The second installment of this story about a foster child doing what he can to help his family.
G’hass smiled at him to break the tension, then turned to go to the kitchen. It was his turn to watch the children, and she was done discussing the matter. Sslasl headed for the yard with a new appreciation for the mind of the woman who had raised him. She clearly understood the world in ways he did not yet. He felt fortunate to have her to advise him so he did not make terrible mistakes early in his work life that would haunt him forever.
They would monitor his home? And the healer would report to them on his visits? There was a lot to learn about dealing with the companies, he just hoped he did not let her down by making a fatal mistake before he learned better.
He entered the yard and immediately saw the scuffle going on between the two biggest boys.
“Alright, break it up. You two are going to have to be brothers and watch each other’s backs when you are at school. Let’s not make that more difficult than it might already be.
Break it up. Now!”
…Sslasl focused on the new formulae that had just been sent to him for review. He had never seen this combination of chemicals before, and it troubled him that they were combined in their purest form. This could be very toxic if something went wrong and there was a spill.
“Look at him over there. Not even a year in the plant and they are already having him review my mix proposals. Damn low life homeless child has the gall to think he is qualified to review my mixes? Shouldn’t even be here with his betters. Damn well better not object to my mix, or I’ll….”
Sslasl sat very still for a moment and focused on clearing his mind. He must focus on the mix and the mix only. The daydreams could not interfere with his work.
Suddenly his focus was back and he began writing his analysis of the formulae.
This mix will produce the desired thrust in large engines such as those used on interstellar cargo ships. However, making and transporting such a mixture presents a significant risk as the mixture itself would be highly toxic. The amount of this fuel required for a standard run from G’Ham to Iridian Seven, while very small could wipe out an average sized starport in a few minutes and render it unusable for 3 to 5 years. We could build a mixing system to allow the chemicals to be stored independently and mixed as they are consumed, but this would be costly and likely would consume the storage space the mix is intended to save.
Based on standard cost projection models, this mixture has too high a risk/reward quotient.
Sslasl read through his analysis twice before sending it as he had been taught by the master mixers he had assisted for the first several months after taking the job. It was accurate, concise and decisive. That’s what they wanted from him.
Having completed the analysis, he returned to his daily routine, reviewing the mixes proposed for the day and then setting the mixer schedules to maximize throughput based on each mixer’s talents.
Hours later, Sslasl was changing out of his mixer suite when he felt an overwhelming sense of hatred and anger.
“That son of a filthy fin wench! How dare he say I put the company at risk? That formulae would make the company billions of credits before it even hit full production. I would have been promoted to master mixer or maybe even overseer with that to my credit.
But no! That low life homeless kid says it is too risky. I’ll show him too risky, doesn’t belong here anyway. Part of that damn equal opportunity movement you ask me. Give good jobs that should go to deserving hard working folks to those low life bastards.”
Sslasl put all his energy into fighting down the daydream. And finally pushed it out of his mind, but the sense of foreboding remained. The voice he kept hearing here was a man that clearly was angry that he had gotten moved right into a master mixer role bypassing people with much more seniority, so it made sense that his insecurities would make this up. But why so persistent, and why did he still feel like he was in danger?
“You okay boy?”
Only months of training himself not to jump in reaction to anything kept him from jumping through the wall at the sound of his boss’ voice.
“Yes, sir. I was just going through the list of things I need to pick up on the way home. I know G’Hass asked me to get something I don’t usually get, but I can’t seem to bring it to mind.
It will come to me.”
He heard the laughter rumble from the man’s chest as he slapped Sslasl on the shoulder.
“Only a woman’s scorn can cause a man to think that hard about something he was supposed to pick up at the store.
Trust me, I know the feeling boy. Well, you can always come in early tomorrow if she gets too angry. With the new orders coming in from the high councilor, we will be pulling some overtime this month.”
“Uh, yes, I could use the extra hours. I’ll be here for sure. How much early can I come in?”
