The Black Heart Chapter 2: A Contractual Obligation

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"Tell me, why the fuck do you use a Kamel?" Durn gazed intently at the man's face.

"You don't even want to know my name?"

"That's not relevant. Just answer the question,"

"Well, that sure made me feel better,"

"Answer the fucking question, you idiot. Nobody saved you because they wanted to know your name,"

"It's cheap."

"Don't the tourists get suspicious at seeing a Kamel?"

"Nah, these guys- they're dirt poor. Sand poor if you will-"

"Cut the humor and just answer, wisecrack,"

"Well yeah, I just convince 'em, you know, tell 'em it's a souped-up sort of thing- it's all just a facade,"

"And they believe it?"

"Well, I mean I don't just tell them that straight to their faces..."

"I can't imagine anything short of bribing somebody to convince them to use a Kamel,"

"That wouldn't be very profitable would it..."

"Well yeah no shit, that's why I'm asking you."

"Wanna know my secret?"

"No shit that's why I'm asking."

"Gimme some of that water," Durn glanced at the man's parched hands and hesitantly handed him the crystal-cooled pitcher. "Rather high-end stuff ain't this?"

"Eh, it's paltry, just me playing around in my spare time," The man almost spat out his water as he gazed back up at Durn.

"You built this?"

"Well yes I did, but that's not relevant to how you convinced them to get on the Kamel"

"Yeah, yeah, the Kamel- did you also build that monster behind you?"

"The Trawler? Yeah, she's been with me for a while. Hand built from scratch."

"You build a Trawler by hand?" He incredulously questioned.

"Nothing much to it. Now tell me the secret already."

"It's really nothing. I get em from the docks; they hire me out way back there, and then they never even know that it's a damn Kamel,"

"And you're not arrested yet because?"

"Hey, like you're one to be complaining. You just watched a company of travelers die like you didn't give three shits."

"I'm not the magistrate are I?"

"Well yeah, but the magistrates are like butter. They've been greased so damn smoothly that they'd be in deeper shit than me if I was arrested,"

"The docks sure have changed, huh..."

"What do you mean? The docks have always been like that. What're you, a fossil?"

"Heh, not that old yet, but the Docks were different in my day."

"Wait, just how long are we talking about here?"

"Ah not too long ago. Anyway, you know your way around some of the rougher parts rather well don't you?"

"Well it's my motto- 'If there's profit to be made, don't let a little thing like ethics get in your way'- smooth don't you think?"

"Very smooth. Flows off your tongue like a razor blade,"

"Well it's not really my motto so don't let that bother you,"

"You look hurt,"

"Yeah whatever, say what're you doing on The Mound anyway? Who're you even- I'll be damned if you're just a Tinker- heck you've built a Trawler from scratch what're you a fancy-pants mage or alchemist or something?"

"The term's supposed to be 'mechanist' actually, but yes I suppose it works for a layman like you,"

"Wait what, you're a.. nah, I'm calling that bluff- my dad always told me I was a good poker player, and I sure as hell know a bluff when I see it; there're only three mechanists in the damn country, and you're telling me you're a mechanist?"

"Well yes I am I suppose,"

"Then why do they call you the Tinker of the mound? What Mechanist in his right mind would even bother to shut the hell up and sit down like you? There's profit to be made out there- millions- and you tell me you're a mechanist? Sitting back like this, not making even a penny? What, do you take me for a fool?"

"They call me the Tinker because I tell them to call me a Tinker,"

"You mean they don't know you're a mechanist?"

"That's what I said."

"But if you are a mechanist, why on earth would you still be here? You should be out there making your money shouldn't you?"

"Nobody gives a fuck kid. Now tell me, you in the search for a job?"

"That was rather abrupt..."

"You know you have a tendency to never answer questions,"

"Do I?"

"Just up and answer the question for fuck's sake,"

"Well I was just going to tell you how I wanted to ask you-" The short-haired man's tirade was interrupted as Durn snatched back his water pitcher. He stared deep into his pale brown eyes, coldly.

