The Nipple Factory (part 1 of 3)
Major Sheila Patton strode through the warehouse passing between aisle upon aisle of assorted crates stamped with governmental symbols from the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marines. Although she wore standard issue combat boots, she moved silently as she made her way to her office at the front of the warehouse. The equipment she passed ranged from clothing supplies and MRE's; meals ready to eat, all the way to crates of various weapons and ammo. Top security was required for her warehouse.
At six feet tall and sharply dressed in her fatigues, with her green ball cap tucked into the belt at her back, her military bearing was unmistakable. The crisply ironed outfit was formfitting and showed her athletic body to perfection. Her pant legs were bloused into the boots and she had rolled up her sleeves to the appropriate 2 inch-wide cuffs. Her raven colored hair was pulled back into a bun at the base of her head. She wore her sunglasses regardless of being inside, or out.
Carrying a clipboard of the detailed shipping documents from yesterday's cargo drop, she had already begun the processing in and sorting of the crates when her radio crackled with noise.
"Major, we ahhh seem to have a...a?a shipment that I can't find the forms for."
He sounds scared. Good. It means that I don't have to re-train him. Why do they keep sending me these half-trained Labradors? At least they are housebroken for the most part. I haven't had one piss on the floor in a while. Anytime there is a problem, they call on me to fix it, then I get to chew 'em out for being morons.
Some days, I just love my job.
Hearing of another shipment's arrival, with potential problems, she noted her place on her current inspection and turned with tight precision to march over to the problem site. Never one to chitchat, or waste time, she had responded curtly and professionally with an abrupt "I am en route now, out!"
Her mind rambled with various chatter, full of complaints and petty details concerning her never-ending cataloging of information.
I will never get through this endless mountain of forms that cross my desk. Every time someone wants anything from a roll of toilet paper to an F14 Tomcat, I have to slave through the damned forms from hell. Gotta love the military; we have forms for everything imaginable. You want a haircut; you got to fill in a C2635 in duplicate and a K13 in triplicate. You broke a Blackhawk Chopper and need a new one? You need to have an MS166 in quadruplicate, a DF7629 in quadruplicate and don't forget the XJ188673, just for luck. Why hasn't the DOD heard of email?
Her sixteen years served in the armed forces had provided her with the top-most professional management skills training available in the world. When it came to problems, she was a full, take-charge frontal attack kind of soldier. But the military, only taught her the How-To's of completing a mission, not the Why-For's. And after sixteen years, she had begun to question the Why-For's. Her career, although stellar, was beginning to frustrate the hell out of her.
She arrived at the scene of the delivery and noted it had been forklifted off the truck onto the compound. She practically growled at the Master Sergeant as she ripped the tight band of saran at the top of the palate and extracted a transmittal form. He stood at attention and avoided her gaze.
She looked the full pallet over, noting the 14 huge boxes were saran wrapped together. The transmittal she had in her hand, stated that the 14 boxes, were to be delivered to some other address. The particular address showing was right down the road. Sheila found it peculiar, knowing full well that place had been closed for over a year now. The contents of the crates were clearly stated on the bill of lading. Baby bottle attachments otherwise called 'replacement nipples' times 100,000 was listed.
Do you think anyone would notice him missing? I could kill him in one of 27 different ways and stuff his remains into a crate and ship it to Kazakhstan to be opened at the FREEZING OF HELL! I wonder just what the hell is in?"
Using her trusty Bowie knife, she sliced through the saran wrap, opened a box, and took out a handful of its contents.
She fought down an embarrassing blush and girded her mental loins, then thrust the handful of tan-colored rubber baby bottle nipples into the sergeant's face.
"Do these look like anything that would belong to THE U.S. MILITARY, SERGEANT?"
"Ahhh, no Ma'am."
"Then why the hell did you allow them to be unloaded? Do we look like a Babies-R-Us Store?"
"Ahh, no Ma'am."
"THEN WHY DO I HAVE 100,000 OF THESE," she raised her voice dramatically, waving the handful of nipples in his face, "TAKING UP SPACE! IN MY WAREHOUSE! SERGEANT?"
