Mellday, 54th Firch, 1892Annabelle sat with her hands cuffed in front of her at the main desk of the Gearford Police Station. She'd finally been dragged out for questioning, after spending the whole of the night before locked in the main holding cell with all the thieves, drunkards and other riffraff the police had brought in last night. Fortunately, living in the Mayberry district as long as she had, Annabelle had ways of taking care of herself, which had come in handy. The officer who'd brought her out of the cell sat down across from her. Her heart was pounding, but she smiled confidently, as she always did when dealing with the police. Her willingness to be polite, and apparent lack of fear had let her talk her way out of most scraps, and she was hoping it would get her out of this one. She had a few reams of paper in her bag that she really did need to get back to Viradet and hand over.
Annabelle smiled. "Constable Blaylock! So you finally got tried of me, huh?"
The bobbie did not smile back, and instead pursed his lips. "Do you know why we brought you here?"
Annabelle shrugged, "Because I'm a known radical who's had more warnings than the rest of the city put together?"
He ignored her comment. "You're being charged with assault."
She rolled her eyes. "And she wasn't actually hurt. So I get a week in your drum, then I'm back out."
The bobbie pursed his lips. "I could send you to Pleasentville."
Annabelle raised one eyebrow, "For a first offense, non-damaging? Would you really do that? You usually just give people two or three chances. more if they don't actually hurt anybody. That's assuming you charge them with more than disrupting the peace."
"Do you know who you attacked?" The bobbie asked.
Annabelle shrugged. "Some bully who was terrorizing a little girl half her size."
"So you decided to play the hero, because you couldn't stand to see injustice, is that it?" The constable asked sarcastically.
Annabelle rolled her eyes and shook her head. "I'm not that naive. Bullying on a small scale is inevitable. Ask anyone who's gone through school. The only reason I intervened was because she was pouring water on the ground. And somebody had to stop her."
The bobbie frowned. "That's a serious accusation." He paused for a beat. "She was the daughter of a technocrat."
Annabelle pursed her lips. "I don't involve myself with politics anymore; I haven't since I was a child."
Constable Blaylock stood up. "That's irrelevant. The man wants justice, and it isn't in our best interest to deny it to him." He grabbed her wrists. Back to the cell for you."
Demiday, 53rd of Firch 1892Annabelle readjusted her scarf to make sure it covered her ears. It made her stand out, in the crowd of wealthy Antifordians and unsupervised children meandering about the Saks District because everyone else had work, but she had learned from experience that it was better to stand out then get a painful sunburn on her ears and neck. In her old life, it wouldn't have mattered, because she was in school or in the factory during the part of the day when the sun was strongest, but having lived in the desert for a few years, she wasn't taking any chances, even if it was later in the afternoon.
Her employer had asked her to procure a ream of paper, which would be easy enough for anyone to do, except for the fact that as a Vibranni, her employer would probably be harrassed, kicked out of the Saks district, if not fined into "Indentured Servitude" once the powers that be figured out she wasn't one already. Which was why Annabelle was going to be paid three ciams over and above the money that was left of the money she was given once she bought the paper, for something that was so simple. She was glad that she had such a simple mission today, and wouldn't have to venture to the buildings on the southern end of Rathbone, near the border with the Barret District, where the worn down outer walls hid warrens where smugglers from Conwell and Lilithian and Thelo whores plied their trade, and you could get anything for a decent price, provided you didn't ask any questions. Annabelle didn't mind it, but it was nice to get a chance to mingle with her own countrymen, or ex-countrymen, for a change. There was a merchant she knew of, who set up his stall just near the third gate, selling paper, ink, pens,drawing graphite and the like. Annabelle's little sister Margaret had often dragged her down there after school got out, since Annabelle was working the morning shift at the time, to look at the drawing graphite they couldn't afford.
In any event getting the paper was easy. She even got the Merchant, the same man she had known during her childhood, who didn't recognize her, thank the Aspera, to lower the price by two ciams by dropping her scarf down and twirling her hair sensuously. She slipped the paper into her bag, along with the two ciam coin that was all that was left of the money she'd been given and her other things, and headed a way from the stall. She figured that she might use the extra coin to treat herself to a pastry later, since she was only three ciams short of making rent money, which her fee would cover. She'd go up see Mr. Tarrow to pay as soon as she got back from dropping the paper off.
