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37. The rebellion begins

On their way to Manihiki to find Bruce’s father, the group found a new ally in a quickened native of Railsea, Ish-Ma-El, a Salver of extraordinary abilities.  They returned the Molly to the rails and are now only two days out from their destination, Manihiki.   They are hopeful of meeting up with the Captain of the Almighty Bruce.


Clear skies and empty sands had made The Molly’s journey smooth railing.  When not entertaining the crew with stories and songs, Rain was spending his downtime revisiting his Spiral Dust mind map excluding all details to do with Bywandine and that end of the drug trade.  The information left was sparse.  In Crow Hollow, two families traded in the raw product. One was initially through Railsea with an agent called Caw Ek Carve and one directly to Earth through Linda Lance.  The only other piece of information was the name Nakarand and this mysterious entity’s connection to the Spiral Dust users.  It seemed the being could see, hear and act through users creating the spiral-eyed zombies the group had encountered in Nederland.

Now it was clear Ish-Ma-El was quickened, Rain informed them of the group’s adventures in The Strange and what brought them to Railsea in the first place. He was also selling the idea of the new Captain joining them on their travels through recursions.

“Your ability to read minds is a sign you can travel The Strange like us,” Rain informed them one morning in the train’s mess, “Recursion mining is a real thing, and some places like Graveyard of the machine god would provide great salvage opportunities.”

“Besides being dangerous and the fact that anything you find translates to fit the world you return to,” Bruce said as he joined the duo at the trestle table.

Ish-Ma-El gave the two men their now-familiar suspicious glance, “Really?  I’m just supposed to believe that powerful beings just showed up out of space and offered me the chance to travel with them?”

“It seems ridiculous to believe it can all be a coincidence, I agree.  We didn’t come here looking for a quickened. We’re supposed to be rare, but here you are.” Rain turned to Bruce who sipped his chicory coffee in contemplation, “I’ve been saying this all along, something is guiding our path, bringing us together, and we don’t know what.”

“And when we find it, we’ll kill it!”  Algernon with a plate of roasted mole meat joined the group at the table.

“Do you think we could ask it a few questions first?” Rain asked with a smile.  

Previous to their latest adventures in Ruk, Algernon’s attitude to the subject of such powerful beings was to find a safer place to hide. The more aggressive attitude was new and proof that Algernon now had full control of his own mind.  Rain couldn’t be happier for his sociopathic friend.

“Smoke, smoke on the horizon!” Came the call from the lookout above their heads.  Captain Ish-Me-El, their black coat flapping, ran from the mess, the others following quickly after.

A thin stream of black smoke rose vertically into the sky on the horizon.  A train would create a long low cloud of white or grey smoke, at least a moving train would. Without a thought, Rain leapt up into the air, wings extended and started for the smoke.

“Not alone!  For God’s sake, how many times!” Bruce called out ready to drop onto the rails and chase after the flyers.

“Just a little look, there and back.” Rain waived and sped off across the sands.

The fire wasn’t a train, but three carriages still smouldering from a fire lit earlier.  The engine was nowhere, and the carriages looked like they’d been picked clean before setting alight.  As Rain swept over the wreck, the flames and smoke cleared from the middle carriage for a moment revealing a deep rectangular wedge cut out of the centre.  It was like someone had tried slicing the boxcar with a giant hot knife.  The cut did not go below the bogies, but all the wood above was still a chard and smoking mess.  As promised, he looped back over the wreck and returned to The Molly and Bruce’s scornful look.

“Do we need to see if we can help survivors?” Bruce asked the Captain and Ish-Ma-el nodded seriously calling for the Switcher to change their course for the wreck.  As The Molly moved in, all could see the damage done to the carriage.  Ish-Ma-El leaned out over the handrail of the lookout as if searching for something.

“I wonder what did that?” Algernon asked, pointing out the long clean slice, “I want one.”

“Pull up alongside,” Peggy ordered as she made her way up to the lookout, ignoring the presence of Captain Ish-Ma-El.  

“Captain?” Bruce said, fallstalling any mutinous movement the Switchers may feel they need to make.   The Switchers dutifully waited for Ish-Ma-El’s for confirmation.  

