Mr. Lever’s train finally arrived at its provincial destination. It was a dangerous journey up and over the mountain passes that were already snowed in over two meters deep. An avalanche would be certain death for those aboard the train with the exception of the high ranking Mr. Lever who alone would have been rescued by hovercraft. He could have been dropped off at his destination by said craft but that was not his custom. Lever was, for all intents and purposes, a bounty hunter, and he preferred to fully acclimate himself to his terrain. He also preferred to be as inconspicuous as his ego would permit and dropping in on an undermen backwater with the flashing lights, noise and technological fanfare of a hovering vessel would most assuredly spook the suspect he was tracking. Humans were as skittish as any wild game, but they were also creatures of habit and comfort who quickly forget unspectacular events. Lever’s low tech arrival would be noticed, for sure, but was unspectacular and would soon be disregarded by his quarry.
Lever stepped off the train onto the platform and breathed in the chilly air and the fragrance of burning pine. The last of the curled, golden aspen leaves danced in the breeze along the wood planks beneath his feet. Ice and snow filled the north side shadows and dark alleyways. The tops of the mountains were obscured. The sky hung low, swirling gray.
Lever surveyed the assortment of undermen and an occasional, low-ranking bureaucrat scurrying about. He brushed some sleet off his embroidered overcoat and shifted his matching derby down low on his brow. A porter appeared and set a carpet bag at Lever’s foot. Lever tipped him a 100 dianar note, snapping it from a billfold tucked in his breast pocket. He picked up his bag and strolled across the platform planks in long, deliberate strides. He found he was a good half-foot taller than the rabble of sickly serfs scampering about. Sensing his Overman aura, they averted their eyes and peeled away from him as he made his way to the stairs.
Lever took one final look at the Hegeltown station, examining the corrals to the far end where a half dozen humates were being issued burlap blankets and about to be driven into the train’s cattle car. None of them appeared to be suitable.
He took the stairs down off the platform and walked into town which was every bit as dusty and unkempt as any Overman would expect— Hegeltown was a serf town, after all— but the filth did not bother Lever too greatly as his job had taken him too many dirty hamlets in the hinterlands. Thankfully for him, he spotted a barber which meant that the availability of a proper daily shave and body waxing would go far to mitigate any spiritual regression.
Lever made his way to the inn, peeking first through the panes into the darkened interior and then pushing through the creaky door. He dinged the bell alerting the innkeeper who at first shuffled along, lazily, but then snapped to attention the moment he saw who the guest was.
“What can I do for you, sir?” asked the innkeeper, nervously.
“Good day, my friend. My name is Mr. Lever. I would like to procure a room for the next several evenings, an open-ended stay if possible. And preferably a room that overlooks the plaza. Might one be available?”
“Y-Yes sir. We have one,” answered the innkeeper, nervously. “How will you be paying for it? You are an Official, right? I apologize. We don’t get many of your rank way out here. Am I right, though? Oh, that was rude of me. I suppose… I suppose I need to find my bio scanner. One moment…” The innkeeper ducked down below the counter and fumbled around, knocking over and breaking something made of glass. He popped back up holding a clunky device which he set clumsily down on the counter’s surface with a thud. “One moment, sir, while I plug it in…” He ducked back down and fumbled around again on the floor for another couple moments than popped back up and switched on the device. It buzzed to life. He flipped up an attachment that culminated in a blue lens. “Please… uh, sir… if you don’t mind, please look into the optic,” the innkeeper requested.
Lever sighed. “Of course.” He removed his derby and leaned his right eye into the blue lens. It was all just pretense as the scanner, if it actually had worked, would not discern anything from Lever’s cornea as the eyes of Overman ranking higher than thirty were not catalogued.
The innkeeper fidgeted about nervously as the device failed to return any results. He spun the knobs left, right, left, right. He flipped the switches up, down, up, down. Then he bent the squeaky metal arm to and fro and to and fro thinking that the action might jar something into working order. Lever looked amused at the serf’s flailing logic. The innkeeper asked Lever to look in again and Lever complied, politely, but laboriously. Again, no result. The innkeeper unplugged it and plugged it back in. He adjusted the height of the lens once more. He gave it a good shake. Lever looked in a third time but his eye yielded no identity. The innkeeper took out his handkerchief, spit into it and buffed the eyepiece to Lever’s horror.
“I think we can agree that we’ve given it our best effort,” Lever said.
“I apologize, sir. It seems that my scanner is not working properly. I think that…”
“That’s not a problem at all, my friend,” Lever interrupted. “I can pay you in dianars and I have identification that you can call in to codex enforcement. You’ll find that I am completely in order. I’m sure paper money is still in use here, no?”
“Oh yes. Yes indeed. Scrip will be fine.”
Lever lifted his carpet bag onto the counter while the innkeeper removed the unwieldy biometric scanner and stowed it, breaking something else down below in the process. Lever unfastened the clasps of his bag and began removing the contents, setting the instruments out before the innkeeper like a surgeon prepping for an operation. They were, in fact, surgical instruments… of a sort. There was a tooth extractor, a hypodermic needle, an eyelid scaffold, a hand-powered drill, a mallet, a case containing an assortment of scalpels, several vials of clear potions, and a rather large corkscrew that might be wound up into a body cavity…
“Hmmm. Now where did I put my wallet,” Lever remarked, while the innkeeper stared in horror. “Ah yes. Silly me.” Lever reached back into his overcoat breast pocket and produced his billfold. From it, he snapped out several 100 dianar notes which he handed to the wide-eyed innkeeper who received them in paralyzed awe.
After paying, Lever closed up his carpet bag. He turned back to the innkeeper and placed his index finger to his lips advising the innkeeper that it would be best if he kept his mouth shut about the new Overman guest staying at the hotel.
The innkeeper nodded vigorously as if to say, “I understand… really, I do. You can trust me! No need to use that extractor on me!”
Lever smiled warmly and made his way up to his room where he spent the afternoon meditating.
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