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Monday, 14th July, 2008, 12:03 PM #221
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Nemo Solus Sapit: Part 13 – The Mission
In the midst of Hank’s feverish visions, Sprague stood over him, filling his field of view.“Well you did it now, Gupta,” said Sprague, checking his watch. “Global News Network is all over you.”
“You crashed your car. We found you unconscious outside of it. You’re lucky we picked you up before GNN did. That would have been a very bad for you.”
“Disavowed bad. If Warner had his way you’d be gone already. But I have a better idea.”
Guppy didn’t like the sound of that.
“You remember Hector?”
“Yes, at the Van Dyson Center. He was the orderly who inducted me into Majestic-12.”
“We lost track of him. He stopped contacting us shortly after drafted you. He was monitoring Van Dyson for some kind of cult-related activity. Frankly, I don’t care about any of that. But we don’t abandon one of our own. I want you to find out what happened to Hector.”
Guppy should have been filled with panic, but he was strangely detached. He’d been drugged. “You’re sending me back there?”
“More than that. You’re going in deep cover. No cistron. No weapon. No support. If you don’t get yourself out…you don’t get out.”
“But—“ Sprague seemed to have missed the irony of his words.
“This is the only way, Gupta. You’re going to have to disappear for awhile. For your sake, I hope it’s only awhile and not forever.”
Sprague put his hand over Guppy’s eyes and all was dark.
Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 17th March, 2009 at 12:08 PM.
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Tuesday, 15th July, 2008, 11:49 AM #222
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Nemo Solus Sapit: Part 14 – Willow’s Creek
Cresting a rise, an open valley appeared before them. A "FOR SALE" sign still flapped in the wind at the entrance to the valley. The first few rays of light broke through the dawn sky.
There was nothing but scorched earth for a quarter mile in each direction, the ground blackened and hard-charred, dessicated remains of trees thrusting upward like rotting, black bayonets. Even trees lining the circle, those spared the wrath of the actual holocaust, were dead or dying. The birds were quiet.
“Notice that?” asked Jim-Bean, staring up at the trees.
“The birds,” said Jim-Bean. “They’re not flying over the scorched area.”
There was a faint, alien odor, a combination of vinegar and ash unpleasant to the nose. The edges of the circle were quite distinct; the area where no growth met healthier soil was cleanly defined. The ruined tree trunks were similar in that instead of brittle charred remains, there was tough, almost petrified, wood and ash.
Only one incongruous structure stood, newly built. A barn.
Jim-bean drew his SIG. “Only one place to go.”
The barn was dark and empty. The wind outside caused the aluminum siding to flap noisily.
“Just the wind,” said Hammer.
There was a glint of metal in the opposite corner. Where the walls should meet, there was a narrow gap, leading to a passage, maybe five inches wide. A padlocked chain was threaded through a hole in both walls, holding them together.
Hammer put one of his Glocks to the padlock and shot it. The chain fell to the ground with a clatter.
Jim-Bean switched on his flashlight and stepped cautiously a few feet into the opening. There was a hatch on the floor immediately in front of him.
When Hammer pulled on the latch, it opened with a rusty creak. There was a stepladder leading down.
Jim-bean emerged from the ladder. As he illuminated the room with his flashlight, rats scurried for cover. Something metallic caught the flashlight’s reflection way in back.
Jim-Bean took a few more steps until his foot hit a bulk on the floor. In the dim half-light, he could make out a backpack.
Hammer rifled through its contents. The backpack contained t-shirts, underwear, an iPod, and a wallet. The billfold contained an ID.
“According to the ID, this belongs to a Malvin Kuhn.”
Up ahead, Jim-Bean could make out the metallic thing that reflected light before. It was a hook in the ceiling. And suspended from it were several heavy chains, like a meat rack. There were household tools strewn about; wire cutters, pliers -- a pool of dried blood.
The torso of a man hung over the red pool, hanging from its arms. The legless torso had been neatly, surgically severed at the spine.
“I think it’s time we visited the Van Dyson Center,” said Jim-Bean.
Wednesday, 16th July, 2008, 11:45 AM #223
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Nemo Solus Sapit: Part 15 – Hank’s New Cell
Guppy awoke from his latest dream to a padded room of all white. Surveillance cameras dotted every corner. There were two separate doors with elaborate locks. He was in a maximum security cell.
The wind had really picked up outside. The tiny block-glass window flickered from lightning outside, officially announcing the storm's onset.
