“I don’t like to get mixed up. Meddling will only get me involved to no end”
“No end? This is the future for the world!” The revolutionary’s words had the odor of a blister, rubbed foul from improper overuse. The mechanic’s eyes barely left the generator he was servicing, one of a half dozen types found throughout the corridors and chambers of the power plant. Despite it’s dilapidated appearance, the generator really didn’t need his attention. Regardless of the model they all broke the same ways and were fixed easily enough, but the mechanic found it easier to only watch his hands work; as if a visual recognition of the revolutionary would confirm some involvement in conspiracy.
“You should prepare bombs, not generators” railed the other man, leaning on a corroded bend of pipe as if it were a twisted lectern. “Blow the barons and their factory out of ‘ere, take what we want.” He paused; expecting some support for his words, not yet realizing the nature of the man he was with, fever blinding his eyes to the obvious. Unperturbed, he drove on. “Knock them from their thrones, smash their crowns of industry. When we kill the owners and break their oppression, when bloody revolt burns their world and births ours, we will own this place, instead of wasting our lives slaving to it.
A younger worker would have called the security forces, and an even younger one would have been stirred by the revolutionary’s words, but the mechanic had seen revolutionaries before, and knew he would ever be unaffected by their boughts of fanaticism. Cornmarket Square. 3rd and 5th Street. The opening of the new boiler room. If they were careful arranged and well planned they might kill an occasional board member or manager, but the explosions invariably killed a dozen times more workers than barons. Yet the bombs only exploded where people could see them, and here it was just the two men beneath the rusted gears and the pipes exuding steam.
Despite the revolutionary’s expectations, years of blind labor had destroyed any desire the mechanic might have felt, and he worked his shifts with a silent torpor, sleeping off his hours away from the machines; his labor the only sign of concern in his life. Despite his vacuous audience, the revolutionary continued his diatribe against his oppressors, eyes imagining a thousand yearning faces turned towards his. A massive airship, rotors beating, loomed overhead, as if on the verge of meeting the ground in fiery destruction before it’s nose finally rose to meet the pinnacle of the docking tower. The mechanic remained completely unaware of its presence, the grinding of gears drowned out the rotors and smog so perfectly shrouded the sun that no monstrous shadow fell between the girders of the plant.
“My brother, do you not see the urgency of our cause?” The address meant nothing to the mechanic, but the mutual ‘our’ stirred a dormant sense of self preservation.
“I have no part in your plans. Keep your bombs to yourself and leave me just my generators.” ‘A younger man would have turned him in’ though the mechanic, piston heads in the backdrop of the void nodding rigid approval.
“No bombs? No uprising? Have you not opened your eyes to this place?” the revolutionary cried, his zealous eyes bulging beyond natural sight. “Death to the barons will unburden our backs. Burned factories will be our freedom; the great opportunity for us here below.” The revolutionary was once again speaking to that invisible thousand, with it’s malleable faces.
The revolutionary finally left the room beneath the girders, enflamed to martyrdom by his own words. The mechanic barely noticed the revolutionary’s exit. He had become simply another gyrating wheel, driven by energies ever unknown to the mechanic. Facing another faulty generator, he lowered his goggles, their brass frames and tinted glass reflecting the sparks cast from the grinding cogs of the machine.
His sole daily action finished, the mechanic punched his work card as the lift rose unsteadily past thunderous caverns of metal and men. At the top of the lift the doors swung open with lethargic efficiency, the laborer’s unconcern flowing around the intruders in the room. Black bands encircling their upper arms, the regulators formed a fleshy chain around an unkempt figure. One guard gagged the man’s mouth, silencing the voice of the thousand faces, while another dismantled the crude bomb the man had shoved under his jerkin. The mechanic’s eyes saw this with a slow apathetic glance, but the image was lost, or discarded, somewhere on the path to his brain.
In the canteen, the mechanic ate silently, unconcerned with the slop running down his throat or the wild exclamations firing across the packed room. Despite the shift bell burrowing ever closer to the men’s existence, the serving line was deserted, food steaming futilely. After the day’s incident, the newly stationed regulators at the door eyed the mass of men warily, hands alert beside billy clubs or the emergency claxon.
Those claxons had blared just minutes earlier, imposing the martial law of the plant. Enforcers had stood in the swarm of moving men, giving orders but no explanations. Yet all the men knew what had happened, the reserved shaking their heads at the repercussions that would come, the more freespirited lamenting the chaotic, yet unrevolted mass of men coursing through the chambers of the plant. The mechanic only wished they would all silence themselves so he could eat in peace.
Finally a runner from the foreman entered the canteen, a press of men surging around him to drain every drop of knowledge in his veins. Pausing to draw breath to speak and to heighten the emotions running through the room, he made the denizens of the canteen wait while he prepared to speak. The runner, realizing how insistent the men around him were for news related the story of how the bomb placed in the plant manager’s steam car had exploded early (for education had never been present in his life to teach him the word detonate; as had been the case for them all). Heads shook when he said the plant manager had escaped unharmed, and even more showed their disapproval of the news that passing families and a recently escaped revolutionary had paid the debt to the flames. They knew that any one of the families could be their own, and the married ones paused to wonder where their wives and children would have been scant minutes earlier.
In the back, two of the younger boys muttered praise of the revolutionary, drawing the fists of a married man. The regulators stepped forward, clubs raised, ready to subdue the mass of suddenly cursing men. The youngest cursed the fates and the whims of a temperamental bomb while the ones a few years older cursed the man who had killed families. Those even older damned the draconian laws that would soon remind the workers why they should have reported the revolutionary.
The mechanic, still unconcerned by the messenger’s retelling, cursed them all for spilling his soup.