She was jarred out of that line of thinking when she witnessed an older girl, dressed in very nice clothing shoving and taunting a younger girl. She watched the scene with a horrified sort of fascination, remembering her one childhood and wondering whether or not to intervene. On the one had, it was despicable, but on the other, she couldn't help everybody, and why would she get involved when she had her own problems to think about, and the girl would probably be fine.Of course that was before she saw the older girl roughly grab the youngers jar of water and take the top off, the slowly tilt it so that the water began trickling out onto the ground.
Annabelle was forward in an instant, grabbing the jar out of the girls hand, giving her a good shove, which caused her to fall right back onto her skirt, and handing the jar back to the younger girl. She crouched down and found the top, which had rolled off to the side and handed it back to the little girl, before turning to the older girl and saying, "Nobody wastes water. It's too important. It's on the bleeding flag. I'll let you off easy for now." She stood up and brushed off her skirt, although there wasn't really much dust on it. She turned to the younger girl and said, "Stay away from her. I won't be able to save you in the future, and I wouldn't have anyway, if she hadn't poured your water out."
Both girls watched, stunned speechless, as she turned on her heals and walked away, only to be grabbed by a bobbie twenty feet away.
Riesday 59th Firch, 1892After five days in the cell in the back of the police station, Annabelle was dragged out and dumped at the main desk. She carefully sat up, straightened her questionably clean skirt and folded her hands on the desk in front of her, where they were cuffed together. A bobbie she didn't recognize sat down across the desk from her and said, "Right, let's begin the interrogation. You are Annabelle Bardeneen, correct?"
Annabelle nodded, "Yeah, that's me. What's your name?"
The bobbie scowled. "Sergeant Henry. And I'm the one asking the questions here."
Annabelle rolled her eyes, "Look, I admit to nothing more or less than giving a girl I didn't know a good shove to stop her from wasting water."
"The girl you assaulted was Aspernia Victoria Button." The Sergeant said matter-of-factly.
Annabelle cocked her head to one side. "Should I have used her name when I told her off?"
The bobbie curled his hand into a fist. "Her father is a technocrat, and her uncle is very influential in Technocratic circles, and although he isn't overly fond of the girl, the implications for her safety and that of the government cannot be ignored cannot be ignored."
Annabelle snorted. "Look. My actions weren't political. I've stayed out of politics since my parents exile."
Sergeant Henry huffed. "I'll be the judge of that. What's your occupation?"
"I'm an errand girl," answered Annabelle, figuring she might as well play along.
Sergeant Henry frowned. "That seems a bit odd for a woman of your age."
Annabelle shrugged. "I'm good at what I do."
The Sergeant narrowed his eyes. "And what is it exactly that you do?"
Annabelle sighed. "I get money from my employer, go to the Saks district, find what she wants, bring it back for her, and she pays me three caim more."
Sergeant Henry narrowed his eyes. "And who exactly is your employer?"
Annabelle shrugged. "Her name is Viradet."
Sergeant Henry made a beckoning gesture with his hand. "Go on. I need more than that."
Annabelle shifted her wrists to avoid chafing them. "She's a red Vibranni who got kicked out of her tribe for being a vidvoya without extra leg joints and is living in the slums, making some good money, because she can read and write in English. Is that enough information?"
Sergeant Henry pursed his lips. "I see. And does anyone else work for her?"
Annabelle thought for a moment. "Just that Mercian girl, what's her name...Helga. A war orphan whose brother is a musician or something."
"I see," said the Sergeant. "Next Question: Where do you live?"
Annabelle shifted slightly in her seat. "I rent a room in the back of The Kovy's Nest." Sergeant Henery opened his mouth to ask for details, but Annabelle cut him off, "It's a gambling den in the Mayberry district, owned by a Mr. Noah Tarrow. Short for Scuttlekovy's Nest, but nobody calls it that."
Sergeant Henry stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I need a list of everyone who lives in that building."
