The Price of Demand (Reintegration Edit 16)

The three set off for the work grounds, the normally quick walk slowed by Altman’s pace. He kept an arm around Kaylene’s shoulder as they went; she held him with her left arm, the right sporting a short, thick-hafted staff.

As the work site came into view, Altman counted the working men off. “About a dozen I’d say. That would be about half, Waldon?”

The other man spat on the ground and nodded, eyes intent on the scene before them. “It would, yeah. Don’t see any who ought not t’be there, don’ look like none’re missin’ either.”

Altman cast his gaze over each man in turn, but it was difficult for him to focus. “I don’t see—” just then a man with stood straight, distinctive red marks covering his side where he’d wiped his hands. “Wait, there, that’s him. See the rust on the clothes?”

Kaylene shifted his weight a bit on her shoulder, readying her staff. She was getting ready to fight, he realized. “Kaylene You don’t have to strain your—”

“Shut yer mouth right there, husband. You aren’t as strong as you let on, an’ you’re dizzy on your feet. You need me when you catch this man, ‘specially if it comes to fightin’.”

“But—”

Kaylene cut him off curtly. “No buts!”

Waldon cast him a sharp look. “She’s right, Mr. Dolet. Yer in no shape t’take on a child, let alone anyone on my teams. You’d best let us ‘andle it.”