Guppy paced in the dark. Now that he had finally cleared enough of his mental cobwebs to remember his original mission, he wondered about Hector. Where was he? Did he suspect Guppy’s mission? Damon certainly did, and yet Van Dyson seemed to be protecting him. And where was Uncle Mal? Guppy hadn’t encountered him at the Center.
With nothing else to do, Guppy sat and waited.
The thunder outside rattled the entire room. The lights flickered. Once, twice. Then they went out.
The only light source was the intermittent lightning as the storm raged outside.
Guppy held his breath, listening. And sure enough, somebody else was in the room.
He looked around. Nothing.
Lightning streaked again and suddenly Guppy could see Candice in the corner, staring with her dead eyes, moving towards him.
“Candice!’ said Guppy. “I know what happened to you. Van Dyson must have killed you…”
Candice kept walking towards him. She stretched out her arm to his face...A heavy rattling dispelled the vision. Candice was gone.And Guppy had a vision of Uncle Mal staring straight ahead. The image was bathed in a red and blue light and Guppy saw him half-naked, bruised. Dead.
Guppy turned to the door. One of the hinges shattered and the latch itself was half-pulled from the door frame. There was relentless pounding on the other side.
He took a hesitant step towards it.
There was a deafening sound like a thousand bells ringing at once. Guppy covered his ears. Outside there were murmurs, yells, and instructions.
The door was open. Emergency lights flickered on outside in the hallway.
Screwing up his courage, Guppy took his first step towards freedom.
Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 17th March, 2009 at 02:31 PM.
Thursday, 17th July, 2008, 11:57 AM #224
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Nemo Solus Sapit: Part 16 – Simon’s Plan
The Van Dyson Center was a 175-bed Intermediate Security treatment facility for male psychiatric patients. Its primary clientele were those who had histories of committing criminal offenses and were either committed to the Department of Mental Health by the Circuit Courts of the State or who were admitted under authority of an appointed guardian.
The sprinklers “thwip, thwiped” outside, watering the impressively kept gardens. The expansive complex was more Victorian campus than drab prison, with separate wings (male and female), research units, libraries, gym and volunteer outpatient center.
Jim-Bean pulled up to the guard gate. The guards looked up from their card game. “Can I help you?”
“We’re here for Hank Gupta,” said Jim-Bean.
The guards shook their heads, chuckling. “Third floor. You can get a couple chairs from the nurses up there. A pretty decent cup of joe too.”
The guard pointed at the bank of monitors. “Although why the sheriff is making you fellas waste your time is beside me. We got him right here. He ain't going no place.”
Hank was on the monitor inside his pristine white cell, pacing restlessly.
Suddenly thunder crackled and the power went out. No monitors, no radio, no nothing. Pitch black.
“S*&t,” said one of the guards. “There goes the card game.”
They arrived at the Center to find every door in the corridors flung open. Confused patients spilled out as guards and nurses tried to restore order. Radios squawked, flashlights beamed and footsteps filled the dark corridor as patients tried to escape.
“What’s going on here?” shouted Hammer over the fracas.
“One of the patients is holding a woman hostage,” said one of the guards. “They’re in the rec room.”
Hammer and Jim-Bean jogged to the rec room.
Damon was inside, the butt of a cane pressed hard against a blonde woman’s ear.
“Damon, I don't know how you think you can get out of here,” said the woman, “but –“
“We’re using our real names, DOC,” snarled Damon. “I won’t call you Candice and you won’t call me Damon. Call me by my real name.”
She hesitated. Damon pressed the cane harder.
“Fine. I don’t know how you think you can get out of here…Simon.”
Damon glanced up as the agents entered. He stepped behind Candice to use her as cover.
“Nobody move or I kill the good doctor.” He flashed a wicked grin at Jim-Bean. “Hello, Jim, old bean. Good to see you again. The grownups are talking now. Children aren’t allowed in. Tell them, Doc. Do it.”
Candice cleared her throat. “It's alright. I can -- I'm just going to –“
“That’s not what I said, Doc. I said the grownups are talking now,” said Damon. “Don't paraphrase me.”
“The grownups are -- are talking now. Just leave,” said Candice.
“Do you know what you did to us?” sputtered Damon. “It was fine, in here, until you had to shove that thing in Damon’s eye!” Damon rapped a knuckle on his head. “But it doesn’t matter now. None of it matters. Because I found my cane. We found it. We didn’t even know what it could do. But now Xada-Hgla is coming in his pure form.” He laughed. “Tell them! Tell them about Candice! And Mal! Your new therapy really does work! You are I, I am you, we are us. Nobody’s alone anymore, not even in death. Now SAY THE WORDS.”
