So what are we gonna read? Well, I have draft number two of Wax & Wayne 4, The Lost Metal.
And as I warned you, if anyone came in late, the prologue is available on my YouTube channel with me reading it, or we sent it out as a newsletter. If you're not on the newsletter ask one of your friends, or go hang out in the 17th Shard and ask them. I give permission that they can send it to you so you can read it if you want to. It might be posted, as far as I know, on there as well. I expect when I read these things that they're gonna get around. So we're going to read chapter 1 of The Lost Metal. And I'm just going to kind of read until we hit to 7:30.
Marasi had never been in a sewer before, but the experience was exactly as awful as she'd imagined. The stench, of course, was incredible. But worse was the way her booted feet would occasionally slip for a heart-stopping moment, threatening to plunge her down into the "mud" underneath.
It would be bad, but manageable, if the place was slippery in a consistent way. Inconsistent slippage was far worse. At least she'd had the foresight to wear a uniform with trousers today, along with knee high leather work boots. That didn't protect from the scent, the feel, or, unfortunately, the sound. When she stepped, map in one hand, rifle in the other, her boots would pull free with a squelch of mythical proportions. It would have been the worst sound ever if it hadn't been overmatched by Wayne’s complaining.
"Wax never brought me to a rustin’ sewer," he muttered by her side.
"Are there sewers in the Roughs?"
"Well, no," he admitted. "Pastures smell almost as bad, and he did make me march through those. But Marasi, they didn't have spiders."
"They probably did," she said, holding the map toward his lantern to read it. "You just couldn't see them."
"S’pose," he grumbled, "but it's worse when you can see the webs. Also, there's, you know, the literal sewage."
Marasi nodded to a tunnel to the side, and they started that direction. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"What?" he demanded.
"Nothing's wrong with my rustin’ mood," he said. "It's exactly the kind of mood you're supposed to have when your partner forces you to stick your front side into a bunch of stuff that comes out the back side."
"And last week," she said, "when we were investigating a perfume shop?"
"Rustin’ perfumers," Wayne said, eyes narrowing. "Never can tell what they’re hiding with those fancy smells. You can't trust a man that doesn't smell like a man should."
"Sweat and booze?"
"Sweat and cheap booze."
"Wayne, how can you complain about someone putting on airs? You put on a different personality every time you change hats."
"Does my smell change?"
"I suppose not."
"Argument won. There are literally no holes in it whatsoever, conversation over." They shared a look. "I should get me some perfumes, eh?" Wayne said. "Someone might be able to spot my disguises if I always smell like sweat and cheap booze."
"What's hopeless," he said, "is my poor shoes."
"Could have worn boots, like I suggested."
"Ain’t got no boots," he said. "Wax stole ‘em."
"Wax stole your boots. Really?"
"Well, they're in his closet," Wayne said, "instead of three pairs of his poshest shoes, which somehow ended up in my closet, completely by happenstance." He glanced at her. "It was a fair trade, I liked those boots."
She just barely kept her balance at another slip. Rusting hell, if she fell, he would never stop talking about it. But this did seem the best way. Construction on citywide underground train tunnels, or just the Tunnels, was ongoing, and two days ago, a demolition man had filed a report warning that he didn't want to blast the next section.
Apparently, seismic readings had indicated they were near to a cavern of some sort. This area underneath Elendel was peppered with aging caverns, and the seismograph readings the demolition man had found indicated an unknown one was somewhere in this region. The same region where a group of local gang enforcers kept vanishing and reappearing, almost as if they had a hidden exit to an unmarked, unseen lair.
She consulted the map again marked with construction notes and a nearby oddity that the sewer builders had noted years ago which had never been investigated.
"I think MeLaan is going to break up with me," Wayne said softly. "That's why maybe I've been uncharacteristically downbeat in my general disposition as of late."
"What makes you think that?"
"On account of her telling me, 'Wayne, I'm probably going to have to break up with you in a few weeks.'"
"Well, that's polite of her."
"I think she got a new job from the big guy or something," Wayne said, "but it ain't right, how slow it's going. Not the proper way to break up with a fellow at all."