I'll dismiss the idiot before he can answer idiotically and force me to kill him. I don't have time for a court martial. Damnit! Now, I have to fix this damn mess and get rid of those?those?Thingies. Maybe I can make someone wet themselves by the end of the day. Master Sergeant Moron, looks and acts like a good candidate.
As she stalked toward her office, Sheila turned to move toward the other three men standing on the docking area. She loved the way everyone cleared out of the way, diving and skittering behind every possible defensive piece of equipment in the area.
Maybe that rumor about shooting my assistant back in 83' is still roaming around. Lord, these men are wuss material from a dollar store. No wonder, I'm still a virgin and happy about it.
Sitting at her desk, she grumbled and huffed until she took a few deep breaths to calm her temper. She dialed the company who had made the shipment to her dock.
"Babies 1st Nipple, this is Candy; how can I help you?" said the sickeningly saccharine voice on the other end of the line.
Sheila looked at the receiver in disdain. "Yes, this is Major Patton from the Fort Walton, Supply Depot. I seem to have received a shipment from your factory that was not ordered by us."
"Really? Can I ask what product you received?"
"Ahh well, no, you can't; suffice to say 'THEY' were not ordered."
"Well, Major Pratton, I can't really transfer you to the right department if I don't know what product you have."
"That's Major Patton, P-A-T-T-O-N and OK, fine, I received a shipment of baby bottle attachments. I would like this problem rectified ASAP, Ma'am." You can't make me say the word. I WILL NOT, say the word. I can't help it; just thinking of the word makes me flush bright red and stutter like a 14 year-old boy with his daddy's porno mags.
"Nipples? You were sent a shipment of nipples? This is the fourth time this week, someone received nipples that weren't ordered. I will transfer you to our accounting department. They will straighten out this mess." The line was suddenly ringing again on their end.
"Babies 1st Nipple, accounting department, Betty speaking!"
As she flexed her head left and right to hear a satisfying pop take place, Sheila restated the obvious. "Yes, ma'am. This is Major Patton from the Fort Walton, Supply Depot. I have received a shipment of baby bottle attachments from your factory that we did not order."
I am in hell. How the hell can you run a company like this? You need to shove an M80 up their Asses to get them to do anything.
"Thank you for this information, Major Portal. What is your account number?"
Sheila rolled her eyes heavenward. Please, Lord, strike me down and save me from this agony.
"That's Major Patton, P-A-T-T?oh forget it. I don't have an account with your company. This shipment was received in error at our loading dock. Can I please speak to your shipping department?"
Betty said 'certainly', probably ecstatic at not to have to deal with the growling bear of a woman. The phone rang again in Sheila's ear.
"Shipping, this is Davy, it's your dime!" Sheila's eyebrows rose into her hairline, as she listened to this smart-ass kid answer the phone.
"This is Major Patton from the Fort Walton, Supply Depot. I have received a shipment of baby bottle attachments from your factory that we did not order. I need to have these picked up right away."
A hand abruptly covered the phone and Sheila listened to a muffled conversation.
"Charlie? Where the hell did you drop that pallet?"
"The freakn order is from?yeah, I know?but they ordered the crap!"
"Some Major from the depot."
"You should have just brought it back!"
"I'll just transfer her to?yeah?she can deal with it!"
Sheila suddenly heard ringing again as she was transferred. The brief struggle to maintain her cursing out loud was for naught. As a vulgar phrase, something about sexual gratification with a donkey, she had learned in Saigon from a street hooker, rolled smoothly off her lips into the now pregnant pause at the other end of the telephone. Sheila winced as she heard deep breathing.
"Hello? I'm sorry to keep you waiting. This is Bobbi Dellicroix. How may I help you? Said a sexy, sultry voice, pouring through the phone line like a 12 year old whiskey. The hint of a French accent was noticeable as Sheila heard the name roll out fluently.
Sheila swallowed against the sudden dryness in her mouth and sat up straighter in her chair.
"Ahh, this is Major Patton from Fort Walton. We have a shipment here from your company that we did not order. I have been transferred to various people, none of whom seem to want to help me. I need this shipment gone and I want you to do it."
"Did you speak with shipping; they are the ones who handle this sort of thing."
"I did speak to shipping and they transferred me to you."
