Arnett sighed as he stared ahead. Between a rocky hill and pile of discarded Gangue and Tailings was the small sign. He said small. It was roughly the size of a small shack’s side. It was painted to be bright and inviting, but it has faded with age.
Arnett debated how he would enter, but time was wasting. He would soon be out of time. So, he grabbed his controls and nudged the Scorpios II into town. It wasn’t as wide open as other parts of Antiford, but the area surrounding Sorditudo was rocky and rough for a reason. It only took a moment or two more of travel to see why.
The large, mining equipment loomed ahead, and Arnett sneered as he looked upon them again. A massive machine twice the size of a small building was twisting a massive drill deep into Orr. Dust and refuse was tossed up in its wake and its seven massive engines slowly worked and chugged to push it every inch deeper. Two more machines were hard at work, picking up the massive amounts of droppings and bringing the material to the sorters for processing.
It wasn’t long until this machine loomed over the Scorpios II and Arnett began to lead the landship into the descent of the town. Small homes and shops began to appear as he worked his way deeper in. He could now spot the sorters. They were long conveyors that shook, smashed, crushed, and separated a large amount of ore and refuse and turned the massive amount of mining debris into ore and commercialized product and Trailings (the unwanted waste).
Arnett was surprised to see a mixture of new machines walking around the mining area. A few carts, both chanka drawn and pulled by Carriage engine dragged dirt and ore from the smaller and large mines with the aid of many miners. Arnett was surprised to see new walkers overseeing everything and sometimes helping. These machines were repurposed war machines now being used to aid and direct the miners and they stomped around.
One of these hastily approached the Landship, a larger man with mutton chops and a miner’s helmet waving down the landship. Arnett slowed the pace before coming to halt and rushed to meet them on the deck. The legs were close enough so he could speak to the man, who turned out to be one of the foremen.
“Good lord, You the Arnett boy?” he said, “What the hell is all this?”
“I need to dock it somewhere, sir,” said Arnett, “Tell me you lugs have some sort of Landship port?”
“You can use fancy words for it, but it’s just where we keep the mining machines when not in use,” said the man, pointing behind him, “Right before you hit town. It’ll cost ya some coin but it’s cheap out here, and they have plenty of room. Stay clear of the blast zone and please watch its step! Men at work all around here.”
“I could use a spotter to get through,” said Arnett.
“I don’t have a man or woman free, boy,” said the foreman.
“I’ll take it slow,” said Arnett, tipping his hat to the foreman.
“You’ll have to check in with the Sheriff,” said the foreman, yelling to Arnett as he walked away, “We chronicle the comings and goings of ships of this type, now.”
“Perfect,” spat Arnett, climbing in the bulkhead.
Arnett guided his Landship further into the town. Shifts of miners came and went out of various mine shafts and structures. Arnett notices many with pick axes and shovels, but a few were wheeling large drill machines that were the size of a vendor cart. These machines would work better in the smaller shafts and when the large drill have reached its limit and could be operated more precisely by a two man team. Arnett knew it was from these drilling machines his Scorpios inherited its own drill.
Arnett found his way to the depot and was directed into a space and allowed to rest there. He went around shutting down his landship’s boilers and systems. Like it or not, he was probably going to be here for at least a day.
Paying another foreman a small fee for the space, Arnett made his way into town. He left the area where heavy machinery would rest and the warehouse there and headed into more of a residential area. Here were the boarding houses.
The boarding houses were side by side three story buildings where many miners and their families lived cheaply. With small areas cordoned off inside, usually just beds and a trunk. There were seven or eight of them on either side of what could be considered a main road. Arnett knew just beyond these were the companies “utility stores” where local businesses won contracts to supply the mining companies. Here were tailors for company uniforms and mining gear, blacksmiths and gadgeteers for the repair and upkeep of minor gadgets and tools, and even cooks and small restaurants to give the illusion of choice for miners and to cater special events.
Arnett passed them quickly without making eye contact with the playing children rushing to see the new landship docked nearby or the women trying desperately to clean and dry clothes before the soot in the air dirtied them on the line.
Further down was what could be considered a commercial hub of Sorditudo. Arnett could spot the Barbershop where the only two barbers in the town and their apprentice were. There was a general store, trying to provide the town with as much as they could. Arnett just remembered that’s the only store in town that sold sweets. They chopped them up into even smaller pieces so that the kids have a shot of affording them. Arnett shook his head, counting three bars in the distance, one new one taking the place of the Chanka grooming store. Arnett could see the Veterinarian down farther and, almost comically, across the street was the town butcher.
Arnett didn’t get to note anything further as he was halted abruptly and was spun around. Arnett instinctively reached for his pistol before the same hand grabbed his wrist and held it away. Arnett wrenched his hand back, taking a step back. He wanted to reach for his gun but he had already seen the flash of steel from his assailant.
Arnett found himself looking down the barrel of a black powder revolver. The man holding it was pointing it straight at his face, but off a little. He wore sooty clothes, but they weren’t stained from the mine, just dirtied from the dust in the air. He had a stern look on his face. He wore a short beard, speckled grey in his advanced age. His bushy eyebrows were furrowed over his eye. He wore a bowler hat. The man sighed before putting the pistol away.