Annabelle sighed. "Right, first there's me, then Mr. Tarrow himself keeps a room upstairs, and both Mrs.Tarrows; His wife, Azzaza, she's Thelo, or at least her parents were and used to be a whore, and his mother, who's husband up and died of some weird disease three weeks after they married, leaving her pregnant. So there's that. Then there are four people who work at the Kovy's Nest. There's Thick, well Theodore Stutton, but everyone calls him Thick. He's our bouncer and he and his siter share the room next to mine. Then there's his sister Grace, whose blind, and works as a waitress, the other Waitress, Bernadette, Dette for short, and our bar tender Oslo, who was born in Kuu but grew up in Conwell. Nice guy. Oh, and there's snuggles, who's Grace's guide octopus. Yeah, that's it."
The sergeant barely batted an eyelid. "Any other associates?"
Annabelle thought for a moment, then said, "There's Mrs.Amtrek, who runs the Grocery Store on the border of the Barrett district. She's nice. That's it," Apart from, of course, the kids who kept pestering her to restart The Democratic Antiford Movement, but she didn't mention them to avoid getting them in trouble. "I don't get out much."
Sergeant Henry narrowed his eyes. "Really?"
Annabelle nodded. "I'm just another citizen of Gearford trying to eke out a living and staying away from politics."
Sergeant Henry sat back and snapped. "Take her back to the cell."
Constable Blaylock looked apologetic as he unlocked her cuffs and dragged her back. She turned to look at Sergeant Henry. "Wait, that's not...I'm not dangerous."
He ignored her, and she let herself be dragged back to the cell, waiting for the bobbies to see reason and let her go.
Morning, Demiday, 60th Firch, 1892The morning after she'd been questioned, when Constable Blaylock opened the door to the cell for breakfast, Annabelle asked him, "Do you think you could do me a favor? There's a ream of paper in my bag that needs to get delivered to Viradet. It's a few days late already, so I want to make sure she gets it as soon as possible.You could take it if you were going to see your wife."
The constable frowned. "I'll see what I can do."
Annabelle smiled. "I'd very much appreciate it."
Half an hour later, Annabelle was standing at the door to the police station, with her bag slung over her shoulder, feeling weirdly light. Constable Blaylock was holding her beloved old Wakefield, which she'd bought off of Helga's brother for more than it was worth as a favor. The bobbie sighed. "Remember what I told you."
Annabelle nodded. "I know. Deliver the paper to Viradet, pay my rent, tell everyone I'm not dead, stay out of trouble and be back by sunset or you send me to Pleasentville."
Constable Blaylock frowned. "That's the gist of it. This is completely unprecedented, so don't blow it."
Annabelle tried not to let her nervousness show. She smiled and said, "Understood. I'll see you at sundown." With that, she forced herself to walk at a measured pace out the door and down the steps.
The Police Station was the only government office outside the Horn district, with one entrance in the Barret District and one entrance in the Saks District. Annabelle set out into the Barret district, slowly making her way along the street. Her plan was to head to the Mayberry district and seek out Viradet first, then go to find Mr.Tarrow and pay her rent which was due the second-to-last Demiday of every month, meaning last week. The trip to the Mayberry district was uneventful, but when she headed into the Vibranni slum and came to Viradet's "office", there was a bit of a shouting match going on. An alpha female was standing in front of Viradet, looming over her. Annabelle heard her shout, "This wouldn't be a problem if you would just woman-up and go to the Saks district yourself."
In the silence when Viradet was trying to come up with a reply, Annabelle cleared her throat. The two women spin to look at her. She couldn't bring herself to meet Viradet's eyes. "Yeah, sorry about that. I was arrested, and questioned and...I was really stupid, and I got you're paper." She pulled the ream of paper out of her bag walked over to Viradet, holding it out in front of her.
Viradet smiled and looked up at the other Vibranni woman. "Good. In that case, I'll have your note in a few hours."
The other woman glared. "You better." and stormed out of the room.
Viradet turned to Annabelle, "I was waiting for you."
Annabelle gripped her skirt and looked down, embarrassed. "It was just...The daughter of some technocrat was wasting water, and...well, I may have overreacted."
Viradet frowned. "Not reaction to water being wasted is over reaction."
Annabelle sighed. "The police didn't see it that way. Anyway, I get one day to square things away with you and Mr. Tarrow, then it's back to the cooler for me."
