Serial Saturday #2.2: The Power Converter
"How can you have the job you have and be afraid of heights?"
"Shut up, Andry. What are you even doing here, anyway?"
"This power converter feeds two of my largest berths and I want to see which cheap ass corporation made it so I can never do business with them ever again."
The elevator rattled to a halt and Sarah clutched at the side to steady herself. "Why the hell do they put these things down here?"
"That's easy," Andry said. "If we have to do major work, we can get maintenance rigs down here and if there's a fire, it's easier to contain." He extended a hand to her. "Come on."
Sarah took a deep breath. He guided her out of the elevator to the railing of the gantry. They both reached down and clipped the carabiners attached to their safety harnesses onto the railing.
It had been a week since the walkway collapse and the power converter underneath Maromokotro was still causing problems. The anti-gravity fields generated by the city acted as a filter for any sulfuric acid clouds and bent the winds away but- Sarah's grip tightened on the rail- there was nothing between her and the surface of Venus fair below.
"Excellent," Andry said.
"They sent Renato. He's the best I've got."
"Oh good, is he fast too?"
"When he has to be." Andry stepped around Sarah and started down the gantry toward the maintenance crew. "Hey what's up with Annika? She hasn't checked my caffeine intake for a week now."
"Oh," Sarah kept her gaze focused on the maintenance crew just ahead of them. "She broke up with her boyfriend. She's crashing at my place for a few days."
"Pah! I can't keep u with all her boyfriends." They reached the maintenance crew and a man stepped forward to greet them, his left cheek a mass of scars.
"Bom dia," Andry said.
"Bom dia, chefe, senhora."
"We know where the problem is yet?" Andry asked.
"Sim, chefe." Renato reached up and prised open a control panel. He pointed at the logo on the inside of the panel.
Andry shook his head. "Ikhompyutha Corporation." He turned his head and spat in contempt. "Substandard Zulu junk."
As if it had heard him, the power converter surged to life and spat out a harsh crackle of noise that made them all flinch. The maintenance crew stepped back and Renato began tapping madly on the panel as the crackling noise became louder and morphed into a keening wail. Renato cursed, "It's overloading, chefe," he shouted. "Let me see if I can-"
A blast of energy caught Renato square in the chest and flung him over the edge of the gantry, snapping his safety tether. Sarah screamed in horror as he fell. His body was flung about like a rag doll as the anti-grav fields caught it and then he vanished into the clouds.
Then silence fell like a thunderclap and she heard herself shouting, "Launch the rescue boats!"
"Belay that," Andry said, sharply.
"He's already dead."
"We could recover the-"
"No," Andry said. "Renato was a good man, but he knew the risks."
"He knew the risks?" Sarah was horrified. "You can't-"
Andry walked to the far end of the gantry, away from the repair crew and after a moment, Sarah followed him. As she walked up to him, she was astonished to see him wipe away a tear.
"Andry-" she didn't know what to say.
"He fought at Beira. He lost everything when they invaded Mozambique. He would drink too much and talk about the evacuation. The burning ships. The refugees crowding the beaches." Andry turned to face her. "He came here to build a new life for himself, Sarah. He was willing to give his life for that idea because-"
"He knew the risks," Sarah finished.
"Yes," Andry said. He glanced back over her shoulder at the crew at the far end of the gantry before lowering his voice. "You need to talk with the gendarmes."
"Someone took out the walkway last week and now the power converter?"
Sarah's eyes widened and she realized what he was implying. "Sabotage?"
"We have to rule it out," Andry said. "There was no reason for the converter to overload like that."