"And what is the proper way?"
"Throw something at his head," Wayne said, "sell his stuff, tell his mates he's a knob."
"You’ve had some interesting relationships."
"Nah, mostly just bad ones," he said. "I asked <Jamie Walls> what she thought I should do. You know her, she's at the tavern most nights."
"I... know her," Marasi said. "She's... a woman of ill repute."
"What?" Wayne said. "Who's been saying that nonsense? <Jamie> has a great reputation! Of all the whores on the block, she gives the best—"
"I do not need to hear that next part, thank you."
"Ill repute," he said, chuckling. "I'm gonna tell <Jamie> what you said about her, Marasi. She worked hard for her reputation. Gets to charge four times what anyone else does! Ill repute indeed."
"And what did she say?"
"Well, she said MeLaan just wanted me to try harder in the relationship," Wayne said, "but I think in this case, Jamie was wrong, because MeLaan doesn't play games. When she says things, she means them. So it's, you know."
"I'm sorry, Wayne," Marasi said, taking him by the arm.
"I knew it couldn't last," he said, "rustin’ knew it, you know? She's like, what, a thousand years old?"
"Roughly half that," Marasi said.
"And I'm not even 40!" Wayne said. "Probably more like 16, if you take count of my spry, youthful physique."
"Or your sense of humor."
"Damn right!" he said, then sighed. "Things have just been rough lately, with Wax being all fancy these last few years, MeLaan being gone for months at a time. Feel like nobody wants me around. Maybe I belong in a sewer, you know?"
"You don't," she said. "You're the best partner I've ever had."
"Only?" she said. "<Gorglan> doesn't count?"
"Nope, he's not human. I gots papers what prove he's a giraffe in disguise." Regardless, he smiled. "But thanks for asking, thanks for caring."
She nodded then led the way onward.
When she'd imagined her life as a top detective and lawwoman, she hadn’t envisioned this part. But at least the smell was getting better, or she was getting used to it. Or maybe the insides of her nose were just dying off. Still, it was extremely gratifying to find, at the exact place marked on the map, an old metal door set in the wall of the sewer.
She had Wayne hold up the lantern, and one didn't need a keen detective's eye to see the door had been used lately. Silvery scrape marks from the sides of the frame, handle clean from the pervasive filth and cobwebs.
"Nice," Wayne said, leaning in beside her. "Some first rate detectivin', Marasi. Sewer portion notwithstandin'. How many old surveys and building reports did you have to read to find this?"
"Too many," she said. "If I'd known how much of my job would involve searching the documents library..."
"They leave that part out of the stories when they write about us," Wayne said. "All the research."
"You did this sort of thing back in the Roughs?"
"Well, it was the Roughs variety," Wayne said. "Usually involved holding some bloke face down in a trough until he 'remembered' whose old prospecting claim he'd been filching. But it's the same principle really, just with more swearing."
She handed him her rifle and investigated the door. He didn't like her to make a big deal out of him being able to hold guns these days without his hands shaking. She'd never seen him fire one, but he said he could if needed to. He really was getting better.
They'd been working almost six years now, since Wax's retirement following the incident surrounding the Bands of Mourning. Wayne was an official constable, not some strange, barely-inside-the-law deputized citizen. Even wore a uniform once in a while.
Now, this door. It was shut tight, of course, and had no lock on this side. But it seemed the people she was hunting had found it closed too, as there were a bunch of marks on the metal on one side. Looking close, she found that there was just enough room to slip something through the door and frame. "I need something sharp to get through this," she said.
"You can use my razor sharp wit."
"Alas," she said, "you aren't the type of tool that I need at the moment, Wayne."
"Ha!" he said. "I like that one."
He handed her a knife from the backpack, where they kept supplies like rope, along with their metals, just in case they faced an Allomancer. These kinds of gang enforcers shouldn't have access to that sort of thing. They were just your basic "shake down shopkeepers for protection money" types. Yet, she had reports that made her wary. She was increasingly certain this group was funded by the Set, and if she caught them they might finally lead to answers she'd been hunting for years.
