a story
2021-02-01 15:27:40,
2021-02-15 18:11:38
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"The warrants you requested, sir," shouted a clerk who dropped a case on the cart in front of them.

"A whole case?" asked Manfred Arnett, "How many warrants are in that thing?"

"I expect several hundred," Judge Sandoval answered, "Not sure who we'll find out there. Are they organized by town and region?"

The clerk nodded, "It took all day, but we were able to sort them as you asked. We couldn't get word back from every outpost or office, but most on tour forces replied back in some form or another."

"Good, dismissed and catalog any further stragglers who come in," said Sandoval, "Wouldn't want to miss any just because we had to leave."

The clerk nodded and walked off into the street.  Manfred watched him go, before turning back to the cart of paperwork.

"May I ask a question, sir?"

"You may."

"What is all this for?" asked Manfred.

Sandoval looked over at him, his brow disappearing behind his tinted spectacles.

"Arrest Warrants, Deputy Arnett," said Sandoval, "They are for arrests."

Sandoval pointed to the cart, "Would you mind?"

"Of course not, sir."

Manfred took up a position at the cart, but was surprised that Sandoval also stepped around to assist. Together, they began rolling the cart into the Astam Train Station and through the busy station.

The Astam Train Station was massive. So massive, in fact, it would be more accurate to call it a complex of multiple stations connected by rails.  The lobby they currently walked through was wide open and full of information kiosks, travelers queuing in lines, and walls of teller desks waiting to accept money for tickets to anywhere in Antiford.

The ceilings were large and high overhead. They were tiled, at one point colored to make intricate designs. However, with age, they had become soot-stained and faded. Skylights peppered the lobby where it could, and a few vents for the excess smoke and steam to lift up into the air. However, the sparsity of these installations was explained by the knowledge that above them were dozens if not hundreds of offices, many of the town offices included. 

Flashing their badges, they were allowed back into the platforms themselves. The two men pushed the cart through the platforms, criss-crossing through the various areas trains were loading and unloading. Here it was more crowded and loud. Somewhere a train whistle gave a short twitter. Shouts from train attendants and conductors gave instructions to employees and passengers alike.

"Sir, where are you going, exactly?"

Sandoval raised his voice to be heard over the clamor, "On tour, of course. Every good Bobbie must serve his or her time abroad to ensure Antifordian Justice and Law are upheld and protected throughout the Istoki."

"But... not really the place of a Department Chief to-"

"Should I ask of others that which I, myself, am unwilling to do?" questioned Sandoval, "Nonsense. If I am to lead and understand the tasks I command of Police under my control, than I should have experience."

"I just worry a little is all," said Manfred, "Naturally, one cannot assume that law enforcement, natural survival, or gun fighting are a typical skillset in Honorable Judges."

Sandoval allowed himself a smile at the comments, "True, far from Typical. However, that's what the men are for, Deputy Arnett."

They passed a series of pillars and a brick support wall plastid in schedules and posters. Turning the corner, they found themselves at a relatively empty platform. A line of those Bobbies with masks and goggles awaited them, and they stepped aside and ushered the Judge and Manfred through.

Manfred could see the platform was mostly empty. A few of the Bobbies stood around, talking to each other and examining their gear. A crew of engineers appeared to be going over a book of some kind. There were crates being slowly loaded onto the train by two Bobbies.

And the Train.

One of the largest trains Manfred had ever seen sat before him on the tracks. It sprayed steam at seemingly random intervals. It creaked and groaned.  It not only had an engine several feet taller than the trains they had passed by, but the front engine looked as if two Train engines had been welded side-by side. It had two front lights that looked queer to Manfred's eye. Not one, but two massive smoke stacks shot up from the engine. A series of steam whistles could be spotted with a variety of holes and pads making them look like a marcher's fife. It had many wheels, large and small, spread out along the width of the rail.

The body of the engine extended much farther then could be expected, presumably housing the fire box and tender as well. The entire thing was enclosed, only having slanted, glassed windows for viewing. The cab itself was raised much higher then a normal train, allowing for 360 degree viewing around the train. The train itself was painted a dark black, and was fully lined with thick armor. Large slabs of metal covered the sides and the roof.

