© Copyright 2011 - Jo - Used by permission
Storycodes: Solo-F; machine; packaged; boxed; foam; sealed; stored; shelved; stuck; cons; X
There was a knock at the door. It opened a crack.
Carly tucked her shirt into her jeans, pulled up the zip.
Xaviar stuck his head in the door.
"Hate to bother you on Friday night, but we had problems with 3. Had to do a bunch of reseals. Barely made our quota. Needs to be fixed by first shift Monday you know."
"Not a problem."
She'd started to say she had nothing to do anyway now that Ben had dumped her, but she bit her tongue.
"Okay. Cool. Have a good weekend."
Carly stripped off her jeans and shirt and clean underwear.
No sense getting them all sweaty.
She grabbed a jumpsuit from the stack and pulled it on.
She was glad to have the locker room to herself, even if it did mean working the night shift. But that was all she could get with her freshly minted degree: Maintenance tech at the packaging plant.
And her frickin car had broken down. She checked the bus schedule. Last bus in two hours. Should be long enough. Maybe she'd find the problem tonight and come back tomorrow and fix it. Not like she had anything else to do.
Damn that Ben!
She grabbed her tool kit and headed out onto the shop floor. The place was dark except for some dim security lights. Line 3 was back in the far corner of the building. Her eyes adjusted to the inky darkness and she headed out.
At the machine, Carly flipped a switch and a bank of lights came on. She stepped over to the console, keyed in the overrides, started the program. It asked for a product code and she keyed LD19. She didn't know what an LD19 was but that's the number her boss had given her. Under Qty she keyed 1. She pressed soft plugs into her ears, slipped on her safety glasses, and stepped up onto the belt.
Diagnostics were all well and good, but she was a mechanical engineer. She liked to see things work. And the best way to do that was to ride the clam. She wasn't the first to do this. There were controls inside the machine for just that purpose. But the rules said someone had to be outside as a safety backup. Tonight it was just her. And besides, no one would know, right?
She tapped the yellow button a few times, jogging the machine. An arm retrieved a clear, plastic, clamshell box. Each half of the clam was about 3x3 and about a foot deep, plenty of room for her to kneel inside. She tapped the green button. The clam lurched forward.
When she reached the next station she tapped a red button and stepped out of the clam. She tapped a yellow button a few times and a thick foam pad was laid across the open box.
May as well be comfortable.
She cruised through the loading station. The hopper was empty. The arm pushed an imaginary LD19 into the clam..
Fucking Ben! Lived with me, rent free, for three years. Never had a job, but always had beer money for him and his buddies. How could I have been so stupid!?
* * * *
"About time to call it a day, Pete?"
"Yeah. Just looking at 3. They were having trouble with it. Looks like they tried using the overrides."
"Did you call maintenance?"
"Yeah. No answer."
"Is she still here?"
"I checked the lot. Her car's not there. Probably left already. Just let me undo the overrides. I'll call her and let her know she gets some o.t. this weekend."
"I'm sure she'll love that."
* * * *
Lost in thought she didn't see the bar until too late. It caught the lid of the clam, flipped it shut. Carly pushed against the lid, reached for the red button, pressed it. Nothing happened. She tried again, but she was already passed it. In a panic she pulled her arm into the box, curled herself into a tight ball just as the full weight of the arm came down.
Even covered top and bottom in foam, Carly got an up close and personal look at the sealing operation. Three clamps latched onto the clam, there was heat and the smell of melting plastic. And she saw the problem. One of the actuators had come loose and part of the clamp bit into empty space.
Well, at least I know what it is. Should be an easy fix. Still might make last call at the pub.
The clam jerked to a start again. It trundled through labeling and Carly's world went dark and fuzzy.
She had ridden the clam before. She knew where she was heading. She felt the bump as the clam dropped into the box. It would be about a third full of ghost shit. A moment later she sensed more than felt the box fill with more of the foam peanuts. Her world went black as the flaps were folded and taped shut. A bar-code label spit out of a slot and attached itself to the box.
There was a bit of jostling, then the feeling of falling as the boxed clam slid down the chute, came to an abrupt stop.
Okay folks, unfasten your safety belts. Please exit to the left. Hoped you enjoyed the ride.
But then it lurched again. The packaging process was complete, but now the system had an LD19 to store. Carly was born onto the conveyor. Through a series of switch-backs she was carried high into the air and even deeper into the plant, all the way back into the warehouse. The warehouse covered several tens of thousands of square feet with racks reaching thirty feet into the air. But the system located an empty slot roughly in the middle in the second to top rack. It updated itself with the appropriate SKU code and slid the box into place. After a bit more jostling, all movement stopped.
Carly felt around her feet for the tool kit. She'd be free in a minute. She'd have to cut through the clam, then the side of the box, but her utility knife would make quick work of that. She hoped she had been shelved on a lower rack given her fear of heights, but the way her night was going, she doubted that.
Where the hell is the kit?
She fumbled around as best she could packed tight between the foam sheets in the clam. Then an image flashed into her mind. The image of the control panel as she'd set the overrides. There, next to it, was her tool kit.