Campaign of the Month: January 2011

Honour Among Thieves

Freedom Train Session One

Three lowlifes board a high-class tourist train. Against all odds, hilarity ensues.

Back on Shenmue, the crew pored over the intelligence given to them by Fanty and Mingo, consisting of a mug shot of their target, Eric Whitaker, blueprints for the Oceanic Limited’s floating stock, and the name of their contact on the train, a porter named Devlin, who would be able to get them into the private first class car where Whitaker was ensconced.

It was decided that YJ and the Doc would remain on Shenmue, with YJ flying the ship and the Doc lowering himself on the cargo bay winch with harnesses for the rest of the crew and their quarry. Worth, Jonah and Quinn would board the train, locate and secure Whitaker, and find a way to get on the roof of the train, either by gimmicking an emergency exit, using a service hatch, or cutting their way out of the observation deck on the first class section.

With the train set to leave the following morning, only one obstacle remained – how to get three lowlifes to look like bona fide luxury train passengers. The clothes Quinn had on his back were suitable enough, if a little rumpled, but the gambler knew he would be able to get by on his smile and confident demeanor.

That left the hulking Worth, who was most comfortable in a pair of coveralls with a plate vest strapped on, and Jonah, who had never worn anything more formal than a prison uniform.

“Where are we gonna find some fancy duds before tomorrow?” Worth grumbled.

Jonah smirked. “Obviously you’ve never burglarized with me before, have you.” He led Worth into the Atoll Plaza’s garment district, aiming to rip off a local business small enough not to invest in the best security systems.

Worth frowned when he heard Jonah’s plan. “Don’t know how I feel about ripping off the little guy.”

Jonah rolled his eyes, then looked across the street and identified an upmarket Reuben, Rosen & Wong’s clothing shop. “That big enough for you?”

Worth grunted.

Sneaking around back, Jonah made note of the security camera bolted to the wall above the door.

Worth was hard pressed to press his considerable bulk against the wall and Jonah sidled closer.

“Okay, I’ll go first,” Jonah said. “Once I get the door open, I’ll kill the security feed and you can walk right in.”

Worth looked at the camera, and looked at the door. “You sure?” He asked Jonah uncertainly.

Jonah scoffed. “Listen, this is what I do.” he whispered confidently. He pulled his trusty ski mask out of his hip pocket and slid it over his head.

Jonah took a step forward, but instead of the hard ground, he felt the heel of his boot mashing down on something soft and furry. He glanced down and in an instant saw two burning red eyes glaring upwards at him. Then the eyes narrowed, and Jonah felt a jaw full of needle-like teeth clamp down on his booted ankle. The rat was easily the size of a small housecat, and had abandoned its half-gnawed Fruity Oaty Bar for fresher fare.

Overcome with the heebie-jeebies, Jonah flailed about on one leg and stumbled into a waiting trio of trashcans. The clattering spooked the rat, which fled into the darkness. The security camera, alerted to the activity in the back alley, swung towards the prone Jonah, who lay on his back staring up at it.

A gunshot rang out, and the camera disappeared in a hail of plastic and silicon. Worth strode over and stared down at Jonah, Bam smoking lightly in his clenched fist.

“Well, this is what I do.” He extended his free hand to help Jonah up.

Jonah had better luck jimmying the door lock, and soon the pair were wandering around the stockroom of the clothier’s. Jonah found the back office, which contained a corner table with a data terminal and Corvue screen, an overstuffed couch, and fridge. Worth scoped out the computer terminal and determined that the store’s security system worked on a 20-minute buffer, storing video recordings in packets that would then be pulsed to the main security feed, likely offsite.

While Jonah tapped the Corvue screen to bring up the location of all the security cameras in-store, including some worrisome units installed inside the change rooms, Worth quickly extracted the terminal’s main memory drive with a tiny screwdriver. His attention was diverted to the fridge, which was stocked with several opened cans of Blue Sun Cola and a sandwich, the wrapper of which was labeled “manager” in black ink. Worth grabbed the sandwich and slipped it into the missing drive space, wiping off a dribble of mayonnaise that ran down the terminal housing before affixing the cover back in place. He pocketed the drive and smiled at Jonah. “Let’s go shopping.”

Worth double-timed it to the Big & Tall section while Jonah made a beeline for the checkout counter. He cracked open the cash drawer to find it disappointingly empty, then shrugged and headed over to the racks of suits and formal wear.

