Dead Man’s Gorge

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I walk around my house talking like Brian all the time.  I thought you should probably hear what he sounds like, because it makes reading his dialogue that much better.  I recorded a short sample of Brian talking.  (Warning, some salty language.)

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The train hummed on the track.  Supplies were loaded. Jonas was in the locomotive, in front of a heavily armored fuel tank car.  Next, the passenger car, armored on the sides, with a crow’s nest on top.  That’s where Brian was.  Two more of Nyko’s men, Terrell and Derrick were on the rear deck of the last car.

Andy was already out scouting in the dune buggy, and for now, the maintenance truck was parked in the warehouse.  This was an exploratory trip, and Jonas had verified the tracks were operational with the sand-plow.

Nyko climbed the short ladder to the bar car, and took a seat.  Charlotte was nowhere to be seen.

The train pulled away from the warehouse, and Nyko poured himself a drink.  All alone in the bar car, he hoisted the shot.  “The maiden voyage.  It’s about time,” he said, tossing the whiskey down his throat.

Jonas sped the train up, making time while he was familiar with the tracks.  Nyko was surprised by how loud it was.  Even owning a bar with generators and people and music, life was much quieter these days.  The sound of a train, the first he’d heard since the outbreak both excited and frightened him.  Some people would hear the train and be excited.

As they passed the south western corner of the wall, Jonas laid on the air horn.  People all over New Vegas heard it.

For just over an hour, Nyko sat in the bar. It had the most comfortable seats.  He imagined the next trips, where the bar would be full of people drinking and carrying on.  Somehow he liked it better this way.

Eventually, he made his way to the front of the car, slid the door open and stood out on the platform between the bar and the tanker, watching the desert roll by.  He winced as he climbed the ladder to the catwalk across the top of the tanker; the wound in his side was just starting to knit together. Satisfied that he wasn’t going to die of a horrible infection, Charlotte had taken the drain out just the night before and stitched up the last quarter inch of the wound.  Stretching his arm up to grab the ladder pulled, and then using his abdominal muscles to lift his leg to the rung drove the ache deeper into his midsection.

He winced, but climbed.  He stopped in the middle of the tanker to check on Brian.  Originally, the middle of the tank was a wide spot in the catwalk that allowed access to an eighteen inch wide fill-hatch.  Jonas beefed up the wide spot, adding layers of chain welded to the top and bottom rail.  Jonas swore it would stop handgun bullets.  It wasn’t something Nyko wanted to test.

“Hey boss! How you feelin’ man? Shit’s gotta be itchin’ like a motherfucker by now.  One time I cut my leg with a chainsaw, took a hunnert and forth seven stitches across my thigh.  That sum bitch itched like a kid sittin’ on a fire ant bed.”

“Not bad.  It’s just a scratch,” Nyko said.  “Have you seen anything?”

“Nah man, me an’ Brian been out a little farther than this, an’ Jonas went all the way to the bridge in the plow.  If there was anything out here we’d know about it.”

“Excellent.  When we get to the bridge, I’d like to stop and check it out.  I want to make sure it’s safe for this monster.”

“Sure thing, Boss.  We’ll check her out good.  Can’t have no accidental train track locomotive cliff diving or somethin’”

“Yeah.  That.”

Nyko walked the rest of the way, climbed down the ladder and stepped into the cab of the locomotive.

“How we doin,” Nyko said.

“She’s purring like a kitten.  Can’t even tell we’re pulling anything,” Jonas yelled over the noise of the diesel generator.

“How long until the bridge?”

“bout an hour, give or take.”

“Think you can make it in half an hour? Let’s open her up a little.”

“You sure? Gonna double our fuel use.”

“Yeah, let’s get a feel for her.”  Nyko grinned.

Jonas sounded the horn in two short blasts and eased the stick forward, directing more electricity to the drive motors.  The pair watched the speedometer climb past thirty to forty, then up to fifty.  Jonas pulled the stick back a little when it hit sixty.

