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Evening, All.

 
Lance Striker's picture
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The townsfolk had gathered, their voices flooding the school hall as they waited for

the event to begin. Shadow noted the confusion and alarm painted on some of their

faces, anxious as to the reason he of all people should be making any sort of

announcement. He took his place at the podium at the front of the hall and frowned

slightly as the noise died down into hushed murmurs – it didn't feel right. With a grunt, he

strode confidently around the podium, down towards the crowd, and stopped amongst

them as they parted to make space for him. He smiled, turned to look at everyone he

could, and spoke clearly.

 

   'Hope Springs began as an idea. A seed. One planted in the minds of a small band of

   people who saw our Fallen Earth – who lived, suffered and died in a world of petty

   violence, abject misery and division. A world inherited through the folly of a people who

   distinguished themselves on childish notions of separation, who stood divided over matters

   good folk like you cannot even comprehend. I remember that world.'

 

Shadow could see the eyes of the crowd, no less satisfied, fix themselves on his

collar. He had been clutching at it and not realised.

 

   'I remember...watching my world burn in nuclear fire, seeing people by the billions

   snuffed out by the Shiva Virus. Thousands of years of history, culture, and life – extinguished.'

 

His hand slid down his shoulder, grasping at the tattoo of his regiment beneath his

shirt on his left arm.

 

   'When it was all over, we realised we were the last ones left. Us lucky few, spared the

   fate of all else through pure isolation. And what did we do? We fought one another, tore

   at each others throats, divided ourselves into petty factions squabbling over the scraps

   chance had left us.'

 

Again he turned, smiling slightly and resuming his confident stance.

 

   'And yet some of us remembered a time when people pulled together. When good

   men and women worked side by side to build something greater than themselves, when

   people stick by each other when things get tough. That seed of Hope took root in the

   minds of those people, watered and nourished by their vision of a world of co-operation

   and sanctuary from the cycle of destruction we so easily find ourselves returning to. Hope

   Springs is not a place, it is not some place on a map, not some collection of buildings. It's

   not these walls, it's not the ground beneath our feet. Hope Springs is its people – each

   and every one of you – it's about our community, and that is what I'm here to talk to you

   all about today.'

 

Once more, he took the measure of the crowd, a little more at ease realising they weren't

under attack.

 

   'I cannot overstate how important that word is – community. Not just to myself or Hyle, but

   to every last person in this room and beyond. For months now we have been working hard

   to build on an unprecedented era of growth and prosperity for the community, and this school

   is just the tip of the iceberg.'

 

Shadow looked down for a moment, he was about to get political. It almost felt too partisan

as the idea rattled through his head, and he'd grown accustomed to stifling his cynicism over

the past year – mostly because Hyle had a low tolerance for it once he crossed the

threshold. He looked back up to the increasingly warming townsfolk, knowing that old wounds

had barely healed for some of them.

 

   'Some of you do not need me to tell you that this has not always been the case. That our

   town has faltered, and that sense of community has gotten away from us. It might be a

   little taboo to talk about it, and if we weren't having a guest over for dinner tonight, Hyle

   might have sent me to bed without any supper for looking back and not forward.'

 

The laughter was relieving, and it made him more at ease to bring his next point up.

 

   'Those of us who have lived here long enough may remember this town's leadership under

   Dorado – a tenure I consider nothing short of a disaster. A great doctor, and a man to who

   I owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude, but his leadership, or lack thereof, almost saw

   our precious seed of Hope wiped from the Earth. Why? We remember the constant attacks

   on the town, lives taken on a whim, homes burned to the ground for sport. I watched my

   friend and neighbour burned alive right outside of town hall, and the response to those

   attacks was that we were expected to defend ourselves if the mercenaries on our tax

   money couldn't do their job. If Reavy couldn't hold back the tide, if the shooting didn't stop

   at the bar, it was every man, woman and child for themselves. I, like you, was a citizen of

   that town, and though my age, experience and abilities may set me apart from many, I felt

   utterly powerless and lost about the future of Hope Springs. Our community was broken, our

   trust in one another was gone, and we had no one to turn to.'

 

Things were considerably more sombre now, though many nodded in agreement.

 

   'But every seed grows again. Ordinarily, some may consider me biased, but we wouldn't be

   standing here today, together, in our brand new school, were it not for Mayor Hyle. From the

   ashes, she nurtured that seed once more, mended broken bonds of fellowship, and brought

   about a peace this world hasn't seen in over a century. She will be the first to admit that she

   could not have done it without all of you here today. By fostering the strength and spirit of our

   community and by pursuing avenues of dialogue and diplomacy has her vision seen a huge

   change, not just to our little town, but to the wider world. That vision lives on in her, in me, and

   in every one of you. It is my hope that we can all show each other the love and affection that

   she has shown myself and all of you.'

 

He let the applause ring out for a moment, though he could see some were wondering if this

was just some moral lesson or borderline Hyle worship.

 

   'We want to strengthen that bond, and to reinforce our dedication to that vision, to you, and

   each other. Though the rebirth of Hope Springs continues to see us flourish into a shining

   future, there are still a few blemishes on the old girl. The town guard is one such blemish, a

   relic of a previous time, a bit of a hotchpotch of mercenary contractual nonsense. So...it is my

   absolute pleasure to announce that we will be converting the old guard into an organisation

   more fitting of our community and our vision. In the coming weeks, we will see the official

   transformation into the first Hope Springs Constabulary.'

