I have the great pleasure of hosting Melanie Karsak on the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour. Her book “The Harvesting” is Available for Purchase Here. She has offered us the first three chapters, which is a huge sample of the book.
I have the great pleasure of hosting Melanie Karsak on the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour. Her book “The Harvesting” is Available for Purchase Here. She has offered us the first three chapters, which is a huge sample of the book.
The train came to a shuddering, violent halt. The three men in train car rolled to their hands and knees. The floor was sloped at a steep angle, which made it almost impossible to stand. They crawled to the door and rolled to the ground.
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Brian and Andy shared the contents of Brian’s flask, grimacing at the rot-gut moonshine with every sip. Just after midnight, Brian locked the doors of the train and crawled into a hammock strung up in the caboose.
Less than an hour later, long enough to fall completely asleep, the first thunk sounded against the train car. A few minutes later, there was another. It was another half an hour before Brian’s consciousness returned enough, hastened by the need to pee, to hear the constant thump, thump, thump from all four sides of the caboose.
“Fuckin shit, Andy. Wake the fuck up man.”
“What?” Andy said sleepily. Then sat up in his hammock so quickly, the entire thing spun around dumping him on his head. His gun skittered across the metal floor. The noise seemed to have an effect on the banging on the outside of the car; it increased in tempo and fervor.
“Sounds like infected,” whispered Brian. His voice low and raspy.
Andy crawled slowly towards his rifle. “Get up the ladder. Open the hatch. We gotta get eyes on.”
“Wish I had me some fuckin’ night vision goggles.”
“Just take a flashlight. I don’t think we’re getting out of this without some killing. If a cure hasn’t come by now, I don’t think it’s going to, buddy.”
“I know all that. I still hate killing them. I wouldn’t want someone killin’ my Mama. My Daddy’s been dead, thankfully. He ain’t have to live through this shit. But I’m sure Momma’s been infected. She couldn’t get ‘round too good.” Brian uttered his entire monolog in a hushed whisper as he climbed the ladder to the roof hatch.
Andy gathered his rifle, and still in his socks and green plaid boxer shorts, climbed the ladder behind his friend.
“Hooooleeeeeeeey fuck.” Brian whistled.
Brian spun around as Andy climbed out onto the roof. Surrounding them, as far as the beam of his flashlight would go, the infected were packed shoulder to shoulder. They swayed back and forth in a synchronized movement, like the crowd during a ballad at a concert only they could hear.
“Yeah, man. The fuck they come from? I ain’t never seen so god damn many. We ain’t got enough bullets, and it’s too many to do hand to hand.”
Andy started back down the ladder. “Nothing to do now. Maybe they’ll be gone in the morning.”
“You think we’re gonna be okay? That many; might be able to push over the car.”
“Nah. Come on. Can’t do shit. Get some sleep brother. It’ll look better in the morning.”
Brian pulled the hatch closed behind him, and flipped the lever to lock it. “Everything looks worse at two in the morning,” he said.
The pair of men slept fitfully for the next few hours. “What do we have in the cabinets in here,” Andy said finally.
“I dunno man. Some shit. Food n shit, I guess. It’s gonna get powerful hot in this metal box today.”
“Where’s the reloading kit?”
Brian stopped for a minute. “Might be in here. But I think it’s up in the storage that went with the boss.” He resumed his pacing, timing his foot-falls with the rhythmic thumping on the sides of the train. “Fuck!” He yelled. “I can’t fucking hear my goddamn self think! Shut the fuck up out there!” He banged on the doors with his fist.
“Stay chill, man. The cavalry will be back any time. We just gotta hold out in here. We got plenty of water, it’s gonna get hot, but at least we can open the roof hatch.”
“What if they’re gonna be a week? How are they gonna save us? They can’t spend that many bullets either. Can’t fucking push us cause the tracks are blocked and the locomotive ain’t got no hookup on the front to pull us back.”
They sat in the train car for most of the morning, until the temperature inside was too much to bear. Brian climbed the ladder and unlatched the hatch. “Andy. You gotta come see this man.”
Andy climbed out onto the roof of the train, and sat down. Surrounding their two cars for three hundred yards in every direction, the infected swayed back and forth. Hands outstretched towards the men.
“You think we could jump to the buggy?”
“Then what? They’d be on us before we could get it started.”
Brian’s voice cracked as he spoke. Andy could tell he was nearing panic. “What if we blew our ammo clearing around it; then jumped for it? We might be able to buy some time. Then I could clear the path with the gun.”
