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Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Outcast: Volume 1 Chapter 8

Volume One: Eastwood Is All Stones


Chapter 8: Life in the abandoned mine pit

After completing the last micro-scale soldering, Xu Le took off the deep-color protection mask from his face, feeling quite satisfied. Next, he organized all the repaired items inside the workshop room based on their labels and sorted them neatly onto the metal shelf. A push of a button by the shelf sent all the items out of the workshop room. By early morning the next day, these repaired items would be shipped back to the fourth district of the Xiang-Lan Boulevard. Out of old habit, Xu Le always got things ready ahead of time.
He quickly washed his face with hot water, and then smoothly retrieved a bottle of eye solution from a drawer and carefully added a few drops to his eyes. Even with the help of various microscope type instruments, the world of metal chips could still be quite a torture for the eyes of any electrical technician. Especially since he would always forget about time when he devoted himself into the world of metal chips, both of his eyes appeared to have reddened.
“Get some rest. Go watch the scenic views and relax the muscles in your eyes.”
Feng Yu rubbed his own gray hair and felt very satisfied with Xu Le’s speed and concentration. For the last half a year, most of the repair jobs for the electrical appliance repair shop at the Xiang-Lan Boulevard were really completed here by Xu Le in the secluded mine tunnel. All Feng Yu had to do was to stay at his shop during the weekdays and then show up here to give a few pointers during the weekends. As time went by, Xu Le’s repair speed had become faster and faster, now even faster than Feng Yu, who was once an electrical technician in the military.
Xu Le acknowledged with a mumble. He took out two bottles of fruit juice from the refrigerator and then followed behind Feng Yu, walking toward the upper part of the mine pit.
Xu Le could hear non-stop clanking sounds coming from the front. He couldn’t help but look up, and then once again, he saw the extremely eye-catching ragged jeans worn by Uncle Feng Yu together with their tightly wrapped buttocks, and also … a bunch of keys, small knives, and the kind of metal things alike. They swung back and forth in the air and again and again bumping into the big buttocks, making disturbing noises.
Xu Le could never understand why Feng Yu would present himself in such a way, but Feng Yu told him: a true swordsman will never let go of his sword, and a true gunslinger will never leave his gun behind. Therefore, electrical technicians should always keep their tools handy…. Xu Le actually figured it out. This uncle honestly believed that wearing a wind chime on his ass made him look extra manly, which could be very helpful in attracting the eyes of those young and lonely ladies.
 It was already quite late. The light above the Eastwood Grand District had gradually dimmed. The twilight also gradually turned redder and darker, producing a dazzling shine through the reflection against the large pile of metal things behind Feng Yu’s back. Xu Le squinted his eyes naturally and gazed at the figure as it climbed up the slope without ease. His mind suddenly brought him back to the moment two years ago when he stepped into the repair shop like an idiot for the first time.
The relationship between Feng Yu and him was a bit strange. It was not a relationship between student and teacher, but he did learn from Feng Yu knowledge and practical experience about electronics, something he always longed for.
Although repairing electrical appliances didn’t help him at all with respect to his dream, the dream of becoming an auxiliary officer of a space battleship or living a better life in the Capital Star Circle, Xu Le did find satisfaction and tranquility from the small repair shop.
Xu Le wasn’t really an employee of Feng Yu’s either, because Feng Yu never paid him any salary. He only left enough food in the freezer for Xu Le. Such treatment would only make Xu Le a pitiful slave of the Xiang-Lan Boulevard Repair Shop…. But Xu Le made substantial profit for the repair shop over the past two years.
“The registration fee for the draft exam … if I choose to be an electrical technician … the government will only reimburse forty percent of the fee.” Staring at the back of his uncle Xu Le finally gathered enough courage to make his demand. “There are only two years left. I really need to save up some money.”
The hidden meaning of these words was of course a request to get paid by the repair shop owner, but Feng Yu rejected it without even looking back.
“Back then it was you who cried and begged me to teach you. Did I ever ask you for any tuition?”