Nyko took a seat on the engineer’s bench.  His side was killing him, but it didn’t dull the thrill of the inaugural run.  After two years of preparation, they were finally getting somewhere.

The feeling of power was amazing.  Nyko could see why Jonas liked operating the huge locomotive.  It felt unstoppable.  On the long straight tracks of the desert, there wasn’t much to do in the cab, so the two of them passed the next hour talking about what they might encounter on the other side of the gorge.

Jonas checked his watch, jumped up and tugged on the horn chain, sounding one quick blast.  Then he pulled the drive stick back, idled the engine down, and coasted the train to within a hundred feet of the bridge.

Andy was parked just a few feet away from the trestle.  He jumped out of the buggy and met Nyko, Jonas and Brian.

“I rode out on it about fifty feet.  Everything looks good.   I’ve been here about thirty minutes, and I gotta tell you I could hear you coming the whole time.  We ain’t gonna sneak up on anyone with this setup.”

“That’s why we built her as strong as we did.  Get across on the buggy. Brian, Jonas, you two inspect as much as you can before we go across.  I want to make a decision in thirty minutes.  I’ll be in the bar.”

Andy jumped back in the buggy and bounced the wheels up over the track rails.  The bridge didn’t have a bottom, just railroad ties spaced a foot apart.  Each time, the tires dipped into the void between them, and then bounced up over the next rail.

The pair had built the buggy with over eighteen inches of suspension travel, but Andy still felt like his kidneys were going to rattle out of his gut.  The bridge itself was long, nearly a mile, and curved as it crossed Dead Man’s Gorge.

Local lore said that back in the old west days, a scientist named Jason Brown and his cohort Caroline Matheson were ambushed while prospecting in the gorge.  The two of them killed two hundred men that day.  Stories told of Brown using some sort of weird device that called lightning from the sky, and Caroline wading through bodies with a grim reaper style scythe.

Andy didn’t believe a word of it, but the legend was pervasive.  He had plenty of time to think about it in the hour  it took to cross the bridge.  He also had time to devise a way to use a small crane to lift the buggy up onto a flatbed car.  By the time he’d finished the crossing, he knew exactly where to place the lugs to attach the rigging.

Andy reached down and picked up a small walkie-talkie radio. “Redneck, this is Eagle, you copy? Over.”

“God damnit Eagle, My name is Budweiser!”

“Fuck you, Redneck.  Over.”  Andy grinned, imagining Brian fuming.

“If you don’t call me Budweiser, I’m going to start calling you malt-o-meal.  Over.”

“Fine, Budweiser.  I’m across the gorge. How does the bridge look? Over.”

“Steady as she goes, Eagle.  We’re fired up and ready.”

“Come on across…” Andy’s transmission was cut off by gunfire.  Suddenly his whole demeanor changed.  He was no longer joking with his buddy.  “Taking fire, Taking fire, Contact multiple hostiles, One, two, three o’clock.  Request immediate backup.  Do you copy, Bravo Uniform Delta?”

“Copy.  Heavy is inbound, tee oh tee three minutes.”  Brian leapt out of the crow’s nest, slid down the ladder and screamed into the locomotive.  “Gotta go, Andy’s in trouble on the far side.  Make speed!”

Brian climbed back up into the crow’s nest and strapped on his Kevlar vest.  He’d been sitting on it, using it as a cushion on the hard metal. Next he slid  his rifle sling over his shoulder and watched through the scope.

His rifle was designed for close quarters combat, not long range shooting.  His scope offered very little magnification, but he fired three shots anyway.

At the back of the train, Terrell and Derrick charged the fifty-caliber machine guns and removed the pins so the guns could rotate on their mounts.

The train leapt forward, onto the bridge.  Brian heard the guns on the buggy firing in the distance.  Andy was putting up a hell of a fight.

 

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