Title: Industrial Evolution
Description: Suvarna Solo
OvaltinePatrol - August 12, 2011 10:34 PM (GMT)
The brick-makers of Brick looked once more at the woman in white. She'd recently entered town leading a brahmin on a line, and had spent much of the day walking around...well, sashaying around, the work site; peering at the workers from behind her veil. There had been a catcall or two shouted her way on the first day, but most of the workers didn't want to scare off a potential customer; most assumed Foley, Ramirez, or one of the other muckity-mucks would see to her soon enough. Sure enough; after several hours, one of Foley's henchmen ambled up to her, hat in hand. Part of his assumed the stark white outfit and imperious posture represented great wealth and power, as it was intended to; despite the more humble reality.
"Ma'am, you here for bricks?"
"I'm here regarding bricks, yes. Are you in charge here?"
"Ah no ma'am, that'd be hizzoner; Mayor Foley."
Suvarna looked at the man, secretly smiling at the sight of him turning his hat in circles between his hands, wringing the edge. Then she locked eyes with him "I'll speak with him then."
"I can take care of any purchase orders ma'am."
"Yes, I'm sure you could. I'll speak to Mayor Foley now."
The henchman was beginning to get over his initial sense of awe and was getting mildly annoyed; but he knew better than to make a big fuss. He had a feeling that she might have some kind of major business with Foley. "Okay sure, I think he'll talk to you. Just follow me."
OvaltinePatrol - August 13, 2011 01:30 AM (GMT)
Foley's home was the height of dusty, impoverished, wasteland splendor; Suvarna decided. She noted that it had all definitely benefited from a woman's touch: the way the tin plates were arrayed on a shelf like heirloom china or how the fission battery that powered the lonely electric light was hidden behind an Andean poncho hanging on the wall. She had been left in this entry room for just over a minute when the unnamed toady came back.
"Right this way."
The slight man returned and led her into the next room, separated from the first by a cloth sheet on a cut-off shower rod. A man she took to be the mayor was sitting at the kitchen table with a woman and young girl accompanying him for an early dinner. She didn't notice the more dangerous-looking man in the corner; sizing her up through heavily-lidded eyes. The ruddy-faced mayor took another bite of...some unidentifiable meat off his plate and looked at the veiled chemist with unmasked distaste.
"I don't like to deal when I can't see the other person's face. Makes me wonder what else they're hidin'."
"So then I'm your guest?"
Though oblique, Foley took Suvarna's point and made a noise that started as a snort and turned into a chuckle, before devolving back. "Ramirez, get our guest a chair. Honey, cup of water."
Suvarna nearly jolted when Ramirez turned out not to be the man who led her here, but the previously unnoticed giant, scar-faced Mexican with a big knife on his belt. She silently called out to the gods of poise however, and transitioned the motion into the parting of her veil as she took a seat at the table. She noted the reactions around the table: the wife seemed threatened, the daughter and mayor fascinated (for different reasons), and Ramirez proved to be a cipher.
"Thank you," Suvarna said as she accepted a tin cup from the re-composed wife.
"So you're here for bricks, is that right?"
"Yes," Suvarna responded before taking another sip "But there's a problem."
"Oh yes. First: I would be old and grey before your store of bricks could meet my needs. Second: your simple mud-baked bricks lack the strength to meet my needs. Finally, I can't pay in the traditional sense."
Ramirez's nostrils flared and his hand went for the handle of his knife, looking to Foley for the prompt. Foley winked and nodded his head towards the door to the entry room. Ramirez calmed down and stepped out, with Suvarna none the wiser as to that whole exchange or how close she had just come to the end.
"Those are all serious problems, the biggest one seems to be yours though. I got this real like, optimistic feeling, that you aren't here drinking my water and breathing my air to waste my time. You've got something on your mind for all of this dontcha?"
"Oh yes sir. If you're agreeable, I do believe I could increase brick's production of its namesake product by at least an order of magnitude."
"Well then I'm all ears little lady."
OvaltinePatrol - August 13, 2011 04:29 PM (GMT)
Suvarna and her host stepped outside once he had finished eating, with Ramirez close behind. Suvarna was illustrating her plan in the dirt outside the mayor's brick house. She had drawn a lozenge shape in the ground with a circle in the middle of it and a larger lozenge around it.
