Part II - Our Common Grave :: 45
Wilcox was his usual disheveled self, his hair matted, breeches dusty, boots covered in various substances, shirt half unbuttoned. His creased face was twisted in a snarl and his fierce eyes met Parton’s with enough malice to power a steamcart. With a wave of his hand, Parton motioned him to sit in a chair in front of his large desk.
The Watcher obliged, plopping down into chair while needlessly fondling his empty hip holster. They had taken his longbarrel and his side thrower at the gate, leaving him without leverage. He was on Parton’s turf and whatever was to come of this meeting, it would not be decided by a slug fight.
Parton took his own seat, put a leg across his other, and leaned back, fingers touching coming together just below his chin. “To what do I owe this...pleasure?”
Wilcox’s face continued to twist and turn in various shades of anger. “You know why I’m here.”
“Are you here to apologize for killing my two guards?”
The Watcher leaned forward and growled, “Those guards killed nearly two dozen workers.”
“Former workers,” Parton corrected. “And they were warned before we started throwing. They were trespassers on Machine property the moment their employment was terminated.”
“A damned lie and you know it, Parton. You didn’t give them but a minute at best to clear out.”
“Nevertheless the warning was given.”
“I heard from a survivor that you brought in replacement workers.”
Parton tilted his head. “Who told you that?”
“Does it matter?”
The Chairman shrugged. “I suppose not.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” the Watcher spat through clenched teeth.
Parton let a yawn slow his answer, one eye watching Wilcox become redder in the face. The man wanted to confront him on Machine time and property. Wilcox was under Parton’s jurisdiction now, not the Sigil’s.
“Well, Watcher, it’s our prerogative to hire who we want, when we want.”
“Is this another one of your purges, Parton? Don’t like a splinter group so you get rid of the whole and start over? Isn’t that what you did during the Rebellion?”
“I did lots of things back then, Watcher. Things that brought about a new era of peace to this land.”
“You call indentured servitude to the Machine peace?”
“Better than the alternative, living under the rule and shadow of some crackpot emperor bleeding the land dry of resources and people.”
“I saw evil in both sides.”
“Yeah, real neutral there Sigil. You sided with us in the long run.”
“We had no choice. You didn’t give us one. After you killed the Emperor-”
Parton sat up, his crossed leg hitting the floor with a thunderous thud. He pointed a sharp digit at the Watcher. “You have no proof.”
“The proof was dug up the day of Dumdhall’s death. Who else would have had the access and resources to get that done?”
Who the below did he think he was, this Watcher? This wasn’t a low life he was talking to but a great leader, a strong linchpin of the community.
“Those are not light words to bandy about, Mr. Wilcox. I suggest those words stay within this room only.”
“Do you not deny it?”
“So you will not be opposed to an investigation? We’ve been...distracted...but I’m sure Protector Greer has made some progress while he looks into this Cyneweard character.”
Parton leaned back in his chair again. Wilcox grinned at the Chairman’s growing pallor. He had finally found something to hold over the mighty Machine leader.
“I’ll take your silence as ascent.”
The Chairman snapped his head forward. “I will not collaborate with an investigation. I will not allow you to view the bodies.”
“You’re going to object and obstruct us?”
“Those are relics of a bygone era. They must be destroyed along with the remainder of our reminders of that trying time.”
“And now you’re plotting against the Remnant. Keep incriminating yourself Parton. I have all day,” Wilcox replied, his grin growing wider.
Parton frowned, some of the color returning to his face. Too much of his past had bubbled back up to the surface and it had to be controlled. The Sigil, the Remnant, the Union...he had too many fronts, too many enemies. He’d have to squash one of them quickly.
“You don’t have access to the bodies right now,” he replied to the lawman.
“I’m sure the Temple will be more than willing to let us take a look.”
“And if they refuse?”
“I can get around refusals.”
“Break the law, Watcher? I thought you were supposed to uphold it. I’m sure that’s what your pay sack is for, or did you forget who sends the money your way?”
“I think it’s about time the Sigil separate itself from the Machinist group,” replied Wilcox, leaning back in his chair. “I’m sure the Great Watcher will find a way to fund us that doesn’t go through your hands.”
Parton laughed. “Before the Machine, you and your group were just vigilantes swinging swords around. Look at you now, toting slugthrowers and actually getting paid. Do you really think the Great Watcher will even listen to your madness?”
“You’re a murderer, Parton. You murdered the Emperor, his wife, hundreds of imperials, thousands of workers over the past fifteen years. The Sigil puts people like you behind bars... or hanging from a noose.”
Parton stood. “Are you threatening me, Watcher?”
Wilcox stood and threw a finger in Parton’s face. “I’m just speaking the truth. One day someone is going to get tired of you trampling them, betraying them, leaving them to rot. And on that day, all that’s left of you will be blood painting a wall.”
For a moment, Parton remained silent. He stood staring at Wilcox, nostrils flaring, fists clenching. The target of his hire stared back, his own breathing flowing heavy through his parted mouth.
Parton reached down, eyes never leaving Wilcox’s, and reached into a drawer. “Get out,” he breathed at the Watcher.
“I’m not done,” Wilcox replied, sending some spittle towards the Chairman’s face.
Something cold and metallic jabbed into the Watcher’s chest. “You are done,” Parton said.
The Watcher reached for his side thrower but found nothing there. A strong, hard punch landed against his sternum, opening him up. Blood flew forward as he fell back against the chair. His head hit a leg and his vision burst into white and black for a moment. Wilcox pushed the chair to the side and began crawling back, the hot fire of pain licking at his chest with every motion.
“You are done for good, Watcher.”
Parton walked around his desk, holding a very odd and boxy looking slug thrower. It had a trigger but no cylinder, it’s barrel covered in a square sliding mechanism. No cap striker was visible. Wilcox’s eyes grew wide as the odd looking weapon was pointed at his face.
“You,” he coughed, some blood escaping his mouth. His chest felt heavy and breathing was becoming very difficult. He wheezed and coughed up more blood.
Parton pulled the trigger. The Watcher fell limp, eyes still open, blood still pouring from the corner of his mouth.
The Chairman raised the slugthrower up to his face and examined it. Two slugs used. Five more in the cartridge, one already in the chamber. What a wonder the Research department had come up with, a self cocking cylinder-less slugthrower. It truly was a marvelous age in which to be living.
Two guards and his secretary burst through the door, the guard’s side throwers raised.
“Sir!” cried his secretary as she looked down on the Watcher’s body.
“I’m fine,” he deadpanned to her. “Get this mess cleaned up. Also, I’ll need someone to head to the Chamatri Temple for me. Have them come to my office. Make it a foreman, one of the older ones, maybe one who worked with me previously.”
She nodded her understanding as she had placed her hand over her nose and mouth.
“So much to do,” he said as he waved off the guards. “So little time.”