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10) Who knew?

I have to admit, I've been spending a lot of time looking for trouble.

Part of it is of course being able to get some pay back for how he used to treat me. Part of it is how it seems to rid me of the fear I had known as a constant companion.
Part of it is that I simply feel comfortable in a familiar surrounding.

I know the rules of the ruins, so to speak.

That's not to say I don't love my job.

My boss gave me a long list of stuff that he said "needs to get done around here" and he told me to "pick what you like, try what you like, do what you like."

I think the basis of it are that the port is exceedingly busy, and that most of the guys working are pretty new. Thus my boss is using sheer numbers to get stuff done. Eventually. He doesn't even get upset when I mess up. Which is far less than it used to be.

And maybe that's the point: He has been around long enough to know that the new kids tend to either figure it out (like myself) or leave. It is also a lot less work for him to set us free, and let us figure things out, rather than waste all day training new people that will learn they don't like working here.

There is a down side to this though. My boss had at some point mentioned "cutting fuel with another liquid." I wasn't quite sure what the purpose of such a task was, but it seemed simple enough, and so I tried it. Everything went smoothly, and I even was able to take the extra fuel to the ruins and give it to an old friend who was trying to stay warm.

Everything went so smoothly that I started in again on the task at some point the next day. I wasn't even doing it for the money. Really, I only let my friend pay so he could keep his dignity, rather than it being a "hand out." I understood. It was my life less than a week ago. (Except that I didn't make a sleeping place by a cold, exterior wall in the ruins.)

Well apparently the first time was beginner's luck. Or maybe I had been too cautious the first time. The 2nd time I found myself with about twice as much fuel for my friend, but he never got to see it. Before I could haul it out of the docks: the captain of the ship I'd fueled fired the engines up, in a hurry to go.

That's when things went very wrong. My engineering courses allowed me to immediately understand what was happening:

The liquid I cut the fuel with wasn't a good lubricant. While the soap did have enough burnable material in it, it allowed the engine to grind. That gives off a very distinctive noise. It also caused the engines to drop in RPMs, which of course caused a boost in fuel flow to maintain idle. The more grinding, the more fuel. The more friction, the less the fuel lubricated.

The ship was shaking violently. The docking clamps held, but only barely. I watched in horror as the area around the engines billowed with an ominous smoke, accompanied by the hideous sound of metal on metal grinding at high pressures and speeds.

Do to the violent shaking, it took the captain nearly a full segment to reach the cut switch on fuel flow, and stop the disaster in progress. Fire suppression equipment managed to cool the engines just before they seized up completely. Not entirely without damage though, and the captain said he wanted someone's head.

Apparently I looked guilty standing next to the containers of fuel I had diverted. Looking back, I probably should have exited the port a bit sooner, with or without the extra fuel.

Down at the brig, they informed me that my actions were a very serious matter. In my defense, I pointed out that others were doing it, and I actually had no idea I was breaking any rules. Unlike many others: I didn't need the money, and I think that played well with the security people. Even without verifying my bank balance: they could see my gear was high quality and well maintained.

I also think that my time spent with trouble might have worked in my favor. Security mentioned a general drop in incidents the past few days, except for the usual perpetrators, who seemed to be the targets as of late.

While it was mentioned in an unrelated way, I suspect it was some sort of test, or phishing. I didn't let on about my involvement, but I'm pretty sure my grin was a give away. I really couldn't help myself.

At any rate, they let me off with a warning "not to let it happen again."

Frankly, hearing those engines nearly self destruct was punishment enough.

Later that day, my boss told me that we were unusually backlogged, and to get ships out "any way needed." Those were his exact words.

As a result, it was not long before I started filling out the departure permits myself. Seemed to speed up the entire process, and soon I was running into the office to use the stamp before sending captains on their way.

At some point, one of the women in the office figured out what I was doing.

"You know that's illegal, right?"

"I do now." I responded. And that was the end of that.

No need to go back to the brig.