In the dining car, Quinn and Jonah continued their exquisite meal, savouring every bite, while they compared notes.
“So, since we’ve got access to First Class, what are we going to do about it?” Quinn asked Jonah around a forkful of salad.
“So I’m thinking, we go in there in the evening, do a super candid, friendly interview, and maybe I can get Matthews a little snoggered, and keep on going to do the thing,” Jonah replied.
“So once we’re back there, how do we make contact with the target?” Quinn asked.
“Quinn, I’m not much of a planner.” Jonah said, digging into his side order of salmon. “I figure I’d just knock on the door, and let him know that, uh…” he thought for a few seconds. “Wait, that sounds like a plan. I regret it instantly.”
“So whatever you do, it won’t be that?” Quinn asked. Jonah shrugged. Quinn squinted. “Okay then, how about ways off the train?”
“Yeah,” Jonah said. “There are the emergency exits, which could be tricky.” He pondered for a moment. “You know what might work,” he said. “We could basically set him up, tell him Worth’s trying to kill him. You know, tell him, ‘There’s a hit man on the train, we need to get you off right now.’”
“Well, Worth is the scariest looking guy on the train.” Quinn said. He motioned to a waiter hovering nearby and asked him to have their leftovers delivered to their cabin. The waiter quickly produced some aluminum foil and expertly folded their take-out into the shape of a swan. Jonah checked the waiter’s nametag. It wasn’t Devlin.
Meanwhile, Worth had made it back to his cabin at the same time as a porter carrying a take-out container. The porter was knocking politely on the cabin door as he approached. Worth cleared his throat and got the porter’s attention.
The porter cheerfully held up the takeout container. “This was sent down to you from the dining car, Mr. Anders.”
“From who?” Worth asked. He eyed the porter’s nametag. It wasn’t Devlin.
“I believe it was sent by Mr. Hine.” The porter said hopefully, staring up at Worth, whose broad shoulders nearly touched both walls of the corridor.
“Never heard of him,” Worth muttered.
“Well I double-checked the number on the container, and it matches your berth number, sir,” the porter said earnestly.
“What’s this?” Worth indicated the take-out. “Open it.” he commanded.
With a perplexed look on his face, the porter complied; cracking open the tin foil to reveal a crust of toast and a sliver of finely cooked steak.
Worth grinned. “Okay, you can leave that with me.” He was about to dismiss the porter, then thought better of it. “By the way, earlier today I left a package with another porter, a guy named Devlin. If you could tell him to swing by here shortly that would be much appreciated.”
The porter nodded knowingly. “Devlin, eh? I’ll be sure to send him around, sir.” He stepped back and waited patiently, his hand out.
Worth looked at the porter’s outstretched hand. “Here you go,” he said, slapping the crust of toast into the young man’s palm. The porter’s eyes widened. “Just kidding,” Worth said. He reached out, and then added the small piece of beef to it. He then closed the door in the poor porter’s face.
Quinn and Jonah soon joined Worth in their sleeper cabin. They sat back in the comfy armchairs and enjoyed the passing scenery. It had been said that the planetary engineers had strip-mined the soil off half a dozen moons to provide the raw materials to sculpt Beaumonde’s beautiful coastal landscape, and they didn’t doubt it for a second as they took in the breathtaking panoramic vista.
“So,” Quinn broke the silence. “We’ve gotten into First Class.”
“Twice.” Jonah added.
“You actually got in First Class?” Worth responded.
“Well, we’ve got ourselves access,” Quinn explained. “Tonight.”
“What time?” Worth asked.
“6-ish,” Quinn said, eyeing Jonah, who shrugged.
Worth shifted in his chair. “Yeah, here’s the thing. I’ve got a dinner appointment with You-Know-Who in the dining car tonight at 6. He’ll be coming out of First Class for it.”
Jonah sat upright. “You’ve met Whitaker?”
“Well, no,” Worth confessed. “But I sent him an invitation he can’t refuse.” He smiled, pleased with himself.
Quinn fought down the impulse to be impressed with Worth’s tactical prowess.
Worth continued. “Well, there is a slight chance of him declining, but not likely, considering who gave the invitation.” He thought for a moment. “But we can cover our bases. It might be a good idea for one of you to into First Class, and one of you to stay in the dining car.”
Quinn cut in. “We do need to find his luggage.”
Worth shook his head. “We just need to find him and tell him we’re trying to save his life.”
Jonah nodded. “Actually, to make it more immediately believable, we could point out a random person and say that person is there to kill him.” He paused, and then an inspired grin spread across his face. “How about we get Devlin to play along? Tell Whitaker that one of the porters is here to assassinate him.”
Worth frowned. “The problem with that is that may result in trust issues, and the fight or flight mechanism kicks in, if he sees Devlin he might bolt.”
Jonah smiled. “But if he wants to run that’s good, because we’re the ones who can get him off the train.”
“So, about the person he’s got the dinner with,” Worth explained his plan. “Remember that dude I was sitting with in the dining car, Ivan Matthews? He gave me the picture with his autograph. That’s the one I sent off to him.”
