It came as no surprise (to everyone but Lehnair) when the message had come from MEFIRST Headquarters, transferring his managerial assignment to a new location. Several solar months had passed since then, and the newly assigned factory was still struggling under his rule. The Directorate had anticipated another amazing turn-around with a struggling factory like he had done previously.
Lehnair often locked himself in his quarters whenever he thought about his new home. A planet with only one distant sun and nothing but ocean on the surface. The factory was located several hundred meters underwater, and because there was no plant life, there was no breathable air outside the factory’s confines. To make matters worse, Lehnair was dealing with personnel issues all day, every day. Unhappy workers, health problems, even the occasional fight that was bound to happen with so many workers trapped in such a small space. His personal quarters were the only place he could go for a quiet moment, even if it did resemble a prison cell.
“Hey, get out here! There’s about to be another a fight,” the voice came through his thin door from the hallway.
“Who is it now?” Lehnair groaned back from under his bed sheets.
“It’s Liehkwon and Copshed again.”
Lehnair sat up on the edge of his bed. “Can we fire them this time?” He already knew the answer, but firing someone, anyone, would have made him feel more in control.
“Nope. You know headquarters won’t send replacement workers out to non-profitable factories.”
“Yeah, I know,” Lehnair sighed as he stood up and walked towards the door. “Open,” he spoke out, waving his lower-right hand next to the door handle. “Oh right,” Lehnair reminded himself, “I’m buried under an ocean in a sinking junk heap.”
He grabbed the handle and pulled it back until the latch released and the door folded open. Not far down the hall, two purple-skins were flailing at each other with all four arms. Their upper arms would knock the other purple-skin into the wall, while their lower arms would hit or scratch at anything they could reach.
Junk was now strewn throughout the hallway from the confrontation and several sections of wall had been torn open. With his large upper arms, Lehnair grabbed a thick metal pipe through one of the damaged areas and ripped it out of the infrastructure, causing a large burst of steam to come pouring out.
Approaching the chaos through the cheering crowd, Lehnair offered a brief, but nearly silent warning, “stop.” Then, with a single swing, Lehnair wrapped the pipe across Liehkwon’s head, knocking him out cold. Copshed staggered to regain his balance and stared in disbelief as several gaping MorgangEtters stepped back in silence. Lehnair smiled, and then, with another swing of the metal pipe, Copshed fell to the ground next to Liehkwon.
“Make ‘em work double shifts after they wake up,” Lehnair addressed the remaining crowd as he surveyed his handy work. He shuffled back to his room as every eye in the hallway followed him in shock. “Oh, and clean up this mess,” he added as he tossed the metal cylinder over his shoulder and closed the door behind himself.
Lehnair knew he couldn’t turn this factory around like he had done with the last one. He had chosen the last one because he knew it was already on its way back to making a profit. He had another option though, one he had been holding onto for the right time. Breaking up that fight was going to draw a lot of attention, so today would have to be the day he’d share it with the Directorate. It was good timing anyway, as his current Director would give credit to employees for their ideas. Most importantly though, he would let the rest of the governing Directorate know about the employee if their idea was amazing enough – and this one certainly was. So amazing in fact, that it couldn’t fail. It wouldn’t turn this particular factory around, nor the hundreds of others across the universe, but it would make the company vastly more profitable as a whole. Even more so than when they had first started using MorgangEtters for hard labor.
The screen was dark and silent, and Lehnair was trying not to fidget, but his bottom-right hand trembled as he raised it off the table and tapped his middle finger to his thumb. The screen lit up, displaying the words, “Contacting Director Omnitym at MEFIRST HQ. Please Hold.” Lehnair took in a deep breath and then slowly exhaled.
“What? Over here? Oh! This old thing?” Lehnair could hear the Director’s voice through the glowing screen. “Oh, hello there Lehnair!” The Director spoke as his picture appeared in place of the text. “Sorry about that. I haven’t used one of these old communication booths in forever!”
“Yes sir. I’m sorry about the inconvenience, but as you know, our factory is substantially out-dated,” Lehnair replied cynically.
“Well, what can I do for you today?”
“I wanted to show you something I’ve been working on. A, uh, new design.”
“What was that? A new design you said?”
“Yes,” Lehnair shouted out so the Director could hear him.
“Oh, oh please, transmit it on over then!”
Lehnair took a couple pieces of old cloth out from under his bed and put them into a bright red envelope. Most of the pieces had burnt corners and were covered with black residue, but the writing on them was still legible. Only one piece was completely clean, the one that Lehnair had written himself. He placed the envelope on top of a shiny black square resting on his nightstand and then placed a small triangular crystal beside the package. The crystal snapped into place as the envelope hovered up over the device. The shiny black surface emitted a faint green glow as the envelope spun around, shrinking down into the glassy darkness.
With a pop, the envelope appeared in front of the Director and fell on his lap. “Oh! That scared me!” he mumbled out as if no one else were listening. “I thought you were out-of-date with technology there?”
“We are. The MeDai is mine.”
“A MeDai? Wait, you’re a MeDai?”
“It’s a long story sir. If you would please look at the documents I sent you, I think you’ll be pleased.”
“Well, certainly. Anything for a MeDai.” The Director tore open the envelope and pulled out the blackened papers. “Yes… Yes! This is good,” he spoke with excitement as he flipped through the pieces.
“Thank you sir, I’ve been working quite hard on that.”
“Yes, well, this is certainly good news. I haven’t seen anything like this since right before that decompression at our tertiary mining factory a couple years ago.”
“You, you mean someone else showed you this, uh I mean, a similar idea already?” Lehnair’s fidgeting was getting worse.
“Well, yes! Almost identical to this as I recall, but the explosion occurred before the manager could finish giving us a full explanation of his design.”
“Oh, well, uh, you see…”
“I’m just glad someone else had the brains to come up with it again! Where did you learn so much about Earthlings?”
“Well, uh, it’s a hobby of mine.”
“Simply amazing! But yes, from what I understand, Earth would be perfect for this!”
“It will be sir, I’m sure of it.”
“I think you just came up with the greatest idea this company has ever had Lehnair! We may need to transfer you to company headquarters to oversee the manufacturing process behind your design.”
“I would be honored sir.”
The Director continued flipping through the pieces of cloth as Lehnair tapped his middle finger to his thumb, turning off the communication. With a long, drawn out sigh, Lehnair whispered, “thanks Klibold.”
…on to Chapter 9 Breakout