Soil 1.5

I sat, my feet curled up beneath my seat, my head leaned against Mom’s shoulder so that I could see out the window.  I watched as the landscape tore by, an expression of wonder on my face.  I’d never get used to these displays.

“I’ll never get tired of this,” I said lazily.

“Mmm.  You’ve loved this line ever since you were five.  You used to just watch out the window, as excited as you could be.  Now, you look like you’re going to pass out.”

I flicked my eyes up at her, then back out.  “Big day.”

“A very big day,” she agreed.

“Do you think she’ll be angry?”  That’s the good thing about dreams.  Your mind already knows the context of your words.

“Yes.  She’ll be very upset.  But I think she’ll get over it rather quickly.”  Mom paused for a moment, reaching out to take my hand.  I wished her skin was as dark as mine, but I must have gotten the lightness from somewhere.  “But I’m very proud of you.  You took excellent initiative, and are stepping out of your comfort zone like that.”

“Yeah, and I’m gonna look the idiot if I mess this up.”  I sighed softly.  “It was easier when I was all excited, running and scrambling.  The wait is just making things worse.”

“Such is life,” she said, stroking my hair.

We rode in silence, me just staring out the window.  I couldn’t just sit by, but here?  Like this?  I could at least relax in motion.  It was strangely comfortable like this.

“Chicago sure was beautiful.”

Mom chuckled softly.  “More than you’ll ever know.”

I slept in as late as I dared.  A good shower with real hot water, and then while Sarah was using it, I went ahead and gave myself a good shave.  Some day, I’d have to invest in a proper razor.  Until then, I kept my knife plenty sharp enough for the job.  Today wasn’t an armor day.  We’d hit the cheap storage locker we’d picked up years ago before bed, and before Sarah got up I’d done a load, using the coins she’d left me to run it through the dryer.  Civilian clothes for the both of us.  Denim jeans and button down shirts, combat boots and blades.

In recent years, the image of a professional mercenary had changed.  I was told that once upon a time, mercenaries were expected to show up in a full business suit and be well-dressed.  That showed professionalism and a military background, which made you more desirable.  That made sense, in my mind.  The closest that civilians came to a military dress uniform was a proper business suit.  If a person could wear a suit well, they had to have some degree of discipline.

You still got a few who wore that, but these days there was a compromise.  The suit itself went to the wayside.  Good dress shirts were preferable, but the tie was out, the blazer wasn’t mandatory, and the dress slacks could go.  Instead, you had to show that you were willing to work.  Some people wore fatigues, but those weren’t exactly impressive to employers.  Jeans that looked nice but were obviously broken in were best, and your boots should be the kind that you wore to work, only cleaned up nice.

For Sarah and I, we’d found that wearing our knives was also a bonus.  Here in New Brockton, not everybody owned a good knife.  In other communities, ones that didn’t necessarily have electricity, indoor plumbing, or even running water, knives were a way of life.  A person could live or die on the road just on the virtue of if they had a knife or not.

Before we officially became mercenaries, we dropped by home and talked to some of the mercs stationed there.  I’d thought that I’d made a good choice in my knife — it was solid, the pommel and blade were one piece, the inside had been machined out so that I could store basic survival gear inside.  They’d quickly explained how even if the knife was properly made, survival knives carried a stigma of being poorly made, likely to break, and packed with useless supplies.  One of them explained through a thick stutter that if I wanted to show equal levels of preparedness, I should carry a multitool in addition to a more standard blade.

I’d followed that advice ever since.  And he’d been right on more counts than just that; the multitool had come in more handy than that other knife ever would have, and not just for making ourselves look presentable.

The focus on our appearance was purely a formality at this point, and we both knew it.  Mr. Munteanu was our agent in the city, a government employee assigned to work with us, handle contract disputes, and do basic government-contracted job hunting for us.  It didn’t mean he was on our side, he had the city’s best interests in mind, and we could seek out a professional negotiator if we needed, but they were expensive enough that it wasn’t really worth it in the end.  However, three years of working with us, negotiating with us, had gotten us familiar with each other.

He appreciated our efforts as welcome but unnecessary, and we appreciated the fact that if he was jerking us around, he was doing a very exceptional job at hiding it.

“We’re here to see Mr. Munteanu,” Sarah said, her shoulders squared back.

“Names?” the receptionist droned in a near-monotone.

