The Banshee, Chapter 13

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Francis' workshop was on the south side of Block 3, embedded into the canyon wall. It had originally been a shed attached to Block 1 after the ARCH had been moved, but as demand on the workshop increased with the ARCH's expansion, the location was shifted to something more convenient. Although the move predated the start of tunneling as the ARCH's replacement, its location proved to be more convenient, being closer to the tunnel's entrance and exit. As usual, the doors were closed, a precaution Francis had required for safety; most assumed it was because he wanted to keep things from being stolen.

Dawn pounded on the door several times. A small slit shlicked open and a pair of eyes appeared. “Let me in, Phil,” said Dawn.

“What's the password?” Phil asked.

“For fuck's sake,” Dawn grumbled. “Let me in or I'll put your nuts in the forge?”

Phil started to whine. “You know Francis wants pass—“

“Francis isn't going to be getting anything,” she shrilled through the slot, “if he doesn't open this door!” The door unlocked a moment later.

“Dammit, Francis!” Dawn said loudly as she entered the workshop. It was one of the larger rooms, filled with equipment that allowed fabrication and maintenance of tools and parts that kept the ARCH standing. The room was nearly thirty feet high, the walls were filled with shelves and racks that supported the remaining raw materials, sorted by their composition. A set of workbenches sat in the middle of the room. In one corner, there was a small pile of wood, much of it small sticks scrounged from outside. Longer poles of various lengths, mostly bent, stood in the opposite corner, next to another stand of metal pipes. Sheets of metal scrounged from abandoned stores and warehouses, buildings, including several from vehicles were organized into a rack, next to a huge cabinet of well-used plastic trays, containing nuts and bolts arranged by size and thread count. Against the far wall were a hand-powered grinding wheel, a human-powered bandsaw, and a smelter that needed no less than four people to operate. All were in use, adding to the heat and noise. Everything was covered in layers of red-brown dust from rock and corroded metal.

“Francis?” Dawn called out. There was no response. “Francis!” She went over to a door towards the back of the workshop. It was, as usual, locked. “Phil!”

“Yeah?” Phil had returned to his job, assembling shoring for the tunnels.

“Where's Francis?”

Phil shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno, he went off with Carl for something.”

Dawn shook her head as she walked over to Phil. “And you didn't think to mention that when I came in?”

“I thought maybe he came back?” It wasn't a question so much as ‘please don't hit me'.

“You guys made some electrical wire. Where is it?”

“Storeroom?” Phil shrugged again. Dawn marched back to the door at the back of the shop and started to unlock it. “Hey, uh, Dawn? Francis doesn't want anyone—“

“I need wire,” Dawn explained annoyedly. She flung the door open and went in. The room was large, easily twenty feet on a side, filled with makeshift shelving, the shelving filled with boxes, tools, smaller supplies, bolts, and things awaiting use, including rough spools of wiring. Dawn spied one immediately and inspected it. “Hmm. We'll have to twist that too much.” She spied another one a bit further back, dismissing it immediately as being the same. “Phil! Where's the heavy wire?”

Phil, still outside the door, glancing constantly over his shoulder, pointed to another part of the shelving. “Over there,” he said, then adding more quietly: “Next to those boxes.”

Dawn went to the shelf and tried to pull out a heavy bundle of wire. The boxes that Phil had quietly indicated were enough in the way that she had to try to push them out of the way. Refusing to budge, she called again: “Phil! Gimme a hand!” Phil looked as if he were about to be eaten by a lion. “C'mon!”

“I, uh, Francis doesn't want—“

“Do you like eating, Phil? Are you hungry?”

“Well, yeah…?”

“The lights are off in the greenhouse. No lights, no food. I need this wire to get the lights back on, now get your ass in here!” Phil slunk into the room and quickly bolted his way to Dawn. They each took a grip on a wooden box and heaved it off the shelf and onto the floor with a loud clinking. Dawn looked down at the box, the top covered with an old rag. “Honestly, you guys should just melt that crap and get us some more tools,” she muttered, hauling the wire bundle out.

