Halfway up the ladder, Rebecca reached up and twisted the latch to unlock the door. She flung it open and quickly ducked her head down as water fell onto her exposed face. It was raining. A loud laugh made her look down at Billy. Grinning, he pointed up the ladder as he gripped the rungs below her. "Ladies first," he said.
Resisting the urge to fall on him, she continued up the ladder into the pouring rain. She looked around, squinting her eyes against the falling water. She called back down the ladder. "This isn't going to work!"
"Sure it is!" was the only response she got. After making sure Fox's pokéball and her pistol were secured tightly on her belt, she hoisted herself up out of the car and grabbed the first handhold she could find. Rain assaulted her from what seemed like every angle. Between that and the wind whipping across the top of the moving carriage, it was a very cold and wet experience. A short while later, Billy graced her with his soggy presence.
He sprayed water from his mouth. "Wet."
Rebecca glared at him through the hair plastered to her forehead. "Where to now, smart guy?"
Billy pointed behind him, towards the front of the train. "That way."
Rebecca took one look at the fifty yards of wet slick metal and shook her head. "That's not happening."
Billy looked behind him for a moment. He turned back to face Rebecca and shrugged. "It's doable. Just do what I do."
With Edward's M-4 slung across his back, Billy lay down on his chest and spread his arms, getting the best grip he could on the slick surface of the carriage. Slowly and carefully, he slid himself across the car. After about halfway across, he propped himself up on his elbows and turned to look back at her. "See? Easy!" he called.
Once again checking her weapon and pokémon, Rebecca copied Billy, sliding herself after him. Water soaked through her uniform, and the wind blew across her back, chilling her to the bone. Billy continued forward, eventually stopping at the end of the car. Rebecca saw him rise up into a kneeling position and stare at something sparking. But what really caught her attention was the giant hole in the roof of the car. Jagged pieces of steel hung down through the punctured ceiling.
Rebecca also brought herself up on her knees and frantically tapped Billy's shoulder. Without turning around, Billy yelled to be heard over the wind. "I saw it. Don't worry about it right now."
"Don't worry about it?" Rebecca yelled back. "Do you know anything that could do that? It looks like someone took a can opener to it!""
"Well, right now I'm trying to figure out how to turn the power back on without frying my ass," Billy said, "so if you'd let me work, we can get out of the rain quicker."
Rebecca sidled up next to him and stared down at the sparking object. It was a simple set up. There were five cables running across the bottom of an access panel. But the panel cover was missing, and one of the cables had been unplugged. Lightning occasionally jumped between the plugs, and Rebecca could hear a faint humming. The whole panel was covered in an all-too familiar blue slime.
Rebecca gestured at the cables. "If you just grab it by the cables themselves, you shouldn't get shocked."
Billy held up his hands. "My fingers are too thick to slip underneath the cable." Indeed, being in the military must have toughened him up considerably. He had some very large, muscular hands.
Rebecca looked at the cable, then down at her own hands. "I think I can do it. Move over."
Billy obliged, nearly slipping off the train as he did so. Rebecca sidled herself into position, taking a moment to inspect the crackling cable. She stared at it for a long moment, long enough to make Billy's teeth chatter and prompting a, "Hurry up!" from him. Finally, she carefully slipped her long skinny fingers around the cable's rubber insulation. She lifted the pieces out and brought them together. Locks on the cable clicked together, and the sparks disappeared.
Rebecca turned to grin at Billy. "See? No problem."
"Right," Billy said. "How about we get back to the – "
The blue slime suddenly transformed into a mutated wurmple, which immediately launched itself at Rebecca. It latched onto her chest, needle-tongue slashing at her body armor. Despite not getting a decent hold, the wurmple's momentum pushed Rebecca back, knocking her into the hole behind her.
The drop was a good ten feet. Rebecca landed on her back, but fortunately her body armor took the brunt of the impact. Still, she lay there for a moment, stunned. The wurmple took advantage of this and moved straight for her neck.
Billy's yell brought her back, just in time to see the wurmple arched over her face. She quickly grabbed it and crushed its fragile body in her fist, flinging the remains against a nearby wall. Rain fell straight onto her exposed face. Looking up, she could see the hole, but everything behind it was a solid shade of black. "Rebecca, you okay?"
Rebecca waved at the unseen Billy. She sat up and winced, holding her head. "Yeah. Peachy."