With the knife, she managed to undo the bar holding the door closed from the other side. It swung free with a soft clang, and she eased the door open to look at a rough hewn tunnel leading downward. One of the many that dotted this region, dating back to the ancient days before the Catacendre, to the time of myths and heroes, ashfalls and tyrants. Together, she and Wayne slipped inside, then did up the door to leave it as they found it. They dimmed their lantern as a precaution, then started down into the depths.
"Cravat?" Steris asked, reading from the list.
"Tied and pinned," Wax said, pulling it tight.
Wax flipped a silver medallion up in the air, then caught it.
"Proof two?" Steris asked, making a check mark on her list.
He pulled a small folded stack of papers from his pocket. "Right here."
Wax reached into his other pocket, then paused looking around the small office, his senator's chamber in the house of proceedings, he'd left that...
"On the desk back home!" he said, smacking his head.
"I brought an extra," Steris said, digging in her bag.
Wax grinned. "Of course you did."
"Two copies, actually," Steris said, handing over another sheet of paper, which he tucked into his other coat pocket. Then she consulted her list again.
Little Maxillium stepped up beside his mother, looking very serious as he scanned his own list, which was mostly just scribbles. At five years old, he knew his letters, but preferred to make up his own.
"Dog picture," Max said, as if reading from his list.
"I could use one of those," Wax said. "Very useful."
Max solemnly presented it, then said, "Cat picture,"
"Need one of those too."
"I'm bad at cats," Max said, handing him another sheet, "so it looks like a squirrel."
Wax hugged his son, then tucked the sheets away reverently with the others. The boy's sister, Tindwyl—as Steris liked traditional names—babbled in the corner, where <Kath>, the governess, was watching her.
Finally, Steris handed him his pistols one at a time. Long-barrelled and nasty looking, they had been designed by Ranette to look menacing, but had two safeties and were actually unloaded. It had been a while since he'd had to shoot anyone, but he continued to make good use of his reputation as the lawman senator of the Roughs. Cityfolk, particularly politicians, tended to be intimidated by small arms. They preferred to kill people with more modern weapons, like poverty and despair.
"Is a kiss from my wife on that list?" Wax asked.
"Actually, no," she said, surprised.
"A rare oversight," he said, then kissed her, lingering before pulling back. "You should be the one going out there today, Steris. You did more of the work preparing them than I did."
"You're the house lord."
"I could appoint you as a representative to speak for us."
"Please, no," she said. "You know how I am with people."
"You're very good with the right people."
"And are politicians ever right about anything?"
"I hope so," he said, straightening his suit coat and turning toward the door. "Because I am one now."
He pushed out of his chambers and walked the short walk to the Senate floor. Steris would watch from her seat in the observatory balcony. By now, everyone knew how particular she was about getting the same one. Wax instead stepped into the vast chamber, which buzzed with activity as senators returned from their short recess.
He didn't go to his seat. For the last few days, different senators had been given a chance to debate the current bill, and his was the last speech in line. He had positioned it right after the planned break, as he hoped it would set his argument off, give him a final chance to avert a terrible decision.
It had taken a great deal of trading and promising to get this spot in the debate; and not a few of his political enemies were upset that he'd managed it.
He stood at the side of the speaking platform near the center, waiting for the others to sit, hand on his holster, looming. You learned to get a good loom on in the Roughs when interrogating prisoners, and it still shocked him how many of those skills worked here.
Governor <Varlance> didn't look at him. The man instead adjusted his cravat, then checked his face powder. Ghostly, pale skin was fashionable these days, for some arcane reason. Then he set out his badges on the desk, one at a time, as he always did, making everyone wait.
Rusts, I miss Aradel, Wax thought. It had been novel to have a competent governor for once. Like eating hotel food and finding it wasn't awful. Or spending time with Wayne and discovering you still had your pocket watch.
