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The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 11:11 am
by Stercutus
The old John Deere 8760 tractor came to life on the first turn of the key and the smell of bio-diesel smoke and low rumble of the big motor began filling the air of the town center compound. The driver, not visible through the armor cladding on the cab gave a pull on the bell rope causing the bell to give off a dull clang. Ten minutes and the train would be leaving. Time for the passengers to scramble aboard.

Allen Holt checked the clock on the town tower and figured the train would depart on time. As the only form of public transportation and the primary mode of shipping to surrounding population centers to and from Tribble, TN it was markedly reliable. Short of a large attack or some other incident well beyond the control of the Chattanooga Train Company the tractor made the run from Tribble to Chattanooga twice daily without fail.

The John Deere had four trailers daisy chained together in tow behind it. The first trailer was a 35' enclosed cargo trailer that had some church pews bolted to the floor. That was the one they would be riding in with the other assembled passengers. There were slit openings cut for ventilation in the passenger car at shoulder height, but openings served other purposes as well. Signs on the walls read; "If attacked by raiders mount a vigorous defense as raiders may not be in the mood to take slaves and ragers are likely hungry" and "Be certain your weapon is loaded once leaving the secure compound". The three-man gun position mounted on the roof of the passenger car might not be enough to stave off a determined attack, so everyone played a role in defending the train.

The next two trailers in the train were filled to the brim with 800 bushels of corn each, the last was loaded with boxed and canned produce and served as a caboose of sorts. The corn crop had been bountiful this year; but as always getting the crop to the market in the city over 60 miles away for trade was a problem in the 27th year of The Plague. 1600 Bushels of corn could easily feed all of Chattanooga for a day. So much food in one spot was an awfully tempting target for raiders.
The final small enclosed trailer caboose held the rear gun position, an interior crew compartment and of course the mail. There was a long range radio in the caboose to contact the Company Headquarters or the Sheriff’s Office if they encountered any problems. If everything went as it should the train would return later that day with useful trade goods that would restock the stores in their small town and bring mail for those who were getting any. If everything did not go ok… well there was no use thinking about that.

Allen put his arm around the shoulder of his wife whose left arm held their 7-month-old daughter and whose right hand held that of their four-year-old son’s left hand. He gave her a squeeze and then picked up their single large suitcase in preparation for boarding. Pippa had responsibility for the young children and Allen was responsible for everything else from baggage to helping defend the train as needed.

Allen had been opposed to the idea of the trip to visit the in-laws for a week, but she had been steadfast. The crops were in, the baby was old enough, fall had arrived, the weather was still good enough before winter; she had run him out of arguments and he had simply acceded to keep the peace at home. It could be a long winter if she did not get to go on the trip. There was business to be conducted in the city anyway.

The Holt’s held the fourth largest farm in Churchill County and it took a lot of dealing to keep it running. They were right on the verge of becoming prosperous. A lot of it had to do with the elder Holt’s uncanny knack for dealing with suppliers and buyers. A farm was a business and Papa Holt had a mind for business. This was going to be one of the few times he had let Allen negotiate for farm supplies on his own.

With everyone seated the trailer held 18 people. In another era the passengers would have been considered the middle class of their time. These days the wealthy arranged their own private transportation and Scabs could ride atop the corn cars for ¼ fare. Allen had ridden atop of one himself about eight years ago when he decided to run off to the city and make a new life for himself. The journey had been far more adventurous then he would have liked. On what Papa Holt now called his “Big City Adventure”; the train had suffered two harrowing attacks on the way. The city turned out to be a foreboding place full of need and misery with few opportunities for a displaced farm boy. Everything cost money, money that he did not have. The only good thing that had come out of the trip was Pippa.

While travel was now possible, and even much safer than it had been even a decade ago it was still fraught with risk. The paper had reported last week that the rager population in the Continental United States was now down to under ten million and dropping. Last month the State Police had mounted a major attack against the largest gang compound in Memphis and defeated it utterly. The town elders were talking as though they had finally turned the corner and soon they would be gaming on the internet again. Being born in the 4th year of the plague Allen had no idea what “gaming” was but some of the older men seemed to really miss it. Still, there were attacks sometimes, and people were killed by raiders and eaten by ragers.

