Part I - Bringer of Storms :: 9
The destruction of the script store had served to complicate things quite a bit for the Cyneweard.
Protests were breaking out all over the Machine district. The Unionizers blamed the Machinist Group for the blast. The Machine blamed the Unionizers. Foremen were beating up sympathizers and protesters. Protests were growing more violent.
A temporary Script Store, set up in the hollowed shell of an old inn, had been set up two days after the blast. Protests occurred daily. Clashes between Foremen, Machinist Guards, and Unionizers were growing more and more violent. The Sigil didn't have the needed strength of numbers to police the conflicts as they popped up so they only intervened if lives were threatened.
The entire district was on edge and all eyes were on the pending public funerary function in front of the site of the blast. Nearly thirty citizens of Little Mille had perished in the explosion and nearly double that figure were still recovering. Couple that with the results of his own handiwork and the denizens of the most impoverished Chop district were just waiting for another hammer to drop.
Yet more consequences came. Foremen and Machinist Group Guards were posted at every Machine related building. Curfews were in effect in the dark hours. All high-profile Machine administrators were under constant guard by Foremen. The Cyneweard was not going to be approaching his target directly under these circumstances. That's why he decided to go a different route.
The woman was beautiful. He couldn't deny that. So was her Animas companion. He had been following her for over a week now, tracking her every move, trying to plan the most successful trap. Her boss drove her to drink and the drinks led to mistakes. Lots of them. One was a large Foreman who looked to have had some Orc in his lineage far back in the line. Another was a lithe and be-suited Administrative gopher, likely many years her junior. But mostly, she drank. And shopped. And drank some more.
He had over heard her many conversations, heard how the boss used her more as a place to plant his ineffectual seed than a proper secretary. She went along with it to keep the job; it paid well, in gold and not script, and afforded her the lavish drink.
For her part, the Animas friend was in a constant loop of telling the woman to cut off the boss' genitals and stuff them into his mouth. The excuse given was always the same: aging parents with no other children to take care of them.
The Cyneweard had not had one thought of his own parents in quite a while. What would they think of him now? How he befouled his own former title. How he was utilizing their teachings. How he had failed miserably. But they were dead. The dead could no longer judge. He took solace in that fact as he shadowed the woman on her way back home.
He had to be careful as the streets here in Cobblestone were just that: cobbled together with river stone. The smooth rocks were uneven and slippery in the lightest of dampness. They were also loud, no matter what manner of shoes one wore. Every bit of footwear found a way to clack on the stone.
To this end, he had abandoned his boots a ways back, stuffing them into an alley after his target had left the very expensive bar she often patronized.
The entirety of Cobblestone was expensive, decadent, and not a single establishment took Machinist script. Gold was the currency for the wealthy and comfortable and the district was still as magnificent as it had been before the war. The Cobble, as it was known to the rest of the Chop, had once been a thriving arts and theatre district. One of its main functions had been to be an entertainment for royalty and noblemen. No whorehouses, no script stores, no street vendors selling rotten meat.
Since before the war, the district was stocked with only the finest goods and foodstuffs. Its continued wealth was the result of a passive shift in clientele and residents. During the Purge, the aristocracy had been dragged out from their homes and businesses, kicked out or killed, and in moved the rebellion. Hardly a stone had been put out of place during the transition.
Even at night, the district had a certain glow to it. The target was humming a cheery tune to herself as she made her way out of the markets and into the residential section. Homes were oppulent, a remnant of the former owners, and shared no walls or floors. They were freestanding multi-room abodes that had lush lawns and thick gardens, fences to keep out unexpected guests, wide gates to let in the wanted ones. Her home was no exception.
Three stories, as far as he could tell, all for one single drunk secretary. She fumbled at the door and dropped her key. With a muttered curse, she bent over to pick it up. The Cyneweard watched this from across the street, leaning below an alchemical lamp set atop an ornate pole. There were no Sigil patrolling. No Foreman guards. Just homes with alchemical lighting and controlled climates. These wealthy, chosen few had little inconvenience, even from the outside weather.
The target finally managed to get her door open. She had set her shopping bag down. As she leaned over to grasp its handle, he struck. The Cyneweard grabbed her by the hips, lifted her, and pushed the cracked door open with the turn of his shoulder. Before she could let out any sound, he had closed the door.
He spun her around a few times, letting the shopping bag fly out of her hands. It found a seat on her ornate, plush couch, spilling its contents.
"Wha," she began, dizzy from the spinning. "Who?"
Ensuring to keep from her sight, he ducked, reached into his coat, and pulled from it a bit of black cloth. She turned to try to find him. He shuffled behind her and folded cloth.
"Sorry," he muttered and threw the cloth over her head, tying it off at the back.
"What, what are you-"
He spun her once more and then pushed her onto the couch.
"Oh no, you're not...no don't."
She tried to get up and he pushed her back down with an open palm. He used another bit of cloth to bind her hands behind her.
"No, you can't do this. Let me up. Untie me. I'm not some plaything to ravish."
"Calm down," he told her, taking a seat on a marble and velour ottoman.
She shot up. "I..I don't know you..." Her voice was tinged with surprise. "Who...who are you? Why are you here? I thought you were..."
"Your boss?" he asked. "No."
She titled her head. He could see her forearms working at the binds. They might not hold too much longer.
"Sit down," he said as he pulled a slugthrower from a coat pocket. He cocked its hammer to drive the point home. "Or I will end you."
Her arms stopped. She swayed a bit and then fell back down into the sofa. "You're not bluffing."
"No," he replied.
"What do you want with me?"
"First, nod your head if you recognize the name Gareth Soilturner."
"Nod if you worked with him."
She shook her head.
"He was fired before I arrived to Baling. That much insubordination leaves a mark on a department."
He nodded. "And you have records of his employment and fire date?"
"At your office?"
"The office of Vice Chairman Calor?"
"That's my boss."
"You're going to give me the key to your office. And you're not going to report there for work in the morning."
The Cyneweard reached into his pocket and pulled a large sack of gold coins. He dropped them on the hardwood floor. Her mouth drew up at the sound.
"Take that gold and return to your real home. I cannot guarantee your life if you show up to work tomorrow."
"I will not repeat myself."
"The key's in my pocket." She motioned her head to her left side. "I can get it if you-."
He leaned over and dug into her left pocket, extracting the key. "Not needed."
"What are you going to do?"
He stood and strode to the door. She repeated her question when he opened the door. He took two steps through the threshold and turned.
"I think I'm going to take your friend's advice," he replied and shut the door.