Monday, December 31, 2007

Chapter 7: Back to Work, Part V

Vernon nodded and turned away. Eyeing the new mark on his map, he turned left past a couple of still presses. He looked back the way he had come as he rounded the corner to find Bob staring at him, arms folded and brows lowered. He waved at Vernon and went back to his work. Vernon frowned. What's his problem? He threaded his way through a gap between a couple of vacuum forming machines and found himself back on a main thoroughfare. His feet slowed. How could he bring them back? Toss them a rope? Tie a line around himself and hope he made it back in? He punched a bandsaw with a flat clang, earning him an odd look from its operator.

"Sorry," he muttered and shuffled past. A look at the map showed he had veered off course. Vernon stopped and turned in a slow circle, comparing nearby machines with the labels on his paper. After a few minutes of study, he found where he had left the path. He made his way back to an extruder and turned left. He looked at the page more often, but still moved slowly while his mind worried over the problem like a rat with a hunk of cheese.

By the time he reached the faulty vacuum form, better than half the surrounding machines sat quiet and empty. His head swiveled from side to side. Where did everyone go? He sidled up to a worker reviewing information on a computer and glanced over his shoulder at the screen. The clock said it was seven minutes past noon. Vernon stepped back quickly and rubbed his head. I've been wandering around this shop for three hours? No wonder Bob had been looking at him oddly. He looked down at his paper, found the machine circled in red and black and quickly located its solid counterpart just behind him. A sheet of bright pink plastic sat over a round form, just under a row of heaters. A skinny young man wearing a white shirt with black tie and pants sat on a stool at the vacuum form's blinking control panel. Frowning, Vernon walked to him and introduced himself.

"Oh!" It sounded almost like a goose honk in the kid's nasal voice. His eyes blinked rapidly behind his round glasses, and the fingers of his left hand kept trailing across his cheek and chin to pick at the few hairs brave enough to grow there. "I'm Charles Curtis." He stuck out his right hand.

"Pleased to meet you, Charles." He shook the hand once. "What brings you down here?"

" Mr. Roodschild told me to meet you here, Mr. Hamilton. He asked me to watch you work on this machine."

What's going on? His heart sped up. I just started yesterday! He tried to keep his voice light, but it sounded flat in his ears. "He got you checking up on me?"

"Oh, no, no, no. I'm an intern here. I'm studying industrial engineering down in Commerce. Mr. Roodschild said I might be able to learn something about troubleshooting equipment by working with you." The probing fingers tugged at a stray hair. "Is that OK, Mr. Hamilton? I don't want to cause any trouble or get in your way or anything."

"You're fine." Vernon waved it away and stifled a relieved sigh. "Call me Vern."

Charles bobbed his head like a nervous rooster. "What do you plan to do first?"

Wagging his finger in a come-here gesture, Vernon led the intern around the machine to a toolbox on the far side. He opened the drawers, removed a digital multimeter, a vacuum gauge, a few wrenches and screwdrivers and got to work.

Unscrewing the control panel's faceplate, he placed the meter's probes at various points while Charles pushed buttons and flipped switches. Nearby machines came to life as their operators returned from lunch. The men turned and watched Vernon and Charles from time to time. Vernon found it difficult to focus on the digital readout; the ghostly forms of Cheryl and Alexis kept getting in the way. Vernon shook his head and pushed the image away. It surfaced again and again, but he found it easier to concentrate as they moved through the wiring. Satisfied all the controls worked properly, he turned his attention to the vacuum system. The pump kicked on right away. The hoses were clear, and the gauge showed the system was sucking away just fine. Vernon snapped the pump off and sat down, hand on his chin.

As the pump cycled down and fell silent, Charles tapped him on the shoulder. Vernon turned and cocked an eyebrow, and the intern blushed. "I was wondering..." His voice cracked. He cleared his throat and pressed on. "Mr. Roodschild said all this had checked out already..." He trailed off, shrugging.

Vernon smiled. "And you're wondering why we just spent the last couple of hours wasting our time on it." The intern hemmed and hawed and finally nodded. "Rule number one: Always check it out for yourself. You never know what someone else has overlooked. Besides, if you're going to be poking around on a machine, it's a good idea you get to know her first." He nudged Charles in the ribs with an elbow. The skinny youth nearly fell over. "What do you say we kick her on and see what happens?"


Part VI of Chapter 7 coming Friday!

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At January 1, 2008 9:28 AM , Blogger Bret Jordan said...

I'm wondering what sort of plans Vernon is going to come up with to save his wife and daughter...and will his plans do any good.

Enjoyed the read, Jeff!crack battlefront telecharger  

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