• Joseph walked along the Via Prime, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the damned city of Laurentia as possible. After the Decimation Debacle, every outsider and many locals left the city to it's fate. The previous afternoon, Hector left and headed southwest while Joseph went northwest. Joseph had found a safe place to sleep in an abandoned trench network. He had continued on his way a little before sunrise.
    Joseph had been walking through a large, cratered field with the intent of reaching and traveling along the Via Prime. He had been walking along the Via Prime for over an hour at a fast and steady pace. The sun was almost at it's highest point when the road met up with and followed along side the Midland Railway. Joseph was becoming increasingly confident that there was a small town or rest stop near by.
    Soon after, a trail of smoke could be seen behind on the railway. Over the next hour the train was getting closer and closer until it was moving along side Joseph. It was a passenger train of some kind. He drew a flachette pistol in his left hand and kept his right hand ready to draw his sword when he noticed armed men sitting on the last cars. To make things more uncomfortable, the train was slowing down. Joseph wanted to make it loud and clear to whoever might notice him that he was not going to be any easy target.
    He hated this part of an encounter; “are they enjoying the ride or are they interested in what I might have?”
    As the last car drew closer, Joseph saw a familiar sight among the small group. It was the gunslinger he met the previous day, Hector. Joseph wanted to relax but he knew one small bonding experience wasn't enough to justify foolishness; he flipped the safety switch on his pistol off.
    Hector raised his rifle above his head, and yelled, “Need a ride, young swordmaster?”
    Joseph holstered his pistol, leaving the safety off. He dashed towards the last car and hopped on the platform. Next to the doorway was a ladder leading to the roof of the car. He climbed up the ladder and kept his hand on his pistol when he got near the top.
    Joseph stuck his head over the top of the train car to see Hector and three other armed people sitting around a large hookah. The roof of the car was flat and covered in a rough paint that made it easy to walk on. Railings lined the edge of the cars.
    “Workers of the world unite!” Hector cheerfully yelled at Joseph. “We could use another person if you're up to it.”
    Joseph climbed up onto the roof and walked over to the circle. He sat down and asked “Where is this train headed?”
    “There's a small town about a day ride from here. We're all staying the night and taking the train to Goosequill.” Hector said, billowing smoke from his mouth as if he were one of the chimney stacks. Hector held out a tube attached to the hookah. “Food, drink and smoke compliments of Midland Railway.”
    “So is Goosequill a mining town?” Joseph asked.
    “A mountain town as well. Take a seat, relax.” Hector seemed much more friendly outside the walls of Laurentia. “This here is Gracchus, he's running the show; Delilah, another swordmaster and Judeu, another gun.”
    Joseph sat down cross legged, facing the hookah and greeted everybody. He had always ridden strictly as a passenger so he never had access to the roof let alone the guard deck. “So are we guarding anything now or are we just on our way?”
    “You're lucky we picked you up.” Delilah said “We're crossing an area popular to pirates and raiders.”
    “You were ready to take on the entire train by the looks of it though.” Judeu said “Safety's off.”
    “Glad you guys found me first then. It's gonna rain.” Joseph pointed to the black clouds rolling towards them. He switched the safety on his falchette pistol on.
    “Oh nice. Rain squalls are going to mess with the radar.” Gracchus said. “You know what that means.”
    “Smoke if you got em.” Hector said, smoke still billowing out of his mouth. He passed the hose to Joseph.
    “Why not.” Joseph replied. He didn't doubt his ability to stay calm in a fight but he was still shaken from having to bash an innocent person's skull in with a rock. His name was Kenneth. Hector and Joseph both took part in this act. Maybe that was why Hector was smoking like the train.
    He could feel it sink into his lungs, green, heavy and thick. At the same time, he could feel the impurities burning like smoke stacks in his lungs. Joseph blew it out in a thick, gray cloud. He coughed and said “I'm done.”