The laughter rolled out even louder.
“That bad, huh? Well, you have been more than pulling your weight; I’ll give you up to 10 extra hours this week, if you want. Use them however you need to.”
The man laughed again and slapped him on the shoulder one more time before heading out the door and disappearing with the remarkable speed that he was known for.
Sslasl finished storing his chem suite and headed for home. Now he was focused on what he could pick up at the store that would not cost too much and would be consumed by the family eventually. They did not have a lot of extra credits, but he had best cover his story in case the boss checked.
“There he is. I will teach that bastard some manners today. Just come on over here boy. Step into this alley and I will wear you out.”
Sslasl almost turned to run the other direction; the hatred and anticipation were almost palpable. And… He could see himself in his mind’s eye, as though he were walking toward himself. He stopped and tried to clear his mind.
“What the… Why you stopping boy. You some kinda telepath or something? Come on I got something for you right here. Move your ass.”
Sslasl could not clear his mind, and he could see images of the man he associated with this particular voice striking him repeatedly with a large stick. If the daydream were true, he was waiting just around the corner in the alley Sslasl always walked down on his way home. He could not shake the feeling this was real. He walked into the nearest store to gather his thoughts and courage.
“What the crap? How much crap you gonna buy on the way home boy? Get on with it, I gotta get home before they notice I’m late.”
Sslasl decided he had best take the vision seriously, daydream or no. He focused on the here and now. He was in a hardware store, and right in front of him were the steel posts he had envisioned using to put a fence around the yard to keep the kids from running off when they were out playing.
“How much are these?”
“5 credits each, or 4 credits if you buy 10 or more. Planning to put up a fence?”
“I’m thinking about it. How much is that chain link netting?”
“Depends on how much you need. Why don’t you give me your measurements, and I can scope the project and have the materials delivered to your home. You will need one of these drivers too.”
“I’ve got a sledge at home.”
“You won’t like trying to use a sledge for one of these. Why don’t you take one today and try it. Then come back tomorrow, and I will get you set up with what you need.”
That was the opening he had been hoping for.
“Okay, that sounds like a plan, but I may have to wait until payday to get the rest of the order.”
“Oh, that’s fine. You’re a master mixer aren’t you? I’m sure we could work a credit line for you so you could go ahead and get things going.”
“Let me think about it. For now, I will take one of these posts.”
“Yes sir. That will be 5 credits. I’ll give you back 1 credit if you place the rest of the order in the next week.”
“Thank you, that would be great.”
Sslasl took the post and hefted it in his hands. That would work. It was a little shorter and heavier than the staff he had been taught to use, but it should work if there was any trouble at the alley.
He stepped back out of the store and headed toward home moving at a leisurely pace studying the fence post he had purchased as if he were trying to figure out how well it would work.
“There you are you son of a Fen Wench. Now come to papa. Just keep looking at your fence post, I’ll make you eat it soon enough. Come on boy.”
Sslasl could see himself approaching the corner again, and focused trying to stabilize the image and get used to the perspective. He stepped up to the corner, and dropped something from his bag bending over swiftly as though to pick it up.
He felt the stick swoosh just over his head exactly as he saw it happen in his mind’s eye. He came up quickly swinging the fence post and caught the man squarely in the chin, and the image in his mind disappeared as the man crumpled to the ground.
Sslasl stepped over and looked at the man, it was the mixer he had envisioned it as being, and the man would not be at work tomorrow. The metal post had a bit of a sharp edge to it and had cut through the skin on his chin then broke his jaw.
Sslasl’s street smarts kicked into full gear and he stepped fully into the alley, picking up a rock which he slammed into the man’s jaw where it was already broken. That changed the shape of the tear in his skin and further broke the jaw. Then he used his booted foot to turn the man over so he would not drown on his own blood, and wiped his finger prints off the rock with the man’s shirt as he tossed it to the ground next to the man.
