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Nov 25, 2020 6:25 AM
Lenora and Thorn do a tour of duty
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When Lenora and Thorn step aboard the Pelignore-class trader ship "As Clockwork", Captain Maximillian DeVries is there to meet him. His fancy suit is gone, replaced by a respectable (if still expensive-looking) sailing uniform. A slightly scraggly looking redheaded man is standing beside him.

"-Right on time. Excellent. Miss Lovejoy, your first shift will be in the afternoon. I suggest you go back to sleep. Thorn, your first shift will be right away - with the stokers. You're to listen to Mr. Ultis, here, as he has been assigned to train you. You're an extra hand on this shift, and it will be the same for every other shift you perform for the first time, to show you the general duties. I have a few moments before I must get to work, so please ask any questions you have now."

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"I have no questions, Captain. Thank you."

She looks expectantly at Mr. Ultis.

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Lenora says, "Good luck!"

Mr. Ultis shakes her hand. "Come on, let's head back. We're called 'stokers' but we're really more like engineers. Just not called that, cos we don't want to be confused with the guys who design things. Chief engineer is a stoker, really. They get the fancy name because they have to basically be a real engineer to be a chief. Rest of us? Mechanics, really."

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"Alright, so what are we mechanic-ing? The engine, I'd assume?"

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"Yeah. And various other pieces o' machinery, checking the steam pipes for heating, looking in crawl spaces for any issues, making sure the electro-whatsit works so the headlight will stay on... 'Ere we are."

He opens the hatch into the engine room - the rear section is crowded with machinery, and another stoker is checking a variety of valves and gauges. Someone else is tightening bolts on a panel that looks like it was removed recently. "Sam, Oscar, come get a look at Thorn. New hand."

Sam gives a lopsided sarcastic salute. Oscar waves and says, "Be prepared to be too hot and too cold at the same time!"

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"Oh, like Newfoundland!" Falls out of her mouth before she can stop it. She really isn't any good at this "cover" thing. 

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"Is Newfoundland in the crawl spaces?"

"We can show you the routine and talk about what to do if something comes up. It probably won't. Captain DeVries doesn't push the engine hard and we stay on top of maintenance."

"Big crew," Sam comments, putting on her hat. "Safer, more eyes looking for problems, more preventative maintenance, more hands at the ready when one punches you in the face."

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"Yeah, it could be." She takes the chance to let the comment go. 

"Do crewmembers punch people in the face often around here? And when will I learn the basic maintenance?"

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"When problems punch you in the face."

"Today. Oscar, you finish that and then watch the engine telegraph, let me know when cap calls for final prep. Sam, do whatever. Thorn, c'mere. This is the main engine. Here's the firebox, and here's the boiler - pressure gauge is here, this is a release valve that automatically pops if the pressure goes too high so watch your foot there-"

He proceeds on a quick tour of the major features of the engine and the stokers' tools. Sam interjects with a mix of bad sarcasm and useful advice.

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She listens carefully and asks for clarification when needed.

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Soon the Captain calls for final preparations and they all get in position. The coal is stored in a hopper, and they show her how to feed in an initial load to get a good burn going and use a small patch of phosphorous, paper, and kindling to warm up the engine. Throttle is controlled mostly by restricting the air supply. The fire stays on all the time, low when stopped and high to move, except during long rests in port and major overhauls.

Soon they are underway and the engine room is much louder.

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She watches and listens through it all. She's eager enough to ask if she can practice feeding the engine once they get going. 

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Sure! You can even solve some problems with the hopper by hitting it really hard, which is very satisfying.

And then she can follow along when they do maintenance checks. They start in the engine room itself. This engine is a 'Britomart' - the fancier version. This panel controls all the heating pipes, these valves lead to emergency maneuvering baffles, this auxilliary pipe goes to the gun mount and this one to the mining array...

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This ship has a mining array? She wasn't aware that was an option. 

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Oh, sure. Crown & Misery built, no pretentious mechanical cleverness or elegance of design. Just heavy metal and solid engineering. It smashes up Hour-laden rocks and Bronzewood drifts with ease and they can separate out the good stuff from the chaff and make a tidy profit. She can join them in the auxiliary room to do maintenance checks on it.

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She follows along gamely.

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Lots of preventative maintenance. Pipe inspection in the crawlspace is not very fun - it's not that cramped, but it is indeed uncomfortably warm and uncomfortably cold at the same time depending on how you're positioned.

The stokers relax around her and start taking it easy aside from the occasional check on something or other. Sam and Oscar play cards. Eventually, it's time for lunch. They'll all four play rock-paper-scissors to see who has to stay in the engine room until lunch is done, since someone needs to be present at all times. Unless Thorn volunteers?

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Thorn volunteers; she can get acquainted with the shipboard food later.

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While they're away at lunch........

........Nothing in particular happens, aside from a single query from the bridge about the fuel usage so far. It's smooth sailing. Mr. Ultis comes back and says the other two are still on break, and they saved her a plate.

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She smiles, thanks Mr. Ultis for the message, and goes and gets her plate.

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The food is biscuits and gravy, bacon, juice. They gossip about the other shift of stokers, the officers, the captain - He likes laying out the shifts in weird offset and overlapping 'optimal' ways, it's a bit of a pain but not the worst captainly foible. They get back to work and the rest of Thorn's shift passes in much the same way. They have enough people, so they'll keep flying more slowly through the 'night' with just a few people awake. 

Lenora is relaxing in the galley when Thorn's shift as a stoker ends. "How was your first day?"

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"Less interesting than I expected. Uncomfortable in places. But I persevered, and I think the crew are starting to warm to me a little. Volunteering to be the one minding the engine over lunch helped a bit, I think."

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"Ha! Most jobs are both those things. I know a few people but most of them are new to me, too. C'mere, I suddenly wanna give you a hug."

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She comes over and hugs Lenora. "We'll have time to all learn each other over the two weeks. I at least know the rules to one of the card games already, or I think I do."

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"It's a lot easier with this many people aboard. If you had to do all the stokers' tasks by yourself it'd be harder, right? Anyway, I'm on duty in an hour - want to play cards or something?"

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"It'd definitely be harder. And sure, I'm up for cards."

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