Fan Fic: Shenanigans

The original RPG of Interdimensional exploration.
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2023 2:16 am

Fan Fic: Shenanigans

Post by kedamono »

It was mid morning at UNIDA HQ in Alice Springs, and Aleksander Borodin was headed to the motor pool. As director of the InterDimensional Exploration division of UNIDA as well as the head of operations at the Alice Springs facility, it was his job to deal with all sorts of problems. The current problem, however, was occurring with IDTS... 'Idiots,' he thought, 'that is what they are.'

The InterDimensional Transportation Services, IDTS or "Idiots" by most folks, was in charge of all vehicles, and due to the nature of their facilities in Alice Springs and other UNIDA bases, they were also in charge of power generation, standalone engines and motors, and other contraptions needed by IDE teams. The locals called them the "Boffin Boys" though a good portion of their personnel were women. And one woman in particular was the current source of Aleksander's problems: Liang Tai.

Liang was from China, a mechanical genius, and Fringeworthy. She wasn't much for exploring, but having a mechanic that can fix broken vehicles, engines, and other mechanical devices in situ was a blessing. She was very, very much non-military and tended to paint everything she worked on in decidedly non-military colors. And the reason Aleksander was seeking her out was his boss, Dao-zi Feng, Director-General of UNIDA.

"We've seem to have encountered a unique situation with our engine and generator procurement from China," said Feng. "So Aleks, would you be so kind to touch base with Miss Liang and Director Schwerdtfeger?"

Yannik Schwerdtfeger was in charge of IDTS and in the organizational chart, he was the equal of Aleksander. In practice however, since he was not Fringeworthy, he found himself relying the Fringeworthy in his division for guidance on operations on the fringe paths. He would come to Aleksander's office once a month to fondle a crystal key in hopes of becoming Fringeworthy as Aleksander did, but so far.. nothing.

As he approached Motor Bay 5, he could hear the sound of a sledge hammer hitting metal, with an occasional Chinese curse floating out. He entered the bay and saw the diminutive Liang in her trademark blue denim jumpsuit swinging a 5kg sledgehammer at a diesel engine mounted on a test stand. Parts of the diesel were on the floor, all with a fresh coat of green paint on them, but the interiors of the parts had an orange patina. "Ah, Miss Liang?" Aleksander called out over the din. He had to repeat himself.

Liang looked up and smiled, "Director Borodin! You arrive just in time." They both were speaking Japanese, as they both had been recently to the Monster Island base to use the portal. She pointed to the engine, "We have a problem. Our supplier from China has sent us what Gordon would call 'POSes'.

Aleksander knew that Gordon wouldn't be so polite, and smiled, "In what way are they a POS?" He arched a massive eyebrow.

She motioned him to come over and pointed into the cylinder of single piston diesel engine. Inside the surface of the cylinder and the piston head were the color of Mars, with many flakes and pits. Aleksander pulled a pocket flashlight out and shined it inside the cylinder. "Bozhe moi! That is a POS! How..." he looked up and saw the UN Certification tag prominently attached to front of the engine. He was quiet for a moment.

"How...," he started, composed himself, "How in the hell did this pass inspection!"

There was a cough from behind him. He turned and looked and it was Schwerdtfeger fumbling with language translator in his hand. "You know that I speak German, Yannik," said Aleksander.

"Ja, ja, but she doesn't!" replied Yannik.

Liang looked at Aleksander and gave him a mischievous smile. It took him all of a moment to realize why she was smirking. "While she can't speak German, she can understand it," he said. Then as Yannik's face screwed up into a question, Aleksander tapped his ear, "She, like me, has a translator bead."

"Vat!" Yannik blurted out. "When did you get that?"

She already had her translator out and spoke a quick bit of Chinese at it, "About a week after I finished basic training. It's in my records."

Yannik massaged his temples as he processed this bit of information, then said, "That's neither here nor there. We, " he pointed at the partially disassembled engine, "have a problem. Our current supplier, Dozti Industries, has sent us another batch of 'problematic' engines, motors, and generators."

"'Another batch'?'" asked Aleksander.

Liang spoke up, "Nothing that was nonoperational, but not in good working order. My team had to spend half a month fixing issues and making minor repairs. We only had to strip down two of the engines, and rewind one motor. But this... this batch of POS..." She picked up her sledgehammer, walked over to the engine, and hit as hard she could. The bay echoed with the mighty clang. "This engine must have been dredged up from a river or a pond." She tapped the serial plate on the engine, "Brand new plate, which tells me how they did it." She looked at Yannick, "Who was in charge of the UN procurement team again?"

"Saul Medici," Yannick replied. "His uncle is in the Italian government and is the cousin to Italy's UN representative."

Liang and Aleksander both looked wordlessly at Yannick, who, after a moment, shrugged.

Aleksander thought a moment, then with a quizzical look on his face, asked, "How did they do it Miss Liang?"

"Tia," she replied, "you can call me Tia. And as how they did it... they are a small Chinese engine restoration company with a government contract." She spread her hands wide and gave Aleksander a look, arching her eyebrow. "I can see the..." she stopped. Said in Chinese "What's the English word again for 恶作剧?" She looked at her translator and began quickly typing in Chinese on it. She smiled, "They engaged in 'shenanigans'."

She set her sledgehammer down, walked forward, gesturing, "The floor manager... no, this is important, the owner of Dozti would greet mister Medici, take him on a tour of the facility showing happy workers restoring engines, motors, generators... all sorts of things." She looked at both men, "Legitimately restoring. While they can pull one over on the lao dongxi, the locals would burn their business to the ground if they tried to pull this on them."