Candice swallowed hard.
“ABYssus-D|AcoNrsus,” chanted Candice and Damon together, “ZEXOWE-AZATHOTH! NRRGO, IAA! NYAR-LATHOTEP!”
The cane in Damon’s hand glowed with a sickly green light. Outside, the air grew thick and heavy, almost green, as the swirling clouds spin faster, lightning flashing between them. Then a shrill piping filled the air as a pore opened in the center of the racing clouds.
Jim-Bean and Hammer, pistols leveled at Damon and Candice, became aware of a presence standing between them.
“Guppy?” asked Hammer in disbelief.
Guppy was dressed in sweats and a t-shirt. He had a fire extinguisher in both hands. “Hi guys,” he said as if he hadn’t been committed to an insane asylum.
Then the power returned. In the sudden, shocking glare of returning light, color abruptly re-entered the world and every radio, phone, fan and machine that were left on hummed to life.
Where Candice stood was Petrov Van Dyson, dressed in Candice’s clothes, bathed in the glow of the flashing red and blue lights from the cruisers outside.
“What the hell…?” asked Hammer in disbelief.
Damon hurled Van Dyson to the ground as his body shuddered and morphed again. His features took on the appearance of…
“Uncle Mal!” wailed Guppy. He took a step forward, but Hammer put one arm out to stop him.
“That’s not Uncle Mal.”
“No, it isn’t,” said Simon in Damon’s body, with the slow, unnatural tones the agents heard on the audio tapes. “But you might say the Doc has a taste for…his patients. Personality inhabitance therapy, he calls it. I taught him that spell. Did I mention that you don’t HAVE to eat your patients to take on their forms, Doc?”
Simon pointed the cane at Hammer and a searing blast of black energy struck him in the shoulder, striking the agent so hard that it spun him around.
Jim-Bean fired his SIG Sauer at Simon/Damon. A red blot appeared in his forehead and Damon fell backwards, still clutching his cane.
“Stay back!” shouted Jim-Bean.
There was a flash of light as something buzzed out of Damon’s face into Van Dyson.
Van Dyson turned toward them with a wicked grin. He painted a mystical symbol into the air with his fingers. A dull, red symbol glowed ominously before him. All three agents fell to the ground as their bodies quaked and spasmed, their internal organs and blood vessels convulsing.
“This body will do nicely, Doc,” said Simon in Van Dyson’s body. He kept one hand’s fingers twisted in an arcane pattern, concentrating on the red symbol as he edged over to the cane. “Looks like good ‘ole Simon wasn’t a figment of Damon’s imagination after all.”
Jim-Bean crawled over to his bag to reach for his HK, but the pain was too great.
“Valiant attempt, old bean,” said Simon. “But I’m afraid it’s not good enough.” He picked up the cane and pointed it at Jim-Bean’s head.
A blast of extinguishing foam struck Simon/Van Dyson full in the face. He fell back, sputtering, as the red symbol winked out of existence.
Jim-Bean immediately sat up and peppered Van Dyson’s body with his machine gun.
Even as the body collapsed, a pigeon-sized glowing dragonfly shrieked out of Van Dyson’s face…straight towards Jim-Bean. He fired a full burst from his HK, but the thing moved faster than a dragonfly, making course adjustments in mid-air. It became a geometric pattern of glowing streaks, moving faster than the eye could follow.
Another burst from Guppy’s fire extinguisher caught the Shan in mid-flight. The thing sputtered, buzzing about in crazy circles like a moth too close to the flame.
There was the loud retort of a pistol. The glowing dragonfly with too many eyes and legs plopped to the ground wetly. Hammer sat up, one arm limp at his side and the other holding a smoking Glock.
Outside, a great shaft of sickly-green light lanced down from the opening in the sky, blasting and dessicating several acres about a half-mile from the Center.
Jim-Bean picked up Simon’s cane. “I think it’s time to get out of here.”
Friday, 18th July, 2008, 12:00 PM #225
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Nemo Solus Sapit: Part 17 – The Eye of Azathoth
“Go go go!” shouted Hammer.
Jim-Bean hit the gas as the world went mad around them. Flaming white balls of plasma, the apparent source of the screaming noise, spiraled down out of the opening in the sky to circle the shaft before screaming into the woods, crashing in an eruption of flame. Bolts of lightning struck the ground.