The driver gave several warning bells, the tractor shifted into gear and they were off with a lurch. Moments later through the slats Allen could see the passing through of the tall gates of Tribble.

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 11:43 am
by raptor
Interesting. I am looking forward to reading more.

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 5:20 pm
by flybynight

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 5:34 pm
by Halfapint
Is there going to be trouble for the Tribbles?

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:28 am
by flybynight
Is Paddy Ó Donnghaile the drunken horse wagon driver and his Horses Sean and Patrick going to make an appearance? I always wondered what happened to them. It would be nice to get some closure.

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 10:30 pm
by 91Eunozs
I like! Already looking forward to the tale...good set up and hook. Also, nice job laying out the “universe” in a relatively short passage. Tells me you spent some good effort on editing.

For some reason I thought there were already several I am disappoint. :cry:

Maybe for the weekend?

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 10:32 pm
by 91Eunozs
Halfapint wrote:Is there going to be trouble for the Tribbles?

No, no, no... It’s trouble with Tribbles!

Nice sub-reference 1/2apint :lol:

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:21 pm
by Stercutus
Part II
The tractor had been built to last several generations by the good engineers at John Deere who had likely never imagined the huge eight-wheel tractor towing such an odd assemblage nearly 250 miles a day through an unfriendly wilderness. Some modifications had been made to the towing attachments to allow for the weight of the tows, however the bigger problem was the brakes. The top speed was about 20 MPH, but it stopped about as well as a freight train requiring well over a hundred yards to stop safely.

Allen stood to peer out the slats and noted they were passing the inner fields and vegetable gardens near town. These were some of the safest fields in the area being well within sight of the town walls. Ragers completely ignored crops and raiders were only interested in finished products to steal. Destroying the crops meant no food shipments to raid and they left them alone. Not that working the fields was safe but the crops themselves were mostly ignored by those who would otherwise attack the workers.

Ten minutes later the train was rolling past the Holt Compound. The compound had once been the rise of crossroads where four old stone churches of differing denominations had stood on each corner thus lending the namesake to the County. In the early days of the Flare Plague desperate defenders had enclosed the cross roads, connecting the four church buildings with mounded walls of gravel from the local quarry bordered with whatever lumber and materials they could find until the walls were over ten feet high and unscalable by the plague ridden. The bell towers provided a convenient snipers nest in all directions although they were rarely manned lately.

Over the years the compound had been improved upon to the point where it was more akin to a fortress of ancient days. At some point a second outer wall had been built to keep raiders away from the buildings that had been converted to living quarters. Aside from the compound the Holt’s owned the surrounding 600 acres and farmed well over a thousand more in Churchill County. The population of the compound now stood at 76 including all the families and workers. While not as well off as the Moffets or the Bryans the Holts were approaching the Greenhaws in level of prosperity. There had been talk recently of either expanding the compound or building another structure nearby to make it less austere and more livable.

As the compound disappeared behind a copse of trees Allen retook his seat and rechecked his loads in his AR rifle resting against the bench seat and the SIG pistol in the holster at his waist. It had been more than two months since a train had been attacked in the region if you believed the newspaper. Allen figured they were due for one. Hitting a small train like theirs loaded with food would get a small raiding gang through the winter. Still the odds were good they would make it through incident free.

A plague rager attack on a train was practically unheard of these days. Their primitive weapons of clubs, rocks and occasional spears posed little threat to the train. The population of ragers was on a steep decline. The vaccine that had become available three years ago was having a major effect. Those already afflicted were succumbing through attrition. While ragers could technically reproduce the young tended to rarely make it to puberty much less adulthood. The vaccine was not 100% effective of course but turning of the uninfected was now a real rarity. Gone were the days when a bite or scratch meant a near instant mercy killing. If one were vaccinated they would be observed for two hours and if nothing were evident then they would be good.