Jonah blinked. “Wait a minute, Worth. He thinks he’s having dinner with Ivan Matthews?”
Worth grinned. “He might get that impression that that’s who’s invited him to dinner.”
“And they’re both in first class, right? Which isn’t very big.” Jonah replied.
“Yeah but you’ve got to figure Whitaker is kind of reclusive at this point.” Worth said.
Quinn leaned forward. “Both Whitaker and Matthews are bunking in First Class, so what if Matthews goes back to First Class and they get to talking?” He turned to Jonah. “Think you can pin the Major down in an interview until after 6 and make sure they don’t meet?”
Jonah nodded. “Actually, journalism is one thing they did teach us on the Shenzhou Caravan,” he deadpanned. “Yeah, no problem.” Jonah began fiddling with the cortex terminal inlaid into the arm of his easy chair, calling up an info search on the war hero Ivan Matthews to help prepare for his interview.
“You got any recording gear?” Worth asked him. “Maybe a camera?”
“No, I’m not a photojournalist,” Jonah said. “I’m one of them writing journalists.”
Worth looked at Quinn. “So what are you, his cameraman?”
Quinn said. “I don’t have press credentials, I needed to get myself associated somehow.”
“He’s playing food critic,” Jonah explained.
“All right then,” Worth pointed at Jonah. “So you’re going to make sure they never meet.”
Quinn buzzed room service to get a few bottles of wine sent down to their cabin.
Worth turned to Quinn, “So if you’re going into First Class anyway, if you can make contact with the mark, then maybe you could use the dinner appointment as a ‘don’t go to it, someone’s going to get you,’ and we’ve been sent to deliver you from evil, so come with us.”
“Sounds good,” Quinn said. “So how do we extract him from the train?”
Worth said, “Well, we talk to our man Devlin who should be swinging around any time now, and then he’ll tell us where to go.”
“That’s a good point,” Jonah said.
“And then we walk calmly like nothing’s happening, and we get on the roof, and there we go.” Worth finished.
“So the idea is to have no one notice he’s not on the train until it gets where it’s going?” Quinn said. “Because right now I’m playing with ways to bring this train to a stop if that becomes necessary.”
“That’s as easy as parking Shenmue on the tracks if need be,” Jonah replied. “But I’d rather not, since this needs to be a disappearing act.”
“Look, we’ll just swoop over, hook a line, and that’s it,” Worth added. “YJ’s waiting for our signal.”
“Fair enough,” Quinn said. “Sort of a ‘he got on, but he didn’t get off’ sort of thing.” Jonah and Worth nodded. “But we still need to figure out how to get him off the train.” He took a long look out the window at the passing scenery. “I like the hit man idea.” He nodded, almost to himself.
Jonah agreed. “Make it his idea to get off the train. We’re just here to warn him.”
“Always let the mark think that it was his idea.” Quinn smiled at Jonah. “Can we convince him Ivan Matthews is the hit man?” he asked.
Jonah shook his head. “No need, if we stick to the story that there’s criminals after this guy.”
Worth smiled. “Tell him the dinner’s just a ruse to get him out of first class and someone’s gunning for him.”
“Then just tell him Fanty and Mingo’s sent us,” Jonah added.
Quinn smiled. “Have the assassins be on the train though. That will give him a sense of urgency.”
“Absolutely.” Jonah said.
Worth stood up. “And FYI, if you guys are planning to take a shower you might want to request some more towels. They didn’t send any.” he said, hoping nobody noticed the length of white terrycloth bunched in the zipper of his overstuffed luggage.
“Okay,” Quinn said. “So we need a camera.”
Jonah thought for a moment. “Say, what about that couple you were making nice with earlier?” He asked Quinn.
“The Chens?” Quinn asked.
“Yeah, did they look like they were carrying any imaging devices?” Jonah asked.
“Sure, maybe,” Quinn replied. “They were definitely tourists.”
“Fine,” Jonah said. “I’ll take a peek in their cabin, see if I can’t borrow a camera.” He rifled through his belongings and came up with a small listening device. “Look, when you make contact with the mark, hide this eavesdrop in his quarters, just in case.”
Quinn palmed the eavesdrop device.
“I’ll go work on a camera,” Jonah said. He grabbed his lockpicks and opened the cabin door. He peeked out to make sure the coast was clear. He heard the sound of heated whispering coming from the head of the car, and listened.
It was the Chief Steward arguing with the hapless porter Worth had ordered around. The two were arguing in front of the exit to the casino car.
“I want you to find Devlin, and find him now!” the Chief Steward was saying.” I don’t care who his father is; if he’s playing grab ass with the engineers again I will have him flushed from this train immediately!”
“Yes sir!” the porter squeaked in response.
The Chief Steward’s face was as red as his fez. “Do you understand that we’ve got unregistered journalists prancing about under assumed names on this run, and it could be a public relations disaster? Which is Devlin’s specialty! They want him? Yes, fine, you find him and get him in there!” The Chief Steward hissed, then stormed out towards the casino.
The porter mopped his brow in relief and noticed Jonah, who gave him a thumb’s up sign in return. The beleaguered porter disappeared into the vestibule.
