Sam's Hopping
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2019 by REP

The inaugural delivery run to Telemann was celebrated by a short ceremony, before we departed. Not only was it a new trade route, it was also the longest trade route used by Simm’s Seafood. As trade routes go, it barely qualified as a medium length route, but the D-Hoppers that ran the longer routes weren’t transporting perishable merchandise.

Our first run went off with no problems. We made it to Telemann in eight and a half hours. The Chelp were in excellent condition with no losses.

“Tom, if John is going to use average hoppers to make these deliveries, why did he hire me? I know he is paying me a higher rate for my Hop ratings?”

Tom said, “It comes down to quality Sam. In the export seafood business, a two-hour difference in delivery time can make a very big difference in the quality of the delivered product. Chelp are a hardy species of fish; but some of our more delicate species might not have survived what John had initially planned as an eight-hour trip.

“If you recall, at the time John hired you, we had not planned the route. John had reason to believe a three-universe hopping route with super-oxygenated seawater might get the Chelp to Telemann in good shape. If that didn’t work, one of his backup plans was to use hoppers with higher ratings, so there would be fewer hops and shorter stops. However, he also knew there were other techniques for extending the Chelp’s travel time. For him, the three-universe hopping route was a small gamble. He figured that once we started running the route, we would be able to figure out a way to make the route feasible for two average hoppers.

“Overall, hiring you and putting you with me, was John’s insurance policy that he would be able to fulfill his contract if average hoppers weren’t able to run the route using a tank of super-oxygenated seawater.”

About three months after our route’s inaugural run, Tom and I returned to Everett from our final training run to Charles City on Telemann. We now had four average D-Hoppers trained to take over the route. Everything seemed normal at the office, until Tom got John Thomson’s message asking us to come to his office.

As we walked into the reception area, Tom said, “Morning Marsha, we got a message from John asking us to see him before we headed home. Is he in?”

Marsha lifted her comm unit and spoke into it briefly. Without meeting Tom’s eyes, she said, “John said for you to go on in.”

As we entered John’s office, he said, “Shut the door and find a seat. Do you want something to drink?”

After looking at me and seeing me give a No shrug of my shoulders, Tom said, “Not right now, John. What’s up?”

“You recall my son Herman, Tom?”

The look that passed over Tom’s face and his sudden tension caused me to pay closer attention. Tom said, “Yes, I remember Herman, John. Why?”

“He has finished his education and now has a Master’s Degree in Business Management. He will be working here as the assistant to the Vice President of Production.”

Tom started to say something, but there was a knock at the door and the door opened. A young man a bit older than me entered the room, and then shut the door.

“You wanted to see me, Dad?”

“Yes, you remember Tom King don’t you?

“Yes, I remember him, Dad.”

“And I remember you to, Herman,” Tom said.

It was evident that Herman didn’t like Tom, and Tom didn’t like Herman. I decided the best thing for me to do was just sit and observe, while matters took their course.

John said, “Sam, this is my son Herman; Herman, this is one of our D-Hoppers, Samuel Hall.”

Not knowing what was going on, I decided to take a diplomatic position, “Nice to meet you, Herman, most people call me Sam.”

Herman looked over to me and just nodded his head.

“Anything else, Dad?”

“No, that’s all, Herman.”

After Herman left the office, Tom turned to John and said, “I can see he hasn’t changed, John.”

“Yeah, I was afraid of that. But, I wanted you to know that he will be working here from now on and to introduce him to Sam. If his attitude causes problems, bring the problems to me.”

Tom nodded his head and stood up to leave. I could feel the tension in the air, and I did not like it. I normally do not like things I don’t understand, so as soon as we were out of the building, I asked, “What was that all about, Tom?”

Tom glanced at me with a sour look on his face. “That is a long story, Sam. Let’s just say that Herman’s beliefs are very different from his Dad’s beliefs. That is especially true, when it comes to us hoppers. According to Herman, we hoppers are lazy, shiftless, overpaid miscreants. According to me, Herman is an opinionated idiot.”

“So, we are lazy and shiftless are we. Does he think that of all hoppers or those who work for Simm’s?”

“That’s his opinion of all of us, Sam.”

“What makes him think that?”

“I don’t really know. Ever since he was a boy, he has said that hoppers make a hop, and then just sit around doing nothing. He thinks we should make back-to-back hops with no rest period. He doesn’t accept the fact that hopping causes mental and physical fatigue and we have to rest between hops.”

“I’ve heard of people like him, Tom, but he is the first I’ve ever met. Will he try causing us trouble? If so, what problems can he cause us, with him working in Production?”

“I don’t think he will do anything, right now, Sam. At the moment, he’s a floater who will be moved to different areas of the company, so he can learn the different company departments. Once he finishes that process, his dad will put him in charge of some function that is within his capabilities. But, John knows what he thinks of Transportation and he won’t assign Herman to us.”