Ish-Ma-El nodded distractedly, “Tack in alongside.”

On top of the carriage with the ballistae, Rain and Algernon both saw something under the last carriage not burning wood and twisted metal.  A flutter of material and the exposed skin of an unconscious woman.

“Bruce, I’m going there!” Rain called before leaping into the sky and swooping down towards the woman.

“Godammit, Rain! Where?!  Bruce called in reply, leaving the Captain’s side to run across the top of the train.  Algernon pointed out the woman under the carriage to him as he unslung his crossbow.

“You spend so much time chasing after him. You should just tell him how you feel.” Algernon ignored Bruce’s outrage grumblings and looked back to the front carriage where the engine should be.  The coupling was there and in good order, showing no signs of wrenching or violence.  As Bruce dropped off the front of the Molly, Algernon’s attention went to the skies.  Experience taught that at least one giant owl loved snatching up engines and dropping them on unsuspecting theatres.  When nothing showed itself, Algernon busied himself, watching the unconscious form lying on the tracks through the sights of his crossbow.

Ish-Ma-el joined the chase behind Bruce, his three-sleeper-strides eating the ground. Ish-Ma-el moved quickly, long skinny arms and legs pistoning madly like their prized Molly.  A rumble under their feet and the sand below the ties shimmied away to form a 20-metre wide funnel.  Two massive pincers the size of Ish-Ma-El alone reached out of the sand and turned to the vibration of running feet.  The exposed rail sagged as sleepers started falling into the pit to be knocked aside by the eager claws.  Bruce leapt the last few metres to firm ground, but Ish-Ma-el was trapped on the now twisted rail above the hole.  The rail finally snapped with a jarring twang and knocked Ish-ma-el off their feet.  Pinwheeling, they caught the rail, safe for the moment from the jaws, but only while their grip held out.

“Algernon!” Yelled Bruce as Algernon ready with his crossbow let a bolt fly for between the jaws.  There was a squeal, and the antlion revealed its bristly flat head skewered with a bolt.

Peggy sent a plasma bolt at the antlion’s exposed head before hunting the equipment lockers for a rope and grappling hook. The antlion, now pierced and burnt, attempted to grab the hanging prey.  It pulled its bulbous body out of the sand and snapped at Ish-Ma-El’s flailing legs.  The jaws snapped shut on air, and it fell back to the safety of the sand once more.  

Reaching out with his levitate, Algernon lifted Ish-Ma-El, so it looked like the Captain was swinging themselves up onto the rail.  With a flip that would have had Olympic champions standing for an ovation, Ish-Ma-El found themselves balanced on the rail, their hands-free now to attack.  Without thought the hand crossbows were out and firing, one bolt following the other into the exposed folds of skin behind the antlions head.

Bruce’s yell made Rain turned to face him in the air.  By the time he stopped to see what had happened, Ish-Ma-el was back on the rail and shooting the giant antlion from a safe distance with Bruce beside them.  However, the woman was still under a smouldering carriage, and he didn’t spend any more thought on his Captain or friends.  Landing beside the wreck,  he pulled the woman out from under the carriage and onto an empty rail.  She was still breathing but looked to have been left for dead by whoever had destroyed the train.

“Medical aid, Bruce!” He yelled as Ish-Ma-El reloaded and fired once more into the antlion nest.  Once more the antlion tried to reach its prey.

Thock! Thock! Each bolt found it’s target.

It’s wounds now more than it could bear, the antlion slid down to the bottom of its hole and sunk into the sand.

The Molly slowed and stopped alongside the three carriages, and the crew started spilling out to see what they had found.  In the lookout, Peggy tried swinging the grappling hook onto the lead carriage of the wreck.  It landed on the roof but slid off, failing to catch hold.

Chink! Sheeee! Thud!

As Bruce started first aid on his patient, Ish-Ma-El walked up behind him and stopped, recognising the woman.

“Ish?” Rain said, recognising the change in the captain, if not it’s origins. It was like they’d seen a ghost. Ish-Ma-El waved away his concerns as Bruce gave his assessment.

“Dehydrated and suffering exposure. Seems like she may have taken a hit when the carriage was attacked.”

Chink! Sheeee! Thud!

