View Full Version : Part Two: To Bishop Company (a couple of swear words)

June 6th, 2015, 11:22 PM
** A continuation of a story I posted a few days ago. Any comments are appreciated. **

To Bishop Company II

The ventilation vanes were allowing in too much dirt. Mono coughed, Nav covered her eyes. Sweat dripped.

“This is fucked.” Nav said and slapped the vanes shut with a thwap. “It’s too dusty out there. We need rain.”

“What’s the map saying? I’m going too slow and the boiler is heating up. Pressure is building. We need to eat more steam. Open another nozzle.” Mono barked.

“Just slow down for a second. I can’t see anything, slow down and we’ll figure it out. The tablet isn’t giving me anything and we’re bumping around too much. Can’t read it.” She wiped her hand across the screen, taking a thick brown coating of dirt from it and wiping it on her thigh.

Mono shifted down to second but kept the RPM’s high. Beads of condensed steam were forming on the inside of the cab and the humidity was rising. The steel was getting hot. To open up the bed of the truck, where the boiler and condenser sat, would leave them vulnerable to a gunshot, or any other attack.

“This isn’t helping, Nav. Pressure is getting too high in the boiler.” Mono said again. His black eyes scanned the roadway through the vision goggles.

“Give me a minute.” Nav said impatiently, steadying herself in the rocking cab. “Let me get the connection back.”

“It’s getting hot in here. The feeder isn’t working right.” Mono said with rising concern.

“Ok, got it. Go straight. We can cross the canal at Stayton Street. About a mile up ahead, hang a right, there’s a bridge. You can speed back up Mono. Let’s burn some of this steam off. I’ll head back and pop a safety valve and open another nozzle.” Nav slid the cab window open and disappeared into the back where the boiler and condenser were housed in the steel enclosure of the truck bed.

Mono shifted back into third and pressed the accelerator.

“Hang on!” He yelled. Even though they weren’t going fast, the cracked and ruined road caused them to pitch and roll like a small boat on heavy seas.

“Okay? Everything okay back there Nav?” Mono yelled into the back of the cab.

“Keep going!” She yelled back. He heard her swear, then a loud bang followed by the sharp hiss of escaping steam. Nav watched the dial on the pressure gage swing slowly from 230 psi to 220 psi, and when it hit 200, she grabbed the arm that arced downward from the top of the valve stem and pushed up on it as hard as she could until its cantilevered force pushed the plunger back down into the blow hole, securing the top blow hole. She could feel the heat from the valve arm through the thickly swathed cotton t-shirt she had wrapped around her hands. She then turned a hand wheel that opened one of the nozzle valves that fed steam to the turbine, giving them more power and using more steam.

Rivulets of sweat ran down her face and stung her eyes, dripped in salty tears onto her lips. She sucked in the sweat and ran an elbow across her face, momentarily clearing her eyes. She popped her head through the rear window of the cab and leaned over and rubbed her cheek against Mono’s cheek.

“Jesus! Hahahah! Hot back there?” Mono’s face broke into a rare smile. Like cracking granite, she thought.

“Yeah, I feel clean, through and through, sweated everything out.”

“What’s the pressure?”

“200.” Nav said. She took the cotton shirt and wiped her face and neck with it and then climbed back into the cab. “I opened number four nozzle on the turbine.”

“I can feel it. Thanks. We still need to do more testing on the auto feeder system. That thing seems to be dumping too much fuel in there.”

“Well, I think it’s timed for Doug Fir, we’re back on coal pellets. Group A found a mother load up in the foothills about a week ago. We shouldn’t have to worry about coal for a while.”

“Another coal car?”

“A coal train, Mono. They found eighteen cars about twenty miles west of the Skakooch River on a spur line. The cars were covered - hidden - in tree branches and moss, the cars were painted green and brown. Somebody was saving them for a rainy day. They’ve brought back about two and a half tons so far. There’s two thousand tons of coal up there.”

“That’ll last us years.” Mono whistled. “Have they had any problems getting up there and back? Any ambushes?”

“No. Not yet anyway, but they’re being careful.”

“I bet. I’d like to go with them.”

“Well, let’s see what’s up with Bishop Company first. I’m a little worried about this meeting.”

“Me too. They didn’t give any reason for wanting to have this meeting.”

“I know. We’ve always had a good relationship with them on sharing hunting grounds and trade. Wonder what this is about and why they’ve been so secretive about it.” Nav opened the ventilation vanes back up and wrapped a bandana around her face to filter the incoming dirt. She then pulled heavily on a lever protruding from the floor which opened slats along the steel box on the back of the truck, allowing the hot air to blow out of the back instead of radiate into the cab.

“I’m done with the heat.” Nav said.

“I hope some sniper doesn’t hit the boiler.” Mono said, tying a bandana around his face.

“That would suck,” Nav said.

“Yeah. Actually, it would blow.” Mono replied.