But the governor's job was the type that chewed up the good ones, the ones who tried to swim deep. It was the same type of job that let the bad ones float blissfully along the surface. Aradel had stepped down two years back, and it did make some kind of sense that the next governor chosen had been a military man, considering the tensions with the Malwish right now. Though Wax did question where <Varlance> had gotten all of those medals. So far as he knew, the army hadn't seen any actual engagements. Were they for, perhaps, excellence in shining your shoes?
<Varlance> finally nodded to his vice governor, a Terriswoman, of course. She had curly, dark hair and a traditional robe. Wax thought he'd known her in the village, but it could have been her sister, and he'd never thought of a good way to ask. Regardless, it always looked good to have a Terris on the staff. Most governors chose one. Made you look respectable. Almost like the Terris were another medal to be shown off.
<Adathwyn> stood up and belted to the room. "The governor recognizes the senator from House Ladrian."
Though he'd been waiting for this, looming and whatnot, Wax now took his time sauntering up onto the podium, which was lit from above by a massive electric spotlight. Funny, how ordinary he thought that all was now. If he walked into a room and there wasn't a light switch on the wall, he'd search for it for an embarrassingly long time before remembering there were some buildings that just weren't wired yet.
He turned around in a slow rotation, inspecting the circular chamber. The spotlight was low enough that he could still make out the faces around him. One side held the elected seats, senators who were voted into office to represent a guild, profession, or historical group. The other held the lords, senators who held their position by benefit of birth. The guild system left many people without a representative. As many as twenty percent of the population worked jobs without a senator's seat, by Marasi's estimate. The lords were supposed to make up for that, representing everyone who lived in their assigned region of the city. But when had a group of nobles ever cared about beggars? Maybe in the Last Emperor's time and just after, but people just weren't like that anymore. They were petty and short-sighted.
"This bill," Wax announced to the room, loud and firm, his voice echoing, "is a fantastically stupid idea."
Once, earlier in his political career, talking so bluntly had earned him ire at best. Now, he caught multiple members of the senate smiling. They expected this from him. Many of them seemed to enjoy it, as if they knew how many problems there were in the city and were glad that one man was willing to call them out, ignoring propriety and political necessities.
"Tensions with the Malwish are at an all time high," Wax said. "This is a time for the entire Basin to unite, not a time to drive wedges between ourselves and those who should be our strongest allies."
"This is about uniting," a voice called to him. The dock worker senator, <Maelstrom>. He was mostly a puppet for Hasting and Erikell nobles, who had been consistently a painful spike in Wax's side. "We need a leader for the whole Basin officially."
"Agreed," Wax said. "But how is elevating the Elendel governor, a position nobody outside the city can vote on, going to unite people, <Maelstrom>?"
"It will give them someone to look toward, a strong capable leader!"
And that, Wax thought, glancing at <Varlance>, is a capable leader? We're lucky he pays attention to these meetings, rather than spending the time going over his appearance schedule, <Varlance> had, so far in his one year tenure, rededicated seventeen parks in the city. He liked the flowers.
Wax didn't say anything to this effect. Steris had warned him not to antagonize the governor. There was bluntness, and then there was stupidity. He had to walk a fine line between them. Instead, he kept to the plan, getting out his medallion and flipping it in the air.
"Six years ago," Wax said, "I had a little adventure. You all know about it. Finding a wrecked Malwish airship, intervening in a plot by the outer cities to find its secrets and use them against us in Elendel. I stopped that. I brought the Bands of Mourning back to be stored safely."
"And almost started a war!" someone muttered in the reaches of the room.
"You'd rather I let the plot go forward?" Wax called back. When no response came, he flipped the medallion up and caught it again. "I dare anyone in this room to disparage my loyalty to Elendel. We can have a nice little duel. I'll even let you shoot first."
Silence. That was one thing he'd earned. A lot of the people in this room didn't like him, but they did seem to respect him, and they knew he wasn't an agent for the outer cities. He flipped the medallion and Pushed it higher, all the way up to the top of the ceiling high above. He caught it again when it came streaking down, glimmering in the light. As he did, he made certain to cast a glance toward Admiral <Jons>, current ambassador from the Malwish nation. She sat in a special place on the floor of the senate, among where mayors from the other cities were given seats when they visited. None had come to this proceeding, a visible sign they considered even a vote on this topic to be ridiculous.