Once they had finished shopping, Worth rearranged the storefront mannequins into some lurid, compromising poses while Jonah neatly folded their acquisitions, running the tags through the RFID-killing scanner before placing them in Reuben, Rosen & Wong branded bags.

On their way back through the stockroom, Worth noted from the smell of things that the computer was lightly toasting the sandwich he’d inserted in the empty drive space.

Returning to the ship, Jonah and Worth packed their suitcases with a change of clothes and the tools of their particular trades, taking care not to include anything that would excite any of the Newtech gun scans at the train station. Worth mournfully locked up his rifle and pistols in his quarters.

The next morning, Worth, Jonah and Quinn arrived at the posh Plaza Station, commuter and tourist transit hub for the Atoll Plaza. Plaza Station was a fine example of neo-postmodern Interplanetary Style architecture, and was done up in marble and burnished copper. Holographic advertisements lined the polished façade of the train station, advertising the luxury Oceanic route, as well as other short-range commuter train services.

Worth, Jonah, and Quinn negotiate the security checkpoints at Plaza Station

Worth’s sharp eyes immediately picked out the squad of Federal Marshals working the crowd, as if looking for someone.

There was a commotion near the entrance of the station. To Worth, it looked like someone tripped the gunscans at the front gate. Two feds were wrestling an irate gentleman to the ground. He was flopping around like a confused fish out of water.

“But I have a permit!” the man squawked as one fed pulled a ridiculous nickel-plated fashion piece out of the man’s concealed holster, tearing the seam on his expensive suit jacket in the process. Then the stun batons began to strike home, and the man’s protests were cut off. The feds frog-marched him to a waiting police hovercraft nearby.

“Bit of a welcome wagon here,” Worth muttered, tugging at his too-tight collar. “Wonder who they’re after?”

“One way to find out,” Jonah replied. He pulled out his forged press pass from under his jacket and let it hang openly around his neck, then, leaving Worth with both pieces of luggage, strode smartly over to the nearest uniform.

“Frank Stevenson, Action Cortex News,” he said briskly. “Can’t help but notice so many of Beaumonde’s Finest out here today. You hoping to collar someone important this morning?”

The Fed looked Jonah up and down, then shrugged. “Just sorting out the riffraff, you know?”

Taking a cue from Jonah, Worth ambled over to where another Federal Marshal was examining ID’s. “You fellas looking for something out of the ordinary?”

The policeman glanced at Worth, then eyed his wild hairstyle and mismatched attire. “Ticket, please.”

Worth shrugged and handed his ticket over. The Fed ran it through a card-reader strapped to his forearm. “Well, ‘Mr. Anders,’ we’re just here to ensure that the VIPs can board the train without incident. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

Quinn shook his head at his traveling companions’ behaviour, and then walked directly towards the security checkpoint, where passengers were making their way through the gunscan gate. Since he was only carrying a deck of cards, he wasn’t worried. The bored-looking Marshal waved him through onto the movator, which transported him pleasantly out onto the platform. He stood under what looked like clear sky for a moment until he realized that the train platform was covered by a curved Newtech awning that replaced the pollution-heavy clouds with something a little more pleasing to the eyes.

Stepping off the movator, Quinn took a glance around at his fellow passengers. He eyed an older couple, holding hands next to their matched luggage. Quinn sized them up: retirees, corporate most likely, or maybe mid-level Alliance bureaucrats unsure of how to spend their ripe pensions.

“Nice morning for a train ride, isn’t it?” he offered.

The husband smiled, pursing his lips, while the wife fluttered a silk fan. “You’re right about that,” he replied.

“Garret Hine, at your service.” Quinn extended his hand, which the older gentleman took, his handshake limp with age and disinterest. “Pleased to meet you,” the well-dressed man responded. “I’m Ewan Chen, and this here’s my wife, Geraldine.” Geraldine managed a half-curtsey.

“Looking forward to your trip?” Quinn continued, taking a quick glance to see if his companions were coming up on the movator.

“I’m more interested in the poker tournament they’re organizing,” Ewan Chen replied.

Quinn stood up a little straighter. “Poker tournament, you said?” He smiled, this time genuinely. “I just might have to check that out myself.”

Worth and Jonah, suitcases in hand, let the movator carry them to the end of its track, then stepped off. Worth noticed Quinn chatting up a pair of passengers, but Jonah stared at their conveyance as it slid, whisper-quiet, up alongside the platform.