Mono zoomed in on the street sign that was about three blocks ahead. He thought it read Stayton, though the sign was bent, rusted, partly charred and had a few bullet holes in it. He grinded down to second gear as they approached and asked Nav if the road was indeed Stayton.

“Yeah, it is. Go slow and check the bridge before you cross, this thing doesn’t float ya’ know.”

Mono stopped the truck. He scanned the bridge as best as he could in the headlight lit darkness, the camera moved side to side beneath the bumper as he examined the landscape through the vision goggles.

“I think we should get out and look Nav. It’s hard to tell if the bridge is safe or not. There’s not enough light to see the whole thing. We kicked up some dust anyway. Can’t see much.”

Nav hesitated. Mono was deactivating his vision goggles and they were ungrafting themselves from the skin around his eyes.

“We’ll be fine Nav. We’ve got plenty of firepower with us.” Mono, now with his eyes free of the goggles, looked at her.

“Okay, we don’t know this area though. We’ve never been this way.” Nav said.

“Well, after this we’ll know something about it.” Mono said.

“Bonzai, ” Mono said. “Agusta,” said Nav, and the truck un-fastened itself. Steel shims retracted from the inside of the door frames and the steel cover in front of the windshield lifted up and slid back along the top of the cab. Interior lights flashed on in a blinding display of high intensity moonlight. They both grabbed an Energy Rifle from the gun rack fastened to the ceiling of the cab and half suits and helmets from behind the truck’s bench seat. The half suits completely covered their torsos, front and back, as well as the front of the thighs and all of the neck. They each had an Energy Pistol holstered at the hip, a bowie knife on the thigh and a ‘poker’, a high powered cattle prod which, when activated, would protrude from a holster attached to the forearm and deliver an electric jolt with enough wattage to stop the heart of most men, and paralyse the rest. Both also had flashlights, water capsules and first aid kits attached to their utility belts. Mono carried a machete sheathed on his back.

“Dump a few extra pellets in the boiler and secure the feeder, Nav. We shouldn’t be gone too long.” Mono said as he checked the charges on his E-Rifle.

“Done. Let’s get this over with.”

“Bonzai,” Nav said. “Agusta,” Mono said. The truck locked itself down and was fully secured. The trucks boiler remained lit and the turbine idled at a reduced RPM. If they were in a jam and needed a quick escape, they wouldn’t have time to raise steam in the boiler. So the fire was left burning.

“Everything look good Nav? Redundant charges both 100%?”

“Yeah, both the pistol and rifle are ready to go. Poker is juiced up. Let’s check out the bridge.”

The Bridge

It was dark and after the grinding noise of the truck, immensely quiet. The moon hung like an opaque smudge behind low, heavy clouds, giving off minimum light. They both stood still, the sound of their breathing and the blood pumping through their veins growing louder in their ears as their eyes adjusted to the darkness. The silence was deafening, somehow roaring in the emptiness. They were used to this while hunting but that was with a group, four or five, seven or eight, and there was always sound and motion, people you knew, a community, and the excitement of the hunt. This was different, an occasion not often encountered. A faint breeze played on the wild grass, saplings and bushes that were reclaiming this bombed out concrete jungle.

“Let’s hurry.” Nav said, almost in a whisper.

“Do you want the lead?”

“Okay, but give me another minute. I need to show you something.” She pulled out her tablet, tapped the HUD icon with her finger and a lens fell down over her eye from the brim of her helmet. She put the tablet in her back pocket.

“There’s definitely things out here. Stuff moving around. Animals, hungries, Mercs…. Look.” An overhead view representing the five square miles surrounding their position appeared in blue light before them. There were many things moving, the quickly blinking dots indicating organic beings, based on cellular activity and body heat. The unblinking dots most likely were machinery, and some of them were moving too.

“Hungries are the slow ones. They’re human, but ya’ know, they blink a little slower than a normal human or animal, or a Merc.” Nav said.

“Some of the fast blinking ones are hungries too, remember that, some of them have cleaned up and are putting groups together, are getting shit done. They’re changing. Don’t be fooled Nav.”

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing though? Look at what they’re doing. I’ve been watching this the entire time.”

“They’ve been following us.” Mono said, astonished, breathless.

The moving dots fell into a fluid wave of light following Fourth Avenue, the road they had been traveling on. Like the wake of a ship, the dots were gathering from various points into a sweeping tail that focused in toward their location. There were hundreds of dots, all blinking at varying rates of speed. And they were steadily, if slowly, advancing toward their position, joining into a steady stream of light as they crept along like a merging horde of fish into a school.

“It’s like an arrow.” Mono muttered. “It’s beautiful.”

“Mono, let’s get this over with and get up the hill to Bishop Company.” Nav looked at him sharply. “Now. Are you ready?”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

They both looked back at the truck, then turned and walked onto the bridge.