He tended her in silence for twenty minutes until the woman’s eyelids fluttered open and saw her saviours for the first time.

“Ish-Ma-El?” Came a harsh reedy croak from the woman’s lips.  A little water helped soothed the parched throat, and her voice gained a bit of its strength.

“What are you doing here?” Ish-Ma-El asked unsettled by the sight of someone they knew.

“When the navy came, and they started rounding up the crew…well, I hid.  I could still hear the crew as they fed them to the antlion,”  She swallowed a little more water and continued, “I stayed hidden until the screaming stopped and then I stayed where I was.  I had some rations.  But then the navy came back.  They’d been tinkering with what they’d stolen from us.  They turned the things on,  and the carriage…I…I don’t remember anymore.”

Chink! Sheeee! Thud!

“The thing we found?  That’s what they had on their train?” Ish-Ma-El asked coolly, all the time their hands were clenching and unclenching

“Yeah, had it rigged to it somehow?”

“They took it?” 


Chink! Sheeee! Thud!

“A mighty beefy weapon,” Bruce commented, looking back at the smouldering slice out of the middle carriage.

“Ish, maybe you can introduce us?” Rain said to Ish-Ma-El who ignored him, instead of returning to the woman.

“I…I’m pleased to see you again.” They said now with genuine feeling.

“Is the life of a Salver always like this?” The woman asked with a laugh that started a bout of coughing.

“Yeah, usually, maybe not so much of the murdering navy.”

“Hi, my name’s Rain,” Rain interrupted their conversation, frustrated at being ignored,” Can I ask yours?”

“Han, Han Fara Rung,” She replied automatically.

“Well Han, a friend of Ish-Ma-El is a friend of ours,” He assured her, and she relaxed a little.

“It’s nice to be among friends again.”

“Better than being among antlion.” Bruce joked.  No one found it funny.

Chink!  Twang! Peggy grappling line caught a low rail and caught fast. She tied it off to The Molly.

“Oh, did you want me to fly you over?” Algernon now said, and he felt the slap of Peggy’s hand against the back of his head.

“Well, we certainly have room for one more,” Bruce said helping Han Fara Rung carefully onto unsteady feet, “We’re only a day or two out of Manihiki so tight quarters won’t be too much of an issue.  Anyone else left alive, Han?”

“No,” Han Fara Rung replied shakily, “I think I was pretty lucky finding my hiding spot when I did.”

After making sure his patient was comfortable and had plenty of food and water, Bruce scoured what was left of the carriages.  The carriages by now were weak from the attack and fire, and parts were still alight.  Rain called across from the safety of The Molly.

“Bruce, you complain about me!  What are you doing risking your life for a few odds and ends?”

“I’m looking for people,” Bruce replied, doggedly.  If one person could survive this attack, then maybe there were more. He had found a stash of cyphers probably hidden by the Captain, but even he had to admit it, there was no one else left to save and returned to The Molly.  Algernon identified the cyphers Bruce had found:

A permanent bonding glue

Force armour projector

A Nutrition and Hydration kit

A Hangover cure.

The Molly slowly pulled away from what was left of the carriages. Algernon, Peggy and Rain quiz Han Fara Rung about the weapon.

“So, what sort of weapon made the hole?” Rain asked as the patient watched what was left of their first train disappear out of view.

“I don’t know, just something the salver’s found.  It was about a metre to metre and a half long.. Metallic… none of us had seen anything like it before.”

“It was a heat beam of some sort, but with such a strange square profile.  Very odd,” Peggy added her observations.

“Imagine if you could mount it on a ballista,” Algernon thought out loud.

“It cut through the carriage like a bread knife,” Rain shivered as Ish-Ma-El walked into the carriage,” Ish, you had more to do with the weapon that Han, what was it like?”

They stopped and considered their answer before speaking,” A device, we never got a chance to work out what it was.”

“ Certainly doesn’t seem like the type of device we want in the hands of the Ferro Navy,” Rain mulled over seriously, “Especially if they’re after the Almighty Bruce.” 

Almost simultaneouslyAlgernon and Bruce spoke up.

“Could we have it?”

“It should be destroyed.”  They eyed each other across the carriage as the discussion continued without them.

“Han, what direction was the Navy train heading?”

