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 Rail Raiders Fiction Part 1 
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Bottle Cap
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Joined: March 29th, 2015, 12:28 am
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“Ladies and Gentlemen if you look outside the port side window of your car you will see Eta Corvi, a breathtaking and bright yellow-white star. As we pass between the two debris disks on our route to the Jump Point to the Alphard System the stunning glow from this star will glitter and diffuse creating an effect not unlike gazing at a crystal chandelier. The Observation Cars will be open to all passengers as we make this transition. As always, Southern Celestial Railways and our crew aboard the Corvus Meridian Special 4361 thank you for your patronage and wish you an unforgettable journey!”

“Fine announcement, Jenny.” Captain Wilson said, nodding at the young woman.

“Thank you, Captain.” Genevieve replied, frowning slightly at the informal shortening of her name. Normally she’d rebuke him, but everyone was on edge with this run.

“Helm, steady on. Sensors, keep an eye on those debris fields. If anything happens it’s probably going to happen here.” The Captain said.

“Aye, Sir.” The crewmen said from their stations, nearly in unison.

The Corvus Meridian Special 4361 cruised through the Eta Corvi system, the long silver and chrome train gleaming in the bright light of the brilliant star. Glittering blue sparks from the Engine at the head of the train flashed down the propulsors fitted below each car, accelerating the train forward until finally exiting into the starry void behind the caboose and forming two long, sparkling trails in their wake.

It was less than ten minutes before a ping from the console drew everyone’s attention. The Engine Crew clustered around the display for a moment, watching a small blip on the screen fade in and out, unmistakably on a collision course with the train.

“Shall I hail them, Sir?” Genevieve said, sitting back down at her station and grabbing her headset.

“No.” The Captain said. “Helm, lay in a course correction, two degrees to port.”

“Two degrees port, aye.”

“The incoming ship has changed course to intercept.” Came the call from Sensors after a moment.

“!SODA!.” Captain Wilson said, grimly. “That tears it. Rail Raiders. Send a distress call and get me a line to Marshal Reed’s cabin!”

“Aye, Sir.” Genevieve said shakily.

Ten cars back in the dining car Jack watched as the forward doors opened and three Lawmen in their long white coats and broad hats made their way through the car and out the back, their deputy badges flashing as they caught the overhead lights.

“Wonder what’s got them fellas heading aft so quick-like?” Molly Mercy said in her distinctive lilting Regulan brogue, adjusting the laces on her corset.

“Three Lawmen is more than a drunk and disorderly.” Flossie Lamb replied, fidgeting with what looked like a small medallion covered with circuits and glowing LED lights.

“Check the chatter, Oliver.” Jack said, absently clicking the fingers of his cybernetic hand against his thumb one at a time in a long practiced sensory exercise. “I’ve got a bad feeling about that.”

“You got it boss.” Oliver Cooke replied, surreptitiously pulling a comm-bead from his sleeve and setting it in his ear. He pulled a battered stopwatch from his vest pocket and clicked it open, pressing his thumb against the face of it and unlocking its hidden functions. After a moment he nodded.

“Bad feelin’ confirmed, Boss.” Oliver muttered, stroking his handlebar moustache with a knuckle. “The Special has a distress call out about incoming Rail Raiders.”

“Just what I needed.” Jack said. “I don’t like rush jobs, but we gotta move now. Molly, take Oliver and see if you can lock down the Engine. Flossie, go unpack and try to get to the cargo.”

“An’ what’re you gonna be up to, now that the plan’s just been sun-flared?” Molly Mercy said.

“I’ve suddenly got a headache.” Jack said, flashing a warm grin.

“Well ya better be goin’ to see a doctor about that then.” She said. “C’mon Ollie, let’s go have some fun.”

Jack gave his crew a two minute head start before gulping down the rest of his drink, pulling on his long coat, and retrieving his hat. He then followed Flossie aft toward the caboose. Passengers flitted to and fro between cars on their way to the dining car, the observation car, or any of the entertainment or relaxation cars that had been hitched to the Corvus Meridian Special 4361 for the trip between the Spica and Alphard systems. Coming from Virgo and going back to Hydra they were mostly middle class folks coming back from their paradise vacation resorts.

He passed Flossie’s cabin, smiling at the muffled sound of clanging and cursing coming from within. She was a firm believer that swearing at misbehaving machines aided in the repair process. A few more passenger cars back and the doors to the lounge slid open in front of him. Two well-stocked bars, one at each end of the car, plied alcohol to the passengers as they socialized and flirted, or simply looked out the windows at the stars.