Andy put his hand on Brian’s shoulder. “We’re fine, Brian. They can’t get in. We have enough food and water to get us through the next bunch of days. Let’s get out of sight, be as quiet as possible, and hope that the noise of the locomotive coming back draws them off. For now, we just need to keep calm. You got that, soldier? We just keep our heads down, maintain absolute silence and they’ll go away on their own.
Both men laid in their hammocks and tried to be as still as possible. For two days. On the morning of the third day of sitting in the sweltering metal box, Andy couldn’t take the smell anymore. He rummaged through the cabinets on the train, looking for anything to help. Finally he pulled out a tub of bleach soaked kitchen wipes and started scrubbing himself down.
When he was finished, he tossed the can to Brian. “Feels pretty good man, cooled me off a little bit. Just don’t get it in your eyes or mouth.”
Brian did the same, then the pair sat back and prepared to spend another day being quiet. They napped for a while in the morning, and woke to nothingness. It took Andy a moment to figure out what was gone.
“Brian,” he whispered.
“Shut up. This is the first decent sleep I’ve had in three days.”
“Brian. I think they’re gone, man.”
Brian sat up in his hammock and waved dismissively at the ladder up the rear wall. “Guess you better go check then.”
Andy snuck up the ladder and poked his head out of the hatch. “Holy shit! They’re gone! And the train’s coming back!”
“Whoo hoo! All of em?”
“Every one. What the fuck?”
Brian unlatched the back door of the caboose and stepped out onto the platform. The locomotive was several miles away and chugging towards them. Andy swung down over the edge and flipped down onto the platform with Brian.
The train stopped twenty five or so feet from the caboose. Nyko and Jonas climbed down out of the cab.
“You boys been on fucking vacation? I left you here to clear that shit off the god damned tracks. What the fuck have you been doing?” Nyko looked furious. “One god damn thing to do.”
“It ain’t like that at all,” said Brian
“So, what the fuck is it like?”
Brian relayed the story. Andy added in a few missed details, and some color commentary, specifically in the area of how bad Brian smelled.
“That doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Jonas. “We haven’t seen that many infected in more than a year. And why would they spend two days banging on your train car and then just leave you alone?”
“No idea. Look around. Follow the tracks. They were here,” said Andy. “And then something drew them off. That’s all there is. The question is where did they go. I’d like permission to follow the tracks. They can’t be more than half an hour away by buggy.”
“So you can draw them back? They’re gone. Let them stay gone. Get that fucking track cleared. I have rails and ties. Jonas has the welding equipment. I want to cross the patch before sunrise,” Nyko said.
The blockage on the track was made up of several junked cars buried under a pile of concrete, rocks, and dirt. It took the men four hours to clear the wrecks, before Brian and Andy dragged them away with the buggy.
The rest of the day, they worked at filling in the hole behind the blockage and setting the ties. The sun was setting as the men heaved the rails into place and checked the levels. Three of the ties were out of alignment.
Brian complained loudly as he heaved the rail off into the sand. “I fuckin told you that shit was slaunchwise man. You wouldn’t fuckin’ listen.”
“Just shut up and lift this fucking thing,” grunted Terrel.
“Someone’s coming.” Shouted Jonas as the last of the light faded.
“What is it,” yelled Nyko.
“They’re coming back,” yelled Andy. “Get to the train.”
All the men ran for the train, except Nyko, who walked backwards, looking at the oncoming herd of infected. The moon was not yet up, and the sun had passed the horizon. In the fading light, all he could see was the dust trail they were leaving. It had to be thousands.
An hour later, the train was surrounded, and the rhythmic thumping began. This time, there were windows. The infected stared at the men in the train through the window. When one of them would move, their hands would stretch for a few minutes, reaching towards the movement inside.
After a while, they would lower again, and the swaying would continue. Over the next five days, the men sat in the train. Every hour, Nyko got up, checked the train and then sat back down. Andy and Brian passed their time playing cards and drinking.
At the evening meal on day six, Nyko asked again, “They just fucking left? Six days we’ve been sitting here. Delayed ten days by a bunch of fucking infected. If they aren’t gone by tomorrow, I’m gonna shoot ‘em all just to get moving. Can’t stand the fucking stink of you sons of bitches.”
“Holy shit! That’s it. Boss, Me and Andy wiped down with them bleach rags and went to sleep. When we woke up, they were gone.”
