Master Mixer Sslasl

Here’s the first installment of the tale of a foster child trying to do right by his foster mother. I hope you enjoy the story.
Sslasl looked up at G’Hass who was telling another of her great tales of adventure. Her long black hair dancing and shimmering as she waved her arms trying to simulate the movements of the flying Sliaps who was the hero of her latest tale. It seemed this Sliaps had magically developed a friendship with a young girl and rather than eat her as any Sliaps would, it had chosen to protect her from a pack of Wwolns. The story was so ridiculous that Sslasl had to choke off a laugh as the port children all listened intently hanging on every word.
Everyone knew that Sliaps while beautiful were vicious hunters and the Wwolns while ugly and mean looking never hunted anything large enough to fight back, certainly not a human. But G’Hass was such a good story teller that the children all ignored those facts and listened with fascination as the gentle Sliaps swooped in and lifted the young girl to safety once more, leaving the Wwolns yipping and growling in frustration.
He smiled and shook his head, not so long ago, he had been among those children begging G’Hass to tell another story. Truth be told he still enjoyed the sound of her voice and the way she manipulated it to add flavor to the tales.
Well, back to his studies. He looked back down at the vid unit and the numbers that were there. This was the formulae for mixing class one fuel used in the smaller starships, and he needed to commit it to memory along with the variations needed to increase purity for the larger ships or decrease it for the local shuttles.
The certification test was tomorrow, and he had to pass that test to get the new job. G’Hass and the children were depending on him to cover the financial gap left when G’Hass’s husband had been killed in the explosion last month.
Sslasl concentrated and felt the formulas settle into his memory. Yes, these were simple, just like all equations there was a pattern and a fit to them. Yes, if he made these modifications, he could increase yield significantly, or this to reduce the yield. Make this adjustment and the formulae would be much more stable for longer voyages.
Such things had always come easily to him. Just before the explosion he had been tested by one of the masters from the university. Well, best not to focus on that. This was his future now. He would be a chem mixer and support the house so that someday one of these young children would have the opportunity to go to the university and become a master.
He felt the warmth of G’Hass’s gaze and looked up to see her smiling at him as if to say “I know what you have given up, and I appreciate it very much.”
He smiled back at her. After all she and her husband had done for him and others like him, it was an honor to be able to give something back. He turned back to his studies with renewed energy.
“You are truly special my Sslasl. I’m so very proud of you.”
Sslasl looked up quickly; he had not heard G’Hass move across the room. And… She was not there. He could see her taking the children outside. But, she had just spoken to him like she was right there next to him.
Am I going crazy? Did I hear that or only think it? Not the first time I thought I heard someone say something when they were not even near me.
He shrugged his shoulders and returned to his studies…
…”Are you certain, you have never taken this test before?”
“No sir, this is my first time.”
“Well, there is no questioning the results. I ran you through all three variations of the test and you had nearly perfect scores on all three. Congratulations, you qualified at expert for chem mixing.
I’m still going to have you work with one of our expert mixers, for a few days. But if they verify what these tests indicated, we will move you into one of my vacant expert mixer slots. That will mean more pay, of course, but it will also mean you will be working with mixtures that can be very volatile if you make a mistake. So don’t make a mistake, understand?”
“Yes sir.”
“Okay, return here at lunar rise for your first shift.”
“Yes sir. Thank you, sir.”
The man had already turned away and was walking back toward the factory doors.
I can’t believe it. G’Hass will be so happy. Expert! That’s almost twice as much pay. The kids will certainly benefit from the extra credits.
“No way that kid is taking these tests for the first time. I’d bet my last credit this is some sort of auditor. Better team him with one of my best mixers, don’t want him to catch them taking shortcuts.”
Sslasl swung around startled; he had not heard the boss come back. But he was not there, Sslasl could see the factory doors closing behind the man.
Good grief, my mind is really playing tricks on me now. I better talk to the healer. I cannot afford to lose this job because I ate something wrong and am daydreaming.
Sslasl hurried back toward home. G’Hass would be anxious to learn how the test went. And she almost certainly needed help with the children; a couple of the boys seemed to take great joy in moving things on her and watching her look for them…
…“That is wonderful news Sslasl, we could really use the additional credits.”
Sslasl noted the subtle hand signal that meant G’Hass wanted to speak to him alone immediately.
“Children, why don’t you give Miss G’Hass a break and go clean up the toys in the yard.”
Sslasl almost laughed as he heard himself say those words that he had sworn he would never say if he ever had children to raise. Clean up the toys was parent for get lost, and he could see the reaction in the children as he said it.
After a few minutes of arguing and whining the last child went outside and joined her mates as they pretended to pick up toys and then got lost in the fun of playing instead.
“Thank you Sslasl, that was well done. You are really getting the hang of this enforcer job.”
The smile G’Hass flashed him diffused his immediate reaction to being called an enforcer. She was just ribbing him a little.
“Thank you ma’am. What did you want to speak to me about?”
“You mentioned going to see the healer before reporting to work tomorrow. Why do you need to see her?”
“It’s kind of embarrassing really, but I must have eaten something wrong yesterday, because several times today, I could have sworn that someone was talking to me when they were not even close enough to do so. I want to find out what I should be avoiding to stop this from happening.”
Sslasl’s stomach knotted up as he saw the look on G’Hass’s face. It was pure fear.
“Sslasl, please do not speak to anyone of this. It could be viewed as a mental disorder, and they would immediately block you from working in any of the refineries.
I will work on the menu. We will find the food that is causing it and eliminate it from our diet, but don’t take this to the healer; she will certainly put you on the watch list. And that is the best case scenario.”
“I had not thought of that. Thank you. I thought speaking to her would allow me to protect the job. It never occurred to me that it could cost me the job. I will cancel the appointment immediately.”
“No! Keep the appointment; you do not want to raise any red flags. Tell her you are starting a new job, and want to do everything you can to avoid any possibility of catching the flu you have heard is going around. She will probably sell you an inoculation or something, but it will send a positive signal instead of a warning flag to the company.
Remember, they will be watching you very closely for the next several months. Do not do or say anything that might make you look less than perfectly normal. And for goodness sake do not mention what you just told me to anyone. Ever…”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“I will change the diet every day. Each day you have an episode, signal me like so.”
She twisted her fingers in a unique manner while running them through her hair.
“If you have no episodes, this is the signal.”
Another slight adjustment of the fingers while running them through her hair.
“I will find the combination that eliminates the issue and change the menu accordingly. But after today, we do not speak of this again. They will monitor the house before long to find out what you share. Be careful not to ever discuss specific formulae when outside the plant either, that’s a firing offense.”
“Yes ma’am.”

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