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The Regulator

This story was inspired by a Iron Age Magazine Prompt for May 24, 2023: The Inspector


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Belgium, 1881.




Meneer Jerom Maertens, an appraiser of curiosities, sat in his office at the Poitevinstraat in Bruges when he heard the ringing of the doorbell. When his secretary opened up, a young man wearing auspicious round-tinted sunglasses entered the hall and showed him his badge displaying the eye of RA. “Gooden dag,” he said in his Dutch with a British accent. “I’m Regulator Ol’Barrow. A representative for the International Committee of Rift Related Activity.”

Maertens shook his hand. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting you, meneer. What is the purpose of your visit?”

The regulator allowed the secretary to take his coat and bowler. “We are currently checking up on organizations registered with us. Just a formality, I assure you. Mind if I ask you some questions.”

The appraiser nodded. “Yes, of course. Could I offer you some tea?”

“Please.”

As he guided him up the stairs to the third floor, the regulator leisurely marveled at the marble interior. “Our The Hague office is just like this.”

“Oh, really. Despite the whims of fashion, we attempted to keep the 17th-century furnishing intact.”

“Family business?”

“Well, indeed. It used to be more of a hobby, but as our regular business defaulted, the curiosity trade continued.”

“Good to diversify.”

“Indeed.”

Inside Maerten's office, tea was being served as they sat down at the meeting table.

“So, what can I do for you, Regulator Ol’Barrow?” he waited for this guest to stir his tea. Then the regulator tapped his spoon on the ledge and shoved his fingers together. “Meneer Maertens. According to our records, you invested in Rift Related Artifacts, did you not.”

“Before the trade got banned, certainly.”

“But not since?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Glad to hear it. Mind if I see you ledgers of that period?”

Maertens frowned. “I do, actually.”

“I’m afraid I have to insist," the Regulator said calmly. "We are mandated by your government to inspect anyone who is as been active in Rift Related Activities.”

Maertens wasn't satisfied with that answer. “A foreign administrator, with an office in the Dutch capital, can intrude on Belgian citizens to review their private administration?”

“I assure you we have no connection to the Dutch crown. Second, whatever comes through the Rifts concerns us all.” The Regulator got up. “Please, join me for a moment.”

Reluctantly, Maertens got up and walked up to the stained glass window. Together they observed the cityscape through the warped surface of the ancient panes.

To Maertens's surprise, the Regulator put his arm around his shoulders. “Have a look outside. How much of what you see out of this window do you think was actually invented without Outside influence?”

Maertens slowly tried to get rid of his arm. “Uhm, 80%?”

“45%,” he corrected him. “As a matter of fact, within ten years, it might be possible this number might drop as low as twenty.”

“Oh, my.”

The regulator leaned in closer. “Oh, my indeed. And most will be none the wiser. For the time being, at least. It's our job to map the currents of information entering our world through the Rifts.”

“To what end?”

The regulator turned his attention to a small fridge adorned with an inlaid Ütter-Krapp logo of chrome and brass. “Look at this. To those who don’t dabble with Rifts, like ourselves, technology such as this fridge is a marvel. But, like in all things in life, it's a double edge sword. There are trade-offs. A need for electricity, for example. It gives rise to new industries but destroys the old. This creative destruction can not be allowed to go unchecked. If you believe the relations between Europe and its overseas territories are unequal now? Imagine what would happen if one party could horde the advances the Rifts provide.”

Maertens nodded admittingly. “That is one way of looking at it.”

“Trust me, Meneer Maertens. We are fully aware of the intrusive nature of our organization. But this will have to do until a better solution is found.”

“I see.”

He tapped him on the shoulder. “Now, your ledgers, if you please.”




The regulator had left, and the night was approaching when Maertens shut the door to the office. He opened the fridge and reached for a bucket of ice which he put beside a tray containing glasses and a bottle of absinthe. With a pick, he started crushing the ice with vindictiveness, one blow at a time. For hours that man had gone over his records, vocalizing suspicion over every line that stood out to him. And it was likely all a ruse to tire him out, lower his defenses and make him say something he would regret. But it hadn't worked, and the RA regulator had left empty-handed.

