15. The Runaway Train

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The CIA team was down to two. Five of them had arrived in San Lazaro with instructions to gain all available intelligence on the state of the city. They had been dropped in by helicopter three days previously but their original mission was now long forgotten. As they had lost one member to rioters and the other two to the diseased and murderous civilians, the priority was survival.

Specialist J.C. ‘Nix’ Reyes stroked his neat goatee beard and looked through the fence at the train yard. Beside him, Specialist Mike Chang gulped down some water from a bottle. Their attempts to contact HQ had got them nowhere and though they’d managed to reach a National Guard unit, no one could help. The CyMS seemed to have overrun most of the area. Hearing a train on the move, the pair thought they’d found a way out at last. But the yard looked deserted.

Nix lifted his rifle and used the night-vision scope. At least the CIA gave them good equipment: the operatives were wearing the latest adaptive camo armor which refracted light to render the user almost invisible.

‘Ten or more trains. Can’t see anyone around though.’

‘At least there’s no CyMS,’ replied Chang.

‘We hope. The view to the depot is blocked by a locomotive. Let’s check it out.’

Both men had wire-cutters and were through the fence in under a minute. They jogged towards the dark bulk of the depot, boots crunching on gravel.

‘You know what,’ said Chang. ‘I think our intel report should consist of two words.’

‘Oh yeah?’ replied Nix.

‘Yeah. Total disaster.’  

‘I can think of a few more.’

They came to a series of wagons left on a siding. The quickest way to get through was to crawl underneath. Once beyond them, they ran another hundred feet and came to a track where the dormant locomotive had been left. Both operatives crouched beside it as Nix deployed the scope once more.

‘Ah. Five or more people in the office. Looks like we might be in luck.’

‘See the locomotive on the far side of the yard?’ asked Chang. ‘Lights are on and I think I can hear the engine too. Maybe someone’s on the move. Let’s go.’  

Once closer to the depot office, they could see more of the occupants: a group of railway employees gathered around a map on the wall. Four men wore overalls and a fifth was in a shirt and tie – he seemed to be giving orders.

Nix and Chang were almost to the office door when the men all turned to the right. The boss instantly pulled out a revolver and aimed it at whoever had burst in.  

‘What the hell?’ yelled Chang.

Nix had given up trying to predict what would happen next in this bizarre, fatal mission. When the boss opened fire, he expected to see a horde of CyMS piling in to the office. In fact, the man was now in a shootout with a crew of gangbangers. Nix knew them when he saw them: tattoos, bandanas, automatic weapons that they wielded like amateurs. Crouching behind a desk, the boss bravely covered his colleagues while they rushed out into the night, oblivious to the two operatives just yards away. The workers sprinted towards the locomotive.

Predictably, their colleague did not last long. He gave a final cry as the gang-bangers’ bullets tore into him.

Nix and Chang didn’t need to discuss their plan of action: they also had to reach that locomotive.

They were halfway there when the engine roared, the noise echoing around the railyard. Seconds later, bullets whizzed overhead.

‘Stop!’ yelled the gangbangers. ‘Stop or we’ll kill ya all!’

They were clearly as determined to find a way out of San Lazaro as the two CIA men. Nix and Chang halted and turned. They didn’t have much ammunition left but what they had they used wisely. Moonlight flashing on the criminals’ guns gave them something to aim for and a few quick shots brought screams from those they’d hit.

‘Damn, it’s already moving,’ said Chang.

When a hail of bullets struck the gravel close by, the two men sprang away again. By the time they got close to the locomotive, it was travelling at some speed. They could see two of the workers up in the cab, faces frozen with fear as they fled. There was no chance they would wait.

The locomotive was already out of reach but it was towing three white wagons. The first rumbled past, bullets pinging off the side as the gangbangers closed in.

‘Can we get on?’ yelled Nix.

‘Don’t see how!’

The second wagon rumbled past, Nix and Chang jogging alongside.

‘There!’ shouted Nix. ‘Where the wagons connect, the coupling is lower – we can jump up. You go first.’

It was a difficult and dangerous task. Chang had to avoid the wagon wheels and jump onto the coupling. He somehow timed it right and immediately turned back to help his compatriot.

‘I’m up! Nix, take my hand!’

But as the locomotive accelerated again, Nix felt a bullet clip his leg. The pain was negligible but the shock of it caused him to stumble and drop his gun. By the time he’d regained his balance, he was ten yards back with no chance of recovering the distance.

‘Nix!’ Chang already sounded a long way away.

The cursing gangbangers were closing in and now Nix was armed only with his knife. Thankfully, he had experienced enough such situations in his life to be able to recover quickly.  

Improvise, adapt, overcome.

Nearby was another train of stationary wagons. As the criminals approached, Nix calmly climbed under the nearest wagon and activated the adaptive camo on his armor. Even though they were just feet away, they had no chance of seeing him.   

Nix hoped Chang made it but he was beginning to wonder if he would ever get out of San Lazaro alive.  

Next Story: 16. The Awakening