No Rest For The Weary

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Indra played her torch along a slender steel bar, waiting for the moment when exactly the right length of it was exactly the right shade of red. When the moment arrived, she grabbed the bar and hauled on it with all her might. Her welding gloves began to smoke as it finally got to the right curvature, and she hissed with pain as the heat finally penetrated the gloves.

She let go of the bar, but her gloves were too hot now, so for an agonizing second or two there was no change in the feeling of searing heat. She whipped her hands back and forth to throw the gloves off. There were angry red welts across the fingers.

Damn. She was going to have blisters, but at least the curve was right. She put her cooling gloves back on, then picked up a pair of tongs and pulled the bar further through the hole in her anvil. Then she put the tongs down, studied a smudged reference photo of Philo holding a bullwhip, and picked up the torch again. This bit would be a more gentle bend in a slightly different direction; she could do it with the tongs once the bar was hot enough.

Behind her, the armatures for the major figures of Cruelty stood like angular steel skeletons. A broad-shouldered stick figure about eight feet tall with its left arm held high menaced a tiny, cowering stick figure curled into a ball. Indra could already see it; the left arm would be holding the whip. This bar, bent into the right shape, would serve as the core of a vicious whip braided of steel cable. The larger figure's right foot, or the bar around which it would be built, rested on startlingly realistic human bones. These were ceramic; Indra had cast and fired them all during the previous week and her kilns were still ticking.

On her workbench, a resin study of Cruelty had joined the resin studies of the other gargoyles; a tall man standing on broken bones brandished the whip over the bloodied figure of a little girl. Crushed under the girl's own feet as she cowered in terror, her forgotten rag doll echoed both her father's feet upon the bones of her brother, and her own features and colors as though it were a daughter she herself might one day have borne.

But, for now, Indra was making the whip. Heat the bar, pull, push or beat the right curve for that section into it with the tongs or the hammer, pull it further through the hole in the anvil, heat the next section of bar. On the wall hung five tapered strands of steel cable. Indra had braided these herself, wire by wire. She'd cut her hands up pretty badly already on that task; she hated to think of the next part, where she'd be braiding the cables around the bar she was now bending.

Maybe she'd do the hands first. The whip's handle had to fit into a hand, the hand had to fit on the armature, it should be next. She had a few good plaster casts of hands in that position, but she wanted to make a few adjustments to bring out sinews and tendons that, for her models, had not been particularly prominent. The figure of Cruelty itself was to be a gaunt figure, a figure of incompleteness.

When she finished the bar, she placed it carefully into the armature and stepped back, checking its curve and proportion. It would do. She popped up her torch goggles, pulled off her gloves, and inspected her raw, burned hands. Definitely the cable braiding should wait until she'd had some time to heal. Her shoulders hurt from all the hammer and tongs work. Sweat, free to run down her face now that the goggles were off, was stinging her eyes. It was time to take a break.

She hung up the torch and put away her hammers and tongs by the anvil. Stopping just outside the door of her studio, she stripped down to tank-top and shorts, leaving her welding leathers in a stinking heap on the floor.

Walking out into the crane bay, she felt the dull throbbing in her legs and shoulders. J.D. wasn't around, so Indra sank down on the couch by herself and thought for a while. She missed J.D. Such a sweet girl, but no self-confidence, and hardly any self-will. Too bad J.D. was straight. Indra heaved a sigh. Oh well, at least she got to know her as a friend.

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