Nyko slammed his hands down on the table. “Six fucking days and you just now mentioned this shit?”
“Well man, ain’t really think about it. Ain’t no one would have thought a few bleach towels would run off a whole herd of ‘em.”
Everyone on the train wiped themselves down with a can of bleach wipes and waited. By midnight, the infected had all gone, continuing their direction of travel. Nyko dismissed the crew to get some sleep.
The repairs started at dawn. They reset the ties, making sure they were level, plumb, and straight. Jonas was like a kid with a new comic book reading the manual that came with the welding rig, and bounced with joy as he lit the thermite. Within seconds, molten steel ran through the form, welding the replacement rail.
At ten minutes after six, they hooked the caboose and boxcar to the buggy, and slowly Andy dragged it back up the track to the siding, so they could get the locomotive back in front of it. The sun was fully down by the time the exhausted crew finished reconnecting the train. Nyko didn’t want to show up in Phoenix in the middle of the night, so he sent everyone to bed after making sure they wiped down with bleach once again.
On the fifteenth morning of the trip, a trip Nyko had expected to take a couple days, they started on the final leg. In three hours, they covered the last twenty eight miles.
The train topped a small rise, heading between two massive sandstone buttes, the gleaming white-walled city of Phoenix came into view.
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Nyko watched the scenery unfold in front of him. In the course of half a day, the landscape went from rocky canyons to tall mesas, then to scrubby desert. The first saguaro cactus appeared, standing nearly ten feet tall; it hadn’t sprouted any arms yet.
He was admiring the cactus, a plant that thrived in the harshest conditions when he was thrown forward in his seat. He stood up and moved hand-to-seat up the aisle. The train was moving slow in an attempt to conserve fuel as well as check out the integrity of the tracks. By the time Nyko made it to the end of the car, they were at a dead stop.
The boss stepped out to the platform between cars and looked towards the front of the train. In the distance through the low, scrubby brush he could see something the tracks. Jonas was waving frantically. Nyko stepped down to the ground and walked up towards the locomotive.
Nyko heard the sound of roar of Andy’s buggy flying across the desert, coming towards them, but he was on the other side of the train, out of sight.
He finally got close enough to hear Jonas over the roar of the diesel engines. “Boss! Marauders!”
“Fuck,” Nyko said to himself and broke into a trot up towards the locomotive. He reached the steps and heard the first shots ring out from the crow’s nest on top of the tanker. It wasn’t the machine gun, but a steady staccato of rifle shots, half a second apart. He bounded up into the engine and winced at the pain in his side. “How many?”
“Lots. Fifty maybe?”
Nyko stuck his head out the window. Andy was heading for the train, followed by six trucks about three hundred yards away. Behind them, men were running. Another shot from the crow’s nest sent a dark shape tumbling out of the bed of one of the trucks.
“Is that Terrell in the Crow’s nest? Damn that fucker can shoot.” He bent over the bench in the locomotive, opened the seat and pulled out two rifles. Jonas’ rifle started off as a police issue Sig-Saur MPX, a small pistol-like sub machine gun. Brian added a modified, shortened folding stock, a red-dot scope, and a flashlight under the short, six and a half inch barrel. Brian called it the T-Rex gun; It was so short even a Tyrannosaurus Rex could shoot it. It fit Jonas perfectly. A curved thirty round magazine arced out of the receiver.
The second was a stock version of the same gun. Inside the bench were half a dozen magazines, and ten boxes of .40 caliber Smith and Wesson ammunition. They had enough bullets in the locomotive to kill a small army, if they made them count.
Andy pulled up beside the locomotive and stopped. “More than a hundred. Coming this way. Four trucks and two big armored trucks in the rear.”
Brian vaulted over the back of the rail buggy into the gunner’s position. “Let’s go wreck them motherfucker brother!” He shouted, strapping in.
“Be careful. Let them come to us. Swing wide and come at them from the back. If you can, take out the two armored trucks first. That’s probably the leader. This is what we built this train for. Heat this son of a bitch up.”
Jonas idled the engines up to the eighty percent mark. “Generators at one hundred percent, captain.”
“Dude. Was that supposed to be a Scottish accent?”
“Aye Captain. I don’t know how much more she can take. Dilithium crystals are almost at maximum capacity.”
“Damnit, Jonas! I need more power!”
“I’ll see what I can do, but I’m already givin’ ya all she’s got. Maybe if I could adjust the fuel injection I could give you another twenty percent.”
