Less than two miles from the glimmering white wall surrounding Phoenix, Jonas slowed the train. They’d been passing through abandoned suburbs for the last thirty minutes. Everyone on board was anxious, the infected were here in some force, clearly visible inside their houses or stuck in the concrete walls surrounding their back yards.
Nyko saw one woman standing in her pool. Her skin was so sun darkened, and bloated from years in the water, she reminded him of a reconstituted raisin.
Jonas pulled the throttle back a bit and asked, “How do we approach? The wall blocks the tracks.”
“There has to be a gate somewhere, right?”
“I guess,” replied Jonas. “If they planned on no one ever going in or out again, I supposed there doesn’t have to be.”
“Who builds a wall without a gate? That’s fucking dumb.”
“Maybe it’s on the other side.”
“Bring her to a stop. I think it’s time we officially announced ourselves to the cock suckers behind the pearly gates.” Nyko said.
“Do you see a gate?”
“No I don’t see a fucking gate. But ‘Cock suckers behind the pearly walls’ didn’t have the same fucking ring to it. We came all this god damned way and since we’re already way behind fucking schedule, might as well spend the day getting to know the locals. Suss out whether or not we’re going to be welcome to bring passengers and trade.”
Jonas deftly brought the train to a smooth stop, about a mile and a half from the massive wall surrounding most of downtown Phoenix. They were in the old abandoned part of the city now, surrounded by warehouses, short one and two story buildings, and the occasional apartment. Most of the buildings were ransacked. Almost every door and window was broken. To the west, remnants of a massive fire were dwindling, few columns of smoke rose here and there, but nothing compared to the inferno that must have raged for days.
“Keep an eye out for a big fucking warehouse to serve as our station here too,” said Nyko, side-stepping around Jonas. He reached up to the air-horn chain and pulled, long and low three times.
“You don’t think that’s going to bring out the infected?”
“No, dumbass. I just thought it would be fucking fun to pull the god damned chain.” Nyko stepped out onto the ledge to let the wind cool him off a bit. From out there he yelled, “If we’re going to set up a fucking station here, we need to thin the herd of pus covered marauder meat. Pull us to within a quarter mile of that massive penis compensation they call a fucking wall. Keep her slow, we don’t want them cocksuckers getting the wrong idea, thinking we mean to ram the wall or do something crazy.”
They’d gone about half a mile when Jonas pointed out the window. “That warehouse looks pretty good.”
Nyko followed Jonas line to a two story unit with a loading dock that extended right to the tracks. Passengers could easily step out of the train. Loading and unloading cargo would be easily accomplished.
“Stop the fucking train.” Jonas pulled the accelerator back quickly and applied the brake lever in notched increments, bringing it to an even stop, the locomotive just past the loading dock.
Nyko stepped out of the locomotive and walked back to the loading dock, which was now equal with the bar car, just behind the fuel tanker. Brian crawled down off the tanker as Andy parked the buggy and climbed up the far side of the dock. There was a narrow walkway next to steel roll up doors that were locked closed.
“Get these doors fucking doors up. Secure the station. We may be dragging a number of infected behind us, so watch our six. Be ready for anything coming out of the doors. Terrell, you’re with me. We’re going in the front door,” said Nyko, looking up at his men on the dock. “Jonas, stay with the train. Keep an eye out for a welcome wagon.”
“Yes Sir.” All five of the men said in unison, and set to work. Brian walked back a couple of cars, headed for bolt cutters while Nyko and Terrell moved around to the front of the building.
The front consisted of a parking lot with a smattering of derelict cars, mostly older, small pickup trucks. One car stood out, a small hatchback sitting almost entirely on the ground. Its bright green paint slashed with orange and yellow was dulled by a thick layer of dust.
The building itself had two tractor trailer loading docks on one end and a small metal stair that led five feet up to the door. The door was closed, but the handle was removed, and it was well dented all around the handle. Nyko stuck his finger in the hole and pushed the door open, scraping along the concrete with a horrible screech.
“Anything in here would have heard that,” said Terrell, stepping into the dim warehouse. It was a warm day outside, but in the sealed warehouse it was easily a hundred and thirty degrees. Terrell holstered his weapon, put on a pair of thin leather gloves and then drew it again. “Good to go, boss.”
Nyko pulled his short double-barrel and started forward. “Be thorough. You’re staying here while we run back to fucking Vegas.”
“What? You didn’t tell me that.” The pair walked forward into the warehouse. Rows of shelving lined the floor, and a hundred year old, hand-painted sign hanging on the wall proclaimed this warehouse had belonged to R.I. Stine and his sons.
