"Calling Grain. Grain to aisle four for cleanup."
"Whatever." Grain was outside having a cigarette. She was sure that it was Ore's turn anyway, her last cleanup having been just an hour before. "I'll get there when I get there."
"Who does he think we are, anyway?" Brick sat beside her with a can of coke, not smoking but enjoying the time outside. "Just resources to do his bidding?"
"Seriously. Ever since Settler Blue made Lumber a shift leader-"
Lumber stuck his head out the door at that exact moment. "Grain, I've been calling for you. There's a mess in aisle four. Those barbarians came through again. Worse than the pirates. Anyway, Settler Blue needs you at your post. Your break was over five minutes ago."
"Fine," Grain checked the butt of her cigarette toward a tin can, smiling when it hit her target. A quick kiss for Brick and she headed back in. "See you after shift."
It wasn't like the supermarket was a bad place to work. It was better than the old days, when they had individual outposts for all the different resources. She'd barely ever seen her girlfriend then, only managing when a Settler collected more of one thing or the other, or if there was a port. Grain had always loved the ports, there had always been so much to do. Sometimes it took the Settlers forever to get there, and sure the Harbormaster could be a bit harsh, but in general it was good times.
That all changed when the Traders and Barbarians came in. Settler Blue hadn't had the monopoly then that he had now. He'd utilized the traders better than any of the other Settlers, and now he ran most of Catan. One of the first things he'd done was to set up these supermarkets. A place where everyone could get whatever they needed at a fixed price. No two-for-one trades or even worse the dodgy three-for-one. All the resources had been promised equality, but Grain new that would never happen.
Ore always managed to come out on top in these things, but none of the rest of them minded. Getting ore was hard work, and for the most part the rest of the Resources respected that. Beside which, he was a lot of fun to drink with. The salt of the earth, Brick would say, and she was right. Never had a bad thing to say about anyone, worked hard and told a lewd joke like nobody else.
"Oh great." Grain wheeled her mop and bucket over to aisle four, looking at the split bags of cereals , the rye and wheat covering the floor. What a waste. "It's all just chaff now."
She started to sweep, knowing this was a big task. From the end of the aisle barbarian who was trailing the horde who had done this laughed. Grain glared at him, but didn't say a word, knowing that Lumber was likely in back watching her sweep up the mess. It wasn't worth her job to tell this Barbarian what she really thought. As fun as the ports had been in her youth, she didn't want to go back to the lack of job security and the capriciousness of the harbourmasters. Not when she and Brick had just bought a cute apartment not far from town.
It wasn't like the Barbarians could really be trusted. They were as likely to rob one of the Supermarkets as they were to shop from it. Grain let out a sigh of relief when he finally moved along, finishing up with the mess faster than she'd expected.
"What a waste," She muttered as she pushed the cart into the back room and tossed it all into the trash. "Can you believe it? All that grain just gone, because Settler Blue-"
"Settler Blue what?" Lumber spoke as he came down the stairs, a clipboard in his hand. "Don't think I'm not watching you, Grain. I know the game you're playing."
"I'm not playing any game, Lumber. Just frustrated at the loss. It'll be hard for the store to make it's monthly profit now, and I know Wool already made hers across town." Perhaps it was wrong to use the animosity between Wool and Lumber against her boss, but Grain couldn't help it. Not when Lumber was so continually frustrating and also so predictable.
Lumber sniffed derisively, his clipboard clutched tight to his chest. "We'll see about that. Wool thinks she can beat me does she?"
Lumber stormed back onto the floor, and grain pursed her lips so she wouldn't smile. She'd been offered a job at Wool's store, but there wasn't a space there for Brick. Grain wasn't about to go without her girlfriend and had told Wool that. Maybe in the new year. Word was a few of Wool's current resources would be heading out to a new town that Settler Blue was setting up. Maybe then they could both move over and not have to deal with Lumber and his preposterous power trips.
Brushing the dust off her work vest, Grain turned to go back to the floor. Only she thought she heard something from in back, what sounded like barrels scraping. She froze, wondering if someone was trying to rob the supermarket. A robber sent by one of the other Settlers? Or worse the Barbarians? Either was possible, Grain thought, the spilled cereal and mess in the shop a great way to cover their theft.
Quietly, she slipped between pallets and crates in the storeroom until she had a better view.
“Barbarians,” she whispered, hunched down low. They were piling stacks of lumber onto a cart outside, a beaten up old thing that couldn’t have many miles left in it. What should she do? If she let them steal the resource it would affect Lumber’s bottom line and maybe lose him the job. Grain decided she couldn’t be so petty. Clambering atop a pallet of mixed ores, she called out, tugging the Robber-Whistle they all carried out from under her shirt. “Stop now, or I’ll blow the whistle! We have two knights on guard!”
The Barbarians pulled weapons and Grain wondered what she’d been thinking. Whistle to her lips, Grain blew before flattening herself to avoid any projectiles.
She wasn’t exactly sure what happened during the altercation, only that at the end of it, when she climbed down from her perch Settler Blue was there with a pleased smile.
“Good Initiative, Grain. Keep that up, and you’ll have your own store soon enough. Now Lumber. Let’s talk about the breaches in security, shall we?”
Lumber glowered at her, but Grain grinned, Brick coming up to hug her in relief. Maybe it wasn’t that bad a day after all.