Nosy Old Woman (2)
Characters: Lineal, Lihona, Barr, Gitta
Description: A curious journeywoman asks for a tour of the Sungazer, taxing Barr's patience.
Location: Elsewhere on Pern
Date: month 2, day 6 of Turn 5
Notes: Riverboat Sungazer
Barr, when he turned up after some shouting that Lineal hoped went unheard over the clamour of the engines, was hardly welcoming. His response to Lineal's introductions was a grunt, though he didn shake hans with the woman - but only because his hand was filthy and he thought it served her right.
Gitta shook the man's hand heartily, despite the fact that it left hers filthy and she didn't have a rag handy as she might have were she in work clothes. "It's a pleasure to meet you, I am most interested in learning more about the workings of this vessel. The captain has already begun telling me some about the two engines and the flexibility that can afford." He did not seemed thrilled at her presence, but she didn't plan on letting a little thing like that interfere with her tour.
"Thought you were a passenger," Barr grumbled as Lineal moved out of earshot and left the pair of them together. "Don't you have enough to occupy yourself on the top deck?"
"No, actually I do not," Gitta answered brightly. "I have always wanted to know more about riverboats and this is my first opportunity. I may be nearly retired as a technician, but that hardly curbs my curiosity when it comes to engines and the like."
Barr peered at the woman, his expression suspicious, though that wasn't out of character. "You from up north?"
"No just old," she said with a smile and a wink, guessing they were probably about the same age.
Barr snorted. "Looks better on a man, though.
Gitta laughed outright at his less than complimentary words, "Thanks so much! As you can see I'm totally crushed by your assessment," her grin showed the lie in her statement. "Now are you going to show me how you keep this vessel running smoothly?"
"I could, I suppose, since Lineal asked." He nodded toward the areas covered by quite flimsy basket-work latticed walls. "Come down here. We'll start at the wrong end."
Gitta did as she was bid to do, wondering if she were to tell the engineer how cute she found his contentious demeanor he would begin to be nice instead. More than likely he'd kick her right out of his engine rooms. She covered her mouth to hide the chuckle that came unbidden and redirected her focus to the latticed walls, curious at the construction. "Wrong end?"
"Paddle. Obviously the 'back' of the system. Starts with the firebox and the boilers, of course." Barr was speaking loudly over the noise of the engines turning the paddlewheel by way of the huge crank arms. Beyond the noise of the engines was the noise of the water cascading off the 'buckets' which made up the paddlewheel. "Can you hear me? Some old women are deaf," he added in what might have been meant as an undertone, though it was hard to be sure.
"I can hear just fine, thank you," she answered back just as loudly, refraining from adding 'old man' to the end of her reply, though she did smile at the thought. She drew close to the equipment, examining the crank arms as well as the paddlewheel itself with interest. "The Captain was telling me about the periodic overhauls. Is the paddlewheel replaced then as well?"
"We replace what we need as we need it," he said, meaning the wooden slats that were called buckets, "but yes, usually a whole frame each overhaul."
Gitta nodded, moving away from the massive paddlewheel, "The captain said that there are actually two engines."
"I think they thought it simplest; rather than running a crank into the middle of the paddlewheel. And if gives us some backup if something happens to one. Nothing worse than running upriver and losing power."
"A very good design. Are most of the riverboat designs consistent or is there some variability?" Gitta noticed that some of the man's gruffness subsided as he spoke about the Sungazer.
"They're almost identical. All built on the same pattern. Traditional pattern. More similar in design and engines than in character. Some captains have no scruples and some headwomen wouldn't know cleanliness if it bit them in the backside."
She could not help herself, Gitta gave a hearty laugh at the man's words. "Yes I would say people can show far more variability than machines! Though, due to slight variations in climate, care, or other factors, I've seen machines that can be termed almost 'temperamental,' in their performance."
"Temperamental is for engines that aren't well understood," he said firmly. "This family has been with these engines since they were commissioned." With some pride he added: "I've been working on them for sixty-four Turns."
"That must be the better part of your life," Gitta noted. "You started young didn't you?"
"Eight or so. When I was old enough to keep my hands out of harms' way. No point in waiting any longer, aboard. If it's going to be engines for a riverboat child then they might as well start learning as soon as they can be trusted."
"That's a good long time. You must know this engine like the back of your own hand," Gitta commented as she continued to investigate within the man's domain.
"I do." Barr frowned at the woman's inquisitiveness. "Come back along and see the boilers," he said, seeking to keep her occupied.
Gitta followed, with a little smile. Was Barr this 'charming' with everyone or did he just not like her? Not that she was particularly bothered either way. She wondered if he ever even got out of the engine room or just set up a cot and took his meals down here as well. At this thought, she had to stifle a small giggle and just hoped the taciturn man hadn't heard it.
"Something funny?" the engineer asked, catching sight of the expression the woman wore.
"I don't think you like me much," Gitta answered brightly with a lift of her shoulders to indicate she did not take it personally.
"Suspected you were observant," Barr said gruffly with a nod that might almost have been approving.
"Ah, well, you aren't the first," she said with a shake of her head. "Though I might have hoped for a cup of klah later with a handsome riverboat engineer, I'll settle for the rest of my tour and be out of your hair. So how often to you have to load wood on the vessel to keep these boilers going?" Gitta asked as they approached the root of the boats power.
"Every second day," the old man said, rather relieved - and contrarily rather miffed - that she didn't want to socialise with him. "But we do it in the evenings when we're stopped anyway."
Gitta studied every aspect of the riverboat, delighting in the new knowledge despite Barr's rather gruff replies. Actually, his surly demeanour rather tickled the older woman. When her curiosity was finally satiated, she offered the engineer a sincere smile, "Well, Barr, thanks for taking the time and effort to show me around. I know that this wasn't your first choice of activities. If you decide that my company is not utterly deplorable, I'm traveling all the way to Emerald Falls." Gitta was far too old to be coy, and her personality was rather forthright anyways. "I would enjoy sharing a drink and a bit of conversation."
"I don't know that I would," Barr grumbled, although it was notable that he didn't go quite as far as saying 'no'.
Last updated on the March 25th 2009