“GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY FATHER!”
Everyone’s eyes go up to see Archer crouched and aiming the Remington Wingmaster shotgun at them, backed up by Drummer with a loaded crossbow. The Paladins pause as they quickly see Hunter and Porter pull firearms as well. Slowly he lets me go and backs up.
“I think we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot,” said the leader as he steps forward. “We need your help. You’re not in trouble, well not that I know of.”
I turn to my family and nod; slowly all four lower their weapons. Hunter comes over. “Dad?”
“It’s fine,” I reassuringly pat his shoulder. “Just run today like any other day. I’ll get my kit and see what I can do. Any problems, let Chess out and just go.”
“Okay dad,” he says not overly convinced as he tries to press his revolver into my hand.
“You’ll need this more than me. Fetch my kit,” I tell him before turning to the Paladins “Let’s not keep the good men of Willow Creek waiting.”
“I am Grand Sentinel Luther,” the lead Paladin introduces himself. “My Grand Guards Sisquo, who your dog already made acquaintance with, and Kravitz. Sorry for the initial confusion.”
“What do you need fixing?” I ask as I take my tool sack off Hunter.
They take me on horseback several miles from the town of Willow Creek. Oddly surrounding a large green field are seven gun towers, each one with a wicked looking…
“Is that a machinegun turret?” I ask pointing to the nearest tower.
Grand Sentinel Luther nods “Keeps away those who try to steal our water.”
“What water?” I ask because as far as I can tell either he’s dreaming or I’m blind. He laughs along with Sisquo and Kravitz at some joke I obviously missed. “You want to explain?”
“Water’s right in front of you,” Luther says pointing at the field. “Just under all those water hyacinths and hemp plants.”
I look again and see that the ground is slightly bobbing up and down. “Hiding it in plain sight.”
“The hyacinths and hemp help purify the water,” Kravitz adds. “From the reservoir here it gets sucked down into the boiler for further purification before into the hydroelectric dam and from there we distribute it.”
“Tidy set up,” I remark.
“But it takes its toll,” Luther says. “Seventeen turrets…”
“Seventeen?” I exclaim wondering where the other ten are.
“It’s a lake tinker,” Luther continues. “We have to protect our supply. Each turret is manned twenty four hours a day, every day. Anyways that’s our problem not yours. We need you to fix the power.”
“I’ll try,” I say “And then we’ll speak about payment.”
“Step on my blue suede shoes!” I mutter as I’m led into the inner workings of the damn. Massive cogs, turbines, pumpers and such all sit eerily still as the drips from the massive store of water over our heads echoes on the concrete.
“Can you fix it?” a large booming voice from the other side of the concrete room. A large man in black beret with red trimmings walks down the metal staircase heading towards us. Luther, Kravitz and Sisquo all throw up a weird salute which I feel like I should also but now it becomes awkward so I just stand there waiting for him.
“Well?" he says.
“I don’t know,” I reply honestly. “I’ve only just got here but I’ll do what I can.”
He stares at me with his piercing hazel eyes. His face is weathered and I can see a scar at the base of his neck that looks like a phosphor burn. He’s a powerful, intimidating presence. He thrusts his hand forward; his knuckles look like worn granite. “Grand Imperial Dragon”
I take his hand and it’s like being held in a vice. I work with my hands but this man, whose name I don’t really understand, could crush me like a piece of rotted fruit. “Antonio. Nice to meet you Dragon.”
He chuckles without emotion. “No, I am The Grand Imperial Dragon. My name is Texas.”
“Oh,” I don’t get it; Willow Creek has a weird military hierarchy. It works for them, I just trade and fix and move along. “Is the power on?”
Texas looks at me like I’ve asked the world’s hardest question. “I have no idea. Sisquo can help you with that.”
Great! The guy who was sniffing around my daughter is my help.
“Luther, Kravitz we have work to…”
“I hate to bring this up,” I raise my hand as I interrupt “But payment?”
“If you can fix it,” Texas says “What would you like?”
Oh I hate this already. Putting the onus on me to fix it and naming my price. This could go south pretty quick.
“Four horses,” I say as I look around. “Providing you’ve got the materials needed to fix what’s broken.”
The Grand Imperial Dragon’s eyes bore into mine, I feel like an ant under a magnifying glass. “Two and as much water as you can carry.”
I have water! I’m trading with your people and all they have is water! I need something to carry that water.
“Three plus water.”
He ponders my offer before putting his hand out “Agreed. When can I expect it to be done?”
I haven’t even started yet you idiot!
“Hopefully less than a week, judging by the size and depending on what the actual problem is,” I say.
“Good,” he turns on his heels and makes an exit along with the other two leaving me alone with Sisquo.
“So where’d the problem begin?” I ask. Sisquo merely shrugs apathetically and leans against a wall.
“How should I know, you’re the tinker.”
Oh this is a steaming pile of crap!
To be continued...