Swing Shift
rating: +32+x

"Should be an easier shift tonight."                                                              

Greg Collier, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 01:33

Fucking new hires.

Yeah, sucks.

Should be an easier shift tonight. Just you and me doing routine inspections and shit. End of the month you know.

Yeah yeah. I'm going to sleep now.

Fri, Jul 31, 15:49

Hurry up and put on your lipstick. Shift in 10.

One sec. Just finishing up your mom.

You mean Brian?


Greg hates Brian with a passion, and it's hilarious. I snicker in the empty utility tunnel as the hard soles of my boots echo across the concrete walls and floor. It's amazing I can even still get a signal in these lower levels. My phone beeps a few seconds later.

Greg Collier, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 15:51

FYI, I hate you.

Lol. Whatev bitch.

I'll meet you by the service elevator.

OK


I put the phone back into my pocket and continue down the tunnel, now picking up the pace to catch Greg at the service elevator. The hefty tool box in my hand rattles louder as the loose ratchets and wrenches shift left and right as I jog to close the distance. My phone beeps again, but I don't look at it. Probably another jab or obscene joke from a bored Greg as he waits in the descending elevator. I'm sure IT has higher priorities than telling maintenance crews to tone down the texting on Foundation phones. I'm also sure they laugh as hard as we do when they read them.

I stand by the steel doors and watch the light on the elevator panel trickle down to my current level, B-4. The bulk of the utility tunnels of Research Site-45 are located at this level. They spiderweb out from the center shaft and connect places like D-Block, C-Block, and so on. Mostly steam and water pipes, some electrical but not much. The elevator beeps as the steel doors separate revealing a balding man in glasses.

I'm quick on the snappy remarks, in fact known for it. "You look like shit."

Greg grumbles as he walks out, rubbing the back of his neck. "You'll look like this too in five years, Dave."

I nod. Greg is more senior than I am in the department, so I let him have his moments here and there. We've always clicked. We have similar interests, work at the same pace, and love giving each other shit. Should make for decent night in the tunnels.

"Alright Greg, you got the work list?"

Greg whips out a slightly crumpled printout from his back pocket. "Yeah right here… E-Block."

I tilt my head a bit. "E-Block? Why are we going there? That's not our area."

Greg glances up from the paper briefly. "Unfinished work order from day shift that wasn't closed out in the system. Pump one four six. It's listed as breakdown, high priority. So you know what that means?"

"Yeah I know. There goes my easy inspection night."

Greg chuckles at my disappointment. "Contain your excitement. We'll take the mule."

He turns the corner and I follow. A small construction orange electric cart with tiny rubber wheels sits quietly against a wall. The stretched cracked pleather seat is just big enough for two maintenance bums with a small flatbed behind for whatever they need to carry. I smile as it's a rare moment we get to actually use these. As Greg plops into the driver seat, I throw our tools in the back. He takes off quickly as soon as I sit, not even giving me time to put on the lap belt. The mule whines down the concrete tunnel as we pass from one overhead light to the next. I pull out my phone and text Jimmy, since I know he was working the shift before. Perhaps he can enlighten me on what is left to be done on this pump.

James Rolfe, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 16:02

Hey, what are we walking into here?


I look back up from my phone and just zone out for a minute or two. Looking at the endless tunnel ahead as the musty humid air rushes by. E-Block is separate from the main installation. Another containment area that houses rumor fuel for the maintenance department. Stuff we aren't paid enough to know and don't even want to know. My phone beeps and I look back at it.

James Rolfe, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 16:02

Hey, what are we walking into here?

Fri, Jul 31, 16:04

!!NETWORK FAILURE: COULD NOT ESTABLISH CONNECTION TO USER JROLFE!!


I look back at my home screen and see that I still have two full bars. Putting the phone back into my pocket, I give a sigh. It's not the first job I've walked blindly into, and it certainly will not be the last. A few more minutes and we pass under a large sign saying "E-BLOCK" in big black letters. We stop at the giant blast doors and swipe our badges across the receiver. It beeps and starts the sequence of unlocking all the clamps and powering the hydraulics to move the heavy steel.

The door whines open with a deafening squeal. Greg and I both look at each other and know instinctively what the other is thinking… Needs grease. We squeeze through and head to the barricades just up ahead where work was being done on a pump. It's a mess.

"Goddammit!" Greg yells as he squeals to a jarring halt. I swear for a moment that the mule's rear wheels lift off the ground for an instant. "Those motherfuckers."