"I'm sorry, Major Patton. I seem to be having some problems with my shipping department lately." Sheila heard the phone move and a rustling along with a quickly spoken 'Merde'.
Sheila listened to a low groan and then a thump and more cursing.
"Dammit all to hell! Vache stupide!" Deep out-of-breath breathing into the phone receiver had Sheila concerned.
"Ms. Dellicroix, are you all right? Is something wrong?"
"Non, Pardon moi! I mean pardon me! I am having a condition." Her velvet voice rose in pitch with the explanation. The musical French trill was beautiful and yet filled with frustration, or anger. Sheila frowned and tried to understand. Shaking her head, she just pushed it aside to get back to the heart of the matter.
"What can we do to get this shipment returned? I cannot have a stray pallet sitting on the dock. Especially with 'THESE' things, content wise."
Sheila didn't want to mention that her retarded battalion personnel would consider the breast look-alike thingies as fair game for crude jokes and possible ammo to play with. She could just see it now. Stray baby bottle squirt gun covers. Ewwww! "Can one of your people come pick it up?"
The rousing French timbre asked Sheila to 'attente' as the phone was set down. The sound of a one-sided conversation took place as Sheila listened to the distant speaking.
"Davy, can vous schedule une pickup for les militaries. The package was delivered inexactement. Ummm, but?Davy. Non? But, I have asked you to do this. You must!" Sheila heard a pause, it was quiet and then, the phone was slammed down hard. Sheila winced.
"Hommes! Une telle arrogance et stupidité!" The French woman began an obviously angry tirade. Sheila didn't understand much, but she knew that something was wrong. She heard the phone being jostled as it was picked up.
"My apologies Major. I am in a condition. My men are telling me non. The problem is unforgivable." Her explanation was confusing and continued on with a few French terms that Sheila felt were possible curse words. As she listened to the broken tones of Ms. Dellicroix, she suddenly heard a sniffle.
"Ms. Dellicroix? Are you all right?" Sheila listened harder.
"Non! I am with condition and am not? mon dieu. My docteur is no here. I am not possible to work?" The voice trailed as Sheila listened in growing horror to the distant sounds of sobbing.
I have served ops team leader at the AT Commando division Echo squadron, 8th Battalion, Infantry, an M-72 light anti-armor weapon (LAW) specialist for my hummer team, black belts in the study of Ju Jitsu, Akido, and Tae Kwan Do and yet?I can not handle a woman's tears. I never could; just ask any of my 11 sisters. Even through the phone line, it's making me sweat. Please make her stop.
Panic ensued on Sheila's side of the phone. She jumped up with the receiver in her hand and began frantically pacing.
"Please Ms. Dellacroix, don't cry. Bobbi? Oh, my God. Please stop crying!"
The length of the cord reached it's maximum limit the minute as she reached the corner of her desk and jerked loose of it's connection. The phone went tumbling off the surface even as Sheila looked at the dangling, broken cord in her hand, both amazed and horrified at being disconnected.
Holy crap! I hung up on her! Of all the stupid things to do! Of all the pond scum in the world, I am the scummiest, if that is even a word.
Sheila stared blankly at the receiver in her hand before launching into action and plugging the phone line back into its socket. She replaced the receiver and picked it back up. Dialing the number of the factory listed on the invoice, she once again heard the voice from hell.
"Babies 1st Nipple, this is Candy; how can I help you?" The saccharine dripped off the tones with rolling waves of syrupy sickness.
Sheila began to worry that she would ever be connected to Bobbi again as she got transferred twice more before the phone rang over and over. Being patient with military stubbornness, she waited it out.
I am beginning to think, that the whole company is a corporate conspiracy. You know one of those shell companies that are great ways to avoid taxes and legalities. This cannot be normal; even a civilian should know better. Poor Bobbi. No wonder she snapped.
A sniffling voice finally picked up the line.
"Allo?" Bobbi's now even more husky tones had Sheila shivering with instant goose bumps. She stood at attention, while listening to the phone not even realizing her actions.
"Major Sheila Patton, ma'am. I am so sorry for causing you any problems. I..." Sheila was at a loss. Her military, hard-ass attitude was put in check. An extremely rare occurrence in her life, she was suddenly stricken with the inability to think under duress.