“Just now fucking figured it. I’m not sure we’re going to get into Phoenix itself, sons of bitches seem to have that shit locked up tighter than a whore’s pussy in church. If that’s the case, we need a fucking manned position here so we can exploit the resources the dumb fucks inside the city have left lying around out here.” Nyko kicked an empty box out of the aisle, and watched as it skidded across the dusty concrete between shelves. “And, if there is a gate and we go inside it, I need you and Derrick here, to keep this position secure and watch the fucking train.”
Nyko scrubbed his hands through his sweat-soaked hair, sweeping it back out of his eyes.
Terrell, changing the subject, pointed up to the sign on the wall and asked, “What do you think R.I. Stine did here”
“This shelf has plumbing parts. What do you have,” Nyko asked.
“Same. Whole god damned warehouse full of plumbing parts. What kinda plumbers need a warehouse this big?”
Passing a row of pipe wrenches, Nyko picked one up, a two foot hunk of steel topped with a massive iron jaw at the top. He holstered the shotgun and rested the head of the wrench on his shoulder. “The fuck do I know about how many parts a plumber needs. Maybe they owned a plumbing store.”
At the end of the warehouse, a pair of rickety wooden stairs led in either direction to a balcony that ran on either side of the main warehouse, twelve feet overhead. Nyko turned around, at the far end was another set. “You take the left, I’ll get the right. Double time, it’s too fucking hot in here to be dicking around looking at shit.”
Terrell sped up the stairs and searched the entire balcony on the railroad side. Nyko took the parking lot side. When they met at the far end, they finished the sweep, soaked with sweat, just as Brian managed to pop the lock on the first roll up door and raised it.
A blast of much cooler air blew through, slamming the parking lot door shut with a loud bang. “Thank fucking god,” Nyko said. “I thought my fucking balls were going to melt and run down the inside of my fucking legs before you got that fucking door open.”
“That motherfuckin’ lock must have been made of god damned titanium or something. Son of a bitch broke the first set of bolt cutters, took me forever to find the backup set,” Brian said, looking at a pair of three foot bolt cutters, broken at the hinge.
“I found these keys on a desk upstairs. See if one of them fits the other padlocks and get the doors up. Let’s blow this fucking place out.” Nyko stepped out to the loading dock and looked to his right towards the locomotive. Jonas held a thumbs up. Nyko looked left towards Andy at the rear of the train, who also held a thumbs up.
“Terrell, Derrick. There’s a roll up door under the stairs over there, go see what’s in it. I have a feeling it’s a fucking forklift. If it’s a propane job, get it fired up and start clearing these fucking shelves. Load them all up against the far wall to clear out a big space in here.”
Terrell and Derrick trotted over to the rollup door, half the size of the outside ones, and lifted it. Brian rolled up the second train door, and then Terrell was back.
“Battery’s dead. I think we can get it started if we can replace it. Looks like it was a pretty new forklift.”
Nyko grinned, “Small fucking miracle. I’d hate to have to listen to all your bellyaching all fucking night if you had to move those shelves by hand.”
“Jonas!” Nyko called.
He walked along the edge of the train and jumped over to the landing platform. “Yeah, Boss?”
“I have a special project for you.” Nyko took the keys from Brian who had the third massive roll-up door open and led Jonas across the warehouse to the semi-dock. He unlocked the padlock and rolled it up, delighting in the cross breeze. “I want a way to drive a truck up this loading dock. I want it hinged, so we can raise and lower it like a fucking drawbridge, but that comes second. When Andy and I get back, I want to be able to drive the buggy up into the warehouse.”
“You want me to make a ramp, sturdy enough to drive on in an hour? What the fuck am I going to use for materials?”
Nyko pointed back at the warehouse to the pipe racks. “There’s ten thousand feet of iron pipe here. Fucking figure it out.”
“You got it.”
Nyko stepped a few feet into the warehouse and whistled. “Andy and I are going for a ride. Jonas is in charge. When I get back, I want this area cleared. When that’s done, help Jonas. Work with fucking purpose people. We have four hours to dark. I want defenses ready by sundown.”
Andy pulled the buggy around and Nyko climbed up onto the gunner’s deck and strapped in. “Let’s go. Put the fucking pedal down man, show me what this motherfucker will do.”
“She’s better on the dirt, be careful she hops the turns on pavement,” Andy said, then put the hammer down. The tires smoked and the buggy spun around in place and rocketed off down the street.
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