Yannick spoke up, "Um, what is 'law-dong-shee'?"

She started tapping with her thumbs on her translator again... smiling said "Trottel, um..."

"Gordon would say 'bumpkin'," said Aleksander.

"'Bumpkin'," she said smiling, "that's a good word. The manager would take the Italian bumpkin for a tour and then take him to the test bay. That's the room with no windows, two rolling doors, and a single ventilation duct above. There will be noise, as they will be 'tuning' a restored engine on another test stand. But in front of mister bumpkin, is the engine awaiting his and his team's certification. It runs perfectly, with no problems or issues. When the test is over, Dozti mechanics will move in and start unbolting it, emptying the fuel tank, water tank, making it ready for mister bumpkin to put his certification on it. Of course the manager will apologize for the noise, and tells mister bumpkin that his mechanics will bring the engine out in the main bay so that he can do the deed. It's noisy, smoky, as the ventilation is doing its best... or it would if it wasn't on half speed..."

"So they all go out to the main area, where tea and snacks are being served. And in one, two, three the engine is wheeled up on the hoist. A quick inspection of the serial plate confirms it's the same engine and mister bumpkin seals the certification tag to the engine with a tamperproof... yes, 'tamperproof' seal."

She smiled to the both of them. "That was Chinese Theater," she said with a flourish. "What really happened is that this engine," patted it with an oily hand, "was already on a hoist, ready to be wheeled over, with the identical serial plate already on it. They had the timing down so that there would be no chance of someone switching serial plates between wheeling the good engine out the other door, and wheeling this POS up to where tea was being served. The good engine is now in another bay having its serial plate removed and new one affixed. They may have two or three engines lined up for this scam," she shrugged, "who can tell if that's the same engine that was on the stand three engines ago. And!" she raised a finger, "They probably had heat guns playing on the exhaust and main body of this POS so that it would be warm when it arrived at the tea party. And Dozti does this because they receive engines from the locals, perhaps from the local government that would cost more than they are worth to repair. And they are not worth that much as scrap... but along comes mister bumpkin and a juicy UN contract... The first batch was to see if they could fool Medici and his team with mostly functional engines and stuff. It succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. So this second batch, they took a dump on us." She bowed.

"And Feng knows about this?" asked Aleksander.

"He's the one that helped me work out how the scam was done," said Liang. "It was as though he had intimate knowledge of how one would do this." She gave Aleksander a blank look.

"Do tell," Aleksander replied with a smile. "But, why was it important for me to come here and... what are we going to do about this?"

Yannik nodded, and said, "To answer your second question first, we have to verify that each and everyone of these engines, etcetera, are broken POSes." He gestured to the evidence on the test stand, "So we have to take them apart and document that they are not repairable by any reasonable means. Thus, Miss Liang's testing methods."

"Ah... And?"

Yannick's face got serious, "Well, and to tell you that until we get a new, verified, shipment of working equipment, your teams will not be supplied with what they need. Feng is already looking for a new supplier, and has reported this to the Chinese government... thus why we are testing."

Sighing, Aleksander said, "Well, as they say, 'it is what it is'." He thought for a second, "There are no suitable Australian or other engine sources?"

"Yes... but we can't have them," replied Yannick, "as we have a ten year contract with China, and we're not breaking that contract." He looked at Aleksander, "And you're not circumventing it either."

Aleksander laughed, "Not after the last time. I had to explain to the Security Council why I procured uncertified equipment for four days. No, I won't do that again." He looked at the engine, "There's no chance of repairing these?"

Liang replied with a wry smile, "There isn't 'no chance', but it would take a month for each one. This one needs a new cylinder wall, new injectors, the bearings are shot, and I think the piston is no longer round... Before I started hitting it." She walked around the engine, as she talked, "We have some spare parts, but I rather keep them on hand for the equipment we have in the field. We'd be better off selling them to the Nord for scrap. They can use the steel."

"So how do we fix this?"

"We need to get a certification team that isn't someone's uncle' nephew's cousin in charge of the team." She looked up at Aleksander, "Good luck with that. Two, we need make sure that the Chinese government is more involved in the process. And because of that," she put her hands on her hips, "I will not be put in charge of that team. I dealt with is crap in China before, and I do not want to do it again. You can't send me, I won't go."

The three of them stood quietly, Yannick massaging his temples, Liang picking up her sledgehammer and eying the engine once more, and Aleksander thinking hard... and then he sighed. "I will have to talk to the Security Council after all. This is a mission critical issue. We cannot have idiot, bumpkin, appointees put in charge of this. Damn it." He then brightened up, "I'll make sure to bring Feng and Gordon along. They will enjoy talking to that august body of appointees..."

The other two laughed and Liang said, "Bozhe moi..."
Last edited by kedamono on Thu Sep 07, 2023 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2023 2:16 am

Re: Fan Fic: Shenanigans

Post by kedamono »

For those curious, Liang Tai is based on a real person, Lin Guoer. She's a remarkable young woman that is a mechanical genius at fixing machines with less tools than most other folks on YouTube. Here's a short of her fixing a generator, including rewinding the stator for it.
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2023 2:16 am

Re: Fan Fic: Shenanigans

Post by kedamono »

And if you think I was kidding about her and her 5kg sledgehammer... ... WdI-yZixpP
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