"Non, non, Major Patton. It is my problem. I am, how do you say, most apology." Bobbi sniffed again, causing Sheila to feel lower than a snake's belly. "I have no idea what to do. You still have the shipment on ze pallet, yes?"
"I, Ahhhhhhh, Ummmmm? YES MA'AM, I do indeed have a full pallet load of your ummmm rubber bottle 'Thingies'."
"Major Patton, I would send a truck out to pick them up, but all my drivers are unavailable for the next few days, or so the shipping department is telling me. Is there any chance I could ummm?'recruit' you to bring my nipples back to me?"
Sheila paused before she answered, her thoughts in turmoil. I wonder what she looks like? Crap, what the hell do I do now? Oh hell, I can feel my face burning away with a now constant blush. Why am I shaking, I didn't shake in Iraq? Why do I feel all nervous? I survived HALO training with the TOP from hell and never broke a sweat. I even survived childhood, with 11 sisters and 3 brothers. My stomach is churning and I think I'm gonna puke. Why does she have to say that 'N' word like that? Soooo??? like they are her anatomical 'Thingies' we're discussing.
A voice saying 'allo' broke through her ridiculous musings and she stared at the phone blankly for a moment to remember what she was doing. Forgetting her anal tendency to be a perfectionist in uniform, she did something that was totally out of character. She played dumb and winced at how lame sounding it was, when it came out.
"I'm sorry? Must have a bad connection; could you repeat the question please?" Sheila asked, trying to sound as innocent as possible while she enjoyed the sound of the strange woman's compelling voice.
"Well, I was wondering if you would be so kind as to return my nipples to me? I don't have any drivers available in the next few days to pick ze nipples up and well, we are L'usine de mamelon."
Mammal what? Sheila listened fascinated at the French words, but frowned with the conflict. She had a pallet load of 'Thingies' that are useless and taking up space in her warehouse. She decided to bite the bullet and take them over herself.
"I do believe that can be arranged ma'am. I will have that delivery arriving by?" Sheila checked her diving watch and calculated the driving time. She could skip lunch and take them over to the factory. It was only one town over off the highway. "?1500 hours at the latest, ma'am." Sheila hung up the phone after listening to a delighted laugh that made her skin tingle.
She grabbed a nearby forklift and drove it out to the loading dock to grab the pallet and load it onto a nearby 5-ton truck. She snickered at the lone pallet, sitting in the back of the huge Army vehicle. If her commander ever got the balls to say anything to her about it, she just might get into trouble. Sheila rolled her eyes at the thought of her commander and his pansy ass.
I wonder if he still lives with his Momma? He stutters and can't even eat without dropping it all over his uniform and he is always spilling coffee on himself. But then again, it may have something to do with his little conversation with Lucy, my trusty Bowie knife. I'm a good soldier and respect my superiors, but he is not my superior in any way, shape, or form. He only got his commission because his Momma works at the Pentagon and has more stars than Orion. He decided to throw his weight around causing problems that I had to fix, so Lucy and I set down the laws in no uncertain terms. Besides, I wear the pants in this man's army.
By 1200 hours, she was on the road. A swiftly created D4 298-4c form had been printed up and the delivery itinerary was a valid drop. Of course, the Major was not usually the driver, but?she had made some concessions on this one. The D4 298-4c had 'TOP Secret', printed on it's cover sheet. Sheila carried her handgun and her assault rifle, as only TOP Secret clearance allowed. She wanted it to look official, after all.
Besides, no one is gonna mess with a TOP secret delivery.
Arriving at the warehouse, she wondered at the six delivery trucks still parked in front of the five available delivery bays. She shrugged and professionally backed the 5-ton up to the unloading dock honking the big truck's horn. Five minutes later, another short blast of the horn and five minutes after that, she added a longer blast as she continued to watch for the delivery warehouse door to open. She watched at least for someone to arrive outside via the fire door nearby. Sheila sat in the silence for the whole ten minutes. No movement and no personnel had responded to her arrival. She decided some reconnaissance was in order.
Before leaving the cab of her truck, she slung the M-16 over her shoulder and quickly checked the safety on her two weapons. The small snap clip of her bowie knife was secured as well. She jumped down from the cab and walked over to the fire door.