Jonah knocked on the Chens’ compartment, and then knocked again. Satisfied that no one was home, he worked his lock picks on the door, which popped open. Taking out his own keycard as a hedge, he walked into the sleeper cabin.
It was unoccupied, save for a pair of matching overnight bags placed on two of the easy chairs. Jonah rifled through them quickly, finding nothing but toiletries and a change of outfits. He turned his attention to the narrow closet. Sliding open the door, he was confronted by a garment bag hanging from the clothes rack.
Bingo, Jonah thought to himself. He grabbed the zipper and pulled it down.
And saw two glassy eyes staring back at him.
Jonah backpedaled automatically, fighting the urge to scream like a girl. “Well you’re not a garment!” he said in a high-pitched voice, and then jammed two knuckles into his mouth to keep from shrieking. He stumbled over one of the easy chairs and sat down hard. Breathing heavily, he regained his composure and stood, walking back to the closet, and with a gulp, opened the garment bag further.
The eyes belonged to a young man with tousled hair who was wearing the uniform of a Trans-Beaumonde Lev Line porter. Jonah groaned inwardly as he checked the nametag. Printed in fine script was the name “Devlin.”
Jonah noticed that a fine wire had encircled Devlin’s neck, where it had been wound tight, breaking the skin only slightly, but certainly hastening the poor man’s end. Then he came to his senses, zipped up the bag, spun on his heel, and stumbled out into the hallway, making sure to close the door behind him. He crawled on his hands and knees back to his cabin, and then pushed through the door, coming to rest on one of the comfy easy chairs. He helped himself to the pitcher of ice water on the small side table, draining it.
“What’s up?” Quinn asked.
Jonah finished his drink. “So,” he said hoarsely. “Devlin’s not coming.”
“What. Did. You. Do?” Worth asked.
“I went looking to borrow a camera at the Chens’ and instead I found a garment bag full of Devlin,” Jonah said bleakly.
“What, like, parts?” Worth asked.
“He was mostly together.” Jonah said.
Quinn was shocked at having hit upon the truth of the matter so accidentally. “So, uh, what now?”
“I’m pretty sure what we do now is put stakes in the Chens’ hearts cut their heads off and burn them,” Jonah said, taking another deep drink. “I’m pretty sure that’s how you deal with creatures like that. They’re not the sweet old couple you thought they were.”
“We need to get into First Class, now,” Worth said.
“We should walk the train and see if the Chens are about,” Jonah said. “I could also pop back in, and pull Devlin’s body out so someone will notice.”
“You want to tip someone off?” Quinn asked. “Can you think of a faster way to bring the train to a stop and have it crowded with Feds?” He thought for a moment. “Do they know who we are?”
“Who, the Chens?” Jonah asked. “I didn’t see our names on a kill list or anything like that.”
“Hey, we should send a message to the porter, any porter,” Worth said, an idea forming in his head.
“What, that we no longer require Devlin’s services?” Jonah quipped.
“No, that Mr. Whitaker is in the Chens’ room, asking for them.” Worth replied. “See what they do. They’ll come back and we’ll deal with them.”
“What do you mean, deal? They don’t strike me as the negotiating sort,” Quinn said.
“I mean deal, as in life,” Worth growled. “Commodities.”
“It’s great that you can make the gesture,” Quinn protested. “But we don’t have any guns.”
“I’ve got Wham and Bam right here,” Worth said, indicating his fists. He turned to Jonah. “You got a mean left hook?”
“I’ve thrown it enough times,” Jonah said. “But I don’t know if killing the Chens is the best idea. It might draw a lot of heat down on us.”
“Look, you’ve spent time with them,” Worth said to Quinn. “Can you kill time with them for a while, no pun intended?” Worth asked.
“Of course I can,” said Quinn. “But first we need to figure out where they are.”
“Well then, let’s take a walk and see if we can spot them.”
“Be discreet,” Quinn cautioned. “Any suspicious moves will start rousing their, uh, suspicions.” He smiled reassuringly. “As long as we don’t have to give the Chens’ a reason to think we know who they really are, let’s keep it that way.”
They consulted the data readout of the train. Jonah frowned, pulling up the schematics of the First Class car. “We need to kick things up a notch, and asking Devlin for help is not an option.”
“So how do we get him out?” Quinn asked.
Jonah ran through the list. “There are emergency hatches every few feet,” he touched the screen and the exits lit up. He pointed to the spaces between the cars. “The vestibules are built solid.” He scrolled down the length of the train. “There’s always the observation deck in First Class. But in terms of roof hatches you’re looking at the baggage car, which is past Security Central.”
“So what’s the plan?” Worth asked.
“I’m thinking we just cut a hole in the roof. Climb up, and hop out,” Jonah said.
“Can you pull me into First Class with you?” asked Worth.
“Sure,” said Jonah. “After we check the train for the Chens.” He fiddled with his seat’s built-in Cortex terminal and keyed up the inter-car messaging system. He quickly sent off a message to Ivan Matthews’ room. “Dear Major Matthews, I would love to do that interview, perhaps this afternoon, quick, easy, candid – some moments of Ivan and Samara at rest and play.”
