Part II - Our Common Grave :: 43
Parton stood at the edge of the window just inside the boardroom, staring down into the dwindling chaos. The Sigil had arrived and taken out the two guards with the experimental longbarrels dubbed “Ceaseless Throwers,” a misnomer of great proportion. The weapons certainly did cease, but only when their slug supply was fully depleted. Until then, they fed one after another into the air.
“Gentlemen,” he said, still staring out of the window. Four others, standing by his sides, their gazes locked onto the bloody scene far below, hummed their recognition of his call. “What you have witnessed today is the beginning of a new era for The Machine and your mining operations.”
“Elaborate,” one of the burlier men said, a large Whistleaf cigar between his lips.
“With these ‘Ceaseless’ slugthrowers, your operations can finally begin stepping into the Norther territories and have a fighting chance against the Tribes.”
“But they use magic,” replied another man. “No Slugthrower can go up against that. You saw that yourself, Parton, years ago.”
Parton nodded and squinted into the distant horizon. “I remember it well. But untapped in the Northern territories is a resource that may finally get us off the crutch of magic and the Alchemists.” He turned around and walked back to the table. The others followed, sitting down while he remained standing. “We are too dependent on magic and with the dwindling knowledge and membership in the Alchemist guild coupled with more and more stringent rules against magic, it behooves us to be on the cutting edge of alternative energy sources.”
“And this is in the North?” asked the cigar smoking mine owner. Parton knew him to be related to the Worthingtons but couldn’t place the man’s true surname.
“Yes, in the foothills. We have had scouts bringing us exciting news about black rocks that can burn for entire cycles, releasing tons and tons of energy. Energy wasted in the heat exchange. Energy we can use to power entire blocks of homes. We’ve already begun using it to help produce the new Ceaseless prototypes.”
“They shine like a mirror. Is that thanks to the black rock?”
Parton nodded. “High heat allows us to mix things into our iron, forge it stronger, make it tougher than steel. The Ceaseless weapons have yet to seize up or misfire in tests.”
“But no amount of slugthrowers are going to be able to stop a horde of warmages. They can throw spells at our men from many paces behind any front.”
“Ah,” Parton replied, raising a finger. “That, good sir, will be addressed in my second demonstration.”
“Is it really ok, testing this weaponry on your own employees?”
“Former employees,” Parton corrected. “So many had become Union or Union-tainted that a purge was needed.”
The mine owners all looked at each other, uneasiness creeping across their faces. Parton had used the word on purpose. Every one of the men at the table were Remnant, survivors of the original Purge, the great cleansing of the Nobility he himself had set up and put into motion so many years ago.
“You’re certainly ruthless,” replied the Worthington family member.
“This is our world’s future on the line. I will be as ruthless as it takes. Now get up and come to the west. Watch out towards the western Horizon. See that small farm?”
The men did as they were bade and followed Parton to another set of floor-to-ceiling windows. In the far distance, way past the crumbling Capitol wall, sat a quaint farm. Crops, barn, silo for storage, and a large farm house.
“Watch the farm house,” Parton said and then waved an arm over his head.
A few moments later, a kathunk echoed up to the windows. In a flash, the entire house was hidden behind a great cloud of lightening. When it cleared, the house was gone, in its place a smoldering foundation. The adjacent crops had been turned to glass, the barn razed, and the silo leaning over pitifully, its husk set ablaze. The men in the room gasped.
“Spell canisters launched via steam pressure. The canister that took out that farm was launched from the edge of the Chop.”
“How?” someone asked.
“That is a secret, gentlemen. Let’s just say that there are not just three departments here at the Machine.”
“This can’t be real.”
“It is,” Parton assured. “And all I need to get this on the fast track is have dedicated men from your organizations. We only need two thousand to make the push into Northern territory. We take care of the Tribes, rid the North of magic, and then start to ween ourselves off of the Alchemical technology we’re so dependent on.”
“What do we get out of it?”
Parton laughed. “Money, of course. What else? You four will have first rights to set up mining operations in the North. I fully expect the black rock to become the largest resource sold since the first Alchemical lantern was produced. We just need to handle the Tribes.”
“You’re speaking as if we’re tasked with annihilating them.”
Another laugh hit Parton. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. We cannot have the North as long as they still occupy it. They will not give it up and will not live peacefully. What other course can we take?”
“Ruthless,” grumbled the man with the cigar. “But a sound plan. You can have five hundred of my boys.”
Parton looked to the other men in attendance. They began whispering and looking away from him. Parton frowned and was about to continue his stump speech but was interrupted by the door to the room being opened. His secretary walked in, her face pale.
“I told you no interruptions.”
She shivered. “I know sir. I’m sorry. It’s just-”
“Just what?” he shouted, startling the men around the table.
“The Watcher is at the gate, demanding to speak with you. He’s threatened to kill a guard every hour.”
“Is Koph with him?”
She nodded. “And the Protector.”
Parton groaned and turned to the table. “Gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me. This will have to continue at another time.” He pointed to his secretary. “Show them out the West entrance. No need for them to deal with the South gate.”
She nodded again and motioned for the mine owners to follow her.