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Iron Quill (Absent Friends) -- Four Blackouts

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I wasn’t used to being chased by the law. Usually I wasn't so foolish.
I cursed and kicked the side of the contraption I was riding on, and to my relief, it stopped sputtering and jumped a bit forward, speeding up a bit. I had horses to outrun - Guild horses.
Bullets cracked past me, none of them hitting me, but every one tested my luck again. I looked back to take a few stray shots at my pursuers. All my shots missed, but the Marshals pursuing me scrambled a bit all the same.
When I looked back forward, my velocipede was speeding off some awkward ancient overpass. Too late to brake or turn away. I plunged off, thinking to myself: Well, maybe this time I’ll fall to my death properly. There was a smile on my face as I plunged into the mountains of garbage below.
I lost consciousness with the impact. As always, I felt ready not to wake up again.
* * *
I woke up in a gully that smelled of death and discarded things. Half of the wreckage of my velocipede was on top of me, twisted and steaming. I saw the bridge far above me. Those Marshals looked over the edge, and they must have seen me below. They turned away, leaving me for dead. Above them, I saw the majestic city spires of Malifaux.
My employer would forgive me. I had patrolled well, sounded the alarms as instructed, and led the Guild away from that brass contraption I was tasked to protect. I was gone now, but she’d forgive me. I’d done my job well. Maybe she’d even let me live.
I heard a noise behind me. Footsteps on uneven junk-filled slopes. Crunches and splashes. They were trying to be quiet and failing.
My ribs screamed as I forced myself up on one elbow to look behind me. There were men in rags approaching, with assorted scrap and half-edible food, all in sacks over their shoulders. They flashed hungry toothless smiles as they advanced. One of them hefted a heavy-looking old steamfitter's wrench, and I lost consciousness again before the wrenchhead even hit me.
* * *
I woke again in the back of a crude wooden hand-cart, jostled this way and that inside the wagon, my whole body so sore it didn’t even hurt anymore. I was stacked alongside the remains of my velocipede, and the sacks, and some stray odds and ends I was too dazed to identify. The sack-men were pulling it along over the wreckage of this junkyard gulley, along the bottom of some forgotten ravine of the city. I had never thought about where the trash of the city would show up. Now I was a part of it.
"He's up," one of them said to the other, as if I weren't there, "Give him another tap?"
That noise triggered drew the attention of a bigger scavenger, it seemed. There was a roar and a flash of motion. Something big and cat-like lept on one of them, toppling the wagon and spilling me into the filth.
The other one scrambled and screamed useless. Another scream in the night of Malifaux.
This time, panic set my body in motion. My pistol wasn’t there, of course - the sack-men must have taken it - but I still had a holdout in my boot. It’s a good thing my old boots weren't worth scavenging, I suppose. 
Panic gave me clarity, and I took my shot and got lucky. The bullet caught the thing in the skull - some kind of cat as big as a horse, Undead or maybe it just smelled like it from living among rot so long - and that was enough to drop it. The beast screeched once and stopped moving. The sack-man underneath kept flailing and screaming.
I struggled to my feet, bracing against the wagon, ready now for some more fighting if needed.
"Alright, help me with this thing," the other sack-man told me, a relieved barked order. "We'll get a better price on this corpse than we would have gotten for yours."
Fine by me. Easier than a fight, and I only had one bullet left anyway.
I helped the other man to his feet, and helped right the cart and lift the corpse up inside. The effort of it was too much for me, and I felt faint again. I told them I was going to pass out, and 
* * *
They shook me awake with a cheer in the corner. The smell of garbage was cut thin with alcohol here, which somehow made it more bearable. "He's the one what shot the cat!" one of the sack-men proudly announced, "He drinks on me tonight!"
I was propped on some very expensive-looking pillows, silk stained with coffee grounds. There were cheerful, ill-smelling crowds. The shack was made from tin and rusted rail metal. At one wall was a makeshift bar - dubious jugs filled with dubious bottles, and a bartender haggling for scrip, scrap, or corpses. At the other wall was a man like who look like a university professor, after he'd been dropped through some farming equipment a few times.
A few of them cheered me. “Welcome to the Forgotten Place,” a stranger told me with a cheer, “This is where the garbage ends up. The things and people that nobody else would miss.”
The second sack-man was standing along the bar, all bandaged up in bloody rags but looking to be in good spirits, bartering away his goods. He traded off a rusty banjo to a scavenger musician, and suddenly the saloon had music. The music wasn’t bad, either -- a chipper old bayou tune that everyone seemed to think they could sing along with. The sack-man sold what was left of my velocipede, too - I had no use for it, I suppose - and the cat-monster corpse.
As I watched the commerce of the place, that wreck of a professor approached me and handed me back my pistol.
"I'm told you did well out there. You recovered a lot. Nice work, there, Garbage Man."
He said it with a smile, like he was conferring a new honor upon me with the name.
"Who are you?" I asked him.
He waved my question away.
“You don’t need to know my name,” he said with a laugh, “Instead, let me show you what I do. Come with me."
He helped me to my feet, which wasn’t easy. Someone gave me some rotgut for the pain, and I felt pleasantly numb.
Then the academic walked me out of the shack, shoulder over shoulder. The saloon sat in the middle of a makeshift little shanty town here, between the aqueducts, among the garbage of Malifaux. And in the middle of the empty plaza in the middle of the shanties, like a fountain in the center of any country town, stood a gleaming brass contraption, somehow untouched by the stains of the rest of the place.
It was the thing I was supposed to guard. Others were admiring it as well, but no one dared to come close.
"It is a perfect replica of the original," he told me proudly, “Every detail exactly like the original Enigma Clarion.”
"How do you make that?" I asked him, awestruck. My employer would not be happy about this.
"Oh, I didn't do it," he replied with false cheer, "You did."
I spent the rest of the night drinking myself back into unconsciousness.
* * *
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  • 4 weeks later...

A few typos and tweaks 'ere and theer:

  • but she’d would forgive me -> she would
  • "That noise somehow triggered drew the attention of a bigger scavenger, it seemed." -> you don't need the weasel words ('somehow', 'it seemed').
  • "screamed uselessly" -- or maybe "screamed futilely"?
  • "It was the same thing I was supposed to guard." -> don't need 'same' here.

Is this part of a larger narrative? It feels like I should know more about the protagonist...

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Thanks for the edits, afeinman! I didn't change them during the voting, but just changed 'em now.


Updated with most of the changes you suggested! (I kept "it seems" because the Narrator is making an inference that's not indicated otherwise.)


Yes, this is a part of a larger Narrative. I've compiled it here: Hateful's Compiled Desperate Mercenary Stories!


But I want each one to make sense on its own, so if it doesn't, I definitely want to fix that. Thanks for pointing out a lack of context.

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