All posts by Victor Tookes

Author of What Zombies Fear, Remnants, The Evolution of Vaughn, and Hell on Rails. Father of Jack, I'm a single dad trying to make it as a writer.

The New Girl

I set up a new GROUP on facebook, separate from the page.  A page is nice, but I’m hoping the group format will help foster a more open community.  If you’d like to check it out, it’s

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Charlotte opened the bar at six, just like every night.  She had a skeleton crew, with Nyko taking her best four employees.  She had to put a couple of the girls in other spots.  Teagan was working the front door, Taylor was with her behind the bar, and Ashley was working the DJ booth in Derrick’s place.
Continue reading The New Girl

Four Car Pile Up

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Nyko’s men ran towards the front of the warehouse, towards the sound of the approaching vehicles.  Only Jonas stayed in his spot.  He was the eyes.  His job was to spot attackers and call out their positions.

The men were well trained.  Nyko and Brian collapsed inward to the front of the building.  Terrell and Andy moved up to the front corners.  The drive up to the warehouse was a long, straight road.

“Three trucks, each with two in the cab and four in the back,” Jonas called down.

“Blow the latches,” said Nyko.

Jonas reached into the bag he was carrying and pulled out one of the remote controls.  It was a gun shaped unit, designed for driving a car.  On the side was a wheel that had been intended to steer the car, and the trigger was the throttle.  He flipped the controller on and squeezed the trigger.

One hundred yards away from Nyko’s position, a series of pops, no louder than a firecracker puffed tiny clouds of smoke up from the road bed.  Those small charges lifted the latch on spring-loaded spike-strips.  The spikes rotated up out of a small ditch in the road, pointing straight at the oncoming truck.

The first truck hit the spike strip.  The tines hooked into the tires, flattening them, but also holding on to them.  A year ago Brian had complained loudly when Nyko made him drive the stakes holding the spike-strips eight feet into the ground, and every time he had to reset them.  But the effect was impressive.  The truck was brought to a stop in less than three feet.  The sheet of strips ripped partially out of the ground and folded around the wheels.

The front of the truck dipped and the rear flew upwards, launching the four men and enough hand-tools to fill a garden shed out of the back, cartwheeling through the air at fifty miles per hour.  The rear of the truck fell back to the ground just in time for the second truck to slam into the tailgate.  Four more men were ejected, this time from the second truck.

The force of the impact ripped the spike strips from the ground.  All eight men were still in the air as the two wrecked vehicles spun to the left, and then rolled over sideways.

The men hit the ground, skidding on the asphalt.  The third truck narrowly missed the pair of mangled vehicles that were still rolling over.  The driver of that one must have had lightning reflexes to miss the collision.

He jerked the wheel to the right, then back to the left to swerve around the wreckage.  He was in the middle of his maneuver when he ran over one of his compatriots.  Driver number three locked up the brakes, skidding to a stop, sideways in the road.  His real wheels came to rest on top of the corpse he’d just run over.

The driver of the last truck watched the carnage unfold, and had nowhere to go.  He’d been accelerating to catch up to the group when the scene unfolded, and he never thought to hit the brakes.  He smashed into the passenger side of truck number three, rolling it over.  His passengers were thrown clear, and skidded to a stop on the pavement.

When everything came to rest, sixteen men lay on the asphalt, ejected from the cargo area of the trucks they were riding in.  There were eight more men inside the vehicles.  The driver’s side doors of of the first two opened, and at the same time, several of the wounded men started to get up off the asphalt.

Nyko waited until the driver of the first truck climbed out of the wreckage, then shouldered his heavy rifle and squeezed.  He still had the door latch in his hand when the glass exploded and shards of glass and hollow point embedded themselves in his face.

The driver was spun around by the force of the shot and landed on his stomach.  Several of the marauders were back on their feet, charging at Nyko, axes, hatchets, or whatever they could find in their hand.  One of the remaining six was holding a shovel over his head, ready to swing it like a bat.  None of them were in good shape.  Those without shirts had very little skin left on their chests.  One man’s nose had been ground off by the asphalt.  Every one of them was covered in blood.

Nyko’s men opened fire.  The marauders were cut down one by one.  Not one tried to find cover or even slowed their charge, they were so consumed by aggression.

The last man moving, the driver of the second truck got out and held his hands up.