A huge bolt lashed down and struck the road right in front of the speeding van. Jim-Bean jerked the wheel hard but not in time. The van tumbled halfway into the carter, its back wheels spinning.
Guppy and Hammer hopped out.
“Where are you going?” shouted Jim-Bean.
“We have to get out of here!” shouted Hammer. He was already running.
“But I can stop it!” he shouted, raising the cane heavenwards. “Watch!”
Jim-Bean lifted the cane over one knee and brought it down hard, snapping it in half.
There was a shriek as a plasmic, superheated ball of fire blasted towards the van. Jim-Bean dove to the side just as it hit.
The van exploded from the impact. The energy from the blast knocked down trees and put out the surrounding flames, only to be reignited by the incredible heat radiating from the thing at its center.
Jim-Bean heard it before he saw it. It shrieked and whistled, a mass of tentacles and eyes and fins. Against all sane measure, it seemed to have something lifted to its beak. It almost looked like a flute. The entire being pulsed with the energy of a sun, such that it was difficult to stare at it.
It sang to him, and in the very depths of his soul Jim-Bean felt the strands of his mind twang like the strings of a harp.
Jim-Bean ran for his life.
Saturday, 19th July, 2008, 01:03 PM #226
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Nemo Solus Sapit: Conclusion
The storm raged for over fifteen minutes, ranging up and down the valley, blasting massive areas of forest. The destructive, chaotic fury left the valley a burned-out wreck.
The agents climbed into the chopper sent to pick them up at the edge of the valley. As they lifted off, Guppy caught sight of the sign from Van Dyson’s purchase of the area. It was miraculously untouched. The FOR SALE sign flapped in the chopper’s turbulence.
The chopper’s engine reverberated around them: thwip, thwip, thwip.
“We made it,” sighed Hammer. His arm was still blackened from the magical blast he sustained.
Guppy looked out over the valley. There was nothing left. “I never saved Hector,” he said.
“Hector?” asked Hammer.
Guppy nodded. “I went under deep cover. To save an orderly who worked there. He was the one who inducted me into Majestic-12.”
Hammer frowned. “I have your cistron.” He tossed it to Guppy. “I don’t think you were there to rescue Hector.”
The screen flashed “DISAVOWED.”
“I don’t understand…” Guppy’s voice trailed off. Had he imagined it? Was he really insane? Or had Majestic-12 just abandoned him?
Guppy scanned his fingerprint. The message disappeared as if nothing had ever happened.
Jim-Bean was silent the whole time.
“You okay?” asked Hammer.
He gazed at his companions with a dazed expression. Jim-Bean looked over his shoulder at the valley below. “I don’t think…I don’t think I’ll ever be okay again.”
“At least Candice’s spirit can rest,” said Guppy. “We should contact her family.” He left out the part that he feared her ghost would haunt him if he didn’t.
Hammer turned back to Guppy. “There’s one other thing, Guppy. Van Dyson mentioned a Rachel Hayward in his notes. Do you know her?”
“Rachel?” asked Guppy. “Yes, I knew her. We dated in college. That was a long time ago.”
“He had her down for a transfer from Arkham Asylum.”
“She’s at Arkham?” Guppy blinked. “All these years?”
“I don’t know, Guppy,” said Hammer softly. “But…you should probably see this for yourself.” He tapped a key on his cistron and it appeared on Guppy’s cistron.
“I hope to better understand Hank’s state of mind when he suffered a psychotic break by putting Rachel through Personality Inhabitance Therapy.” It was signed, “Dr. Petrov Van Dyson.”
“And where do you live, Simon?”
“I live in the weak…and the wounded.”
Sunday, 20th July, 2008, 09:43 PM #227
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wolves and Sheep: Introduction
This scenario, “Wolves and Sheep,” is a Spycraft mission from Combat Missions by Yours Truly. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!
Our cast of characters includes:
Unlike the high profile “Hot Air,” “Wolves and Sheep” was a lot easier to slot into the campaign. Since it took several years before Combat Missions saw the light of day, the reference to the Carnivore program (which has since been discontinued, at least officially) really dated the scenario. I changed it to SINNER, which in turn was inspired by the Red Queen from the Resident Evil movie.
- Game Master: Michael Tresca
- Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero) played by Joseph Tresca
- Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero) played by George Webster
- Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz
What I didn’t realize is that it’s never clear exactly why the bad guy is going to release this supposedly terrible threat to the Internet. It was in my head all along--he was going to use it to reveal credit card numbers to the world, a scary notion five years ago that’s no longer quite as frightening as it once was—but I never actually put it IN the scenario! Oh well, SINNER had different ideas anyway.