The Beaumonde Ocean Limited was like nothing Jonah had ever seen; it was about as different from any of the cargo haulers, limited service, or commuter trains he’d enountered as possible while still being referred to as a train. It was a top of the line maglev, streamlined and tricked out with the kind of Newtech that made Jonah’s greedy heart ache with envy.

The sloping hull of the engine car looked ready not to throw off wind resistance, but rather brush it aside with disdain. Gleaming from a recent pressure wash, the train was detailed in the blue and white livery of the Trans-Beaumonde Lev Line. Behind the engine and hydrogen tank were arrayed the rest of the floating stock: the baggage, dining, casino, passenger, sleeper and first class cars, each one more impressive than the last.

A welcoming committee of sorts had appeared at the entrance to the passenger car. A woman dressed in an alluring combination of sari and kimono stood opposite a stocky gentleman wearing a white suit with a red cummerbund and a matching fez crowning his bald pate. Both held small personal data tablets.

“Huanyin,” the woman said, bowing slightly as Quinn approached the entry hatch. “Welcome to the Beaumonde Ocean Limited.” Quinn caught his breath as he looked at the hostess. Either she was a Registered Companion, or he was losing his edge at reading people. He locked eyes with the Companion who stared back evenly, a second or two longer than was proper given the circumstances. As she bowed, she glanced at the readout of her tablet. “Mr. Hine, I trust you will have a pleasant journey,” she said warmly.

“I trust I will,” Quinn replied, ignorning the fez-wearing steward opposite the Companion. An ‘Open For Business’ sign would be a lot more subtle, miss, he thought to himself. Then he was through the door into the passenger compartment.

If Quinn managed to keep ahold of himself at first sight of the Companion, Worth could not. He gaped at the woman’s finery, which somehow managed to leave little to the imagination while retaining a fair amount of mystery. The Companion bowed a little less enthusiastically than she had for Quinn, and had to put a little effort into her smile as she glanced at the tablet. “Mr., um, Anders, I hope you’ll enjoy the ride,” she said.

“Er, how much?” Worth blurted. The Companion gave him a rehearsed smile to let him know it was nothing personal, then turned her attention to Jonah, who kept his hand on his wallet. “Mr. Ferguson,” the Companion began. “I hope your journey will be a relaxing one.” Jonah just smiled, not wanting to embarrass himself if he could help it.

None of the three men noticed the steward’s raised eyebrow, nor the notes he made to himself on his datapad as they boarded the train.

A porter rounded up the trio and led them through the passenger car to the sleeper. The passenger car was well-appointed. Comfortable chairs were arrayed in double rows separated by a wide carpeted aisle. The chairs were separated from one another by dividers with Corvue screens built into their curved surfaces. A few passengers had already elected to turn their chairs into beds, reclining horizontally. Stewards with impossibly wide smiles were serving spiced wine and hors d’oeuvres while soft koto music played from hidden speakers.

“This an all-inclusive trip?” Jonah asked the porter. He eyed the man’s nametag. He wasn’t Devlin.

“Yes sir,” the porter chirped beneath the suitcases he was carrying.

Jonah grinned, then grabbed two fluted glasses of spiced wine from a steward’s tray as he walked by “Perfect.”

The porter led them to their cabin, swiping the keycard reader with a card tied by a lanyard to his belt. “After you, gentlemen.”

Shouldering their way through the narrow door, Jonah thought for a moment that the jig was up and they’d been hustled out an exit. Then he realized that while the train compartments looked opaque from the outside, on the inside, the walls were perfectly transparent. Four easy-chairs were set facing a round wooden table, though they could pivot a full 360 degrees if necessary. The porter elbowed a button, and a tiny door slid open, revealing a miniaturized basin, shower and toilet. He showed the trio how to convert the chairs into beds. With the press of another button, two of the chairs folded back into beds, while the other two zipped up hidden tracks to become upper berths.

“That’s a neat trick,” Jonah said.

The porter backed out into the hallway, then coughed politely.

Jonah smirked. “You waiting for something?”

As the porter opened his mouth to answer, Jonah hit the door switch, closing it in the young man’s face. “A guy could get used to this,” he said brightly.

They stowed their gear and agreed to split up to get the lay of the land, see if they could locate their inside man Devlin, and figure out the best way to disappear from the train while it was in motion. And in motion it was – the crew felt the barest bump beneath their feet, and the landscape outside their compartment’s transparent wall began to slide along at increasing speed.

As he walked towards the passenger car, Quinn glanced through an open sleeper cabin hatch to see the Chens settling in for the journey to New Dunsmuir. He smiled at Ewan, who nodded back pleasantly. His wife Geraldine remained stonefaced as she wrestled a garment bag into the tight confines of the compartment’s closet.

