Last week we tried something a little different, with a single prompt. If everyone enjoyed that, we’ll do it again in a month. Let us know in the comments!
For this week, we’re back to the prompt challenge, assigning prompts randomly to the same people who issued the prompts. In theory, you won’t get your own prompt, but it does happen. It’s always interesting to see what the creative uses of a prompt are!
|AC Young||Text of Advertisement: “King seeks woman to be new Queen. Those wishing to apply for the position should report to [kingdom’s] Embassy by [date]. Applications are non-revokable.”||Leigh Kimmel|
|Padre||“Out with the old, in with the new.”||AC Young|
|Leigh Kimmel||Whirling gumdrop trees covered with sparkly lights||Fiona Grey|
|nother Mike||The cat in the hat was dancing a soft shoe routine||Cedar Sanderson|
|Fiona Grey||The lamp curled out an arm and tapped her on the shoulder.||nother Mike|
|Cedar Sanderson||She knew who was coming from the sound of their walk||Padre|
As always, there are spare prompts. You can choose one if you didn’t send in a prompt for the challenge. You can add one to the challenge prompt, for a doubled sense of Odd. You can do whatever you like, as long as you post the result, or a link to the result, in the comments so the anonymous prompters can see! Also, using the prompts is a great way to spark imagination and get the pump primed for more where that came from.
|Spare||The bank gave all its employees a holiday.|
|Spare||The droplet burst, spraying them all with fine red…|
|Spare||The cheapest room at the hotel was three-years’ wages for a week’s stay.|
|Spare||Eggdrop soup and three egg rolls for 99 cents.|
|Spare||The wallet someone lost had a wad of $100 bills in it.|
|Spare||“They DESIRE freezing rain?!” “You know who lives in a TRULY DRY climate where they don’t give a damn what form moisture is in, just that they Get Some.”|
|Spare||The ferryman’s toll was not in coin.|
Here we go, further into the new year. The phoenix has risen from the dumpster fire of last year, and is flying upwards into the unknown. Shall we see what comes next?
(Image by Cedar Sanderson, rendered with MidJourney)
Annnd… off to a good start, forgetting to send in a prompt. . Oh, well. Into the spares I go!
This week Padre assigned me the quest: “Out with the old, in with the new.”
What about an attempted replacement of expensive workers with cheap ones?
I was getting my stuff out of my locker after my shift when I heard the news.
We were getting six of the new apprentices, and were expected to train them up in our processes.
We grumbled and grumbled amongst ourselves. It was going to be a nightmare.
We had all worked our way up the ranks. We had learnt about the importance of precision, and about making sure that the outputs were correct every step of the way, when we started out on the Tier 1 processing.
Eventually when we had proved ourselves on the Tier 3 processes, we were offered the chance to learn the Tier 4 procedures.
They were fiddly. Every single step had to be carried out just right. And slight variations in temperature and humidity could cause variations in output that would be fatal to the next step.
Every step had to be calibrated to within very narrow tolerances before it could be run on full automatic. And we had to learn how to calibrate every step of every Tier 4 process – demand for each of our products was so variable that each of us had to be able to produce all of them.
And it was obvious what the management’s goal was. We were the elite of the factory, and were paid accordingly.
Our previous boss had worked his way up through the ranks of the factory. Whatever we felt about him – and we were often not pleasant in our descriptions – he understood the requirements of the Tier 4 work.
Our new boss had been promoted from another branch of the business. He didn’t understand why we were paid so much. He was planning on replacing us with cheaper, new apprentices – out with the old and in with the new.
We had two weeks of relative pleasure before the nightmare began. We soon complained to our superiors, who we expected to complain to theirs, until the chain reached the new boss. But we were swiftly told that they’d already made their protestations, and had been rebuffed from on high. There was nothing to be done but endure.
On the Monday I turned up to my shift to find that I’d been assigned one of the apprentices, a young man named Jonathan. I introduced myself, checked his safety gear, and took him out to the floor.
I was on the Thermal Regulator Sensor line today. I was starting on Step I, with Manuel also on the line starting on Step IV (convention was that at the end of each shift one of the workers on each line completed all the steps, and the other stopped after half of them).
I showed Jonathan how to set up the first stage of the process, and then ran the calibration step. I compared the output against the standard. As expected, there was a slight variation that exceeded the tolerance. I pointed it out.
“You can see that the alpha line is too far to the left. We’ll need to adjust the settings and re-run.”
“What? The two are nearly identical.”
They were nearly identical. But they weren’t identical, and the difference between the two was just too great. If I put the test output through the next step I might blow the entire line – thermal regulator sensors were notoriously unstable if the distance between the alpha and beta lines was even slightly greater than standard.
I made the necessary adjustment to the stage controls, and re-ran the calibration step. This time I was pleasantly surprised to find that the output was good enough.
