Transitions and No Days Off

Oscar the Therapy Spider is ready for another day of work.

It’s been a rough month. Our beloved supervisor F went on leave, as did three of our guys, leaving us shorthanded and with a replacement supervisor who hasn’t the slightest hope of filling F’s shoes. As the first week crawled by, one of our guys, O, took a bad step out of the shack, fell, and hurt his back. The injury wasn’t enough to send him home, but an offer from a better contract was, and so he took the medical leave. I don’t blame him. It’s been a rough month.

It’s been a rough month. Our beloved supervisor F went on leave, as did three of our guys, leaving us shorthanded and with a replacement supervisor who hasn’t the slightest hope of filling F’s shoes. As the first week crawled by, one of our guys, O, took a bad step out of the shack, fell, and hurt his back. The injury wasn’t enough to send him home, but an offer from a better contract was, and so he took the medical leave. I don’t blame him. It’s been a rough month.

After O left, another guy went home on medical. This one I do blame. D had never been down for this place. I think he thought that, with a Master’s degree and having held the rank of Army lieutenant, he would be promoted as soon as he arrived. When he realized that everyone here could see his tiny heart syndrome and that he would never be promoted, he began to complain that his eyes hurt. He went home shortly after O. No one misses him.

Another guy went home. He had stayed here long after his initial contract ended; eighteen months in total. So he finally returned home, making us one lighter on day shift. Then a mistake was made by another guard who had been here almost eight months. I can’t discuss the particulars, but suffice to say he was immediately punished. H wrote him up the next day. It hit corporate and by 8 pm, he was notified of termination. By 2 am, they gave him his itinerary. By 10 am the next day, he was gone.

We were already six short on day shift and it was getting a little tight. Then H-Kaia, a sister contract through our company, decided that they were terribly short staffed. They pulled four more from us, one from days, one from swings, and two from nights. Every new person we were supposed to receive from our training site was redirected to H-Kaia. Our promised relief never arrived and so we carried on with a skeleton crew. But, wait, it gets worse. As I said, it’s been a rough month.

Had F been here, this wouldn’t have been a problem. F knows how to handle the finnicky and tempestuous Air Force Security Force higher ups that control the airfield. H, our replacement supervisor, has the unfortunate, misguided belief that these Senior Airmen, known as the COR, are here to help. They are not. They hate us. I’ve never quite understood why. Don’t they realize that, without us contractors, their own Security Forces would have to man these gates?


Whatever the reason, they gave us a new responsibility: Panther Ramp. With Panther, we now cover five ECP’s. This meant that our already thin workforce is now even more strained. There have been no days off for anyone all month. And H has a terrible tendency to play favorites. The ones she likes get the easy, low traffic gates, while others work back to back northside; our busiest area. To make matters worse, the COR is actively crawling around the airfield, waiting for one of us to make a mistake that could cost us our job.

It’s been a bit miserable, to say the least. But the ones who remain, the guards that are sticking it out despite the somewhat shoddy leadership and the bad attitudes from the Security Force guys (not all of them; most of them are actually human beings), they’ve kept morale up through sheer force of will. Most of them have been through worse. I know I have. So this is just another footnote in a life filled with thankless jobs, shitty leadership, and uppity officers who have clearly never left garrison before.

It’s been a rough month. But it’s going to get better. Mom comes home tomorrow. The other three on leave will return a few days after she arrives. One of our contracts at another base has dissolved, so we should be receiving a fresh new crop of souls here shortly. Our training site should also be sending us new people once their training cycle has ended and they are released from their medical hold.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m so grateful to have fallen in with such an amazing group of people. They don’t have to wake up early and go to the gym, but they do. They don’t have to show up to work early and go to breakfast, but they do. They don’t have meet each person with a grin and a pleasant greeting of the day, but they do. All of this could have been much worse. People could have quit as soon as days off went away and they would have been completely within their rights to do so. But they didn’t. They stayed.