Jonas grinned as he turned the dial the rest of the way up. The engines hummed, vibrating the entire train. “Captain, I don’t know how much more she can…” Jonas quote was cut off by the sound of bullets pinging off the metal exterior.
“Sound the horn,” Nyko ordered, stepping up onto the wooden platform inside the locomotive.
Jonas sounded four blasts, long, short, long, short. “Now we wait.”
The marauders in the trucks stopped, and seconds behind them the running group passed, swarming the train. Nyko flicked up a little red switch cover, revealing two plastic toggles underneath.
Nyko flipped the first switch. “Charging.”
Jonas looked out the window. “Wait for it. Ten more seconds.”
Nyko counted down to three in his head, then said “Three. Two. One. Now!” He flipped the second switch, sending five hundred thousand watts of power generated by the train’s diesel electric generators along massive cables to the external plating of the train.
Small arcs of lightning lept from the train to anything nearby electrocuting the attacking marauders instantly.
Nyko flipped both switches off and stepped down off the train and walked back to the first passenger car. When he stepped up, a marauder lept through the doorway at him. Nyko fired two shots from his sub machine gun and kept moving forward, stepping on the corpse in the aisle. He crouched and moved his way back through the cars, killing two more marauders as he went.
Both the crow’s nest and one of the two rear miniguns spun up, the sound of ten thousand angry hornets amplified a hundred times. The sound was the sort that rumbled in the chest and reverberated throughout the entire train.
Nyko cringed at the amount of ammunition being used. Each minigun fired four thousand rounds per minute from its six rotating barrels. Every thirtieth round was a bright phosphorus streak, a tracer round that helped the gunner aim the storm of lead.
Nyko stopped between the last sleeper car and the caboose to watch. This wasn’t a fair fight, it was carnage. Dead marauders carpeted the ground beside the train, three of the four trucks were burning, ignited by the two thousand degree trader rounds. From the top of the train, Derrick was pouring rounds into the second armored truck. Nyko watched him walk the bullets from the rear tire to the front, and then concentrate several thousand rounds in the engine compartment before the truck started smoking and stopped. Brian and Andy spun sideways beside the truck, coming to a rest facing the driver’s side door.
Brian held something to his mouth, then tossed a small bundle under the truck. Andy reversed the buggy quickly, and seconds later a huge explosion lifted the truck off the ground, flipping it onto its side. Andy deftly brought the buggy around facing the back doors, and parked.
Both miniguns stopped firing. Nothing moved on the field. Jonas sounded a quick wah wah on the massive locomotive’s air horns, indicating the all clear. On that signal, Andy and Brian returned to the train. Nyko could hear Brian as he made his way through the caboose.
“Shit man, you see that motherfucker! Whoom! BLAM! Blew that motherfucking truck right on its god damn side! I swear to god I thought that shit was going to knock me off the buggy! Shit!”
Nyko hopped off the end of the train.
“Boss, you see that? Holy shit!” The word holy came out as four or five syllables.
“Yeah. What the fuck was that?”
“Me an’ Andy made up a whole rack of pipe bombs outta some old plumbing shit we had layin’ around. Them sumbitches got some serious power!”
Nyko shook his head. “You two are gonna get yourselves killed. What’s that on the tracks?”
“The tracks are done, Boss. They’re going to have to be replaced. Looks like they blew them up, then piled a couple old train cars and trash on them. The whole thing’s a setup to try and derail anyone coming down the track.”
“How far ahead is Phoenix?”
“I think I saw it in the distance from a bluff about five miles up. Wait until you get a glimpse of it. If that was Phoenix, it looks a lot different than it used to.”
“The whole place is surrounded by a huge white wall. Practically glows in the sunlight. I’d guess I can see about fifteen miles out here, so maybe twenty miles away?”
“Any chance of repairing the tracks?”
“We’ll have to dig up and replace the ties, weld the new rails in place, and grind the track smooth.”
Jonas reached the end of the train as Andy was answering. “We found all the stuff to do that in the barn, but I don’t have any experience welding like that. We’ll have to creep across the welds the first few times, to make sure they can support the load.”
“I don’t suppose you found a manual?”
“Well, yeah. Everything had its documentation, but welding is an art,” Jonas replied. “We can do ‘er, but it’s going to take some time, and we’re sitting ducks out here.
“Here’s what we’ll do. There was siding about an hour back. We’ll run back there, and drop the last two cars in the siding, then pull behind them and push them back here. Two men stay here and get to work on clearing the damaged sections.”