A test of the doorknob and she was easily pulling the door open. Her concern at the security risk had her quirking an eyebrow and frowning. She moved into the short hallway of the warehouse and mentally cataloged the three nearby small offices full of high-end computer equipment as empty and unsecured, their doors standing wide open. She wondered at the company ethics as she neared the larger warehouse environment.
Before she entered the warehouse through the swinging double door, she heard the sound of a boom box, that was blaring out a rap song, coming from the areas interior.
You call that music?? That should be governed by the Geneva Convention and possibly listed as cruel and unusual punishment. We coulda won WWII, without dropping the Fatboy, with that crap. Maybe I should suggest it to Colonel Bryant; he's always looking for new methods to torture his SEALS with in training.
She quietly pushed open the swinging door of the warehouse and took a swift glance around the large room. Her eyes narrowed into slits of anger.
Three men sat playing cards at one table over on the south end. Just next to the warehouse door, where her truck was sitting on the other side. They were smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. Another man was sleeping in a hammock that was strung up and connected between two huge tire racks. The racks filled with tires, were obviously available for the delivery trucks that she'd noticed, while sitting outside. Another man was reading a magazine of some sort over at a circular station, which housed the security monitors for the other 4 bays. She watched as he opened up a fold out and turned the magazine so it was vertical, whistling at the displayed picture.
Sheila recognized slackers when she saw them and grew full of anger.
I HATE slackers! Waste of space and perfectly good oxygen. These guys are walking, talking billboards for conscription and compulsory national service.
Sheila took one more minute to strategize, and then she unholstered her pistol and shot the boom box dead.
Oh yeah! That felt goooooood. This is going to feel even better. Time to go to work Lucy. Is it wrong that my favorite person is a Bowie knife? Lucy, we got some 'splaining to do!
The sudden quiet in the hangar had no effect on her as she moved swiftly over to the hammock and dumped out the dazed and rocking form that was halfway, sitting up. She turned just as quickly and flung her Bowie through the air toward the 3 men sitting at the card table. A solid 'thunk' of embedded blade had one man taking the Lord's name in vain as the three men sat staring at Lucy sticking out of the nearby warehouse door button.
The warehouse door began to rise with the Bowie commanding it to open.
Sheila shook her head at the man who had dropped the magazine.
"Don't make me do anything to Ms. February. That would be a hell of a waste."
The man swiftly put his hands in the air in surrender.
Sheila kicked the stunned man on the floor and told him to get his worthless butt over by the other three. She motioned for the magazine man to move over there too. Her handgun had been re-holstered, but the men were clearly aware of the open flap dangling freely at her side.
She moved over toward the group of men and fearlessly walked between them all to jerk the embedded Bowie out of the now cracked button. Each one of the men stepped back a pace, as she headed toward them with Lucy in her hand.
"I am Major Patton. And I am seriously troubled by what I have experienced today. I have never seen such complete incompetence, and that in itself is incredible. You boys are all in serious trouble now."
She started to hear a pathetic whining from one of the card playing men, as well as an excuse-filled entreaty from magazine man, but it was instantly silenced as she lifted Lucy and began to clean her fingernails. Her steel blue eyes focused in on each man standing before her and held him accountable for all of his transgressions, either real, or imagined. It was a trick she had learned in the academy, when she took 'Intimidating The Peon 101', a very interesting class to say the least. Luckily, she'd made someone cry during her final and had passed the course with 100%. Thank goodness her course instructor had been a wimp.
Sheila swiftly sent the two individuals that were the farthest away from her to get a forklift and unload the pallet. They turned and ran, flying into action to escape her. She regarded them for a few extra moments noting which direction one of them headed to retrieve the forklift and how the other quickly started to lower the manual tailgate on the huge truck.
She turned back to Mr. Napthedayaway and told him to go get some fresh coffee made and bring the pot in, putting it on round table. She pointed to the circular desk, knowing it was the hub of the warehouse. He raced off swiftly into another bay.
The last two remaining men trembled as she regarded them carefully.
"Who is the paper guy?" She calmly inquired. Mr. Magazine, sensing a weakness, tried for bravado.