“Go for the gun? Not very polite to greet someone like that.”
“You never know who’s yanking you around in the street,” said Arnett, “Can’t be too careful.”
“What kind of life you live where you can’t walk down the damn street?” said the man, giving Arnett a hard look, “You being safe?”
Arnett gave a small sigh, “I can take care of myself, Pa.”
“I’m not your Pa, son,” said the man, raising his voice slightly, “I paid for that education, didn’t I? Use it.”
“I’m safe, father,” spat Arnett, his own brows furrowing in anger.
They didn’t say anything for a little while. Standing in the street, they both looked each other up and down, glaring into each other's eyes. The man shifted his weight from foot to foot.
“You look older,” said the man.
Arnett said nothing. He put his hands on his waist and looked around the street, seeing if anyone else was watching them.
“So you carry a gun now?” the man tried again, “What kind of work you need a gun for, son?”
“The kind of work that takes me far from home, father,” said Arnett, looking back at the man, “You carry a gun for your job.”
“I’m an arm of the law,” said the man, “I don’t see your badge.”
“Not every hero wears a badge.”
“That what you are now, boy? A hero?” the man smiled, shaking his head, “And is that thing your steed? The hell you got a walking death trap like that for?”
“My work, father,” said Arnett, “It’s my ship.”
“Your ship? You think I’m a fool, boy?” said the man, “You ain’t gone and got rich in the city. I’m not a fool. You steal it?”
“Built it,” said Arnett.
“Ha!” said the man, “Shoot. You really are something.”
“Arnett,” shouted a voice from behind.
“What?” came the call from Arnett and the man, both turning around.
The man looked at Arnett and backhanded his shoulder. An even older gentleman with the largest, whitest walrus mustache Arnett had ever seen walked up to him. He wore a large duster with a Bowler hat with a large brim. He barely concealed two large six shooter in holsters at his side. On his chest was one of the biggest, Copper police badges Arnett had ever seen. The man seemed familiar with his father.
“Arnett, is this the gentleman with that landship?” Asked the man.
“Sheriff, this is Joel,” said the older man, turning back to Arnett, “Joel Arnett.”
“Yeah, I’m Lieutenant Joel Arnett,” said Arnett, “That Landship is mine. The Scorpios II.”
The sheriff smiled, patting the older man on the back, “Manfred, this your boy? A ‘Lieutenant’ eh? You in the army, son?”
“No, sir,” said Arnett, “It’s kind of… symbolic. It was passed down to me.”
“You using a rank as a symbol?” said Arnett’s father, rolling his eyes, “Lords, help ,me. Yes sir, that thing is apparently my son’s.”
“Well it’s a delight to see you all grown up, son,” said the sheriff, “Look, after dark that thing will be locked down till dawn. We don’t need anyone or anything snooping around our equipment. So that’s just our rule.”
“Thanks, Sheriff,” said Arnett.
“Oh, and I’m going to need to see your registration,” said Manfred, holding out his hand to Arnett.
“Registration?” said Arnett.
“Yes, for your Landship,” said Manfred, “That contraption is registered, isn’t it?”
“Why on Orr do you need to see a registration?” asked Arnett, getting defensive.
“Because you should have it,” said Manfred, “And If you don’t, we’ll have a problem.”
Another stand off ensued of both of them looking at each other. Arnett’s father with his hand out. The sheriff looked from Arnett back to his father, a pained look in his eye.
“Look, Joel,” said the sheriff, “It’s just how we have to do things now. Do you, or do you not, have a registration for that ship?”
Reaching into his pocket, an act that set both of the older gentlemen off, Arnett pulled out a registration and handed it to the sheriff. Manfred Arnett clenched his fist before dropping it down to his side. Opening the paper, the sheriff looked it over and nodded.
“It’s all in order, Manfred,” said the Sheriff, “Built it yourself? No kidding. That’s impressive for a lad your age. Looking back, however, I do remember you having a knack for taking things apart.”
“If only that knack was to then put them back together,” said Manfred.
The sheriff looked down at the registration, before handing it off to Arnett’s father. Arnett reached out to accept it before pulling back his hand, shaking his head.
“Enjoy your stay back home, Joel,” said the sheriff, smiling, “Well, Mr. Lieutenant Arnett, You behave yourself.”
“He will, Sheriff,” said Manfred Arnett, smiling at his boss, “I’ll catch you later, Carl.”
The sheriff began walking back down the road. Arnett’s father instantly glared at his son, opening the registration and reading it over.
“Lieutenant… boy,” Manfred shook his head, “Your mother is going to be worried sick.”
“How is she?” asked Arnett.
“Oh, no,” said Manfred, folding up the registration and pocketing it, “There isn’t a way in hell I’m giving you an excuse to skip out without seeing her. You walk your ass down the road and go visit your mother. Come on.”
“I was on my way for just that,” said Arnett.
“Go!” said Manfred, “No questions.”