“Sarah Abrams and Jordan, no surname.  We’re here to give our statements, reports, and collect our pay for the Sons’ deliveries under Mr. Roger Hale, city contract 2281-B.”

The receptionist paused to check her computer.  It was a newer model, built more for longevity than processing power or size management.  After a moment, she reached over to her phone and hit the button.  “Abrams and Jordan here to see you.”  Gosh, her voice had a harsh nasaly tone.  “Okay.”  She hung up and lazily turned her eyes towards us.  “He’s waiting for you.”

Sarah and I shared a glance.  We always showed up at 1 or a bit after, and we always had to wait on him to get everything in order and retrieve our pay.  Was he speeding us through because we had to talk to the cops about John and Beth?  Or was this about our contract ending?

As we walked down the hallway, Sarah whispered to me “Bad juju?”

“Maybe,” I whispered back.  There was really only one way to find out.

As we entered Munteanu’s office, he glanced up at us.  “You’re later than I’d hoped,” he said sternly.  Bad juju.  “Close the door and have a seat, please.”

I grabbed the door, then settled in next to Sarah.  Funny, now that I knew that there was an issue, his desk seemed to look massive and imposing where before it had just seemed like a normal desk.  A picture of himself, a woman, a man, and two kids whose genders I couldn’t tell offhand.  A small placard with his name on it.  A bulky computer off to the side.  A calendar, some folders, and a bunch of pens and pencils.  Save for the hammer resting in a corner, it was pretty normal, but somehow at this moment, the normalcy seemed to make it even more terrifying.

“I’m going to make this fast,” he said, not bothering to look at the folders.  “We’ve already received your performance review from your supervisors.  They praised everyone, but especially the two of you in regards to your quick resolution of the attack and the recollection of the goods being transferred, the detainment of the attackers, and the continued performance of duties.  They also included a request that you be informed by any means necessary should they gain another contract with the city.  We supplied them with your contact information per request, as per your contract.

“As for the attackers, they submitted full confessions to the authorities, so there is no current need to secure your statements.  I’m told that it’s being considered an open and shut case.”  Well, that was one good thing, at least.  “I have been informed that I should show you my gratitude for bringing them in relatively unharmed for prosecution.  Relative in this case meaning a couple of cracked ribs on the female.”

I dared a glance to Sarah.  We hadn’t known about that.  Did she do it when she blasted Beth, or had the Sons of Bitch done that while I was away?  I’d have to ask later.  Mr. Munteanu was continuing anyway.

“It’s come to my attention that you’re aware of the Hale contract with the city coming to an end.  I’ll save you the platitudes of it not being your fault, as I’m sure he’s already given you the full story.  As you have a repeat contract with this line, with full autorenewal unless otherwise dictated and a penchant for arriving for duty early, you are being offered a severance pay.  Combine this with the advisory of a bonus by Mr. Hale himself and your combat pay, and your grand total comes out to one thousand, two hundred and twenty nine dollars.  Each.”

My smile didn’t budge.  My eyelids didn’t so much as twitch.  I’d had a long, long time to practice keeping the expression that I’d wanted.  I wanted to do the math.  I desperately wanted to do the math on how everything equated out to that number.  I wanted to do the math as to how much that meant that I could put into savings, how whatever amount would change the time period that I had to save up for, how much I could slush, and even how much I could spend on a thank you gift for Amy and Roger.  I really wanted to do the math.

But my brain had just completely shut down.  I couldn’t even wrap my mind around that.  That was more than we could reasonably make in over a third of the year.  The muscles in my calves were clenched so tight they felt like twitching rocks, and it was everything that I could do to keep from swallowing my tongue.

Sarah took only a couple of breaths before flashing Mr. Munteanu a smile that matched mine.  “That is… quite unexpected.  That’s… one hefty bonus.”

Mr. Munteanu smiled sadly.  “Miss Wilbourn herself added much of the funds to that bonus for sentimental reasons.”  That made disturbingly good sense.  3Bs never really forget each other.  “However, I do assure you that both yourselves and the Hales received the largest bonuses.  The Hales for their long service in this route, and their considerations as to the customs of… the Sons of Bitch.”  He said their name in a way that one would try to politely inform someone that their mother was a prostitute.  “And yourselves for ensuring that the final transaction was made, no matter what.”