She started taking in her surroundings. There was a stove along the far wall, with cabinets taking up most of the space. Must be a kitchen. Within moments she had found the door. She walked over to it and confidently tried the handle, but it wouldn't turn. The door was locked.
She groaned. "Billy, you still up there?"
"This door's locked, too. I can't get out."
She heard him laugh. "Didn't they teach you how to kick in doors?"
Rebecca sized the door up for a moment. It was made of oak, and looked pretty solid. "I don't think I can knock it down. You'll have to come get me."
"Negative, dollface," Billy replied. "Look around, see if you can find something to open it with." He was quiet for a moment. "If I'm right, that door leads to the room we just left. I'll make my way back down and meet you on the other side."
Rebecca nodded, even though she knew he couldn't see her. A sliding sound came through the ceiling as Billy propelled himself across the roof of the speeding train. Rebecca began opening cabinets and rifling through the contents. At first, all she found was dishes and cookware, but inside one drawer she found a key. On the key was a tab with KITCHEN written across it. She went back to the door and stuck the key into the keyhole above the handle.
The key went about a third of the way in before it just stopped. Rebecca looked down at it, confused. Was something in the keyhole? She bent down to look, but she could not see far enough inside it to be sure. "Well, damn," she muttered.
She jumped with a start as something began banging on the other side of the door. "Rebecca!"
"Billy, is that you?"
"Who else would it be?" She could barely hear him through the thick door. "You find anything?"
"I found a key," said Rebecca, "but something's jammed in the keyhole!"
Rebecca just stared at the door. "Sarcastic silences don't suit you, cop," Billy said. "Have you tried shooting the lock out?"
Rebecca looked at her M9. "I was trying to conserve ammo."
"One shot's all you need!"
"Okay, fine! Stand back." A 9mm round wasn't going to punch through that lock. But she had a plan for that. She tossed Fox's pokéball on the floor, calling him back out. "Fox, I need you to heat up this lock."
Fox inhaled deep.
"No!" Rebecca yelled. "Small fire." She didn't need him to start anymore fires, especially since they still couldn't get off the train. Fox nodded and puffed small but hot flames at the metal lock. When the lock started glowing red, Rebecca took a couple steps back, aimed, and fired.
There was a muffled pinging sound. The round had hit the lock and embedded itself in the soft metal, and did not punch through. She had, however, completely obliterated the keyhole. "It didn't work!" she yelled.
"I gathered." Billy said.
"Could the magnum do it?"
"I only have two shots left for it." Billy replied. Rebecca groaned. "Tell you what. Stay put. I'll go downstairs and try to find something to get you out."
Rebecca didn't like that idea. She did not trust Billy at all. What if he left her here? But she couldn't think of any other ideas. "We got the power on, right? So you can check what's behind that automatic door."
"I was just thinking that, actually," Billy said. "Hey, what frequency is your radio on?"
Rebecca took a minute to check. "Six. Why?"
"Because I was going to use my radio to keep in touch with you," he said, "but I don't want your friends hearing me. Change the frequency."
"Not happening," Rebecca said. "If I change frequency then the other S.T.A.R.S. can't get a hold of me."
"It's only until I get you out." Billy sounded annoyed. She didn't care. Rebecca was in charge here. Not him. "You can just radio them afterward asking for an update."
"Fine! Jesus…" Fox began sniffing under the door, trying to find Billy. "I'll stay on this frequency, then. Be right back."
Rebecca listened to the sounds of his footsteps as Billy walked away, then down the stairs. The walls were really thin on this train. She made a mental note of it, then fired up her radio. "Bravo Team, Rebecca."
"Enrico, Rebecca. I found Coehn. However, we are currently unable to make the rendezvous. Over."
"Rebecca, Forrest. Good work. Over."
"Rebecca, Enrico. Is Coehn detained? Over."
"Enrico, Rebecca. Negative. The train started up by itself and we are working together to try and stop it so we can exit safely. Over." She winced slightly. They're not going to like that…
"Rebecca, Richard. What the hell, rookie. Over."
"Rebecca, Enrico. Coehn is not to be trusted. He will kill you the first chance he gets. You will detain him and –"
"Enrico, Edward and Kevin are dead."
Silence greeted this remark. "Rebecca, Kenneth. Say again. Over."
Rebecca shut her eyes as they began watering. Now that the adrenaline was fading, she was having trouble staying composed. "Bravo Team, Rebecca. Coehn is not our biggest problem. There are weird pokémon in the woods, that's what's been killing people all this time. I saw them myself. They killed Edward, and before he died Edward said Kevin was dead. Over."