"You want water?" The man vigorously nodded his head. "Then you answer the damn question." More head nodding occurred. "I hope I was clear about that."

"Very, absolutely lucid, quite transparent-"

"The question."

"I amn't allowed to ask anything am I?"

"What do you think?"

"Well I think a lot of things, I mean why am I being offered a job by a random Tinker who claims to be a mechanist on a dune in the middle of the desert? Heck you could be anybody, a swindler, a murderer, a slaver, I don't know."

"It goes both ways doesn't it? Besides, you won't live to find out if you don't answer really,"

"Point. But I don't think employers are supposed to be this forceful with their employees you know- consent and all of that-"

"I'll take that as a yes,"

"Well I mean was a no ever an-" The water pitcher hit him in the face before he could continue. As he practically drowned himself in water, Durn took the opportunity to study the man better. His clothes were well-suited for the desert, a light cape that warded off the wind but didn't add much in the manner of weight. A standard City flat cap was on his head though clearly painted over with a black and white logo- no doubt whatever business the man claimed to run. His clothes too had the same crest- a Black Heart within a Black Triangle. Minute letters were visible beneath it- The BlackHeart Corporation incorporated limited.

"What's with the stylization on The BlackHeart?"

"The Black Heart corporation's already a company,"

"So you pass yourself off as them?" Durn remarked, well amused.

"No, no not at all, it's really just a misunderstanding. I mean you ought to be blind if you miss the difference."

"Wonderful, so you're a conman. That's even better."

"I most definitely have my pride as a businessman, and that is a very hateful thing to say-"

"It's alright, you'll need your skills in this line of work,"

"Say, do I get to go back to docks to cash in my profits-"

"No, you can't run away."

"I see."

"Anything else?"

"Just what precisely are we doing Mr. Durn?"

"You'll find out, now you just need to drop a blot of blood here. And don't call me Mr. Durn, just Durn works," The man stopped as he glanced at the contract that Durn had scrawled down.

"This isn't a legal document is it Durn?"

"No it isn't,"

"I thought you said you weren't a mage..."

"I amn't,"

"I don't know much about mages and their lot, but this sure as hell isn't some passing hobby you have you know, to learn bloodbound contracts and all that."

"A mechanist happens upon a lot on his travels."

"Yeah well I'm damn sure this isn't your average souvenir then,"

"Well a drop of blood at any rate," The man looked at Durn's deep-set eyes and hawk-like nose, and his unwavering stare. There was a hint of doubt upon his face, but he slowly lifted his finger above the contract and pressed down. A sharp invisible blade of something pricked his finger, and blood slowly oozed out. As the drops diffused through the paper, the ink slowly glowed a fiery red. The paper itself burned up slowly, till only the script was left hovering in the air where the paper used to be.

"If you don't mind my asking, just what sort of contract is this? I may have to engage in murder, banditry, and ignoring the the possibility of death?"

"It's very lucid isn't it?"

"Very,"

"Well, welcome to the BlackHeart Corporation then, I suppose,"

"Isn't that my company?"

"You're my employee now."

"What the hell..."

"So tell me where d'you get a Kamel from, anyway?"

"A family heirloom actually,"

"Ah, you're a noble then, aren't you?"

"It's a purchased title, actually,"

"Makes perfect sense to me,"

"The hell do you mean by that?"

"Nothing. But I figured the Kamels went extinct a century ago, I mean who the fuck uses the original Steamwerks anymore?"

"Well my father used to have a few shares in Steamwerks back when they were still into steam instead of magic you know, got bought our a little later, and my father insisted on an original production-line Kamel,- he wanted to feel like a real noble even if he wasn't really one,"

"Well I'll be damned, this thing's a few centuries old then- hell this ought to date back to the Steam Revolution then, huh?"

"Yeah, but hey it works I guess."

"That's interesting kid. Your dad had taste. Real manly taste, he-he, what'd you say your name was again?"

"I havn't said my name yet..."

"Your fucking name kid,"

"I amn't a kid, and it's Sir Desmond Waters if you will,"

"Water? Ahahahahahahahaaa that's pretty fucking accurate,"
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