“We’ll be sure to send her a card in thanks,” I said, bowing my head.

He glanced up at his clock, then back to me.  “Quite.  Now, I’m sure that you two will want to spend your good fortune and attend-”

“Actually,” Sarah interrupted.  “While we have you, I was hoping that we could discuss the upcoming contract prospects.”

Suddenly, so very suddenly, he looked somewhat tired, like he’d been hiding it all this time to no avail.  He pulled a piece of paper off of his desk, looking from it back to me.  “Jordan.  Your lack of a surname makes it damn inconvenient to address you.”  I felt my cheeks warm, and my calves tried to tighten even more as a wave of dread washed over the surface.  “As I said before, I wish you would have come earlier.”

Sarah was looking between the two of us, a confused expression on her face.  “What’s going on?”

“Your brother asked me to arrange a business meeting.”  He looked back to me, his dark eyes sympathetic.  “Melissa Kallenburger, with public works.”  He held the paper out.  “Directions.  If I could have, I would have scheduled it for tomorrow, but she was insistent that it be today.  In…  twenty minutes.  Give or take.”

I snatched the paper out of his hand, looking it over.  The cold dread had been replaced by dread, excitement, and anxiety.  I spoke quickly without looking up.  “Sarah, stay here and do your thing.”  I forced my legs to unclench.  “If this doesn’t pan out, I need a backup plan.  Mr. Munteanu, thank you.”  I looked back up.  “I owe you one.” With that, I was on my feet and heading for the door.

I made it about one and a half steps before pain lanced its way up my leg and I fell to the ground with a yelp.  I didn’t need this now.  I didn’t need this at all, but especially not now.  Just my luck.  Just my fucking luck.  I’d already messed all this up, and I hadn’t even started anything yet.

Almost immediately, I felt my sister’s hands on me, pulling me to my feet.  “Jordan?  I-”

“Stay,” I growled, pulling myself out of her grip.  I’d been pushing myself too hard, not exercising my knee right, and tensing up like that had been the final straw.  “Need a backup plan.”  I got my leg under me and tested it.  I’d be able to walk, but running would just put my knee out again.

We locked eyes for a moment.  Concern filled hers.   She knew how much this hurt.  Heck, she’d been there when I’d gotten the injury.  I tried to will her to believe, for one moment, just one, that I knew what I was doing.  I wasn’t asking much.  Just for her to do the negotiation thing while I did something incredibly stupid that wasn’t going to work anyway.

“Okay,” she said softly.  “But we’re going to talk when this is over.”

“Course,” I managed.  The moment her hands let go, I was in motion again.  Not the fastest motion in the world, mind you.  If I put too much pressure on my knee, chances are I was going to end up on the ground again.

I was nice enough to close the door behind me before hobbling down the hall and out the building.  The stairs were tricky, but I made them well enough with the handrail.  The paper told me it was only a few blocks away.  The upside to cities being smaller than they had been before Scion was that government buildings were closer together.  Unfortunately, with my knee, I still might not make it.

I held up my hands real quick, thumbs out, to orient myself.  Left, right.  I could remember my cardinal directions easily; I could just feel inside which way was North.  But I’d never quite gotten the hang of left and right for some reason.  I hoped I never had to serve on a ship — it might take me a while to learn which was port and which was starboard.

The day, at least, was lovely.  Not that I could appreciate how pretty it was while trying to hobble at a breakneck speed without falling over, but I could at least appreciate the fact that it wasn’t swealteringly hot outside.  Plenty of sun to see my way, but also plenty of glare off the windows.  But it wasn’t raining, and that was good enough for me.

People moved out of my way as I hurried down the street.  A small favor.  I had no idea how much time was passing.  Some people could tell minutes by the sun, but I was never any good at that.  With a sextant, I could navigate at night, I could make a shelter in the woods without the slightest difficulty, but tell you that it was anything beyond morning, noon, and evening?  No chance.

A cultist, a rare sight here in New Brockton, moved to help me.  I politely waved him off and continued my fast hobble.

I was getting angry.  Because I decided to take it slow, because I’d slept in, because I’d let Sarah sleep in, now I was screwed.  Because of one stupid accident, one stupid moment when I’d been a kid where my body hadn’t done what I’d wanted it to all those years ago, now I was hobbling like an infirm idiot who couldn’t even…

I took a deep breath, or as deep as I could with how my heart was hammering.  I needed to calm down.  I needed to keep it cool, ice in my blood.  I focused on smiling even as I hurried.  I was guessing that the building that I was looking for was ahead — a large, three story building that looked prefab.  It had to be an older building, then.  One of the few that had survived mostly unscathed.  Good.  One thing at a time.