As Jack passed the first long bar he almost immediately found Doctor Inez Morse. She was perched on a stool at the far end of the car facing him, chatting amiably with a well-dressed man sitting next to her, his back to Jack as he approached.

Inez glanced up at him and her eyes widened. She looked worried. Was that a subtle shake of her head?

“Something wrong, Miss Morse?” The man she was speaking with said, concern in his voice. Jack was just starting to feel like that voice was familiar when a panicked young crewman pushed his way past him.

“We’ve been trying to get hold of you for ten minutes, Marshal! The Captain needs to talk to you!”

The well-dressed man spun in his chair and stood up to face the crewman. It was Marshal Silas Reed.

!SODA!.

“What’s this all about, son?” The Marshal began, before his eyes tracked over the young man’s shoulder and met Jack’s. “Jack Stardust?!”

“I bet this sort of thing never happens to Blue Ruin Rayna.” Jack said, shaking his head. “Howdy Marshal. Sorry, kid.”

Jack kicked the young crewman in the back of the knee and shoved him at the Marshal. They went down in a tangle of limbs as the Lawman drew a bio-disruptor from the holster at his hip and fired blind, hitting the bartender in the face. She collapsed, unconscious and twitching, behind the bar. Jack winced.

“Nice shootin’, Silas! Hangover’s on the wrong side of the bar tomorrow!” He said, kicking the weapon out of the Marshal’s hand as he struggled to his feet.

“Jack Stardust! Rail Raiders! Jack Stardust! Rail Raiders!” Jack heard the young crewman mumbling as he crawled away desperately.

“Stay back Miss Morse! This is a dangerous man!” Silas said, interposing himself between Jack and Inez and raising his fists. A large bottle full of something that looked colorful and expensive shattered over the Marshal’s head, and he crumpled, leaving Doc Inez standing behind him holding the broken neck of the bottle.

“I guess chivalry ain’t dead after all.” Jack said.

“He seemed nice.” Inez replied. “I thought we weren’t making our move until halfway through the debris disks.”

“Plans changed. We have competition incoming.” Jack said.

“Of course we do. When was the last job we did that didn’t turn into a free-for-all?” Inez sighed. As if on cue the train shuddered, as the forced docking impact of a small assault craft shook the train like a wave emanating both directions from the collision point.

“Tie him up and throw him behind the bar.” Jack said, bending over to scoop up the Marshal’s gun and firing a couple of shots into the ceiling. The green energy of the Bio-Disruptor rippled harmlessly away from the impact points. No deadly hull breaches with this weapon.

“Alright folks!” Jack shouted at the small number of drunk or curious passengers that were still watching. “This is a robbery!”

Pandemonium, as the remaining crowd scattered and fled towards their passenger cars to lock themselves (and their valuables) inside.

“I reckon that hit was just a couple of cars back.” Jack said, heading for the doors as Doc Inez pulled a small zap-gun from where it had been tucked into her garter and fell in behind him.

“Backup?” She asked, hopefully.

“Flossie’s getting her bots settled.”

“She’s always late.” Inez said, grumpily.

“Those robots are finicky. She’s never let us down.”

The next car was a second lounge car, somewhat nicer than the last. Like the other one it was now empty save for a lovely, and rather busty, bartender standing behind the bar.

“Hey, Mister.” She said as they crossed the car toward her. “You really Jack Stardust?” She held out a shot glass containing some dark amber liquid and a marker as he approached.

“That’s right. You need to get somewhere safe miss….?” Jack said.

“Marie-Claude.” The bartender said, as Jack set the empty glass down.

“What’s the marker for?” Jack asked.

“I’m your biggest fan!” Marie-Claude said with a grin.

Jack flashed her a charming smile, uncapped the marker, and reached for a Corvus Meridian Special imprinted napkin to sign, but the bartender was faster, snatching it up before he could touch it and then leaning suggestively on the counter top.

“I’m your BIGGEST fan.” She said again, emphatically.

Jack signed and waved goodbye while Inez made strangled noises behind him as the two of them continued on to the first observation car.

“What IS it with you?” Inez said.