“You see that this is much better. We can set this to automatic, and move on to Step II.”
“There’s no difference between this and the last one you checked.”
There was, but Jonathan hadn’t got his eye in yet. And it was already getting on my nerves – it shouldn’t have been, I was being extremely unfair on him. I was just too used to ex-Tier 3 workers, who would generally be expected to spot the variation between the calibration output and the standard, even if they didn’t understand how intolerant we had to be of variation between the two yet.
Step II was always a pain. It took me nine calibration runs before I was happy. Each time Jonathan would have happily put the step on automatic – he just didn’t get the extremely narrow tolerances that this process required.
By that point all of our batch had made its way through Step I, so I just set Step II to automatic and moved onto Step III.
Step III was more stable than the others, and it wasn’t uncommon for the first calibration run to be good enough. So it proved this time.
As I was calibrating Step IV, Manuel came back along the line. He’d finished the half-complete batch and was off to start the next one.
“Anything to note?” I asked.
“VI was a long way off. Must be the rain.”
I nodded. Step VI always needed a lot of adjustment when a front came over the factory, both before and after the rain. “II’s playing up again,” I warned him in my turn.
“How’s the young man?”
We often talked about our trainees in front of them. We’d suffered the same when we’d gone through the process. “A bad case of vague eye.”
Manuel nodded, and headed off. Vague eye was a common condition amongst those we trained. It was our term for not yet grasping how precise we needed to be.
Jonathan looked upset at the interaction. I didn’t bother explaining that I was being generous. It was the worst case of vague eye I’d yet come across by some distance.
We kept going. No sooner had we finished our first batch of thermal regulator sensors than I took Jonathan back to Step I, and we started again.
We kept looping around, until the mid-shift break. Jonathan had been getting tenser and tenser, and he finally asked me why I didn’t trust him.
“It’s not about trust,” I replied. “This is the most intolerant section of the factory. There are good reasons why every stage has to be completed to within extremely narrow tolerances. Anything outside those bounds isn’t good enough. Anything that might be outside those bounds isn’t good enough.
“Your first job is to learn those tolerances. Learning how to calibrate is less important.
“But if you master these processes, you’ll be one of us. Within the factory nothing is as important as that, and you will be expected to work willingly alongside any other one of us.”
I didn’t bother mentioning that if Jonathan couldn’t put any differences he might have with anyone else to one side he would be sent back to Tier 3. Jonathan was unlikely to be kept on Tier 4 once he’d completed his apprenticeship in any case, so it wouldn’t be the threat it normally was.
The rest of the shift went in a similar fashion to the first half. Jonathan’s eye really was terrible, and it didn’t improve much in the second half.
The rest of the week went by in a similar fashion, and the second week went likewise.
On the Monday of the apprentices’ third week we were called into a meeting prior to our shift. Luke, the most senior of us Tier 4 workers got up and spoke.
“I have been informed that some of you are complaining that we aren’t treating our apprentices fairly, that we don’t trust you, and aren’t letting you develop as we ought.
“Let me make something crystal clear. Every fully-fledged Tier 4 worker here already understands this, but clearly some of our apprentices haven’t grasped it yet.
“The products that make it off our production lines must meet very narrow requirements. If they don’t our clients will reject them, and won’t pay the factory for them. This is only possible if every single stage of the production line meets similarly very narrow requirements.
“We are not going to drop our standards, and risk this factory not being paid for our work, for anyone. Either you apprentices commit yourself to learning to meet our standards, or you ask to be sent to a lower tier. Those are your only options as far as the rest of us are concerned. And if you stay we will assume that you will be making the effort, and judge you accordingly.”
Within a week, two of our apprentices had asked to be sent elsewhere – Luke happily agreed on condition they went to Tier 1. The rest were noticeably more observant, even if they still suffered from vague eye most of the time.
As the weeks went by there appeared to be no further complaints from the apprentices, and Jonathan was starting to learn the accuracy required to do this job at this level. But he was taking a lot longer to learn the ropes than any other trainee I’d had at this level – not unexpected, as we did normally have excellent Tier 3 workers to train.
Three months in, and the senior workers had a meeting after shift. While we were all happy with our apprentices, it was taking them a very long time to learn each process, so to teach them everything would take far too long. They needed experience at a Tier they could master within a reasonable timeframe before the end of their apprenticeship. We considered Tier 3, but agreed that Tier 2 would be best.
Apparently the boss was furious when he found out, but we’d made sure to dot all our ‘i’s and cross all our ‘t’s before the plan got to his desk, so there wasn’t much he could do. (As an aside, Tier 3 and Tier 2 had sent all their apprentices back to Tier 1.)
Four months later I spotted Jonathan during the mid-shift break. I asked him how he was doing.