The other problem is that I didn’t flesh out the fight on the train, other than to state that the agents fight a random number of thugs per train car to get to the engine. This is a bad idea; a roll of the dice could make it really easy for the agents in one car or make it overwhelmingly brutal in another. So I cribbed from Lock, Stock, and Five Smoking Hitmen, a scenario for Feng Shui in Pyramid. Have I mentioned a Pyramid subscription is the best deal in gaming? It really is.
Is it sad that I crib from other people’s works to make up for my own? Don’t answer that.
Defining Moment: Jim-Bean faces down a train car full of children on a field trip…and wins.
- Animals: by Nickelback.
- Resident Evil: The origin of the Red Queen.
- Combat Missions for Spycraft: The source of Wolves and Sheep.
- Warehouse 23: The definitive government warehouse of things man was not meant to know or find out about any time soon.
- Lock, Stock, and Five Smoking Hitmen: A great Pyramid scenario that involves mobsters, a hit on a train, and a lot of gold.
Monday, 21st July, 2008, 11:55 AM #228
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wolves and Sheep: Prologue
CHICAGO,IL--Jim-Bean shifted gears in the souped-up vehicle Majestic-12 had provided.I, I'm driving black on black
Just got my license back
I got this feeling in my veins this train is coming off the track
I'll ask polite if the devil needs a ride
Because the angel on my right ain't hanging out with me tonight
--Animals by Nickelback
“I’m not sure why we’re in this car,” said Guppy, strapped in with his seat belt and one palm pressed against the ceiling to prevent his head from repeatedly banging into it. “It seems a little…”
“Fast?” Jim-Bean shifted again. “Hell yeah it’s fast.”
“If we’re going to trace this hacker,” said Hammer, sitting next to Jim-Bean, “when we figure out where he is, we’re going to have to move quickly.”
Guppy struggled to type on his cistron, no mean feat with Jim-Bean’s driving. “We traced him to this train.” He clicked a few buttons.
Hammer glanced at his cistron. “The Chicago Steam Experience? He’s on an old train?”
“The train is not old. It just looks old,” said Guppy. “It’s state of the art, actually.”
“Should have taken a chopper,” said Hammer.
“Too easy to spot,” said Jim-Bean. He yanked the wheel hard to put the car on a track parallel to the train tracks. “This is the only stretch of road that runs parallel to the train. You guys ready?”
Guppy swallowed hard. “You do realize that this stretch of road ENDS?”
The caboose of the train appeared ahead. Jim-Bean shifted gears. “Yeah. So when I say jump, you’d better jump, because you’re not going to get another chance.”
“What about you?” asked Hammer.
“What about me?”
“You’re staying behind? I don’t know if we can do this with the just two of us…” Guppy trailed off at the implications.
Jim-Bean smirked. “Nah. I wouldn’t miss this.”
The car pulled up alongside the train, which chugged along rhythmically on the right side of the car.
“But the car…?” asked Guppy.
“What about it?” said Jim-Beam.
Hammer shook his head in disbelief. “Guppy, you’re up.” The window rolled down on Guppy’s side.
“Wait, I go first?” asked Guppy, voice rising in panic.
“Guppy,” said Hammer. “We’ve been over this. Look at it this way…would you rather be last?”
Ahead, the train entered a tunnel, roaring as its passage echoed in the tight confines.
“Guys, we don’t have a lot of TIME here.”
Guppy crawled out the window and, half leaning, lurched hard, grabbing hold of the rail on the caboose. He swung himself over, nearly falling between the two vehicles in the process.
Hammer needed no prodding to go next. He clambered out the window and climbed up on top of the car. He then half-crouched on the hood. After timing the distance between the train and the car, he hurled himself across the gap. The big man landed easily on the caboose.
Jim-Bean put the car on cruise control. The tunnel wall loomed before him. “Oh well, no more car requisitions for me,” he muttered. Then he jumped
Tuesday, 22nd July, 2008, 10:12 PM #229
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wolves and Sheep: Part 1 – First Class
The rail cars were basically long passages with cabin doors on either side. There was hardly anyone in first class, but Hammer kept his pistols holstered.
“Good thing there’s nobody staying in the back cars,” said Jim-Bean, dusting himself off. “Or they might have heard that.”
“Which,” asked Hammer, “the car exploding or you swearing when you almost fell off the train?”
Jim-Bean glowered at Hammer. “Both.”