Nyko knew this was always the tricky part.  One of them had to get away, one of them that was still sane enough to report back to their boss that they failed.

He started walking forward slowly, keeping his scope on the man.  “Driver!  Step around your truck and lay down on the road.”

“I have a cuddle fuck… I have a cup of soup… I have a message.  Yes, message!” The driver yelled, seemingly thrilled that he got the right word out.

Nyko stopped.  He was about thirty feet from the man.  This was a new tactic. “What message?”

“Your train will be fucked by an antelope!”  Brian burst out laughing from his position back by the warehouse.  The sun was setting.  They had about an hour before the bar’s patrons would be showing up, and had to have all this cleaned up by then.

“Is that your message?  I have one for you to return,” Nyko shouted.  Andy and Terrell advanced from the corner towards their boss, covering him.  Both knew what was about to happen, as it had countless times before.

Nyko pulled a small notebook out of his back pocket and a pen out of the inside of his leather vest.  He quickly scrawled a note.

Stay away from my bar and I won’t come for you.
This is your third and final warning.
If you come again, I will hunt you down and kill every one of you.

Everyone knew they would ignore the warning.  But Nyko couldn’t just kill someone once they surrendered, and he certainly wasn’t in the business of keeping prisoners.  So, he let the man go with a note, as he’d done the two previous times.

“Now, run along.  Go back to your boss and tell him what a bad idea it is to come here.”

He’d been through this cycle a bunch of times.  Three warnings, then they find the marauder camp and wipe them out.  A few weeks or a month later a new group started up.  No one knew where they came from, or where they’d been the last two years.

Nyko always figured they were the people of Las Vegas and the surrounding area who didn’t make it inside the walls in time.  They held on as long as they could, eating whatever scraps they could scavenge before they resorted to eating the infected.

At first, there were no side effects from eating the disease ridden people.  It built slowly.  Some people retained more of their mental faculties for longer than others, but invariably, cannibalizing the infected lead to dementia and intense aggression.  Marauders killed for fun.  Many of them wouldn’t even eat regular food anymore.  The dementia convinced them that everything else was poisonous.

In that regard, they served a purpose.  They kept the infected population down.

“Let’s get this shit cleaned up,” Nyko yelled.  “Haul the trucks around back, tomorrow we’ll see if there is anything we can use.  Burn the corpses.”

Brian rolled up the warehouse door and came rolling out in a golf-cart pulling a trailer.  The roof of the cart had been replaced with two massive solar panels.  Fuel was everything, there was no sense in wasting it on yard-work.

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Captain Eyepatch

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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?”

“Fuck you.”

“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.”


I write this online novel for free.  I occasionally ask a favor, like if you’d be willing to vote for me on Top Web Fiction.  But I also WANT to hear from you.  If you scroll down a bit, there’s a place to leave comments. PLEASE leave a comment, even if it’s to say “I hate Andy” or “Kill Brian” or “I really like/love/hate/despise this story”

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Dead Man’s Gorge

Would you please take a moment to vote for Hell on Rails over on Top Web Fiction?  Thank you so much!

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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The next morning at daybreak, Jonas, Brain, and Andy loaded up in the Marauder’s truck to head out to the barn.  They spent the day loading and hauling, and by nightfall were completely exhausted.

The maintenance shop was fully outfitted to repair any type of railroad car.  Spare parts, specialty tools, and best of all, a massive tank of diesel fuel.  The tank was, by Jonas’ estimation nearly full.  The marauders were sitting on a gold mine, somewhere in the neighborhood of eight thousand gallons of fuel.

Jonas and Nyko had only gone a few miles on the train, but their initial estimations were that it would take about two gallons of fuel to move a mile.  Jonas knew about two hidden diesel reserves he and Nyko had sourced, which totaled enough fuel to make the two-thousand mile circuit they had planned three times.  This reserve would help them make it four more times.

That gave them enough fuel for a year of operation, Nyko would be thrilled.

The three men worked on the track-plow for the better part of two hours figuring out how it worked, how each of the mechanisms operated, and making sure it was all in good working order.  In operation, it was a very simple machine.

A front plow, not unlike a snowplow, cleared the sand down to the tops of the rails.  Just behind the sand-plow, a large broom-wheel spun very quickly to dig the sand out from between the rails, ejecting it out the side.

