Storytime: Dig DUG.

August 9th, 2017

Rosie was a hundred and two feet in the air on DUG’s left side when she dropped a rivet. It was one of the new ones, the big terrifying ones from the Terramac that exploded out of her launcher like hot rocks from a volcano, that ate through metal until they hit air again and became startlingly meek, tame, and as immovable as a mountain range.
“Fuck,” she said, under her mask, under her helmet, under her breath.
Don’t Sweat It, said DUG, who heard her no matter what. They’re Cheap Anyways.
Rosie gave DUG a look from under her bangs under her sweat under her helmet under the glare of the sun, and she knew DUG didn’t care. But she said it anyways.
“Those rivets cost half an hour’s pay. For me, all the others, and our supervisors. Combined.”
Not The Rivet. It’s Fine.
“Well then?”
It’s The Man Whose Helmet It Landed On.

It hadn’t stopped, of course. Not until it hit air again.
If lower-riveter Jenk hadn’t fallen over as it burrowed through his boot, it probably would still be going down there, through thicker and thinner walls of rock and magma until the heat boiled it away. As it was it had formed a perfect seal on the heel of Jenk’s left foot, attaching his boot so firmly to flesh that it had to be left on at the funeral – or so Rosie heard later, since she hadn’t been that close to Jenk. They built things that worked out there in the Terramac. They always did.
Of course, they hadn’t built DUG. Or DUG’s construction site.
DUG was not perturbed by any of this. Men and women had died working on DUG, men and women were dying working on DUG, and there would definitely be men and women dead at the launch of DUG. They were basically the same as the metal shavings peeling off the hull, or the lug charges discarded from the cannons. Prematurely spent.

DUG. Not Dug.
Dynamized Undersea Guardian.
DUG was a quarter mile wide and much longer than DUG was wide
DUG was capable of holding half a town inside DUG’s guts, and needed two-thirds of that to be operated properly.
DUG was armed with cutter-cannons that were backed by boilers bigger than the lungs of a god that could shoot out the surface of the sun in single solid shots or spew out unending boiling torrents or create a seething steamscreen on command with the flick of a tiny switch and the rotation of a house-sized locking catch.
And oh, but oh, DUG was so very, so very, so very very bored.

Rosie would do, mostly. As far as she could tell, that was the sum total of her qualifications. DUG wasn’t shy about sharing DUG’s opinions of the little people putting DUG together. Some DUG liked more than her, some DUG liked less than her, but as far as she knew she was the only one DUG bothered talking to.
DUG hated rivet foreman Immik. DUG liked lower-riveter Telimis. DUG could take or leave the boiler installation crew. DUG adored the work teams that hauled DUG’s jet intakes into place. And DUG complained about the mess crew staff at least once per day.
Rosie nodded a lot during her shifts. Her friend and/or coworker and/or acquaintance and/or who knew, Akro, made a habit of checking every half hour or so to see if she was ‘falling asleep.’
“I’m awake,” Rosie told her.
“Sure,” said Akro. “Sure. Sure.”

DUG was more than gossip. Actually, DUG was more than mostly not gossip. What DUG mostly was was murder.
Every morning when Rosie came in DUG would tell her all about the sights and sounds of the evening. As she ascended DUG’s hull DUG would move on to DUG’s thoughts and feelings on the people working there. And as she plugged in her launcher and wounded it up tight and pressed it to the first plate, DUG would seamlessly shift into talking about what DUG wanted to kill that day.
‘Galms, Of Course, DUG told her. There’s No Doubt They Will Be First.
“The Dynamized Undersea Guardian was constructed to assess and repel the potential coastal spread of the Silence of the Stone,” said Rosie, dutifully speaking the words someone else had carefully given to her in case she felt the need to ever have an opinion.
A Very Good Excuse But Not Much Else. I Can Park Next To That For Ten Minutes And Solve It. What Comes after? ‘Galms. Buckets Of ‘Galms. Heaps. Mounds. Bobbing, Floating Carpets. And They’re What These Cannons Are For, Of Course. Can’t Boil Silence. But You Can Burn Someone’s Ears Out.
Rosie nodded. Akro poked her.
Or Maybe The Terramac. Finally Get Matagan Exclusive Access.
“I’m awake.”
Or Nagezz – Now That’d Be Nice. Turn The Dunes To Glass And Dig Their Treasures Out With A Pebble And A Slingshot.
“Sure! Sure.”

Rosie was increasingly glad she had nobody waiting at home for her. She was getting sick of listening to people.