"How do you know that it wasn't one of those three guys?" Sheila had her answer and noticed the silent man relax. Sheila looked over, met his silence and nudged her head toward the two men that were now starting to unload the pallet. He turned to help them instantly.
Mr. Magazine frowned at her response and shivered as her ice-cold eyes turned back to him. Sheila had instantly recognized the voice as the one belonging to Davy, the shipping department phone voice she'd heard earlier. Ole' Davy, was doomed to die an early death.
"Well, that was easy!" She commented stepping forward slightly to be closer to Davy boy. He looked at her, his frown deepening.
"What was easy?" he grumbled. She chuckled as she watched his confusion grow. Deciding that she would rather finish this portion of the Major Patton indoctrination quickly, she answered his question.
"The analysis of your operation here can be broken down quickly. Sleeping beauty was the youngest of the group. The card sharks who are numbers, 1 and 2, were speaking Spanish together, but neither, spoke English very well, which left card shark number 3 and you!" Sheila poked him in the chest as she moved in, so that they were standing toe to toe. It helped that she was three inches taller than him, 40 pounds heavier in sheer muscle and was carrying loaded weapons and also, the one other fact that he suddenly realized, she didn't really need weapons. The look on her face alone was enough to have him clenching his ass cheeks and hoping the worst didn't happen.
"Since card shark number 3 had the brains to figure out when to keep quiet, I figured that he was not the talker here. That narrows it down to only one conclusion." Sheila flipped out Lucy and twirled it gracefully between their bodies. His eyes opened wide as he noted how close the razor sharp blade was flashing in front of his fly.
"You are the paper guy for this company and I want to see the papers." His eyes, which were glued to the flashing blade, never moved as he mumbled a reply.
The blade stopped, pointing in the wrong direction for Davy. His gaze rose quickly to meet hers as the sweat began beading on his forehead. She grinned a feral grin. He swallowed.
"All of them, Davy boy?all of them." Davy didn't even struggle to figure out how she knew his name. He was feeling an inner panic grow at the thought of someone actually going through his shipment paperwork. He thought of the serious gaps involved in his last two months of paperwork. He braved the intensity of her gaze and the direction of Lucy and blustered denial with his response.
"You can't see my paperwork. That's private company business! It's against policy."
Sheila gave him credit for a few moments of bravery, right up until he whimpered at the small tip of the Bowie knife poking him under the chin. She invaded his space and bumped her ball cap rim against his forehead.
"I do not think that you're in any position to resist my authority here, Slacker. Get your lazy ass over to that desk and start running some reports from that computer, ASAP. Don't make me bring Ms. Dellacroix, the policy maker, down here to prove just how wrong you actually are.
Oh shit, shit, shit, I'm a dead man. I think I'm gonna wet myself. Oh God, I haven't done that since the 9th grade, poor Davy thought to himself. The guys over at the dock studiously stopped working and stared. Their thoughts displayed by the drool at the corners of their mouths.
¡Ululación una qué mujer, tan resistente, tan macho! ¿Dónde puedo conseguir uno? thought Fernando from the forklift. His upbringing in a small Mexican town of 'Guapo Ass' kicked in. He mentally tried to translate his Spanish to English to ask the guys later. 'Wow! What a woman. Where can I buy one?'
Juan was in awe of her knife skills. ¿Ella realmente lanzó ese cuchillo?? Ella es quizá hermana de Rambo. 'Did she really throw that knife? Is she Rambo's sister?'
The pricking needle of the sharp object beneath Davy's chin disappeared, along with his last remaining speck of courage and dignity. He caved like the proverbial loser he really was. She nudged him toward the counter and he practically jumped into the console to start bringing up reports. Ben, the youngster of the group, returned and set up a coffee pot; the strong aroma of java quickly permeated the area.
The three guys unloading the pallet made short work of it and tentatively came back into the area.
"Senorita, the box. Se hace! It es done." Sheila looked over at the three men.
"Name?" she quirked a sharp eyebrow upward with the command.
"Charlie," Mr. Silence stated clearly as her gaze fell on him after scanning through the three men.