During the next five months, things went along as Tom predicted. Then the contract John had mentioned became a reality. It hadn’t been signed, but it looked like that would happen, once a few minor details were worked out. John decided to establish the new trade route, so he had Tom and me turn the Telemann route over to the four hoppers we had trained. Once we had refreshed their memory of the route, Sam and I began the survey and installation of the new route.

The first problem surfaced, when Tom and I went to the warehouse to pick up the pallets of shelters and tools, which we would need to install the first part of the new route. Tom took one look at the shelter pallets, and a puzzled look came over his face. By then I had learned what a shelter pallet should look like, so I saw the problem also. So when Tom motioned for me to come with him, I knew we would be heading to Manny’s office for an explanation.

As usual in situations like this, I decided to let Tom take the lead, since his knowledge and experience was much greater than mine. He said, “Morning, Manny, why are there no heaters and bed frames on the shelter pallets?”

“It’s the new policy, Tom. Last month, Herman decided that the heaters and bedframes weren’t necessary. He rewrote the policy and instructed me to remove them from the existing pallets, and return them to the manufacturer. So I followed his directions.”

“I should have known Herman had something to do with this! It’s just like him. Come on, Sam, we need to speak with John.”

Walking into John’s reception area, Tom said, “We have an important matter to take up with John, Marsha. Is he available right now?”

“Well, he’s on a comm call. If you and Sam want to have a seat, he should be finished in a few minutes.”

Five minutes later, Marsha checked with John and she told us to go in.

“What brings you and Sam to see me, Tom?”

“We went to the warehouse, John, to pick up the equipment pallets for the shelters we’ll be installing. I noticed that there were no heaters and bedframes on the pallets and asked Manny why they were missing.

“Manny told me that last month, Herman decided they were not necessary. He rewrote the policy, and told Manny to take them off the pallets and return them to the manufacturers. Were you aware of that, John?”

We could tell from John’s red face and tight jaw, that this was the first he had heard of Herman changing the company policy. “No, this is the first I’ve heard of it. You say he did it last month?”

“That’s what Manny told me.”

“Okay, I will handle this. Tell Manny I want him to put the heaters and bedframes back on the pallet, and then you and Sam go install them.”

“That is going to be a problem, John. Manny has already shipped them back to the manufacturers.”

I see. Go ahead and install the shelters, as is. I will have Manny reorder the bedframes and heaters. When they come in, you and Sam can retrofit the shelters you have already installed.

“I want the two of you to go ahead with the installation. Right now, I need to talk with Manny and Herman.”

“Thanks, John.”

Tom and I returned to the warehouse. After picking up several pallets of rations, we hopped the equipment pallets, provision pallets, and five shelter pallets to our first stop. The first eight stops on this new route were on one of Simm’s existing routes, so we did not have to install shelters.

At our ninth stop, the work began. It’s surprising how quickly you forget how much work there is to prepping a site and installing a shelter. We hadn’t forgotten how to install the shelter, but, we took our time and sort of eased our way back into the heavy muscle work. Hopefully, we wouldn’t be too sore tomorrow.

We spent two nights at that first shelter. After breakfast in the morning, we hopped to our next stop and started the process again. Two weeks later, we finished installing our fifth shelter, and decided to begin our return trip in the morning. The next day, we had breakfast and moved the remaining provisions into the shelter. We would pick them and the equipment pallet up on our next trip.

It was mid-morning on Everett, when we arrived, so Tom and I headed into the warehouse to make sure the next set of shelters and provisions would be ready after we did our paperwork. The first person we ran into was Manny.

Tom said, “Morning, Manny, how are things going?”

Manny was normally a happy vibrant man, but not this morning. “Tom, Sam, I’m afraid there is some really bad news. John is dead, and Herman is in charge.”

The shock of John’s death hit both of us hard. Tom finally said, “What happened, Manny?”

“You know about the situation with the heaters and bedframes. Well, John called me into his office. He was as angry as I have ever seen him. He told me that Herman should not have changed company policy regarding the shelter equipment without his permission, and I was told to order new heaters and bedframes and get them here, as soon as possible.

“As I was leaving his office, Herman went into John’s office. I came back here to the warehouse to order the stuff, like John told me to do. It must have been an hour later that word reached me about John having a long and very angry argument with Herman. They had been shouting at each other and in the middle of it, John collapsed. The factory’s medical staff went straight over, but it was too late. The autopsy found that John had an aneurism in his brain, and the artery had burst.”

Tom and I stood there, trying to take in everything that Manny had told us.

“Tom, Herman moved into his Dad’s office that same morning. He made it known that John had left the factory to him. He had me cancel the order John told me to place for the heaters and bedframes. When he gave me the instructions, he made it clear that the hoppers’ days of being coddled were over. He said he would be writing a new Hopping Policy, and hoppers would have to start pulling their fair share of the load, or else.”