Jack would have answered, but as they entered the wrecked observation car, fully wrapped in transparent metal to allow the greatest visibility to the wonders of space, a flash grenade detonated. Instinctively Jack and Inez rolled behind the nearest upended furniture, blinking rapidly while their sight returned. He heard the sound of several people dropping into the train from the hole they’d cut in the hull. The far door opened and closed as the boarding party split up.

As his vision cleared Jack saw Inez pop up and fire over the divan, drawing a yelp from a woman deeper into the car.

“Doc Morris, that really you?” A rough male voice called out as Jack heard the other side roll to cover. “I guess that means Jack is around here somewhere.”

Painkiller Tate. This day was getting better and better.

“I’m here Tate!” Jack yelled. “Shoulda known the Beta Corvi Boys would take a shot at this train.”

“Beta Corvi Bandits!” Said a female voice Jack didn’t recognize, emphasizing the last word heavily. “And Corvus constellation is our territory, chump! It’s right there in the name!”

“Later, Virginia.” Painkiller Tate said. “I got a score t’ settle with Jack here. Got a mouth full of metal from where he sucker-punched me last year.”

“Metal fist will do that.” Jack said, firing blind over the overstuffed sectional he knelt behind, forcing Tate back into cover. “And I don’t see how it was a sucker-punch, we were brawling for nigh on ten minutes before I knocked you senseless.”

Tate growled something inarticulate at him, and a spat of red plasma splashed into the sectional, quickly eating a hole in it a foot from Jack’s head. Painkiller was a monster. Sunspot weapons were short range and didn’t do anything to stone or metal, but organic materials and synthetic fibers dissolved on contact. Just a hint slower than you’d generally like.

“You know what, Tate?” Jack said, crawling up to the middle of the car while Inez kept the Beta Corvi’s heads down. “You’re just too dumb to have a conversation with, and I never get anything good from a random lackey anyhow. Where’s my old pal Archie Hollow eh? Where’s the Hollow Man?”

“I’ll take what’s left of your corpse to him!” Painkiller taunted. “Hey Virginia, try not to hit his face. Boss will want his head as a souvenir!”

This drew a cruel laugh from the new gal. Jack decided he didn’t like her much at all. After a few moments of quiet a rain of red plasma started shooting over his head at Inez’s hiding spot, forcing her to abandon the divan and roll further into her corner behind an overturned table.

Jack scooted left and popped up a few feet from the stream of fire and vaulted over the bench to flank the Beta Corvi’s, and took a shot at the side of Painkiller’s head. He was quick, but not so fast that they didn’t have time to see what was happening. Virginia squawked as Tate grabbed her by the neck and swung her into the line of fire, then dropped her twitching form and drew a bead on Jack in return, aiming for his heart.

“Bye, Jack!” He laughed, and pulled the trigger.

“No!” Doc Inez yelled, standing up and putting two shots into Painkiller’s chest. Even her small zap-gun was generally enough to drop a person in one shot, but the big man just grunted in pain and leaned heavily against the wall, struggling to lift his gun for a return shot, before catching movement out of the corner of his eye and looking back at Jack Stardust in surprise.

Jack was standing there, head lowered, with his hand extended in front of his chest. His glove sizzled and burned away, revealing his gleaming metal hand. In one fluid motion Jack Stardust shrugged off his smoking, plasma spattered long coat as it was eaten away and launched himself at Painkiller Tate.

Tate stood there, dumbstruck, mouth hanging open as Jack slapped the Sunspot out of his hand with a hard right, and then drove his metal left fist into the big man’s lower ribs. He felt something give and snap as Painkiller Tate doubled over, the breath rushing from his body.

“Metal fist will do that, Tate.” Jack said.

Roaring in defiance, Painkiller Tate shoved Jack backward and threw himself through the door behind him as Inez peppered the rapidly closing portal with shots from her zap-gun.

“I liked that coat.” Jack said ruefully as Inez hurried over to him and started checking him for wounds.

“Ain’t got much use for a man that uses his own as a human shield.” She said, finally satisfied that he’d escaped without any major injuries. “You think he only did it because he knew you hadn’t gone lethal?”

“Doubt it. Tate would kill his own mother if she had something he wanted.” Jack said. “You think he’s ruthless, wait until you meet the Hollow Man.”

“Sounds like you have an old score.” Inez said.

“This life is all about old scores, Inez.” Jack replied.

“Then it’s a good thing you have the Devil’s own luck, Jack Stardust.” She pointed to the smoking remains of his coat.

