Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Mar 20, 2006

Ficiton: Train Yard

As Told by Dakota Sue

It was the only time I’d seen the cyborg evidence any strong emotion.  I turned to look at him.  “So that was Iron Wolf, huh?”

Durance nodded grimly, his eyes still searching the parking lot in vain.  “Lost him again.”

“Frankly, I’m surprised to see him here.”  I patted him on the shoulder, awkwardly, not sure whether he’d even notice my attempts at sympathy.  “Are you going to be okay to deal with this guy?”

He blinked.  “What are you talking about?”

I suddenly remembered that Durance was not the person I’d gotten the information from.  I hesitated at the truth.  “Um, well, I . . .”

“Well what?”

“Well, he was responsible for doing this”—I waved my hand to indicate his cybernetic replacements—“to you, so I thought you might be a little . . . upset.”

He stared blankly for several seconds.  

“So you’re not upset? That seems a little bizarre to me.”

“Who told you about that?”

“No one told me, I asked.  I was curious to understand the people I work with.”

“Last time I checked my previous ops weren’t exactly common knowledge,” he said, shouldering his rifle.  “And I’ll be fine,” he spat angrily.

“I didn’t say who I asked.”

“Who the hell did you ask?”

“I have a friend that’s good at getting information.  He’s a lawyer.  You’d be amazed at what that weaselly bastard can find when he’s motivated or bored.”  Durance twitched his shoulders in an approximation of a shrug.

“Do we have any idea where the real Amanda would be?” Q asked, apparently having decided our conversation was at an end.

“Where’s the nearest train station?”  Finn inserted.  I looked at him, startled.  He was wearing the earpiece of another communicator in his other ear, one he’d taken off a disabled thug, perhaps.  He gave me a sardonic half-smile.  “The bad guys are moving on the train to set up the bird house.  Whatever that means.”

“Train station?  Beats me, but there’s a GPS in our van.”

“Should we go now, or wait for the cops to clean this up?” Q asked.

“Well, that depends,” Finn replied.  “Do we want to find Amanda before or after she’s dead?”

My communicator buzzed with Paul’s voice.  “Boss lady, there’s some evidence up here on the roof of the mall.”

“What kind of evidence?”

“Shell casing, bottle cap, maybe some more.”

“Anything that will help us find Amanda right now?”

“Well, probably not.”

“All right,” I said.  “Let’s get back to the van and have Nat find us the train station.”  By the time we arrived she had climbed out of her seat and was pointing to the location on her computer screen.

Q shook his head.  “The van’s too slow.  Get me directions and I’ll get us there faster.”

“If you fly us in, Iron Wolf will shoot us out of the sky,” I objected.  He just grinned and held up one hand.  The air around his fingertips rippled and a pitch-black circle appeared, slowly widening until it was large enough to step through.

“We don’t need to fly.”

“You are just full of surprises,” I murmured, somewhat taken aback.  Finn stepped through without hesitating or waiting for instructions.  I grimaced and contemplated the door for several seconds, then followed, cringing involuntarily.  I don’t much like being exposed to the effects of other people’s powers.  They tend to be unpredictable and are often unpleasant.

It opened on an endless sea of gray that obliterated shapes, colors, and sensations.  For a timeless time I just hung there in the formless emptiness.  Then I was standing in a wide-open field, trying to remember the use of my senses.  Paul bumped into me from behind and I jumped.

“Whoops, sorry.  Where are we?”

“Effing Twilight Zone,” Durance grumbled.

“The Twilight Zone?  Man, I watched that as a kid when the new episodes came out.  Me, I like to think of it more as Stargate.  It’s the same principle, well, at least I think it is,” Q announced cheerfully.

“My, that’s wonderful, Kevin,” I told him.  Kevin was his ‘real’ name.  “Now where the heck are we?”

Paul looked at the GPS.  “We’re at least 20 miles from the station.”

“Oh, yeah, one sec,” Q said, returning from wherever his mind was wandering.  I thought he hadn’t heard me, but he looked over at me and raised an eyebrow briefly, then repeated his previous performance and opened another black hole.

I groaned and walked through again.  The sensation was no more pleasant a second time.  When I returned to reality again, I looked around at the harsh, impersonal grime of a women’s public restroom.  I turned to give Q a jaundiced look.

“Don’t ask.  It’s not accurate, but it is fast.  Outside is the train station, uh, I hope.”

Several bystanders remarked on our appearance as we trooped out of the bathroom and looked around at the train terminal.  I wondered how to go about finding a girl and a terrorist here when Finn’s new communicator buzzed loudly.  Even standing several feet away, I could hear it.

“Hello, may I ask with whom I am speaking?”

Finn pulled it out of his ear, wincing.  “This is Winnie the Pooh.  Who’s this?  And if you say Christopher Robbin, I’m disconnecting.”

“Well, if you wanted another reply you shouldn’t ‘ave responded so very sarcastically.  Since you ‘ave a sense of ‘umor I’ll assume you’re not Durance, so please let me speak to ‘im.”

Finn handed the communicator to Durance.  “It’s for you.”

“Who is this?” Durance demanded.

“Oh, please, Alex, I wouldn’t think you’d ‘ave forgotten about me so soon.  After all, neither of us can go through a metal detector because of the other.”

“It’s been a while since I’ve played Wolfhound.”

“Yes, yes, I know.  Maybe you’ll get away with all your limbs this time.  Er, such as they are, in any case.  Now, tell me, Alex, who are you working for?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“Well, you obviously came for the girl—I ‘ave ‘er—but she wasn’t much sport.  She could kill a dozen people without trying but she still thinks like a child.  I want a bit more of a challenge.”

“Then you want me, I gather.”

