Local Union #629
Bang! Bang! Bang!
"Order!" he barked at the chaos before him. "Pipe down, you scurvy lot! I'm calling this meeting to order." He brandished the wrench at the crowd for emphasis. No one appeared worried, though. They settled quickly.
"All right, that's better. Now, I'd like to call this monthly meeting of Local Union #629. We have a full roster tonight and there's a lot to get through, so try and keep your yaps shut unless you have something relevant to say." Silence, wisely, was the only response.
"Now. Old business first. Last month was a real grind, but I'm happy to report that most every department came through in the pinch. Special mention goes to Wiring for the spectacular spark display they pulled off, not once, not twice, but three times in one day. Must've arced six feet if it went an inch. Great going, guys."
Whoops came from the praised members. The remainder of the crowd good-naturedly hissed them into silence.
"The rest of you motley crew should learn by example," he said as he scowled at the assembly. He frowned at the multiple raspberries that came from near the door. No one looked the slightest bit concerned, which was not surprising. They were good, some of the best, and they knew it.
He shushed them with a mock-impatient gesture. "Crossing-the-Equator" party will be a week from Sunday. Now, considering what happened the last time some of you got into the Admiral's good scotch, I want the first duty shift to forego the libations."
"Hey, Boss, no fair!" someone retorted.
"Life ain't fair. Got a complaint, write a letter. Now, unless anyone else has a comment on old business, we'll move on to the new." He surveyed the group, catching a thinnish individual drawing in a breath to speak. Before he could begin, his next door buddy elbowed him and glared. He frowned but held his silence. Nodding his approval, the Boss focused on the task at hand.
"A few things to report before getting to the assignments. The stabilizer on the Flying Sub has been repaired by Chief Sharkey himself, and you know what that means."
Groans all around.
"Uh, sir, what does it mean?" asked a faltering voice. The speaker flinched at the eye-rolling reaction he got from his fellows.
"I expect everyone to keep up with things," he said with a measure of disdain. "What it means is, when the Chief fixes something, he knows it's fixed. If we as much as glitch it, he'll get downright suspicious. He believes we exist, for the most part, but if he starts actually looking for us we could be in trouble. Like I always say, Discovery is- "
"NOT an option!" came the multiple response.
"Hmph. Right. What it means this time is we can't touch the stabilizers. Since the FS1 is scheduled to be out of commission on, oh, let's see..." he paused, flipping through the sheets on his clipboard. "Ah. Mid-month, preferably the 16th. The brass suggests trying to finesse a power-up delay or a navigational display problem. They don't need a crash this time, just a shutdown. FS1, you catching this?"
"Got it, Boss. No problem."
"Good. Where's Pyrotechnics?"
"I don't know what you've been doing to deserve such a good break, but here it is: there will be a new scientist on board handling flammables. For you and the rest of the Pyro crew the assignment will be ridiculously easy."
Cheers from the six members of the department, complete with high-fives.
"That doesn't mean I'll tolerate sloppy work!" he warned as he pointed a stubby finger at them.
"Yeah, Boss. We know."
"Now," he cleared his throat importantly. "This is a memo from Tril- "
"Hey, isn't she the Keeper that hangs around Morton and makes sure his uniform's always so perfect?"
"Nah," someone else countered. "She's the one that's responsible for keeping the coffee cups and pencils on the tables from moving during the usual rock-and-roll."
"You're both wrong," the Boss interrupted smugly. "She's assigned to Crane, personally."
There was a deep, respectful silence that washed over the room.
"That's right," he said solemnly. "Toughest job on either side of the fence. When Tril has something to say, everyone better listen. Seems the poor thing has been pushed to her breaking point and simply can't run interference anymore. The brass has given her a month's leave of absence, and her replacement isn't that experienced. So, Crane is off limits until further notice."
"Not even one little concussion?" the head of Medical whined.
"You'll have to do with a couple of bad dreams and a paper cut or two. If I see him so much as swoon, I'll haul your a-"
"Okay, okay, I get the picture. Kinda unusual, is all," he mumbled unhappily.
"Now, don't you worry about it," the Boss said placatingly. "I've taken a peek at the forecasted schedule and you'll have plenty to do in the near future."
This seemed to brighten him up, just a bit.
"If we can't touch Crane, then who-?"
"Morton. Seems he's been gliding in the background way too much lately. Brass says he needs some 'character-building experiences'. Details are on the handouts by the door."