"It's a four hundred year-old concept, though some of the advancements are bit more current. The bricks are arranged in the trench in such a fashion that the heat passes through them freely, but there's only minimal heat loss. While it requires a greater investment of energy than...well, than the sun; it's superior to other kiln designs. The main benefit, other than superior energy efficiency, is volume. I observed your people at work; based on my observations you're paying them per bundle of ten or twenty..."
"It'd be ten," Foley said with a wry smile. He was getting curious as to where she was going with this. "I pay 'em a hide for ten."
"Ten, right," Suvarna nodded. "I didn't get an exact headcount of the town, and I'm assuming that they don't all work making bricks. So for this outline, let's assume it's thirty people. You're paying thirty hides per three hundred bricks. But that's not happening on a daily basis. The system encourages the workers to fight over mud so they can lay out more bricks more quickly, and they're sun-baking them; which can take more than a day and can lead to inconsistent temperatures based on how and where the bricks are laid out.
With this trench kiln design, assuming you could fill it to capacity; you could have fifteen thousand bricks uniformly fired in twenty-four hours. Paying out on a quota as low as ten would be absurdly generous at that point, and the workers would only fight over mud all the more. No, at this scale rather than paying on quota on bricks; you're better off paying for labor over time. Between making and loading bricks, there would be a need for all the current workers and they wouldn't have to cripple each other over mud.
In a matter of months you'd have sufficient bricks to expand the town, throw a wall around it, and have plenty to trade to Bucket Town and elsewhere."
The mayor chimed in right on the heels of her last sentence "You seem to have a lot of big ideas in your head, an' that's what's coming out: big ideas. You're getting caught up in the general stuff, I ain't seen much by way of specifics 'cept that cute drawin' on the ground."
"That's quite intentional sir. There are multiple designs based on what materials are available. Options electric and otherwise. Also," she said smiling behind her veil "The wasteland isn't known for its protection of intellectual property rights. I intend to remain vital to the project at every step. I assure you this, if you're willing to experience diminished production during construction; you'll be able to pave the future of this region: figuratively and literally."
OvaltinePatrol - August 13, 2011 06:46 PM (GMT)
The following day one of Foley's armored men extended an offer of alternate work to the brick-makers: dig for ten hours, get a hide, fifteen openings available. Though the prospect of digging seemed possibly more back-breaking than fighting over a mud pit, shaping bricks, and guarding them as they dried; it represented not only a change in pace but a major curiosity; just what was Foley's game? When the required work force was assembled they were led out to a flat plot behind the buildings of town.
The woman in white was there, directing two of Foley's other goons like she was born to do it. One was pounding a stake into the ground, it seemed to be the last in a series that dotted the landscape. The other was tying a line of twine around the stakes, outlining a strange box shape. Based on the line and stakes there appeared to be one box nestled in a larger one. The woman looked up at the shovel-wielding workers.
"Perfect. Ladies and gentlemen, please dig between those two rectangles. Six feet deep."
One of the workers followed the boundaries and shifted his weight onto another foot "Lady, that's got to be around three hun'erd feet long."
"And twenty feed wide, very astute of you to notice sir. As you can see, this is not a one day project. Depending on your needs, you might wish to encourage your fellows still making bricks to switch off with you each day. Now then, ten hours starting as soon as your shovels turn earth in there."
Requiring no further encouragement, the workers hopped the line and immediately set in with their shovels with a whoop and a holler.
OvaltinePatrol - August 13, 2011 09:20 PM (GMT)
One week into the dig and significant progress was being made. At Suvarna's instruction, some of the unearthed sand and dirt was made into a number of tightly-packed sandbags to shore up sections of the hole's walls. With further cajoling on her part, the mayor was convinced to barter for certain components from a traveling merchant; these included wire and a few pilot lights. While the diggers were working at one end, she was strategically placing the pilot lights at intervals along the walls of the dig; wiring them all together.