As he signed off, Quinn stood. “We can turn the tables on these assassins,” he said firmly. “They’ve got a body in their cabin already. I want to get the train’s security guys looking at corpses rather than us, and with a little luck it will get the assassins off our trail, because I sure as hell don’t want to deal with them face to face.
Worth smiled. “If we could rig the fire alarm to go off in their cabin, security would respond.”
“I could light a cigarette and set somehwere in the room,” Jonah added. “Maybe right in the garment bag.”
“What, and burn the evidence?” Worth asked.
“A burned body is just as damning as an unburned body,” Jonah said patiently.
“We could just dump the body in the floor on the middle of the cabin and then call housekeeping,” Worth said.
Quinn shook his head. “Too obvious. But the key is to get Whitaker out before we start cutting holes and lighting things on fire.”
“That’s going to be a trip,” Worth said, indicating the distance between the sleeper car and the First Class area.
“We grab Whitaker, pull him into our cabin, then pop into the Chens’ next door, and do the extraction from there.” Quinn said. “But we have to find them first. We don’t want them to show up in the middle of this.”
The crew began their walkabout of the train. Not wanting to appear as a trio, Quinn went off on his own and Worth and Jonah went in the opposite direction back to First Class to walk their way forward.
Quinn made his way through the sleeper section into the Casino car. Jack Leland was still playing poker with a couple of high rollers. The Companion was still at the bar, and flashed Quinn a winning smile. Quinn smiled a slightly distracted smile back and carried on, giving her a quick wink over the shoulder as he moved on to the next car.
Worth and Jonah were walking slowly down the passenger car. Several well-dressed people were in the seats, enjoying the scenery. The men did not see anyone out of the ordinary. It occurred to Jonah that they didn’t actually know who they were looking for. He keyed open a channel to Quinn. “By the way, what do our friends look like?”
“I should have mentioned you were looking for touring grandparents,” Quinn said over the multiband. “Retired, wealthy, Asian-looking. Distinguished.”
“Hope there aren’t too many of those on the train,” Worth muttered. “Last thing we need is a Distinguished Asian Gentlemen’s Convention.”
Jonah saw the Chief Steward standing near the first class entrance. Carswell was looking at Jonah as if willing him to disappear, while keeping an obsequious expression on the rest of his face.
That started to grind Jonah’s gears, so he walked over to him. Worth shook his head. I think security’s about to get called, he thought to himself.
Carswell put on a strained, yet professional expression. “Oh, yes, Mr. Ferguson, was it? How delightful to see you. Enjoying your trip?
“No,” Jonah said curtly.
“Oh, my! Whyever not?” Carswell asked.
“Because there’s this fat xiǎolóngbāo of a steward that keeps gunning me off and if I had the choice I’d throw him off the train at top speed. Anything you can do about that?” he snarled.
“I didn’t take you for a comedian, Mr. Ferguson.” Carswell said icily.
“I ain’t kidding,” Jonah growled.
Worth just stood next to him, scratching his head, looking around to see if anyone was noticing the exchange.
“You got some place else to be, Steward?” Jonah asked pointedly.
Carswell grimaced. “Perhaps I do.” He turned and strode into First Class.
“So, unless I’m mistaken, that was our way into First Class, correct?” Worth asked.
“Uh, yes.” Jonah said.
Worth sighed and looked for an intercom.
Jonah stopped him from pressing the call button. “Look, stewards can probably get in,” he said. “Let’s just lift a pass off one of them.”
“The old bump and grab?” Worth asked. Then he sobered up. “I guess that means the Chens have a way into First Class now too.”
“Undoubtedly,” Jonah said. “Now, you play my slightly over-drunken companion and I’m the dutiful friend assisting you back to your room.” Worth obediently started swaying while Jonah made fussing sounds, trying to keep him upright. “I told you five motion sickness pills were too many,” he said loudly.
A female porter was tending to a passenger about midway up the car, and looked up as the two men approached. “Inner ear problem,” Worth blurted as he stumbled towards the porter. She must have had training as a dancer, as she spun delicately out of the way, leaving Worth to fall face-first on the carpeted floor. “Excuse me, sir!” the porter said.
In the confusion, Jonah went in for the kill. “Sorry about my clumsy friend,” he said smoothly.
“What, you’re not gonna help me up?” Worth asked from the floor.
Surreptitiously Jonah plucked the keycard from the porter’s belt, skillfully detaching the lanyard it was attached to her hip pouch. He pocketed the card as the porter moved out of the way, putting distance between her and the oaf on the floor.
“Can you help me with my friend?” Jonah asked, grabbing Worth by the scruff of the neck and hauling him upright.
“Certainly, sir,” the porter said warily.
“He needs to get some food into him, can you help him to the dining car?” Jonah asked, wanting to make sure the porter didn’t go near the First Class card reader.
“Certainly,” she repeated, easing one of Worth’s large arms around her shoulder.
“That’s wonderful, thank you so much.” Jonah said.
“Are you okay, sir?” the porter asked Worth.
“I am now,” he slurred lecherously.
