Razor Mountain — Chapter 27.1

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

The borehole was unsettling. A perfectly-cut cylindrical hole in the stone floor, about three feet in diameter. A spotlight stationed at the edge shone down into the depths, only serving to highlight the endless darkness beyond the reach of the light. A few pipes snaked down the sides of the pit, test runs for much larger pipes that would eventually fill every inch of the available space.

Cain stood over the hole like a proud parent, shuffling nervously as he waited for God-Speaker’s opinion. God-Speaker leafed through the reports he had been given: charts showing temperature readings at various depths, reports of durability and heat dissipation for various materials and radiator arrays, and costs and expected maintenance for all of it.

God-Speaker had to admit it. Assuming all the numbers were accurate, Cain had actually undersold the project. He had diverted some funds in ways that God-Speaker didn’t like, but the project showed incredible potential. It would be an order of magnitude more efficient than much of their current infrastructure, and cheaper to maintain. Even more impressive, the improvements were all down to Cain and his engineers. God-Speaker hadn’t even contributed his usual breadcrumbs of knowledge gleaned from the voices beneath the mountain.

“There are some discrepancies in your accounting that we will need to address,” God-Speaker said, and he could see Cain’s shoulders begin to sag, “but I have to admit, you were correct. What we’re looking at here is the future of our heat and electrical generation.”

Cain’s back straightened, and he grinned.

“It won’t go through as fast as you’d like it to,” God-Speaker continued, “but I do think we will need to allocate more resources and move up the project timeline. Can you have all the necessary reports ready for the full cabinet meeting at the end of the month?”

“Of course. I can have them ready by the end of the week.”

God-Speaker peered over the edge again. He wasn’t particularly afraid of heights, but it still made him uneasy. This was the visual inverse of the voices’ chamber: an endless hole where light faded into darkness, in opposition to that room deep under the mountain where there was no ceiling, only the black void above and a harsh blue light that seemed to emanate from the darkness itself.

Cain shuffled again, clearly trying to find the right words to express himself.

“I…I wanted to apologize for my behavior. I know it’s not an excuse, but I’m very excited about the things my people are working on. I’m sure you know…it’s the engineering I love. Interacting with people…I’m not so good at it. And the finances always seem to get in the way.”

God-Speaker had been watching Cain, and was beginning to realize that he had read the man wrong. What he had seen as aggression and ego was a combination of fear and passion: love of his work and the worry that he wasn’t good enough to do it, that it might all be taken away.

“I’m sure I have only exacerbated the issue,” God-Speaker said. “I failed to listen to your concerns, and I underestimated your abilities.”

Cain was visibly relieved. God-Speaker also noted the subtle changes in his stance when receiving even such a mild compliment.

“I will try to work on the ways I interact with the rest of the cabinet,” Cain said, “and I’ll be better at keeping myself in check in our meetings.”

“You don’t need to apologize, and you don’t need to worry,” God-Speaker said. “You’re new to the position. These things will come with time and experience. Remember, this is a job for life, or at least as long as you want to do it. Take the long view. You don’t need to accomplish everything right away. Pace yourself. Think about what will have the most impact over decades, and focus on that. It’s easy to become distracted trying to run everything, but you have people below you to help with that. This is a lesson I still need to relearn myself from time to time.”

Cain nodded, now the picture of the dutiful employee.

“I have another meeting,”: God-Speaker said. “Will you excuse me?”

“Of course.”


Author: Samuel Johnston

Professional software developer, unprofessional writer, and generally interested in almost everything.

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