Viradet frowned, "Wait they temporarily let you out? why?"
Annabelle shrugged. "I'm not violent, and I'm always honest with them, mostly. And I know about Constable Blaylock's affair. I mean I wouldn't tell his wife, but he doesn't know that."
Viradet laighed. "Very good." She reached into her belt pouch and pulled out three Ciams. "Here. Let me know when you're properly out of jail."
Annaelle nodded. "Will do. Hope the paper helps."
Viradet nodded. "It's a life saver. See you."
Annabelle made her way over to the door, then turned and replied, "See you."
By the time Annabelle made it from the Vibranni slums to the Kovy's Nest, it was almost noon. Just as she was about to enter, she met Dette coming out, wearing a sword at her waist. Annabelle did a double take. "What in Moghus' name are you doing?"
Dette rolled her eyes, "A Hjon-Maeli. Or something like that." When Annabelle gave her a blank look she continued. "Some stupid Yeti ritual. I have to kill Thorin's fiancee to end their engagement... Who is another man. He doesn't even like that sort of thing. He's into women. His family wants this marriage to go through though, so I'm the only one who's going to do this.This is like the first on to take place south of the border or something."
Annabelle smiled. "So you really do love him. Let me know how it turns out."
Dette nodded. 'Will do." She pushed past Annabelle and headed for her yeti lover's house.
Annabelle headed in to the dingy bar/gambling den. Thick, embraced her the minute she came in. "Oh Annabelle. We were worried sick about you.
Annabelle struggled to breath and managed to rasp out, "A little looser maybe?"
Thick let go, "Sorry."
Grace, who was standing by the bar, turned her ear toward the door. "Is that Annabelle?"
Annabelle grinned. "One and the same. I'm finally out of jail. Is Mr.Tarrow around, I need to pay my rent."
Just then, Oslo handed Grace a glass and said, "That's for they guy at table five."
Grace smiled. "Duty calls. I think he's upstairs." She gave a tug on the rope tied around her waist. "You heard the man Snuggles. Take me to table five." The octopus squeaked a few times, then set out across the floor.
Annabelle, meanwhile, headed behind the bar, and pushed pass Oslo to get to a door, behind which the staircase was hidden.
Later, Demiday, 60th Firch, 1892Annabelle took two steps up the stairs, thought better of it, and made her way to the door underneath the stairs. It lead into a large storeroom, containing crates of booze, barrels of beer, and a few more "interesting" items, covered with large sheets. Annabelle ignored all of these and made her way to the very back, where there were three doors. The one in the middle led to a dingy privy, with a sink that had one spigot the spat out trickles of whatever temperature yellowish water it felt like, and the door to the left of it led to the room Thick and his sister shared. Annabelle entered the door on the right. The room was small, and had a just taller than shoulder height wall of crates dividing it in half horizontally.
After Annabelle had walked in on Bernadette and her various lovers one too many times, they'd come to the agreement that Annabelle would take the front half of the room and Bernadette would take the back half of the room. That way, if Annabelle needed to get something or wanted to sleep while Bernadette was "using" the room, all she had to do was be relatively quiet, keep low, and ignore whatever noises were coming from the other side of the crates. She'd gotten used to the arrangement and it wasn't all that awkward anymore.
The space was tiny, with just enough room for her makeshift sleeping surface, with a plank lain across three cinder-blocks at the head, and a narrow path for Dette to access the other half of the room. her "sleeping surface", as it were, consisted of a chanka hide, fur side up, that was three inches shorter than she was and a homemade quilt that was a gift from her aunt. On top of the plank, there was a shard of mirror in the center that was roughly shaped like a right triangle, about a foot and a half long on the base, that was smooth on two sides and jagged along the hypotenuse, and had clearly been part of a larger mirror until somebody decided to put their fist through it. On one side of the mirror was a half a loaf of bread, a jar of jam, a few apples and three glass bottles full of water. On the other side of the mirror were all the clothes she wasn't currently wearing which amounted to a few pairs of stockings, an extra dress, a skirt and waistcoat that she saved for special occasions-which she'd never actually worn, but she could still hope-and a some clean undergarments, along with a few handkerchiefs and two other scarves, both of the same cheep manufactured cloth, but different patterns and weights. Under the plank lay two books, set horizontally because that was the only way they'd fit; there was a copy of "Common Supplications To The Gods," a gift from her religious grandmother for her eighth birthday, and a copy of "The Glass Octopus VS The Buttonator," a gift from her brother on her fifteenth birthday.