Jonah called Quinn on his multiband. “I have a pass into first class, but if the Chief Steward sees me in there he might throw me out. Put a call in for Carswell, tell him you want to speak with him.”
At that moment, Quinn was checking the dining car. For the benefit of any witnesses, he made a big show in pantomime, looking at his watch, scowling, and then turning back into the casino car.
Before the porter could carry him too far, Worth asked to sit down in the nearest unoccupied seat. “I’ll be okay, really,” he protested.
“Is there anything I can get you sir?” the porter inquired.
“No, I’m all right.” Worth said. The porter stood beside him for a few seconds as if waiting for a tip, then sighed and stalked off.
Worth waited until she was gone, and then took a seat opposite Jonah.
In the casino, Quinn took a seat beside the Companion at the bar, ordered a drink for himself and one for the lady. As the bartender mixed the drinks, Quinn asked him to page the Chief Steward.
The Companion thanked Quinn for the drink and offered him her hand. “Calliope Grant,” she said. “Oh, it was my pleasure, Miss Grant,” replied Quinn, who was mentally sketching out his cover story for Carswell.
Jonah raised the divider in his semi-private passenger berth and diverted his attention away from the aisle. Using his multiband, he instructed Worth to wait until the Chief Steward left the First Class car before moving in.
Worth had barely finished nodding when the door to First Class hissed open and someone walked out into the corridor. Worth eyed the pedestrian. He was a thin, bookish man of medium height and build, wearing a pair of thick eyeglasses, and clutching a snakeskin valise against his chest like a protective shield. He was carefully checking the seats as he slowly walked forward down the aisle.
It was Eric Whitaker.
Worth stood up. “Mr. Whitaker!” he said.
Whitaker spun about, surprised. “What?” he asked incredulously.
Stretching out his hand, Worth said, “Travis Anders,” as he stepped out into the hallway. Whitaker shrank back involuntarily as Worth lumbered forward.
Jonah sat back in his comfy observation chair, and at the sound of Worth’s voice, he saw the people occupying the seats a few rows ahead of him stand up.
Worth also noticed two gentlemen getting to their feet, easing into the aisle a few feet behind Whitaker. They weren’t particularly memorable, but the cut of one of the man’s clothes was of a better fit than his companion’s, and he was wearing a compact microphone headset camera unit screwed into his ear.
Jonah sighed and keyed open the multiband to Quinn. “Looks like it’s going down outside First Class,” he intoned quietly. “You’d better fetch me my brass knuckles.”
“Excuse me for a moment,” Quinn told the Companion, interrupting their small talk. He turned on his stool and whispered back to Jonah. “The Chens aren’t anywhere forward of First Class. And where are your brass knuckles?”
As Jonah looked about his seat for an improvised weapon, he heard the First Class hatch open again. The only thing he could find was the train’s in-house magazine. He grabbed it and began rolling it up as tightly as possible.
Worth took a step forward. “I’m Travis Anders, and I represent Major Ivan Matthews,” he said to Whitaker.
Before he could do anything more, one of the gentlemen clapped a hand on Whitaker’s shoulder and yanked him back, muttering something intently into his ear. Jonah listened as best he could, and heard the man whisper “Eric Whitaker, by the order of the Union of Allied Planets you are bound by law to stand down. Don’t make any sudden moves. Let’s go back to your compartment.”
Then he spun Whitaker around, turning to his partner. The second man held up a small image capture device as the first man hugged him in for a quick picture and then they turned back around, pushing the slumped-shouldered Whitaker back towards First Class.
Back off, Worth, back off. Jonah prayed.
Whitaker gave Worth a sidelong, quizzical glance as he was frog-marched forward. Worth blocked the procession.
“What is going on out here?” Carswell’s voice sounded from behind him. Worth didn’t even look as he reached back and pushed the steward back into the vestibule. “What the devil-” Carswell managed to splutter before the door hissed shut, cutting him off.
“Sorry, but that guy’s been annoying me all day,” Worth said apologetically. He beamed at the trio. “Now, as I was saying, I represent Ivan Matthews and you have an appointment tonight in the dinner car. I gather by your entourage here you won’t be able to attend?”
“You’re gorram right he won’t,” the well-dressed man holding him said. “Out of the way.”
“And you are?” Worth asked.
“Someone you don’t want to mess with. Now move aside.” The man snarled.
Worth shivered theatrically.
“Seriously?” the first man said disbelievingly.
“Look pally, we’re just trying to take our friend back to his cabin.” The second man offered, straightening his rumpled suit coat, opening the buttons smoothly and moving his hand inside.
“Well, see, I’ve got this bum leg, and sometime it just locks up on me, and-” Worth suddenly decked the second man, cold-clocking him. The man’s nose shattered under the blunt force of Worth’s closed fist. He made a horrified choking noise as blood began to flow freely down his shattered face. He stumbled back against the nearest seat divider.
His partner pushed Whitaker out of the way, hauling a piece out of his jacket. “Juh Shi Su Mo Go Dohng Shee?” he cursed as he pulled the trigger.
A visible ripple of sound emitted from the pistol, discharging over the crouched back of Mr. Whitaker. Worth ducked the blast.