“Boss!” Oliver’s voice hissed over the comm in their ears. Normally they kept radio silence unless there was an emergency or they had to change plans. This situation certainly qualified.

“I’m listening.” Jack said.

“The distress call was on account of the Beta Corvi Boys!” Oliver said.

“Beta Corvi Bandits, apparently.” Jack replied. “Hollow seems to finally have embraced gender equality. We just ran into Painkiller Tate.”

“Gotcha. Well Ira Bell just rolled in here with his robots and took the Engine away from us. He’s done some upgrades and we couldn’t hold ‘em off.” Oliver paused. “And I need Inez. You there Doc?”

“How bad is it?” Inez said, nodding at Jack and heading toward the engine.

“Molly took a knock on the head trying to shield me from one of the bots. She’s out right now. Not sure how serious it is, but she’s bleeding pretty bad. We’re holed up in the Yellow passenger car, room 5B”

“Don’t move her. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Inez said. The door to Marie-Claude’s bar hissed shut behind her, leaving Jack alone.

“Sure.” He muttered. “No problem. I’ll just go finish off Tate and then take on Archie and whoever else is with him all by myself. You got this, Jack.”

Jack took a deep breath and after a moment’s hesitation went through the door.

Three Lawmen looked up from where they had just finished clamping manacles on the unconscious form of Painkiller Tate. A gleaming silver LawMaster Sentry Bot, registering the weapon in Jack’s hand, unpacked itself into combat mode.

“I’m sorry.” Jack said. “I must have the wrong car.”

“Citizen! Please drop your weapon and place your hands on your head.” The LawMaster intoned in a very calm, friendly voice. “We are here for your protection.” A compartment on the Robot’s thigh popped open and a truly massive revolver slid out.

“Well obviously!” Jack said, charging into the Lawmen and dipping a shoulder into his chest and sending him sprawling backward over Tate’s limp form, his sidearm rattling away to the far end of the car.

A vicious fistfight ensued, with Jack struggling to keep the three Lawmen between him and the circling robot. The deputies were decent fighters, but nothing he couldn’t handle. Eventually it was just him and a dusky-skinned young woman with a scar over her left eye. She feinted left and took a wild swing at him, squinting an eye and wincing in anticipation of the brutal counterpunch that never came. After a moment she grinned in exultation.

“Thought so!” She crowed. “You take me down and Old Ironsides there has a clear shot. You can’t afford to hit me back!”

The woman practically went crazy on Jack, flailing at him with no regard for self-preservation. He weathered a storm of kicks and punches, parrying what looked like solid attacks and ignoring the wild thrashing about between them for several long seconds until she fell back a step, leaving them both panting.

As she stepped back and dropped her guard Jack charged her, picking her up and driving her backward into “Old Ironsides” past the robot’s extended arms. She grunted from the impact as the Robot closed one stabilizing arm around her and tried to bend the other in to point the huge revolver at Jack.

He spun away, scooping up a chair and dashing the weapon from the robot’s hand, and then launched himself into the far corner of the rail car. As the robot hesitated, caught between retrieving the weapon, charging the outlaw, or putting down the now struggling woman it held off the ground, Jack rolled back over and pointed the first deputy’s sidearm at them.

“Don’t tell me what I can’t afford, Darlin’.” He said. “I’m Jack Stardust.” Then he shot her in the head with the sleeping deputy’s stunner.

The LawMaster carefully put her limp form down before turning back to him.

“Jack Stardust. Wanted for multiple counts of train robbery, banditry, assault, aggravated assault, mayhem, theft, grand theft, hijacking, larceny, grand larceny, money laundering, bank robbery, gun-fighting, disturbing the peace, trespassing, resisting arrest, vandalism, and curfew violation. I am no longer here for your protection.” It rumbled forward as Jack hopefully peppered it with stunner rounds meant for organic life.

“Curfew violation?” He said. “Seriously?” Jack ducked away from a lashing robotic fist and danced backward.

“Curfew Violation carries a maximum sentence of life in prison on Olkkanor Prime.” The Robot stated, advancing on Jack implacably and throwing another punch.

“See, that’s the sort of unjust nonsense that drives people to a life of crime.” Jack said, still backing away. The train shuddered under what felt like a hard impact.

“Boss!” Oliver’s voice hissed in his ear. “More guests to the party.”

“This day just keeps getting better.” Jack said. “How’s Molly?”

