Wrong side of the tracks
Mission: Chapter 9: Steam City
Every town in the West had a place like this. With a nation this lawless, the criminal underworld was well and truly above ground. The military ruled Kanesville, but were happy to leave this part of the city to its own devices. Far behind the railworks, beyond the furthest watchtower, was the Rust Quarter. Dilapidated housing, abandoned and burned out factories, sludge leaking through cracks in the pavement everywhere.
"Like I was telling you, the black market operates out of here," Colton was saying to Brem. "You can buy everything and anything, for a price."
He pulled open a rickety wooden door of an abandoned-looking building and inside Brem saw that it was anything but abandoned. It was a bit like the marketplace back in town, except that the people looked dirtier and the goods dirtier still. It was crowded and smelled of sweat. The cracks of light through the ruined ceiling did nothing to illuminate these shady characters.
Colton was looking around "Should be able to get something for Leftheris. He got crotch rot from one of them Vaudeville girls. What do you need?"
"Something in particular..." Brem said with a grunt, "Like a cog this big" he held out his fingers to about 5cm "but with wire or some such, maybe glass, I will know it if I see it's like."
The pair received unwelcome looks from several of the stall holders. "Doesn't look like we are too welcome here." Colton said.
"Welcome, welcome friends" shouted a man whose face was a little less dirty than most of the others "What can we get you today?" He was wearing a long, thick overcoat that looked like it had plenty of pockets.
Colton was keeping his voice down. "My... sailor friend has problem with itching and burning."
"I see sir. Well, put this on your sailor each night for a week, and you should feel a lot better." He produced a jar of powder and handed it to Colton. "That'll be seven florins."
Brem was looking at a spare parts stall. It wasn't much of a stall, more like a rickety old table with a greasy tablecloth strewn over it. The vendor looked equally rickety and greasy, as did his goods.
"This has seen better days" said Brem sadly, showing the rusty cog he'd bought to Colton. It reminded him of the scrap yard he'd left behind. "Kanesville has seen better days" said the man with the overcoat, who had been trying to sell more of his wares to Colton. "Food shortage is dragging us all down. But we make do." He was looking left and right, suspiciously. "Everyone keeps sayin' the next train will have a full load of food and everything will go back to normal, but I don't believe it."
A scamper of children appeared from between the stalls and ran to where Colton and Brem were stood. "Hey mister!" one of them called, "got any spare... er... stuffs for us?"
"Get out of here!" Brem said in a tone not unlike that of an annoyed parent.
The children giggled and ran away down the main 'street' of the market.
"Hang on a mo..." Colton said as he looked at the children, "Hey! Stop!"
One of the children turned and stuck their tongue out before running again.
"Brem, check your pockets! I reckon they've took something!"
Brem's eye widened as he patted his pockets. "The key! They took the key to the Steamhawke!"
"Since when do skyships have keys?" asked the cowboy.
"Since we started parking them in the Old West! It'd take a smart man to fire up the engine without that key. Come on!"
Brem sped after the children with the cowboy right behind him. The kids were disappearing into the crowd and the chances were running out to reclaim the key.
"Split up, one ran that way!" pointed Colton. He ran in the opposite direction to Brem, and pounced on one of the kids as he emerged from behind a stall. The boy was dragged to the ground and struck across the face. "Where's the key?" demanded Colton, bearing a fist.
By the time Brem reappeared, Colton was sure the boy didn't have the key. "This one didn't have it. Did you find it?"
Brem shook his head. "No," he said gravely. Brem and Colton looked at each other.
"This is bad, isn't it," Colton stated.
"Yes," Brem said. The two men were silent for a moment as the contemplated the consequences. In the background the young boy crawled away, holding his ribs.
Colton sighed. "Who's gonna tell 'Nelia?"