“We, uh, should put this back. Francis doesn't like things—“

“I know, I know!” Dawn spat. “I married the twit, remember?” The box back in its place, Dawn heaved up the wire and made for the door. She got about halfway through when she snapped her fingers. “Cutters. Damn. And insulation. Bars. I can't carry all of this. Phil!” Phil cringed. “Gimme a hand.”



“Are you sure?” asked Jo as she shone the light as far up the cable run as she could. “There's nothing else up there?”

“There'd better not be, or this will be a really short…,” Dawn stopped herself, “I nearly punned that, didn't I? If we missed something, there'll be one helluva bang.” She took the crank-light from Jo and looked up again. “Donner, did you see anything else that looked disconnected?”

Donner was just outside the door, still brushing dust and cobwebs from his hair and clothes. “I don't know if anything up there was wrong,” he said through a cough, “but I didn't see any loose wires.”

“Here's hoping then,” said Dawn, going over to the master switch. She primed it three times, then took hold of the switch. “Hold onto your butts.” She pulled the arm down to a satisfyingly solid clunk. There was the briefest hint of ozone. Dawn looked around. “Well, that's a good sign. Jo, flip the first breaker.”

Jo reached out to the breaker, one of a few remaining original ones. She flicked it with a gritty chunk. The light came on in the breaker room. “Also a good sign. Turn on the others?”

“Yeah,” said Dawn, starting to pick up all the tools and debris. Another chunk was followed moments later by distant cheers. “I think this'll hold, at least for now.” Chunk. “With any luck, no-one's hotwired anything into the lines.” Chunk. “Which reminds me, how much of that wire is left?” Click. “Jo?” Dawn turned to see Jo seizing, her hand in a death grip on the metal railing that formed the room's interior. “JO!” Dawn dove for the master switch and slammed it off. There was a disgruntled bang followed by disgruntled cries as the lights went out again. “JO!” Dawn leaped at Jo, who stumbled and fell to her knees. Dawn grabbed Jo by her shoulders. “Jo! Jo, can you hear me?” Jo's eyes wandered, neither focusing or locking onto anything. “DONNER!”

Donner was already in the room from the screaming. “What happened?”

“Get Kelly, quick!” Dawn ordered. Donner was already halfway out of the room and raced down the hallway. “Jo, c'mon, don't you dare leave me.” Dawn shook Jo lightly. The light on the floor cast ghastly shadows across Jo's face and onto the ceiling. Dawn reached for Jo's neck and felt around for a pulse. Her fingers moved between the carotids on either side of Jo's neck, hoping a new position would find something.

Jo emitted a tightly withheld whisper that could have passed for someone letting the air out of a rubber balloon by pulling the valve tight, except when heard from across a field. Jo slumped forward onto Dawn, who carefully guided her friend to the floor.

“No, no, no no no no no!” Dawn tapped Jo on the face, at first lightly, then with more desperate strokes. Jo steadfastly refused to respond. “Jo!!” Dawn felt for breath, held Jo's wrists, listened to her chest. Everything was silent. She quickly got up on her knees, laid one hand over the other with her heel into Jo's sternum, and started pumping rapidly, counting under her breath. She then bent down, clamped Jo's nose shut, propped her mouth open while tilting back her head, and clamping her lips over Jo's mouth, blew hard twice. Dawn went back to chest compression, repeating her strokes. “You are not dying on me, you bitch!” Jo's hand spasmed and latched onto Dawn's arm. Dawn stopped and bent over. “Jo? Jo! Can you hear me??” Jo's eyes found Dawn and pleaded. “What? Can you breathe?” The faintest of shakes of Jo's head was all Dawn needed, and rolled Jo on her side and smacked her back with the flat of her hand. Jo coughed, wheezed, and drew in a painful breath on her own. The wheezing continued for several breaths as Dawn rubbed her friends' back. “Jesus!”

“Lord… vain…, “gasped Jo.

“Whatever, you're alive.”