Looking around the car Allen was quick to note that everyone except Pippa and an older gentleman that Allen identified as one of the Greenhaws was carrying a long gun of some sort. The Greenhaw had very large revolver of some sort, maybe a Taurus on his right hip and a K-Bar style knife on his left. With eight slits cut on either side the assembled passengers would be able to send a few volleys out if need be. Pippa of course had her pistol.

The tractor shifted in to high gear and Allen guessed that they were traveling at top speed. The trip would take about three hours. On arrival they had to stay in quarantine for two hours, show their papers, pay the entry tax and then they would be free to move about the city. Pippa’s parents would be waiting for them at the station.

Allen grabbed his four-year-old son Bryant, sat him in his lap and began mussing his hair. Pippa made a faint smile but her overall body language indicated that she was not entirely pleased with the activity given the amount of time she had spent getting the kids ready for the trip.

Bryant babbled on for an hour about seeing his “City Paw-Paw” for the first time and to see a city for the first time. He had questions about tall buildings, airplanes, elevators, giant grocery stores with “everything” and even (he had heard rumor) a toy store. Allen fed off the child’s wonderment of such miracles that did not exist in Tribble. Suddenly Bryant stood up, announced he did not feel good and then threw up all over the seat.

Allen was afraid that might happen. Inside the windowless car the motion tended to get to a lot of people, especially the young. Allen grabbed a rag from Pippa and began wiping it down while directing Bryant to lie down on an open spot in the bench with his head in Pippa’s lap. Less than an hour into the trip and they would be smelling puke the rest of the way. Hopefully it would just be the one time.

There was a brilliant flash of light outside and suddenly a loud explosion rocked the train. Allen felt the car itself rise in to the air slightly then settle down with a hard list to one side. The tractor engine sputtered on for a few moments and then died. For a few seconds there was quiet then the sound of gunshots echoed through the car. Some of the reports were close, likely from the roof, most of them sounded more distant. Allen could hear thuds as some rounds impacted on the ½” steel plate walls of the passenger car. Several rounds sailed through the gun slits and around the car hitting no one.

Allen grabbed Bryant and shoved him underneath the bench, yelling at him to stay down. He motioned for Pippa to climb underneath as well and cover the kids as best as she could. She was already moving before he spoke. Most of the passengers were still struggling to process what was happening but the Greenhaw was already on his feet in a crouch with his pistol drawn trying to figure out which direction to return fire. Allen picked up his rifle and flipped the safety off.

From the rear of the train there was suddenly a stream of automatic weapons fire, likely from the caboose. The incoming rounds stopped impacting the passenger car for the moment, so Allen risked a quick look out. On the side of the car that they were listing towards not much was visible except smoke. Allen could see one of the railroad guards on the ground, likely dead, next to the train. The tractor was semi-visible and badly damaged on that side with a huge hole in the engine compartment cover.

Allen looked out the other side and saw 10-15 raiders running towards the train. Allen brought his rifle up and began letting loose with the best aimed fire he had. It seemed to take only seconds and his magazine was magically empty. Several other passengers had gotten up and were doing their best with whatever weapons they had brought. It was painfully loud in the car. Allen ducked back to his small pack and grabbed another magazine.

There was another explosion, this time from the rear of the train and the automatic weapons fire from the caboose ceased.

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:59 pm
by 91Eunozs
Mmmmm...... tasty little morsel, with good character/universe development.

Found one typo...and while The The is one of my favorite 80’s post-punk bands, methinks you’re not referring to them here: “The compound had once been the the rise of crossroads...”

Regardless, thanks for Moar, even if you did leave us hanging!

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:56 am
by doc66

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:18 am
by Halfapint
Awwwwwwww shiiiiiii...... there’s some trouble with the Tribbles alright. RPGs?!? No one expects RPGs, let’s hope our plucky little survivors have some firepower to lay waste to those bastards!

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:12 am
by idahobob
That was nice!


Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:00 pm
by Stercutus
Part III

The phone on Michael Scott’s desk rang. As Chief Operating Officer of The Chattanooga Train Company he rated a phone, an office, a computer of sorts and even three assistants. Scott wasn’t merely one of the most powerful people in the company he was one of the most powerful people in the Railroad City. Chattanooga served as a transit point for passengers and cargo for a large portion of the South. Much of the local economy now focused on trade that was difficult to conduct. Being the guy most responsible for bringing it in made him who he was.