"I know," Wax said, turning the medallion over in his fingers, "better than anyone the position we're in. You want to make a show of force to the outer cities, prove that they have to have to follow our rules. So you introduce this bill, elevating our governor to a presidential position of the entire Basin. This ignores the reason everyone outside Elendel is so mad at us. The bad faith actors who are leading some of the outer cities wouldn't have gotten so far without support of their people, if the average person living outside Elendel weren't so damned mad at us for our trade policies and general arrogance. This bill isn't going to placate them. This isn't a show of force. It's a maneuver designed to specifically outrage them. We pass this law, and we're demanding war between ourselves and the outer cities."
He let that sink in. They knew it.
They tried to ignore it.
They wanted so badly to appear strong, and if left unchecked, they'd strong-arm themselves right into a war, never realizing this was precisely what their enemies wanted. An excuse to rebel, a justification for war.
Wax pulled out the stack of papers in his left pocket. He held it up and turned around.
"I have 60 letters here from politicians in the outer cities. These are reasonable people, willing, even eager to work with Elendel on policy, but they are frightened, worried about what their people will do if we continue to impose tyrannical, imperial policies upon them. They're worried about war. It is my proposal that we vote down this silly bill, then work on something better. Something that can actually promote peace and unity. A kind of national assembly with representation for each outer city, and and elected supreme official from that body."
He'd expected boos, and got a few. But most of the chamber fell silent, watching him hold the letters aloft. They were afraid of what he was proposing. Afraid of letting power leave the capital. Afraid that the political ways of the outer cities would change the entire dynamic. They were cowards in that regard, and they were also playing to the hands of the Set, a shadowy organization which included his sister and his late uncle as high-ranking members, who had been pulling the strings for years.
They were still active somewhere. They might even have agents among the senators. They wanted war most of all, though he didn't know exactly why, even still. A way to gain power, certainly, but there was something else. Orders from someone, or something, known as Trell.
Unfortunately, he couldn't pin his arguments on an organization that most people still didn't believe existed. He turned around slowly, still holding up the letters, and felt a little spike of alarm as he turned back to <Maelstrom>. He's going to shoot, Wax's instinct said.
"With all due respect," Senator <Maelstrom said>, "you are a new parent and obviously don't know the proper way of raising a child. You don't give into childish demands. You hold firm, knowing that your decisions are best for them, and they will eventually see reason. As a father is to his son, Elendel is to the outer cities."
Right in the back, Wax thought, turning around. Amusing how those instincts worked here. He didn't respond immediately. You waited to aim well for return fire like this. Thing was, he'd made these arguments before, mostly in private, to many of the senators in this room. He was making headway, but he didn't have enough time. Now that he had these letters—now that they'd all seen them—he needed a chance to go back to each senator, the ones on the fence, and share these words, the ideas, and persuade. His gut said that if the vote happened today, the bill would pass. So he hadn't come here just to make the same arguments again. He'd come with a bullet loaded in the chamber, ready to fire.
He carefully folded up the letters and tucked them snugly into his pocket. Then he took the smaller stack, two sheets from his other pocket. The ones that Steris had made copies of in case he forgot. Actually, she probably made copies of the other ones too. And seven other things she knew he wouldn't actually need, but would make her feel better to have her bag, just in case.
Rusts, that woman was delightful.
Wax held up the sheets and made a good show of getting in just the right light to read it.
"Dear <Maelstrom>," he read out loud. "We're pleased by your willingness to see reason and continue to enforce Elendel trade superiority in the Basin. You will make us all wealthy, and we promise you half a percentage of our shipping revenues for the next three years, in exchange for your vocal support of this bill and eventual vote in favor. From, Houses Hasting and Erikell."
The room erupted into chaos, of course. Wax settled in, hooking his finger around his holster, standing and waiting for the cries of outrage to run their course. He met <Maelstrom>'s eyes as the man sank down in his seat. He had hopefully just learned an important lesson: Don't leave a paper trail detailing your corruption when your political opponent is a trained detective.