The guard snapped to attention as Hagen strode out of the office. The man was young, yet tired. He was one of the new recruits finding out what life as a policeman in the city was really like. His unshaven face, grey eyes and scruffy uniform reflected how the man felt inside, and this brought back memories for Hagen. He had been just the same as this man, and those years had seemed to last eternity. Time and dedication to the service had them worthwhile however. Look where he was now: third in command in the city in the King’s absence.
“Be more alert next time!” he snapped at the boy, and then softly whispered, “I know how you feel.”
The boy smiled, saluted, then continued with his rounds of the station. Hagen was tired also. Another sleepless night at his humble quarters, and a day of endless problems had left him mentally and physically drained. He was glad he had only a couple more hours of his shift left, but a few minutes outside, he hoped, would clear his thinking.
Taking a detour from his normal route through the mess hall, he came to an old oak door studded with iron bolts. A chill wind hit his face as he hauled it open, then closed it as he came through the opening. Continuing down some stone steps he crunched out onto the frosty grass. The night was drawing in but he could still see by the light of the lamppost. The well stood to his left, and ahead was a solid metal door to deter any would-be intruders. Hagen was confident that no one could get into the station, and the Mechanist machines enforced that.
Truart was friends with their leader, and seemed to spend a lot of time at their castle, high up in the city. Hagen was going there in a few minutes to order another batch of the machines they introduced as the new law-enforcers. There were many strange religions in the city, many with dark connections with the underworld, but none were more fanatical than the Hammerites, the parent religion of the Mechanists. The Hammerites believed (or so he had heard) that God put them there to bring about his reign by means of hammer and steel. They had vastly improved boilers around the city, but apart from that Hagen saw no other need for their existence. Of the Mechanists however they had a distinct hate. According to their leader, the Mechanists were heretics, and Hagen thoroughly agreed with him. With twice the power and cunning of the ‘Hammers’ and a distinct liking for incredibly advanced mechanical contraptions, they were fast becoming the main power in the city.
Shoalsgate itself was affected by their monstrosities. Mechanical faces watched every secure place, and the walking machines proved to better than any human guards at deterring intruders from entering the station through one of the many gates. Truart seemed heavily involved with them somehow, but his plan Hagen did not know of. He had already decided to bide his time and wait for events to unfold before he took any action. Besides, Truart promised him a new case if Moseley, the young but talented officer, failed her last chance to redeem her mistakes on it.
Storm clouds drifted across the sky, and rain started pattering on Hagen’s head. Time to return to inside he felt, so he crossed back across the inner courtyard and stalked through the oak door again.
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