This morning Scott believed one of the assistants had failed him as he had told them he was not to be disturbed for the morning while he reviewed the updated operational schedules, checking that projected seasonal traffic would match capacity and resources. It was the Duty Deputy Chief Operating Officer Robert Smiley calling from the operations room.

“Hey Mike, ehhh, we got a problem. There is a train that was ambushed on the Yellow line about 40 miles out the conductor is saying the tractor is disabled and the attackers are in strength of at least 50 raiders.”

“What is the load?”

“7 Crew plus 18 PAX, 30 tons of corn, maybe 5 tons of fruits and vegetables.”

“Company QRF?”

“They say they can be there in an hour. Things sounded bad on the radio, like no one will be alive in an hour.”

“Sheriff’s Department?”

There was a bit of a pause as the DCOO shuffled some papers. “They are saying based on the size of the attack it will likely be two hours before they can muster a large enough response.”

Scott was thinking if it takes two hours for them to get a response out for their own people the shit must have really hit the fan. “Ok, what about our special asset we have been working on? It is starting to sound like this might be the time.”

“He says they can be there in under six minutes, just give the word. I think they are ready.” Smiley was getting pumped up. Crushing a large group of raiders right now would be big.

Scott was thinking this was the perfect time. With the attack being way out in the hinterlands if their response failed then few people would know what had happened. If they succeeded, then that should serve to demotivate the raiders considerably and give some positives for the train company. “Tell them to deploy, I am coming downstairs. Don’t wait till I get there to respond; send the QRF too”

Scott decided to take the stairs. It was always faster.

8000 feet above the city Jimmie Thatch Jr nosed his F8F-2 Bearcat towards checkpoint Yellow 22. He was trailed by his brother Caleb flying a near identical piston drive propellered plane. Each had flown above the eleven different colored railroad lines multiple times over the last month familiarizing themselves and their antique warbirds with the area and how to best take advantage of wind conditions in the foothills of the smokies.

The brothers had inherited the planes from their father a retired US Navy pilot and history buff who had trained them how to fly and how to keep the planes running like clocks. In the early plague years their father had used them to great effect on the Rager Hordes outside the private airfield the family had holed up in Texas. For a couple of years parts weren’t available and the aircraft were grounded until a small metal working industry had sprung up in San Antonio. Within a few months they were flying again at the behest and sponsorship of the City Council.

When Texas was made mostly clear of Ragers and Raiders became scant the city council had pulled their resources and the brothers had flown off in search of new sponsors. The fuel, maintenance, ordnance and servicing that the planes required meant that only a city or larger industrial concern could afford to keep them in the air.

The aircraft had performed many roles over the years. Some of the missions the brothers had performed over the years included annihilating large packs of ragers. A couple of home brew 1000-pound bombs with a few rockets and the packs would be blasted apart. The railroad had employed them to; “sweep the lines for indications of preparation for ambushes and to provide an armed response to attacks”.

When Junior approached the railroad in the summer about performing close air support with his more than ninety-year-old propeller driven warplanes the company executives had been highly skeptical. A few test flights had showed them the possibilities and they had agreed to give it a go.

Junior had yet to fire the plane’s four massive .50 caliber machine guns or drop a single bomb on behalf of the railroad. Today they were each carrying a 300-pound bomb and four unguided rockets in addition to the guns. The machine guns were designed for air-to-air combat. However, over the years they had figured out ways to make them work to hit targets on the ground.

For the reconnaissance mission they had installed wide angle cameras underneath the plane that allowed them to nicely see the ground and call up reports. In the last two months the brothers figured they had foiled four attacks. Raiders had lost the idea that aerial reconnaissance was even possible given the scant resources available in the area. The first response had gone extremely well with the intelligence gathered by the planes passed on to a ground force. The Company Guards working in concert with the Sheriff’s Department had gotten behind a large group of raiders set in an ambush and completely routed them. Lately though the pickings were getting slimmer or the raiders were getting smarter.