Fox was looking around the kitchen, poking his head into the open cabinets. Rebecca wiped her eyes dry as the radio crackled again. "Rebecca, Enrico. The new mission still stands. Get off that train, and make your way to the crash site. Over."
"Enrico, Rebecca. What about Coehn? Over."
"Rebecca, Enrico. Inform him it may be in his best interests to come with us. Work out a deal of some sort, but watch him. Over and out."
Billy stared at the radio in his hand. He was starting to have a serious problem with these S.T.A.R.S. guys. Billy was far from stupid. He was slated for execution. They obviously knew that, since they had found the MP van. Once they had him they would turn him over to the Marines. Going with the cops meant he was guaranteed to die. Billy was hoping to avoid that tonight.
With a sigh he pocketed the radio and raised his M4. He was standing in front of the automatic door, beyond which was unknown territory and probably something big and nasty. Billy believed in preparation. He took a step forward, and the door whooshed open.
Beyond the door was a large room filled with steel cabinets and sinks. A fridge sat to his right, with a stove next to it. Another kitchen. He noticed a small hallway to his right and quickly swung around it, keeping the rifle's barrel pointed in front of him as he did so. But there was nothing there. It was just a corridor leading to a lone cabinet embedded into the wall.
Something about it intrigued him. He shouldered his weapon and walked down the corridor. When he came to the cabinet he noticed a red button next to it. He wanted to push it, but common sense told him not to. Instead, he opened the cabinet.
It was empty. Somewhat. There was an open box inside of it, open end facing him. The box had some cables running through it. Billy cautiously stuck his head inside to inspect further and saw they lead upward. Under the box was a fancy-looking pulley system.
"A dumbwaiter," he muttered. But where did it go?
Small thuds sounded above him. He glanced up but already knew what it was. Footsteps. In the room above him. And the only living person Billy knew was up there was Rebecca.
He wasn't going to call her to make sure. The moment Rebecca's buddies knew he had the dead cop's radio, they'd all come after them. Billy would be captured, and that was a no-go. But how could he make sure this dumbwaiter lead to Rebecca?
He looked over at the button, a smile forming on his face.
Rebecca jumped at the loud buzz. A soft voice echoed around her. "Delivery."
Fox was looking at the wall across from the door. On it was a cabinet Rebecca had overlooked. Apparently, the buzz came from over there. Cautiously she advanced, pistol aimed at the cabinet. She got to one side of it, and with a nod at Fox, she opened it. Fox immediately jumped inside the cabinet, barking. Rebecca glanced inside and blinked in surprise.
There was a blue sleeveless shirt inside. It was soaking wet, and looked a lot like the one Billy was wearing when she first found him. He must have found this elevator thing.
Maybe she could send him something helpful. She unbuckled one of the pouches on her vest and took out another M4 magazine. She tossed it on top of the shirt and pulled Fox out. To her surprise, he jumped right back in. "What are you doing?"
"Vulpix." Fox sniffed the shirt and wagged his tails.
This night was full of surprises. She had never known Fox to warm up to someone that quickly. At least, that's what she thought he wanted. To go with Billy. "No. Come out."
Fox whined and shook his head. Rebecca tried to pull him out again, but he braced himself against the wall, resisting her grip.
Rebecca stopped, thinking. Fox could handle himself in a fight, as he had proved already. There wasn't a lot Billy could do to him that Fox couldn't see coming. Plus, if he tried anything funny, Fox could stop him. With a nod and a smile, she closed the cabinet. She spied a red button above it, and mashed it.
The buzzer went off, and the cabinet opened. Billy almost shot Fox as he came springing out of the dumbwaiter. Billy pulled his shirt back on and pocketed the magazine, glaring at Fox. "Trying to give me a heart attack?"
Fox wolfed softly and nuzzled against his ankle. "Whatever. Just stay close."
Billy went back towards the automatic door. Slowly and carefully he walked along the room's walls, taking in every detail of the room. He found a couple empty bottles but went past them, not deeming them useful. Behind the refrigerator was yet another door, leading to yet another connection tube, that was connected to yet another car. Mr. Zombie, party of three, now boarding….
Fortunately, this door was unlocked. So was the one behind it. A casual glance around this car told him that this was the cargo carriage. Suitcases and bags were stacked all around him. There was bound to be something useful in here. He set the M4 against the wall and began taking down bags.