The first night of the following week, after supervising all day; Suvarna was resting on the cot graciously provided to her by Foley when a great weight came down all around her and a large hand came down over her mouth. Her eyes shot open in alarm and she saw Ramirez glaring down at her, knife in his free hand. "I see you leading the mayor and all those mud-scratchers around by the nose, but not me see? I ain't impressed. You been here a week, eating the boss' food, sleeping in his house, making yourself at home and all we have to show for it is a big hole in the ground. This is costing him big, and if it turns out you're full of shit, I'm going to find a way to get back all those hides he spent out of YOUR fucking hide. Don't even think of leaving town until this is done and done right. Got it?"
The big man stood up and put his knife back in its sheath. He glared down at Suvarna and wagged an index finger at her. She just glared back up at him in silent outrage, her eyes radiating supreme malice. She didn't let her eyes water until he was gone, and she rubbed her bruised flanks.
Neither Suvarna or Ramirez mentioned the incident to anyone. It took another week to complete the dig, by which time Foley was starting to express some major concerns; especially when Suvarna started requisitioning completed bricks. The digout had an island in the middle that had been left alone until now; now it was being partially dugout and a circular brick chimney was being made there. It took another week and a half and an extra shift of workers to finish the monstrosity which was actually half as tall as Foley's own home. On top of the chimney, Suvarna had rigged a crude electric fan made of scrap metal that the townsfolk has assembled to her specifications. Between supervising the workers, Suvarna kept working on the wiring aspect. Some suspected it was not her strong point or specialty; but she never seemed to be at a complete loss and she certainly never complained. After a number of imported wooden palettes were put into the floor, Suvarna finally declared the trench kiln complete.
There was some limited revelry. Even if nobody was quite sure how the thing was supposed to work, they were all glad to be done with it. After the cheering died down Foley held his arms akimbo and looked down at Suvarna "Well now what?"
"Now, mister mayor; we make the next generation of bricks and stack them in here just so. I'll gladly educate your workers as to how to do both."
OvaltinePatrol - August 14, 2011 07:05 PM (GMT)
Baking a brick in the sun typically took twenty-five days, assuming no clouds or inclement weather obscured the sun. Given the scramble to make as many bricks as possible to meet and beat the threshold, there were a lot of bricks laying around waiting to finish. Suvarna set out instructions on how to space the bricks in the trench but insisted that no bricks yet be stacked on top of the bottom layer of bricks. Instead, she led the curious townsfolk a little ways outside of town, to a sandy dip in the landscape they had long ignored.
She picked up a handful of the off-white sand and let it fall in between her gloved fingers. "Some hundred years ago or so, this was a brine lake or perhaps a shrimp farm. What's remains in the dried out bed is this natron-rich sand. We're going to dust the layers of bricks in the trench with this sand in order to glaze them during the baking. This will provide some measure of protection from acid rain and such. Perhaps that's not a problem here, but it will increase the value of these bricks in some marketplaces."
The workers started filling sacks and buckets with the white sand and hauling it back to town. Thus supplied, the brick stacking resumed; bricks carefully arranged with optimal airflow in mind and each layer topped with the white sand. When they finally put all the "green," bricks in the trench, it wasn't even at half capacity. Suvarna directed them to top them off with finished bricks and then took to the simplistic controls she had rigged for the fan and pilot lights. For fuel, a combination of debris and high-proof fermented brahmin milk was used. She activated the kiln and nodded, everyone else murmured as if they had been expecting something more dramatic.
"Those should all be ready tomorrow," she said with satisfaction.
The mayor looked at this artifice his people had built and scratched his head. "Now Miss Vishnavi, when you proposed this to me you said this could get us fifteen thousand bricks cooked a day; but that pit can easily hold a lot more than that. What's the deal?"
Suvarna nodded "If you wanted to fill it up, you could get in the neighborhood of two or three hundred thousand bricks in there. Assuming the were arrayed correctly and you had sufficient fuel, you could just run the trench kiln continuously. However, you would still only complete fifteen to twenty thousand in a day, the rest would still need to bake. The bricks are all treated uniformly with respect to heat, just...not at the same time, if that makes any sense. In any case, you'll see the results tomorrow."
The night was one of celebration to finally have the colossal, expensive project finished. The people proved quite festive and the night was filled with song. Even Ramirez seemed at ease, though he had managed to discretely let Suvarna know that her life depended on the results of the kiln. Every green brick they had was in there, if she ruined them there would be hell to pay. Suvarna had to sneer, if the threat was solely based on failure; she had nothing to worry about.
