Chapter 5 – The Childhood Friend Battle, Part 1

“Hey Jeff, good new and bad news. My application to work of cored rigs under supervision was approved. The bad news is that the school pushed for it. That probably means that the worst case scenario rumours were true.”

On seeing that note, first thing after getting to work, Jeff felt like organising time off. It was at that point he noticed that he had used up his saved up sick leave, and would lose pay if he did. That was like choosing an arm to be cut off; the choice was obvious but he still felt like putting it off.

The rumour they had heard was that another pair of international students would be transferring in, and bringing personal rigs with them. Since the tree in the forest started at the school, a lot of cores found their way there, and with the record holder there too, it was getting ridiculous. With Satou’s core on the way, the would get three rigs to deal with in a single week. There wouldn’t be a pilot school on the planet that could deal with that on a short notice, but the School and Weapons Maintenance Department was already short staffed. At the very least Sam could have tricked some more of the undergrads into doing their training there.

“How many other placements allowed undergrads to apply for work under supervision agreements? That should be a selling point; she should be bragging to everyone on campus.” As Jeff thought that, he realised who he was referring to, and knew that there wasn’t a chance of that. ‘24 hours a day, and she can’t spend one of them making friends’ was a common description, the members of the maintenance department had for her. That same attitude saved Sam from entering the scholarship trap, but it still made her seem distant and unsociable to her colleagues.

What irritated Jeff most about the incoming rigs, was that he had to find out through Sam. He had worked there for years and his official record was cleaner than most, yet they still didn’t bother mentioning something that would have been in the works for months. He could take teachers and pilots forgetting about them, pilots lived in their own little pilot-ey bubble, but not the administration. Admin should be lower than rig workers on the social hierarchy, and other places would fire them without a moment’s hesitation if they did that kind of thing.

That kind of thing was a large contributing factor towards why they were understaffed; the moment people could leave, they would leave. Jeff was no exception. The moment he had enough saved up to buy out the contract he would would out the door and never come back. More than just the neglect and lack of communication, there were the small time wasters that were imposed on the department that gave everyone a feeling that they weren’t wanted there. Things like not being allowed to organise for parts to be delivered. If they wanted parts, they would have to either go to the admin office and fill out some forms to have the staff there organise purchase and delivery, or drive there themselves and pick it up. If they left it up to admin, the parts would usually arrive two days after they were needed, so there really was only one option.

That option, of course being, have the interns fetch it; an attitude that in turn made it unlikely that any of them would sign on after graduation. The official reason for that policy was to ensure that only the highest standard of parts were used in the care of rigs within the school. The real reason was likely just that someone in admin was having a power trip.

The sad truth was, that important people gathered around power, and the students at piloting schools would control the future of counties. As such, important people would send their important kids to work at places where whey could befriend important pilots. Those same kids resented being lower than others and had no issue with abusing whatever power they had. If they thought about it for a few minutes, they might have come to an understanding about why their families had hard times recruiting mechanist. With the length, difficulty and expense of the mechanist degree, it really wasn’t that surprising that the number of workers was low. Low numbers also meant that most eventually got to no each other, something that was promoted by their international governing body. Any time a famous family made a mechanist’s life harder, it would go on an unofficial list of people to avoid, and within a week, either the number of mechanist that would return their calls would have sharply fallen, or they were paying a lot more than average.

The businesses that realised what was happening referred to it as excommunication, in borrowing a religious term, and it if they suspected they it was happening, they would try to limit contact, not wanting to risk catching it like a disease. That meant that the admin kids were warned not to do anything before they took the job, but still made their lives harder anyway. With that kind of thinking, Jeff had no issues uploading their names.

Knowing that they were on bad terms, Jeff was surprised when he received a call from the main office saying that he was needed there. Although, it was considerably less surprising that he needed to do so during his lunch break, and even less surprised when he go there.

They had him wait outside of an office room while some staff and students had a meeting, and was only let in towards the end. As he walked into the conference room, decorated with untouched bookshelves and works of classic art, he could see the transfer student and his teacher talking with the principal. The principal was someone that could easily be confused with a sleepless user, but instead was someone who spent a considerable amount of money to make herself resemble a child-like adult. She dressed in traditional clothing while having her hair tied back in a side-tale, as if to highlight the disparity between her real and apparent age.

“Ah, Satou, take this core and follow that person.” the principal said on noticing Jeff, “He’s some kind of mechanist and will get your rig set up. Ms Burgess, go with them and help Satou decide what kind of personalisations he wants.”

With that, they started walking, seeming to expect him to follow after them. They didn’t seem to know where his lab was, but walked confidently anyway. They eventually arrived at the general area near the maintenance department, after wasting time doing something that Jeff called ‘oblivious flirting’, where one of the flirted and the other didn’t notice. While they did that, Jeff pulled out his phone and started to research who Deborah’s mechanist was when she was a professional. Part of him hoped that whoever it was had advice, but it would mostly be a sympathy call. Not surprisingly, it seemed that she had never hired a personal mechanist, and instead went through dozens of government workers in her short time at the top, and the ratings they left for her were entirely low. If an employer actually read some of the things written, it would be a mystery that she ever got a job.

They walked up to the closest lab, and shooed the worker from their room. To them it seemed that any lab would do, and that someone was already using it meant nothing to them. Thankfully that meant that Jeff had to fetch his tools and the coreless rig, which gave him some well needed time away from them. Somehow, that Jeff hadn’t predicted everything in advance and had everything ready for them caused Deborah to make an irritated tongue click.

It was said that Satou had been a normal student prior to the start of the year, not having anything to do with rigs, but from what Jeff had seen, he found a way to fit right in with them fast enough. The first week of the semester hadn’t even finished and ordinary people were already unimportant to him. He, too, couldn’t seem to understand why things weren’t readied beforehand, though he might have just been optimistic about how much planning had happened.

Taking a moment to himself at his desk, after telling his colleagues what happened and making arrangements with everyone so that their actual work was still finished, Jeff left a note on Sam’s desk on the off chance that she showed up with free time.

“Help. Room E014”

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