The men drove Nyko and his crew to the warehouse they’d designated as their train station and left immediately leaving the six men in the parking lot. Jonas started to the warehouse, and Nyko called, “Hang on a sec, J.”
Jonas came walking back. “What’s up, boss?”
“We’ve been gone for a while. They’ve had all that time to work the building and our train over. No talking about anything until we’ve had a chance to go over that train with a fine-tooth comb and make sure it’s not bugged. Check the warehouse first then work the train. We have twenty-four hours to get her ready, make sure no one’s listening.”
They cleared the warehouse, going over it inch by inch. Gibson’s men had spared no expense. Fourteen listening devices, six video cameras and four large cylinders labeled d-methylfentanil/halothane. Brian lugged them down to the train and removed the remote activators on the nozzles.
The men pulled an all-nighter taking the train apart and putting it back together. Jonas found three separate bombs in the undercarriage. Seven recording devices were hidden throughout the train. Two more cylinders of gas. It was clear Gibson hadn’t been taking any chances.
Just before sunrise, the six of them were sitting in the dining car having some breakfast. Brian was animated. “I say we take ‘em fuckin’ bombs and throw them in Gibson’s lobby. Son of a bitch was going to fucking kill us.”
“We don’t know when they put all this stuff in here,” said Andy.
“I don’t give a fuck. That motherfucker ain’t have no god damned call to set us up like that.”
Nyko held his hands up. “Let’s just see how this plays out. We have the upper hand now. They didn’t take the time to cut into the weapons locker, so our guns and ammunition are secure. They didn’t fuck with the train, Jonas even checked the fuel.”
They stuffed down some food and water, and Nyko dismissed everyone to their berths. “Go get some sleep. It’s going to be a long day; I want to get back to my bar.”
Nyko let the men sleep for four hours. Then he woke Jonas. “I want to pull the train out of the station, so we can use the big guns to hit the parking lot.”
“Sure, boss. Give me five minutes.” Nyko set a cup of coffee on the table just inside the door.
Andy’s compartment was the next. Nyko slid the door open. Andy was already sitting on the edge of his bunk in his boxers. “Morning boss.”
“I need you to get the buggy ready. Take brian, I want you two out of sight, ready to throw down if shit goes south when they come to drop off this ambassador. See if you can find a place to park with full view of the parking lot, but where they won’t see you, until it’s too late.”
“You got it. Anything else?”
“Yeah. They step one foot out of line, start shooting. I’m not fucking with them this time.”
“Good to go.”
“Make it happen, brother,” Nyko said, putting two cups of coffee stacked on top of each other on Andy’s table. “Top one’s yours. Bottom is Brian’s cream and sugar mess.”
Last, he swung back by the bar, poured two more coffees and then woke Derrick and Terrell. Their orders were to man the big guns on top of the train while he met the ambassador.
By nine in the morning, they were all in position and waiting. Shoved a spool of wire over by the loading dock and sat down. He piled the face masks and rifles up on the loading dock, then slipped one over his face.
“We’re ready,” he said.
Seconds later, Gibson’s face appeared in his visor. “You’re early. I like that. We’re waiting about three blocks away.” Within minutes, a long, white limousine and a regular car appeared. They turned into the parking lot and the pressure was palpable.
He knew his men were on edge. He also trusted them with his life. They would do the right thing at the right time.
Gibson stepped out of the stretched limo, followed by a woman in a white miniskirt and blazer. Gibson had good taste in women. The two of them, surrounded by four soldiers walked up to the loading dock.
“This is Abigale Cora. She is my ambassador to Las Vegas,” Gibson said.
“Miss Cora, right this way,” said Nyko, pointing to the stairs. “The building needs some repairs. We were abducted before we could complete them, so please be careful on the steps.”
“Thank you, Mister?” She asked, fishing for his last name.
“Nyko. Just Nyko,” he said.
“Very well then, Nyko. Thank you for your hospitality, and for the transportation,” She said walking gingerly up the metal stair.
“Mr. Gibson, good day to you,” Said Nyko, backing up a step before turning into the warehouse.
The four soldiers retrieved the masks and rifles from the loading dock as Gibson returned to his car.
Nyko heard the generators on the train kick over. As he and Abigale Cora crossed the warehouse, he heard the engines throttle up, then Jonas pulled the train forward, aligning the bar car with the loading dock.
He leaned out the locomotive window, a huge grin on his face, as he yelled, “All aboard!”
Nyko showed Abigale to a seat in the bar. “Drink?”
“It’s awfully early for a drink,” she said.
“Nonsense,” replied Nyko. He set a shot glass in front of her and filling it with Jack Daniels, then filled one for himself and sat down. “Here’s to new friends, and new endeavors.”
“Cheers,” she replied, clinking her glass against his and downing the shot without even a hint of a nose-wrinkle.
She was tall, he guessed five ten, and at most thirty-five years old. She had long, curly dark hair tamed by a black headband that went across the top of her head. She had greenish brown eyes, and well-manicured eyebrows, and She was not unattractive, but definitely not Nyko’s type.
He refilled their glasses, and the train started rolling in reverse, heading back towards New Vegas. “May I call you Abigale?”
“Abi is fine,” she replied.
“Very well, Abi. What did you do before all this?”
“Before all of what?”
