Note: This takes place chronologically before the other chapters, but I don’t know where to fit it in yet.
While I hadn’t been planning on doing any job placements this year, the school policy of “if in doubt, work” was working surpringly well for me. There were only two places in town that were even remotely likely to have any openings, and out of AER and turning plants into biodiesel, I’ll take assembling TVs. I didn’t have any particular interest in working in a factory or anything, but there was plenty of stuff they won’t teach you in school to learn here.
Gritting my teeth, I slowly moved the end of the wire towards the soldering iron in my other hand. As it flowed, I spun the iron to make sure it covered the whole tip.
The place itself was a reasonably large mycelium brick building, covered in climbing vines, with a roughly maintained rooftop garden, probably long-predating the cooperative itself. While the reception area and the other front rooms were stuffy, the production area itself was open and surprisingly airy - the arched roof supports did little to reduce the light streaming in through the windows near the ceiling.
It was towards the end of the school year - the traditional time for multi-day trips, but the high-altitude trains gave me horrible migranes due to the pressure changes, so I’d opted to stay in town when the rest of the grade went to G'Kar’s Eye to see the big dome and botanical gardens for the week. The school administration wouldn’t let me stay home, so I found myself taking a crash course in electronics assembly for the week. There was a girl from my class interning here too, but she was nowhere to be seen today.
“Looking good. Now, you can touch the iron to the lead and the hole.”
It didn’t seem to do anything when I did, but my supervisor was unperturbed, and continued after a few seconds.
“Alright, now feed solder into the other side of the joint.”
The solder flowed quickly, making a smooth curve from the outer edge of the pad up the lead.
“Not bad, but you’ll…”
The chime for an announcement rang out over the speakers in the corners of the room. It sounded like the receptionist from earlier.
“We’ve just gotten word to evacuate to the storm shelters. The highland telescopes are picking up major stellar flare activity and the CHD has issued an advisory. Please proceed calmly to the basement and await further instructions.”
The mood of the room changed from the calm buzz it had been since I arrived, skipping the excitement and fear characteristic of storms at school, and jumping straight to mild irritation. Having to head to the storm shelter would cut into production. My instructor sighed.
“You heard the lady, turn that off and follow me.”
We headed down into the basement and through what would best be described as a vault door, ending up in a moderately sized cavern - probably a lava tube originally, though now outfitted with ventilation, tables, chairs, and couches, along with a stationary radio. In one corner of the room was several racks of equipment I couldn’t identify.
Despite my instincts to claim a couch and take a nap, I decided to take a look around. Between the radio and the equipment racks, I found the mysteriously missing girl from my class, reading through paper in a large binder. This wasn’t terribly different to how I tended to see her in class; though the book she was reading was larger than usual and her neat clothes seemed at odds with her loosely tied back hair, she spent more time reading than socialising or working.
Oh, hell, why not? “Good book?”
She frowned as she replied, “required reading for my work placement,” and returned her eyes to the open page. She showed no signs of elaborating on what the reading was, so I sat down a short distance away and started spacing out.
I was brought out of the land of the waking dead by a hand waved in front of my face, belonging to a girl holding a pack of cards. The exasperated look on her face made me think I had been very much elsewhere.
“Hey, rather than zoning out, let’s play cards.”
“…Sure, why not.”