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A note from puddles4263

4/7

It is a citizen’s duty to view those who hold their lives as high walls before the ferocity and chaos of nature as commendable and virtuous. It follows, then that those who may more triumphantly innoculate humanity from any and all savage Systems deserve further praise. The organic conclusion we come to is that heroism of any one person, due to history and circumstances, shines thusly because it must be so. But that oh so desirable light occasionally ascends to a degree that it becomes so eye-catching that the viewers find their eyes blinded. Without outside assistance, these figures become naught but form and vehemence to the populous, without the structure and shape of a true and flawed human, a category to which we all must admit our own belonging.

The Founding of the Chivalric Orders, (the proposed initial five being the Order Valorem, the Order Ferocitas, the Order Sapientia, the Order Fide, and the Order Ducis), attempts to rectify the shapeless blindness.

Law grips firm edges. Without definition, the application of law will only damage and restrict. And it is anathema to our considered vision of law that any figure, no matter how influential or unique, can justifiably claim to be immune to the law’s effects or operate beyond the reach of this nation’s honorable people.

To that end, let the Chivalric Orders be an encouraged reformation of roles, that no figure of heroism will be found lacking in the possession of legitimate levers of influence with which to grasp…

“What are humans?” Jeremy asked.

Tessa looked up from a letter she was working up the nerve to send to Mrs. Hamilton. She blinked and then decided that this question annoyed her. “What do you mean?”

“Well that’s the crux of the issue, isn’t it?” Jeremy said, scratching his head. “What constitutes a human. Are these people-”

“Humans…. Well, humans are people. I guess. I guess the best way to check if something is …. Well shit. Maybe it’s to see... The best check is if it can recognize other humans. The indelible quality of man is a distinct and desirable flavor of considered intelligence and restrained savagery. Most notably, each possesses an intellect of such power that none may pass near to each other without feeling the warm radiation of wit from the eyes of even a stranger. Humans are those who have the capacity to recognize the humanity in another.”

Jeremy rolled his eyes. “Don’t talk hipfire flowery language with me. Humans are beings that recognize other humans? What a bunch of theoretical shit. You realize that such a definition would indicate that the monster people are more human than the unhappy populous around them, who steadfastly refuse to treat them as anything but a threat?”

Shaking her head, Tessa ignored Jeremy and turned back to her letter. She needed to send this today before they got off the Manatech railway and hoofed it the rest of the way North. Even though this was her first time being outside of the Zone, she didn’t have time to enjoy the sights.

She had a grand plan, and she knew that Randidly would not sit around and wait for her ideas to catch up with him. If she was going to pull off what she intended, her ideas needed to spread, and quickly. There was no time to waste.

****

Randidly’s second visit of the day went a lot better than the first. The Jade Prince seemed similarly prepared for his arrival but answered all of Randidly’s questions in a satisfactory manner. In fact, Randidly quiet liked the young man; it truly seemed that the guy simply wanted to be left alone to pursue the pinnacle of martial arts. His impression was not one of someone who would struggle politically.

Now with the outside influences dealt with, and in possession of the spawning apparatus for monsters, Randidly considered his next move. At some point, he would need to reunite with Neveah. They no longer really needed to operate separately, although he expected that she would choose to. Randidly also wanted time to digest his new Skill and the Skill Levels he had gained in the last week or so, but even thinking about doing it right now drove a knife of hot anxiety into his gut. There just seemed to be so many more things he needed to address.

Randidly pressed his eyes closed and let most of the sensations of the world fade away. Thunder crawled slowly overhead, grinding with loud groans at the clouds. A soft rain was falling, leaving tiny pinpricks of light against his skin. Randidly stayed that way for almost ten minutes, savoring the peace of nature.

Then his eyes snapped open. He would need to disperse these monster spawners at some point, but Lucretia was already trying to figure out a way to “unlock” them from a fixed destination. It would be much easier if he could just return the Zone to normal. But that wasn’t something he could do much about now. Instead, he needed to deal with the last half of a dangling loose end.

He needed to construct a body for Ghost that had some insurance that he would remain focused on the best interests of the people here.

For that, he needed to return to his steel shanty town.

