Serial Saturday: Nightmare Engine of Doom Part 10 – Escape!

“To the train station!” Enzo shouted, and took off running on his stubby legs. Despite my momentary confusion giving him a lead, I soon caught up as we ran past bystanders and airfield officials. I took a glance back and saw that our pursuers were gaining on us, thanks to Enzo’s poor running speed. Looking ahead, I saw potential salvation in the form of a line of steam-taxis, high, ungainly vehicles made of steel and gently puffing steam as they waited for passengers.

“The taxis!” I shouted to Enzo as I accelerated past him.

“Come back, you rat bastard!” Enzo shouted, apparently thinking I intended to abandon him. Had I known what was to come, I would have done so, but at the time I still retained some of my naive faith in the man our secret organization had chosen to partner me with. So when I arrived at the line of cabs, I simply threw my bag into the passenger compartment and exhorted the cabbie sitting high in the driver’s seat to warm up his vehicle, then turned to urge Enzo on.

Our pursuers were closing fast by the time Enzo reached us, but fortunately there were enough other people racing about in various directions nearby that the cabbie did not notice, or perhaps he didn’t care. In any event, he responded to my urging and started the steam cab moving moments after I grabbed Enzo and hurled him into the passenger compartment, following him a second later.

Before I had even gotten myself settled in, Enzo had clambered up to lean out the window.

“Fifty dollars if you can get us to the train station in five minutes!” he bellowed, and would have fallen out of the window if I had not grabbed his belt and dragged him back in.

We both peered out the little rear-window of the cab, but now I could not make out anyone pursuing us through the chaos. Would they think to look for us at the train station? It seemed like a fairly obvious place to go, but hopefully if we could get a gap on them them there would be sufficient confusion as to our whereabouts to let us make good our escape.

The steam cab was moving fast, at any rate. Enzo’s bribe appeared to be working, which implied that five minutes was a possible, but difficult to attain, travel time from the airfield to the train station. I was just about to ask Enzo how he had known what travel time to ask for when we rounded a corner fast enough that the whole cab lurched to one side on two wheels.

“Why do they make something that can go so fast so damned tall?” Enzo shrieked in a high-pitched voice as we landed hard on, on four wheels again. It was a fair question, because the high center of gravity seemed to make the contraption inherently unstable. Any other time, as an arcane mechanic, it would have been a question I could have spent a fair amount of time mulling over, and possibly diagramming. Just at that moment, though, I was more concerned with trying to slow the vehicle down.

I poked my head out my window so I could shout at the driver and nearly had my head taken off by a lamppost as we sped past. I settled for thumping on the ceiling of the passenger compartment and shouting, but it seemed to have no effect.

“He’s really eager to get that fifty dollars,” Enzo said as the cab lurched again. The sound of the steam engine at the back of the cab had increased in pitch, and was making a loud shrieking noise. “You’ve got it, right?”

“What? No, you’re the one who offered it,” I replied.

“Well, I certainly don’t have fifty dollars to spare,” Enzo muttered. “This could get ugly.” He produced a pocket watch and flipped it open. “On the other hand, he’s got less than a minute to make it now, so maybe you won’t have to pay up.”

“Look,” I said, bouncing off the wall of the compartment as we took a heavy lurch, “for one thing, I won’t be paying anything since you offered the bribe. For another, how do you even know? Did you consult your watch as you made the offer?”

“Of course not, but he won’t know that.”

I goggled for a moment. “If you’re planning to just tell the man that he took too long, then why are you telling me that it will be another-” I began, and was interrupted by a terrific explosion from behind us in the car.

Copyright © 2011 SM Williams


~ by smwilliams on December 17, 2011.