The light was gloomy, the air filled with ash and the ground was vibrating ever so slightly. And I wasn’t even halfway towards the factory yet. It was this hellscape I had to keep unbroken, our society depended on it. Now anyway, granddad would tell me stories of how difficult yet simple life was when he was a young boy. Since the machines came, a huge spike in unemployment forced the king to take action, and action he took: Machines in general may only be used with approval, and steam machines in general may only be used in the two royal manufactures, and on farmlands. This would ensure that we wouldn’t burn up all the trees we had so far, yet also ensure a level of agricultural yields that was necessary to sustain the capital city, especially now that unemployed from the entire country had come here to ask for help.
I finally arrived at the pounding heart of productivity. My apprentice already was waiting for me. He had been keeping the machines running all night and looked appropriately tired, but also scared.
— Good morning, Johso, I greeted him, — is anything wrong?
— Yes, master! Machine number five broke just after you left, I don’t know what happened!
— Did you turn it off?
— Yes, of course, immediately!
— Alright. Let’s see what may be the problem.
I went over to the machine, Johso following me by my side at first, then slowly trailing behind. The rotator, basically a hamster wheel for rocks and stuff, had left it’s usual position and gone on an adventure towards machine number 9, spilling its contents along the way. I rolled my eyes and went to the control panel to confirm my suspicion.
— Say, Johso, do you see anything wrong with these controls?
— No, master.
— There is something wrong with them which I told you on your second day.
— What is… oh no.
— Tell me what it is.
— The rotation rate was set to eleven.
— Correct. Who set it to eleven?
— … I did.
— Why did you do it?
— Because I thought the process would be faster if…
— And why did you have that thought?
— What? I don’t know, I just wanted it to be better, I guess.
— No, because you were bored on your night shift.
— Yes, master.
— What should you do now?
— Clean it up, master.
— Almost. Help me get the rotator back in place, then get some sleep. I don’t want you to sleepwalk into the fire pit at some point.
And thus, another working day began. I secretly was glad for Johso’s mistake, because now I could finally sort out some kinks in machine 5 that had annoyed me for weeks now, but which hadn’t scheduled maintenance for another half a year. When my boss, the royal something something inspector whose title I never could quite remember, came in sometime in the afternoon, he might have noticed machine five running quieter than usual, but would never have guessed anything wrong had happened. For that, he’d need to wait for the parts it manufactured to be put together, and in the months it took to get through the pile, they’d catch up to it. If not on eleven, then on ten.