“I’m good, Jack.” Molly said over the comms. “Just a scratch.”

Tension he hadn’t known he was carrying faded as relief flooded through Jack, nearly distracting him enough to let the LawMaster clobber him.

“Good.” Jack said. “Anyone seen Flossie?”

As soon as the words had left his mouth he saw Flossie’s bruiser of a robot, the one she called Karl, loom up behind the LawMaster and bring a heavy fist down on the sentry-bot’s head. The Lawmaster sparked and popped for a few moments before collapsing in a heap.

“Nevermind.” Jack said. “Howdy, Karl.”

The large robot tipped its bowler at him with an oversized hand, swishing the moustache that Flossie had installed to give it more personality.

Flossie was standing behind Karl, oversized old-fashioned wrench resting on her shoulder like a club, her smaller robot, a roughly spherical reconnaissance model she’d invented named Cecil, hovering by her shoulder.

“Sorry I’m late Jack.” She said.

“No, no. Good timing, actually.” Jack said. “Now come on, I think all the fun is happening this way.”

“You got it.” Flossie said.

They passed through the next entryway and found themselves in a firefight. A tough looking woman in battered light infantry armor and wielding a shock-net shotgun like a club was busy hammering at a young lady wielding knives and dressed for success in what Jack recognized as Archie Hollow’s favorite style. Corporate Chic was kind of an unusual fetish for an outlaw, but hey, it took all kinds.

To the left they saw a group of deputies spread out among the seats pinning some bandits behind a hastily assembled pile of wreckage. One of them popped up and took a shot at a deputy, dropping back behind the barrier as a hail of stunner bolts slammed into it.

“Roxie Cotton, is that you?” Jack yelled over the din, shooting a deputy in the back before ducking behind Karl. Return fire pinged off Karl’s metal frame and the robot started to stomp forward.

“Uncle Jack!” The teenage girl yelled back. “What are you doing here?”

“Same as you, I reckon!” Jack called back as Karl thundered through the seats and into the fleeing deputies. “And don’t call me that, it makes me feel old.”

“But you ARE old, Uncle Jack!” Roxie said, laughing. “Hi, Flossie!”

“Howdy, Rox!” Flossie said, cutting off the retreat of one of the deputies and clubbing him with her comically big wrench.

Jack saw Armor-Gal separate herself from Corporate-Raider and dash through the door on the other side of the car. A moment later two deputies that looked like they’d seen better days ran past and made for the door as well. Marshal Reed, finally awake and free of his bonds, followed closely after, taking a blind shot at Jack as he ran by and ducking Jack’s return fire. Roxie Cotton rolled out from her cover a few seconds after them, followed by a thin, scarred, sour faced man Jack recognized as “Bullseye” Raymond Hobbs, and the two of them followed the Lawmen into the cargo part of the train.

Jack ran after them as the robots dealt with the remaining deputies, avoiding a wild slash from the lady in the business suit. She turned to follow him but was cut off by Flossie.

“Not so fast, Honey.” Flossie said.

“The name’s Anna Gamble, not Honey.” Corporate-Raider said, spinning a knife and adjusting her broken glasses. “And did that little girl just call you Flossie? I thought that was a cow’s name.”

“Oh, it’s ON, you B –“

Was all that Jack made out of Flossie’s retort before the door closed behind him.

“Jack!” Molly Mercy’s voice came over the comm. “Bell is down, the Engine is ours.”

“Yeah, but did you have to kick him like that?” Oliver said.

“Ira’s a creep.” Molly replied. “Didya see th’ look on that Comms-Girl’s face when we busted back in there an’ I gave th’ greasy lad The Boot? That girl would probably join our gang now if I asked.”

“What should we do now, Jack?” Inez said, cutting through the banter.

“Set the rendezvous coordinates and signal our ride.” Jack said. “And then get down here, we have problems.”

“What kind o’ problems?” Molly Mercy asked.

“Ran into Roxie and Bullseye.” Jack said.

“So that other impact was the train being boarded by…” Oliver said, groaning.

“The Darkspace Gang.” Jack said, grimly.

“That’s a relief, is what that is!” Molly said happily. “We’ll be down there to say hi in a bit!”

“Be careful, Jack.” Inez said as the comms closed back down.

“Careful.” Jack Stardust repeated to himself. “Right.”

.....

To be Continued


November 18th, 2015, 6:16 pm
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