Amelie Brekhart's nose wrinkled, disgusted with the rickety staging ramp leading up to the pipe's 4 foot wide black hole.
"I knew the Starfleet 679 airships were ghetto, but this is ridiculous." She said to herself.
The 679 looked like a giant ocean cruise ship with wings. The top levels still had windows for cabins but doubled in a collision reduction frame. That way the ship could handle the pressures of outer space. She was in dock at the Centra space station for minor repairs and maintenance. From the cabin levels to the machinery rooms, and the recreated atmospheric City, the 679 was in overhaul. Amelie worked on the 23rd floor where the engines were surrounded by monstrous steam pipes, pumps and valves.
The engine room pipes were painted red but topped with gray dust from long exposure to failed ventilation shafts and floating skin debris.
Gross. She thought, as she climbed down the ladder into the space. Her black pony tail swung from the gap between her hardhat and the head strap that ratcheted tight.
The incandescent lighting in the space was accentuated by a flood lamp pointed at the black hole at the end of the open pipe.
David Arnand came around from behind the 20 foot steam plant. He walked over the air propulsion piping that snaked its way around the ship. His hardhat was tilted because it was too big for his head. He was a weasel of a man, all skin and bone with beady eyes.
"What's wrong, Amelie? Can't get your big behind up to the main steam cover?"
He heard what she said. It was written all over his slimy sinister smile.
She glared at him. She hated this guy from a previous job they did together.
"It's sloppy, like you set it up in a rush. The blue cleanliness tarp is sagging, not to mention the gangway is 1 foot 10 inches wide. That's too narrow to stand side by side. We can't line up the cover with the bolt holes."
"Yeah yeah. Stop your belly-aching. You got fall protection gear on anyway." He spat.
Amelie was a fair skinned, black haired woman. Standing 5'9" and not a frail thing but not rotund either, she could hold her own in a fight. Let's just say, her biceps were strong but her hips could kill.
When David spoke so arrogantly, so, so, machismo- all she could see was red.
"I still need to stand on something, Dumbass! The staging is only good for 130lbs per square foot. How heavy do you think that cover plate is, Arnand?"
She didn't wait for a reply.
"Its 350lbs and I am 160lbs, which makes the 4 foot by 4 foot plate maxed out. It's resting on the staging that I can't stand on. If I fall through because of your poor communication skills, I'm going to ring your neck! Now, I have to straddle the staging, just to get the cover plate in the air." She yelled.
Her red face made Arnand pause but didn't stop him from talking back. She tuned him out.
It was hard working for the Starfleet as a female. They only want the strongest, fastest men. Sadly, the fastest talkers weasel in too. Amelie had to show them what she's made of. With no delay, she got to work, even while Arnand continued to berate her. She skipped the ramp and climbed into the overhead piping to set her pick points.
"So, you complain about the ramp and then don't even use it?" David's squeezed his hands into balled fists. "If I stand up by the hole, I can receive the cover plate while you do, whatever it is you're doing."
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a tall, dark haired man come down the ladder and stand next to Arnand.
Oh great. Another boy scout to hate on me.
She scooped up her gear over her shoulder.
"If you stand there like an idiot, you'll be under the load. By the time it's lined up for your part, I'll have to stand there and hold it for you."
"And?" He spat.
She deftly clipped her harness around a square stock of metal framing and stepped onto the ledge of the 4x4 foot main propulsion steam pipe.
"And- if I'm gunna stand in front of the hole, I should do the whole thing and not put you in a dangerous position." She said.
Amelie swung a hydraulic cylinder hoist off her shoulder and clipped the hook onto her shackled anchor pad she made.
"Terry- you hear this crap?" Arnand asked his buddy.
Amelie grimaced. Yeah Terry. You hear your boy mouthing off? What a couple of jackasses. She thought.
Terry stood at 6 foot with his legs wide, feet splayed apart, and with his beefy arms across his chest. His deep baritone voice rang louder in her ears than the hiss of the hydraulic hoist.