Annabelle bent down carefully and knelt in the center of the plank, right in front of the middle cinder-block. Carefully, she eased the plank up with one hand, while sliding the cinder-block out and onto her hide. The two blocks on the ends were sufficient for support, and the third was merely for aesthetic purposes; In the hollow in the block, she kept her most valuable possessions. Inside were a small pouch of coins, a box of spare bullets, and a number of pamphlets from the D.A.M and letters from her uncle. She carefully removed the coins and slid the block back into place, careful not to let any of the letters slip out, then lowered the plank back down. She then took all the coins she had in her bag and dropped them into the purse, before slipping her tan bag off her shoulder and stashing it under the plank.
Annabelle headed out of the room and back into the back room, then across it and back out and up the stair case. She stood on the landing at the top, in front of the door, and knocked three times. The voice of an old woman, the elder Mrs. Tarrow, called out, "Who is it?"
"It's Annabelle," She called back."I've come to pay my rent. Is your son here?"
The older Mrs. Tarrow said something undistinguishable and then there was a pause and the door swung open. Standing opposite Annabelle was a young woman, skin the color of tea without milk, wearing a gorgeous pastel blue dress that contrasted with her skin, with her dark brown hair held back by a matching kerchief. Annabelle smiled, "Hello Mrs.Tarrow."
The younger Mrs.Tarrow rolled her eyes. "I told you, you can call me Azaza. All the formality gets tiring."
Annabelle shrugged. "Is your husband here?"
Aza'za stepped aside. "He's in his office.Come to pay the rent?"
Annabelle smiled and nodded, then took the unspoken invitation to enter the Tarrow's living quarters. "Thank you."
Aza'za Tarrow retreated down the hallway, and Annabelle followed for a few steps, then stopped in front of the first door on the right. She knocked three times. A male voice called from within the room, "Who is it?"
"Annabelle" she answered, "I've come to pay my rent."
"Rent was due last week," came the reply.
Annabelle rolled her eyes, knowing her landlord couldn't see her. "I was in the drum until this morning."
The door opened up, and a tall, skinny man stood in front of her, wearing a shirt that was wrinkled and stained, with a waistcoat with a gold chain on the left pocket and a tailcoat with one tail missing, and dark trousers and scuffed shoes. To top it all off, a bowler hat was perched on his head over is course yet close cropped brown hair. He raised one eye brow and stared at her with eyes greener than Antiford would ever be. "So the rumors are true then. Word down the street has it you've been in the drum for a while now."
Annabelle sighed. "Since Mohday. Anyway, do you want the rent or not?"
Mr.Tarrow stepped aside. "Right, get in here."
Annabelle stepped into the rather cramped room and glanced around. it looked exactly the same as when she'd last been in the room, with the map of the city with the Kovy's nest circled in red ink mounted on the wall, and the large mahogany desk that cut the room in half visually, and the nice if rather battered looking armchair with a bullet hole in the upper left hand corner behind said desk, which was strewn with paper and had a ledger book flopped open on it, alongside an inkwell and a nice looking fountain pen resting next to it. Mr.Tarrow settled himself in the armchair, leaving Annabelle standing and glanced down at the ledger. "fifteen ciams was the fee we agreed on, as I recall, plus three simos on account of the payment being late."
Annabelle sighed, but didn't argue with the fee. She instead took her purse out and began to count, setting the coins on the desk as she did so. "Right, so that's five, and, and there's three twosies, that's eleven, twelve, thirteen, and two teners make fourteen, and another tener and a quint make fifteen, plus three pennies. There you have it. 15 ciams and three simos. We square?"
Mr. Tarrow counted, then counted again. Annabelle tapped her foot impatiently. Finally, he took up his pen, scribbled something in the ledger, and then grinned at her, revealing crooked yellow teeth with a few conspicuous gaps. "All set. Pleasure doing business with you."
