The Cyneweard

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Part I - Bringer of Storms :: 24

“The Sigil is looking for him now.”

“Good,” replied Parton. “How are your injuries?”

“Head hurts but we know what he looks like now.”

“Yeah,” Parton agreed, turning his gaze to the top of his immense desk.

“Do we wait for the Sigil to do their process.”

“They won’t find him.”

Calor tilted his head. “Why do you say that?”

Parton looked back up and smiled, not offering an answer. “Have you ascertained the level of resistance?”

“We’ve had multiple workers walk through the gate and not come back. Many of them have turned up across the street in the mass protest. You remove one, four more take its place. It’s maddening.”

Parton nodded. “We have to step up our game, especially with the Union’s leader finally showing his face. When is he expected to arrive?”

“Wilcox wasn’t sure,” Calor began, leaning back in the chair and crossing his legs. He winced, a remnant of the fight two days ago scarring his leg. “The delivery order mark was two days ago, so he’s probably going to make it into the Chop tomorrow.”

Sighing with the effort, Parton leaned over and began rummaging through a drawer. “We need to end this quickly.”

“We’re not negotiating are we?”

Parton shot him a glare. “Of course not. I don’t negotiate with bullies. I punish them. The things we have done for this community, this land as a whole. Where would they be still? Under the rule of a warmonger, barely subsisting. To the Below with their complaints. They are lucky to have us guiding their lives.”

Calor nodded. “Then the plan is force?”

Parton pulled a small piece of folded parchment and laid it out on the desk. A grin lifted the corners of his mouth. “We just show them that we are not bulliable. We have to scare the fight out of them.”

“More violence may just make them turn more resolute,” Calor warned.

“Then we take the all-in approach.”

“A clean slate?” Calor frowned, crossing his arms. “I’m not sure we should alienate the entire district. Some foremen are protesting too.”

“Former Foremen,” corrected Parton. “And do you know how many requests for employment we receive by mail every single day from the Whistlands as a whole? We could refill our workforce in hours.”

“And what of training them? There is a cost involved.”

Parton waved his hand and tapped the paper. “We will likely not need to go down that path. Give me two days and we can have this handled. May even have them running back to us, holding out their hands, wanting our help.”

Calor furrowed his brow. “I guess I’m not seeing this clearly.”

“No need to see it clearly. That’s why I’m here, Calor. Your efforts have been mighty of late and that will not go unnoticed. But perhaps you should let me handle this problem now.”

“If you’re sure you don’t need my help,” the Vice Chairman replied with a sigh.

“Oh, I need help, but not from you. Not like this.”

Again, Calor frowned in confusion. “Ok...”

“Now leave me. I have an errand to run.”

“Never thought you’d stoop low enough to see me yourself.”

The Chairman laughed and sat down on a large hay bale. He had not wanted to do this but needed this conversation to remain between he and his contractor. The barn was inconspicuous enough, full of leather saddles and horsecart parts and supplies. The entire horse drawn buggy supply company was owned by the Machinist Group. Parton had acquired it in the will of a silent Rebellion partner long ago and had turned it over to a number of his special contractors. Business was going to take a turn for the worst soon thanks to the steam carts and their burgeoning proclivity. Still, it was nice to have the notice of a front operation dying.

“I am here to request a job. Two, actually.”

“Two at the same time? How greedy of ya.”

Parton frowned. “Your boss tells me you can handle such a complex affair.”

“I reckon,” said the contractor, spitting a greenish glob of WhistLeaf into the hay-strewn loft floor. “Depends on how complex it gets.”

“I need two social contracts terminated.”

“Speak again?” The contractor leaned forward, cupping his stubby ear.

“Take two interests out.”

“Two targets. Details?”

“In here,” Parton replied, offering a folded sheaf of parchment. “Description of one target, possible locations of the other.”

The contractor raised an index finger. Fire burst from the tip of it. He waved it closed to the surface of the sheaf, using his other hand to flip it open. Parton waited as he read it, studying the contractor’s face. It was similar to the boss the contractor answered to, grizzled, lined, and sun beaten. He had small, distant eyes, a ruddy complexion, and small nicks and scars across his knuckles. He wasn’t overly large but he was stocky and intimidating in the low light of the barn.

A few moments later, the man had finished the parchment. “These targets are total opposites profile wise. What’s the priority?”

“The high profile target. He’ll be hard to get to.”

The contractor whistled and nodded. “I see that. So him first. Then the mystery man.”

Parton nodded.

“This’ll cost a lot of gold, old man.”

“That will not be a problem. Do this and you save this community’s way of life.” Parton offered the man a smile.

The contractor leaned forward, scowling. “I don’t give a shit what it does. I just want the money. Total’ll be ten thousand. Half now for supplies. The other half after I’m done.”

“Fair enough,” Parton agreed, affecting his own scowl. He reached into his coat and pulled out a heavy sack and dropped it on the floor. The thunk echoed around the dark barn. “You can have it all. Just get the job done.”

His contractor eyed the sack for a moment before slowly reaching down to pick it up. “I’ll take your word that this is the amount I need. If it ain’t-”

“Then you complain to your boss and you’ll get the difference. Get the job done. Fast.”

“I’ll do it my way, old man.”

Parton shot up off the bale, reached over, gripped the scruff on the man’s shirt collar, and lifted him off the ground.

“Look here you little shit. I will not have a shitstain like yourself undermine me. You will never amount to half of what I’ve become. You are nothing to me. You are only an employee and you will act like it or by Humbolt I will end you myself right here. Get the job done or I come to collect your debt to me personally. Is that clear?”

“Y-yes,” the man stammered, highs wide and locked to the firey eyes of his employer. “Fast. Careful. Got it.”

Parton set him back onto his feet and readjusted the man’s twisted collar. “Good.”

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