Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

I descend deeper into the heart of semi-quadrant 26F, my maneuvasuit’s floodlights guiding me all the way. Massive gears and cogs riding on giant turbine shafts dwarf me, rotating silently on their bearings as layers of viscosium, barely a dozen molecules thick, keep everything at a cool 190 degrees or less. Yet on I monitor. Firing my vertical jets I drift into a side shaft, which will guide me through the lower ion exhaust plenum and straight into the grand hydro-valve gallery of this particular sub-engine portion of my overall keep.

Like my father and his father before, I am a proud and loyal maintainer of the machine. Pausing at a calibration platform I take a moment to measure the erosion on the nearby upper beta crankshaft’s friction journals using my helmet’s laser guided micrometer. As I suspected, the extra stress placed on the shaft’s aft third of its length, by the rerouted spring scissor and its eighty-ton ballast, installed almost a century ago by my own ancestors and their kinsmen, is finally starting to take its toll.

If left unattended for another year, give or take a few weeks, the bearing surfaces of the crankshaft’s rear section will eventually overheat and start to pollute the sub-machine’s viscosium lubrication system. The resulting extra friction caused by microscopic metallic debris will most certainly end with catastrophic failure to at least the local sub-structure. And nobody wants to have to deal with that type of engineering nightmare. Luckily for the people on the surface I was born into this job. I know what needs to be done.

Without hesitation I transmit my findings via comlink to semi-quadrant headquarters, requesting a platoon-crew containing at least six senior apprentices, a gantry crane, and some two hundred hours of access to any one of the local B-class machine shops and their stores.

Within minutes the work orders have been logged into the motherboard of the main quadrant, my eager young engineers deployed in their fully charged maneuvasuits, heading quickly in my direction, and to top it off I have been granted carte blanche at machine shop sub-terra 39X, an old personal favorite. Hector knows how I like my parts manufactured, practical and without the frills. I always tell him, “It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to work.”

It’ll take us less than a month to build a replacement upper beta crankshaft, so we can then lift the old eroding one from its journals and re-bearing the entire lower valley at our leisure.

And once we’re done, will we disassemble and discard our strategically placed temporary unit? Of course not, we will daisy chain them together via a constant velocity coupler and allow them to work as one. If there was one thing my father always taught me, it was, “Overbuild son. We’ve got endless resources coming down from the surface people. Why not use them?”

And he was right. The folks up there will never stop providing us with what we need to keep the machine running. It is their first priority above anything else.

I myself have never been to the surface, and as a loyal maintainer of the machine I know I never will. And that’s just fine by me. I will continue to micro-measure every gap, to spec every tolerance, to replace every corroded power terminal, to hone and re-sleeve every worn cylinder, until the end of my days. My place in life is well laid out before me. And like my father and his father before, I have a job to do.


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