The Man in the Black Hat

The Man in the Black Hat

by R Kane


Publisher R Kane

Published in Mystery & Thrillers/Mystery, Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Mystery & Thrillers, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


His name is John and his existence is a true mystery to almost everyone in this world, the Man in the Black Hat. In 1929, with the advent of Steam Technology, great warships fly the skies alongside slow moving dirigibles and air trains hauling freight in long lines of box cars. The Protectorate, a single national force composed of the Army, Navy, and Police guards our borders and skies. Magi walk among the populace, wielders of great energy gifted to them by their Weavers, and Sky Pirates fight among the clouds on wooden man-of-war ships.

Sample Chapter

John’s hat, you know, I have never really been sure what drew more attention to him in a crowd, that damn big black hat or his pure white hair. I guess I should start this whole thing by telling you who’s writing all this down or what might be better to say first is ‘when exactly’ I’m telling you all of this.

First things first though, I'm the larger fellow in the group and my name is Wahkan, its IP for ‘Sacred’. I know, you’re asking ‘what does IP stand for?’ Well, just keep reading and I’ll get to that. My friend there in the hat, his name is John, John Greywolf, and he’s a Shaman. Again, something I’ll get to later if you keep reading.

The year is 1929 and at the present time every able country that could have has passed through the Steam Age has done so and thus built a society based around steam as well as amassed an Army and Navy that’s foundation is based on some variant of Steam Technology. Every country that fought in the Great War also now follows either some form of Isolationism or outright Authoritarianism, and by that I mean most adhere to the one new law of survival in this world which is one where you protect your own and your country by any means necessary. From tall concrete walls where sentries stand with weapons at the ready keeping anyone and everyone away from their borders to maintaining strict entry and exit lists for any and all foreign persons stepping on their soil, every nation maintains a curtain of intense security and internal order and they do it through force if necessary. The world was fractured before the war and afterwards those breaks only seemed to intensify and deepen, former alliances have grown cold with distrust and enemies seem to be everywhere you look. There are still relations between most countries, trading and travel and such, no nation would be able to survive if there wasn't, it's just now everyone has come to the realization after one long bloody war in which millions died that helping a friend isn't as easy as sending in one battalion after another of soldiers and hoping for a quick end. There's a harsher cost to war and it can't be measured until all the fighting is done and sometimes the butcher's bill comes out to be more than what you were willing to pay.

Our only true ally these days is Great Britain, face to face meetings by the respective leaders or visits by ambassadors from shiny gated embassies still happen, but the Brits are the only ones left we truly call 'friend' it seems. The President of the United States still talks with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and old King George but anyone else, the French or the Italians or the Spanish, well it's done through about a hundred different people and envoy's in between whose only job it is to break down every syllable of the messages being passed to see what each leader is saying, as if a 'the' in the wrong spot might mean something sinister. We officially closed the southern border to Mexico in 1920. We built a wall and shut it down with air ships, as simple as closing a gate, right after the Brits told Wilson about the Zimmerman Telegram from the Germans. I don't think a President has spoken a word to any official from Mexico since. In 1922, in the middle of rebuilding after the war, the French abruptly sent everyone, ally or not, home shutting down embassies left and right and ending any visible diplomatic tie with all due to discovering an espionage ring they found buried deep in their own government, the spies may or may not have been ours. No one will ever know because no can ask them now. The French executed the four men and two women a week later quick and tidy. The French people were trying to recover from almost being decimated during the war when the spies were discovered so all economic trade was kept in place afterwards of course, for the purpose of reconstruction you see, only now with a ton of restrictions and inspections in place. The Russians and the Chinese, no one really knows what's going on behind their walls because both make sure there are no leaks to give anyone an idea as to what's happening. I've heard Stalin took over Russia after kicking some fellow named Trotsky and his boys the Bolsheviks out of the country and then closed the gates to everyone but the countries right next door like Lithuania. And China, what little I've heard is anything but good about the place. The only country we deal with in the Pacific is Japan and it's all on their terms. Who gets to come in and what comes in all determined after extensive negotiations. The Far East is a mystery and it's one we'll probably never figure out.

Yeah, it's a world where no one trusts anyone but after we almost destroyed this place we walk around on in the first Great War I'll live with a little distrust. Some people say with all of this Isolationism we'll all just end up right in the middle of another war, that it's inevitable with this new type of foreign and domestic affairs. Maybe we will and maybe we won't with this new attitude, this new national strategy where you only protect your own. All I know is now, because of the war, if your country gets into nasty spat with another no one’s coming to your aid, at least not without a lot of begging. After spending my time in a trench in France with shells and bullets flying by I'll take some healthy second guessing before going back to war. Wait...guess I need to explain how we even got to this point in the world as well huh?

