed Bull. An underground legend!! He’d saved lives that day—women, children, even an elderly ork he had carried away from the fires despite the burns on his back. He had scars, too, and those got him respect as well. He helped the others, what were their names? Yes Brick and Beast. Apparently they had conducted a raid on a Humanis stronghold later that day, making them members as well. Trego love the thought of being among people he trusted and admired, being friends and now brothers.
He moved his left hand a bit more every day, despite having no skin left on it, just burn scars. A walking reminder of their triumph that day, as Catan had put it when he pinned Trego’s badge on.
He shook his head and went back to his current job, watching the marketplace. Making sure the fights didn’t get too out of hand, the snatch-and-grab thieves got caught, collection money was paid. Simple stuff, really. The folks here were decent about things. The collections were like taxes upside, the fights happened in areas where folks could use a little entertainment, and a little bit of snitching of food was accepted. It all appeared to be fine. But he felt like something was wrong, even though he couldn’t figure out what it was. So he did what he always did when that feeling hit him—he put out his left hand and tried to make a fist.
Then he saw what it was. A small piece of the insulation that showed up on the lighter scarring of his skin rather than the darker, well, everything. He thought quickly, trying to piece together was he was seeing as he sniffed at the insulation. It had no smell. That was wrong. It should. The stuff always smelled musty. Trego knew he wasn’t the smartest person in the Ork Underground by any stretch of the imagination, but he had an instinct for when something was going wrong, and he usually acted before thinking. It got him into trouble sometimes, but most people agreed that doing something, anything, was better than nothing when Trego was concerned. What would Beast have done Trego wondered.
He ran up to the giant gong that had been cut out of the side of a container ship, picked up the massive hammer, and heaved at it with all his strength. The din he made served as the fire alarm for the cavern, which was so deep inside the Underground that there was no electricity, just lamps that ran off of whatever the people could use for fuel.
The fire drills Trego had insisted on worked. People didn’t panic, but instead moved quickly to the exits and started getting the makeshift firedoors closed. He was about to move toward an exit when he heard the bawling of a child. Cursing, he started searching as quickly as possible, knocking over the stands as he searched for the kid. He eventually found her in her dirty pink dress, curled on a pillow, bellowing for her mother in Or’zet. He picked her up and started running as fast as he could, seeing the insulation dropping at a faster and faster rate around him.
Trego had made a study of fire after his burns. He had an old pocket secretary that could take bookchips and read to him. He figured he knew what was going on—it was something called a dust explosion. But wouldn’t the burning lamps prevent that? Wouldn’t things burn up before they became too concentrated? He didn’t have the answers to his own questions, but he tossed the little girl to the ork who was at the firedoor waiting for him.
When asked later, no one could say why Trego didn’t go into the shelter himself, but they all guessed that he must have figured something out and known there was no time to save himself. He grabbed the handle with his good right hand and heaved his whole weight backwards to slam the door shut, sealing everyone inside. The sound and heat in the cavern was enormous, but the noise Trego made was even louder. Everyone on the safe side of the door swore that he wasn’t screaming in pain, but in triumph: Beat Beast Beast Beast . As if he had beaten the fire like it was just another rival gang member.