Jonah leaped to his feet and edged the divider back, whipping his rolled magazine out to connect with the gunman’s wrist. It slapped home satisfactorily, but to little effect other than to get the pistolero’s attention, who managed to keep a hold of his stun pistol.
“What the-” he snarled, turning to face his new enemy.
Whitaker seized the opportunity to bolt towards the First Class hatchway in a half-crouch, holding his attache case over his head protectively.
Worth took advantage of the first gunman’s momentary distraction, grappling with him. His opponent proved slippery, and managed to twist out of Worth’s meaty grasp.
In the casino car, Quinn turned off his multiband and turned to the Companion. “I’m sorry I have to go do a thing. Perhaps we can continue this conversation tonight in my cabin at say, ten o’clock?” The Companion smiled engagingly. Without missing a beat, Quinn gave her the Chens room number. Then he finished his drink, and walked calmly away from the bar.
As he passed the poker table, Jack Leland caught his eye. “Hey, Hine,” he said. “Are we going to see you at the table at some point on this trip? The pot’s not getting any smaller.” Quinn stifled the urge to take a seat at the table. As he reached the foot of the casino car, he heard the doors at the other end open, and two security men started walking purposefully through the car in the same direction as he had gone. Quinn stepped into the vestibule, and as soon as the door slid shut behind him, he raised his multiband to his lips.
“Whatever you’re doing, finish it quickly!” He hissed. Then he took off like a shot towards their cabin.
In the passenger car, the gunman took a second shot at Worth, who dodged it easily.
Jonah swung the magazine again, striking the gunman with a solid blow. He knocked the wind out of him, doubling him over.
The other man, heedless of his shattered nose, yanked his pistol out, and fired back at Worth, who danced out of the way. Worth jumped at Bloody Nose but did not make a connection.
Jonah whipped the magazine up and struck the man full in the face. His head snapped back from the force of the blow, knocking his headset askew.
In their cabin, Quinn started rifling through Jonah’s things to find his brass knuckles. Knocking aside torches and other tools, and came up with the brass knuckles. As the door opened, the security guards passed him by in the hallway.
Jonah’s opponent aimed his pistol at him as he staggered unsteadily. Jonah gulped as he stared down the pistol’s barrel. Then the man’s eyes crossed, and he collapsed, out cold. He slumped to the ground, his gun slipping out of his hands. Jonah hopped out into the aisle, picked up the fallen stun gun, and plugged the bloody-nosed man who was attacking Worth. The sonic discharge struck the man squarely, but he shrugged it off, and snapped off a shot back at Jonah, hitting him with a glancing blast.
Worth balled his fist and drove it as hard as he could into the man’s midsection as the plainclothes cop tried to fit his nose back together with his free hand. The hit laid him out flat.
Worth discreetly grabbed the fallen man’s ID and pistol, and Jonah followed his lead, collecting the first man’s ID and headset. Opening the man’s ID, he noted that in fact it did belong to an agent of Allied Enforcement. Without missing a beat, Worth flashed the badge to the gaggle of shocked passengers who were peeking out over the backs of their chairs at the altercation.
“It’s okay, calm down,” Worth said to the passengers. The situation’s under control, sorry for the disturbance. If you’d please vacate the car,” he gestured toward the exit.
“Security’s on its way,” Jonah added. He glanced down at the prone form of his adversary. “He’s resisting!” Jonah shouted, putting another stun round into him.
The Oceanic security guards burst into the car at that moment, fighting their way through the exiting crowd. “Come on,” Jonah said to the rent-a-cops as Worth cuffed the fallen policemen with their own handcuffs.
There was a ruckus in the sleeper car as Quinn met the crowd of fleeing passengers heading up from the passenger car.
The security guards were dumbfounded. “What’s going on back here?” the first one asked.
“Constable Forrester back there will explain,” Jonah said, indicating Worth.
“These guys were impersonating Alliance officers,” Worth said, flashing his badge again. “There’s a passenger on you train whose life is in danger and it was our job to make sure he’s protected.”
“So he can make it to court,” Jonah added. “We need you to detain these gentlemen and we are going to escort the passenger to safety as quickly as possible.”
Quinn entered the car and evaluated the scene before him. He quickly surmised what had taken place. Some cops had tried to pinch Whitaker, Jonah and Worth had pinched the cops, and were now pretending to be the cops.
“Okay,” Quinn said in full-on bluff mode. He strode forward, barging through the passengers. “Meyers, Jenkins, stand down!” he said commandingly. “Secure the prisoners and clear this car. You” – he pointed to the first security guard – “I need First Class opened immediately!”
Chief Steward Carswell ventured once again out into the hall. “What is going on here?” he said, gobsmacked.
Jonah aimed his pistol at him. “Never sneak up behind an officer!” he shouted.
“You need to evacuate First Class now.” Worth said to Carswell. “We’ve got a passenger first class code 418 that we need to get out of there.”
“Yeah, Code Four One A!” Jonah repeated.
“But I thought you were journalists!” Carswell sputtered.
“You were meant to think that.” Jonah smirked.
“Move, now!” Worth ordered.