A secondary plow on either side at the mid-point of the locomotive pushed the sand eight feet on either side of the rails.  As a test run, Jonas ran the plow up to the warehouse.

It functioned beautifully, leaving gleaming sand-polished rails in its wake.  Jonas was giddy.  He screwed a wooden crate inside the cab of the plow locomotive, lifting him high enough to see out the window at the flying waves of sand he pushed.  The feeling of power was amazing, if felt like nothing could stop this massive machine.

Over the next several days, Jonas cleared the tracks all the way to the northern edge of the Canyon bridge.  He liked the work.  He learned that the faster he went the farther it pushed the sand, buying them more time between cleanings.  On his last run, he had the stick forward running about forty-five miles per hour.  Sand flew off the blades nearly twenty feet in either direction.

By the time the tracks were clear, Nyko was up on his feet.  He was still only allowed light duty according to Dr. Charlotte as everyone had taken to calling her.  No lifting or getting up and down, but he was able to supervise loading provisions on the train.  If everything went well, this first trip would only be a couple of days down to Phoenix, then a couple of days back.

Nyko wanted to go meet with the Phoenix leadership before he started making official runs.  Mostly, he wanted to know what supplies he could sell for the most profit.  This was an expensive endeavor.  Carrying passengers was one small revenue stream.  Their drinking and eating in the bar car was another, but the real money was to be made hauling goods between the two cities.  If he could establish and run the only trade routes between several cities, he’d be set.

As the departure date neared, Nyko felt Charlotte growing more and more distant.  Finally, after she walked past him in the hallway without even looking at him, he put his hand on her shoulder and asked her to step into the office.

When they were alone in the office, Nyko crossed his arms and leaned against the door, holding it closed.  “Spit it out, girl.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I have work to do,” Charlie replied, making a slight move towards the door Nyko was blocking.

“Not until you tell me what your problem is.”

She shook her head.  “It’s nothing.  I’ll deal with it.”

“We’ve been partners for a long time.  I count on you more than anyone in the family.  If something’s bothering you, I need to know about it.”

Charlie’s internal debate raged.  Finally her stubbornness won out.  “Nyko, I don’t want to talk about it.”

He had years of experience managing people in the shop, and was a naturally shrewd judge of character.  “Okay.  So, it’s me you’re upset with?”

She was always surprised by how easily Nyko could dig the truth out of her.  The debate raged again.  He’d get it out of her.  She might as well tell him.  “When you were injured, I stepped up and ran this place.  I made the hard decisions.  I sewed you up.  I’m not a fucking nurse.  I’m not a fucking manager.  I don’t know all the things you know.  I have no idea what I’m fucking doing here, I’m just making this shit up as I go, and what happens when I make the wrong call? What happens when I make the wrong decision, Nyko?  When you leave, all these people will be counting on me.  Depending on me for their lives and safety and security.”

Nyko nodded.  “What could I possibly say to make you feel better, when I have all those same fears?  I live in fear every day that one of you is going to get killed doing something for me.  That marauders are going to show up at our door and overrun the place.”

“How do you handle it? How do you deal with all the pressure?”

“I don’t know,” said Nyko.  “I guess because there is no other choice.  This is life now.  I try to make the best decisions I can with what I have.  That’s the only way I can sleep at night.”

“And how can you leave all that on me?”

“Because you’re the only one that can do it.  Because it has to be done.  New Vegas is doomed, Charlie.  There aren’t enough resources.  They’re running out of canned food.  There isn’t enough water to grow crops.  There isn’t enough fertile dirt.  Vegas was always a city ruled by technology.  Without it, humans can’t survive here.  But, do you know where we can survive?  Southern Colorado.  Kansas.  The mid-west.”

“So you’re moving all of us east?”

“We can’t stay here.  And I can’t move everyone and start an entirely new city with the resources I have.  My only choice is to use what I have to earn what we’ll all need to survive.”

“What do you mean?”

“We can’t start a community with fifteen people, only four of whom are women.  We can’t start a community without teachers and doctors and a hundred other vocations.  We’re just a bunch of mechanics.  I value the skills of every one of you.  But we don’t have enough.”

Charlotte nodded as Nyko continued.  “Also, I can’t take fifty or a hundred people out into the waste to make a place to live without the means to build a wall to protect us.  We can’t go without the means to grow food, without the means to defend ourselves, and certainly without enough food to survive the first winter.”