Annabelle breathed a sigh of releif and said, "Alright then. Goodday Mr.Tarrow, Sir." and with that, she turned on her heels and left the office. Mrs. Tarrow, the younger, was in the hallway, when she emerged.
The young woman asked, "Would you like to stay for tea?"
Normally, Annabelle might have accepted the offer, but she shook her head. "I've got to get back to the bobbies." She said. When Azaza gave her a shocked look, Annabelle smiled. "I just asked nicely if I could go back to pay my rent. If I'm not back soon, they'll come and arrest me, and it'll be a whole big kerfuffle, and I might end up in Pleasentville."
Mrs.Tarrow frowned, but said, "Alright. Sometime next week then?"
Annabelle nodded. "Of course. As soon as I get things straightened through with the bobbies. I'll see you soon." With that, Annabelle turned and walked out the door. She felt bad, and mulled it over as she made her way down the stairs and back passed Oslo and out onto the street, but in the end, there was one more person she needed to see before sunset.
Early Afternoon, Demidy, 60th of Firch, 1892After she stepped out into the bright midday sun, she realized that she'd forgotten to go back to her room to collect her bag. Deciding with a sigh that she didn't really need it anyway, Annabelle tucked her now almost-empty coin pouch into her sleeve, readjusted her scarf to block the sun and turned to her right. She set off at a determined clip toward the distant aqueduct that could be see over the tops of buildings. The train ran just along side it, and if she wanted to get to the train station before the next train came in.
The train from White Haven came into the station in the Saks district, which served as an entry point for most of those traveling to Gearford from outside the city. The train stopped for a while to load and unload cargo and passengers and refuel, and then turned around and headed back to Astam, then to Argenstrath, then back to Astam, then all the way back to White Haven. Anyone wishing to get to some other point in Gearford could take the trolley to or from the Station for a mere quint, a coin worth five simoes. Annabelle never bothered with the trolley, because she liked to save her money, and she had gotten used to walking long distances in her years of wandering the desert with her family.
He oldest brother, Morris, would be on that train. He had gotten sick of wandering the desert and had found a place in White Haven. He had changed sufficiently that he looked different from the sketch of him distributed by the technocrats and he was using a fake name. He got a job on the train when one of the old coal shovelers fell into the boiler and died horribly. Morris had said that given what he learned from the engineer, his death wasn't an accident. Annabelle had rolled her eyes at that; Morris was always one for over-dramatizing things.
She had been slated to meet him on Lieday, which was the last time the train was in Gearford, and he must have been worried when she didn't show up. When the train was stopped, the engineer and his entire crew got a break, and Morris would occasionally spend that extra time with Annabelle, as she was the only one of his siblings he saw with any regularity, and visa versa. She didn't want him to be worried about her. Given the status they both held of technically having been exiled, he probably couldn't do anything if he did think she was missing or dead, and she knew that, more than anything, would be eating him up inside. As his sister, of course she was going to reassure him now that she could. He'd probably call her a sell out for cooperating with the coppers, but she didn't give a damn about that.
Antiford Central Station was full of life most of the time, even when there weren't trains arriving, as it was a center of commerce and the junction where all the trolly routes met up. It was full of people buy and selling things, preparing cargo, waiting for the train, seeking shelter from the sun under its roof, or passing through on their way to other parts of the Saks district. Annabelle slipped through them relatively unnoticed. She picked out a spot not too far from where the very last car on the train would stop when it showed up. It was in the center of the Saks district and was where the trains to and from Astam Junction stopped before looping around and heading back. The various trains went to Argenstrath and to White Haven, all looping through Astam Junction. The train from White Haven that her brother worked on went from White Haven to Astam, to Gearford, to Astam to Argenstrath to Astam and then back to White Haven, a loop that took about seventy hours altogether. The train didn't actually stop for more than a few hours in each place, and those who worked it slept on the train, like Henry or switched rotations a various junctures.