Like I said, after the Great War ended in 1918 every able country on this planet turned to some kind of Isolationism but even that policy didn’t happen overnight. If you had to ask to me, and I guess you are if you’re reading this, it all started long before that damn war. It all started on the night of April 14th 1865 when a man named John Wilkes Booth tried to kill the President of these United States at the time, one Abraham Lincoln, in retaliation for the South losing the Civil War. He came close did John, almost shot old Abe in the back of the head, only the pistol he had pointed at the President misfired. It was a Derringer and noted to be as reliable as the day is long and yet the damn thing still didn’t fire and when it didn’t that's when all this began if you ask me, that Derringer misfiring sent us all down this road of a single nationwide military police force and closed borders and the birth of the Steam Age. I will give John a nod for the effort. He sure died trying to kill Lincoln, after his gun misfired he tried to beat Abe to death with that useless Derringer but he was shot in the head by a soldier standing just in the shadows of the box the Presidential Party was seated in. Ironic some historian once said, to go shoot a man in the head only to be the one who gets shot, and the next day it began.

Old Abe changed the course of the country after that night and he did it with the Army and the Navy and Steam. Every coin and dollar he could get Lincoln spent on building the infrastructure of the country back up, to advancing the use of Steam and its technology among the populace and businesses and of course the Army and Navy. Lincoln moved quickly after the assassination attempt forming what he called 'The Protectorate', a single militarized force combining the Army, the Navy and Marines, and every law enforcement agency across the land. The only difference between a soldier and a beat cop these days is where you're stationed, a base or the jail of a local police station. I could spend a whole lot of time going over all the political and economic quandaries and ramifications of what Abe did with his Protectorate. All the here and there and all the good and bad of what he did would take me too long to put down in words, and in the end that’s not why I’m writing this anyway. I could go into a deep thesis about the way he trounced Personal and States rights and gave Congress the thumb in the eye as he did it while getting every able bodied police man and soldier under one roof, how he forced young men into the Army or Navy through the draft to expand both and then used the combined might as a force to police the country but I don’t really care to talk about it. It's all said and done now, no going back and getting a second chance so it's just best to move on as John likes to say. Was Abe keeping everyone in line, including anyone who opposed him with his new ‘Protectorate’, this national police force? I'm not really sure about that, I do know this new type of military started as an effort to keep the world out of our affairs while keeping everyone here on the inside of the US borders in line while we rebuilt. And with the progression of Steam Tech it all worked out just fine, the US came back stronger than ever. No one tried to topple the government and they probably could have because after the Civil War the country was weak and trying like hell to just stand back up on her own two feet. After the country was strong again the Protectorate just kind of grew into the sometimes oppressive force we have today, forming new units and off-shoots under the same umbrella. There's the Protectorate Bureau of Investigation, an elite force of investigators in the Police division they say who are used to bring in the worst of the worst and I hear Congress is about to sanction an Air Force adding an aerial contingent to the Protectorate, which should fit right in perfectly. Think about it, police in planes, who wouldn't want that? What I'm sure of is today, in 1929, the Protectorate doesn’t intrude on your life unless you give them a reason too and once the men and women in uniform are at your front door they don’t leave unless the reason that brought them there goes away. Is the Protectorate heavy handed once they knock and come in? My honest opinion is hell yes, but then my history with them leaves me biased. Every police officer, cop, and constable is a member of the Protectorate from every community, city, and state. A single group covering the land and connected through wireless transmitters and receivers so running from say Chicago to escape capture doesn’t really work anymore because the minute you do every justice bringer and soldier and marine in the country will be looking for you and what happens after they catch you probably won't be very nice.

I'll say this about Abe too, forming the Protectorate to police the nation may have been over-reaching and wrong in some people's opinion but listening to the advisors who told him to focus on Steam Technology saved the United States. We grew this country and put her back on her feet after the Civil War almost damn near destroyed it and we did it in short time. Our factories in the North went into some kind of over drive due to steam driven machines that could make the goods we sold to the likes of the British and the French, and anyone else for that matter, faster and better thus putting much needed money in our hands. The coffers for the country filled up quick and just as fast we spent the profits rebuilding from the Civil War, the South rose again to match the North in manufacturing and all on the backs and brains of men and women who created bigger and more efficient steam machines to help do everything from lifting heavy loads to driving rivets into steel to shaping molten iron into parts to farming the vast Midwestern fields. Men like James Walsh and women like Ana Krieg whose minds seemed fixated to a single purpose, steam and the wonders it could do.


Excerpted from "The Man in the Black Hat" by R Kane. Copyright © 2015 by R Kane. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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