“Tacking around towards Manihiki.”
“And your engine, it was missing, where did it go?”

“The navy took it.”

“What engine did they have?” Peggy asked, now interested in the conversation.

“Deisel, a big one.” Han-Fara-Rung supplied 

“That would make sense,” She mused, “A heat ray would need a lot of energy, and a diesel could provide that if they found a way to connect it to the system.”

“Do you remember its name?”

“Yeah, the Ironside Roar.”

“Captain, would you like to go hunting?” Rain finally turned to look up at the Ish-Ma-El who had been standing, listening the whole time.

“Any monetary gain?” 

“Probably not, but we’d be hunting the Navy, not a bad recompense I’d suggest.”

The Captain pondered the idea a while as the group just watched.

“Knowing the crew’s indifference and my own love of the navy, I don’t think that’s a problem,” They finally said, turning to the group.

For the next two days, the stout-hearted Molly chugged across the wastes of Railsea, hardly stopping the whole way.  Everyone was busy with duties and discussing plans for Manihiki.  On top of that, the group was involved in getting the crew on-side for a push against the most powerful organisation Railsea had seen since the mythological builders.  The Captain took the crew aside and told them in general terms their story and what they had planned.  They said up-to-date letters weren’t even enough to save a train the navy wanted disappeared.  By this time the crew thought they knew the Captain’s story well enough that no one questioned their seemingly outlandish proposal to go against the Manihiki Navy. 

Rain also started telling new stories about the group and their scrapes against impossible odds.  If the crew believed the stories or not, it didn’t seem to matter as the message to perseverance against injustice was quickly picked up by all.  It also helped that he’d changed the wording and added another verse to the Song of Ishmael,

Song of Ish-Ma-El (Revision)

 (To the Tune: Do the “Loco-mo-tion”)

Last of their cr-ew their friends and family

Ish-Ma-El, Wanderer of the Railsea

They were left for dead by wicked Na-vy

Ish-Ma-El, Wanderer of the Railsea

Now Railers everywhere, please take heed

“Never say, die!” Became their creed.

So, come on and follow.

Ish-Ma-El, Wand’er of the Railsea!

Three lonely we-eks, Alone but not lonely

Ish-Ma-El, Wanderer of the Railsea

Followed by the dead crying, “Vengence only!”

Ish-Ma-El, Wanderer of the Railsea

A tiny flag of red, against the sand

Leads to ancient riches lost under land

So, come on and fol-low

Ish-Ma-El, wand’er of the Railsea!

Captain Ish-Ma-El!

Fears no one!

Not mole!

Not man!

Not even Ferro-Navy Grand!

Wow oh wow oh!

Four days and nights, they worked on Molly.

Ish-Ma-El, wanderer of the Railsea!

Reclaimed her from the dust, the moles and the vermin

Ish-Ma-El, wanderer of the Railsea!

A hoard of giant rats came to cause havoc.

Crossbow and twin swo-rds

Flashed through the dark

So, come on and fol-low

Ish-Ma-El, wand’er of the Railsea!

Following the sm-o-ke, they found their old train.

Ish-Ma-El, wanderer of the Railsea!

The crew fed to an antlion, the navy to blame.

Ish-Ma-El, wanderer of the Railsea!

Now the Ferro Navy is their phil-oso-phy

And they won’t stop un-til all Railsea’s free!

So, come on and fol-low

Ish-Ma-El, wand’er of the Railsea!


The largest city-state in all of Railsea was a smudge of the horizon. As quietly as a yellow steam train can, The Molly pulled up at a pier, paid its dock duties and started unloading.  Besides the original cargo, the Gliding Vulpine had been transporting, there was three or four tons of molemeat, and a massive quantity of silver-grey hide from the Dreaming Sable.  From the proceeds, The Molly resupplied and paid her crew handsomely, boosting their spirits even further. Once the business of running a train was sorted out, the group went out into town to hear the latest gossip and spread a little of their own.

“I feel like a target is painted on my back, “Bruce complained as they walked up through the city proper. Rain turned and looked at the group as a whole.  Though Bruce did stand taller than all of them and was twice as wide, Algernon walked around with a giant crossbow across his back, same too for Ish-Ma-El and their double blades.  Rain himself wouldn’t be part from the wings, and Peggy’s suspicious stares were enough to give anyone passing by a second glance.  In comparison, Bruce was almost invisible.