While Quinn and Worth moved forward through the vestibule connecting the sleeper to the passenger car, Jonah hung back as the hatches on both sides closed, leaving him between cars. The accordion folds of the flexible vestibule shroud was made of a sturdy material not unlike ballistic mesh. The material deadened any sound of the hover train’s workings. Jonah tested the strength of the material, then moved along.

In the passenger car he flagged down a porter – again, not Devlin – and asked about the emergency safety hatches.

“Yes sir, the car is equipped with an emergency egress hatch.” The porter replied.

Jonah grimaced. “One hatch for the entire train?”

“Certainly not!” the porter protested. “They are spaced every sixth window on both sides of the car. But I can assure you, with the advanced screening technology our train is equipped with, they won’t be necessary.”

“How do you mean?” Jonah queried.

“Well, the train is effectively falling parallel to the ground thanks to artificial gravity,” the porter launched into a rehearsed speech. “Inertial dampeners kick in to avoid the problems associated with radical reductions in speed, and our terrain following radar is tuned to alert our engineers of any irregularities in the lev track both in front and behind. This train is the safest mode of transportation on Beaumonde, sir!”

“Thanks for the lecture, kid,” Jonah turned on his heel before the porter’s upturned palm could be raised. Then he was back through the connecting corridor, headed towards First Class, keeping an eye out for any roof hatches or obvious points of exit.

Quinn moved through the passenger cabin and entered the casino/entertainment car.

Daddy’s home, he thought to himself. Lining the sides of the car were Faro tables and other games of chance, some electronic, and some more prosaic. Scattered throughout the car were a number of tables perfectly suited to a game of Poker or Tall Card, and Quinn could see that even though the journey was barely underway, some high rollers were already getting down to business. He instinctively slowed down as he passed the middle table to check out the competition.

He recognized one of the players immediately. It was none other than Jack Leland, a large sum of whose cash was sitting in Quinn’s billfold from the previous night’s engagement. The dark-skinned, handsome card player barely glanced back at Quinn, but his lip twisted in a half smile of recognition.

Now, Quinn thought to himself. How can our mission be aided by my playing a few hands of poker? I’m sure I can figure that one out.

He temporarily resisted the urge to join in as he walked past the Poker game. The latter third of the entertainment car was given over to a well-stocked bar and corner stage, where a number of musical instruments sat prepped on various stands. Sitting at the bar was none other than the Registered Companion who had greeted everyone at the entrance a few minutes earlier. She flashed a smile at Quinn as he walked past, and Quinn returned it with one of his own.

Worth followed his stomach as he blew through the casino car, pausing as he approached the Companion, who was nursing a drink as she perched deliciously on the barstool.

“What’s up, hot stuff?” He blurted out.

The Companion offered Worth a wan smile. “Are you enjoying the ride so far?” She enquired.

Worth cracked a lewd smile. “Not as much as you could be, dearie.”

The Companion’s smile remained, but her eyes narrowed. Then Worth was into the dining car, where the rich aroma of high-class comestibles gnawed at his insides.

Although it was prime breakfast hour, the car was largely deserted, save for a pair of personalities that had no trouble filling the room.

Now where do I know these two from? Worth mentally scratched his head, and restrained himself from physically doing so.

Samara Salisbury, Major Ivan Matthews and their bodyguard Stig slum it in the Oceanic's dining car

The man was eating a steak thick enough to be a replacement sole for a platform shoe, while the woman was waving a fork in the general direction of a leafy green salad.

The steak-eater was in his late 30s, and cut a dashing figure even as he sat stuffing his face. His stylish haircut piled blond hair into a fine pompadour, making him look like an Alliance recruitment poster come to life. He was wearing a casual approximation of an Alliance dress uniform, with a band of medals across his chest that gleamed and sparkled.

The woman’s chest gleamed and sparkled as well, but that was more a function of the diaphanous camisole she was sporting than any military awards she might have been granted. Her hair was also blonde, though of the platinum variety, and her skin, a lot of which was on display, was milky white.

Worth thought he recognized the young woman, but couldn’t place from where. Then he noticed a second man standing near their table. He was young, athletic, with shoulders so wide it looked like someone had stuffed a wooden plank under his suit jacket.

Worth’s sharp eyes narrowed. There was something about the colour of the man’s suit – powder blue – that resonated with him. It came to him that he was a bodyguard of some kind, attached to the couple.

