Disclaimer: I have no legal rights over Steambot Chronicles/ Bumpy Trot

Chapter 2

Mariner City was much darker than Happy Garland, literally. Mallow could tell this much already as the car took him over a bridge connecting Albatross Wharf to the city proper. His first sight upon entering was the large steel factories that loomed up above the narrow city streets, spewing ominous grey smoke out of the tall smoke stacks in large clouds. It not only made the sky drearier, but it gave the very air a yellowish tinge and lowered visibility. Mallow wondered how the driver was able to avoid hitting the many pedestrians he could see shuffling about on the narrow sidewalks from his window. From what little he could see, most if not all seemed to be dirt poor, with raggedly patched clothing and sickly thin figures. It would make his father horrified as a doctor.

Mallow felt the urge to turn away, but he kept his eyes on them. Happy Garland had a habit of hiding its darker side along with most of its poor, only celebrating the successful and rich. In contrast, Mariner City welcomed its visitors with it's darker side from the start. The thought brought a grimace to Mallow's face as he lifted a hand up to hold on to a red pendant hanging around his neck. It had been a birthday gift as well as a parting gift from his father a week ago, and already Mallow found that it soothed him whenever he let his mind wander to darker thoughts.

Though he reasoned to himself that he needed no dark thoughts when such a bleak scene lay before his very eyes. From one of the alleyways he heard a child's scream even through the door of the car, and saw a man stagger out a few seconds later with a small pouch in his hands. With a start at the sight of blood on the man's hands, Mallow let his hand slide down from his pendant to land with a quiet thump on the seat and turned his head away, deciding to look at the view outside when they got out of this section of town. And when the feeling of nausea in his stomach died down.

Within a few minutes the car had moved past the factories and into the business section of town. While the air was still smoggy, it was easy to see colorful stalls and signs for clothes, food, furniture, medicine, trotmobile parts, and more. The people seemed better dressed and healthier in this part of town too, and Mallow, feeling better at the change of atmosphere, was curious about who mainly shopped here. He glanced forward to see the driver's impassive gaze on the road, but decided not to ask. He probably wouldn't see the man again, but if word got to the Duke that Mallow was asking around about people of lower economic status than himself, it would be a bad first impression. One that Mallow knew he couldn't afford.

So instead, he kept his eyes trained upwards towards the hazy sky during the rest of the short drive to the Duke's mansion in the northwest section of the city. From what he had read on the journey here on the boat, Mariner City was similar to Neuhafen in that there was a clearly discernible boundary where the poor lived and the rich. He guessed a small middle class must exist from what he had seen in the market near the center of the city, but it must also be the minority. For now he was clearly in the wealthy section of the city. With the paved driveway, neatly trimmed hedges, and iron gates that opened before entrance to the main house, Mallow knew that Duke Bean certainly had more money than even his own father. But the name of the home, with it's sprawling gardens and what seemed to be a park in the back that sloped downwards towards the sea, eluded him.

"Excuse me." Mallow called out to the driver. The man jumped in his seat before turning his head slightly to the side.

"Yes, sir?" Mallow debated on changing his question to ask why the man was so jumpy, but decided to stay on task. Just because he didn't want to be obnoxiously arrogant didn't mean he could be too pleasant to a servant.

"I can't recall the name of the Duke's residence. Could you please inform me?" He kept the expression on his face politely stoic.

"Of course sir. This would be Chandler Park. It's one of the finest homes in the city, being so near the edge of the city and away from the factories and docks." The driver chuckled and Mallow frowned.

"What is it?" The man rolled his shoulders in what Mallow could only guess to be a shrug.

"I'm just guessing this is the first time you've been to Mariner City, sir, if you don't know Chandler Park." Mallow gave a minute nod of his head, and after a moment spoke as he realized the driver was unable to see him.

"That is correct. I'm sure by the time I leave, however, I will know the place intimately."

All he got as a reply was a polite, "Yes, sir," before silence descended once again in the car. The drive up the winding driveway continued to be quiet, and Mallow took the time to admire the gardens that lay on either side the hedges bordering the driveway.

There were no flowers this late in the year, but the trees in the background and the various bushes were all a riot of color. Rich shades of red, orange and yellow were the most common, although Mallow saw a few trees whose leaves who shimmered an almost purple hue in the midmorning sunshine as the breeze from the sea rustled them. It made him wish that windows on cars could be lowered, or that he was in a Trotmobile so that he could smell the air. It looked much cleaner than in the city itself, although when he twisted in his seat to look behind him he could almost see the yellow smog hanging above the eastern and central parts of the city, mingling with the grey smoke of the factories to the south. Mallow supposed that was one benefit to Happy Garland. The GTW did not produce enough steel to release that much pollution into the air.

A sudden slowing of the car brought Mallow's attention back to the front, and he could see that they had reached the front steps of the house. There seemed to people coming out of the house to meet him, and from the cut of their clothing Mallow assumed them to be the Bean family, along with a couple servants following a respectful distance behind.

With a deep breath Mallow closed his eyes, and opened them again as he exhaled in a quiet sigh. He could only hope that only the Duke knew the full circumstances of his arrival here. It would make everything much easier, as well as less awkward when trying to start a conversation with one of the Duke's children. He knew one of them was about his age, but he couldn't remember if it was one of the young men or the daughter.

But as the driver got out of the car and walked around to open his door, Mallow knew he was about to find out.

AN: Snap Monkeys. =/

I never intended to have such a long interval between the first chapter and the second. I suppose that's what I get for being so busy I guess. It is what it is. But sorry if there was anyone out there waiting for me to update.

This chapter loosely describes Mariner City, where the story will mainly be taking place. I hope I gave a good picture to start off with, but don't worry if you can't get a clear picture in your head yet. Same goes with Chandler Park. Both places will have their descriptions elaborated upon as the story progresses.

Quick trivia: A chandler is an old English term from the 19th century. It was originally used for candle dealers, but turned into the name used for street grocers who sold basic goods such as bread and cheese to their local neighborhood. It's a play off of the Bean family's beginnings, as their ancestors were chandlers who became merchants and then worked their way up in the world until voila! Duke Bean.

I think too much about my characters sometimes. =P

Here's hoping you enjoyed the second chapter, and if you have any positive or negative feedback to share I'd love to hear it. If you're curious about the next chapter, I always have an up-to-date story status going on my profile.