The look on the men’s faces was one of dread. They had to have known they were going to come up on stretches of damaged track.
Nyko continued, “The rest of us will run back to a pile of ties and load a dozen or so. I haven’t seen any since the bridge, but I haven’t been looking. There’s got to be a stack somewhere between here and there. We’ll pull up a siding if we have to and use that rail. Who wants to stay?”
Brian and Andy looked at each other. “We’ll stay. We can use the buggy to pull most of that shit off the tracks.”
“Good men. Let’s get to work. I want to be on the other side of this mess in three days.”
Dropping and repositioning the two cars took less than half a day. It was late evening by the time Andy and Brian parked the buggy beside the caboose and freight car and watched the rest of the train disappear back the way they’d come.
“Wonder how long until them sons of bitches get back.”
“Which?” asked Andy
“Which what,” said Brian, pulling a flask out of his thigh pocket.
“Which sons of bitches?”
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Lacey showed up at the saloon at noon the next day, looking disgusting again. Charlotte let her in and got her some basic supplies.
“We all put together a few outfits for you. Taylor wants to give you a haircut, and Ashley wants to see how you can dance, and give you some general pointers on handling the marks that come in here.”
“I got thirty minutes of sleep last night. I can barely function. I was hoping that I could get a shower and a few hours of sleep, like we talked about.”
“Sure, honey. I didn’t mean you have to do all that now. I was just letting you know how excited we all are that you’re joining us. Do you remember where the shower is?”
“Yep, top of the stairs, on the left.”
“Good. Knock yourself out. Try to keep it under three minutes. Then you can sleep in my room, until we can find another for you. The only empty rooms we have right now are the boys. Brian’s room smells like a high school locker room, and Andy’s smells like a gun store. The rest of them are worse. Normally I’d put you on the couch, but I think you’ll sleep better in a real bed.”
“Thank you, Charlie.”
“Any time, hun. If you’re ever looking for someone to wash your back, you know where to find me.”
“Uhh, thanks.” Lacy turned red and ran up the stairs.
Charlie spent the afternoon deep in inventory, setting the night’s specials based on what they had the most of, and of course, putting up the bounty of the week. This week it was sheets and towels. Anyone who brought in sheets, towels and other linens that were not worn out got double credits on everything they brought in.
One of the shop’s best suppliers, Jacob Weis had been receiving double credit for months. He never talked about where he found anything, but he was definitely her best finder. Every Friday, he came in with four or five hard looking men. They drank all they could, tipped well, and were generally well behaved. She didn’t expect tonight to be much different.
At five, she went upstairs to wake Lacy. Charlie heard something odd, and listened at the door for a moment. A faint buzzing and heavy breathing came from her room. She’d left her toy basket out that morning, and Lacy was apparently enjoying herself.
Charlotte waited until he was finished, gave her a minute to catch her breath, and then opened the door. “Hey Lacy.”
The girl pulled the sheets up quickly. “Good morning.”
Charlie sat on the edge of the bed. “No reason to be shy. We all do it. In a few hours you’re going to be naked on stage. Get up, we have work to do!”
Lacy sat up, just as Taylor and Ashley walked in.
“Damn, lazy! Get out of bed. We’re going to make you beautiful, little girl!” Ashley called every girl little girl. Probably because she was six feet tall with a wingspan to match, and always wore platform heels that made her tower over anyone.
Taylor tossed Lacy a towel. “Go get your hair wet, be fast, we only have an hour.” Lacy ran across the hall, and less than a minute later was back, shivering and wet.
She quickly put on a pair of sweatpants and a thin white tee shirt that were sitting in the chair and then Taylor got to work. Lacy’s hair had almost four inches of dead ends, which Taylor removed before she added layers and shaped it up. When she finished with her hair, she started with makeup.
“Remember you’re on stage. Stage lights do terrible things.”
On the small table in front of her was the most makeup Lacy had seen in a very long time. Before everyone got sick, she would occasionally shop in the makeup store close to USC when she was in college. She had learned a few tricks and picked up an expensive foundation one time, but that was nothing in comparison to the sheer volume of products that sat in front of her.
As Taylor worked, she explained to Lacy what the different products would do and why they were important. Concealer to hide the dark circles under her eyes, foundation to even her tone, blush to give her face some color, contouring to shape her face and highlighter to accentuate her cheek bones and the bridge of her nose. Taylor had clearly done this before and worked the products with ease. Lacy was simply overwhelmed.