Five minutes later, he kicked the last suitcase across the room, scattering clothes everywhere. Nothing. But there was a bright side to the search. He found the door out of this car lead straight outside, indicating he was in the final car. He opened the door and stepped out into the rain. There was a small area surrounded by a railing. Set against the wall was another ladder leading up to the car roof, but Billy ignored it. He had no desire to do that again.
Success. A panel was set next to the ladder. Etched across it in bold red letters was the word BRAKES. Fox stayed in the cargo room out of the rain as Billy pried the panel off. He gleefully threw it off the train and began working on the brake controls.
Or tried to. The controls were electronic, not manual like he thought. And he needed a code.
"Who the hell makes trains this complicated?" Billy looked down at Fox. Fox was licking one of his tails. "Seriously. Fuck this train."
Fox wagged his tails at him. Billy sighed. "Alright. Let's go back up front."
The trip up front was, thankfully, uneventful. Billy inspected the card lock, doing his best to ignore the thankfully-still-dead cop. Billy went back around to the door leading to the conductor's office. "I bet she didn't try this door," he muttered disdainfully as he twisted the knob. This door was locked too.
Fox whined and scratched at the door. "Got you covered, pup." Billy took two steps back and kicked at the door. The lock didn't give way, but he did smash a hole through the middle. He gazed around through the hole, but there were no people inside, alive, dead, or undead. Billy stuck his arm through and fumbled with the lock, opening the door.
It was indeed an office. There was a desk, with cabinets hanging above it. A typewriter sat on the desk, which struck Billy as odd. "Old fogey probably hated computers." Billy rifled through the desk while Fox looked around, but all he found was a travel log and some red plants. He left the travel log, but took the plants. Gonna need a blunt after all this…
Fox barked. Billy saw him jumping up and down in front of the wall, staring at the ceiling. He looked up and saw what looked like a trap door, with a ladder set across the ceiling. He pulled the desk out and stood on top of it. Billy pulled the ladder down and set it under the trapdoor. He opened it, but stopped and looked down at Fox.
"How are you getting up?"
Fox eyed the hole. He jumped on the desk, then on Billy's knee, and finally up through the hole. Smirking, Billy followed him.
Up here was a wide, wide room, taking up the entire top half of the train car. There was nothing on the walls, except windows. Billy could hear the rain pelting the metal roof. It was noisy, and annoying. At the end of the room he found a door. "Where could that go?" Whistling for Fox, Billy walked towards it.
A loud thud reverberated through the ceiling. The car shook violently. Billy didn't stop to question what was happening, he just broke into a run. "Let's go, pup!"
There was an earsplitting squeal behind him. Billy turned and dropped into a crouch, aiming his rifle at the hole being ripped into the roof behind him. Something sharp, thick, and black thrust itself through the roof and wrenched pieces of it away, until a large hole nearly taking up the back half of the room was opened. The black thing disappeared, but this proved to be bad, because something much, much larger jumped through the hole and turned to face him.
It was a drapion. But it wasn't like any drapion Billy had ever seen. This one was at least twice as big as normal, and instead of the normal dull purple shell it was sporting a sleek and shiny black one. It also had a tail, like the one it must have had when it was just a skorupi. The tail whipped around in a frenzy, gouging the walls with its long and probably poisonous stinger. The pinsers, the sharp black thing Billy had seen, open and snapped shut with equal frenzy. The drapion roared and raced towards Billy, claws reaching for him.
Billy fired. Bullets ricocheted off the drapion's thick armor in every direction, barely missing a cowering Fox. It only took a couple shots for Billy to realize he needed to move. He turned tail and ran straight for the door. But the drapion was much faster. It caught up and bowled him over before reaching down with its claws.
But luck was with Billy. The drapion was moving too fast, and literally ran right over him. Billy's face was inches from its underbelly. He quickly drew his magnum and fired. The round ripped straight through the drapion's belly. It bounced off the underside of the thick top exoskeleton and back into the floor, doing heavy damage to the drapion's insides. Billy propelled himself out from under the pokémon, sliding across the floor towards Fox. He picked him up and sprinted for the trapdoor.
A zinging sound was the only warning he got. Combat instincts took over, and he dove to the ground as glowing purple stingers flew over him and into the far wall. He rolled, dropped Fox, aimed for the drapion's head, and fired. But he missed, and his last magnum round sailed uselessly through the metal roof.
"Fuck!" he yelled. He tossed the magnum away and slid himself to the trapdoor, narrowly avoiding the drapion's tail. He dropped through headfirst and fell on his back, wincing as he hit the floor.