“I’m doing well. I’ve got a promotion, and I’m already being considered for Tier 3 work.”
I was really pleased for him. If things went well, he’d be back in Tier 4 before too long. But then he’d have the necessary foundation to learn the skills quickly.
In any case, the new boss’s plan to replace us elite Tier 4 workers with cheap apprentices was in tatters.
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This week Cedar challenged me with “She knew who was coming from the sound of their walk.” Continuing on with the story from the last couple weeks.
They were coming after her. She could hear it. Their footfalls were loud and distinct in the silence of the woods. No animals were moving on this night, not even the nocturnal ones. They all knew better than to be abroad when the walls between the worlds were thin.
She could tell who was coming by the sound of their walk. Or at least who one of them was.
Her owner. She hated him. She, born a free-woman of the Hart tribe, taken and sold far to the south by her traditional enemies. She had no master. But she had an owner. And she could hear the particular rhythm of his footsteps as he pursued her through the woods.
She was far too visible, so she turned right and skirted a large bush. She was also out of shape. It had been too long since she had been free to run and her breath was already ragged, alongside the sharp ache in her side that told her that she was pushing herself too hard and that she was out of shape. Before she was taken, she could run all day. She cursed under her breath and slowed to a walk, ducking behind another bush. Even if they caught her, she would make sure she at least got her licks in. She would rather die fighting than be sacrificed.
The pause to breathe allowed her take stock of her situation. She had very little. Only the white shift she was wearing, her experience, and her brains. Though she was a stranger in these swampy woods, she at least knew some woodcraft. It was more than her master and his companion knew. She heard them blunder past in the moonlight, not realizing that she had turned. Her father and uncles would not have missed her turn, she sniffed silently to herself.
Looking around, she saw the stream that fed into the pond she had been lying in a few minutes before. It flowed lazily here and a plan began to form in her mind.
Quickly shedding her garment, she stepped quietly into the stream and covered her body with the black mud from the bottom, then stepped out and smeared mud and dirt over her legs as well. It would have to do. She grabbed up her shift and wadded it up in her hand, no use wasting it, then began to look around. There. She grabbed up the branch that she had spotted, then turned and crept back onto the trail of her owner. Things were beginning to look less grim than a few minutes ago.
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[…] can read all of the prompt responses, and play along with the prompt challenge, over at More Odds Than Ends. We’re starting the fourth year of this, and it’s been a fun ride. If you’re […]
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Oh, dancing cats and flipping lids! Nice!
[…] Check these and more out at MOTE! […]
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I love it!
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I wanna get me one of those cakes!
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Fiona Grey reached out and touched us with…
The lamp curled out an arm and tapped her on the shoulder.
[ahah! Animated lamps with arms and tapping? I wonder what it wanted to ask?]
Henrietta stepped into her laboratory. The door opened itself, then, as she stepped inside, it slowly closed behind her. She glanced back and said, “Thanks.” The door wiggled just a bit as it closed and locked. She shook her head. It had seemed like a good idea when she learned to animate things, just animate all the equipment to make it work with her. But now…
She sat down, and started to catch up her journal. The lamp curled out an arm and tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped, then looked at it and laughed.
“Yes, please focus the light a bit more. On the pages, now.”
The lamp squirmed sideways, then bent forward and brought the light up on the journal.
Henrietta watched it and shook her head again. She thought about removing the animation, but… that felt too much like killing everything, and they were just trying to help.
[that’s kind of intriguing….]
Then her seat began to wiggle under her. It was already form-fitting, but now it was trying to snuggle up to her, from underneath. It was distracting, and she knew it was just jealous that she had talked to the lamp, but not to it. Okay, a few words…
“Yes, yes, I know you are holding me. Just right! Well, maybe a touch higher, and I really need to lean forward and read this, not lean back and relax.”
The chair gave one more wiggle, then settled down. With a slight tilt forward.
[oh, yes! Animation gone berserk!]
Then the pencil and pen started dancing across the table. Henrietta slapped her forehead, and then watched them, with a grin. They really had gotten quite good, especially with the spins and dips. When they stopped, she clapped.
[so, who else is going to get into the act? Do I dare bring in the dancing mops and brooms?]
[drat, the clock is ticking, I should put this up… hum, do I want to think about the antics of an animated clock in the lab? No, no, post!]
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[…] week. D’oh! So, I picked up a spare: The ferryman’s toll was not in coin. Mosey on over to More Odds Than Ends to see what everyone came up with for their challenges. Give yourself a break from this world and […]
A story! Make it good, with lots of action, and some real cliffhangers, so no one notices the river crossing? Yay!
Mine is up.
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And now mine is up on my LiveJournal at https://starshipcat.livejournal.com/1276099.html. Another bit of the saga of Elaine at Sparta Point, after she and Spartan wed and have children.
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