"She's got a point even if it's a stupid one. You screwed the setup, David. Improvise."
Uncoiling the 20 feet of chain, she gently lowered it smack-dab centered in front of the pipe.
David Arnand, always playing the victim, said, "She's more of an asshole than you are, Terry!"
Her second pick was directly over the cover plate on the gangway. The transition from deck to pipe would happen as it drifted in the air between the two hoists.
"So she outsmarted you. And you gave up." Terry retorted.
"No! She wants to do everything her way. So I let her."
Amelie stopped the hoists.
The silence was palpable.
The guys watched her as she rappelled down the side of the steam pipe to the gangway, and straddled the section with the cover. She could rest her left foot on a secondary pipe and her right foot balanced on top of a hand wheel.
"He's lying." She said.
"I can see that. What's your point?" Terry said.
The hoist chain's hook was attached to the anchor pad on the cover plate. She pulled the long ropes connected to the hoist trigger to pick up the plate, from lying flat, to a vertical. Slowly, she lifted the plate into the air. With one hand, she held the cover steady from spinning, and the other pulled the hoist's trigger rope.
"So David," Terry said, "she's aligning your steam plant cover plate without any prior inspections. What are you going to do about it?" He had a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
"I tried!" He whined.
She bit her lip to stop herself from screaming in rage. Deep breath...two...three. She stopped drifting the plate.
Her head snapped around to stare down her accuser.
Terry was a tall, workman's muscular Spaniard with a goatee.
Her long black bangs slipped loose from her ponytail and feathered across her vision but nothing could stop her piercing gold eyes. She was laser focused.
"David ordered staging that was too small for more than one person at a time and too low capacity for the work to be done correctly. He..."
"So!-" Terry's voice boomed in the empty space.
"You took charge, knowing exactly how to rig the cover. But do you also know how to attach guide rods and gaskets before bolting it in place?" He echoed across the engine room. When he flexed his chest muscles and swung his arms, she couldn't think straight.
"Are you qualified to do steam-plant cleanliness? Do you know the process for inspections? What's your name, Miss?"
He thinks he's so damn smart. I'll make him wait. She thought.
Amelie finished her drift and tied off her hoists, now that the cover plate was in front of the 4 foot black hole. She climbed down to sit on the staging, before her right foot could give out on the loose hand wheel.
His green hazel eyes were gorgeous and never left her face. She locked eyes with him while walking halfway down the staging. She wondered where his eyes were when her ass was in the air climbing over the piping?
My, how confident he is! Let's see if he's a good leader or just a name with a sexy face.
She sat down and flipped her ponytail over her shoulder then fixed him with a glare.
"No, I'm not steam plant qualified, but I know the process. The name's Amelie Brekhart and don't forget it." She said.
"Oh, I don't forget anything, Miss Brekhart." He said.
Did he have a twinkle in his eye when he said that? What did he mean by 'anything'? She thought. He was talking about my ass!
He crossed his arms again. Flexing his biceps.
"My name is Terry Jones. I am the lead mechanic for the Starfleet's machinists, and if you mind your P's and Q's, I'll instruct you how to install that cover plate."
Even if he's right, he's such an ass. She thought.
"This is so stupid!" David whined. "That's my job!"
Terry stared him down until David looked physically ill and hung his head low.
"I'm taking charge of this job, and since it requires a strong rigger to move that plate, I suggest you try not to stand in her way. You already fucked up on the setup, so how can I expect you to finish the job safely?"
David puffed up his chest and grabbed his bag, handing it off to Terry.
"Whatever. I'm out."
He tried to stomp off, out of the space, but got turned around. And, 10 seconds later, David had to come back and trudge up the ladder. Totally embarrassing.
"What a mess." Amelie said, as David left.
"Are you done gloating, so we can get back to work?" Terry asked.
She got up and dusted herself off.
