Mechanized Muscle

a story
2018-05-18 21:21:01
show more info

"Should that do it?"

"This should do it."

Arnett lifted himself off the ground and wiped sweat away from his dirtied brow. The extra drill he had modified was now attached to a full engine. It was bulky and heavy, but it would work. He didn't need the engine anyway, he needed the steam port attached to it.

Arnett and Proctor cranked up the winch on the cart, lifting the drill from the stand where it had been constructed and onto a cart, which two fat chankas helped pull out of the small barn. A small group stood alongside the hulking frame of the Scorpios II. They overlooked a small hole that had begun to be dug into the ground.

Hector maneuvered the cart alongside the hole and he and his oldest son began to reset-up the crane to lift the drill. Arnett climbed one of the legs of his landship and disappeared inside. Appearing again, he had a long hose, which he plugged into a side port of his landship.
By the time he made it back down, Hector had already began winching the drill into the air with the help of his oldest son. A few cranks later, the drill was lifted up, and a few men pushed it into place above the hole. Arnett attached the hose into engine steam port, checking to ensure there wasn't any noticeable leaks.

He turned to a small boy from the village.

"Alright, head up there and open the port," he said, "Let's allow steam to run through it, check it for leaks."

With the valve opened, steam surged through the hose, filling it completely. It stopped at the engine, and Arnett held back the other villagers in case steam sprouted from an unseen leak. The seal held, however, and they all smiled. Arnett nodded to Hector and stepped up to the drill. Giving it a few minor adjustments, he unhinged one of the chains holding the drill up, causing the drill to fall from a horizontal position to a vertical one, the drill pointing down.

Pulling a rusty lever, the steam was allowed through the drill at a high speed. Slowly at first, then building speed the drill began to turn. Hector motioned to two of his eldest sons, who took up positions by the crank.

"Lower it," Hector's deep voice ordered over the noise of the drill.

They slowly began to lower the drill as Hector and Arnett coaxed onlooker back. However they didn't miss the moment the drill tip touched the dirt of Orr, and began burrowing into the tough ground. They let out a cheer as dirt and rocks were tossed into the air.

The drill burrowed, and just after it was lost into the dirt, the sons were ordered to let go, and the drill burrowed by its own weight, always tossing dirt out behind it.

"Now we don't want it to go too far or it'll get burried by the very dirt it's moving," warned Arnett.

"I'm not worried, it doesn't have to go too deep," said Hector, slapping Arnett on the back, "Lieutenant, you've saved us a weeks work, easily. This well will do for us wonders."

"It'll do nothing when it dries up," said Arnett, "Are you certain there's an underground well or something nearby?"

"Look, that there well was dug by my grandfather," said Hector, pointing off towards the village, "And it's still giving. This one is insurance we don't have to worry about it. If there wasn't anything under this plot, then why would that well keep giving?"

"Whatever you say," said Arnett, wiping sweat from his brow.

Arnett gave the word a moment later, the drill was far enough down. Wrestling with the crank, they managed to get the heavy machine back up the shaft. Turning it off, they could see they now had a beautiful shaft dug straight into the ground. A second team with ropes, shovels, and buckets cheered, and descended into the shaft. They would climb down and dig out a tub at the bottom, reinforcing it to prevent any collapse.

Arnett helped put the drill back on the cart, for now. Soon it would be hefted back inside his landship. He unhooked the hose after the steam valve had been shut off. Hector leaned against the cart.

"We're lucky you showed up, boy," said Hector.

"You're lucky I had a spare drill and a good attitude," said Arnett, "I'd have never assisted in actually digging the well."

"No, but not many are willing to help poor folks like us way out here," said Hector, gesturing to the two, large, water tanks hastily attached to the Scorpios II's deck, "Not many folks daring enough to take almost a year's worth of water this far out."

"Not many people that stupid," said Arnett, "Or heavily armed."

"You're a real help, Joel," said Hector, "A real gift from the Gods. Honest."

"Whatever," said Arnett, looking away, "It was honestly nothing. Just another job."

"A bad paying one," said Hector, "Don't play coy. This was practically charity. Or maybe it was an escape?"

"An escape?"

"Maybe," said Hector, who leaned in an whispered, "What you running from, Lieutenant?"

Arnett sighed, shooting him an annoyed glance before turning back to the well crew, "Everyone."

The well continued on throughout the afternoon. Hector and his boys started building the top of the well, with a strong foundation for the machinery which would eventually become a mechanize pump. Their building of the top of the well would act as the modern pulley to help workers and excess dust enter and leave. Arnett got a winch working on the landship, and they removed several tons of dirt from below the sand and dirt.

Soon, they were bringing down metal beams so they could begin building the supports. In no time they were calling for the end. Arnett was pretty impressed by it all. He had never actually seen a well being built in this manner ever before.

Hector's last act was sending down buckets and buckets of charcoal, which they spread across the floor of the well. Hector explained it was to help purify the well for years to come, and it was weeks work of fire scraps and charcoal. When they had finished, they removed the top of the well and removed everybody. It was time for the final test.

Arnett moved the landship into position, and bent the back legs so the spouts of the water canisters were as close to the well opening as possible. Modifying the nozzles of both tanks, they had narrow spouts pointing at the well's opening. Around the opening they erected a series of metal plates to help funnel the water in. At Hector's signal, the tanks were opened, and hundreds of gallons of water was released, dumping into the opening.

Moments later, it was done. As the last drizzles of water fell into the opening, they were already cheering with success. Hector nodded, a smile on his face. They didn't wait long. The tanks were removed from the Scorpios II and arranged close to the opening so they would continue to drain. The landship was moved away so that building materials could be brought in to finish the well.

Hector and Arnett stood, looking at their handiwork. Arnett had a burrowing owl perched on his arm, and he dangled a dead mouse in front of it, coaxing it to eat. The owl blinked, looking from the mouse to Arnett and back. Hector watched on.

"Where to now, wanderer?"

Arnett sighed, tossing the mouse away, "I don't know. That way?"

Hector looked into the distance. The sun was beginning to set. The west looked so vast.

"Only death lies that way, boy," said Hector, "You can run, but sooner or later you'll hit the sand sea."

"I'm not running."

"Look, Lieutenant," said Hector, "We all die. I chose to die here. Where my father, and his father, have died. Making this little town a slightly better place."
"Maybe I'll stay," said Arnett, "Just build a little shack around these parts. Protect your new well from anyone who makes it out this far."

"You can stay," smiled Hector, who shook his head with a sigh, "But you won't. You don't stay anywhere, do you?"

The owl leapt off Arnett's arm, soaring onto the dirt to peck at the dead mouse. Arnett shrugged.

"I'm not running," said Arnett, "I've never run."

"Never stopped running, maybe," said Hector, "But this isn't a life of someone who knows how to stop. That very metal beast you live out of is a testament to that very thing."
Arnett shook his head, turning to Hector, "What would you do for your family?"

Arnett sighed, adjusting his hat, "Maybe you're right, Hector. My place isn't here. It's back east."

"What are you going to do now?" said Hector.

"Honestly? Pick a place to die," said Arnett, looking at his landship, "I know just the suckers to do it with, too."

"Is it a girl?" said Hector.

"One, perhaps, but not her," said Arnett, "I know just the person crazy enough to help."

"Lieutenant," said Hector, his voice growing stern and forceful, "What is it you're walking into?"
Arnett smirked, giving a wink to Hector before walking to his ship.