“Called… me… bitch…”

“Takes one to know one,” Dawn's voice shook almost as much as her hands.

“As usual, you're wasting my time,” said Kelly, getting to her feet, unplugging the stethoscope from her ears. “You're fine.” Her shadow bled into the void of the darkened hallway.

“She damn near died, Kelly!” Dawn retorted, kneeling next to Jo.

“And she would have, if it weren't for you!” said Kelly. She looked to Jo, who was propped against the hallway wall. “I'm going to give this to you as being lucky, by the way. If you were alone, you'd be dead.”

“Would it feel less painful?” Jo muttered, trying not to rub her sternum. “How long until the tingling goes away?” She flexed her hands and tapped her fingers.

“How many volts did she get?” Kelly asked.

“Not sure,” said Dawn. “We don't exactly have standardized electricity. And something definitely went wrong in there. One-ten wouldn't have jolted Jo that badly.”

“Take it easy for a day,” said Kelly. “And I mean that, Jo. Seriously.”

“Lo se, lo se,” Jo held up her hand to stave off Kelly's nagging. “I promise, nothing serious.”

“And keep thanking her,” Kelly pointed at Dawn as headed into the darkness. She had only gone two steps when the lights snapped back on. “Good, I hate climbing those damned stairs in the dark.”

“You find it?” Dawn called into the breaker room.

“I think so,” Donner replied. “It wasn't easy looking with a lantern.”

“Just be glad that one still works. Any idea what happened?”

“I think we accidentally wired two lines together.”

Dawn threw her head back. “Dammit! Junior mistake!” she admonished herself. “Look for any others!”

“I did. I'm just checking before I throw the rest of the switches.”

“Be careful!”

“If I didn't know any better,” Jo coughed, “I'd say you like him.”

“I just don't want to make you run to get Kelly before he dies,” said Dawn. She rolled over and slumped against the wall next to Jo. “I'm really sorry. I can't believe I made that mistake—“

Jo gripped Dawn's hand, though not particularly firmly. “No hay problema, hermana. If I had a penny for every mistake I've made, we could rebuild the ARCH out of copper.”

“I nearly killed you!” Dawn protested.

“Tell your husband you avenged him for all the times I've called him ‘Frank'.”

“Bitch,” Dawn replied.




Dawn dug her arm under Jo and pulled her close. “Just promise me one thing: you won't leave.”

“Hermana, the banshee herself couldn't drag me away.” Dawn hugged Jo tightly. “However,” Jo grunted, “you might kill me first if you don't stop squeezing me so hard.”

The cheers subsided after a few moments as the last chunk announced the restoration of power. The distant moaning howl resumed its position as the dominant sound. “That should do it,” said Donner.

“At least until the next breaker blows,” said Jo. She stood unsteadily. “Let's hope that's after we get everyone into tunnels and we have to take all of this apart.”

“I wish we could change the lock on this door,” said Dawn, shooing Donner from the breaker room and locking the door behind him.

“Would it matter?” asked Donner. “None of those lines had any rating and I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to link up so many breakers on a single circuit like that.”

Dawn looked at Jo. “Is he always such a know-it-all?” she asked.

“Fits right in, doesn't he?” said Jo with a wink at Donner.

“If you don't need me anymore, I'll go back … to …” Dawn chewed on a lip for a moment and looked back at the breaker room door. “I wonder how many other circuits could use an overhaul?”

“You know Carl's going to be hunting for you now that all the lights are on,” said Jo. “You can't hide from him for long. He'll just go through your husband.”

Dawn sighed. “Yeah, I know. Ugh. Back to the blackboards.”

“Thanks again, Dawn. The help was definitely needed,” said Jo.

“You could have done without the jolt,” said Dawn.

“Well, it's been too long since I had a cup of coffee. A thousand volts can't be too far off, right?” Jo smirked. “Besides, I got the rest of the day off, now.”

Donner looked confused. “Er, does that mean I go back to general labor?”

“Nope,” smiled Jo. “You get to turn the drill crank.”