With a certain speed, Ambrose twirled on his heel, and marched down the dark corridor. He was a tall man, lanky and wiry in appearance, with a shot of black hair that usually stayed in place, unlike the situation he was currently facing. He entered his bedroom and pulled his coat off the hanger. Standing in front of the full-length mirror in the corner of the room, he finished his usual routine. Looking himself up and down, he checked for any signs of an out of place uniform: his black shoes were shined to perfection, his black pants and crisply ironed shirt both modelled fashion and precision. He allowed himself a small smile, but began frowning again as he remembered his hair situation.

The final part of Inspector Ambrose’s morning ritual now began. He held up his coat to look for lint. It was a standard-issue Civilian Protection Force coat, a deep blood red colour with black trim around the cuffs and collar. On the left breast was the symbol of The Order: a black wheel with eight spokes leading out from a white circle in the middle. The Inspector flicked a piece of fluff from the emblem – it wouldn’t do to have anything covering The Wheel – people had been dismissed for less, and worse. He quickly moved his eyes over the rest of the coat, and then carefully pulled it on, zipping it up in the usual fashion, from his left hip up to just below the middle of his neck. He adjusted his cuffs and collar to ensure all was straight and proper. Excepting his hair, everything was in perfect order. He pulled on his flat-topped Inspector’s hat, which was the final pièce de résistance to his outfit: White, with a double red line running across the front above the brim, signifying his rank, and underlining The Wheel that seemed to float in the centre of the hat. With a final glance in the mirror, he headed down the corridor, grabbed his black umbrella, and stepped out the door to face the day.

* * * *

It was early in the morning, and the streets of Traville were quiet. Ambrose pulled his umbrella up above his head, and began the short walk down the road to the local tea shop, where he would meet his partner to start the day. He looked around him and considered the scene. Traville was a sprawling mass of humanity and machinery, coloured in a million shades of grey and black. There was the dark grey of the cobblestones that lined the street, and the light grey of the gas-lamps. The black hats of busy businessmen and the pitch black horses that plodded along the streets, carrying firewood and supplies. The dullness of the city seemed to overtake even the people, as soot and mud covered the faces of workers from the downtown slums. The sun rarely seemed to shine on the capital of the Empire, but when it did, the city seemed to shrink back, unsure of what to do when brightness pierced the dark. Only down in the slums at the base of the hill would you find colour – a brightly painted wall sparkling with blue and green and shades of white, or a splash of rouge glimpsed down a dark alleyway. In Ambrose’s street however, all was dark, dreary and quiet. The sun wouldn’t rise for another hour, and he had work to do. Trudging along the footpath through the puddles of rainwater, he considered how much he hated being late, and hoped that the rest of the day would be more ordered than the start had been.

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