“Yes, when I saw you at the mall earlier I nearly fell over laughing—you know, after I shot the little girl in the wig.”

“I see you managed without your getaway vehicle.  It wasn’t a very good choice.  So you’re just a mercenary now, Loup?”

“Oooo you are perhaps attempting to make me angry?  No, Alex, I’ve always worked for Overthrow.  Or, should I perhaps say that I’ve always worked for the same people Overthrow works for.”

“So what do you want with me, then?  Don’t you have some higher-ups to go off and kowtow to?”

“I want to kill you, of course.  You and I still ‘ave unfinished business.”

“Tell me something I don’t already know.”

“Well, ‘ow about I tell you where the girl is?”

“I’m listening.”

“There’s a train graveyard out back, it’s quite big, thousands of little nooks to ‘ide in.  She’s somewhere out there.  So am I.  So are my friends.”

“Are you inviting me to bring my friends over and we’ll party?”

“Well, I must admit I don’t much care for your friends, but mine will make certain they ‘ave something to do.”

“I see.  And the girl?”

“If you find her, good for you.  If not, well, odds are you will be dead, so you won’t really need to worry so much.”

“Sounds like a fun party.”  He chambered a round into his rifle, loudly.  “Anything else I should know, big bad Wolf?”

“No.”  The line went dead.  Durance looked at me.

“All right then.  Kevin, can you make a door back there?  I want you to take Alex with you.”

“I can gate us in, yes, but I’m not sure exactly how it will appear.”

“Considering his placement last time, I’d rather not teleport there.  It could be more fatal this time than embarrassing.”  Durance protested.

“Just do it.”

“You want me to run out there and find them?” Paul asked.  “That’s what I do; get ambushed, I mean.”

“No, Paul, I want you to find Amanda.”

“I’ll see what I can find.”

“If we use stealth, we may have a chance of eliminating their edge,” Finn said.

“Right, you’re with me, we’ll sneak in.  Nat, I want you to make a distraction.”

“A distraction?”

“It’s a train graveyard, start some fires.  It’s property we can afford to destroy.  Let them choke on the smoke and snipe with watering eyes.”

Finn and I made our way through the terminal and past the tracks, to the section where old derelict boxcars were left to rust.  Left sitting in no apparent pattern, they made a handy maze.  I never did lust after the life of a lab mouse.  

We didn’t get far until I heard footsteps approaching, I glanced to Finn and he nodded; he’d heard them, too.  I smelled the air and detected six men, along with Durance, who was approaching our position from a different direction.  I held up my fingers at Finn and he nodded again, settling himself into a good hiding place the moment they came into view.  I considered, then climbed up the side of a boxcar where I could get a better view.

The six men rounded the corner and I grinned at down at them from my weird perpendicular angle.  “What have we here?  Dinner?”  I clenched my hands in the metal and it gave way, slowly, making an ominous creaking sound.  The men stared at me, horrified, then scrambled backwards.  Durance came up behind them, but before he could act a bullet clanged loudly off his metal arm, leaving a scratch but doing little damage.  The thugs jumped and began leveling their weapons.

“Paul!  Tree, edge of the graveyard!  Get him!”  Finn announced into the comm. I considered berating him for giving orders he had no authority to give, but I decided there were more pressing issues in front of me and put it aside.  Durance pulled out his rifle, turned his back on the thugs, and fired in what I assumed was the direction of the sniper.

It really looked like I was going to get shot today.

“Hello?”  Nat asked in my ear.  “Distraction now or later?”

“Now is good!”

Finn leapt out of his hiding place, firing his shotgun and downing one of our opponents.  They scrambled for cover, giving us a few seconds’ reprieve.  I jumped down to the ground, picked up a boxcar, and dropped it on them.  Durance made an unhappy noise at being blocked off, and one of the thugs managed to scramble free, but other than that it had the desired effect; no one was pointing a gun at me any more.

“Gee, I hope his friends are okay under that thing,” Finn announced, smirking, and opened fire on the remaining gunman, downing him as well.  I could hear Durance continuing to fire not far away, the loud WHOOMPH of a fiery explosion I hoped was under Nat’s control. Finn trotted off into the maze, chambering another shell as he went.  I really couldn’t see anywhere left for me to contribute.  So, I went to look for Amanda.

I found her pretty quickly, too, stashed in a boxcar fifteen feet from my previous position.  She struggled against her bonds and made pathetic mmphing noises when I poked my head through the opening.  Dropping down, I untied her.

“So you’re Amanda?”

“Yeah.  Let me guess, you’re that lady Jennifer talked to?”

“I’m Susan Page.”  I crossed my arms and frowned as forbiddingly as I could manage.  “Do you have any idea how much damage you’ve caused, running around like a crazy person?”

“Well as far as I can tell I killed four men that killed my parents.  I haven’t done anything else but try to get out of town.”

“That, and you got your friend Jennifer shot by involving her in this.  So spare me the injured act.”

“They what?!”  She sprang to her feet and darted past me through the open door, screaming, “WHERE ARE THOSE BASTARDS!”  Her teenage fury was interrupted when I jumped after her, wrapping my arms around her waist and bearing her to the ground.  “Let me go!”

“No.  Stop acting like a child and think for five seconds.”

She scowled, then gradually stopped struggling and began to sob loudly and theatrically.  I rubbed her back, not certain whether to offer comfort or douse her with a bucket of water.

“Okay, I know you’ve been through a lot.  It’s time for you to stop running and trust us to help you out.”

“I don’t know who you are!   How am I supposed to trust you!”

“We’re from AEGIS, and we’re trying to find out who is orchestrating these attacks.”

She sniffled.  “I don’t care any more, just take me away from here!”

“Works for me.  Let’s go meet up with the rest of my team before they do something stupid because I’m not there to supervise.”

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