City of Scoundrels

Market Forces

The principle is simple. The hammer is cocked and locked in place. The trigger releases the hammer. The hammer hits the firing pin and sparks the powder. The powder burns and releases gas into the chamber. The chamber is stopped by a shot. The gas pressure builds and pushes the shot out of the barrel.

Cannon, Musket, Pistol, Mortar, Rifle, Flintlock and Matchlock. All of them work on this same basic principle. Force

The principle is simple. People need things to live. What they can’t make themselves they get from others. The others set a price and the people must pay it or find another way of acquiring the goods. The more they want it the more they pay. The less they want it the less they’ll pay. The harder the want is to obtain the more it is worth.

Food, water, clothing, shelter, warmth, company and entertainment. All of them work on this same basic principle. The Free Market.

Two basic Principles. Weapons and Want. Two basic Principles that shattered lives and built empires. This was how the world worked. From the dawn of human civilisation, when man first discovered the killing power of rock and bone, this has been the way of things. We pay, we take or we die.

Vincent understood these principles. He had built his life around them. They were his bedrock and served to guide his every decision and choice. We pay. We take. We die. These thoughts galvanised him and hardened his resolve. He gripped them tightly in the centre of his piston and metal driven mind as these forces united to meet him. The Doctor’s want, the assassin’s weapons and the shot that passed into his leg. Skin parted for it as it passed. Muscle invited it into its midst and blood rushed forth to embrace it. In this moment of unity, as the product of industry, all that he had dedicated his life around, melded with him, he fell.

He hit the stairs side on and slide two steps before he could get his foot of flesh beneath him to halt his dissent. Above him, guarding the place of his merging, the assassin stood. The trails of the shot’s passing drifted from the barrel with the same indifference the assassin wore in his smile. He held the book in his stray hand, clutched as tightly as Vincent’s leg held the shot. In two steps he reached the summit of the stairwell and was lost to the uncertainty of the corridor beyond.

Vincent was left there to decide his own fate.

The doctor had long since departed leaving no sign of his presence save the distinct lack of him. Medical training was the one thing sorely missing from this building in the time of its greatest need. With just the metal in his leg, the sound of running and his own heart beat for company Vincent pulled himself into a sitting position against the balustrade. His teeth ground as he bit back the pain. Life leaking from the wound with every beat of his heart.

“Fuck.” He spat between foaming lips. The thumping grew louder as his heart threatened to explode before it got a chance to expel the contents of his veins. This was the path of most resistance but it was the correct one to take. You don’t end something like this by giving them what they have no right to ask for. The path that offered the best chance of retaining what was his. A shot in the leg to protect his sacred industry.

Boots on deteriorated floorboards heralded the arrival of Broken Glass’ thugs. They took the stairs two at a time leaving boots prints in his blood as it fled from him.

“Whus stabbt?” the tallest, baldest, dumbest one slurred at him.

“What?” He replied doing nothing to hide the irritated confusion from his voice nor the sudden tiredness that gripped him.

“Who’s stabbed?”

“The fucker shot me. That way.” He motioned up the stairs with a flick of his hand and the avalanche of stupidity charged passed him. The sound of their thudding boots disappeared down the corridor and left him where he had fallen.

He shifted his weight enough to pull himself away from the support of the balustrade and, using his own blood as lubricate, lowered himself down the stairs. The process was slow and careful, it had to be to avoid tearing the wound any further. Staying put meant bleeding to death but no help would come to him here.

Reaching the base of the stairs, he dragged himself along the floor towards the sofa, in by bloody inch. A nice piece of furniture new, now it was stained with years of neglect, such is the way of things, those with the most history are often the most stained. He added to this history as he lifted himself up and stained it with his blood.

Field medicine is rarely a long term solution. It is never pretty but it is always necessary. He grabbed the wine glass and smashed it on the floor and began collecting a few shatters of the glass with shaking hands. Steading his breathing with a few deep breaths he began to cut at the wound. The first slice was the worst, the deepest. He had to get the shot out or no treatment would save his leg. He sliced the wound and using nothing more than his fingers and a piece of glass worked it from his flesh. He was a ghost of himself by the time he’d finished but finished he did. He was not a man to do things by halves. Blood drained from his face and muscles as he lay back on the sofa. Powerless, motionless, dripping with sweat. With the last of his strength failing he produced a small pouch of powder. Just enough for one shot, hardly anything really but even small things can make a big difference if used in the right place and time. He poured the powder into the hole in his leg.

It felt worse than it sounded and it sounded like gunpowder being poured in a wound. With the last of his strength he ripped the sleeve from his shirt and bound it as tightly around the leg as he could. Lying back, as prepared as he could be for what was to come, he snapped his fingers. The powder in the wound ignited.

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