Annabelle heard the train before she saw it. The click of the wheels over the tracks and the chug of the boiler carried well, as did the whistle signaling the train was entering the city, warning everyone to clear the tracks. The train ran from the Mayberry district where there were houses that were literally less than a foot away from the train tracks, and the trains scraped by with inches to spare, to the Barret district, where there was a fence cutting off a good ten feet on either side of the tracks, except in those places where there were gaps to cross, but kids had a tendency to climb over it, and then into the Rowe district, where there were walls blocking the train for thirty feet on each side, with gates to block crossings.
Finally, the train came into view, braking already, smoke pouring out of the smoke stack. The station filled with smoke and Annabelle coughed a bit. The crowd around her began to surge, those who wanted to board the train pushing forward while those who were waiting for somebody who was arriving on the train pushed up against them, straining for a glimpse of their loved ones. Annabelle stayed back. She knew from experience that the hubbub would die down after a few minutes. She focused her attention on the smokestack, because just next to it was a hatch that the engineer and his underlings could enter and leave the train. Her brother would come from there.
Finally, just as the last of the passengers came down, a dusty figure emerged from the hatch, shaking coal dust out of his hat. Annabelle watched him make his way down onto the platform. She had grown used to seeing her brother like this, dressed in his work gear and covered in coal dust. He scanned the platform, clearly looking for somebody, and she raised her arm in greeting, making her way toward him through the thinning crowd. When he finally saw Annabelle, he stormed over to her and smacked her. "What in Moghus' name were you thinking last Lieday? You had me worried sick." He pulled her into a hug.
She returned the hug. "It's good to see you too. I was in the drum on Lieday, I'll have you know, or I would have come."
He took a step back, keeping his hands on her shoulders. "In the drum? What the rusty hell happened?"
She smiled. "I'll explain everything. But you've got time for a quick bite before the train leaves without you, right?"
He huffed. "Take me to that little Clarussian joint just over from the station. Your treat."
"As you wish, Dear Brother." She grabbed his hand and pulled him across the station.
Almost Evening, Demiday, 60th Firch, 1892
There was a vendor stall just past the edge of the station that sold Coverloux, a Clarusian pastry made with cheese. Annabelle pulled out her money pouch and counted her coins. She came up a ciam short, and looked at her brother.
Morris sighed. He pulled a one ciam coin out of his pocket and handed it over. "I thought I said your treat."
Annabelle rolled her eyes. "It's not my fault I just paid my rent and I'm a bit dry."
Morris frowned. "You have water though?"
Annabelle sighed as she took the Coverloux from the vendor. "I have enough for a few days. Stop worrying." She took a bite of the pastry.
He snatched the Coverloux away from her. "I wasn't." He took a bite himself.
"Anyway," Annabelle said, "I was in the drum because I shoved this girl who was dumping water on the ground."
"And they arrested you?" Morris sounded incredulous.
Annabelle shrugged. "It's not against the law to be stupid, and her father had connections." She snatched the pastry back from him and took a bite.
"But they let you go?" Morris asked.
Annabelle swallowed. "Not exactly. I worked out a deal with the bobbies to leave so I could pay my rent, provided I was back by sunset, with the understanding that I'd be back to Pleasantville if I was late. I figured I should tell you I was alive at least." She held the pastry out to him.
He snatched it out of her hand. "You shouldn't be making deals with the Bobbies like that. Not as an exile."
She snorted. "I'm not living under a fake name like you. The only way I get by in the city is by playing nice with the bobbies. They tolerate me because I cooperate."
He scowled. "We're not technocrats and we shouldn't be living like this. Our parents were right about the Technocrats. They rusted the country over." He ripped off a bite of the pastry and chewed it violently.
"So you want to overthrow them?" Annabelle asked sardonically, grabbing the pastry back from him. She popped the last of it into her mouth.
He swallowed, took a deep breath, and sighed. "We never wanted a violent revolution. It's not good for Antiford. Our country has barely recovered from the first one."
She swallowed. "Then we play nice with the bobbies."
He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. "Be careful Annabelle. Things aren't safe."
She snorted. "They never are. We'll be fine. You better go back or you'll miss the train."
"As if they could get anywhere without me," he said skeptically, but he turned and headed back into the station.
Annabelle followed him. "You'll be in on Demiday, right?"
"Yeah," he said. "Are you going to be in the drum again then?" He said it almost sarcastically.
Annabelle sighed. "Maybe. We'll see."