I watch as he shambles out and looks at the work site. No doubt they left in a hurry. Tools, hoses, and shop towels lay everywhere. "Fucking bullshit. Now we also have to clean their mess too?"

I unload our tools. "Yeah, we'll chew their asses out later. Let's hurry up and finish this pump."

Greg grumbles and nods, shifting into work mode. Looking back at his printout, he gets an idea of what's left to do. Over the next hour we spend our time fixing the housing and bolting it back in place. A large puddle covers the entire area from when it blew. Our boots splash around in it as we work quickly to get it back in working order. Eventually we get close to actual completion and I spend some time picking up the mess that was left for us, seeing as Greg can apply his finishing touches in the mean time.

"Dave, I gotta take a leak."

I roll my eyes. "Oh sure. Leave all this work for me."

"Shut up. I'll be back."

Greg tromps off and rounds a corner. The echo of his footsteps can be heard for a while longer. There are no bathrooms on B-4. Only time people come down here is when something breaks. And when you have to take a piss, you'll need to utilize a conveniently placed drain. It's around this time that I feel the urge to pester him.

Greg Collier, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 17:12

Remember, it's 2 shakes.

Wanna help?

Pass.

Tease.

Get Brian to help you out.


I wait a few more seconds for his response, but nothing comes. Shrugging, I put the phone away and get back to housekeeping. After about a minute I hear steady footsteps from around the corner. They slowly approach me as my back is turned. I know what Greg's footfalls sound like, but it was different enough for me to question if it were someone else.

"Greg?" I turn around to see who it is. Relief washes over when I see confirmation that it is in fact Greg.

"Oh, hey. You missed out. I'm just about done cleaning this mess."

Greg smiles slightly. "Shame." He looks over at the mule. "Hey real quick, while I had time to think… we need to get back topside."

"Oh yeah? For what?"

Greg hops in the passenger seat. "For a different kind of gasket. The ones we got are the wrong type. I'll let you drive."

I shoot him a queer glance for a second. "Ten four, boss."

I give a begrudging sigh and put the tool boxes down on the ground and hop in the driver seat. He is senior after all. "Back to the elevator then?"

"Yeah."

The ride is one of the quietest moments I've ever experienced with him. He sat rather stoic the entire trip, not even so much as glancing at passing signage. My phone beeps but I ignore it, trying to stay focused on driving the electric tuna can on wheels. Eventually we make it back to the elevator and I set the brake on the mule as Greg steadily makes his way to the elevator. "Did… something else happen, Greg?"

"Nope. Just need the right gasket for that flange. Should only take a minute."

Greg stares at the elevator panel and then glances at me from over his shoulder. I approach quickly and impatiently press the ground floor button. After a while the doors open and we both step inside. I press the close button as I just want to get whatever thing we need and finish this work already. My phone beeps at me and I look at it.

Greg Collier, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 17:28

Ummmm…

Where did you go?


I tilt my head in confusion and look at Greg. "Did you text me? Just now?"

Greg just stares forward silently. I scoff and shake my head at his weak attempt.

Greg Collier, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 17:28

Ummmm…

Where did you go?

Hilarious.


I wait for Greg's phone to beep, but it doesn't. My phone however promptly beeps back at me.

Greg Collier, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 17:28

Ummmm…

Where did you go?

Hilarious.

No. Not hilarious. Come back here with the mule.

Quit fucking around.


My stomach sinks as a cold droplet of sweat trails from my temple. I slowly glance up at Greg who is now affixed solely on me. Looking back with a cold stare.

"Something wrong?" it asks.

I'm near frantic as I try and stammer out a few words, failing miserably. It calmly hits the emergency stop button, still making eye contact. The lights inside the elevator flicker as the ascending elevator shudders to a halt between B-2 and B-1. I press up against the opposite wall, terrified.

"It's alright…" It approaches slowly as the fluorescent light finally flickers off. "…I'm your friend."

Greg Collier, ENGINEERING


Fri, Jul 31, 17:30

Serious, stop it.

Fri, Jul 31, 17:33

Hello? Cmon man. I've tried calling you 10 times. Not funny anymore.

Fri, Jul 31, 17:35

I'm starting to worry. Are you hurt? Yelling your name, can you hear me?

Fri, Jul 31, 17:47

Tell me where you are. Talk to me.

Fri, Jul 31, 18:01

Hey, I saw you down the tunnel. Turn around, I'll come to you.


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