Efficiency Ratings

A science fiction story in Red Scythe by Gary Bloom

Characters: Ruddell Sled, Sadie North, Hardbarger, Malcolm Forbeck, Scott West

"Heya kid," a bleary-eyed Ruddell Sled called out, walking into the mess, "sounds like you're not going to be the only lady around here anymore."

"Uh, wait, what?" Sadie North almost dropped her coffee. She'd just finished an early morning workout, and hadn't expected anyone else to be up. "What are you talking about?"

"The new efficiency expert that he's bringing in. Would've thought you'd heard."

"No, wait, what? An efficiency expert? Efficiency for what? I don't understand! Come on Rudd, that's not going to cut it. Help me out here. Am I being replaced?"

"Nah," he shook his head, chuckling, "no one can replace you, Sadie. Don't worry yourself so much. She's supposed to save us money, run a tight ship, get things in order. You know the boss man and money. Now, if you excuse me, I need to get some caffeine in my blood. Got a long run I need to make. She'll be here soon enough."

Sadie bolted out of the mess. She needed to shower. She needed to clean up her quarters. She might need to clean up her logs. What was an efficiency expert? What was this going to mean?

* * * * *

"Everyone look up!"

Hardbarger's voice boomed in the mess. The large man was accompanied by a woman with jet black hair, tied into a bun. She wore a short, loosely flowing blue dress, and glared at the assorted denizens through pearled glasses.

"Kanis Cantano will be joining our merry band," the Red Scythe founder explained. "She's here to run this joint and save us some money. If Kanis tells you to do something, you do it like it was me telling you to."

"I don't listen to you," Alex Rich shouted out, "why'd you think I'd listen to her?"

"You'll listen to me because this place has been run like a joke, and you're bleeding money faster than atmosphere," Kanis answered. She began pacing the room. "Poorly constructed and poorly insulated rooms whose repairs can't be put off any longer. Wasted money on exotic food supplies. No food budgets, no accountability for expenditures, and an inefficient use of time. I'm here to put an end to that. We will not continue wasting money."

"I've got expansion on my mind," Harbarger said. As he walked out, he added, "Listen to the woman."

* * * * *

"What'd you think about the new lady?"

"Well," Beck shrugged, not turning to face his young assistant, "I'm figuring we've got a lot of work to do, and today would be a bad day to stop doing it for gossip."

"Come on, man," Scott pushed, "who brings in an efficiency expert? We're a pirate organization! Why would we need to be more efficient?"

"Because," Kanis said from behind him, "punks like you waste time flapping your gums instead of doing your work. Hardbarger knows that his money is being wasted, and he could be earning so much more. That ridiculous issue attempting to get weapons off of Mars should never have happened. Really, having to work with a Martian mayor? Absolutely ridiculous. Everything will run smoothly now, so that the Red Scythe can become far more powerful than before. Expect me to be looking over everything you've done. Now get back to work."

She stormed out of the workshop, heels clicking on the tile floors.

* * * * *

"You really thinkin this 'efficiency expert' is smart business?"

"Yeah," Hardbarger grunted, "I do. Kanis is good at what she does, and I have plans that she can make happen."

"Plans?" Alex laughed at his younger brother. "What plans? She's kinda cute, but I ain't sure she's the one you wanna-"

"Not those kinds of plans, you idiot!" The big man flipped his brother off. "We should be big enough to expand construction into the rest of this asteroid. We should have more pilots. We should spread our fingers further into the Olympus Union, and back out into the Jovian System. She's going to help us organize everything, and create an empire!"

"Empire? Please. Since when d'ya think so big? And how'd you get some sort of 'expert' like that out here, sleeping in our beds, eatin in our mess?"

"I've got plans, big brother. Plans to make our name know and feared. As for Ms Cantano," he shrugged, "it's funny what happens when you run up gambling debts. The lady, she loves Da San. She's not a good player, but damn does she like spending money to play."

"You bought out her debts?"

"No, I just offered her a safe place to run to, and protection from people who'd like to take a few pieces out of her."

"And in return, she works for us, to build your empire?"

"Our empire, brother," he grinned, sadistically. "I'd never leave you behind."