Charlotte wondered when he’d made all these plans, and what else he hadn’t told her.  “When were you planning on telling me all this?”

“When it was a real possibility.  People need hope, Charlie.  I need hope, a goal to strive towards.”

“So, what now,” she replied.

Nyko grinned.  “Now you tell no one about this conversation.  The goal is to get to Phoenix to prove that travel across the wasteland is possible, and to make it less frightening.  If things work out in Phoenix, we’ll start offering pleasure cruises.  We’ll get people used to the idea, and then we’ll take it a step further.  All the while, buying and selling what we can, hauling freight between destinations, and stockpiling materials we’ll need when the time comes.”

“Do you ever not have a plan?”

Nyko smiled at her as she left the office, and then walked back into the warehouse. As he supervised the loading of the train, Nyko wondered if the pressure might be too much for her.  She was only twenty four years old.  She’d never managed anything until The Saloon.

The first trip was only scheduled to run three days out, and three days back.  Jonas was bringing enough for three weeks.  The rail truck, the scout buggy, and two dirt-bikes would get the whole crew back to The Saloon in the event of a breakdown.  Nyko and Jonas had figured on triple-redundancy, and it was all coming together.

Tomorrow, the train departed.  Nyko held his side as he limped back to his room, confident that everything was in good hands.

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The trip to Henderson Veterinary was uneventful.  Andy pulled up in front of the vet’s office and killed the engine on the buggy.

“Aww, baby, tell me they didn’t hurt you,” Brian said as lept out to inspect their buggy for any damage.

Andy knelt at the front door and put his flashlight in his mouth.  He slid the key he found before they left into the lock and applied a slight pressure, trying to turn it.  Then he tapped the back of the key with his flashlight.  In less than a minute he had the bolt unlocked, and the door open.

“How’s she lookin’?” Andy called back to Brian.

“Ain’t a scratch on her.  I don’t think they fired a shot, dumb sons of bitches never even knew what hit ‘em.”

Brian grabbed an empty backpack out of the back of the dune buggy, pulled a small flashlight out of a pouch on his belt, and he and Brian entered the office.  “Don’t look like nobody’s been in here.  Let’s grab some shit and go.  I wanna get back and finish them fuckers off.”

The pair loaded up the bag, plus everything they could carry and headed out.  Andy reached the door open as Brian was coming up the hall.  Tiny specks of light lit up the floor through the holes in the shuttered blinds.  Brian split them with his fingers to see the headlights of a pair of trucks shining in the front of the building.

“Andy, no!” shouted Brian

Andy moved with incredible speed, diving behind a couch that was backed up to the outside wall.  Brian dove behind the reception desk and hoped none of them had high caliber rifles.

The second after the door moved, bullets flew.  The front windows shattered, spewing glass and debris all over the inside of the office.  The shades were torn down, allowing moonlight to filter into the room.  Andy and Brian lay curled up in the fetal position, butt and feet towards the incoming bullets, protecting their heads and core.  Both were well trained.

“Wait for them to come in,” Brian shout-whispered.  The hail of led stopped and Brian, quieter this time whispered, “You shot?”  Andy shook his head.

Brian un-holstered the pistol at his waist, and saw Andy do the same.  “Wait as long as you can,” said Andy.

Seconds later, the door screeched open, grinding glass shards into the linoleum floor.  Four men poured in the door.  Andy and Brian lay perfectly still.

“We got ‘em, boys!” yelled the first man.  The two friends heard a cheer from outside.

The four marauders split into pairs, one heading for Andy and the other for Brian.  Almost simultaneously, the marauders poked Brian and Andy with the barrels of their rifles.  Both men quickly rolled over and fired twice, killing all four marauders.

Andy stood up and looked at Brian before yelling in a perfect impression of the marauder, “Double tapped those motherfuckers.  Come on in boys, let’s clear this place out.”

Brian and Andy backed down the hall and waited.  The remaining men poured through the door into the moonlit lobby and were cut down where they stood.

Less than a minute later, the entire office was full of gun smoke.  The smell of blood and burned powder filled their noses.  Brian let out a low, “Fucccccccck you, bitches!”

Andy ran up and kicked one of the dead men.  “You don’t fuck with us!  We’ll lay you motherfucking sons of bitches dick in the motherfucking dirt!”