That settled it. Worth walked confidently forward to where the couple sat dining, and his suspicions were confirmed as the blue-suited man expertly interposed himself between Worth’s obvious vector, and the occupied dining table.

Behind him, Quinn stepped into the dining car and took in the scene. He saw the hulking Worth approach a blue-uniformed bodyguard. Well, he thought to himself, I’ve been with this crew less than two days and I haven’t seen them get into a fight yet. Guess my luck just changed.

He sat down at an empty booth and keyed his order into the tabletop display.

As he expected, the door to the vestibule that linked the sleeper car to First Class didn’t open at all when Jonah stepped near it. There was a fancy keycard unit on the wall next to the hatch. Figures, Jonah thought to himself, then turned about and walked back towards the passenger car.

Once inside the vestibule, Jonah checked out the keycard unit that kept the train entry hatch locked. It didn’t look as sophisticated as the one blocking the entry to First Class, but it would be tough to crack.

Jonah’s sharp hearing picked up the sound of approaching footsteps a split second before the door to the passenger car opened, and the Fez-wearing steward stuck his head into the space between the cars.

“Excuse me sir, but there’s no smoking in the vestibule,” the steward almost purred as he spoke.

Jonah growled back. “Does it look like I’m smoking a gorram cigarette?”

The steward would have smiled if his skin was capable of such flexibility. “Not at all,” he said evenly.

“Then take a hike!” Jonah shouted in the dead air separating the two men. The steward paused, then stepped through the vestibule, keeping his eyes locked on Jonah as he moved towards the sleeping car. Then he was gone. Jonah stared after him for a second, then started towards the passenger car and parts beyond.

Back in the dining car, the situation was unfolding predictably.

“Can I help you?” the bodyguard asked politely as he stepped in front of Worth. Worth was close enough to read the monogram on the man’s tie, which was a slightly more electric shade of blue than his suit or shirt. It read Blackwell.

“Er,” Worth managed. “Where’d you get the suit?”

“Oh, you like that?” the bodyguard said, clearly making conversation so Worth’s gaze wouldn’t wander back to the substantial chests of either dining guest. “Quartermaster tailors them up special.”

“That’s an interesting shade of blue,” Worth continued. “I know I’ve seen that somewhere before.”

“Uh huh,” the bodyguard said. He motioned to the tables behind Worth. “Have you had breakfast yet? We can make sure the stewards bring you something if you’d take a seat at one of the vacant spots.”

Worth grinned. He nodded to the woman, who looked like she’d rather spontaneously combust than continue to sit near the conversation he was having. “This one here looks like she could use some good eats. Maybe we can order up some green tea and noodles.” Worth made as if to sit down, only to find the bodyguard had shot his leg out to block him.

Here we go, Quinn thought as he stuffed a forkful of stuffed four-egg omelet into his mouth.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to turn around and find something else to do with your time, or else-”

“It’s all right, Stig,” a gloved hand waved at the bodyguard dismissively. It was attached to the muscled arm of the dashing young Alliance officer, who was chewing on a piece of exquisite steak while he regarded Worth with a twinkle in his eye. “I know a fan when I see one.”

Worth grunted. “Uh, yeah, that’s it.” he said. “I’m a big fan.”

With an expert flourish, the man conjured an 8 × 10 glossy image capture and then produced a silver biro with the other gloved hand. The image was a black & white glamour shot that showed a mouthful of immaculate teeth framed by a stunning smile. “Who should I make this out to?”

The woman rolled her eyes as her head lolled back. “Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod…” she whispered.

Worth was seized with inspiration. “You can sign that ‘Eric Whitaker,’ thanks.”

“Splendid,” the dashing young man said. “Major Ivan Matthews doesn’t disappoint his loyal fans.” He began to write. “Now, is that Whitaker with one ‘i’ or two?”

Jonah made his way into the dining car to find Worth chatting up a pair of high class individuals while a bodyguard stood glowering a few feet away, while Quinn was digging into a hearty breakfast that probably cost more than the money he’d made on his last job.

What have I been missing up here? he asked himself. He checked out the pair opposite Worth, and goggled. It was none other than Samara Salisbury, socialite and media darling on more than thirty worlds. Her companion could only be Major Ivan Matthews – decorated Alliance war hero and Cortex star. The pair were engaged in a fierce whisper fight while Worth looked on with amusement.

Okay, I know how to play this. Jonah said to himself. He pulled out his press pass and walked smartly forward. As the bodyguard sighed and moved to block him, he held up his pass.

