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A Deliverance of Justice (a.k.a. Fail.)


A Deliverance of Justice.

 Part the First, Where our tale begins.

4:45. Predawn crept over the city the river slid past like a silent dark snake. Mist hovered inches above the flat water. The light of morning had not yet crested the hills surrounding Harrisburg. Silence gave way to the rustling of leaves and the chatter of robins. Clouds pink and white dotted the sky taking on the first colors of the day. The grass was dark green and heavy with the early morning’s dew.

Ignatius St. Eligius struck a wooden match against a piece of rusty metal. The head flared and smoked. He touched it to the tip of his cheroot cigar, puffing on the end and bringing it to life. Months had slipped by since he last enjoyed a cigar at the edge of the water amid the peace and tranquility of the sleeping city. The glowing coal was a winking red eye surveying the landscape around him. A tree collapsed behind his back making a gentle whooshing sound.

To the east the first wagons of the day were clattering their way into the city. Looking up river he saw that the mist enshrouded both Forster Island and the hot air balloon field. Similarly obscured were half a dozen figures lying in the grass, just as still and lifeless as the river. All around the riverside park trees bore gaping wounds while several lay shattered on the ground. Mixed in with the smell of fresh grass, briny fish and cool mist was the stinging taint of black powder. A pair of deep impressions in the soft earth wove a series of intricate patterns before leading to where Ignatius sat upon his machine smoking.

Where, Ignatius wondered did Justice exist? Was it in a court system that failed to take immediate action? In the hands of law enforcement officers that could be bought for the price of a good dinner. Did it boil down to citizens such as him stepping in and acting where others would or could not? Making sense of the situation proved difficult. His mind was still foggy, an after-effect of certain concoctions that compulsion dictated he take.

On the steel sides of his vehicle a series of equations and notations written in chalk by a hasty hand coated the surface. Ignatius swung down off the platform using a five foot tall metal wheel as support. Some of the conical studs on the tread were sticky with tattered shreds of unidentified bits. Ignatius took a piece of chalk out of his gray jacket pocket and wrote on a platform support beam ‘Revise traction system. Efficient, but prone to clogging and loss of grip resulted.’

The chalk went back into his jacket pocket and from another one a notebook and pencil emerged. Puffing absent mindedly at his cigar Ignatius sketched his vehicle from both front and side views. On the right side a multi-barreled Gatling gun (his own variant of Dr. Richard Gatling’s work) protruded from the boxy superstructure where Ignatius had piloted the machine. Spent casings littered the platform and lay winking in the grass all about. A thin tendril of smoke rose from the stack which connected to the firebox at the rear. He tapped the cow-catcher on the front with the end of his pencil.

He added the cow catcher at the last moment on a whim after seeing the latest steam engine arrive on the railroad line across town. The train delivered supplies for the construction of new manufacturing industries along with more laborers to man them. The developments on the eastern side of Harrisburg piqued his interest since manufacturing techniques and tooling systems intrigued him as much as studying foreign cultures or literature. The influx of cheap labor caused him the most concern for Harrisburg. Corporations brought in just about anyone fit enough to work and lodged them in company barracks, which were notorious as breeding grounds for unruly behavior.

In order to concentrate, really focus, Ignatius needed the early morning silence of the city so that he might sift among his thoughts, culling mediocre from bad and good from the mediocre. Habitually he strolled along the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River during the small hours of morning with his cigar alight and notebook in hand. During one such promenade near an archway of the stone train bridge Ignatius had run afoul of a roving band of miscreants seeking funds to fuel their alcohol and narcotic induced frenzy. They were a mixed group of derelict veterans, displaced workers and other down-on-their-luck types.

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