The anger was palpable in the air. A crowd of people with picket signs and fists. Gregor was terrified, but he still held up his sign and attempted to chant along with the angry crowd.
They were protesting in an alley along the mill side. The large brick buildings loomed all around them, but they were silent today. Two factories shut down by the new movement.
On the catwalks outside the third story of the main factory, men stood, some wielding rifles, others just smoking from pipes and glaring down at the crowd below. A few were notable foreman of the factories themselves.
The crowd below was made up of a collection of the workers. Men and Vibranni alike stood shoulder to shoulder, yelling their chants and demanding change.
Among them, Gregor knew, stood the person who had sparked the whole movement. A Vibranni Alpha who demanded change and had taken it upon herself to make it happen. Her Vibranni name may have been Asfina or Ashina or something but everyone had begun calling her 'Unity'. She had chosen the more human name as she became passionate about the change. She decided to start a Union, and the words turned to actions and soon the workforce were all demanding change.
That was until the change came. Withheld wages until a massive order was completed, and then a promised lump sum when it was done. This could mean days if not weeks without pay. It was time for the Union to strike, and strike they did.
The factory doors clacked open, and someone rolled them aside, opening them up to the crowd. Thugs waited inside, a few clutching chains where barking dogs pulled and slobbered at the crowd. The crowd's din of rambling began to form into a solid chant as many began to brace for what would come.
Up on the catwalk by the roof a few figures emerged. A couple more foremen and a man dressed head to toe in fine silk clothes. He wore a purple vest and slacks while his shirt and blazer were of a darker orange. He removed his silk top hat from his head and bowed to the angry crowd. It was the owner. He had shown up in person today. Gregor's eyes shot down the alleyway. A group of Bobbies stood at the mouth. With them, their armored walking platform machine. They weren't looking at the protesters. It suited them, they were probably paid off. As long as a gun wasn't fired, they would look the other way when the violence started. They were Bobbies, after all. They only wanted to make a show of keeping the peace. If they didn't have to get involved, they would not. The owner cleared his throat to speak, an act that quieted the thugs and foremen and only silenced some of the protesters. "Today is a glorious day," said the owner, "I have heard your pleas. As ungrateful as they are; we are re-instituting normal paying standards for workers here." This news silenced the protesters. The owner lifted a finger into the air. "However, that is all the concessions I have made," he announced, "All those who return to work right now, this instant, will be spared." Several of the foremen on the catwalk adjusted their guns in their hands at this news. One even aimed his rifle down into the crowd, menacingly. "However, if you refuse to enter and get to work," said the owner, "I shall consider you a loss." At this, three protesters made for the factory doors. One tossed his sign to the ground, and cowered hands up. A third was stopped by fellow protesters, eventually fighting his way through, ripping himself free of the grasps. From somewhere, a rock was thrown, and it missed one of the fleeing men. All men. All humans. The scabs. After the commotion, they were welcomed into the factory by the thugs. Gregor knew these kind words and back pats were only for show. Later they would be beaten to an inch of their lives as a lesson in striking. He knew because several workers already inside had received similar beatings for standing against the foremen. They had learned this lesson well. From the crowd yelled a voice. Unity, Gregor had assumed. "Your reign is over," she shouted, "We are not asking any more. We are demanding! All of Antiford will know of your mistreatment of workers and no one will work here!" At this, the protesters broke into cheers and another chant. This made the owner smile. He even raised his fist to the beat of the chant. He raised his hands, asking for silence once more, "So be it! For the rest of you I offer a life lesson in expendability!" He cleared his throat once more before nodding to a man next to him. He turned back to the crowd and pointed down to it. "You are all fired! As such, you are now trespassing! Get off of my property!" He had barely gotten 'off' through his lips when the thugs descended on the protesters. Dogs barked and snarled on their chains. Batons, bludgeons, and even swords were drawn. The protesters ignited into anger. Protest signs were dropped or wielder tighter. The front line began to push back against the protesters behind them, but the Union pushed them forward. Gregor was hit in the head by a picket sign. The person to his left had drawn his own baton from his pants. All around him, people wielded their signs or pipes. A flash of a sword could be seen a while back. A brick flew through the air. It overshot the approaching thugs and slammed into the factory wall. Gregor's eyes went up to follow it. He could see the men with guns aiming them down into the crowd, watching with sadistic eyes. The ones without guns held bricks in their hands, preparing to toss them at a moments notice. One man had a bucket of hammers beside him. The chant began again. This time, a crowd of angry voices demanded in unison "Strike! Strike! Strike!" Whether it was a call to arms or an order, a few brave souls broke from the crowd. Wielding their weapons, they charged the thugs approaching. A single foreman rushed forward to meet one of the men. The floodgates had been opened. As if someone rang a bell at a boxing match, the lines broke apart. Men and women collided in an all out riot. Bricks and rocks were thrown from both sides. Clangs could be heard where bludgeons met metal. Screams, shouts, threats, and curses filled the air. The owner had already disappeared inside the safety of the factory with some of his cronies, but in their place stood the shouts of the head foreman, edging on the thugs in the fight. From the doors of the factories, more men spilled out into the alleyway. Bats and clubs and batons in hand, they leapt into the screaming masses. Gregor held his picket sign as a shield. His heart was racing. He tried to meld deeper into the safety of the crowd, but the fighting was getting worse and the Union strikers were splitting up. Gregor saw a man next to him pull an old, black-powder revolver from his pocket. Gregor recoiled from him, trying to find an escape from the madness. Gregor saw stars. He barely registered the searing pain rocking through his head, or the brick that fell to his feet. His arms went heavy and limp, and his sign dropped to the ground. As the blackness began to surround his vision, he dropped to his hands and knees. A work boot stomped down on his right hand. Gregor wanted to let out a blood curdling scream with the popping and snapping of his bones, but he couldn't find the energy to tell his body what to do. Heat was beginning to run down the back of his head onto his neck.
As his vision began to fade, he could barely make out where the first gunshot was. He was unsure who had shot it. It didn't sound close. However, as his vision faded to black, his hearing began to become muffled. He could barely make out the head foreman screaming "FIRE!"
He was out cold by the time the rifles of the factory men barked in response.