The Cyneweard

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Part I - Bringer of Storms :: 16

The office was one large room with two desks. The Cyneweard assumed that one desk was for the secretary he had interrogated and the other for Calor. The decorations were sparse, but each desk was covered in scribbled parchments. Workaholics, both of them.

He moved to the filing area near the back of the office and found a large metal chest. The key that had opened the office opened this as well. Inside the container lay dozens of thick sheaves of papers, bundled with different colored ribbon. The code behind the color was a mystery; he’d have to open every type of bundle to get what he needed.

The red-tied bundles caught his eyes first, so he grabbed one and slid the ribbon off. A large red stamp of DECEASED greeted him at the top of the page. Reading the file felt cold, a worker’s history and death recorded with rigid, unfeeling precision.

DECEASED. Tunstal Geart. Hume. Twenty seven cycles old. Twelve cycles on line. No Union ties. Quiet. Obeys. Crushed by errant bale drop. Family notified. Last paycheck withheld due to damage to multiple source materials. Wife did not press issue.”

He moved to another.

DECEASED. Franklin Shael. Canine. Fifteen cycles old. Talks back to immediate Foreman. Impaled by flung iron bolt. Parents alerted. Twelve gold paid.

And another.

DECEASED. Amyee Greer. Feline. Eighteen cycles old. Foot trapped in convey gear after fall. Pulled into gearing. Husband allowed to extract remains. Five gold paid for half week’s of work.

“Red means dead,” he whispered, pouring over sheet after sheet of accidents, mishaps, and a few missing from post and presumed dead notices. Nearly all presumed dead had Union ties.

After five bundles of deaths, he stopped reading the rest of the documents and only scanned names. He grabbed, read the name, discarded to his left.

No Soilturner ever showed so he moved on to the green bundles.

RETIRED in green ink was stamped across them all. No Soilturner.

Yellow? PROMOTED read the first page’s stamp. Again, no Soilturner.

Surely the blue bundles would have his answer. He pulled one and opened it. TERMINATED read its stamping.

Kiln, Poffer, Truett, Dyer, Worthington, C’ena, Silk. Bundle after bundle, name after name.

“Soilturner,” he said aloud when his eyes scanned across the one name that mattered. He pulled the paper from the sheaf and dropped the rest, the floor now all but obscured by parchments.

His eyes were hungry and he fed them.

“Gareth Soilturner. Hume. Twenty eight cycles old. Four cycles of service with no blemish. Promoted to Foreman at start of fifth cycle. Reprimand - insubordination. Reprimand - insubordination. Reprimand - insubordination. Verbal Warning - Calor. Tracking started. Seen working with known dissenters. Reprimand - coercion. Physical adjustment administered. Multiple tracks. Moving between departments after shift, conversations long. Threatened C.P. with strike. Participated in strike in front of gate. TERMINATED Fifth Moon, fourth day, Cycle 9."

Four years had passed since Soilturner had been fired from the Machine. Now what?

The Cyneweard folded the parchment and stuck it into one of his coverall's pockets. He had not planned on his information being that old. His contacts in Millewhist had assured him that the Chop held the man's location.

"Union ties," he mumbled. So he'd have to get involved with the Union to continue his search. Not in his plans at all. Too many loose ends can get frayed the longer the search continued. He'd have to be careful about this.

He turned, kicked a few papers off of his boots, and looked up. A cold iron barrel pressed into his brow. His eyes landed on the grimacing face of Vice Chairman Calor.

"My my, what a mess you've made here," the VC said through is million-teeth sneer.


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