In this neighborhood, they would not look too hard when they saw the scene. Just a would be mugger getting what was due him. A finger print check would be all that any cop around here would run.
Sslasl then moved quickly and quietly down the alley sticking to the shadows until he was well away from the place of the attack. As soon as he got home he slammed the bloody end of the fence post into the soft ground near the house and went inside to get his sledge hammer.
…”Did you have a good day?”
Sslasl read the hand signal smoothly as he responded to G’Hass’s question. She wanted to talk later at the place they went to have such conversations.
“It was very good, thank you. The boss told me they will have some overtime now with the new orders that have come in recently. Says I can get up to ten hours this week. We could sure use the extra credits.”
He signaled his agreement and set the time.
“Yes we could. Never enough to go around with all the children. It was good of your boss to think of you when the hours came available. You will have to work extra hard to make sure he knows you appreciate it.”
“I will ma’am.”
…”I think all the children are down for the day. I’m going to take a walk and get some fresh air before I turn in. Got to go in to work early tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’ll get your clothes ready and set out. I may try to get some reading time in after that. Rest well.”
“Thank you ma’am, you too.”
Sslasl slipped out and wandered toward the park at a slow leisurely pace. He wandered around in circles for a while until he was sure no one was tailing him and then slipped into the shadows and disappeared. Several minutes later he saw G’Hass slipping from one shadow to another making her way toward him.
“What’s the matter with you boy? You came home late with things we don’t need, including a fence post that you beat like a madman for nearly an hour before you paused to eat with us.”
“The daydreams have been getting steadily worse. Only, I’m not sure they are daydreams now. Today, I was attacked in the alley I always walk home through.”
“Attacked? Are you okay?”
“Yes, let me finish. I swear, I could see through the man’s eyes. And I know why he attacked me, I think. The daydreams came as I got nearer to him, and I swear he was talking about attacking me for having done a review on a mix he proposed.”
“Wait, this was a man from the plant? Is he going to make trouble for you?”
“No, I think he will call in sick for a few days. He has a broken jaw, and he knows that he tried to attack a master mixer, that could get him fired.”
“So you knew he was waiting for you from the daydreams? And you say you saw through his eyes?”
“Yes ma’am. I know it doesn’t make any sense at all, but I swear it is true.”
“Damn! You have the possession. You must learn to control it. If anyone learns of this, you will not only be fired from your job, you will be sent away to one of those sanitariums. And the children will all be evaluated, and the house will be shut down.
Please, control it. In two years, we will have two other children reach adulthood. They can get jobs and then you can disappear. I hear people with the possession can sometimes hold out for that long. And if you can make it, there is a whole village set up for that kind over on the other side of the continent. I think they call it a place of mastery or something like that. Strange name for sure, but you could be happy there, I think.
Can you control it for that long Sslasl? Please? For the children… For me…”
Sslasl’s heart fell as he heard her words. The possession? That was a death sentence. No one survived that here. He had heard of the village G’Hass spoke of too, but no one he knew of had ever been there, or even close enough to say that the place really existed.
And he had never heard of someone with the possession controlling it for years. He would have to work as many hours as he could and put away as much money as possible while he could still control it. Then when he felt it overwhelming him, he would give G’Hass the credits and leave. Anything else would result in the children being put back out on the streets and G’Hass losing everything.
“Yes, ma’am. I will hold out. I have to.”
Sslasl knew he was lying to her, and he suspected she knew it too, but he said it anyway. He slipped back into the shadows before she could say anything else. He needed to think.
He made his way back to the park somehow and wandered back and forth across it several times. He must have looked crazed or something because this late in the day, even a young, fit man could not normally walk the park safely. He was lost in thought though, a deep despair settling in as he pondered the implications of G’Hass’s words.
Hours later he found himself walking back into the house and he slipped into his sleep station to try to get a couple of hours sleep before he had to get up for work.
The second installment of this story about a foster child doing what he can to help his family.