Behind it, the train had several cars, all just as black, all heavily armored. Slats lined the cars with enough room for guns and other weapons to poke out. Two turrets at the front of the train and the back had cannons. Atop another car was a massive, stubby cannon on a revolving platform. Out of the sides of the cars could be seen pneumatic gatling guns. Atop where the tender should have been, a rotating gun emplacement with two gatling guns could be seen. Down the sides of the engine and every car jutted large, metal extrusions, giving the impression the train had a thick border to it.

Manfred was in awe.

"What a train!"

"Isn't it? Brand new."

"Do you have enough weapons on the thing?" said Manfred.

"Enough to rival any armored train on the rails," said Sandoval, "And make any attackers think twice. Automated repeating weapons, a large mortar capable of firing shells 2 kilometers accurately. As well as some new pneumatic, rifles."

Manfred's jaw dropped open slightly and he slacked on pushing the cart, "Sir...  how did you-"

"It's all apart of the new vision, Deputy Arnett," said Sandoval, "Read the manuscript I left you when I'm gone.  It's a new day in Antiford, good sir. A new West."

Manfred eyed the Bobbies around him. He didn't recognize a single one. Each one wore a crisp, new, black uniform with shining buttons. Each had a matching Bobbie custodial helmet with a black respirator and black goggles. Some wore belts with pouches for ammunition. Others had holsters for pistols. One appeared to have a bandoleer filled with grenades, a sight Manfred had not seen before.

"Sir, where did you find these recruits?" said Manfred.

Sandoval stopped pushing the cart, gesturing to one of the Bobbies standing around to handle it. He nodded and turned to some others, barking orders. They began assisting in loading the train.

"These recruits are fresh out of the academy. All hand picked for their skills and moral fiber. A few were taken from the Military academy. One or two are bright clerks with a lot of promise."

"Sandoval, the Istoki might not be... kind to them. They are armed like soldiers, not Bobbies, and they are greener then White Haven."

Sandoval smiled, "They have all gone through specialized training in preparation for this exact undertaking, Deputy Manfred. Combat training. Desert Survival. Weapons training. Crowd Control. They are quite prepared."

"Sounds more like soldiers, sir."

Sandoval bowed his head to Manfred, "More like soldiers. Soldiers ready to do battle against a plague that ails this desert. 

However, I feel like 'Knight' is more akin an observation. heavily armed and armored, and set out to protect the morality of our kingdom. Is that old fashioned?"

"It feels a little grand for what it is, sir," said Manfred, "Feels like a military operation. We're just peace keepers."

Sandoval nodded, "Then let there be peace, Deputy Arnett."

"And what shall I do without you, sir?"

"Establish our offices within Astam, Arnett. Look over the details of the new vision. Prepare yourself for Justice," Sandoval leaned in closer and lowered his voice, "Let's not forget our investigations into local corruption."

"Of course, sir," said Manfred.

The crates had been loaded, and once again Bobbies stood around the platform, awaiting orders. Sandoval appeared caught up in the sight of his train. He walked down to where an armored bulkhead door was opened and a folding staircase had been lowered.

"Aren't you sick of it all, Manfred?" asked Sandoval, "The Pirates? The Bandits? The Outlaws?"

"Of course, sir," said Manfred, "One of the reasons I became a lawman. To protect my family. To save them from a life as miners."

Sandoval nodded, "There are hundreds of families, Arnett. Everyday we fight against these thieves, murderers, and bandits is a day safer for those women and children. We make Antiford stronger. Safer."

Sandoval stepped up on the staircase before turning to Manfred, "You wait, son. This time tomorrow we'll have our first man. This time next week, they'll whisper the name 'Inquisition' in the streets. This time next year, you won't even recognize the Istoki. It'll be a new Antiford. Free to grow. Free to modernize. Free to civilize."

At these words, a few of the Bobbies cheered and clapped. Manfred turned to see a group of the Bobbies had turned to listen. Perhaps this speech wasn't for Manfred's benefit.

However by the time he had returned his attention to Sandoval, Sandoval was already entering the train.  Manfred eyed the Bobbies surrounding him. They looked young. Some of them looked more like soldiers. He was uncomfortable with this.

Manfred came to the conclusion he had been dismissed, and he took that chance to walk away from the platform. He eyed the writing on the side of the Train. In silver letters the word "Inquisition" could be clearly read across the area that would've been the Tinderbox. 

An Inquisition: a period of prolonged and intensive investigation. Manfred couldn't help but think it was feeling more like an Occupation.