I stepped in through the doors, forcing myself to slow down so that I could walk mostly normally.  Each step with my right leg still protested, but now I could at least fake it.  I was good at that.  I approached the desk, smiling politely.  “Hi, I’m here to see…  Melissa Kallenburger?”

The woman barely even glanced up at me.  “Second floor, to your left.”

Stairs.  Crap.

“Thank you,” I said, before turning and heading for them.  One step at a time, mindful of my leg, using the handrail to help me up.  Counting the seconds silently in my head to help keep the anger down.  The last thing that I needed to do was start cursing to myself in here.

Another receptionist.  Secretary, I reminded myself.  But the name next to the door was right.  I ran a hand through my hair before stepping in.  “Hi, my name is Jordan and I’m here to see Melissa Kallenburger.”

The young man smiled a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.  “One moment, sir.”

I remained standing, folding my hands behind my back as he stood to enter the second door.  The furniture here was made after Scion.  You could tell — older furniture was made with particle board that was done up to look like it was solid wood.  The newer stuff?  Solid wood, good and sturdy.  His desk looked like it could stand up to a shotgun once or twice, unless it was a solid slug.

“Miss Kallenburger will see you now,” he said, stepping back into the small waiting room.

“Thank you.”  I kept a pleasant smile on my face as I walked through the door, forcing myself to ignore my leg.  Force the pain down, forget it was even there.  It didn’t work as well as I’d hoped — usually I could use pain as a way to drive more energy out of my body — but at least I was walking mostly right.

This room was far more lavish than Mr. Munteanu’s.  The curtains on the window were a light blue, the paint on the walls wasn’t fading, and potted plants occupied every corner that they could.  Only one plant sat on the desk, and that was off to one corner.  The hardwood floor was quite nice; I was starting to wonder if the building was actually prefab, or if it had just been in the initial stages of being built when Scion attacked.

Melissa, however, was smiling at me.  The younger side of middle-aged, gauging by the wrinkles in the corners of her eyes and between her brows, with some light freckling under the eyes and blonde hair.  Her suit was well-fitted to her.  I wouldn’t call her overly pretty, but she wore her age well, and knew how to apply her makeup.  She crossed the smallish office to shake my hand.  “Mr. Jordan, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure’s all mine,” I said, giving it a firm shake.  Really, I wasn’t scared.  So long as I put my best foot forward, then I had nothing to fear.  The answer would be a simple yes or no, depending on others.  I just had to inform her.  “And please, just Jordan.  I don’t claim a family name.”

He eyebrows rose slightly as she gestured to the chair.  “That’s unusual.”

“For this neck of the woods it is.”  I smiled a little as I settled down.  “Out west, it’s becoming increasingly common.  People feel a disconnection to the old world and naming conventions.  There’s a lot of youths who are choosing to rename themselves; you wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve met named Kilo, for example.  I didn’t go that route myself.

“There’s also an ongoing trend in some areas to earn one’s surname, a right of passage if you will.  And this whole mercenary business is more of a means to an end for me.  Once I reach the goals I’ve set out for myself, I’ll choose my own surname.”  Not that I let myself actively think about them; half the time, I didn’t even have passive thoughts in that regard.  No sense letting yourself get worked up prematurely.

She nodded a little, impressed.  “Well, Jordan, when Quincy called, I have to admit that you weren’t what I was expecting.  We get a few mercenaries every year who come to us with some grand plan on how to improve our defenses, plans that are unfeasible for one reason or another, but they’re always older, more gruff, and don’t have as eager of a smile.  I’ll admit that I only agreed to meet with you today because there was a meeting that I desperately wanted to get out of.”

“Well, if it serves both of us, then I’m glad I could be of some help.”  I rested my palms down against the arms of the chair, sitting as straight as I could.  It was surprisingly comfortable for a public servant’s office.

“To business, then.”  She settled back in her chair, folding her hands on her desk.  “What did you wish to see me about?”

I took a deep breath.  All or nothing.