They listened to what the rumourmongers had to say about the Ironside Roar (sent to hunt the Almighty Bruce), the Almighty Bruce and the Onoka mining community.   In return, they shared their rumour of the Captain’s son searching for his father.

Rain made a discovery when he stumbled across a group of Ferro Navy Officers well into their cups in an inn he had inquired.  After a few more rounds of drinks and an appreciative audience, the officers started telling their new best friend, all they knew about events out of the Railsea.

“Of course the Ironside Roar is part of the hunt to find that Almighty Bruce, as is half the navy.  The big push is clear for a few days from now, that is if the Dread Baron doesn’t get it first.”

“The Dread Baron?”

“One of the most powerful trains in the whole Ferro navy.  Not the flagship by any means, but big!  They’re expected back any day, and then ….the hunt is on!”

“I think we need to sabotage some trains!” Algernon said as soon as Rain had informed the group what he’d learned.

“And I for one, think you should have the chance to do just that.” Rain beamed, “So how are we going to do it?”

“What?  Walk into the navy dockyards and demand to see the engines?” Ish-Ma-El said, their usual sarcastic nature getting the better of them.

“I was thinking more distraction and sabotage.  We still have a good supply of mole steaks and a Captain to mourn, a man who was a paid-up supporter of the Ferro Navy…” Rain suggested merrily.

“We have a BBQ…” Bruce added, “No engineer is going to pass up a free meal.”

“A free steak meal,” Algernon finished with pleasure, “ So, you guys put on a BBQ and distract everyone while Rain and I sneak in and disable the engines.” 

“Rain’s going to be needed at the BBQ to stir up the interest,” Bruce burst Algernon’s vision of the events.

“I’m afraid so,” Rain agreed, “I’d love to go with you, we can run our technician and boss routine, but I wouldn’t be much use to you if something technical came up.”  

Rain looked at Ish-Ma-El noting how well they dealt with the crew, and even with him and Bruce that first day at the theatre.  

Bruce was thinking the same thing it seemed, “Ish-Ma-El should go with Algernon. They’ve proven their quick on their feet and if things aren’t what you expect can probably jury-rig something on the spot.”

“Er…sure, I can do it.” Ish-Ma-El agreed reluctantly as Algernon pulled Rain aside.

“But I don’t want to do this with Ish-Ma-el. I don’t trust them,” 

Algernon’s suspicion of strangers had been a hindrance in the past, but usually, Rain saw it as the balance to his own more than generous acceptance.  Not everyone could be an ally, as hard as he worked at it.  Still, Ish-Ma-el was an exception. They’d prove their worth and had more than a few stakes in the game.

“I can’t see how we have much choice, “ Rain said in the end, “You know how to destroy things, and they can get you in, I’d only be in your way.”

“We could at least fly out if we needed to,” He brooded on the subject, “If I have to, I’ll just leave them behind.”

“It won’t come to that.  Look, I’ll give you a boost before you leave the gate, that will make the first engine easy.  If you have to, you can come back for another shot.”

“It feels a bit like cheating,” Algernon confessed, the first time the most power of Rain’s abilities had been discussed between them.  

“Now whose being silly,” Rain laughed, ”You know better than I do that it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught and I don’t intend for any of us to be caught.”

“Yeah,” Algernon agreed, as reluctantly as Ish-Ma-el had, “I guess.”

“So, tell me.” Rain asked with a mischievous grin, “How are you going to wreck these trains?”  

The rest of the day was spent acquiring and preparing materials.  Clothes, similar enough to the Ferro Navy greys, were purchased. Quantities of powdered aluminium and the worst of the rusty iron that could be found with salvers.  Several barrels of cheap naval rum were bought, and recently acquired supplies for The Molly were dipped into.  That evening in front of the iron gates to the naval shipyards, they set up and started their BBQ.  

