Chapter 2: The Bureau
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“What are you doing looking up my skirt! You’re peeping! Skirt peeper, skirt peeper! Constable!”
Max hastily rolled out from under the bench and away from the threatening umbrella. Fortunately for him, before he had time to say anything, the constable arrived – a tall man in blue who seemed to be about 90% moustache and the rest beady eyes.
“Constable! This – boy! – was peeping at my sensitive undergarments from beneath that bench!” Truthfully, and considering the age of the victim, this was an outlandish claim. Her general appearance was one of propriety and respectability so stiff that one could beat a presumptuous chambermaid with it. The constable turned and considered the strange specimen with spiky hair and a most insufficient suit that was standing – albeit barely - in front of him.
“You’ve no idea where you are, do you boy?”
Max shook his head. He didn’t particularly want to open his mouth at this point – who knows what might have come out. The constable frowned at him.
“It is my consideration, ma’am, that this boy is very recently fallen to the area, and should be excused breaches in conduct pending transportation to the Bureau.”
The Respectable Matron didn’t seem particularly pleased with this development. “These fallen! Why, they get away with absolutely anything around here. It’s victimisation of the cityborn, that’s what it is.”
“Nevertheless, madam.” And that, as far as the constable was concerned, was that. It is fairly difficult to argue with a single “Nevertheless”, after all, and the Respectable Matron secretly relished the opportunity to set this castaway ruffian in exactly the right path. She peered down at the boy, who still looked a little green.
“Come along then, boy. And if you feel suddenly nauseated, for heaven’s sake turn away from me. I do not want some frightful surface disease. Do you have a name?”
Max peeled himself of the ground and told the Respectable Matron that his name was “Max” and then having opened his mouth to speak quickly resolved never to do so again.
“Max, then? Hmm. Latin. It’ll do. Up!” She threatened him with the umbrella again. “I’m taking you to the Bureau. And thank you, Constable” she nodded to the sonorous police officer and bustled away in a cloud of brisk purpose.
“Right” intoned Max, as he attempted to follow the rapidly moving Matron. “The bureau?”
“The Bureau!” corrected the Matron, whose sensitive ears had detected the lack of proper capitalisation immediately. Onto this tram, now - have you not seen one of these before? The Fallen Person’s Bureau. They take in waifs like you and civilise them and” she sniffed, spotting Max’s impending retort “teach you some manners.”
The tram route took them past the central station, which the Respectable Matron eyed with considerable dislike. Designed by a Fallen, of all things, and so vulgar! All those arches - spires are the thing. Only an uncivilised Fallen would go for arches over the proper Imperial Spires.
“This happens a lot? And where is this place?”
“East Carmine. Yes. Too much, in fact, you people get everywhere. Taking jobs and homes from respectable cityborn, voting for the socialists in our elections. No more questions! The Bureau is just a few stops away; I’m sure they’ll tell you everything you need. “
The tram pulled into Hangman's Way Station.
It was by now getting on for evening, and the setting sun was casting a tastelessly pink light over the buildings. Sadly, the hue failed to make the Bureau look any less intimidating. Spanning a complex of three separate buildings (with plans afoot to convert the last holdout housing block into yet more office space) civil servants hurried back and forth in frock coats, trailing papers and bewildered people in a colourful variety of clothing. And shapes. Gods, does that one have tentacles?
“The Bureau, they’ll take care of you. Main office in the buildings with the large clock tower, and try and avoid making your way underground. I’ve wasted the whole afternoon taking care of you, and I don’t want to utterly waste it by having you fall victim to the Statues, surface-though-you-may-be.”
“Good evening” she added, before pushing him out of the tram and retiring to her seat, where she could get back to glaring at youth and arches.
"Well." said Max. It about summed everything up.
This is where one assumes the Respectable Matron might live. The blocks are comfortable, if a little cramped, but the setting is highly sought after and the nearby terraces have backgardens attached, which is quite a novelty in this New Carnelian. The trains are, however, always late.
And they are often late due to the students of this very University, in fact. Through either accidents or intentional shenannigans, the university often seems to be at the heart of any disruptions in the city. The academics, of course, claim that this is the price to pay for scientific advances, and they managed to find that woman. Eventually. Orial, as you can see from the modern building lurking behind the campus, intended to set up an office to keep a watchful eye on the actions of the academics, but have ended up with slightly more than they bargained for. Or rather, slightly less, if one considers the notable abscence of intact windows and the curious habit of secretaries to suddenly catch fire or run screaming into the shrubbery. The price to pay!