"Fernando, you and Juan are on loading detail. Charlie, you're deliveryman as of this moment. You and Ben will ride together to complete the shipments. Sheila looked everyone over and turned to Davy. "You're in charge of getting this mess cleaned up and getting back to running a shipping department. I will be here until it's done right." She stated calmly, watching Davy pale at the Bowie knife that flashed out and began twirling again. He nodded and bent to the task of creating reports again.
Sheila tossed Charlie the keys to her 5-ton and ordered him to move it into a shady spot.
"Load up a delivery for today. You still have?" she glanced at her watch, surprised she had only been in the area for thirty minutes, "?three hours of day shift to cover. I expect delivery to start in less than an hour. Davy will give you the pick list, so you can begin loading the trucks." She abruptly turned away and headed toward the other four empty warehouse bays that were down the far hallway.
As she marched through the four warehouses and followed the hall, she heard the sound of a huge industrial fan. She stopped at a sliding metal doorway as she eyed the brick walls to both sides. The warmth from inside was floating in the air. She didn't have to assume that this was the factory where the 'thingies' were in production as she stood before two doors reading multiple cautions and warning signs for entrance. The entrance beyond was sterile. Nylon booties must be worn. Sheila read a few of the signs before she reached over and slid the door open a few feet, entered, then pushed it back closed. A highly ludicrous safety committee had bombarded the entryway with way too much additional information. Posted warning signs and safety posters splattered the walls and plastic drapes cutting off the production floor from where she stood. Material Safety Data Sheet's (MSDS's) for many products used on the floor were tacked onto the corkboards to both left and right of the entry. Small wooden cube shelves were available to leave your belongings in. Watches, ball caps, jewelry were just a few of the items listed to be removed. Masks were provided to be used for the presence of chemicals and fumes that might lurk in the air, although 60,000btu fans were cycling air throughout. Everyone was ordered to follow Operational Safety and health guidelines while moving about on the floor.
Sheila looked in through the plastic drapes to see a well-lit factory area with visible employees wearing ear protection, facemasks, gloves, and nylon pink booties. She swiftly grabbed the ear protectors placed inside some cubed storage boxes to the left of the door. A nearby dispenser gave her a thin looking surgical mask to wear. The heat floating in the air had breathing behind a mask twice as hard. The sweat on her face soaked the small cloth in seconds. The pink booties barely stretched over her combat boots.
A distant memory of an episode of Laverne and Shirley tickled her thoughts as she eyed the conveyor belts moving haphazardly around the room. Shameel, shamazal, pot in rep in corperated!
Looking for the main exit on the other side she walked through the factory, slowly, taking a good look at the process. She winced in commiseration as she watched tray after molding tray of baby bottle nipples float along a trolley into a heating area spraying sterilization chemicals over them. The comparison of bottle nipple to breast nipple was too surreal. Watching for a moment she absently rubbed her palm down her chest to verify that the appendages were still present. She followed the heated trays coming out the other side and watched as the rubber tipped pert cups were moved along jiggling as they hardened in the cooler air outside the heat oven.
Absurdly, Sheila caught herself whistling the Jello Theme song. Watch it wiggle; see it jiggle?Jello mound gelitan. She shivered at the obvious destructive thoughts of her beloved jello and looked away from the passing trays.
As she moved she read the signs. 'Warning! CRANE CROSSING.' An amber light circled around warning of automated factory equipment moving from one end of a conveyer line to another. 'DO NOT TURN VALVE OVER 90 degrees' said a sign, hand written in black indelible ink up the slope of a pipe. 'STOP, DROP, ROLL,' was the instructions for putting out a fire on your person.
Sheila rounded a mess of metal that was cranking out tray after tray of substance and found herself near some not so automated employees. The three women running the cooking factory line were absorbed in their tasks of inspection and seemed unaware of her presence. The plant air system drowned out any noise her combat boots would ever dare to make.
Sheila watched on the far side of the conveyor belt, as globs of rubber substance in batch groups of 100 were spooged out onto cooking sheets. She watched the trays move down the trolley as the inverted molds formed the specific shape. It was truly ingenious and fascinating to watch. The women checked each tray and marked off the numbers from the tray corner as they inspected and made notes.
Sheila narrowed her eyes but could see nothing directly amiss. She moved on toward the exit. She had a mission to accomplish.