“How did Jim respond to that?”

“The only thing he said was, “Until Herman does something officially, all I can do is talk with him.” Personally, Tom, I don’t think Jim talking with him is going to change Herman’s mind.”

“I know! I doubt anything is going to change Herman’s mind about D-Hopping. Is there anything else, Manny?”

“No, that is about it. Jim is your Guild’s representative here at Simm’s, but you are the senior hopper. So for the last two weeks, all of our hoppers including Jim are waiting to see what Herman does, and how you want them to handle it.”

“Do me a favor, Manny. Tell them to meet me over at The Hook for a beer after work today. Right now, I’m going home and rest. After I do the Guild paperwork tomorrow, I’ll quit. There is no way I will work for that idiot.”

Tom and I left the warehouse and headed to our hover cars.

“Sam, this is my solution. You need to figure out what you want to do. I suggest that you stick it out for a week or so, and see what happens. If Herman’s new Hopping Policy is anywhere close to what I think it will be, then I rather imagine that you and the rest of the hoppers will resign and go elsewhere.”

“Well, do you have any plans for after you quit, Tom?”

“No, nothing at the moment. I may start my own hopping business or go to work for someone else. I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I’m a hopper, not a businessman. I’m also too old to start over with a new boss. Maybe I’ll just retire, take my pension, and wander around the Multiverse.”

“Alright, Tom, I’m going home and get some rest. I’ll see you later at The Hook.”

When I got to The Hook that evening, Tom was at a table with Ken and Jim.

Signaling the waitress to bring me a beer, I joined the guys. “Evening all. How are things going?”

Tom looked up at me and said, “Pull up a chair, Sam, and join us in a few rounds in memory of John.”

Nodding to Ken and Jim, I sat down and waited for the waitress to bring my beer. “Where are the rest of the guys?”

Ken said, “The other guys are on runs, and won’t be back for a day or two.”

“Have the three of you been talking about the changes?”

“Yeah, we talked about it some. Tom thinks we should all wait to see what Herman is going to do.”

“I thought you were going to quit tomorrow, Tom.”

“I was; but after I got some sleep, I thought about it and changed my mind. If I quit now, it will not affect Herman. However, if I wait until Herman releases his new Hopping Policy; I can quit in protest, file a grievance with the Guild, and then retire. At least that way, I may do some good for the other hoppers. If Herman is too stupid to retract his new policy, then the other hoppers can do what they feel is right for them.”

Jim gave Tom a questioning look, and said, “I never had much to do with Herman. What sort of policy changes do you think he wants to make?”

“Well, Herman left for college about the time you started, Jim. John had us take him on a couple of deliveries before that. Herman was upset with us for taking an hour rest between hops. We explained to him that when we make a hop, we have to be very focused on what we are doing, and that a hop causes mental and physical fatigue. He doesn’t believe that our mental fatigue is real, and he said we don’t do enough to be physically fatigued. He said, the real reason is, we’re lazy. John talked to him, but, it did no good. John eventually had to keep him separated from us hoppers.”

“What did our Guild Rep do about the situation,” Ken asked?

Tom said, “Well, back then he complained to John, and John took care of matters. Now that Jim is our Guild Rep, and John is dead, there isn’t much that can be done until Herman steps out of line. If Herman’s new policy requires us to make back-to-back hops, which I believe it will, that is a violation of our contracts. I plan to wait until he steps out-of-line, then resign and file a grievance with the Guild. Now that I think of it, a lawsuit against him for breach of contract would also be a good idea. I recommend that you guys wait until Herman takes a stand, and then do what you feel is right.”

A couple of beers later, the four of us went home. Tomorrow morning, Tom and I would finish our paperwork, and prepare to continue our survey.

The next morning, Tom and I were at a table in the break area filling out the last of the Guild forms. Jim Taylor joined us at our table, and waited until we finished what we were doing.

Handing us several sheets of paper, he said, “Well, guys, its semi-official. Herman released his new Hopping Policy, and he will be posting it, shortly, which will make it official. As our Guild Representative, I got an advance copy this morning.

“His new policy violates the Guild’s Safety Policy, which is a violation of our contracts with Simm’s Seafood. I spoke with all but two of our hoppers about the new policy before they left for their runs after I talked with Herman. Herman’s mind is made up and the other hoppers are going to think about what they are going to do. The other two guys will be back in a couple of hours and I will talk with them then. Herman said he will not change his policy. What do the two of you want to do about the new policy?”

After glancing through the policy, Tom let out a sigh and said, “Once he posts his new policy, I am going to ‘quit for cause’, file a grievance with the guild, and then put in my retirement papers. After that, I will file a lawsuit and take some time to think about my future.”

“What about you, Sam?”

I had been sitting beside Tom, and he had handed me the new policy to read before he responded to Jim’s question.

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