Downtime - Slice 'o Life [SOL002]

Slice of Life 002. You should take some time for yourself. Probably drink some water too.

This was supposed to be a picture of someone working in a cramped corridor, but instead I got a prog rock album cover.
This gives me strong "I'm in a calculator" vibes, but as like an album cover for a prog metal band. 




"Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid!", Jaya cries out in frustration, flinging her wrench off to the side, missing her tool tote and sliding much further into the service tunnel than she'd like. After the sounds have faded, in the depths of the dark corridor, Jaya folds her head into her arms and lets out a deep sigh.

Though try as she might to dispel the tension in her chest, somehow control her breathing, attempt to contain that sunken feeling of her failing, she only succeeded in stoking the fires of her frustration. It'd been a week of tracing electrical pathways, double checking hydraulic pumps, rerouting systems, patching here, redesigning there, anything to get this useless old crawler moving again. And yet, there is nothing to show for it, save for a few new cuts on her hand and a couple of new bits of oil-stained clothing to add to her collection.

After a few moments, Jaya collects her tools and her focus, and reexamines the broken coupler. In her haste, she failed to spot the quick release mechanism and in doing so, sheered both the release lever and spring in her attempt to pry the coupling from the line, incidentally denting one of the body panels with her wrench and scrapping a few knuckles in the process.

"One more thing to add to the list of repairs...", she mutters as she beings to gather measurements of the broken component. Silently logging each of the dimensions, working out how to best machine a replica, hoping she'll luck out and find a replacement somewhere, noting down to bring a few more light sources when she comes back for the repair.

With the line shut off at the valve, Jaya decides to take the coupling with her. Double checking that everything has been packed, she leaves one final sigh and begins her trip back through the service corridors and up the ladder to the main compartment.

Francis, lying lengthwise across the sofa, was three pages deep into the final chapter of a murder-mystery novel when he began to hear heavy footsteps approaching from the hallway. He had every intention of ignoring all interaction until the thrilling conclusion of his book, but upon hearing the thuds and clatter of tools spilling out onto the table, his attention couldn't help but be diverted to Jaya, sitting wearily, projecting a thousand-yard stare into the corner ten feet away.

"You look a little more dejected than usual", spoke Francis peeking around his book, "I take it, another dead end?".

"If only", flicking her wrist towards the coupling in her tote, "another addition to the long list of things to fix". Jaya suspired, rubbing her face, then drawing back a deep breath, "If only that stupid self-diagnostics system worked. My brain feels like it's tied in knots trying to work out these issues".

"Yeah, about that...", Francis lingered, "...still haven't found any flaws in the code. Syntax is perfect at least, but not getting anything useful back from the system. So far every sensor we've checked is in working order. Don't know what else to do, other than to just keep at it", he said pointing his nose back towards the book.

Jaya sat for a minute, "Speaking of keeping at it, find anything in the books we found?"

"Just that the butler didn't do it.... Not that I'd blame him though". quipped Francis to lack of Jaya's amusement.

"What?", feeling her blank stare smack the back of the book. "The manuals are boring. Can't blame me for taking a break. Besides, when's the last time you held and read a paper book?".

"Yesterday", she retorted, "when I was combing through the schematics trying to make sense of this mess."

"Work doesn't count", replied Francis, "I'm talking about for fun. It's too easy to get sidetracked with the tablets, but these", he says, flicking the pages, "are just pure story. No notifications, no distractions, just the physical embodiment of a self-contained world. Nothing like it anymore."

"So take them with you then", deflected Jaya, reaching for her tablet, not willing to let go of her frustration for light-hearted conversation.

"Nah, you know I like to travel light. Just going to enjoy them while they are here."

"Well, you should at least scan them in to preserve them. No telling when someone else might need them, or if there is even a record of them".

"Yeah, I guess so", replied Francis as he thumbed to the next page, "I'll do it in a bit".

"Here is something else you can do in a bit". Jaya swiped on her tablet towards Francis who suddenly felt his pocket vibrate. "Need you to make a new lever for this coupling. I'm going to try to scrounge up a spring somewheres".

"Might want to scrounge up a break too. You're looking a bit worse for wear. Besides, it'll take a while to fabricate a new part, so might as well enjoy the down time."

