In Which LittleWatchGirl Plans her Obsolescence so She Can Retire
TrainMaster (catch phrase: "Keeps the trains running on time!") couldn't have sent FutureMan over to me to explain how the campaign was supposed to work because I was the best person to explain it. In fact I felt like I was the weak link. When your superpower is about office meetings, you can't be expected to be good with weapons. They had chosen mine for me thinking I'd be good with springs and winding.
Perhaps TrainMaster had heard that I'd asked SteamBoss who would be going on this campaign.
SteamBoss (catch phrase: "Black belches bad; white belches good!") had said "What do you mean?"
I'd said, "Is anyone I hate going?" SteamBoss couldn't see my eyes. Wearing goggles all the time protects your secret identity. My superhero name is LittleWatchGirl, and that's all you need to know about me.
SteamBoss had said "I don't know, who do you hate?"
He knew, of course. Everyone had by then heard the story of me yelling at FutureMan, "Stop being so tardy!" at least twice on a campaign a couple of weeks ago. And then I had told CoalTinker (catch phrase: "Darker, deeper, grimmer!") "I don't think I should campaign with him anymore," and MechUrchin (catch phrase: "Fly like the wind!") had turned it into a rule the next week, telling me expressly, "You aren't allowed to campaign with FutureMan," as if I needed someone else to tell me that.
So of course, I told SteamBoss, "Just FutureMan, actually."
And he'd told me no one had signed up that I didn't know about except for the crew from Canada of course, and whoever else from the continent, and New York and Chicago. But I didn't hate them yet because I'd never met them.
TrainMaster must have heard both these stories, actually, and now he'd sent FutureMan over to me to find out how to get to the dirigible airfield.
"We'll have to shoot our way in," I said. "We'll get to the gates and then all at the same time we'll storm the airfield. But the problem for me is always that I overwind my railgun in the heat of the battle." I actually wrecked the spring and now it's the punchline of all the jokes here in the clubhouse.
"How hard can winding be?" FutureMan said. "You just. . ."
I tuned out. Maybe what I hate is, (and I've decided I don't hate him--just the way he leans over the whole dim sum tray when he eats, and dresses so informally, and turns everything into a boring lecture) he asks the same question over and over until he gets an answer he can use.
I glanced over at TrainMaster, who was talking to MechUrchin over by the gas barbecue. This was a really bad picnic. I was freezing. Nobody cool was around, just a bunch of kids and has-beens who didn't really come out anymore except for the social events. Some of the kids were theirs. Maybe there was a connection.
Finally FutureMan wound down with "I don't really have a railgun."
So I took mine out. I wound it. I clicked the ready switch and shot a bullet through the announcement about this lame-ass barbecue. It was above a sign about the New Orleans campaign, complete with spelling mistakes), and I was describing the whole time what I was doing, on the off-chance that FutureMan might try to replicate it at some point with his own railgun.
"And here's the part where it all went horribly wrong for me. See, it says to wind to here, and I clicked here, and it didn't work, so I gave up and wound some more, and then it was over-wound, and I couldn't get it to release. But I see it's working now." Because it was. "So we shoot our way to the dirigible that we'll steal. MechUrchin can pilot it, and then it's like two days to New Orleans, and we make the big easy run on time, and then we can come back, having spread the word of timeliness to the heathen swamp people. No offense intended, if you're actually from the swamp in the future."
"No, I'm not," said FutureMan. "What about getting there at the same time?" He was clearly no longer interested in my railgun, if he ever had been. I released the spring so it wouldn't wear out.
"We'll all be flying down together," I said. "So that shouldn't be a problem."
"How will we meet up before that?" FutureMan said.
"We're all storming the airfield together," I said. "I don't know what time it's at, but me and CoalTinker and TrainMaster and MechUrchin and everyone will synchronize our watches off Big Ben, so one of them can give you the information."
"I'll just go with you, then?" FutureMan said. "I don't really keep time by Big Ben." That's when things went really weird for me. I mean, who doesn't keep time by the biggest clock in London? I always have.
"If you remember to set and wind your watch, it will keep time for a couple of days," I said. I mean, for a normal person. For me, that's my superpower.
"I don't have a pocket watch," FutureMan said.
"Why not?" I said. "How do you survive?" Everything we do is pretty much about keeping time.
"It just seems like it would be too easy to forget to wind it," said FutureMan. "There's the two hands, and you have to remember the big one and the little one and know what they're point at, and it always just seemed like too much effort. In the future, people will have digital watches that just show simple numbers. They'll be able to get the time from satellites, or sync to the atomic clock."
I looked at him, and for the first time I felt pity instead of revulsion. Why did he want so badly to be in the Punctuality League, when we'd be obsolete in his future?