Daniel Pedersson cursed, and swung the entrenching tool again. It went splat instead of crack, again, and he cursed some more. Not that swearing helped; he was already covered in filthy sewage slush beyond all imagination. The supply depot's jury-rigged sewer system had worked fine all summer, but now the outlet had frozen solid and the sewage had backed up all the way to the officers' latrines. Removing the blockage was a horribly filthy job, but this was the Swedish Army. There was always someone who could do with some "disciplinary measures." Ah well. Daniel had been punished before, and he probably would be again.
Not that he was entirely innocent of this current mess either, but he couldn't help feeling that it ought to be procurement officer Paal Nilsson-Loo down here clearing it up instead of him. They weren't even supposed to have a supply depot here, never mind sewers. So what if he'd helped construct this dodgy plumbing in the first place? Or that he and some other enlisted men had been a little too enthusiastic when they found the sewage was blocked, and the enlisted men's latrines were upstream of the officers'?
Nilsson-Loo had been ordered to set up a small Swedish Army procurement office for the Grantville area. The Swedes were buying so many goods and services from the booming industry there that they needed someone to sign contracts and inspect the goods, to ensure the crown always got its money's worth. He made a decent living, more than decent in fact, by skimming what he saw as his rightful share off every single deal. A bit more than what the crown might think he was entitled to, but he kept the witnesses quiet by sharing some of his questionable income with his subordinates.
Like when he decided he liked the up-time-style indoor plumbing so much that he had his men lay pipes from their fancy new latrines out to a nearby drainage ditch. Not just his own shiny porcelain throne, but the men's too, since he didn't want to smell their waste if he could help it. Now it had all gone wrong, and the Grantville authorities had gotten wind of their unauthorized plumbing. They'd declared it all to be the Swedish Army's problem, after repeatedly using the phrase "code violation." Along with other, less polite English words and phrases which Daniel could now add to his vocabulary. Other new additions were "septic tank" and "leach field." Nilsson-Loo had therefore declared it must be Daniel's problem, for not doing the job right in the first place. So while Daniel was down here in an overflowing ditch, Nilsson-Loo was probably off spending his "skimmings " on women. Or on something else Daniel didn't want to know about; there were rumors, and he worried that his boss might stain the Army's reputation one day.
Before he could employ his new skills in language and septic engineering, he had to remove all the effluent from the drainage ditch and deposit it in a more permanent location so it couldn't run off downstream to pollute the waterways. This was backbreaking, boring, seemingly endless work and he'd been at it alone all day. There had been some commotion earlier, but nobody had bothered to tell him what was going on and he couldn't leave his work to find out.
He'd just about finished hacking the frozen sewage into slush and dirty ice cubes, when a sour-looking military policeman arrived escorting a surprisingly cheery person who was carrying a number of buckets. Surprising, that is, for someone about to wade waist-deep in raw sewage with frozen crusty bits on top. Vague recognition kicked in.
We're really sorry, but this is only available to up-to-date paid subscribers.
If you're not already a subscriber you need to know that our columns and editorials are free, along with a few other items, but almost all stories and all downloads are paid only.
- The Grantville Gazette Staff