"Yeah... might as well", dejected Jaya, "these old rags could use a wash and might as well clean myself up too.", she said, getting up from the table and heading to the dormitory.

"That's the spirit!” replied Francis fixating back on the book, and once Jaya was out of earshot, "now back to the good stuff", he muttered turning the page.

Fresh from a shower, Jaya falls back onto the bed and lets her eyes fixate on the rotation of the ceiling fan, occasionally focusing on a single blade as she attempts to catch it dancing around the dimmed lights. Her focus doesn't hold for long before it breaks back to ruminating on the seemingly impossible task that she undertook.

Exhaling deeply, she allows her body to sink a bit further into the linen sheets, their soft touch against her skin a welcome yet surprising comfort to find within such an antiquated vessel. The strain of leading this repair project has taken a toll on her mind. Dead end after dead end has robbed her of the reward that comes with fixing up this old technology, and in chasing that reward, she left little time to take care of herself.

Exhausted from her efforts, she closes her eyes, allowing the bed to embrace her weary body, the fan's upward pull lifting heat away from her, creating a cooling sensation across her exposed skin. The silence found lying in the darkened room enhances the lingering smell of lavender and orange, a reminder that it is okay to let go and relax further.

Feet, still planted on the floor, begin to stretch out as her back shifts over to a more comfortable position. With another exhale, her arms flop widely to side, signaling the neck to release its grip. And as her head rocks from side to side, attempting to massage out any remaining stress, the muscles around her face begin to relax, and with one more exhale, her mind follows suit.

The whir of the fan blending into silence, the currents of air circulating fragrant remnants, a soft breeze under tranquil twilight, she is one with the room. For now, there are no problems, only peace.

After a small reprieve the undercurrents of her subconscious begin to bubble thoughts up to the surface. For somewhere in the mass of acquired data, obscured by the depths of the detail, mired by minutiae, a pattern lay waiting.

Waiting for the waters to clear.

Waiting for eureka.

"None of the couplings had traces of oil in them", Jaya eyes shot open, memories quickly flickered through all the instances where she closed pipelines before beginning her work. "Upstream first, vent, then close downstream... all valves were manually actuated... but no way all of these valves are meant to be operated manually, even in this old bucket. There has to be an automated system...".

Jaya sprung up from the bed and quickly scanned for signs of the coupling she brought back to repair. Luckily, on the wooden table next to the door, her canvas tote was there. Inside, wrapped in a red cloth rag, was the object. Opening the rag and running her finger along the smooth metal surface inside the coupling, she acquires her sample then rubs her thumb and finger together.

"...slightly viscous, but not very...". Inspecting the rag, there were no obvious indicators of oil transfer from the coupling.

"It's gotta be...", she mumbles to herself, suppressing the thrill of discovery so as not to get her hopes too high. "Alright, next steps...", she thinks, then hits the command button on the panel next to the door.

"Open comms to Francis", a few short chirps confirm that the command was registered and after a short pause the screen reads "LINK ESTABLISHED".

"You rang?" came a distant and muffled reply.

"Get your nose out of the book, I think I got something.”

"Oh really!?", Francis's voice coming through more clearly, "What dead end are we chasing this time?".

"Did you happen to check the actuation system?", Jaya asked coyly.

"Of course, system showed signal at each point and operational tests were nominal. Nothing interesting there."

"Good. That's what I thought", Jaya replied with a grin, "I think we just found our culprit! You busy right now?"

"Not really, just waiting on your replacement part to finish... still got a couple more hours til it's ready".

"No worries, need your help testing each actuation point for functionality. Let's start on one end and work our way through the lines."

"Alright," Jaya could hear the thud of Francis's book hitting the table, "let’s get to it. Give me a minute to pull up the plans. We'll do the same sweep as last time. Start heading towards the nose and I'll be ready by the time you get there."

"Got it, be there soon!", Jaya throws on a pair of almost stain-free coveralls, grabs her tote, and heads out into the corridor, determined, focused, and full of fire.

Hope you enjoyed reading! This is a slice of life [SOL] prompt based off of "Deliveries at the Speed of Life". Feel free to leave any comments, questions, or critiques about this excerpt below and feel free to check out any of my other writings back on the main page! Don't forget to subscribe if you'd like to be notified when new posts are added, it's totally free (you know, unless you just want me to hold onto some money for you)!

Thanks and have a great day! :)