Seeing a doublewide doorway along the far eastern wall, she headed onward, and exited the huge space to enter the office area. Stripping off the booties and mask she readjusted her guns and belt. As she strode down this obvious office hallway she ignored the voices she heard within the small rooms. She moved with confidence until she reached the end of the hallway. Trying to decide if she wanted to turn left or right, she hesitated. Looking behind her, she caught four heads peeking out of their office doorways to watch her. She unsnapped Lucy's sheath causing all four heads to disappear simultaneously. She smiled. Well, she bared her teeth anyway.
God, I love this knife!
Is there anyone in this god-forsaken place that does ANY work? It needs some serious discipline and I am just the Major to do it. I will have this place running shipshape, even if I have to maim, kill, or torture every last one of them.
Sheila felt a slight urge to turn left and simply followed her instincts. She marched down the smaller hallway until she came into an empty secretarial office. The mahogany wood of the desk and fresh, crisp, computer cover currently protecting the monitor, conveyed a sense of a position that was not currently filled. The empty feeling of the position was abundantly clear. Sheila cocked her head as she heard a noise coming from behind the office doors further along the hallway.
She moved to the door and hesitated. Her gun swung off her shoulder and she frowned when it tapped the door.
"Who's there? What do you want? Please go away!!!" A rich voice stated all in one rush of breath. Whoever it was sounded stressed and tired, along with scared. Sheila turned the knob after recognizing the tone of voice from the phone.
"Ms. Dellicroix? Bobbi? Is that you? It's Major Patton from the Fort Walton warehouse."
She pulled the door open and looked for the owner of the voice that gave her goose bumps. She frowned, when she didn't immediately find the occupant.
She moved into the entryway and was immediately surprised by the inner recesses of the office. It was not an office. It was a loft. Instead of business furniture, there was the equivalent of an apartment room with a vaulted ceiling, multiple spinning lighting fans running down the center of the ceiling, art and photos adorning the stucco walls and the complete arena of living room/ bedroom furniture placed strategically throughout the large one-room living space. A flushing noise from a smaller door across the room had Sheila's eyebrows arching into her hairline. Two room, she mentally corrected herself.
As she continued her curious perusal around the home, her frown turned into a scowl. The bed was not made and pillows of all sizes were strewn at the head and foot of the strangely low-leveled mattress. The brass headboard seemed to be detached and tilted, leaning against the wall. She noted a small kitchenette area in the far left corner and wondered at the immense pile of dishes in the sink.
The couch of the living room was a curving piece of solid maroon matching one of the decorative pictures of what seemed to be a overly bright large Norman Rockwell portrait of the Rosie the Riveter cover from Saturday Evening Post that rested above the small portable fire place. Both ends of a Maroon colored couch were covered in stacks of draped clothes. The coffee table nearby was obscured by stack upon stack of all kinds of paperback and hardbound books piled dangerously high and leaning on one another.
Sheila heard a low moan from the partially opened bathroom door. Her frown deepened, as she wondered if Ms. Dellicroix needed rescuing. Before she could take a step closer a woman emerged from the small doorway.
Sheila immediately noticed two things. One, the woman was small in height with a mass of bright red hair hanging down all over her head. Two, she had the biggest pregnant belly sticking out from her that Sheila had ever witnessed. Instantly thinking back, she realized she had never really seen a pregnant woman up close. Without hesitation, she stripped the side arm off her belt and flung the M-16 off her shoulder to stow them at the foot of a nearby hat rack. She turned to face the little woman again and found herself colliding with the most beautiful green eyes. Their long sweeping lashes and deepest emerald held her gaze. She would have stood there forever if she hadn't noticed the wincing of the woman's facial features as a pain struck her.
Sheila's eyes widened in panic and she took a quick ten steps over to help the pregnant woman into a chair.
"Are you supposed to be up? What do you need? Can I call a doctor for you?" Sheila pushed out one question after another. The green eyes looked up at her and blinked.
I will not panic. I will not panic. I can fix this, I can fix anything.
"You do not work here! Who are you?" Sheila recognized the French accent immediately and shivered in reaction to the sultry sounds. She would have swallowed her gum if she had been chewing any.
Continued in Part 2