To catch a train
Chapter 9: Steam City
The gigantic steam train thundered ever closer.
The Kanesville residents knew the train was coming, and the rail yard was chock full with people all desperate for supplies, or ready to leave this filthy, starving industrial town. But it was hopeless to hope for a handout, and the food was to be sold to the merchants and not just charity for the peasants. And it was even more hopeless for those standing there with their tickets and their suitcases, as this train wasn't going to stop for them. It wasn't going to stop for anyone, not even for Captain Daenelia Bradley.
"That train better stop for us!" she remarked, whlile Every Saint Claire rushed to pack the captain's things.
The Captain and the Perrys had rushed in minutes before, with the captain yelling commands as if she was on her ship. Fetch this, pack that, train is coming, militia on the way... It was enough to get everyone's adreneline going. The crew were loading supplies onto the wagons as fast as they could. Bridget and Blazingtail were running back and forth, getting in the way.
Faizel had a question. "Captain - our tickets aren't for today's train, how are we going to get aboard?"
"I'll find a way, mister Naji. Let's concentrate on getting out of here. I just hope the others get back from the Church of the Machine storehouse before..."
"Captain!" Nate yelled as he loooked out the window. "They're here! There's soldiers outside!"
There was a metalic sound as Carol drew her sword. Daenelia reached over and grabbed her by the hand. "You can get your sword wet later!"
Moments later, the first of the soldiers kicked his way through the front door, and he was followed by a dozen of them all brandishing rifles in different directions. Twenty yards ahead of them the side doors were flapping open, but the building was empty except for a pile of dextrocite barrels and sprinked line of gunpowder burning away.
The last of the crew had just rounded a corner when the blast blew the dormitory and the soldiers sky high. Glass shattered from the windows, covering the running pirates and inflicting minor cuts here and there. "Where to, Captain?" Faizel yelled over the noise of falling glass.
"Storehouse!" Daenelia shouted in between gulps of air. "We've still got people there, and I won't leave anyone behind!" They left Remington dragging the hand cart piled high with Bridget's suitcases. Bridget lay atop.
The sky was busy with ships throwing shadows down into the city. Military scouts and warships were headed away from Kanesville, but a handful hand taken notice of the explosion that destroyed the dormitory. A scout ship flew low, and Catscratch narrowed her eyes. Her survival senses were tingling. "Captain!" yelped the usually soft-spoken Kitling, "They're brandishing rifles on the deck of that ship!"
"Scatter!" shouted Daenelia as the first shots rang out. The pirates left their wagons in the middle of the road and spread out behind buildings and under doorways, anything to avoid being hit by a bullet. "Why does this happen whenever I run into the Captain?" thought Azzo out loud as he ducked behind an iron fence. "You'll get used it, or die tryin'" grunted Colton as he dropped down next to him. The cowboy reached over the fence and fired his revolver in the direction of the skyship.
It wasn't just rifles that the military were using. One soldier even trained a mounted cannon on the group. It knocked a hole the size of an apple through the wall where Ashrieda's head had been a second ago.
In the storehouse, Brem and Herring looked up at the sound of fighting and gunshots down the road. "What the hell...," said Brem. Dottie ran past him shouting something like a war cry and stormed out the door. Akito wanted to follow, but Brem pulled him back. "I need you here. Hand me that tool" He motioned to his engineer and climbed into the small clockwork ship. At that moment Remington and Bridget barged into the storehouse, somehow having escaped in the confusion of the battle outside. "Get on board!" Brem yelled at the couple. Bridget yelled back, "My things!" She pointed at cart with her mountain of suitcases. "We can't leave them behind!"
The fighting continued in the street. The pirates had received backup in the form of Dottie and Shanen, and now the soldiers had two more bodies to aim at. The only thing louder than the gunfire was the dull roar of the train entering Kanesville. "Something's wrong!" yelled Shanen at Daenelia as cannon fire shattered bricks above their heads. "The train's not stopping, look how fast it's still going!" he pointed, and the captain spotted flashes of the rust-coloured metal of the locomotive between distant buildings.
Then an even louder noise caught everyone's attention. The clockwork skyship smashed through the skylight of the Church storehouse and came buzzing into view. Brem was at the helm, with Herring holding onto the mast with his functioning arm. Akito was winding up the clockwork key as fast as he could. The Perrys were aboard, with Bridget looking quite worried at the huge bundle of her suitcases dangling under the ship. Brem was trying to pilot the cutter closer to the pirates on the ground, but he overcompensated for the extra weight and the skyship shot into the sky above the military vessel.
Remington fell against the ropes holding the suitcases, which was not tied properly in the rush to get the cutter moving. The knot slipped loose and the suitcases dropped down, one or two opening in mid-flight. Petticoats fluttered down slowly onto the militia ship below, draping themselves over soldiers and getting caught in propellers. The engine coughed, and the men yelled, as the ship tilted and fell sideways into a building. The explosion ignited the onboard supply of dextrocite, and the explosion knocked half of the pirates off their feet.
"Move! Move! Move!" yelled Faizel as the pirates recovered, and waving his arm towards the cutter which Brem had managed to sail closer to the ground. The pirates threw their bags and satchels on the deck, and jumped in. The cutter took off in the direction of the station, leaving the burning building spewing hot coals into the street.
Dottie took the wheel while Brem helped Akito with the clockwork key. She was steering it quite naturally above the rooftops of Kanesville. The town was in chaos, with two burning buildings behind them and a growing crowd at the train station and around the railyard.
"Captain!" yelled Dottie, "Look at the train!" It was still passing through the town at low speed, and the by now the carriages stretched off in either direction. For those aboard the cutter that had never been to the West, this was the biggest train they'd ever saw. And it clearly wasn't stopping, which was angering the crowds towards a tipping point. The food, the spare parts, and the fuel that drove the economy of Kanesville was rolling past them carriage by carriage.
The Captain stood next to Dottie and asked: "Can you get us alongside, O'Toole?" Dottie swallowed slowly. "I think so, Captain," she answered and started to steer the clockwork cutter closer to the train. It was still moving faster than the little boat could fly. "Faster, Chief!" Daenelia yelled at Brem.
"She cannae go any faster, Cap'm," answered McGinty for him. If any of the passengers had have been looking out of the window, they'd have seen a small ship buzzing alongside, the clockwork motors straining to keep up the speed with nearly two dozen pirates aboard. At Daenelia's order, Nate Winters threw a hook on a rope around a steam pipe running along the side of the train.
They were at the outskirts of Kanesville by now. The steam train was picking up speed and the sky ship was being pulled along by the rope. They managed to reel themselves closer until the deck of the cutter was alongside a second storey window on the train carriage. The well-dressed passenger nearly dropped his teacup when he saw little Every Saint Claire pressed against the window. With some effort he pulled the window open to try to rescue the girl, but the howling wind nearly blinded him. When he opened his eyes, Daenelia was standing over the girl's shoulder with all of her desperate crewmates standing behind her on the deck of the skyship. The captain pointed her pistol at the man's head and pulled the trigger.
Kanesville was already in the distance, and the military ships were like flies swarming around the plumes of smoke rising from the fires in the city. The steam train plunged into a tunnel, and the last of the pirates slammed the cabin window shut as the sky ship was smashed into a thousand pieces.