What a shameless guy! Even more shameless than I am! Xu Le thought. Then he remembered the time when he first ran into the repair shop and how he shamelessly held onto the owner’s thigh. The courage to ask for money quickly diminished. He heaved a helpless sigh, ran a few steps, and then sat by Feng Yu’s side.
The two of them were now sitting at the very top of the mine pit. Behind them were the shadows of the city’s buildings, which were a good distance away and appeared blurry and unreal. In front of them was a large stretch of green grassland. Deep in the grassland they could see tall trees reaching the sky. The refreshing scene of the nature almost felt like a jumping flame, burning with ardor under the setting sun.
“I’ve always been curious.”
Feng Yu didn’t take the juice Xu Le handed to him, instead, lit another cigarette. He joyfully took a deep breath in and then glanced greedily at the grassland and the forest in front of him.
“There are at least a thousand repair shops in the Eastwood Grand District. Why did you choose me?”
Xu Le cast a side glance toward him, shocked by the fact that uncle had only just thought of the question after two years had already passed. After a short pause, he finally replied with his head bent down.
“The automatic vacuum door of the coffee shop had stopped working. I heard that you fixed it, so I decided to find you.”
“Anyone could have fixed that door,” Feng Yu exclaimed without turning his head.
“Perhaps you were in a really good mood when you fixed that door….” A slight trace of cunning quickly flashed across Xu Le’s eyes, which normally looked extra sincere when he smiled. “The glueless vacuum joint at the B2 port was simply remarkable, with an error grade in the one-thousands. That was two grades higher than the civilian standards, even slightly higher than the military standards. Ever since then, I knew you weren’t just any ordinary guy, boss!”
Feng Yu seemed to have been startled. He suddenly burst into laughter. Turning around he raised his hand as though he was going to strike Xu Le’s head, but eventually he settled for rubbing the untidy black hair of Xu Le.
“You are crazy! Who would have thought of measuring that thing?”
“Maybe it was just my intuition?” Xu Le smiled happily. “I just felt there was something really weird about that door, and I happened to have some money at that time, so I went and bought a laser multi-spectrometer. As soon as I measured it, I found the oddity.”
“Even the smallest laser multi-spectrometer won’t fit under the door. How did you measure it? I am quite curious.” Feng Yu’s interest instantly shot up.
“Hmm….” After a short moment of awkward silence Xu Le finally answered. “I asked Li Wei to help me, and the two of us took the door apart at night … of course we put it back on the same night. I am no thief.”
Feng Yu couldn’t help but laugh again.
“But didn’t I install an alarm on that door…?” he asked.
“The one hidden inside the double-paned glass?” Xu Le lowered his head in embarrassment. “I…I found it right away and…took it apart too.”
Feng Yu suddenly fell quiet. He stared at the young lad next to him, and for a long time, didn’t speak another word. Two years ago, Xu Le had only been a self-studying student, who knew nothing but procedures and standards he memorized from books in the library. Even then Xu Le had already been capable of disabling an alarm set up by him. The conclusion he had come to earlier on the couch was indeed very accurate.
At that moment several majestic-looking wild buffalo, cloaked in the beautiful twilight of the dusk, slowly wandered outside of the woods and walked in the direction of the mine pit.
Both Xu Le and Feng Yu instantly stopped all thoughts and motion and only stared at the buffalo steadily. The stares were filled with greed.
“Uncle, we haven’t had any fresh buffalo steaks for over half a year,” Xu Le swallowed a mouthful of saliva and suggested.
Feng Yu stood up slowly and glanced at the long, endless metal isolation guardrail that separated the mine pit and the grassland, his face turning into a grimace.
“All through my life, I hate two Federation laws the most. One of them is that god damned Wildlife Protection Act.”
Xu Le tried hard to hold his laughter. Raising his head up, he asked, “What’s the other one?”
“The First Constitution.”
After that most arrogant statement, he led Xu Le toward the wild buffalo on the other side of the isolation guardrail, looking vicious and dangerous.



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Video of the Day:

I suspect the name Xiang-Lan Boulevard mentioned in this chapter comes from Hong-Kong singer Jacky Cheung's famous song "Li Xiang Lan." Either way, it is a beautiful song! Enjoy!