On the second day work started reasonably well, considering their project. Val had a little more skill then Wil, but both were quick learners. They began with the roughest grade paper and began sanding the wainscoting. Toliver worked as hard as or harder than the other two, but he also took time to coach them and show them better ways to work. After the first day, when he had explained what they were required to do and the tools they would have and need to do it, he left a request for dust masks and sanding blocks. He knew there was no way they would be issued power tools, or anything that might be dangerous. He didn’t think he would want them. Since they were doing work that bots could be programmed to do, Toliver figured Sawyer wanted the personal touch.
The next day, he found fancy graphene rebreathers, blocks of wood cut to size for the sandpaper and double-faced tape to secure the paper to the blocks. They could have used the blocks without the tape, but it would have been much more difficult. He chided himself to be more careful in future. They worked slowly, but time didn’t seem nearly as important to Sawyer, compared with quality and effort. The third day added tack cloths and they didn’t need much more than that for a while. It irked Toliver that they had to be finished working and cleaned up a half hour before dinner. The kitchen staff had been generous with brooms and dustpans and he guessed that counted for something. That and the friendly smiles and treats the occasional provided.
Not everything went smoothly. Every time Joad came to check on them, Val and Wil would slow down, hoping not to be noticed. Absolutely the wrong move, but they soon learned that for themselves. Toliver couldn’t remember exactly which day, but had been, near the end of the first week. Toliver straightened up to stretch the kinks from his back and wipe the sweat from his brow and saw Joad standing in the doorway. His two helpers, heads down, moved so slowly that someone might think they were in suspended animation. Toliver knew they were held frozen by Joad’s laser stare. Joad started yelling even before he reached them.
“If you think you can avoid real work by moving this slowly, you’re crazy, stupid or both.”
“We’re not trying to avoid work, ser,” Wil bravely said.
“Shut up,” Joad screamed. “What’s your problem? Pick it up or I’ll have you on graphene inspection detail with no hat and no water.”
Joad was right up in Wil’s face and so loud he didn’t hear Toliver approach.
“You’re their problem,” Toliver said. “They only slow down when you come in.”
“I’d be careful what you say,” Joad replied, glancing quickly over his shoulder, directing a sneer at Toliver. “I’ll deal with you when I’m done here.” He turned back to finish his tirade. Toliver stepped up right next to Joad on the side where he carried his shock stick. He made no move for it, but he definitely had Joad’s attention.
“Your problem is not with them, it’s with me,” Toliver said, his voice low and intense. “If you want to yell at someone, yell at me.”
Joad quickly stepped back a couple of paces to free up his arm. His hand gripped his shock stick, but he didn’t draw it. “It’s not for you to say who I yell at or how I disciple them.” He had turn to face Toliver, his back to the door.
“Shall we ask ser Sawyer about that?” Toliver calmly said.
“You have no idea how dangerous the ground under you is at this moment. I could beat you senseless and Sawyer wouldn’t say a thing.”
“You think not?” Toliver asked, looking over Joad’s right shoulder. Joad, his gaze locked on Toliver, seemed unaware of that. The hatred in his eyes palpable.
“I know not. So shut up and get out of my way before you regret it.”
“Ser Wonderhammer, that will be quite enough.” Sawyer’s voice boomed from behind Joad. He spun around, his eyes darting from Sawyer to Toliver and back to Sawyer. He looked like a trapped animal. He started to speak, but Sawyer waved him to silence, as he stepped further into the hall. “Believe me, Joad, that it he truly steps over the line, I’ll back or actions all the way. This is not that time. Now, I suggest you go about your duties before saying something you will regret”
Joad glared at Toliver, his look far beyond hatred. Then he gave Sawyer a short, sharp nod. He left the hall with his jaw more tightly clenched than his white-knuckled fists. Sawyer gave Toliver an appraising glance, which might have meant anything, and then followed Joad from the hall.
(to be cont…..)