Outside, one remaining marauder ran off, jumped over a concrete wall into the back yard of one of the vacant houses and kept running.

Brian and Andy loaded the supplies into the buggy, along with everything valuable they could scavenge from the dead marauders.  One of them had a decent pair of boots, another had a leather jacket.  Andy started it up, while Brian headed towards the best looking of the two marauder trucks.

“Let’s go finish ‘em off.  Wonder if they left anyone back there?”

“Probably not.  But we gotta be careful anyway.  They surprised us once,” replied Brian.

“Grab the keys outta that other truck. We’ll come back for it later,” called Andy.

The marauder barn was, in fact, empty.  The two parked their vehicles and cleared the building before loading up a few useful items .  The marauders had food, water, a massive supply of ammunition, and the barn was a treasure trove of tools.

“We ain’t never gonna get all this shit back to Nykos.  It’s gonna take us a dozen trips.”

“Nyko came here for that track plow, right? To get all the sand off the tracks?  What if we use that to pull one of these boxcars?”

“We gotta get these meds to Nyko though.  We should drive home, then we can come back with some help to load it all up,” said Andy.

I like the way you think, brother-man,” replied Brain.

When they pulled into the garage it was nearly seven o’clock.  Charlotte came striding through the warehouse to meet them.  “Where have you been?  Andy, you were supposed to be on the door an hour ago.”

“I’m sorry, Charlie,” said Andy.  “We went to get Nyko some antibiotics, and ran into a little trouble.”

“We got a bunch of medicine though,” said Brian cheerfully.

“You should have let me know where you were going.  Not only were we short staffed, which I could have covered if I’d known, I was worried about you.”

“We’re sorry,” the pair intoned together.

“What did you get?”

“Andy found a book in the vet’s office.  It said gut wounds need some C –E – F antibiotics.” Brian spelled out the letters.  “We grabbed everything that started with C-E-F and everything that ended with ‘cillin.”

“Good job, boys.  Let’s go check on our patient.”

When they got up to Nyko’s room, he was awake.  Sweat beads dotted his forehead.  “Hey, Charlie, boys.” He said weakly.  “What happened?”

“Your intestine was ruptured.  I sewed you up.  You’ve been asleep for almost twelve hours.”  She laid her hand on his forehead, he was burning up.

“You have a fever, which tells me you have an infection.  The boys just raided a vet’s office and brought you a bunch of medicine.  I’m going to change out your IV now,” she said.  Brian and Andy were impressed by her authority.

“Thanks, Charlie,” Nyko said.  He smiled up at her.

“How’s the pain?” she asked.

“Feels like someone stabbed me in the gut.”

“Boss, me an’ Andy here wiped all them fuckers out.  We checked out that barn, it’s got everything we need.  We just needed to get these meds to you before we loaded it all up and cleared our way back here.”

“Nice work, fellas.  Thanks for getting me all fixed up.  I need to chat with Charlie now.  Can you go cover the saloon for a few minutes?”

“Sure thing, boss.”  Andy and Brian grinned from ear to ear as they left.

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Left Hand Men

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Brian and Andy sat in Andy’s room.  Andy was sitting on the edge of his bed, digging through a pile of duffle bags at his feet.  “I know it’s in here somewhere, dude.  I used it what, two weeks ago?”

“Why don’t you just keep it on your keychain,” asked Brian in his thick southern drawl.

“I dunno, man.  I guess ‘cause it used to be illegal.  Old habits or some shit,” replied Andy.

Andy continued digging.  He set an old bong and a tin on the bed and then tossed a couple of old tee shirts towards the foot of the bed.

Brian laughed.  “Dude! Is that a One Direction tee shirt?  Seriously? What the hell man.  I thought you were cool.”

“Fuck you.  I took a chick.  Look at the size of the shirt.”  Andy grabbed the shirt and held it up by the tag.  “Size small.”

“Hope you banged her.  Chick better put out after making you suffer through that shit.”

“Nope,” replied Andy.  “Not even a kiss.”

“Oh dude, that’s fucked.  That’s just fuckin’ wrong.  You’re gonna put out what, a buck fifty on a pair of tickets, plus another half-spot on dinner and a fuckin’ tee shirt.. So, what, two bills on the night and you didn’t even get a peck on the cheek?  At least she wasn’t a fatty.”

