Brian felt the train gaining speed. Jonas had the hammer down.
He spoke into his walkie-talkie. “Eagle, this is Heavy. We are inbound. Clear the tracks. Over.”
“Heavy, tracks are clear. I could ten armed combatants, left side. Eagle is taking fire. Over.”
“Come on man.” Brian said to himself, urging Jonas to speed up the train as they passed the midpoint of the gorge. He and Andy had spent hours in the corner booth of Nyko’s bar, talking about strategy. They often talked about their war days until the sun came up. There were plans for everything.
Brian knew he would pull the buggy beside the train, using the train as cover, just like they’d talked about.
Three hundred feet from the end of the tracks, Jonas sounded a quick blast of the horn. Brian grabbed the railing, but was still thrown forward as the train slowed. The huge steel wheels locked up, screeching as the train slid down the metal tracks, showering sparks. When they cleared the bridge, still slowing down, Brian stood up in the crow’s nest. The tanker car was the most heavily armored of the train. Half-inch steel plate sandwiched three quarter inch plywood. Almost two inches of armor plating would stop an RPG round. As Nyko had said two dozen times, “Anything big enough to get through that would blow the train off the tracks.”
The train slid just past the marauders, who were hiding behind piles of rail-road ties. From Brian’s vantage point, he could see them over the tops of the ties. He opened fire, squeezing three round bursts out of his M4 carbine, lining up the red dot on the scope with each target.
Three men fell before the huge cannon on the back of the train wound up. He could see tracer fire arc across the piles of railroad ties, igniting the dried out, tar soaked wood. The fire quickly spread across the pile of ties, forcing the men behind them out. As they stepped backward, Brian cut them down with efficiency.
The entire battle was over within thirty seconds of the train stopping. Brian climbed down the ladder and met Andy. “You okay brother?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Andy replied. “Dumbasses couldn’t hit shit. Didn’t even blow a tire. Once I opened up the front guns, I only had to fire a bullet every couple of seconds, none of ‘em would stick their heads out.”
Brian nudged one of the men with his boot. He had on blue jeans and a leather vest. He was not moving. Nyko stepped around one of the burning pyres and squeezed off one round, finishing a wounded man who had three huge holes in his abdomen. It was a mercy.
“Gather their stuff. Really great work.” Brian and Andy gathered up weapons, magazines, boots, everything they could find that was worth salvaging. When they were finished, they piled up all the loot in the first passenger car and stepped into the bar.
“Hey boss. You think we oughta track these fuckers back and see where they came from? Can’t have ‘em posting an ambush every time we drive through. Maybe we ought to go take care of the problem now.”
“You know, you’re right. But I don’t want to waste a lot of time. You have five minutes to find a back trail. If you can’t find a trail in five minutes, we’re leaving. Andy, how’s the buggy?”
Brian looked almost sad. “I’ll be back in five.”
Andy watched his friend leave. “Buggy’s fine. They weren’t very smart.”
Brian stopped walking. “That is what worries me man. Why would you send a bunch of incompetent idiots to ambush a train?
“Maybe that was the whole group?” Andy seemed hopeful.
“Nah, did you see them, dude? None of ‘em had a sunburn. They were afraid. Ain’t a one of em was crazy. No waste sickness at all, man.”
“Maybe it’s possible to live out here without it,” Andy said.
“Maybe. Bet not though. Ain’t no more food here than anywhere else in the waste. Only way to survive out here is to eat the infected. And then you end up saying some shit like ‘I want to wear your balls like an eye-patch.’ That shit fucks with your brain meat man. These fuckers weren’t screaming. They were afraid to come out from behind the stacks of wood. Marauders ain’t afraid of nothing.”
“Why would someone wear balls as an eye-patch?”
Brian threw his hands in the air. “I don’t fuckin’ know man! It’s just some shit like they’d say.”
“Dude, you been eating the infected?”
“Think you could get herpes on your eyelids?”
“Fuck you, man. I’m fucking done with your shit. Find the god damned trail.”
“Would you shave the balls first? Or leave em furry?”
“I’m about to feed you a god damned knuckle sandwich.” Brian was really angry. He turned to walk away.
Andy decided to let it go.
After one more dig. “I was just wondering, dude. You’re the one who wants a scrotum eye-patch.”
Brian turned back around and punched Andy. He aimed right for Andy’s eye, but Andy was fast. He turned his head, and Brian’s punch caught him right above the ear. Brian followed his haymaker by tackling Andy.
Andy laughed as he went down, wrapping Brian in his legs. He hooked his ankles and squeezed Brian’s chest, pushing the air out of his lungs. He laid his arm down pinning Brian’s head to the ground.
“Dude, tap,” Andy said.
“Fuck you, man. I ain’t eat no infected fuckers.”
“I know dude. I was just yanking your chain.”
Brian heaved himself over on top of Andy, and pressed downward, pinning his friend. “Say you’re sorry, man.”
Andy caught Brian’s punch, and countered with one of his own, catching Brian just below the eye socket. Brian saw stars and used his free hand to punch Andy right in the nose.
Blood flowed out of Andy’s nose, and Brian’s eye was already swelling. The two men laughed, and rolled off of each other.
“You got a hard fuckin’ head dude. I think you broke my hand,” Brian said.
Andy sat up and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I think you broke my nose again. He reached into the thigh pocket of his pants and pulled out a tampon, which he handed to Brian. “Cut that in half for me.” Then stuck the two halves up his nose.
The two of them walked back to the train, where Nyko was waiting.
“What the fuck happened to you two?”
“Tripped,” Brian said.
“Fell down some stairs,” Andy said at the same time. “No trail. I think that was just a couple dudes.”
Nyko eyed the two men. “Good, let’s go then.”
Andy barely contained a snicker. “Go on, get up in your crow’s nest, Captain Eyepatch.”
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