“You’re obstructing justice. Code One Four A.” Jonah repeated.
“We had to resort to contingency plan B,” Worth said to Quinn, instantly deferring to his ‘superior.’ “Just like we discussed in our official police briefing.” He let out a snicker.
“All right officer, whatever you say, we’ll see about tending to First Class immediately.” Carswell said slowly, retreating to the safety of First Class.
Quinn ordered the security men to herd the passengers out of the passenger car.
“Okay, okay, we know how to do our jobs, thanks, just don’t go about waving any more pistols around on the train.” The security guard grumbled.
Quinn ignored them. He walked down the aisle, maintaining the aura. Loud enough for the remaining witnesses to hear, he proceeded to upbraid Jonah and Worth. “This was supposed to be covert security, what the hell happened guys?”
“The situation escalated, sir,” Worth explained, snapping to attention.
“The academy didn’t train us for this,” Jonah added.
Worth turned aside and contacted YJ on the multiband. “Go for hard burn, we need to get out of here now,” he whispered.
Quinn lowered his voice as he stepped in close to Worth and Jonah. “We’ve got to get out of here. That set-up of the Chens we talked about? It happens at ten.”
Meanwhile, Security was clearing the car. Quinn ordered them to take up posts inside the next car. “No one is to come through.” As the door hissed closed, he turned to his partners. “It’s a safe bet the Chens know we’re mixed up in this now.”
Jonah glared at Worth. “You really, almost screwed this whole thing up.”
“Everything’s under control,” Worth scoffed.
Jonah used his stolen porter’s pass to open the First Class compartment. Worth started in. “Officer Meyers, bring Whitaker to us.” Jonah said loudly enough for those in First Class to hear.
“Roger that. You might want to accompany me.” Worth said. He leaned towards Jonah. “And I thought my name was Forrester!” he whispered.
Worth, Jonah, and Quinn marched into the First Class car, passing what looked like a fully functional kitchen, where they could see a rather uptight looking Asian gentleman with a ponytail working on something that smelled tremendously delicious. They continued on through until they reached the common dining area, which was dressed in luxurious, immaculate linen, with a full china service laid out on the expansive table. There stood Chief Steward Carswell, who had apparently regrouped.
“So let me guess, you won’t be joining us for dinner, tonight?” Carswell said crossly over his folded arms. He glared at Quinn.
“Well I’ll say this much, it smells fantastic,” Quinn said, taking Carswell aside.
The Chief Steward was furious. “Now listen to me,” he began. Quinn rolled right over him. “Chief Steward, please accept my sincere apologies on behalf of the Alliance. I hope you understand the necessity of such a delicate security matter,” he talked over Carswell’s protestations. “I know you’re the type of man who understands the need for decisive action. The passenger we were guarding, it would have been too obvious to have the security presence in First Class, thus the need for a cover story.” Carswell took a step back, processing Quinn’s verbal torrent. “We couldn’t afford to tip our hand, considering that the chain of communication on board might already be compromised.”
Carswell swallowed. “Well, of course, I mean, it all makes sense, uh, yes I understand,” he said uncertainly. “Certainly, now we’ll have to stop the train and evacuate the passengers, this is a dangerous situation for our passengers to be in.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Quinn said smoothly.
Carswell protested. “It’s not every day a firefight and a fistfight break out in the passenger car. I expect that in the casino, but-”
“We have our comrades waiting for us at the next stop,” Quinn explained. “We need to keep going, because if we stop, we put ourselves at risk.” Off Carswell’s questioning look, he leaned in conspiratorially. “The other reason why we were traveling with the regular passengers instead of locking down First Class was because our intelligence had indicated that the assassins after Mr. Whitaker would be traveling in the general population.”
“Assassins! Are you serious?” Carswell screeched.
“Yes, but they have been neutralized thanks to the quick actions of my men,” Quinn reassured the steward. “Now, if I can ask for your assistance in calming any passengers who may have witnessed this altercation, we won’t have to stop the train and alarm anyone any further.”
“And not to alarm you,” Worth interjected, “but there are two other subjects still at large on the train.” We need to keep it moving so we can locate them.”
Carswell’s eyes went as big as saucers.
“We must secure the detainees now,” Quinn stressed. “We’re doing as best damage control as we can.” Speaking of damage control, he thought to himself. “Do you have any surveillance cameras on board?”
“Yes of course, for security purposes,” Carswell answered.
“So you’d have footage of what happened in the passenger car?” Jonah asked.
“Naturally,” said Carswell.
“We’ll need to see those tapes immediately,” Quinn said quickly. “We have much more advanced forensics back at HQ and I’m willing to sign any forms you may have to facilitate their release.”
“I’ll take you to the staff car and you can view them there,” Carswell replied.
Quietly, Jonah asked YJ what Shenmue’s ETA was. “About half an hour,” the pilot replied. “Step on it,” Jonah said. “Gas is cheap, but my life is expensive.”
Quinn straightened up. “We’re going to take our man into protective custody now,” he explained. “We’ll need eyes on him at all times.”
Carswell nodded. “Well it would seem that I have my work cut out for me to maintain order on board the train. Whatever I can do to help.”