Bruce was the cook and looked at home over the hot coals and sizzling fat of the meat. Peggy was in charge of the drinks and kept them flowing for as long as the rum lasted.  Rain gathered the crowds, at first talking to individuals and groups to encourage them to let others know.  He quickly found a stack of crates to stand on and excited the forming crowd for the feast about to begin.  Algernon and Ish-Ma-El stayed back until the mass of engineers vying for a free meal was thick at the entrance.  

“Engineers and brave heroes of the Manihiki Ferro Navy, “Rain started his ringmaster routine with the crowd, “We mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Captain Al-Ram-Kuno, late of the Gliding Vulpine.  As a loyal and fully paid supporter of the Ferro Navy, it is only fitting that we note his life and passing with this small tribute to you, courageous crews!”  The crowd cheered, some already into their cups.  The noise attracted more engineers from the docks, and a constant stream of rail crew now trickled out to the party at the gates.

Soon the steaks served on slabs of fresh bread, and a cup of rum quickly started moving through the crowd.  Two figures, seemingly ignoring the spectacle, walked calmly up to the gates. As they walked past his perch above the crowd, Rain clapped each on the shoulder verbally encouraging them to enjoy the meal as he sent them jolts of The Strange.  

“State your business?” Said the marine on duty more than a little harassed and put-out by the impromptu BBQ.

“Engineering specialist sent down to oversee the overalls for the…uh…big push,” Ish-Ma-El said the last just low enough for only the guard to hear.  

“Oh…er…right!” This was someone in the know, and he didn’t stand in their way a moment longer.

There were currently two steam trains in the docks, and the saboteurs had come prepared.  While Ish-Ma-El scattered handfuls of thermite pellets made to look like lumps of coal throughout the tender, Algernon set to work on the machinery itself.  Steam trains are brutally simple, especially compared to what Algernon was used to tinkering.  A few pins in pressure gauges to stop the needle from rising too far, wadding stuffed down the safety release valves, and they were good to go.  The idea was that the trains would leave, as usual, all systems working normally.  Then they would hit one of the thermite lumps taking the firebox temperatures from 1,300 degrees centigrade to 2,200 degrees.  It was hot enough to melt out the firebox and any other steel in the vicinity.  In the meantime the pressure in the boiler would rise to dangerous levels, but the engineers’ gauges and safety valves wouldn’t register a problem.  Enough pressure and the boiler could explode, possibly derailing the whole train. 

As Peggy has said during the planning session, “A pressurised explosion is nothing to sneeze at.”

Halfway through their sabotage and  Ish-Ma-El and Algernon were feeling pretty pleased with themselves.  Looking like they belonged, they left the first train and started for the second.

That’s when chaos descended onto the dockyards.

It had been limping in for a while, a dark smudge on the darker night sky. It wasn’t until the Dread Barron’s hulking wreck rolled into dock billowing black smoke from various locations that the naval dockyards burst into action.  Engineers ran from the BBQ, food and drinks still in hands sprinted for the dock where the engine released the last of its boiler pressure in a huge gout of steam, obscuring even the Barons’s massive bulk.

“Oi, you!” Came a call, and Algernon and Ish-Mae-El were confronted with the gate guard, “You said you were some specialist engineers, they need you at the Baron!”

“Unfortunately, my companion has hit his head in all the excitement of the Baron’s arrival,” Ish-Mae-El  lied convincingly as Algernon looked vaguely out to the distance with a strained look on his face, “I need to take him to the hospital.”

“Right, but hurry back,” The guard replied, clearing their path, his expression grim.

At the gates, Peggy was putting down the last of the cups she’d been pouring and pulled off her apron.

“I want a closer look at that thing,” She said as she stepped by Bruce and Rain.

“No, Peggy you’ll get shanghaied!” Rain moaned knowing as soon as they saw her talent she’d been taken.

“They can try,” She replied simply, slipping away amongst the crowds of other engineers swarming through the gates, just as Ish-Ma-El and Algernon appeared back at the BBQ.

“Going well?” Rain asked, handing Algernon a sandwich and zapping him once more.

“Yeah, all engineers are being called to help out of the Baron though, and we’ve only done one train.” Explained Algernon as Rain did the same for Ish-Ma-El.

“This is the perfect timing if you can swing it.  Peggy’s just gone to look at the Baron herself on the back of all this chaos.”