"I knew old men had to sleep more but they still need to get here on time." She said. She knew he was smart enough to pick up that her meaning was about him.
Terry stared her down with those smoking green hazel eyes. If he was trying to intimidate her, it only made her horny.
He must of seen something because suddenly he ran over and jumped 5 feet up onto the staging behind her.
That was hot.
"Did you hear what I said?"
"Hmm? Nope, I was waiting for your Ego to sit on the back burner. You were saying?" She asked with a false innocence.
She still didn't hear him because she was taking in all the details of his face. He had very Spaniard features almost Mediterranean with dark brown almost black hair, cropped shorter on the sides and longer on top. She could tell because the bangs poked out from underneath his hard hat. He had a heavy brow and strong nose with a thinner top lip to his thicker bottom lip. He had a neatly trimmed goatee, with his square jaw accentuated by his cleanly shaven cheeks. Those glowing green eyes were outlined by a shadowy halo either from ancestry or lack of sleep. He looked wild, dominant and masculine.
She blinked and lurched back as she felt his hand gently on her cheek.
"Sorry! You surprised me." She said.
He smiled a wicked grin that made his eyes shine like emeralds.
"Gotcha. Are you ready for me to show you how this works?" He asked.
"Yes, Sir." She said. Wait, why did I say Sir?!?
"Okay. Head up to the plate and hold it steady. I'll come around you with the gasket and hold it in place."
She got up to the plate and held it firmly with both hands. She heard his heavy boots drop to the deck and he grab something with metallic scraping. Then he walked back up the gangway to stand right behind her.
She could feel his warmth, he was standing so close.
"Crouch down Amelie, so I can reach over you and slide this gasket between the pipe and the cover." He said.
Oh. She crouched down.
He leaned over her and clicked on a pocket flashlight. His body blocked the flood light with his massive shoulders as he slid some kind of metal ring down the gap between the cover and the hole. He took two metal guide rods and twisted them into the bolt holes at the ten and two o-clock.
"Okay, now push the plate onto the rods so I can get a nut on the face of it."
Alright now he's messing with me. She thought to herself. I'll show him. Two can play at this game.
She pushed the 350 lb plate by hand and as it swung on the hoist chains, she carefully lined up the holes with the guide rods he put in.
"Okay, nut in the face." She said.
He dropped two metal nuts right after she said that. They rang on the pipes as they fell into the belly of the ship.
"Ahem, I got more for that exact reason." He said, as he dug for more in his bag.
"For what reason, exactly?" She asked. "Being a klutz, Mr. Mechanic?"
Amelie looked up at him with a smile. She was glad she wore red lipstick today. It always made her feel sexier and her lips seemed bigger.
He looked down at her with a straight deadpan expression.
"No, for having slippery fingers, my dear. They're so fast, they sweat."
"Ahuh. Well, Badass, can you put your nuts on already? My arms are getting tired." She said.
Which was true, she was getting tired and she didn't want to be seen panting in front of this guy. Already he knows she thinks he's hot.
Which means she lost two advantages: knowing more about the job, and staying a step ahead on controlling the flirting.
She didn't mind flirting at work but when they know you're into them; they expect more than words.
Terry put the nuts on the rods and she was able to relax her tension on the plate. They were almost done with the job, and in good time. He added more rods and nuts to the bottom and as he was screwing them on, she felt something hard pressing against her back.
She slipped backwards, out from between his spread legs.
He paused his wrenches when she moved.
"You good?" He asked.
"Yep. Just getting out of a tightening situation." She said. Gawd, I've resorted to puns. Ugh!
He chuckled and continued tightening down the bolts.
"I guess my screwing around got you all tied up."
She smirked and grabbed a section of the slack chain and pulled it around his waist. She leaned in close and whispered in his ear with a sultry voice.
"Speaking of, I'm going to take back my rigging."
"Yes, Miss Amelie. Anytime you want to crawl over me is A-okay by me."