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Union Candy (part 2)

Joe Spivey's picture
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The day after Finny’s birthday there was a perpetual crowd of orphans gathered around as Finny, wearing some of her new clothes, proudly demonstrated opening the vault, taking out the big jar of candy, putting it back and then closing the door. Every phase of the process accompanied by a little collective gasp of amazement and jealous awe. This was all much to the amusement of the vaults’ normal clientele. Bank officer Montenegro allowed this to go on for about an hour before summoning Finny over and having a quiet word in her ear. It didn’t matter, though, the funk Finny had been in since the reading group’s doomed adventure to Hope Springs was well and truly lifted. Her grin didn’t fade for days, even at work.

In the weeks that followed, the novelty of having her own vault did eventually wear off. Finny transferred her modest savings to the vault, along with her ‘ninja’ suit and the amazing goggles. A lot of her new clothes and Silja’s ring followed because they simply wouldn’t all fit in her lock box and she was worried that a box full of expensive clothes might just disappear anyway. However, even though she had seen other vault owners just getting changed right there out in the open, Finny decided that wasn’t for her. Instead, she picked what she was going to wear every evening and took it back to the orphanage where the selected items were placed flat under her mattress for a) security during the night, and b) it stopped them getting all wrinkled. On Sundays, wash-day, the ‘sniff test’ decided which items needed taking to the ablutions for a good scrubbing.

In these same weeks, Finny found herself spending less and less time making bullets because Joe was sending her out from the factory pretty much every other day. This was sometimes on heart pounding errands, carrying little parcels to a quiet rendezvous, but mainly to Aunty Wainwright’s Junk Emporium or Larry’s Pawn Shop.

At Aunty Wainwright’s, Finny learned that the old lady used to be a Tech in a place called Chem Town, somewhere Finny had never heard of. Aunty started teaching her about scrap electronics and what was valuable and what wasn’t. Before long Finny knew her resistors from her capacitors and her transistors from her computer chips and developed a good idea what each was worth. Aunty also had Finny painstakingly (the pain coming from a wrap across the knuckles with a knitting needle if she messed up) removing components from burnt out printed circuit boards. If she wasn’t doing that, she was winding new coils for refurbished electric motors, or cleaning up commutators and bedding in carbon brushes. All of which was delicate work and suited to Finny’s dextrous fingers and skills learned making bullets for Joe.

At Larry’s Pawn Shop, Mr. Moise taught her the rudiments of pawn brokering and extended her knowledge of hallmarking and assaying. She quickly also learned how to tell paste gems from the real thing. In all these tasks, the loupe Mr. Moise had given her on her previous visit came in most handy. But Finny’s absolute favourite thing about working in the pawn shop was the jewellery.

The front of Mr. Moise’s shop was all steel cages and cameras to protect the various display cases and other expensive stuff. But when Mr. Moise took Finny through to what she thought was just the back room (it did have a sink and a bed and a table in it after all), Finny discovered that the whole room, and the cellar below it, was actually one huge steel-walled vault.

Mr. Moise’s workshops were downstairs and this was where he crafted just the most exquisite items in silver, gold and beautiful gemstones… and Finny got to try on tiaras and necklaces and bracelets and broaches and, and… and it was Finny’s idea of heaven. Not that she would ever admit that, which Mr. Moise found most amusing.

Finny did some work down there, too. After assaying several items of equal quality but which were beyond repair, or sometimes simply of dodgy legal ownership, Finny learned how to melt them down in a crucible at just the right temperature to prevent the composition of the metal from changing. Then she would pour the molten precious metal into an ingot mould and lo, untraceable crafting components at very reasonable prices. It also didn’t go unnoticed by Finny that a lot of these ingots ended up being stamped ‘Spivey’s Independent Traders’.

So, while the rest of the reading group were doing fractions and learning the difference between verbs and adjectives, Finny was learning all kinds of fun stuff. Always at the back of her mind, though, as she was sorting diodes or grading diamonds, was the question of why? But to be honest, Finny was having too much fun in her rapidly changing life to pay that question much notice for now.

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Blog | by Dr. Radut