Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Pallbearer: Fevers In Berlin Part 2

Dragon Slayer

I spent a lot of summers at my cousin's house growing up. Train tracks ran behind their house. A big black locomotive ran down the line every afternoon at three. Some loony old man that always wanted to be an engineer.

It belched smoke. Thick black clouds. The first summer I saw it was the summer I got confirmed in the church. Sitting there, trying to choose my confirmation name, I came across a passage about St. George. The same moment I read the words "dragon slayer," that locomotive blew its whistle as it charged past.

And I wanted to kill a dragon.

And so I stood on the West Worthington private rail tracks, St. George loaded with armor-piercing shells, and waited.

Down the track, I saw it coming. A black worm wriggling and writhing its way through the buildings. I drove my Brute's feet into the ground and waited.

The Black Dragon Express; prisoner transport, mobile comm station, and transportation for the Berlin Flu antivirus.

A voice trickled through my Brute's comm channels.

"...something on the tracks..."

Time to kill a dragon.

St. George roared three times, each shell punching through the sleek pitch black locomotive. Rather than slowing, it sped up. The engineer must've survived.

Resilient little shit.

I gritted my teeth as the train bore down on me. My Brute was built to lift ten-ton prisoner transport coffins. Not to stop trains.

I slung St. George over my shoulder, counting the seconds to impact.





End of the line.

I grabbed the locomotive through the bullet holes and pushed back hard. Pain tore through my knees as I braced myself against the train. It squealed, sizzling to a stop as my Brute's knees twisted apart.

I will not fall. I refuse.

The cars behind slammed into each other, the linkages severing. The cars crumpled up on each other, impaled on snapped axles and a ruined railbed.

I roared and tore the locomotive in half. There was no engineer. No controls.

I locked in an incendiary clip and fired into the next car. It erupted into flame.

"Will you stop that? You're making us late."

A small man with a pale face and a split lip wearing a conductor's uniform stepped through the flames.

"Where's the antivirus?"

"The antivirus is potentially unstable. More importantly, it is the property of the West Worthington Coporation. So is that Brute you're piloting. However, the pinnacle of importance at this very moment is that you are impeding our progress."

"Too fucking bad. I'm taking the antivirus."

The conductor adjusted his cap.

"This will not do. You've demolished half the train and crippled the rest of it. I will be lucky to make it to base on time."

"Give me the antivirus and go. I don't give a damn about you or this train. I want the cure. Now."

The conductor lifted the whistle around his neck and blew.

"I doubt most of the troops you were lugging around are going to give a shit about that whistle right now. If they aren't dead, they're crawling away, praying I won't find them."

The conductor smiled and blew the whistle twice more.

"Only one has to pay attention."

A figure emerged from the flames, flexing green claws. It smiled at me through yellow slitted eyes. Its muscles flexed beneath its black shirt and trousers, stretching the fabric. A boulder shaped head taller than me with jagged steel teeth, the creature saluted the conductor.

"Grendel, reporting for duty."

"That man is the one that calls himself Pallbearer. He is trying to make us late."

"That's unkind of him."

"Show him the error of his ways."

"With pleasure."

Grendel and I stepped toward each other.

And my Brute's right knee gave out. I landed with a scream and a crash.

Grendel leaned down, grabbing my Brute by the head.

"Well Mr. Pallbearer, you've caught the train. Now what do you intend to do with it?"

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