“And who are you?”
The bounty hunter glowered at her from where she slouched in her chair, legs flopping out wide like an abandoned rag doll.
“Um, Damsey,” the defector said. “Damsey Lemonwax.”
“What kind of name is Damsey?” The bounty hunter’s partner asked gruffly, even though as his eyes flitted back to his friend, Damsey recognized a spark of hope in the purple irises — he wanted to impress this woman.
“Short for Damselfly,” Damsey sputtered. “M’parents were lunatic hippies who never once thought what a name like Damselfly could do to a woman trying to gain respect on a factory line.
Memories of Coop, Wren and Bernard played in her peripheral vision like old movie clips projected on the walls — how they’d used a black marker to fix her name tag on her first day. Some of the more senior workers were mean sonofabitches, Wren had said, and the less she gave them to pick on, the better off Damsey would be.
Truth was, it was never going to be her name that made her notorious in the factory. Cursed with Diligence, Damsey couldn’t help but work five times faster than any other mechanic on the floor, first resetting tooling kits, then screwing on wiring spacers, then wiring entire fuselages. She was one of four other employees who had the unseen talents that having the set of magical gifts that Diligence brought: fast hands, perfect working rhythm, an eye that caught and brain that fixed what few defects she made.
Coop begged her to pull back, to coast. He said she was only going to make things harder on herself if the managers noticed. But Diligence doesn’t defer, and the more Damsey tried to slow down so she could blend in with the other workers, the more it seemed her “Gift” made itself known.
Of course, once management recognized that they had yet another worker with Diligence, they fired the other three electrical mechanics and made her work her line alone — with a mere $3-an-hour bump in pay.
“It’s really unfair,” she sighed into a stale turkey sandwich one day at lunch.
“Tell that to the three people you got fired,” growled Bernard, who had long since stopped being her friend, if he ever was to begin with. “I’m sure they find it unfair, too. Last I heard, Porcupine Cubbins was seen sitting with an upturned hat outside The Union, busking for change with that shitty ukulele of his.”
The word union bounced around Damsey’s head for a bit before it implanted itself in her brain.
“A union isn’t a bad idea,” she said quietly, knowing that the managers liked to walk around the lunchroom specifically to squash any talk of organizing. “If we got everyone to unionize, we could get better pay, better benefits. Make them hire more people. Just because the four of us have Diligence doesn’t mean we should be doing the brunt of the work without better pay. And we could use our strength to get everyone else better comp and conditions, too. You saw Margaret’s foot yesterday after that accident.”
“Gnarly,” Wren agreed, face twisting almost as grotesquely as Margaret’s toes. “But what if no one joins us? We’re not exactly the favorites of the factory. They let go Bob’s best friend and his sister-in-law because of me.”
“That’ll be part of our conditions,” Damsey said. “We’ll make them rehire the people they let go at twice the rate. Otherwise we’ll stop working.”
Damsey never got that far, though. The first informational meeting for their closest friends on the factory floor went without a hitch — 29 people crammed into the back room at McGowan’s to hear what the Diligents had to say. But something happened in between that first meeting and the first day they planned to picket the drive before their shift, and Damsey had gotten pulled into the managers’ office and given a stern warning.
She didn’t heed it. She didn’t heed the next one, either. Turns out that Diligence didn’t just make her fast at her job. It also made her stubbornly committed to her cause.
“So that’s how your hand got broken?” The bounty hunter nodded to her bubblegum pink cast.
“Yeah,” Damsey shrugged. “Something like that.” She tugged the sleeve of her blue jumpsuit as far over the cast as she could. Coop had signed it with his one good hand before they went their separate ways, as far away from the factory as possible.
“Well, kid,” the bounty hunter’s friend shrugged.
“Don’t call me ‘kid,'” Damsey snapped, a reflex from her factory line days.
“Jeez, sorry,” he said. “You in with us or not? We could use someone with your, er, expertise.”
“Depends,” Damsey said, wiggling the one left finger that still worked. “What’s the pay?”