Today they were flying yet another routine patrol with not much happening when the call came in requesting immediate support in defense of a train being overrun by attackers. Once Junior was on course he opened the throttle of the old plane and said a short prayer to whoever was responsible for making the wings stay on. Air speed quickly climbed from 110 knots to just over 350 knots. With current wind conditions they were moving at just under 400 mph. With 36 miles remaining to Yellow 22 he figured they would be overhead there in about five minutes.

Jimmie radioed Caleb and told him they would drop down to about 500 feet and come straight in dropping their bombs on the first big targets they saw. He was pretty sure that this was not how his Dad would have done it in the Navy but that was another era of jets, guided bombs and resources unlike any he had ever seen in his life time. At 15 miles out, they could see the smoke which gave them a good point to home in on. Two minutes… they began to ready for their attack run.

In the passenger car things were going poorly. Three passengers were dead, three more wounded and there did not appear to be any railroad guards left alive. Allen had taken a wound to the left shoulder and his AR lay empty on the seat. He and Greenhaw were doing their best to fend off the attackers with their pistols but they were next to useless in the long distance fight. The armor plating on the car had been pierced in a few places as well by what was likely a magnum rifle. The tractor was now fully engulfed in flame and the temperature in the car kept rising. If the raiders didn’t get them then the fire would roast them like an oven. Allen would have been more worried if he knew that while they raiders were keeping the car occupants busy on one side of the train with suppressive fires they had massed a larger group of more than 20 fighters for a final assault on the other side of the train. Any other day and it would be over in a couple of more minutes.

Suddenly from behind him, Allen heard a sound of what it must sound like if the world were split asunder. The car rocked violently yet again and he lost his footing slamming his forehead in to the wall of the car in front of him and opening up a nice gash. Allen wiped the blood from his face and looked out the side of the car he had been firing from to see what could only be an airplane flying about 400 feet above the ground. As he watched something large fell off the bottom of the airplane and towards the rise where most of raiders gunfire had originated nearly 300 yards away.

Greenhaw grabbed him and shouted for him to get down. A second later and another large explosion split the air emitting from the rise.

“Better stay down, don’t know if the fly boys are done dropping bombs yet!” Greenhaw shouted to Allen to be heard.

“We have to get out of this car, we are going to get burnt to a cinder!”

“Not yet! We will get blown to pieces out there!”

The planes could be heard powering their engines and maneuvering overhead. There was the sound of multiple heavy machine guns firing followed by several more smaller explosions. Everything then became quiet other than the sounds of burning metal from the tractor.

Overhead Junior and Caleb were near ecstatic over their good luck. Each brother had near perfect line up with a mass of raiders on arrival to the ambush site. Each bomb had done devastating damage to the assembled groups. The raiders were so terrorized that they began running away from the train towards their vehicles as fast as they could. They were still not faster on foot than a WWII era fighter plane is in the sky. The follow up runs resulted in several burning raider vehicles and the survivors piling in to whatever was running to escape by any means possible the rain of death from the skies.

The brothers called back asking if the company wanted to pursue the fleeing attackers or stay with the train. The DCOO ordered them to stay with the train and assist rescue and support efforts there. With no ordnance left this seemed the best course of action. After several minutes they observed as survivors began to emerge from the smoking wreckage of the train. The train was likely going to be a loss but the day was a huge loss for the raiders, perhaps for good.

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:15 pm
by raptor
Great ending. I always did like Grummans.

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:20 pm
by flybynight

I love Valentines day stories ( with happy endings )

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:25 pm
by Halfapint
Very nice! I assume this was the 3rd and final installment? I could really see more coming of this. Great writing as well.

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:53 pm
by 91Eunozs
As a former flyboy, I give this


Great story...thanks!

Now, about the book that will surely follow...

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:28 am
by Stercutus
Thanks for the kind words. I am considering another short from the same universe. It will take a while to flesh out though.

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:57 pm
by bodyparts
thanks for sharing your story with us . im liking this world you are creating .

Re: The Train - A Short Story in Three Parts

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:24 pm
by Nancy1340
Yeaaaaa! Thanks