The drapion's claw snaked down, passing over his face only inches away. Billy rolled under the desk as the drapion grabbed the trapdoor lip and ripped away more train. The rest of the floor caved in, toppling down across the desk. Billy stayed under it, listening as the drapion tore the office apart looking for him. The drapion was almost too big to fit in the office. Its whipping tail got caught in the door frame and took down the entire wall.
Fuck this. Screw the cop. Never mind that the train was still moving. Billy was getting off. He spied a chance to escape and ran for it.
Somehow, over the crunching of wood and the roaring drapion, Billy heard a soft beep. It was coming from the locked door, the one with the card lock. As he watched, the door swung open, and two men stepped through. They instantly spied the drapion and one of them leveled…A grenade launcher?
The grenade slammed into the drapion's face, exploding on contact. Headless, the pokémon toppled backwards through the destroyed wall and over the side of the train.
Billy stood up and checked himself. Somehow, through all that, he had held on to the M4. He could even see his discarded magnum. It was on the floor in front of him. Rain poured through the destroyed roof on top of him and the two men. They were both looking at him, decked out in body armor and gas masks. Billy nodded at them. "S.T.A.R.S.?"
The men did not speak. On the front of their chest plates was a symbol of some sort. It was a perfect circle, divided into white and red triangles. Okay. Not S.T.A.R.S.
One of the men moved, drawing a pistol. Billy was already moving, scrambling over the ramp quicker than a meowth. The shot passed him on his left. Billy ran for the door yet again, but he knew he couldn't out run another bullet.
Suddenly he heard screaming. Billy turned around to see Fox covering one man in flames. The other was frantically rolling on the ground, trying to put out the fire working its way up his leg. As Billy watched, the rolling man rolled right off the train, while the other man began thrashing about on the ground. Billy aimed at him and fired off two shots, and he stopped moving. Fox trotted over and sniffed him, then sat down and wagged his tails.
"Good vulpix." Billy was shaking. He looked down at Fox. With Fox still around, Billy would have to help Rebecca out after all. Any escape plans would have to be put on hold for the time being. Damn it all.
"Here, boy." Billy opened the door and stepped through, closely followed by Fox. The hallway immediately branched left, then right. Billy followed it, then stopped. "Ah, what now?"
The entire hallway was filled with blue, transparent balls. And inside each of those balls, much to Billy's and even Fox's dismay, was a blue wurmple. And they were moving slightly, quivering in their sleep.
Billy caught Fox's attention and held a finger to his lips. To his surprise, Fox nodded. Together, they began backing away slowly. Billy saw another door to his right and silently opened it. Inside was a small room with a bunk bed in the corner. And on the bottom bunk was a red, tin box. Billy went to it and opened it.
"Yes!" he whispered. It was a tool box. Something in here was bound to get that door open. Billy slung the M4 across his back and turned to leave.
Fox yelped as Billy's foot got caught underneath him. Billy lost his balance and fell flat on his chest. In the process, the toolbox flew out of his hands and hit a wall.
The ensuing racket, in Billy's horrified opinion, was loud enough to wake the dead.
It definitely woke up the wurmple. Billy watched as the blue balls began popping open and the wurmple swarmed towards him.
Rebecca had been sitting on the floor for damn near twenty minutes. All she had to do was watch the rain fall through the hole in the ceiling. But she was too worried about Fox and the rest of Bravo Team to be bored. Edward's frantic request rang through her mind again, as his grip grew tighter and tighter on her arm, until he finally died.
What was happening out here? What made dead people come alive? What was wrong with those luxray and wurmple? Where was this train going? And who had started it?
Rebecca looked up with a start. She was hearing singing.
It sounded like a woman's voice. The singing was all around her. It almost seemed like it was coming from the very walls. She got up and looked outside a nearby window.
Outside, rain poured. But almost immediately, moonlight shone through the clouds and illuminated the surrounding forest. But only for a moment. But in that moment, Rebecca could see a large rock raised up over the trees. And on top of that rock was a man.
Scratching at the door made her jump. She backed herself against the wall and drew her M9 as the scratching continued. The lock suddenly popped out of the back side of the door, hitting the floor with a dull thunk. The door then swung inward, allowing Fox to run through and into Rebecca's arms. Standing on the other side of the doorway was Billy, covered head to toe in blue slime. In his right hand was a screwdriver.
"Fuck this train." Billy spit on the floor. "Grab your stuff, we're leaving."