 

There was an awkward, confused silence. He turned to Hyle for some sort of intervention but

he couldn't tell if she was as worried as he was or just enjoying him dipping his toes in her world.

 

   'Err...our new police - '

 

There was a wave of 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the gathering as the realisation came to them, followed

by another round of applause. Shadow laughed, also realising the situation.

 

   'Ah, right. Constabulary is a bit of an archaic term now, but it is essentially a police organisation. Our

   new constables will have their roles changed and expanded to be far more focused on you, our

   community. They will be expected to be ambassadors of said community, to help out around

   town and to represent your will – no more ragtag mercs patrolling the streets with a small

   armoury strapped to their bodies. I will personally be leading the Constabulary and will be

   accepting applications starting from tomorrow, you can grab a form here at the front of the hall

   or come drop by the station. Any questions?'

 

Shadow looked around, nodding at a woman who had her hand up.

 

   'So...are you getting rid of the guard? Isn't that dangerous?'

 

   'The guard will remain in effect until the transition is complete, our new officers will still be

   expected to protect the town if necessary. However, that doesn't necessitate the need to be

   walking around heavily armed, rest assured I will be training all constables personally and

   if nothing else, they'll be much more efficient at protecting the town. Dialogue and diplomacy

   are far more potent than guns and walls though, and our relations with the local communities

   and factions is constantly strengthening – the future is bright, we need only step into it.'

 

Shadow nodded at another through light applause.

 

   'What about Reavy?'

 

   'What about Reavy?' Shadow asked in return.

 

   'Is she going to be a constathingy too?'

 

   'Reavy's role in town won't change...I can't imagine her in uniform for one, and she's much

   better suited to doing what she does already.'

 

Some in the crowd laughed, Shadow took another question while being grateful no-one asked

him to expand and what kind of work he and Reavy actually did while they slept soundly in their beds.

 

   'You said that there'd be extra roles and stuff, right? So that means more work too?'

 

   'More work, more pay. Much more pay,' he replied, watching a small stampede move

   towards the application forms, 'any more questions?'

 

The crowd looked at each other for a while, talking amongst themselves but seemingly

out of questions for the time being. Shadow checked the time and looked over towards

Hyle, who'd been remarkably quiet. He didn't want to delay their planned dinner with

Veronica, mainly because he was always hungry.

 

   'All right, if that's everything, thanks for coming and I hope to see some applications on

   my desk soon. See you all later.'

 

The crowd grew louder as the made their way out of the school, an orchestra of buzz and

excitement. Shadow made his way over to Hyle, wondering how he did – he hadn't had that

much social interaction since...forever, and he certainly hadn't hadn't given a speech quite

like that before. Usually he's rousing rangers before a battle, and a part of him instinctively

ached for a fight. He'd be fighting this war with a notebook and a pencil. Even so, he was

grateful for her trust and the opportunity.

 

   'God, I love you.'

Comments

Joe Spivey's picture

By the following morning several piles of fliers appeared wherever there was an empty space on a desk, tabletop or bar (on one occaison also on a bedside table, but words will be had about that). There were fliers for tailors specialising in uniforms, fliers for badge makers, office outfitters and cobblers, for guns and non-lethal weaponry. There was even one for donuts and pastries... and of course there was one for ammunition 'Handmade by Orphans'. Whatever the name of the business proclaimed in bold at the top of the flier, the single common thing about them all could be found among the small print at the bottom where it read, 'A Division of Spivey's Independant Traders'.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

Throughout the meeting, Hyle had quietly sat at the back of the schoolhall. Apart from standing with Shadow at the entrance to welcome people to the meeting as they drifted in, Hyle had opted to take a low key presence while Shadow was speaking. After all The Constabulary was his baby, Hyle was simply there to give the proceedings an official rubber stamp by dint of her attending.

 

And indeed The Constabulary was all Shadows work. Many months ago they had discussed the necessity of some form of policing, but Hyle had merely sketched out her vision of the model she wanted. Policing by consent. A service for the people, armed only when necessary.

 

After that, Hyle had left Shadow to his own devices. She had monitored from a distance as he created the idea and then the fabric of the new ‘Constabulary', A much better term, she thought, than ‘Police Force’.

Behind the scenes she had fought for the funding despite her resident 'bean-counter' Wesley Drayton’s protestations. But other than that, she let Shadow alone to build his vision.

 

And now, as she sat at the back of the schoolhall, listening to Shadow explaining the future plans to the people, making notes on the pad on her knee. Hyle realised she was smiling, with pride. He had gathered the audience up and taken them with him. He had touched on the past, albeit necessarily to highlight the folly of gone years.

But he had then turned all eyes to the future. Policing for the community, no longer a sledgehammer for a nut. No longer a “jail/beat/shoot first, ask later” regime as that poor girl Magrat had lately experienced. But a service to build confidence and trust throughout the town.

 

Hyle’s heart swelled at the statesmanlike performance Shadow was giving. She felt proud of him. Hyle paused to wipe a tear from her eye, smiling.

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Petyr's picture

(Ahh, come on. The burning houses and farms and people weren't all that bad. Some of those arsonists were even devilishly handsome if I may say so myself.)

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Lance Striker's picture

(( Burning down the Wolfpack house was some of your finest work, I'll give you that, but all the other times was just creating unpaid labour!

Lonely are the brave...



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