Part I - Bringer of Storms :: 4
"Met the quota early? You gettin' a bonus?" asked the bartender.
Goody shook his head. "Nah, not how it works."
"Maybe they'll get you a cushy job, maybe lookin' after a Vice Chairman. You got experience right?"
Goody laughed and threw up a dismissive hand. "That was ages ago, in another life."
The coworker next to him guffawed. "Like you can forget that kinda stuff, Goody."
His target shrugged. "I'll do what they ask me. Right now, that's putting things together."
The tender nodded. "Yeah, yeah. Well, you get that one for free. Script for the rest."
Goody nodded his thanks.
The man was not tall, but had wide shoulders and wiry forearms. Those arms had seen a lot of manual work, and from the sound of the conversation, had experience in the war.
Goody stood, downed the whisky in front of him, and slammed the glass down.
Both the tender and Goody's friend looked up.
"Going somewhere?" asked the barkeep.
"Home," Goody announced. "The missus is cooking."
The friend slapped him on the back. "Is that what you're calling it now-a-days?"
Goody rolled his eyes. "Mind your tongue. When you get hitched, you'll take what you can get."
All three men laughed. Goody waved and turned.
The Cyneweard watched Goody from a dim corner of the bar, hat brim low, sipping at pint of mead. The friend got up to follow and threw down a few slips of paper.
"Oughta handle it," he told the tender, who nodded in return.
"Wait up," called Goody's friend after him, darting after the Foreman.
"Just me and you, friend," the tender said as he turned toward the watcher.
"Yeah," he replied to the tender.
"You going to be drinking another?"
"Then you mind hurrying it up? I might close early if you skedaddle."
The watcher tilted is head and then turned the pint glass upside down, draining it. "There," he said, wiping his mouth.
Barkeep sighed. "Didn't mean for you to do that."
"Your hint wasn't very subtle."
The tender's cheeks flushed.
"No mind. Here," the watcher said, dropping a gold piece down.
"Sir, that's too much."
"Consider it a tip for the good company."
The tender frowned as the dark-eyed man turned and left.
Night was coming into full bloom as he stepped out onto the gravel streets. He hated the stuff. Too noisy. Alas, it was all that covered the Sash district, the recently-built village that sat in the laps of the towering smoke stacks at the Machine. The district took its name from the sashes worn by the Foremen and shift seniors, those that had been with the Machine longer than just a few seasons.
The bars were better and the houses were stone and steel that looked exactly like each other. They were in block configurations with four houses a block, all connected. Such was the way with the Machine. Everything had its order, its quota, and its expected behavior. The Sash district was much less raucous than Little Mille. One would be surprised at the diversity the district held. Despite ongoing prejudice against Animas, the turnover and death rates were so high at the machine that good senior workers were hard to keep. Only the cunning and crafty made it past a few season cycles and they were rewarded, regardless of species, with a sash and authority.
Despite their status, the Foremen and seniors were just as underpaid as their subordinates. The group was tight-knit, resembling an army battalion rather than a jumble of coworkers. The lower workers hated them and their cliquish ways while the Board and Vice Chairmen loved them. Loyalty paid off well within the Machine's culture and the luxuries afforded the Sash district reflected that.
"I'll see you tomorrow," said the friend.
The watcher ducked behind a closed fruit stall. He had already caught up with the two-some.
"Bright and early. See you at the gate," Goody replied.
Goody's friend waved one last time and turned down a dark alley. As the watcher passed, he heard a door unlocking and the friend greeting someone.
The Cyneweard trailed Goody as far back as he dared to minimize the noise of his boots on gravel. He followed the foreman through winding back streets, a small but well maintained square, and a closed market area. Goody stopped at Block House Fourteen and began unlocking a door.
Just as the door began to push inward, the watcher lunged forward and shoved Goody into the home. He heard the air leave his target. He flipped his prey over and slammed both of his knees against the foreman's shoulders, pinning him. From a deep coat pocket he drew a slugthrower and pressed the barrel into the man's temple.
Goody's eyes winced as he felt the steel on his skin. He gasped for breath, trying to gain power over his voice.
"Gareth Soilturner," the attacker grunted.
"G-Goody," gasped the foreman.
"Not your name. Soilturner. Do you remember him?"
The watcher saw the lack of recognition in the man's eyes but awaited an answer anyway. Goody shook his head, his eyes focusing on the attacker's weapon.
"Works or worked for the Machine. Was a Foreman like you. In Production. Like you."
"I...I don't remember a Gareth."
"Think harder," the attacker said, pressing the barrel harder against the foreman's head.
The attacker looked up. A naked woman was standing in a nearby doorway. She took the sight of her husband being threatened and then started to open her mouth to scream. The attacker fired, putting a slug above her left eye.
"Noooo!" Goody screamed, thrashing beneath the weight of his wife's murderer. He tried to get an arm dislodged from beneath the man but received a shoulder-dislocating twist from the Cyneweard's leg in retaliation. Pain flashed hot in his left side and he groaned.
"Soilturner," the attacker repeated.
Goody continued to struggle.
"Your boss, would he know?"
Still Goody struggled. The attacker sighed and placed the gun between Goody's eyes.
"I can find out your boss' name with you dead or..."
"Clanton. Senior Foreman Clanton."
The attacker's thin lips cracked into a knowing smile.
"Thank you, Goody." He pulled the trigger.