In a month heavy with, let’s be honest, a bunch of bullshit, it’s a relief to know that I’m part of a hardworking, resilient, and friendly group of people. My days are filled with meandering conversations usually centered around video games, anime, manga, and books. Where we could be sitting in sullen silence, bemoaning our lot in life, we are laughing, brushing off rude comments from another “customer” and enjoying the misery together. It’s a relief to be with people who are able to find joy no matter where they are and whatever the circumstances.

Maybe soon we’ll all move on. Maybe soon we’ll all be on different contracts, making three times our salary now. Maybe the COR will finally slam us with enough non-compliance’s to end our contract. But for now I’m here with friends and I couldn’t be happier. I’m also taking this chance to write a transition scene in my book, with Ski’s help of course. It’s the first melding of worlds, the first hint of alternate realms. It was an enjoyable scene to write (for me, of course, not for my characters) as I could almost see the transitions snapping back and forth, like a movie in my head. But maybe that’s just me.

Ripley sighed and gripped the bar, one hand over, one hand under. The resin on her palms chafed as she rolled the bar so that it rested evenly against her shins. She looked up at Castillo’s grinning face then focused, letting the pulsing beat of the music from her headphones take her away. Head up, butt down, back straight, and pull-

The door open and race out into the hall. It had been the screams that had woke Pantea but it had been the smell that had dragged her from her bed and sent her running for her armor. She dressed quickly, throwing her armor over her nightclothes, belting her sword around her waist before throwing herself from her room. Alarm bells were clanging but the smell, the smell, hot and heavy, like dead bodies left out in the sun to rot, filled the back of her throat made her retch, made her skin crawl. She slammed-

The weight back down, her face red and streaked with sweat, her legs trembling and core aching. “Light weight, baby,” Castillo crowed and she laughed as she toppled to the ground. “255, new PR, well done,” he said, clapping her on the shoulder before turning to add more weight to the bar. Ripley checked her watch and stood. It was almost time for her to go-

“Now!” Flora was shouting to her mages as they frantically gathered books and potions into their arms. “Go now! Get to the gates!” They fled in a massive crowd, tripping over one another as they rushed toward the gates. Flora clutched her pendant in her hand, trying to calm the trembles that had overtaken her body. They had tried to hold against the sudden onslaught and the aftermath of that final stand was laying in bloody pieces on the College steps. Mildred tugged frantically on Flora’s arm and the First Mage grudgingly allowed the woman to drag her out the door-

And into the showers. Ripley would have preferred to shower in the peace of her own home, but today she didn’t have the time. She thought about her early morning meeting and shuddered. Reliving all the same trauma wasn’t what she wanted to do but she had no choice. The Army would continue to dig through her head until they were sure she was battle ready. If she wasn’t they would throw her aside, let her spend her life struggling along, like they had so many others, so many sisters and brothers-

Screaming in fear. Maddox ran harder, sweat running down his face like tears and maybe some of the droplets were tears but he didn’t care. His home was burning. He and his company had crested the last hill before the capitol to find the fires lighting up the skyline like a funeral pyre. He had given the order to run, to hurry, get to the city, dammit, help them! Even as he sprinted headlong, feeling his knees ache and his muscles tear, he knew he was too late, just as he had been at Adclif, just like the cliffs, just like-

That Ripley was ready to go. It never took her long to get ready. Shower time all too often became introspective time and such things were never beneficial to someone like her, someone who had such terrible memories and regrets and guilt. If she stayed too long in the warm water she would fall prey to that dark cloud that loomed over her even now, the one that visited her at night when she took her sleeping pills, the one that urged her to take one more, three more, all of them. She opened the door to the gym and-

Maddox stood with Pantea on the road leading out of the capital. The gates were closed. Someone had cut the counterbalances, slamming the heavy doors shut and trapping those still living within. And there were still living in there, thousands of them. Maddox could hear their screams echoing through the air, filling his ears with the sound of their torment. He turned away and met Pantea’s eyes. There, beneath the soot and the sweat and the tears he could see his thoughts reflected in her eyes. She shuddered once then turned to back to those few souls they had been able to save. Maddox stood on the hill, his massive frame silhouetted by the fires as he watched his home burn.

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