“My sister and I were serving as guards for the wagon that delivers gasoline to the Sons of Bitch.  However, we have been informed that the contract for deliveries is ending because the offshore oil platform had run dry.”

She nodded, her smile fading.  “I’m familiar.  Our own reserves are running low, and if a new source isn’t found soon, it could start cause problems for us by next winter.  I’m sorry to hear that your contract ended.”

A year and a half?  I’d kind of hoped that they’d done better rationing than that, but…  This was the government. Wait, or did she mean this upcoming winter?  That made more sense, considering how long gas tended to remain good.

“It’s alright,” I said with a reassuring smile.  “I’m more worried about the Sons and New Brockton itself.  However, I’d like it if you’d hear me out for a moment.”  She nodded, relaxing a little.  Good.  Good.  This was going superb so far.  I hoped I could keep it up.

“Alright, so.  Crude oil, the stuff that gets made into gasoline, is basically hydrocarbons.  These hydrocarbons were made in prehistory by organic material falling to the ocean beds, getting covered up, and then subjected to the holy trinity of time, heat, and pressure.”

“Stuff like dinosaurs,” she said with a nod.

That got me to wince a little.  “A bit, yes, but let’s be perfectly honest here.  Most of that organic material was either plankton or plants.  The Earth was once covered in massive rain forests, and there was far more plankton and algae than there is even here in Gimmel.  Which is precisely how the dinosaurs were able to get so big; there was a lot more oxygen in the atmosphere back then.

“Anyway, as more layers get put on this decomposing organic material, it starts to get warmer.  That heat and pressure does the same thing that it does to graphite; it alters the structure.  Sometimes it produces coal, sometimes it produces crude oil.  But even crude oil isn’t the same; its can be different colors or quality just because of where it’s gained at.”

“Because there was different material being turned into this stuff?”

I smiled, nodding.  “Precisely.  Different things produce different types of crude, but most of it can be refined into gasoline.  Which is handy, since there was so much of the stuff.”

“Until it started to run dry.”

“Well, yes, but why does it have to stop there?  I mean, we know how it was created, so why have we been going about it the hard way?”

Miss Kalenburger frowned a little.  “If I get what you’re saying, you most likely want to find a Tinker to create crude oil for us out of plants.”

My smile grew larger.  “Oh, no.  No.  Not at all.  I have a Tinker who would be able to turn your waste and sewage into crude oil and pure water.”

She paused a moment before leaning forward, a sad smile on her face.  “Jordan.  I appreciate the effort that you’re going through with this, but we’re trying to move away from relying heavily on Tinker tech.  As it stands, we’re paying a small fortune to supply ourselves with reliable energy due to Tinkers charging exorbitant fees to repair our generators.  If, and when, the Tinkers who built them die, we’ll have to hope that Dragon can study the generators enough to understand them and write maintenance manuals for us before they shut down.  It’s a lose-lose prospectus to have to turn to Tinkers every time we have a problem.”

“Oh, I agree completely.”  I smiled eagerly, leaning forward.  “Which is why you’d construct the devices and maintain them without requiring a Tinker.”

She looked at me like I’d grown a second head for a moment before shifting in her chair.  “Alright, you have my interest.”

“Are you familiar with metamaterials?”


“Metamaterials are basically materials whose behaviors are not dictated by their chemical composition but instead by their construction.  Much like how some leaves will repel water and other leaves will get wet despite having basically the same chemical structures.  The Tinker that my sister and I have access to specializes in the construction of these materials.”

“What sorts of things does he make?”

I blinked for a moment, trying to get my mind to shift gears.  “Well, plenty of things.  Um.  Our armor is the best fabric armor that you can make, in my humble opinion.  It’s comparable to scale mail at minimum, though I’d estimate it’s far better than that.  He can also make materials that, when added to a turbine, can create enormous amounts of power.”

That got her to perk up again.  “Really?”

Crap.  I remembered hearing a rumor that a while back, they’d scavenged a wind turbine from Earth Bet and were working to restore it.  I quickly held up my hand.  “Don’t get so excited.  While, yes, they’re incredibly useful, and two small turbines power the entire town that he lives in with some degree of surplus, there are downsides to it.  It’s a room-temperature superconductor with a downside that the higher the mass, the more likely it is to behave as a Bose-Einstein condensate when temperatures drop below freezing.”  She gave me a blank look.  “Those tend to explode violently.”


