As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
Lloyd playfully slams the folder on the counter next to Cassidy, who groans and rolls her aching head to the side. He pats her on the shoulder before going behind the bar and pulling a bottle of orange juice out of the mini-fridge. There is nobody else in the dining car since the rest of the passengers have been invited to one of the first three cars to get a clear look at Portland as they arrive. Seeing that his friend has gone back to pressing her forehead against the polished wood, Lloyd sips at his drink and takes the file back. Moving the empty bottles to a bin underneath the bar, he hops onto the edge of the cabinets and carefully thumbs through the pages.
“This is a doozy of a read, kid,” Lloyd says with a chuckle. He whistles when he reaches a drawing that he turns upside down to get a better idea of what it depicts. “Tyler really tore into Katie about this. She’s angrier at him than you though because he used a word that nearly made her shoot him in the face. Is there anything you didn’t destroy? The bed collapsed, every chair lost at least one leg, mirrors were broken, noise complaints, every closet door was knocked off its rails, lamps destroyed, the shower head pulled out, and the list keeps going. Wait, it looks like the toilet was left unharmed. What did Luca say to cause such a-”
“I had tequila, she had rum, and we fucked each other stupid until we passed out,” Cassidy finally snaps, jumping out of her seat. She paces from the bar to the wall and back again, her legs moving a little stiffer than normal. “Then we woke up and did it again . . . and again . . . and you get the picture. It just happened. We were arguing like usual and then one of us grabbed the other for a kiss, which lead to one of the greatest workouts of my life. Luca is really strong and has the endurance of an Olympian. I mean the god and not the athlete. Oh, and those babies are so far from fake that I’m going to slap you if you ever say otherwise. Trust me because I had plenty of time to examine them. For fucks sake, I’m such a goddamn slut!”
“Pretty sure we had this talk already and you’re the only one who thinks so,” her partner mentions while hiding his amusement. Sliding a glass of ice water to Cassidy, he watches as she dumps it over her head. “That was to drink, but I’m going to assume you have your reasons for the quick shower. Although, Luca is coming to this meeting and you’re nipping, so that might not have gone in your favor. As far as you being a slut or a whore, screw anyone who says that crap. Male protags run around banging anything with a hole and get very little shit for it. If you find someone who gets your motor running and they’re willing to roll around with you then go for it. Why should your gender be penalized for enjoying sex when you have the hardest time getting to the finish line anyway? Unless that’s just what Katie says and she’s getting extra work and attention out of me in the bedroom.”
“Depends on the woman, but it’s best to put in the extra effort anyway,” the mercenary replies as she touches a hickey on her neck. She is about to check down her shirt when Lloyd clears his throat and coughs. “Okay, I should be fine with this. Things happened and we had a really great time. Luca won’t be insulting me anymore too. I think she said that it was all because she had an attraction to me and it scared her. So, she was lashing out to keep me at a distance, but let her guard down a few times. At least that’s what I could figure out when the topic came up.”
“Why weren’t you sure?”
“Her mouth was kind of busy at the time.”
“Well, it’s good see that obvious sexual tension has been taken care of.”
“Yup, all out of our system.”
Cassidy returns to the bar and puts her forehead against the counter as she mutters, “I want to go on the Luca ride again. This is karma for all the women I left wanting more. Wait, is that her standing behind me?”
“Didn’t you tell me once that I shouldn’t ride your ass like a mechanical bull?” the bounty hunter whispers into the other woman’s ear. Not wanting to be near alcohol, she takes a nearby seat and puts her feet up on the table. “Thought being sober would lead to me feeling shame and regret, but I’m good. Really good. Like a weight has been lifted off my mind and I don’t have to be so angry anymore. This doesn’t mean I’m playing entirely for your team. I still have an interest in men, but women are nice too. Not that I’m going to be jumping into bed with everyone I run into that’s attractive and . . . why is Cassidy banging her head against the bar? Is she muttering ‘fuck mu life’ over and over again?”
“If you broke her then you have to put her back together,” Lloyd states before the lights suddenly flicker. The train lurches forward at the same time as a distant boom shakes the entire car. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. I knew ending our adventure with that assassin and a smooth arrival in Portland made no sense.”
The trio hurries to the window when they hear a familiar whine and look out in time to see a burst of fire appear near the tracks. They can barely make out Laurencia’s fleet of tanks in the distance, the armored vehicles hurrying to intercept the faster train. A shot hits behind the Holly Sage Express and sends debris flying into the air. None of the preceding shells come as close, but they continue to pepper the landscape. The barrage eventually stops and the tanks appear to move faster, those that are closest revealing what looks like flames behind them. The trio jump when the door opens and they whirl around to face Katie and Bart, who have sullen expressions that put nobody at ease.