"I'll keep an eye out for you," He said, then lapsed into silence.
Annabelle was reminded of how they used to walk into whatever town they were nearest when they were roaming the desert, and Morris would often fall silent, causing the rest of them to do the same. He, more than any of them, had been forced to grow up too fast by the flight into the desert. When they reached the station, he looked at her and finally she said, "Travel safely." She grinned. "May Mother Tamerus bless your journey." That was something from their childhood, something their grandmother used to say to them.
He smiled slightly and pulled her into a hug. "I'd tell you not to o anything stupid, but I'm not sure you'd listen."
"I can handle myself," Annabelle said. "Now get on that Train."
He did so, giving her one last wave before he disappeared into the engine. She stood looking at the train for a long moment, then turned and left the station before the train could pull out. She left the station and looked up at the sky. It was late in the afternoon, and while she might be able to get back to the 'Kovy's Nest and still make it to the police station by sunset, she decided that there was nothing for her to do there. She didn't have her bag with her, but she wouldn't need it in the drum anyway. She considered going up to the temple, but she had no money for an offering, and she didn't really need the gods help anyway. What she needed was for the bobbies to see sense. It would happen eventually.
She arrived back at the station slightly early. Sergeant Henry was there when she came through the door. He glared at her. "I would have expected that you would take every minute of freedom you could get." He sounded vaguely disappointed, and Annabelle suspected that he wanted her to screw up so he could send her to Pleasentville.
"I delivered the paper, paid my rent and told everyone I wasn't dead. There's no reason for me to stay out later, and I don't want to make things difficult for the brave men who protect our city." She smiled as she said the last sentence, and the Sergeant's eyebrow twitched.
Constable Blaylock came then to lock her back in her cell. "You don't have you're personal effects."
Annabelle shrugged. "I figured I didn't need them here, and it was better to travel light." She looked at him from the other side of the bars. "I appreciate what you did for me."
Constable Blaylock looked at her intently, then said, "It won't happen again until we've decided on how you're going to be charged." He didn't wait for a response before he turned around and walked away.
"Nice talking to you too," Annabelle said quietly before she collapsed onto on of the cots in the main holding cell to wait for them to make up their minds to let her off with a warning.
Mellday, 61st Firch, 1892
They did eventually let her out, a whole week after she'd been arrested in the first place. She woke up to Constable Blaylock pounding on her cell door and calling out, "Bardeneen, get your rusting ass up."
Annabelle sat up and blinked owlishly at him. After a week, she had been getting used to the hard pallet in the cell, and had actually been fairly deeply asleep. She swung her legs down and yawned. "What time is it?"
Constable Blaylock huffed. "Irrelevant. Get up, and get over here."
Annabelle made her way over to the cell door. The entire holding area reeked of alcohol, and there were a handful of drunks who hadn't been in there earlier. The Constable's banging had woken a few of them, but he'd opened the door, ushered Annabelle out and closed it again before any of them could think of trying to get out.
Annabelle yawned again. "More questions?" Maybe that Sergeant was trying to throw her off balance by having her dragged out of her cell at an odd hour.
"You're being let off with a warning." Constable Blaylock said simply. He seemed almost nervous. When they reached the front of the station, Constable Blaylock handed Annabelle her gun, which had a few bullets in it. She thought for a moment that she could shoot him at that very moment, and then decided that shooting him was a bad idea and bent down to loosen her bootlaces a bit so she could set the gun in her boot, since she didn't have her bag.
She couldn't help but notice that the station was awfully quiet, with a few officers half-heartedly trying to catch up on paperwork.
She straightened up. "Is that everything?"
Constable Blaylock handed her a piece of paper. "That's your official warning." He glanced around. "Now get out of here."
Annabelle decided she wasn't going to look a gift chanka in the mouth and gave a slight bow. "Thank you for the hospitality."
Before Constable Blaylock could say anything, she left the building smiling slightly. It was early morning, before pre-dawn had properly set in, but late enough that even the seediest of bars had shut down. She made her way back to the Kovy's Nest. It was too late to bother going to sleep, and the gun pressed into her boot threw off her walking, but she didn't care. She was just glad that she was no longer under arrest.