It was already over. They just didn’t know it yet.
The couple was seated in the ramshackle office outside the rail station, and the bustle of the camp outside was simply dim background noise. The repeated clanging of the workers laying track outside was a spiking rhythm that cut through the walls, but the repetitive nature made it easy to tune out.
“Like I was saying, you both know that the Firebrands have been pushing further east. There have been three reported attacks in the last week, and it’s all the Tribes can do to keep the railways clear. I can only imagine the worry that has caused both of you.”
He leaned in a bit, and rolled up his sleeves, half-listening to their stories of raiders and zed. A comforting smile, and he was back.
“The Railroad Commission wants to help ensure your safety. With the upcoming construction of the greenline, it will be possible to get from Essex to Waking in just under a day. The wastes have never been closer, or more connected. But I really feel like I need to ask you a question.”
One of the prospects took the bait. “Sure, I guess?”
“Are you a man of vision?”
“Uh. I think so?”
Sure he was. He moved in for the kill.
“No, I don’t just think so. I know so. You knew the dangers out there, but you realized the importance of having a place to rest your head safely on the trip south. It’s been profitable for your farm, and you’ve been able to reap the rewards of that foresight. You’ve set aside a nice nest egg for the future, and only a man of vision knows what it takes to protect their family and provide for their future.”
Here it comes.
“I think you are an honest man. A reasonable man. You know the truth as well as I. The raiders and zed don’t stop. It’s only a matter of time before a horde is a little bit too big, or that steel door takes one too many hits to stay on the frame. But you have options now, and that has to be such a good feeling to have.”
“Uh.. What do you mean by options?”
“Opportunity, my friend. Your farm is something that we at the RRC have a need for. The engineers tell me we can shave off a month off the construction if we route past your farm. You’ve named your price, and I’m happy to say that the Commission decided it was worth the investment in our shared future.”
The couple shared a glance to each other. Of course they were impressed.
“We also have a shining new opportunity in the Bravado Camp. You’ve heard about what we found there, haven’t you?”
Of course he had. Everyone had.
“The RRC is paving a path forward to the future. Imagine a world where you don’t have to worry about those raiders breaking down the door, because you are safe in your bed, letting us keep watch at night. This world is more connected that you can imagine, and there are opportunities that I know a man with your intelligence has already considered.”
A little effortless flattery never hurt.
“Imagine a world where you can delve into the ruins to find fortune and glory, and then be back in Essex by nightfall to join your family for dinner.”
A gasp. Right on cue.
An interested murmur between the two meant that he had sparked the man’s imagination. A grin crossed his face, as he wrapped this one up.
“That’s not a fantasy. It’s a reality.” The prospect leaned closer.
“I want to help you with this favor. Why stay in this farm, hoping you can survive another Burning Season, when you can help the Lonestar become something better? Our contract will ensure that your investment in this farm is tripled. You will have the funds to provide a better life for you family, enough to fund your expeditions into the ruins, as well as a little left over.”
He pushed the contract forward, so the prospect could appreciate the sum that they were talking about. A pittance really compared to what the RRC would gain from being able to build without a fuss from the locals.
“When this railroad is connected, thanks to your vision to know that selling your land now, while the moment is right, you will be part of something more. Who could argue if you pocket a few extra Brass for yourself in the process?”
The prospect eagerly agreed. Who could blame him? It was easy to be forward thinking when you were the one profiting.
“I’m so proud to have been part of this monumental contribution to our future. Thank you sir. With your help, this great railway will connect the entirety of the Lone Star.”
He was particularly proud of how his eyes seem to water, seemingly overtaken by emotion at the idea of the prospect’s contribution. Hook, line, and sinker.
“Just sign on the dotted line. I’ll have Agnes go over the terms and conditions with you outside.”
A smile, a handshake, and it was over. He grinned, and called for the next prospect. Man, he loved this gig.
The future was bright indeed.
A Railroad Commission Vignette by J. Loyd