The crowning tower was the next bit of work. Tricky. It was what sat atop DUG’s giant, invincible brow, peeping above the waves like a curious fish checking for trouble. When it found it, it would tell DUG, and DUG would kill whatever it found, rising up from below to mash and mangle and boil and sear. It was very simple, but it was also a wall of caged steel and angry mechanisms, so it took a little while.
A little while and a lot of rivets. Rosie’s palm murmured deathly things to her every time she reloaded her launcher.
You Missed A Spot.
Rosie hadn’t missed a spot, of course. Akro had. But Rosie fixed it anyways, and kicked her in the leg.
“You missed a spot.”
“Oh.” She scratched her nose pointlessly – there were three layers between her face and her gloves – and nodded. “Thanks!”
The whistle for break sounded and Rosie took off her gloves for a second to wipe off the sweat. Just a second. Longer than that and the reflected heat from DUG would start to bake them. In the midsummer noon the upper heights could almost glow with heat.
Aren’t I Pretty?
Rosie nodded and this time Akro didn’t poke her because if you wanted to sleep on break it was your own damned business.
The Prettiest You’ve Ever Seen, I Expect. Look At These Guns. Aren’t They Lovely?
“Maybe,” said Rosie. “Ask me about rivets.”
They’re Seamless.
“Then don’t ask me,” said Rosie, and she fell asleep on purpose this time.

The whistle woke her up, followed closely by Akro’s finger in her back.
“I’m awake.”
“Sure! Sure.”

DUG ate Akro three days later. The crowning tower deck popped open under her feet under the stress of heat expansion and she fell a screaming twenty stories all the way to the bottom of the hull and needed sixty gallons of (very hot) water and rancid, acidic soap to clean her out.
Rosie didn’t ask why.
I Was Bored, explained DUG.

Rosie read the news at home sometimes, when she could afford it after making the necessary purchases of gin, food, and gin.
The Silence of the Stone was spreading faster. Or slower. Or it had stopped.
Gelmorre was posturing, proposing, or possibly prevaricating, perfidiously.
Matagan was utterly invincible and sure to hold fast as long as every citizen did their part and the full force of Matagant ingenuity, resources, time, blood, spit, and semen was poured into their plans.
The best plan in all of Matagan was the DUG, down at the Big End Shipyard out where prying eyes couldn’t goggle too much at it. Someone had taken some very flattering pictures. The cutter-cannons glistened in the sun.
“Aren’t I pretty,” said Rosie, and doubled her gin budget.

Warships Are, Of Course, Male, said DUG.
“Every sailor ever born disagrees with you,” said Rosie. She still hadn’t had a new partner assigned since DUG had eaten Akro, and that meant she needed to expend extreme concentration on making sure she didn’t slip, or run out of rivets, or make a mistake, or die, or break her tools, or get eaten by DUG. Instead she was talking more to DUG.
Ships Can Be Female Because Sailors Want Something To Fuck. I Have Cannons. I Will Do My Fucking For Me.
“Not quite how any of that works,” said Rosie. She counted her rivets again. She had lost two.
You Are Composed Of Organic Materials And Therefore Biased. Only I Can Be Objective About Your Biological Sex Because I Am Neither Biological Nor Capable Of Reproduction.
“Pull the other one,” said Rosie.
I Have No Hands. I Have No Testicles. I Have A Magazine That Fuels My Cannons. My Point Is Reinforced. Just Like My Hull.
You Missed A Spot.
Rosie leaned out over a hundred feet of nothing much, one hand braced on the hull, and looked.
“No I didn’t.”
I Suppose Not.

The next day one of the boilers shook loose in its mount and squashed four people. DUG told Rosie a long story about how many people could die in one of its volleys, if only they all stood still and didn’t move around much. There was a lot of math.

On the day of DUG’s launch they stopped keeping everyone away from the Big End Shipyard and they brought them all in instead. Everyone who was important got good seats, everyone else got makeshift stadium rows rummaged out of old scaffolding.
Rosie got tucked into a corner behind some toilets. She didn’t much care. You could see DUG for miles. You could see DUG from Matagan proper. Some people had stayed home and decided to watch from their houses. Everyone here on the spot was most likely some brand of showboater.
See the boat. See the show.
See the bottle of incredibly expensive alcohol about to shatter against a single knobbly rivet, formed of and embedded within metal that could survive anything at all.
Crash! Bang! Tinkle-tinkle-splash!
Cheers, hoorahs! Woo! Yes! Amazing! Wonderful! The sun was out and everything was shining, from the cannons to the hull to the cannons to the brandy flowing over the rivet.
Aren’t I Pretty? asked DUG.
And then the rivet popped out, still-wet with brandy.
For an imaginary moment Rosie thought she could hear the trickle of expensive liquor seeping inside the hull.
Then the plates jerked apart, the metal roared, and every part in DUG’s bow violently shot away from every other part.

When the earth stopped shaking and everything metal had stopped screaming, DUG was still talking. Of course. She’d expected that. There was no animal harder to kill than a warship, not a bird from the sky or a Wyrm from Afar or a thing from the deep. She knew that because she had been told so.
You Loosened That Rivet On Purpose.
Rosie checked all her limbs. Yep, still there. Even the liver.
This Would Never Have Happened, DUG said to her, If You Had A Penis.
Rosie spat aimlessly at the ground, stained with DUG’s lifebloods, lymphs, cerebral fluids, and intercavitary secretations. Most of them were mostly oil, but none of them was altogether alike.
“Whether I do or don’t,” she said aloud, comfortable doing so in a world where everyone was deaf for at least the next ten minutes, “it doesn’t much matter. What’s more relevant is I’m not a damned dick.”

DUG never did speak to Rosie again, from the dock to the scrapyard beach.

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