Andy stopped digging through the bag and looked at his best friend.  “Fuck you, dude.  She didn’t owe me anything.  We had a good time.  It was my choice to take her.”

Brian looked suitably ashamed.  “Sorry, dude.  Didn’t really think of it that way. I was just pickin on you.”

“It’s alright.  Just can’t stand that shit.  Like a chick owes us something.”

“Yeah.  You’re right.  I didn’t know you were in loooooooooooooooove with her.”

“Fucking finally,” Andy replied, holding up the item he was looking for.  A small set of strange looking keys.  Each had perfectly even rows of saw-teeth, and a rubber grommet around the base.  “And fuck you.  I wasn’t in love, we went on two dates.  She was a nice girl.”

Brian stood up.  “Let’s go.  We’re burning daylight.”

“Dude, it’s night.”

“You know what I mean, fucker.  Let’s move.”

The two men crossed the warehouse to a row of trucks.  “This totally qualifies as life-or-death, right?”

“I think so,” replied Andy, grinning.  “We taking the runner?”

“Fuck yeah, bitch!  Catch-a-Riiiiide!” replied Brian hopping into the driver’s seat of a menacing looking tube-framed dune buggy.  The front section was lined with plate aluminum, taken from the rail-house a couple miles up the tracks.  The rear had a steel cage draped with welded chain.  Neither would stop high caliber bullets, but for regular pistol rounds, it would stop most anything.

The rear deck cage surrounded an M134 minigun that Brian brought from his National Guard armory when he joined up with Nyko days after the apocalypse.  Mounted on a swivel post, the gun could fire in any direction.  An M249 Squad Automatic Weapon topped each front strut, locked in a forward position.  Each fired remotely from paddles behind the steering wheel, fed from ammo boxes under the hood.

The buggy was Andy and Brian’s baby, something they built from scratch out of scavenged parts.  It was the primary recon vehicle for Nyko’s train.  The pair hoped it was their ticket out of New Vegas.   For now, it was their ticket to a little payback, and hopefully some antibiotics for Nyko.

Andy jumped into the driver’s seat and fired up the buggy, the huge v8 engine roared to life.  He idled over to the door, hit a button on the dash and watched the door start to roll up.  “Fuck yeah, bitches, get some!” he called.  The red button on the dash really just pushed the controller to an automatic garage door opener mounted behind it.  But it felt cool.

“Dude, we gotta get some flames on this motherfucker.  Wonder who we can find that can paint.”

“I dunno.  Get your eyes on!.”

Both men pulled goggles from the tray in front of the shifter and strapped them to their heads.  Andy put the shifter in first, revved the engine, and left black skid marks halfway across the parking lot.  Brian hit the button to lower the rollup door as Andy slammed it into second and spun the tires again.  The speedometer read seventy miles per hour when they hit the sand headed for the marauder camp.

“How are we gonna do this?” shouted Brian over the noise of the engine.

“Jonas killed their leader.  He said there was maybe twenty of em left.  I say we go in, sweep the place with the minigun and haul ass, drive-by style.  Then we go get the stuff, and sweep ‘em again on our way back.”

“Sounds like a plan, brother-man!  Let’s fuck those suns-a-bitches up!”  Brian unbuckled his harness and crawled between the seats to the back deck, where he strapped into a harness there.

Andy topped a sand dune and launched the dune buggy a dozen feet into the air.  They both felt a thunk as the shocks bottomed out.  Brian felt his feet come up off the platform and scrambled to hold on, despite knowing the harness would keep him in the vehicle. A hundred and fifty feet later they landed softly headed down the far side.

“Yeeeeeeeeee Hawwwww,” screamed Brian at the top of his lungs.  “That shit was awesome!”

The engine roared, a deep, throaty rumble as they crossed the desert.  Andy slowed, bouncing up over the tracks at the back of the maintenance garage, around the side of the building out into the open area in the front.  Brian opened fire with the minigun, spewing thousands of rounds in seconds.  He strafed the gun, white-hot tracer fire streaking back and forth.  Men ran out of the barn and were cut down.

As Andy gunned the engine to pull away, Brian focused on the engine-bays of their vehicles, punching massive holes in the grills and fenders of all their vehicles.  And then they were gone, rocketing off down the street as fast as the powerful buggy would take them.