“Darlin’, we gotta make those honey eyes of yours pop!” Taylor winked at her and swirled her small makeup brush in pan of cobalt blue shadow.
“Uh…are you sure?”
Taylor grinned at her. “Absolutely.”
Fifteen minutes later, Lacy’s eyes looked to be five times larger than they were before. The bright blue she was worried about blended seamlessly into a dark brown. Her eyeliner went out into a wing and her lashes looked enormous. As she blinked, she couldn’t even tell they were fake.
“Kinda like a modern Marilyn Monroe. Whatcha think?” Taylor asked, jutting her hip out to one side. She looked pleased with herself.
Lacy stood up and leaned into the mirror. “Wow. I never… I haven’t… I’m speechless,” she said. Lacy spun around and hugged Taylor. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Get dressed,” said Taylor. “You can thank me later with a lap dance. I’m claiming the first one.”
“Oh, I.. I mean, you’re really beautiful, and all. But I just.”
Taylor leaned in close to her ear and whispered softly, “You’re just what?” Her breath was hot in Lacy’s ears.
“Oh shit,” Lacy said.
“See,” said Taylor. “It’s not so hard. No one knows how to show you a good time like another woman.”
“I just can’t.” Lacy was firm this time.
“I’m sorry, darlin’. You just get dressed and go on down to Ashley. She’s going to show you some moves.”
“Thank you. Really. I’m so sorry.”
Lacy pulled on a black g-string, and a tiny pair of black shorts, then put on a floor-length black coat. The entire front of the coat was made up by a three inch zipper between her ample breasts.
“Damn girl, you look hot,” said Taylor, slapping her on the butt. “Go on down to Ashley.”
Lacy went down stairs, and Taylor and Charlotte sat down on Charlie’s bed.
“How long do you think she’ll last?”
“I give her three days,” said Taylor. “If she comes back tomorrow.”
The pair heard the music start up.
“I don’t think she’s going to come back tomorrow,” said Charlotte.
“You know, we have a few minutes,” Taylor said softly. She leaned in towards Charlie and kissed her softly.
Forty five minutes later, the pair looked up. “I’ll go see what’s going on,” Charlotte said, pulling her pants back on.
She made it to the door when she heard gunfire, and then screams.
“Shit. Fuck, shit,” She whispered. “In the headboard, grab the pistol, Tay.” She pulled a short barreled scatter gun out of her closet, and put a handful of shells in her pocket.
“I have to get to my room.”
There was shouting from the room below. “No time, we have to go. Stay close behind me.”
Charlotte opened the door to the hall and walked halfway down the stairs. She stopped, and shouted, “Who the fuck is shooting up my god damned bar?”
“I apologize for the gunplay, Ma’am,” called Jim Ratton. “It was a misunderstanding at the door.”
Charlie strode down the stairs. “And why exactly are you in my bar? We don’t open for another forty five minutes.”
“I hold, here in my hand, a writ. You are hereby ordered closed, and all assets to be seized by order of the New Vegas council.”
She strode up to Ratton and pressed the barrel of her shotgun into his chest. “We’re not in New Vegas. You have no authority here. I’ll appreciate if you would leave the writ here though. We’re running a little low on toilet paper.”
Ratton puffed his chest. “We will cut off all citizens of New Vegas from visiting this establishment. We’ll see how well you do without any patrons.”
“You aren’t going to do shit, Ratton. Except, you’re going to turn your fucking ass around and walk out of this bar.” She pulled the shotgun back and punched him in the chest with it, knocking him a step back.
Two of Ratton’s men pointed their guns at Charlotte. Taylor stepped forward and put her gun in the face of one. Lacy pulled a small derringer from between her tits and put it to the temple of the other. “This gun ain’t big,” she said, “But it’ll splatter your brains all over the governor there. You put that gun down.”
“This isn’t the last you’ll see of me. You hear me?” Ratton was practically screaming. “This place is shut down! No one is allowed here. Anyone caught coming or going will be staked to the wall overnight.”
“You’ll have riots in less than three days and a new council by the end of the week. Enjoy your time there, Governor. Get the fuck out of my bar.”
“Next time, I’ll bring an army,” Ratton said, turning to walk out.
“Next time, you better.” Charlotte stood her ground until Ratton was gone. Then she went to the bar and poured herself a whiskey.
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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
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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.)
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’”
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.