“Anyway.”  I had to push on, to keep her on track.  “Once the material is made, it can be worked in a variety of ways depending on its nature.  He would love to get his hands on someone with metallurgy, smithing, engineering, and sewing experience to act as an assistant, but that’s a tall order.

“But this also works to your advantage.  He would be producing a cloth that could produce hydrocarbons similar to crude oil in certain circumstances.  Depending on the size of the facilities, it would probably only take an hour or less, too.  It would be up to the city to create and maintain a facility to utilize these materials.”

I took a deep breath.  “Now, I know that you have connections to Miss Wilbourn.  If she were to build these facilities, or to push the city council to build them, then she would have a temporary monopoly on the crude oil trade.  As well, the organic matter necessary could be most easily gained from taking over the sewage systems for the city.  As well, with enough research and effort, he could make more, similar materials to draw even more from the waste.  If you’re worried about his track record, he’s already proven himself able to create water filters that only allow pure water to pass through.  Meanwhile, she could stand to make a tremendous profit from this.”

Melissa was silent in thought for a long moment.  Now my gut started to twist and turn, anxiety making my chest tighten.  When she spoke again, it was with a suspicious tone.  “What about if this fabric tears or loses efficiency?”

I spread my hands.  “Then you buy more.  It wouldn’t be any different than importing anything else into the city.  He would have a surplus made in advance, ready to sell to you if you so needed it.”

“And what’s to keep you from selling this material to every other city?”

“Size.”  I tilted my head, grinning.  “New Brockton has a population that far exceeds its ability to feed on its own.  Even if it didn’t, its organic waste far outperforms what would even be feasible for fertilizers.  Most communities rely heavily on farming these days, both for themselves and export, with much of their waste being put to that very effort as either manure or compost.  There’s only a handful of places with the population base to make this cost effective without harming their overall economy.

“As the facilities would require electricity to operate, this further limits the locations necessary.”  Chis was, like, 90% certain that the fabric would need electricity.  He wouldn’t know for sure until he had all the plans done and was building it.  The downside to a Tinker’s powers.

“Besides, there’s two other things that have to be considered.  First, while this can produce great amounts of crude oil, it does have the downside that it wouldn’t be enough for global  or even continental distribution.  Humanity still needs to tap into more wells to continue to produce enough to meet the demands.  Second, we are willing to agree to a contract over this that would forbid us from selling to potential competitors.”

She nodded slowly, her eyes flicking a little as she thought.  “Alright.  I can bring it up to her.  But, before she invests heavily in this sort of thing, she’d need to see a demonstration.”

I made a show of wincing.  “There’s the rub.  There’s always a catch.  The materials that he’d need to use to make this aren’t exactly common anymore.  He’d either have to use what he has to try and make more, sacrificing other projects in the process and adding a significant wait time to deliver the product and running the risk of having wasted so much for a contract that never came, or he could make the demonstration, and then have to seek out more of these substances before he could fill the final order.”

That made her frown.  “I…  She’s not going to like that, but it makes sense.  If I can ask, what do you personally hope to get out of this?”

I smiled a little.  “I get to help two communities out.  Oh, and, my sister and I will probably get a cut.”

“Okay.”  She tapped her fingernail on the desk thoughtfully.  “I can’t promise anything, but I’ll talk to her.  May I ask where you’re staying?”

“The Jade Pool Hotel.”

She nodded, taking a moment to jot it down.  “And your sister’s name, in case they have some confusion over me just asking for Jordan?”

“Sarah Abrams.”

“Do you have the materials that your Tinker would need?”

“No, Miss Kallenburger.”  I felt myself blush a little.  “Well, not immediately.  Soon, perhaps.  I… wasn’t expecting to meet with you so soon and didn’t have time to retrieve them.”

“That’s alright.  I’ll talk to her in a few hours, after she gets done with what she’s doing, and then I’ll contact you for a meeting.”  She pointed at me.  “And bring that list next time.”

I nodded once.  “Will do.”

That made her smile.  She extended her hand, her voice rich and happy.  “It’s a pleasure doing business with you, Jordan.  I look forward to our next meeting.”

“You fucking did what?!”