“Whoo! That’ll teach them fuckin’ sons of bitches to fuck with us!” Yelled Andy when they were a couple blocks away.

“Dude!” Screamed Brian, sliding back into the passenger seat.  “Did you fucking see that one motherfucker? Tracer round right to the face, his whole head glowed like a motherfucking jack’o’lantern!”

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Taylor’s return

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The beautiful blonde bolted down the darkened streets of New Vegas, fully aware that she was out well past curfew.  If the New Vegas police caught her, she’d be thrown in jail for the night.  If the night gangs caught her, she’d be in for something far worse.

The Casinos were massive; there was no way to go behind them.  Most of the hotels backed up directly to the wall, in order to save time and materials.

Taylor ran from every bit of cover she could find to the next bit.  First stopping to breathe behind an old bus stop, then she darted into an alley and stood behind a pile of trash while she waited for a pair of police on bicycles to pass.

When they were gone, she sprinted across the front of Bally’s and then she was at the guard booth on Flamingo.  Almost home free.  “Robbie,” she called softly.

Robbie came out of the booth, followed by his partner, and then another man.  “Shit,” she swore under her breath.

The third man out of the booth spoke with a deep, authoritative tone.  “What is your business with the guard after curfew, ma’am?”  Taylor spotted the sergeant’s bars on his NVPD uniform shirt.

She couldn’t say anything about Brad.  She couldn’t say anything about Robbie.  She knew the city police hated Nyko, but it was her only out.  “I work for Nyko.  He sent me into town to give some papers and fuel estimates to the governor.  I left them with his assistant, but then I got distracted by a painting in the lobby and stayed far too long admiring it.  I just need to get back.”

“No one goes through the gate after dark,” the man said.  “As you well know.”

Taylor poured on her wiles, stepping forward towards the sergeant.  “I know, but I just got caught up.  I’m so sorry, it’ll never happen again.  Is there just any way you can make an exception for me, just this one time? I promise you’ll never see me out after curfew again.”

As she closed in, she noticed that the sergeant was sweating profusely.  His cheeks were ruddy.  It was warm, but no-where near the daytime highs.  Sweat ran down his forehead, which he mopped with his arm.  When he lifted his arm, she saw huge dark circles under his armpits, and his hands were shaking.  Gotcha, she thought.

“I just happen to have something that might help cool you off.”  Taylor pulled out two single-serve bottles of Knob Creek Whiskey.  “They’re still sealed.”

The man’s tone changed, and Taylor suddenly wondered if she’d misjudged.  “Do you have any idea what the penalty for trying to bribe an officer of the law is?  On top of the penalty for having alcohol inside the city.”

“Oh, it’s not like that at all, honey.”  Taylor practically purred.  “You just looked powerful thirsty, it’s so hot, and your uniform is so… Tight.  What if I just put these down over here, and then got out of your hair?”  Taylor stepped a few feet to the right as she spoke, and set the two bottles on top of a barrel.

“I suppose, if I were to look the other way for just a second and you were gone, it would save me a ton of paperwork,” he said.

“I suppose it would,” replied Taylor stepping towards the gate.  Robby opened the small pedestrian door in the middle of the massive gate.  As she passed through, Robbie whispered to her.  “How’d you know that would work?”

“I work in a bar.  I can spot an alcoholic a mile away.  See you next time you’re out.”  She brushed a kiss across Robbie’s cheek and bolted off into the night as the gate slammed closed behind her.

Taylor ran for several minutes before stopping beside a pile of rubble, left over parts of the Barbary Coast or Burbon Street casinos, if she had to guess.  She put her hand on the pile and focused on breathing.  She was in good shape, but it was difficult running in the sand, and her backpack was heavy.

She heard a voice whispering behind her.  “I such pretty hair.  I’m going to turn you inside out!”  Taylor spun around in time to see stars as someone hit her squarely in the eye.  She stumbled backward, tripped over a rock and fell flat on her back.

Her backpack cushioned her fall, but when she stood, she felt something cold and wet run down her lower back and her pants.  “Shit. Not the antibiotics, not the antibiotics,” she mumbled to herself as she started running.

He was chasing her.  “Come on, girl.  Put it in your mouth,” he said, louder this time.  He was gaining.  She wasn’t going to be able to outrun him.

Taylor stopped in her tracks.  “You want me to put it in your mouth?”

