“Well if this isn’t the tenth time- Get brined you stupid sonofa-” Earnest’s profanities were lost under the sound of metal on metal as he pounded his wrench against the side of a leaky valve. Why was it always on his shift that this one knob seemed to always be busting?
Water spurted up higher from the leak into Earnest’s face as he hit it even harder, no longer interested in fixing the problem so much as letting it know that he was fed up with its shenanigans. Finally, the valve popped off completely, and he was met with a full spray of water from the hose behind it.
“Salt!” He cursed as he dodged the stream. “This is not what I signed up for!”
“You’re doing real fine work on that maintenance, Earnest,” called a voice from behind him. “A real bang up job.”
Earnest turned to see Billie standing in the doorway to the plant. She wore a flat cap cocked low over her face and the sun shining in from behind turned her into nothing more than a shadow. Fitting.
“Very clever,” Earnest answered sharply. He rung out the front of his soaked shirt with two hands and pushed his damp hair out of his eyes. “Kick over my tool box. I need to fix this before Dwight sees.”
There was a banged up old tin chest on the floor by the door. Billie put one foot on it and pushed it across the sandy boards to Earnest, who flipped open the cover and began fishing around inside. “Dammit, I thought I had a spare.”
“Running out of scrap?”
“There isn’t enough scrap metal in all of Brightborough to make this place run like it should.”
“I think we’re doing alright,” Billie mused. “We haven’t had an inspection in months. Water’s still drinkable.”
“Yeah, here, drink up,” Earnest gestured to the steadily pouring steam. Water was puddling up around his feet. “Maybe in here….” He sloshed over to another tool chest and began sifting through old scrap. “Here we go!” He lifted another valve, rusty and dented, but in better shape than the one he had just knocked off. “Come over here and give me a hand.”
Billie sauntered in from the door way and stood at Earnest’s elbow, carefully avoiding the stream of water. “You know I’m not good at playing with this junk. Let me call Dwight for you.”
“Just hold this.” He handed her the new valve, then stuck a thick finger into the hose, stopping the water to a weak trickle around his knuckle. “Alright now look closely at this. Come’re, look.”
Billie leaned down at his insistence and looked closely at the plugged hose. “I don’t see-“
Just then Earnest pulled out his finger, spraying her square in the face with the stream of water. She stumbled back in surprise and landed on her backside in the puddle.
Earnest laughed loudly and took the valve from her, screwing it easily into the hose and finally stemming the stream of water. “That’s what you get for laughing at me,” he smirked.
“Very funny.” Billie whipped the water from her face with the back of her hand as she stood. “I came down here to give you some good news, but now I’m not feeling so generous.”
Awe, don’t be like that. What’ve you got?”
Billie squeezed the water out of her cap and returned it to her head at the same low angle. Earnest never knew why she wore it like then whenever she was in Attaway. It’s not like they didn’t all know who she was and what she did. Maybe she thought it made her look mysterious.
“There’s a crate of munitions being moved tonight on the Warf. Kit and me are going to intercept it. Thought you and Dwight might like first dibs on the goods before we move them ourselves.”
“Yeah, that would be real good. Any idea what’s inside?”
“Nothing special. The usual junk. Maybe you can upgrade a few pieces for us, get us some more bang for our buck. Get it?”
“Yeah I get it. You two going in alone?”
“It has to be a small job, or we’ll get grabbed. Thought maybe you could hook us up with a vest or something?”
“Sure, I got some stuff. Come by the tarp in two hours and I’ll give you something. You sure the two of you with your skinny arms are gonna manage?”
“We’re bringing some strongman stout with us too. Our skinny arms will be enough.”
“Alright. Let me finish up here and I’ll meet you.”
“Thanks Earnest.” Billie stalked out, wet shoes squeaking on the damp floor.
Earnest shook his head and grabbed a pile of rags to start mopping up the mess. “Not what I signed up for,” he muttered to himself again.