“Before the end of the world,” Nyko said.
“Oh. I think the world is just beginning. I believe that the outbreak was a great population reset, like the black plague, and countless other diseases. When the population of humans gets out of hand, nature brings it back in line. As the apex life-form on the planet, there is no other means of population control, so nature evolves ways.” Abi tossed her drink back in one well-practiced motion.
“That’s an interesting take. You’re of the mindset that humanity is better off now?”
“Absolutely. We’re no longer destroying the planet. We’re sustainable,” she replied.
“What about the people who are dying every day to the infection? Or those that the marauders kill for trying to find something to eat out in the desert?”
“Phoenix wants to put a stop to that. We have technology and materials to share that will allow Las Vegas to be self-sustainable. As Phoenix is. The world will be a better place. There are some growing pains, but we will get there.”
“You never did answer my question though, what did you do before the infection?”
“I was in media relations. I was the social media coordinator for Gibson Pharmaceuticals.”
“You ran Gibson’s facebook page?”
“I was in charge of all social media. So yes, I ran the facebook page.”
Nyko chuckled. “And now you’re an ambassador to New Vegas.”
He downed his drink and held the bottle out. “Another?”
“Not for me, thanks. I don’t drink often anymore.”
Nyko screwed the bottle back on the lid and set it to the side. “What is it that you want out of New Vegas?”
“I just want to deliver Mr. Gibson’s generous offer and negotiate the terms. I’m an ambassador, that’s all.” She folded her hands and put them on the table. “How long is the trip?”
“It took us two weeks to get here. But there was some major track damage to repair and a group of marauders that delayed us.”
“Have you had any experience with people who eat the infected?”
Abi’s face registered momentary shock, and then almost immediately smoothed back out . “There are people who eat the infected?”
“Yeah. The good news is they keep the infected around New Vegas down. I haven’t seen more than a handful in months. The bad news is, it makes them crazy. Blood-lust kind of crazy. They don’t make any sense when they talk. One of them once told me he wanted to wear my scrotum as an eyepatch.” Nyko chuckled.
“That’s colorful,” she said. “Are these symptoms universal?”
“Everyone that eats the infected eventually goes crazy. I don’t personally know anyone who’s done it, but I have run into marauders who were more coherent than others. The worst ones refuse clothing in the desert, and seem to have no pain response at all. Their skin burns and blisters and cracks and bleeds. They don’t even care. Usually a few weeks after that point, they die from infections or blood loss or something. It gets pretty disgusting.”
Abi thought for a moment before speaking. “We have a medical team looking for a cure in Phoenix. I’m not sure if they know about this or not, but I’ll certainly report your observations.”
Nyko smiled. “Anyway. To answer your question, I don’t think we’ll have any trouble with them. This train is much more dangerous to them in reverse, and we took out most of them on the way down.”
In direct conflict with Nyko’s statement, the horn on the train sounded one quick blast. Nyko stood. “Please stay here. This is the safest place. The glass is bullet proof and the lower is well armored. An RPG wouldn’t make it into this car.”
He quickly walked through the door towards the back and stuck his head out beside the train. Bullets tinged down the side of the train. He pulled his head in quickly and grabbed the phone off the wall of the bar car. “Jonas, how many vehicles?”
Jonas response was hard to make out through the static.
“Repeat last, repeat last, repeat last,” Nyko said quickly.
“Truck static… Over. Six … side. Static.. Repeat…. over tracks. “
“Copy.” Nyko hung up the phone.
“Is everything okay?” Abi asked. “The train is slowing down.”
“They’ve blocked the tracks. On the locomotive we have a divice to clear it without slowing. But the back of the train doesn’t have a cattle guard. We’re going to have to do a little more work. This is really nothing. We’ll be back underway in no time.” Halfway through his speech, Nyko’s words were drowned out by all three miniguns winding up. The sound of ten thousand bees sitting on an amplifier blocked out almost all other sound.
He saw Abi mouth, “What is that?”
He held his hands out in front of them and shook his body back and forth like a machine gun. “Guns. And lots of bullets,” he yelled. He made the ‘stay here’ motion with his hands, turned and ran through the cars, until he was on the back deck.
Terrell and Brian were on the back guns, sweeping back and forth. Burning red tracers flying across the field. Nyko ducked back inside and grabbed two fresh four-thousand round magazines and four canvas sacks and slid them towards the door.
Terrell ran out first. The gun had two bags, now heavy with metal, one hanging off each side. On the feed side, one bag caught the links that held the bullets together into a chain. On the far side, another bag caught the empty brass shell casings so they could reload them. Nyko replaced the bags while Terrell fed the new belt of bullets into the gun. Nyko took the two full bags and the empty can back inside, then returned to run through the same process with Brian.
Both men fired hundreds of rounds into the truck parked in front of the train, sweeping up and down between the bed and the cab, trying to cut it in half. At the last second, all three of them stepped into the ammo car. They heard Derrick shouting into his radio on top of the train. “Thirty feet. Slow! Ten feet, five feet.” Then the train shuddered as they hit the remains of the truck.
“You got it! That fucking worked!” they heard from the roof. Then seconds later, “Oh shit, stop stop stop!” Nyko, Brian, and Terrell were thrown sideways as the ammunition car jumped the tracks.
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