“Chet Ferguson, Action Cortex News.” He said brightly. “I’m wondering if I can have a word with the Alliance’s favourite son.”

“Well, I seem to have lost my PR man back at the station,” Matthews said thoughtfully, “so naturally, my answer is yes!” He turned to Samara. “And you wanted to stay in our cabin.”

Samara’s camisole seemed to have opened up automatically at the mention of the word “Cortex.” She smiled sweetly at Jonah. “You say you’re a reporter?”

Matthews finished signing his autograph and pushed it across to Worth. “There you go, Mr. Whitaker.”

Worth smiled. “Oh, I’m not Whitaker. He’s my brother in-law.”

“He a military man?” Matthews asked. Worth nodded. “Good man,” Matthews said, then turned his attention to Jonah.

Worth grabbed the photo and walked back down the aisle. As he passed Quinn’s table, he snatched a piece of toast off his plate. Grimacing, Quinn pressed a button on his tabletop and watched as a replacement piece popped out of the automat.

Worth stopped one of the waiters before he stepped out into the casino car. “I’d like to make a dinner reservation for 6 o’clock tonight. Ivan Matthews, party of two.” He slid a substantial tip into the man’s hand. “Certainly, sir!” the waiter said. Satisfied, Worth exited the dining car.

“Major,” Jonah said in his best reporter-y voice. “My viewers are anxious to hear about your exploits and experiences in the run-up to Unification Day.”

Matthews warmed to the topic. “Well, it’s been years, and so much has happened, you know.”

Jonah cut in. “Do you think we might be able to schedule a one-on-one interview later today, perhaps in your cabin?”

“That would be fine,” Matthews said.

Two can play this game, Quinn thought to himself. He produced a notepad and stylus and made a big show of making casual notes as he ate the rest of his omelet. It didn’t take long before the Fez-wearing chief steward popped up next to him. “Are we enjoying our meal this morning?” he purred.

Quinn smiled. “You’ll have to wait to read my review, now won’t you?”

“Of course, of course,” the steward replied knowingly. “Perhaps you’d like to try our house specialty.” He clapped his hands, and a frightened-looking waiter materialized. “Prepare for our guest the Kobe beef filet with salmon and seasoned salad.”

“Sounds delightful, I’ll take two orders.” Quinn said. “But tell me, sir, why would a pair of prominent first class passengers choose to slum it down here in the dining car? How is the service in your First Class section?”

A horrified look crossed the chief steward’s face for a moment. “Sir, you’re not suggesting-”

“Not at all,” Quinn replied. “But my readers are expecting a full accounting of the dining experiences on the Oceanic.”

“Well,” the chief steward blustered. “Perhaps something could be arranged.”

“I would like to see your private chef at work and speak with him about his efforts,” Quinn smiled and winked. “What about this evening?”

The Chief Steward glanced at his datapad. “I can send someone around to your cabin later tonight when we have everything arranged.” He bowed slightly, then took his leave.

With his interview lined up, Jonah strolled back and took a seat opposite Quinn. He listened as the Chief Steward stopped at Matthews’s table.

“Sir I am so sorry for the interruptions today,” he whispered to the war hero. “Apparently there are some unregistered journalists on board.”

“It’s all right, Carswell,” Matthews said dismissively. “I’ve faced worse foes. Besides, we’ve got Stig here.” He turned and narrowed his gaze. “Stig, stand up straighter, for God’s sake.”

Quinn shook his head as Jonah focused on the conversation behind them. “You guys always run such a complicated game, ‘Mr. Ferguson?’ I thought the last time you played reporter your name was Stevenson.”

Jonah shrugged. “Stevenson, Ferguson, it gets the job done.” He smiled. “This is what happens when you hang with us.”

“Well, I’ve hedged things so it looks like we both have an excuse to get into First Class,” Quinn said as his meals arrived. He pushed one plate over to Jonah, then grabbed a crust of toast, cut a sliver of the expensive meat, and ordered both packed up and delivered to ‘Travis Anders’ in the sleeper car. “I just hope Whitaker has the good sense to stay put in First Class.”

Elsewhere on the train, Worth flagged down a porter outside of the First Class cabin. “Send this picture to Mr. Whitaker in First Class, and tell him he’s been invited to a dinner with Major Matthews tonight in the dining car at 6PM.”

“Certainly, sir!” the porter replied. “That’s quite an honour!”

“Sure is,” Worth grinned.

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