“We have a really big problem,” the inventor states, tossing the train key onto a table. He grabs a napkin and wipes the sweat from his brow, the act leaving a few smears of dirt on his skin. “Let me get right to the point. The caboose has a large bomb on it, which will detonate when we slam into Portland. Unless we disarm it and stop the train, everyone here is going to die. Before you ask, we could jump off, but that will still lead to the city being completely destroyed. Even though it’s mostly abandoned, there are active gas lines and all of them have been rerouted to connect to the station. That place goes up and it will send the fireball along all of the pipes.”
“Is that a bad thing since nobody lives there?” Luca asks as she goes back to her seat. She does not get very comfortable since everyone is staring at her. “Don’t look at me like that. We can have Tyler use his system to slow the train while everyone jumps. Then Laurencia and her tanks can be tricked into destroying this thing before it hits Portland. I mean, it’s a decent plan if a place that isn’t used is that important to people.”
“This is where things get complicated,” Katie explains, slapping a file onto the table. Unable to find any tea, she grabs a beer from behind the bar and chugs it in one go. “People think that the original populace is hiding under Portland since there are a series of doors that nobody has managed to open. More believable is that many independent engineers and inventors have secret labs throughout the city. In fact, this is one reason why there is a bomb on the train. Bart remembered where he heard of Meister Groves. The man was kicked out of the Engineering League because he wanted them to rule the Shattered States instead of helping people. Along with his followers, he retreated to Great Falls after a failed coup. Groves believes the engineer who betrayed him is hiding and working in Portland, so this is a way to get revenge. As far as Tyler goes-”
“May I since you already stepped on my toes?” Bart asks with a friendly smile. He pulls out a remote control and hits a button, which makes the device spark and smoke. “Remember when Tyler had me develop a system that gave him control of the train in an emergency? Well, he’s using it now to push the train ahead. I don’t know why, but he’s either working with Groves to kill this engineer or he has his own reason for destroying Portland. Something tells me it’s the latter, especially since he’d be blown up too. To be honest, I get the feeling that the entire reason for him building the Holly Sage Express was to turn it into a bomb. All I can do is guess because we can’t really confront him without causing a panic. As far as me stopping him, Tyler’s locked me out of the system. I can get in if I have time, but I’d be cutting it too close for us to depend entirely on my skills. The bomb might also go off if the train stops early, so we need to handle that possibility.”
“Not to mention the tanks, which can kill all of us in one shot,” Cassidy states as she jumps to her feet. Taking out her keys, she spins them on her finger for a second before catching them in her fist. “Lloyd and I will get in my baby and handle the tanks. Bart can work on regaining control of the train while Katie and Luca go for the bomb. I’ve already driven circles around Laurencia once, so I should be able to do it again without a problem. What do we have that can destroy the tanks?”
Seeing a glint in the mercenary’s eyes, Katie and Bart exchange evil smirks before the inventor hurries into the next car. He comes back with a box of circular mines and a strange gun that reminds everyone of a crossbow. The clip attached to the black cord is designed to hold one of the explosives and they can see two strange points at the end. The weapon is fairly large and ungainly, which makes Cassidy wonder if she can easily wield it inside the jeep. It dawns on her that she would have to be the one to fight since Lloyd would never use a gun, so she tosses the keys to her partner. They are effortlessly intercepted by Katie, who throws them back and picks up the weapon to put it across her shoulders.
“Sorry, but you’re going to be driving while I fire this baby,” the warlord declares, her face slightly contorted in pain from balancing the heavy gun. She gives up on keeping it out of reach and places it back on the table. “We don’t know who or what is guarding that bomb, so Lloyd needs to stay here. Between his expertise with close combat and Luca’s brute force, which you now have intimate knowledge of, I think they can handle things here. Besides, I’d love to be the one to kill Laurencia.”
“Why do I have to drive?”
“Oh, I don’t do cars, dear.”
“That’s no excuse.”
“Would you really trust an inexperienced driver to be behind the wheel of your baby?”
Imagining her jeep getting blown up by the tanks, Cassidy growls and picks up the box of mines. “I hate it when people are right and I stop me from playing with a new toy. Wait a second, Bart. These explosives look like something out of a videogame. Are these what I think they are? Did you actually create proximity mines?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the inventor nervously laughs. He hands a detonator and an activation key to Cassidy, who seems to shrink with disappointment. “Those prongs at the end of the crossbow will activate the mine as it passes over them. They not only arm it, but open a panel to expose the powerful magnet inside. With that done, the mine will stick to the tanks. Don’t turn on the detonator and hit the button until you have fired all of them. There is a small chance that the ones in the box can go off by accident since I haven’t tested this system. I thought it would be fun to make them look like those proximity mines and get a few panicky yelps out of any enemies who remember the game. Don’t cry, Cassidy. I promise that when I create a real proximity mine, I’ll let you be the first one to blow something up with it.”
“Pinky swear!” the mercenary shouts, her finger nearly jabbing Bart in the chest.
“She’s so adorable when being promised tools of destruction,” Lloyd jokes while sharpening his machete.