The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 72

Parton woke with a start, chest heaving, brow glistening with sweat. He looked to his left and grabbed the slugthrower under his pillow. Age had made him slow, but not that slow.

His secretary dropped the alchemical lantern she had been holding. It rolled away from her, bathing the simple bed room in bright pulsating light.

“Damnit, what do you want?” Parton growled as she shoved the weapon back under his pillow.

“I-I-I need to t-t-tell you something.”

“Ok,” he said, glaring at her. This had better be important.

“Vice Chairmen Bergmen and Pfieffer are dead.”

Parton’s eyes widened. “Really? Confirmed?”

“By the Sigil in Cobble,” she said, nodding.

“Damn,” he sighed. “How?”

“A fire at Bergman’s house. Pfieffer was staying the night there.”

“Idiots,” Parton mumbled. “Schmitt, Bergman, and Pfieffer.”

“The Sigil think it was an accident.”

“Horse shit,” Parton spat. “One is a lucky shot. Two is a coincidence. Three? That’s a pattern.”

She looked confused.

“Get word to the gates, both North and South. They are to quadruple their numbers before morning. And get someone in production to get them more auto throwers.”

With a nod, she ducked down to pick up the lantern and then hurried out of the room.

Parton lay back down and stared hard at the ceiling. The VCs were targets, just as he had feared. Without them, it would be much easier to topple what he had built. Despite his position, he felt powerless. He could only hope that the rest of his Vice Chairmen wouldn’t be as stupid as Schmitt had been going to a bath house in direct defiance of Parton’s orders; or shack up together making a nice juicy two-for-one shot as Bergman and Pfieffer had done.

He’d have to mitigate in the morning. He could leverage Calor for a lot of it, and then contact Greer down in Little Mille to begin running door-to-door checks. The Union were building and if they were readying for a fight, there had to be stock piles somewhere. Find those and start the violence before it can begin.

Greer had promised him that he’d help keep the Union at bay, that he’d flood the Machine District with Protectors until not one Union member could so much as move two or three steps. While it was a step beyond what he felt needed to be done, and something that placed him near the same level as that idiotic Emperor that he had toppled, it was going to be needed.

Despite their power, their technology, and their stranglehold on those two things, Parton felt nervous about the coming days. The Union was full of former soldiers and Sigil members that had left service to live their idyllic dreams. Those dreams had been sold to them by Pfieffer. The man had been a hell of a salesman. Now, those people were disenfranchised of those dreams simply by the division of power. They had no real say, just a livable wage.

Had Parton grown into the thing he hated? He doubted it. The world had grown to hate him. It was Parton against the world outside of the Machine. They had grown foul with their freedoms, complacent, arrogant, and entitled. He only needed to remind them of who gave them those freedoms in the first place. And if that required violence, then tough love is better than no love at all.

Still, his stomach churned. He tossed. He turned. He tried to settle in. Something was clawing at the back of his mind. That one last piece of the past, something he had yet to quash or rewrite. Something he had thought was long gone.

Parton closed his eyes tight, shutting off the pale moonlight. It didn’t help. All he could see was the face of his young apprentice, eyes small and hard, ready to pay Parton back for the damage done.

The Chairman shivered, peeled his eyes open, and stared at the moon.

Sleep wasn’t coming tonight.

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