I winced, pressing my back harder against the wall.  I was glad that it was still the afternoon and nobody would be sleeping in the rooms next to ours.  “I…  thought it wasn’t that big of a deal.  It was just a pitch?”  I smiled nervously at her.  “I mean, I really didn’t expect anyone to even listen to me, let alone go to the top with it.”

Sarah ran her hands through her short hair.  “Jordan, honey, I love you very much.  But one of these days, you have to learn to prepare yourself both to fail and succeed.”  She sighed and sat on the corner of her bed, elbows on her knees.  “Alright, listen.  Did you mention numbers.  Any numbers at all?”

I shook my head quickly.  “None.  I just gave the pitch, that’s it.  Honest, I swear.”

“Alright.”  She frowned, staring off into the distance.  “So long as you didn’t start making promises like giving it away for free, we can salvage this.”  Her head bobbed a little.  “Yeah.  We can work with this.  But I need you to tell me everything about what you and Chris are doing.  Every little detail.”


9 thoughts on “Soil 1.5

  1. Thank you for reading this chapter. Just as a reminder, there will be another update on Thursday.

    This chapter’s Fun Fact: I’ve spent time helping people with physical therapy, mostly as moral support, and discussing the nature of long-term injuries with doctors and patients. I’ve learned a lot over the years as to the nature of wounds and how recovery can affect them. It may not seem like Jordan did much to set off his knee like that, but with the exact nature of his old injury, it’s a fairly realistic representation. It’s also the main reason why he doesn’t like kicking.

    The fact is that he tensed his leg up too much for too long a period of time. This put strain on it like it doesn’t normally have; when walking, exercising, working or fighting, he usually has a combination of strain and release in regular intervals. This causes him a bit of pain, but beyond the pain it doesn’t limit him too much, so long as he takes care of himself. Coming off of a journey where he had to redistribute his weight to accommodate pain from elsewhere, the high and near-constant stress he’s been under, and then the constant clenching of leg muscles while sitting in a chair that’s not quite the right height for him finally did his leg in.

    What isn’t shown is that they’re going to ice down his leg like crazy, he’s going to get back on his exercise regime to help keep his knee limber and minimize the pain, and the care that he takes for it. While I’d like to fully show that, I know that I can get wrapped up in the tiny details of a person’s life, and it can bog down a story.

    Story-wise, his knee problem (and other health problems) serve various purposes, many of them dealing with his high-strain lifestyle. While not inspired by The Dark Knight Rises, it has a similar principle — physically-demanding high-risk jobs can take a toll on the body. Not all wounds are equal, not all issues are the same. People with a similar injury might react differently.

    It also doesn’t hurt that his armor has built-in knee braces to help relieve the pressure. Siblings look after each other, even if one doesn’t realize it.


    • It’s possible to mention his knee often, while not getting too involved. This should give a sense that it is a problem, that action must be taken to keep it in good condition, while not spending entire paragraphs on it. Just an aside, ‘I adjusted the ice on my knee’, every so often will help.


  2. He appreciated our efforts as welcome but unnecessary, and we appreciated the fact that if he was jerking us around, he was doing a very exceptional job at hiding it.
    -Okay, I laughed.

    Business idea sounds good. Not sure what Brockton gains from being the only buyer of this material. I rather thought there would be a ‘we’re all in this together’ sort of feeling. Obviously, there is competition for resources, but if it’s possible to help more than just one city…


    • The art of negotiation isn’t completely lost on Jordan; he has picked up on a few things, here and there. He’d like to offer it to any city with a sizable enough population to support it, but he understands that an exclusive contract might be more appealing. That sort of thing, though, is something that he figures would be handled in final negotiations. (He doesn’t realize that his comments could be taken as a promise.)

      With oil production grinding to an effective halt, New Brockton would (temporarily) be the sole supplier for the US, standing to make them a lot of money. This appeals to Mrs. Kallenburger for a variety of reasons; making New Brockton substantially more wealthy and increasing its power will increase her standing with Tattletale, after all. Jordan didn’t know this, though. Just a happy synergy.


  3. Typo thread:

    Some day, I’d have to invest in a razor proper.
    -proper razor; this might be stylistic, on purpose.

    “Sarah Abrams and Jordan, no surname. We’re here to give our statements, reports, and collect our pay for the Sons deliveries under Mr. Rodger Hale, city contract 2281-B.”


  4. Pingback: Soil 1.4 | Setanta

  5. Pingback: Interlude 1.A | Setanta

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