She turned to see the man chasing her.  He was gaunt, every one of his ribs showing under thick, dark-tanned skin.  He had a bandanna covering his face, and yellow-lensed ski goggles over his eyes.  His hair was completely gone.

“Yes!” he said, seeming confused. “Wait, no.  Your mouth.”  He stopped running about two feet from Taylor.  “Yes, that’s how it works. You put it in your mouth.”

“Okay,” she said.  “Get it out.”

Her attacker fumbled with his pants in an attempt to get them down as quickly as possible.  When he did, the smell nearly knocked Taylor down.  He smiled.  He was missing all but two or three of his teeth. “Now, put it in your mouth.”

“Your mouth,” Taylor said.

“No, your mouth!” He screamed.

The girl remembered her first conversation with Nyko, about four months after the infection started.  Brian brought her in out of the waste, where he found her cowering under a burned out car.  She was malnourished, hours away from dying of dehydration.  Her face was so sunburned she could barely move her mouth.

She was sitting at a table in the bar. Charlie brought two glasses, a pitcher of water, and a jar of pickles.  A few minutes later, Nyko came walking in, sat down and poured himself a glass of water.

He took a long drink as he looked her over.  “What’s your name, kid?”

“Taylor,” she replied between bites of pickle.

“I’m Nyko.  This is my joint.  We have bunch of jobs open around here.  You can pick one.  No one stays for free, but we’re not all work.  We’re a family.

“My family is all dead,” she replied.  “My mom was infected.  My dad and older brother were killed by a gang for a gallon of water last week.”

“My family is gone too.  This is my family now.” Nyko said.  “The world is different.  People lost their humanity, even those living inside the walls.  You’re a pretty girl, and people out there are going to try to do bad things to you.  If they haven’t already tried.”

The second part was more of a question than a statement.  Taylor looked at Nyko.  He was a kind man, she could see it in his eyes, despite the exterior he presented.  “I’ve been lucky.  No one yet.”

“Some day, someone will try.  When that time comes, you need to stop thinking and act.”  Nyko paused, gauging the girl’s will.  “And when you act, you act swiftly and violently.  At your size, once they have you pinned down, you won’t be  able to fight them off.  You’ll have to end the attack before it gets started.  Do you understand?”

“I think so,” she replied.  ”

Taylor knelt down in front of the disgusting marauder who was swinging his hips back and forth, making his junk slap against his thighs.

In one smooth motion she pulled out her knife and cut it off, balls and all.  The marauder screamed, and clamped his hands on his crotch.  Taylor shoved his cock in his open mouth, silencing his scream.

“Like I said.  Your mouth.”

She ran for all she was worth, leaving the screaming man behind her.

“I did it, Nyko.  Just like you said,” she whispered to herself as she arrived at the saloon.

Taylor stopped in the bar and grabbed Charlotte.  “I did it.  I got three bags, but I broke one on the way back.”  She slid her backpack off and opened it.  “Oh no.”  Taylor’s face sank.  “I broke the antibiotic.  I’m so sorry,” she said, pulling out the empty bag.  “A man knocked me down.  I fell on it.” Taylor started crying.  “I just wanted…  I just wanted to be useful.”

“Oh, god Taylor, you did amazing.  You got an IV kit.  We didn’t have one. Brian and Andy just left to look for antibiotics, we’ll get him started on these two saline bags.”

“Really?” Taylor asked, her eyes hopeful.

“Yeah, baby.  Great job.  Really.”

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<<Chapter 10                                                                                             Chapter 12 >>

Hell_on_rails_promo2Taylor met Charlie at the door to the shower room with two towels.  Charlie took the first one and wrapped her long, dark hair in it, piling the towel up on top of her head.  She took the second one and dried off, then wrapped it around her waist.  “Thanks, Tay.”

Taylor looked at her friend with soft eyes.  “You okay?  I don’t know how you stay so strong.  I’m falling to pieces.”

Continue reading Taylor


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“Charlie!” Jonas shouted as he brought the truck squealing to a stop.  “The Boss is hurt!”

Andy and Brian ran over to the truck and gingerly laid Nyko down on the concrete.

“What happened,” asked Andy.

“Stabbed in the gut,” said Jonas.  “I blasted the fucker’s head off and drove here.”

Continue reading Surgery