“We deeply appreciate your cooperation,” said Quinn.
Worth leaned over to Quinn. “Do you think we should let them know about the Chens and have them search the train for us?”
“Excuse us a moment,” said Quinn. He turned to Worth and whispered, “right now we’re the highest profile people on this train. Our disappearance in about half an hour is going to be noticed long before the train reaches New Dunsmuir.”
“Yeah,” Worth whispered back. “But if Security is preoccupied with looking for the Chens, their eyes will be off us.”
“Do we still want to leave the Chens holding the bag?” Quinn asked.
“Absolutely!” hissed Worth.
“So we get in our cabin, post a guard outside the sleeper car, and do the bailout in the Chens’ room and just wait. Eventually Security will come looking, see Devlin’s body and a hole in the roof, and they’ll be looking for a string of corpses back down the line.” Quinn said quietly. “It will look like the Chens took us all out.”
Satisfied, Worth took a step back. “Sorry for doubting you, sir.” he said loudly.
Quinn waved a dismissive hand. “No problem, I appreciate my subordinates showing initiative.” Quinn turned to Carswell. “Do you have a secure location for prisoners?”
“Yes, in the staff car,” Carswell offered.
“Clearly having so effectively infiltrated the train and almost fulfilling their contract, they are professionals,” Quinn said. “Your men will have to be careful, since these guys will have their stories straight from the get-go.”
“No worries, our security men don’t believe anything anyone ever says,” Carswell said.
Quinn smiled. “I like the sound of that.” He gave Carswell a serious look. “We don’t want to start a general search or alert. Please post security guards at both entrances to the passenger car, and don’t let anyone through without my authorization.” He indicated Worth and Jonah. “Meyers and Jenkins will escort Whitaker back to our cabin while you round up a couple of guards to take the prisoners to the security office.”
“Don’t worry, officer, we know what to do,” Carswell said.
“Excellent,” Quinn smiled graciously. “I knew this was an efficient operation.”
Carswell puffed up so quickly it looked like his cummerbund was about to pop. “It occurs to me that it may be more, order may be better maintained if we transport the prisoners via the service corridor that runs beneath the train, so we don’t have to march prisoners through dining car and casino.”
Quinn blinked. “I was not aware of the existence of a service corridor.” He shot a theatrical glare at Jonah, as if to say, why didn’t you inform me about the service corridor?
“Naturally, it is a closely guarded secret,” Carswell explained. “Or else we’d have all manner of train robbers and brigands exploiting it.”
“And we wouldn’t want that,” Worth said, shooting Jonah a glance.
In the vestibule between first class and passenger car, Carswell used a key to open a portion of the floor, revealing a tube running through the guts of the train, complete with a small tram that moved on rails. The sound of the train’s machinery was much louder in the small confines of the service tunnel. They were able to fit the unconscious Feds onto the sled-like tram and roll them to a corresponding hatch outside the staff car.
Quinn ordered the security guards to handcuff the two men to a bench in the corner of the staff car. “Don’t listen to anything they say,” he reminded those present.
“Perfectly understandable. I think I will ask our entertainer to begin calming the passengers,” Carswell said. He exited the car, heading towards the casino, while the security guard showed Quinn the computer terminal containing the security feed.
Worth and Jonah officially marched up to First Class. The door opened up and there in all his glory stood the heroic Major Ivan Matthews.
“Ah, I see you’re here for the interview,” he said.
Jonah smiled. “Not just yet.” Worth flashed a badge. “Sir, that interview will have to wait.”
Ivan’s eyes widened, then he smiled with professional appreciation. “Ah, our good friends in Allied Enforcement, keeping the peace and serving and protecting.” He saluted. “I feel safer already.”
Jonah beamed at Matthews. “I do have a question for you though. How come you’ve never done an Allied Enforcement movie?”
“You know, that’s a good idea, I should talk to my agent.” Ivan said thoughtfully.
“I’ve got some stories you’d probably love.” Jonah offered.
“What’s up, Yoko,” Worth said to Samara, who visibly recoiled from his attention.
“I’ve got a script I’d like to you read.” Jonah said.
Matthews smiled patiently. “Everyone turns into a screenwriter when Ivan Matthews is around.” As the Major walked back into his cabin, Jonah and Worth proceeded down the corridor until they arrived at the door of Whitaker’s private berth. Jonah checked the door. Locked.
Jonah leaned in towards the door. “Whitaker, your friends Fanty and Mingo sent us to get you out of here in one piece,” Jonah said.
There was a pause. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?” a voice said, somewhat muffled by the door.
“Maybe because we just took out two Alliance cops to save you?” Worth offered.
“Listen, if you’re worried, we are not looking for a big commitment from you,” Jonah said through the locked door. “We just want to talk face to face.”
Worth shouldered past Jonah and knocked on the door. “Because here’s what going to happen. We’re getting off this train and you can come with us or you can stay here and deal with whatever comes your way. It’s do or die. Are you coming or staying, because I can tell you this much, we are not going to jail.”
“Again,” Jonah clarified.
And with that, the door lock opened.