Smiling, he poured the crushed ice into the glass. But when he was about to uncork the bottle, he heard footsteps coming from the hall. After grabbing the pick, he swung toward the door. “Whose there?”

A gentry man had entered sporting a flat tweed cap and walked up to him, hands inside his coat pockets. “Allo, Jerom," he said with a mild but dignified Brussels accent.

Maertens kept the pick hidden behind his back. "Meneer Boogaard."

His partner walked around him in a wide berth. "You had a nice day?”

“Just fine. What can I do for you?”

“You can tell me what the RA agent was doing here?”

"RA agent? Oh, no. He was just some administrator going over my paperwork."

Boogard walked up to him. "And what did you tell him?"

“Nothing. I told him nothing.”

“Really? Because when we saw you standing in the window all-buddy-buddy, you seemed to be in intimate conversation.”

“Nothing! I swear, he was here on inspection! He found nothing.”

Another voice called out to them from down the hall. “On the contrary. I found all of you.”

The two men looked at the stranger.

From the door opening, Regulator Ol’Barrow was observing through his dark-tinted glasses, holding a Bergman automatic pistol No. 6.

“That’s him," Maertens insisted to Bogaard, who was already holding up his hands.

The Regulator stepped closer. “Glad to see your kind still eat their own.”

Boogaard sneered. “What do you want, Rat?”

“I want you, meneer Boogaard. More importantly, I want to know the location of the Rift you’ve been frequenting.”

Boogaard squeezed one eye in suspicion. “You are no Regulator, are you?”

“Meneer Boogaard. I am The Regulator!”

"Is that supposed to be a threat?"

"I don't threaten." Ol'Barrow threw a pair of handcuffs on the floor. "Both of you put them on."

Reluctantly, Boogaard picked them up and cuffed himself to Maertens. "I'm done. Now what? You take us to the gendarmery?"

"I would if I trusted them. That, I don't. Who does he work for, Meneer Maertens?"

The Maertens seemed baffled by the question. "Who? I have rarely seen his- HÉ!"

Suddenly Boogaard pulled the appraiser along by the cuffs as he dashed for the window. Before Ol'Barrow could react, he jumped. The stained glass shattered as Maertens hung out of the window frame.

In the nick of time, Ol'Barrow grabbed him by his collar and pulled him back. Glancing over Maertens's shoulder, he saw Boogard hanging by the cuffs three stories above the street.

The Regulator attempted to pull Maertens back inside, but the brunt of Boogaard's weight was too much. Desperate, Ol'Barrow reached for Boogard. "Take my hand!"

Boogaard just smiled at him. As if on queue, his arm tore off by the wrist, leaving his mangled hand stuck in its restraints.

A scream alarmed the onlookers gathered around the dead suspect on the cobblestones.

A police whistle rang through the street while Ol'Barrow reeled in the moaning Maertens who was bleeding fiercely from his abdomen. The moment he saw the dagger-like shards stuck from his gut, the Regulator knew he was done for. "Quick, who was Boogaard before?" he asked while laying him on the floor.

Mearten's eyes crossed as he pointed at the severed hand still attached to his dislocated arm.

Ol'Barrow looked at the severed hand marked with the strange hieroglyph impossible to describe.


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Thank you for reading. This is was my first attempt at writing a character titled the Regulator.

Distribution of the Kickstarter for the US and rest of the world I hope to start tomorrow. The issues with the interior design have been fixed.

We are also moving forward on the RPG. We had our first live stream last week and I hope to continue this in the future. We are looking for people who want to help in its creation. I mean people who want to support us with drafting rules, playtesting, and writing lore. For those who are interested in playing, tell us about the kind of adventures you want to play inside the Association of Ishtar Multiverse.

Want to be involved? Meet other Steampunks, History- and fellow Indy-Writers enthusiasts? Join our Discord.

In other news. I'm considering moving my crowdfunding to a new platform called Ream. Its brand new, but its allows my to scedule my story posts way better and easier then Patreon or Substack. They are still making improvements, but it should suit my content beter then Patreon, etc. Just one follower there would help me a great deal.

You can still check out the support us section of the site. For just 2 dollars a month, you would help immensely and get some awesome content. By the way. We recommend Subscribestar because Patreon is becoming less reliable as time goes on.









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