“Do we know who this guy is?” asked Hammer as he made his way down the corridor.
Guppy shook his head. “Only that he has SINNER and he’s going to release her to the Internet if we don’t meet his demands.”
“Excuse me?” asked Jim-Bean. “Her?”
“Synthetic Intelligence Network and Reference,” said Guppy. “SINNER identifies herself as female. She’s the successor to the ABLE DANGER program, using data mining techniques to associate open source information with classified information in an attempt to make associations between individual members of terrorist groups. She also runs all of Blacknet.”
“And we lost her?” asked Jim-Bean in disbelief. “How do you lose a program?”
“She’s hard coded into the bios of a chip,” said Guppy. “The computer with that chip is what they’re holding hostage.”
They made their way to another car.
“Do we have any idea as to who that is?” asked Hammer.
“We don’t know.” Guppy shrugged. “He did an excellent job of disguising himself. It took all my resources just to track him to here.” Guppy looked around. “It’s a great idea, though: a train is a stable platform that’s always on the move. That’s what made it so hard to track.”
“And it comes complete with plenty of hostages,” Hammer said ominously. They passed an elderly couple who was arguing about the weather.
Guppy checked his cistron. “We have ten minutes and thirty seven seconds before this train comes out of the other side of the tunnel and he has access to a satellite network.”
Jim-Bean peered into one of the cabins. “He lets SINNER of its box and then what?”
Hammer opened the door to exit the car. It was pitch black all around them. The wind and the roar of the engine reverberating in the tunnel made it impossible to hear anything. Guppy waited until they made it to the next car.
“There’s nothing SINNER can’t hack,” said Guppy, with a hint of awe. “With that kind of computing power, they could break through any firewall, including Blacknet.”
“No more secrets,” said Jim-Bean.
“No more secrets,” said Hammer. “I find it odd that first we lose an alien corpse and now the brains of our intranet. There’s got to be a leak in Majestic-12.”
Jim-Bean tapped on Hammer’s shoulder and pointed past him. “We’ve got bigger problems.”
A pair of Italian-looking men were leaning against a window sharing a cigarette. The agents knew the type: shifty body language, heavy accents, and bulky coats with strange lumps.
Hammer slowly drew his Glocks. “So the Mob’s behind this. Great.”
Jim-Bean dropped his duffel bag and came up with his silenced SIG. “I know how to deal with the Mob.”
Wednesday, 23rd July, 2008, 11:53 AM #230
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Wolves and Sheep: Part 2 – Generic Coaches
One of the mobsters whirled, shotgun at the ready, but Hammer efficiently finished him with two silenced shots of his Glock. The thug never even squeezed the trigger.
The second mobster ducked into a cabin.
“Nine minutes!” shouted Guppy.
“Go, go, go!” shouted Hammer. “I’ll take care of him.”
Hammer fired a series of shots near the door, enough to discourage the mobster from peeking out.
Jim-Bean, half-dragging Guppy behind him, sprinted past the doorway. They half-leaped into the next train…
This entered an especially long coach. The passengers sat on benches opposite one another, like on a subway.
Nothing much was happening; the passengers just sat and stared at one another with that slightly embarrassed way people do on trains. The conductor, whose nametag labeled him as Albert, meandered from passenger to passenger, checking their tickets with a spectacular lack of enthusiasm.
Jim-Bean didn’t bother to put away his SIG. “Excuse me, which way to the baggage car?”
Albert had to be in his seventies. “Baggage car…?” he trailed off, ending each sentence with a vague question. “I suppose that’d be…” he pointed behind him.
“Great, thanks,” said Jim-Bean.
Guppy passed him, his own Beretta out. “Thank you very much!”
Albert shrugged and went back to collecting tickets.
“Seven minutes,” said Guppy as they prepared to enter the next car. “That’s very strange.”
“What?” asked Jim-Bean, trying to look everywhere at once.
“Nobody screamed? No panic?”
Jim-Bean snorted. “Our weapons are silenced. The train is loud. And have you ever been on a train before? It’s like a slow death. Nobody looks at anybody else, including other passengers.” He pushed open the door and for a moment their conversation was cut off by the noise of the train.
When Jim-Bean opened the second door, he caught the tail-end of what Guppy was trying to say.
“…think these passengers saw us,” he said.
The car was full of Italian mobsters, playing cards and drinking wine. For a split second the eight mobsters stared at the Brit and the Indian, jaws open, cigars dangling limply from lips, poker hands momentarily forgotten. Then everyone dove for their guns.