The journey wasn’t a long one, however, especially now that Randidly no longer bothered to try and keep his movements hidden. He simply ran directly through the country at a speed approaching that of the railway. When he arrived there, he found that his house had been emptied of Maude’s tea supplies, which left him thrown for a second. It was only after seeing the broken window that he remembered the fight they had, and sending her away for her insistence of using his house to promote the foolishness of the Unity Church.

As he left the shantytown, now a true town Randidly supposed, he sent a message to Dinesh, Tykes, and Tatiana. All three were waiting when he arrived at the farming complex. Tatiana’s girls had been busy, and as this long summer they had been experiencing slowly shifted to fall, they began decorating the location with the warm and dark colors the world would soon switch too.

All were stunned when Randidly announced his plan. “I want to start a company. Erickson Steel, I’m thinking. We will set up a factory here, and become the high-end supplier of metals and drones.”

Very quickly Dinesh nodded, as his mind followed Randidly’s through the processes, and Tykes just shrugged. As long as he could stay here with that silent girlfriend of his, he wouldn’t care.

Tatiana was really the one that Randidly was unsure about. It was technically her property, although she agreed to follow him only a few weeks ago. When she looked at him, there was still that caution in her eyes. It was something that Randidly couldn’t blame her for. Abruptly, he revealed his past form to be a lie and gave only a cursory explanation. It would be strange if she had no reaction to that sort of change.

“Why?” Tatiana asked quietly.

Opening his mouth, Randidly thought about several answers. Then he slowly smiled. “Honestly? Because I like working with metal. And by and large, this place earns no money right? This way, we will have the cash flow we need to stabilize and support the people who want to live here. I also think training people I trust to make drones as I do is the… smart choice, going forward. It will be slow going, but at least we can get it started.”

Tatiana watched him carefully. Then, in a very deliberate manner, she offered him her hand. “I accept that. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Randidly Ghosthound. My name is Tatiana. It’s my pleasure to work with you.”

There was a profound sadness in Randidly’s chest as he took her hand. Her skin was cool. Something was lost, Randidly knew, in this gesture. This was Tatiana’s way of forgiving him. But it was a forgiveness at the cost of the strange, heady glee they had shared before. The carcass of their friendship was used to bridge between them and create a working relationship.

Perhaps it was for the best.

Immediately, the two of them proceeded to draw up plans for the facility. Which were largely unnecessary as Randidly had already carved out quite a cave system beneath the compound. Still, it would be better to provide above air facilities in some portions, so the people who would work at Erickson Steel wouldn’t be solely cave-people.

Afterward, Randidly proceeded to talk to Foreman Davey. It was somewhat awkward, but Randidly offered the man a job. He was met with roaring laughter, but when Randidly explained that he was Baloo Erickson, Foreman Davey considered it.

“...no, no I cannot. I’m here for a reason, and I’m going to fulfill that duty.” He said while shaking his head. Then he elbowed Randidly in the side. “But I know your offer isn’t just for me. You want to poach some talent, eh? How quickly you’ve moved on from our working relationship really makes me feel somewhat used… ah to be old and nearing retirement.”

Randidly rolled his eyes but accepted the other man’s gentle ribbing. After all, he needed his help. Randidly had basically spent very little time socializing. Of course, he would approach Gregory and Sonya, and Randidly believed they were pretty likely to say yes and jump shift from contracting to working under him. Beyond them, Randidly didn’t remember a single name of a steelmaker in the building.

In addition, he couldn’t compare to the experience Foreman Davey had in the area of the steel market. While they spoke Foreman Davey mentioned dozens of small tips and tricks that the different buyers used to squeeze extra value out of a seller, and how to avoid them. It wasn’t something that Randidly asked, but he noticed and appreciated the favor.

And afterward, rather than question Randidly on the details of his plan or offering any warnings, they talked about steel. It was a simple conversation, and Randidly was pleased and embarrassed to find that their knowledge of the substance extended in completely different ways. In that short half hour, they stood before the factory and watched smoke churn upwards while talking Randidly came up with a half dozen ideas to refine the process for Erickson Steel and push it towards the next level. It was... incredibly relaxing.

He would not forget this small kindness, no matter how large Erickson Steel grew.

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puddles4263

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