“We’re on it,” Ish-Ma-El nodded, and they headed back in amongst the crowd.

This time when guards tried to direct them to the Dread Baron, Ish-Ma-El rounded on them, ”I know better than you the state of the Dread Baron and don’t you think headquarters do too?  Now more than ever we need those two trains in top condition now that they’re all that’s left to protect us.”

“ Very well, “ The marine stepped aside, sure they had met another know-it-all with headquarters backing.  The second train sabotaged, they were soon walking out past the BBQ and out into the city streets to be lost in the crowds.

Peggy was another story.  The Dread Baron was a mess. Whole chunks had been smashed out of the engine and train.  Peggy stepped inside the diesel compartment to see the largest engine she’d had seen, certainly the largest she’d been able to work on and must have, at some time, come out of a ship. She already noted that a massive timing belt, many times longer than herself had been damaged in the fight and been jury-rigged to get the train back to port.  She helped pull off the old belt but didn’t give suggestions on improvement as she would normally.  These were the enemy.

“What caused all this?” Peggy asked conversationally of one of the navy engineers working alongside her.

“A fight with the Almighty Bruce, ” She replied, taking the opportunity of the chat to have a moment’s rest, “They have a cannon and a huge catapult that throws bombs.”

“The Almighty Bruce?  I thought that was a legend.”

“We don’t like to admit it, but it’s real, alright.”

Peggy estimated that the work required to get the Dread Baron back on the rail would take two or more weeks.  With any luck, the Baron would have to sit out the rest of the fight.  Having found out all she thought she could, Peggy climbed off the Dread Baron and started for the gates. 

“Where do you think you’re going?” As a marine watching over the engineers crawling all over the stricken train blocked her way.

“Food, I hear someones giving away steak sandwiches,” She replied, continuing to walk by only to be stopped by a spear across the body.

“The navy will supply you with all your needs now,” He replied and pointed out a barracks where a camp mess and rows of beds had been set up.

As feared, Peggy had been conscripted into the Manihiki Ferro Navy.

At the gates, Bruce and Rain were getting worried. Algernon and Ish-Ma-El were out and long gone, their task done.  The crowds of engineers were thinning, but Peggy was nowhere to be seen.  Taking the last of the sandwiches on a vast platter, Rain walked straight through the gates as if he belonged there and down the docks to the Dread Baron.  There he handed out sandwiches to the engineers who had come in on the stricken vessel and kept an eye out for Peggy.  It didn’t take long to spot her arguing with a marine.  

“Good food for a hero of Manihiki? “ He said, handing her a sandwich.  She took it, touching his hand in return and creating a mental link.

What’s up? He asked, continuing to hand out the food.

I can’t leave


Watch, Peggy said through the mind link and tried walking past the marine again.

“Come now. You belong to the Navy now, hop-it’” The marine said with no malice and shoved her back.

Just get ready to run, Rain said before turning to the guard himself and offering him a sandwich.

“I suggest this one is needed at the gate,” He pushed, gesturing to Peggy. 

The marine’s eyes glazed over for a moment before he realised Peggy was standing in front of him.

“You’re needed at the gate, better get moving.”

Peggy did just that, stepping past him she marched towards the gate, the marine guard in tow.  She made it to the gates as Bruce was packing up the BBQ.  Peggy made a gesture, pointing out her escort to Bruce as she inspected the well-oiled and maintained gate.  When Peggy felt the distance was enough, she bolted through the gate and down the dock.  The guard, surprised by the sudden movement, gave chase, only to collide into Bruce carrying crates of BBQ supplies.

By the time the marine stood up to looked after Peggy, she had melted into the crowds. He swore, probably having lost a commission for bringing in a new engineer.  He turned on Bruce.

“Didn’t see you there, sorry about that.  Here have a steak,” Bruce handed a sandwich to the marine who snatched it up belligerently.  Behind them, Rain walked nonchalantly through the gates and joined Bruce in the cleanup.

Where are you? He asked Peggy hidden somewhere in the city.

I don’t know, safe. 

Stay where you are and stay connected. Algernon and Ish-Ma-el are out, and Bruce and I are nearly finished here.  We’ll come and find you.

Published by Miztres

I'd just like to say a few words... nee phtang! fribble

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