Mr. Strawn stepped off the sleek magnetic train and walked down the wooden boardwalk of the depot, boots clunking. He carried a canvas bag shaped around the thick book inside of it. It made him think of a snake that had misjudged its meal every time he picked it up. He tipped his large-brimmed hat at the ladies he passed, with a metal finger. His entire left hand was a replacement. The shine had worn off, but he didn’t mind. Shiny metal drew attention in the outposts. Attention invited questions. They weren’t questions he couldn’t answer, but he found that it was best to keep your own counsel.
He didn’t know if you called this place a town, but it was called Shiremire. Shiremire was the only place he could get to by train. All of the others were a costly two-day journey by airship. They would be more polished than Shiremire, but in Mr. Strawn’s experience, it was better to see the rough edges. And a place like this was bound to have a few. Only the most needy came this close to the factories.
Mr. Strawn entered the dim saloon from the main street. Horses were hitched to a post over a dirty, brown water trough out front. This small tank town wasn’t much more than the main street. The saloon was full of assembly-men and smelters of various position from the factories, an occasional sophisticate moving between cities that wants a glimpse of the raw life, and the special kind of people that places like this drew. Mr. Strawn carried a large pistol on his thigh. It was a tool of his job at the factories but he never took it off. The outposts could be even more dangerous than the factories or the camps. They were filled with hard men with money, anger, and boredom.