Sure enough, when the old finished bricks were removed from the top (after Suvarna warned them to let the fan expel any remaining heat), they were faced with thousands of sturdy, uniform bricks with a slight, shiny sheen that their old ones lacked. Another cheer arose and Suvarna was surrounded by the townsfolk who had lost any shred of dubiousness in the face of her results. Foley graciously shook her hand and clapped her on the back (to her concealed displeasure) and Ramirez likewise took the opportunity to shake her hand; his nod and expression was the only thing approaching an apology that Suvarna could hope to receive.
OvaltinePatrol - August 15, 2011 01:19 AM (GMT)
After the hullabaloo, Suvarna and Foley met in private; seated at either side of his kitchen table. Mrs. Foley had stayed just long enough to serve a couple of cups of water before leaving them to their business. Ramirez was in earshot of a call for help, but was also absent from the room.
"Miss Vishnavi, you've done some good work by us, I doubt you did it for a few weeks room and board. What was it that you wanted?"
You also managed to keep just enough of the process to yourself to remain indispensable he thought to himself.
Suvarna took a drink of water and cleared her throat "Quite right sir. I was quite serious when I said I would need bricks in our first meeting. I would like a building constructed to house a home and laboratory for myself. I am a chemist by trade and I have grown tired of doing most of my work on the road. I think you'll find my presence in Brick quite the boon."
((ready for judgement.))
Zilabus - August 15, 2011 04:59 AM (GMT)
"Well, It's no doubt that this new Kiln, or system, or whatever you want to call it, has increased my production. I'm already looking into hiring some outside work to help increase the digging end of the job, and, to be honest-"
He paused for a long second. Through it all, the mayor was frugal and reasonable, and there was no doubt he was gauging the worth of telling Suvarna of his recent prosperity versus the possible windfall she would expect.
"I've already sent men out to secure contracts with some bigshot running that new Stint gambling hall or whatever the hell, and with that Roy fella over at Buckettown. If it goes smoothly, we might be able to get over the sitting on Bricks and waiting to sell them to interested travellers and taking years to get supplies to sell to towns bullshit."
This time he paused again, although it seemed to be more inflective. Was he regretting a lack of expertise other then Suvarna to run the Kilm? A short second of furious thought, perhaps?
"Don't over value your own work though. The undertaking has my coffers very, very short. I had to rely on donations from some of my more, shall we say, connected allies to pay the last weeks wages, and it'll take those contracts to be stable again. I can hire out some men to build you up a house out of our old stockpile of bricks in a few days. They wouldn't be treated, but they're on hand and they could get you a smaller dwelling, a few rooms that is, quickly. If that isn't for you, I can always offer you board in an empty mudhut in town, as well. I would believe that to be fair.
OvaltinePatrol - August 15, 2011 05:21 AM (GMT)
Suvarna closed her eyes in thought for a few moments. "A compromise: I'll wait until the trench kiln reaches its intended rate of production and you're able to recoup the expense of its construction; sans any interest on any loans you might have taken out; I'm speaking strictly principal. In the meantime, I'll take you up on that unused residence."
She considered putting her (limited) medical expertise on the table, but decided against it. Chemists were not exactly common in the wasteland; but they didn't have to worry about getting shanghai'd by some desperate town nearly as much as a genuine nurse-practitioner or doctor.
Zilabus - August 15, 2011 05:45 AM (GMT)
"The hut is yours then. I had a guard watching it to avoid squatters, so you really can't miss it. It's near the edge of town, on the opposite edge of your new little building project. I can even have him hang around, if you don't mind letting him take free board in return."
An insurance policy on his new profit making tool? Again, the mayor kept his face controlled, and any hidden meaning was hard to detect.
"In time, we can put together something more to your liking if you see it fit when we have the recources. Sooner, provided I can have some luck in convincing Bucket-town to build up some defences."
The promised mudhut is yours now, as long as you wish to use it.
The Mayor's word
When the time comes, the Mayor seems to be the type to honor an agreement
+25 to local reputation
You've gotten a good start in Brick, although only time will tell if people recieve your new improvement positively.