He turned the page of the schedule and continued. "Department assignments, then. Pyro, Medical, FS1, you've gotten yours. Wiring?"
"Yes, sir," said someone off to the left, raising his hand.
"The usual scattered short-outs, nothing major. If we do too much, they'll overhaul the entire system and it'll be a pain in the butt to start from ground zero. Work in a little smoke, too... you'll need to coordinate with Pyro and Venting. There'll be an orchestrated event on the 5th. Nuclear Reactor?"
"We need the rods pulled out sometime between the fire in the science lab and the monster encounter."
"Out? Last time it was in."
"Hey, I only know what they tell me. This time, they're out. Get together with Invasion... maybe you two can consolidate and have the rods mutate the monsters or something."
"Again?" he exclaimed.
"I know, I know, but you gotta do what the guys upstairs dictate. My hands are tied. Besides, that's why they pay you the big bucks, right?"
A derisive snort was his only response.
"Torpedo Room? Not much this month, I'm afraid. I'm going to assign individuals to both Hatches and Major Valves. What with the monsters invading, they'll be able to use the extra help. Brass wants the Seaview on the bottom at least four times."
He rifled through a few more sheets.
"Lessee. Where's… Livit? Says here that it's your turn to activate the Beacon."
"Geez, Boss, can't the damned monsters and biologicals find the boat on their own?"
"Hey! Watch that language, mister! We have a room full of tender ears here!"
"Sorry, sir," came the chastised reply.
"So you have to get a little wet. Boo, hoo. Just go on up to the Array and hit the button. Unless you're not as capable as I thought you were…"
"Oh, no, sir! It'd be an honor. Really," he added hastily. The Boss noted the furious blush that crept up his face and gave him one more critical glare before moving on.
"Okay. Very good. We'll need Venting to stop the air ribbons from moving at exactly 1345 hours on the 19th. Just a one minute duration, enough to cause a bit of panic and some minor distractions. I want them blowing again before the crew gets down to Air Revitalization. I want the Gauges team to hold the depth needle just below crush level when the boat goes down on trip number three. Radar should do the usual random images, especially when the monster activity is ready to commence. Sonar, too. Got to get those adrenaline levels up there. Check with the other Department heads for the details and timing. Now, who is on Health detail?"
"That'd be me, sir," came a tiny voice near the podium.
"According to the records, you've been doing an excellent job so far," the Boss said grudgingly.
"Yes, sir!" he exclaimed smartly, his voice picking up volume at the praise.
"Now, don't get cocky," the Boss admonished. "I need you to continue altering the uniforms, no more than a few fractions of an inch every other day. Take Nelson's in… he needs to start feeling guilty enough to lay off some of that artery-clogging junk he eats all the time. Maybe he'll start an exercise program again like he did last spring. At least it was something, for a couple of months. We have to be diligent; he's not getting any younger and we need him healthy. Now, for Crane…"
"Let the clothes out some, right, sir?"
"Right. Skinniest Captain I ever did see. He'll think he's losing weight and maybe that will inspire him to eat like a regular person. How he survives on toast, coffee, and cherry pie I'll never know. The man needs some meat on his bones, for goodness' sake!" He scowled at his sheet.
"And while you're at it, there's supposed to be some new uniforms coming in for Morton," he noted. "Make sure those pants pockets get removed before he sees them."
"That about covers things work-wise. Now I have a couple more announcements and you all can get back to duty. First, I have been getting complaints from some of the Keepers that off-duty personnel have been hanging around where they don't belong and causing distractions. If I hear even one more grievance the whole kit-and-caboodle of you will be on restriction. Do I make myself clear??"
Murmured assurances came from all directions.
"There will be plenty of time for socializing when shore leave arrives, which is my second announcement. We are scheduled for a two-week break at the end of next month. While the Seaview is in dry-dock, everyone but critical personnel will be given leave."
The room erupted in cheers and hoots. He allowed them a few moments of enthusiasm before gesturing for quiet.
"Now," he said with a warning gleam in his eye, "since I'm the one who decides who is 'critical personnel', you best be mindful of your duties between now and then. I'll be watching the entire lot of you, so no slacking off." He held their attention for a handful of seconds and stood straighter, grinning at long last.
"And that concludes this official meeting of Local Union #629. Remember we are the finest complement of glitchers and interveners that ever put out to sea! We are Proud, we are Few, we are- "
"Gremlins!" came the shouted reply.
Copyright 1999 Tina Louise Jones
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