Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Deadlands: Runaway Train

Cast of characters:

Caleb Jones - ex-soldier and your humble narrator
Thomas Edward Silver - British scientist/monster hunter (??) and greenhorn at getting by in the Wild West
Otto Kaltenbrenner: German scientist and definitely, absolutely sane genius
Ghost: Kaltenbrenner's metal dog
Doctor Frances Grey: physician and by now seasoned adventuress
Kenneth Lake: Southern gentleman and poker player
Dim: lumberjack, very big and not very bright

I wasn’t looking forward to Chicago. Too much military for my taste, makes me feel like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Good thing we left quickly. On a train full of scientists, all headed for Dodge City and Hellstrom’s science convention. What could go wrong.

We chaperone our own scientist, Eliah Bailey. He’s a coloured man, but none of his fellow scientist seem to mind, I guess he really is a genius, for no-one to comment. Specially since they have plenty of gossip to share about each other and take plenty of pot-shots at everyone when they can. There’s not much love lost between them all. We got introduced to a couple of them, one of them even had a machine butler, he called him Max. A robot, he says Max is. Whatever he calls it, it’s a damn sight to see.

I was pretty interested in the guy who used to be a Confederate soldier and prisoner of war and says he has been granted his freedom to visit this convention because he impressed people with his inventions. I’d guess he rather traded one of his inventions for his freedom and good for him. There was even a woman scientist and no-one seemed to mind that either. She can probably hold her own against anyone who would mind.

Mr. Bailey had asked Kaltenbrenner to mix some kind of concoction into the engine grease and while Mr. Silver and I kept the engineer busy, he did. There’s a strict rule against tampering with the train, but we quickly learned that Bailey wasn’t the only one who hadn’t paid any attention to that.

But before that, we spent the night standing guard in the baggage coach to keep anyone from sabotaging Mr. Bailey’s inventions. Talked for a bit with Doctor Grey and of course she asked me why I had bowed out of visiting her family. All I could come up with is that it was a private matter. Close enough to the truth, but not really an answer and we both knew that.

I was saved from more questions by a ticking sound and after some searching, we found a bomb. Three sticks of dynamite strapped to an alarm clock, with two minutes to spare. Didn’t fiddle around with it, just threw it off the train. Killed a few sheep, but the train just drove on. We tried to search for a trace of the dynamite with Doc Grey’s dog, but no luck.

I had had a dream, seeing the train burn like a torch and it felt like one of those dreams again. Might have thought that the bomb had been the reason for that. During breakfast, a couple of other scientist revealed that they had tinkered with the train and each invention was designed to make it go faster. Each one on its own would have been fine, but everything together made the train go much too fast. Doc Grey and I were back in the baggage coach and had our hands full trying to keep all the crates in place. Pretty soon it was hard enough not to get crushed by them. The train was close to jumping the rails.

The others tried to remove the inventions from the engine. Hard to do when the train’s going seventy miles per hour. At least one scientist had a helpful idea - mechanical ants, as big as kittens. They clambered up on the engine and shut off the inventions, slowing us down to a safe speed. I really hope that this is what the dream meant.

Chicago was one hell of a ride. When we got off the train, some Pinkerton detectives invited me to accompany them. Thought about running for a second, but when you run, you’ve given up any chance of talking your way out of it. Turns out I didn’t have much talking to do. They took me for Caleb Jones alright. The man was a bit more than met the eye - he has done work for the Pinkertons and not small stuff, the way I read the letter I got. He, or me, is asked to continue that work, by someone who calls themselves The Ghost. I can’t ask what’s exactly my job, so I’m making it up as I go along. Got a Gatling automatic and a armored coat, so that’s a plus. The letter mentioned keeping an eye for for Doctor Grey because she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. I’m pretty sure she has seen plenty.

I just wanted to get out when I turned myself into Caleb Jones. Didn’t think that I’d ever meet someone who knew the guy and if I did - I’ve talked myself out of worse situations, I thought. Might be hard now. Unless I want to just up and run. That’s always an option, but right now I don’t want to and I think I can handle this.


During the scramble to get the inventions off the train, Kaltenbrenner tried to send his dog to remove the one attached to the train's wheels. He picks him up and shows him the wheels: 'Do you see that device on the wheels?' And the dog goes 'No.' Next, he suffers a catastrophic failure of his magnetic paws when Kaltenbrenner tries to send him up on the engine's roof. Who's a clever boy? You are, Ghost!

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