    Gracchus looked at Joseph's short sword and said, “If you're done then come with me. They're going to try and board us.”
    “What're we carrying?” Joseph asked.
    “VIPs, rich people, and whatever said rich people brought. Even the train itself. There's a lot of us who were born for a fight and not much else. Got to make a living somehow.”
    “They say a man with a sword will never starve. They don't say all the other ways he can die, though.” Hector said.
    “We're almost sure to get hit. They're gonna use the rain clouds to hide from the radar. If it rains hard enough it will completely white out the radar.” Gracchus said while walking to the ladder. Joseph followed down the ladder and inside the car.
    On top of the car, Hector and Judeu opened up similar looking cases and pulled out two long, bolt action rifles. In unison they both picked up their rifles, opened the bolt, pulled a bullet out of the case, and chambered it. They then reached into the cases and pulled out a magazine and loaded it with a click. They both put leather covered scopes on their rifles, adjusted the slings and pulled out a pair of binoculars.
    At the same time this was going on, Delilah opened up a different looking case and pulled out a drop holster and flachette pistol similar to Joseph's. She put the holster on and adjusted the waist and leg straps. She then chambered a cartridge and loaded a fat, short magazine into the pistol and holstered it. She left the safety off. She took off her leather poncho to reveal a body carved from stone. She picked up a great sword that was sitting next to her. This sword was longer than her and seen holding it, everybody knew why she never wore it on her back or at her hip. The scabbard was made of wood and leather and looked as if it could be used as a club. She held the sword by the scabbard in her left hand and looked through a pair of binoculars opposite of the storm.
    Everybody watched and waited. Thunder rolled in the distance. Delilah spoke, “Grass, two seven zero relative.”
    “Got it.” Judeu raised his rifle and ran to the left side of the train and looked for what Delilah saw. Delilah began looking for the next target while Judeu sighted his rifle on the target; a well armed fool looking in the wrong direction. With a loud crack Judeu put a bullet through somebody's chest.
    On the right side of the train, Hector started shooting at something,
    While Joseph and Hector were shooting at far away targets, Delilah was watching for any valuable targets. She spotted a truck carrying people headed towards them, “Truck, zero four zero”
    Hector shot the driver and the truck veered off and stopped. “You think I got anybody behind him?”
    “Yeah, they dumped both and somebody is hopping in the cab.”
    Hector emptied his magazine and said, “If they don't run after the first volley from these rifles, we're in for a hell of a fight.”
    “Can I try that vulcan cannon when they get close enough?” Swordmasters had an affinity for scattering shot firearms and Delilah looked strong enough to run circles around the train while carrying this one.
    “This I have to see!” Hector loved the idea of this stocky girl running around with this three barreled repeating shotgun. Train companies had the best toys.
    “The storm is moving over the train” Judeu said as the first scattered clouds started to rain on them. The sky was a black line covering the north. The train tracks led straight into it's storm.
    Judeu and Hector took their rifles apart and put them back in their cases. They readied their personal guns; Hector had a very sturdy looking assault rifle while Judeu had two very large pistols with unique modifications.
    The train's brakes screamed and everybody was jolted forward. A static filled voice came over a box where they were sitting “We're not going into that storm. Let it blow past us.”
    Whoever wanted the train, knew they failed their surprise attack and sent ten open bed trucks full of people after the train.
    Delilah grabbed the gun case that had the vulcan cannon and ran to the front of the train. Leaping from one car to the next.
    Hector tried to keep up; it took concentration and effort to leap from one train car to the next. How was she doing this with a great sword and a shotgun with a drum for a magazine? Hector had to time his steps, slow down and spring over the gap. He then had to recover from the landing and get back into the pattern of running. Delilah looked like she was running and simply stepping across the gaps.
    The first trucks made it to the train. Delilah was the first one to the first car on the train and waited for Hector. His feet barely touched the car before Delilah pulled the scabbard off her sword, tied it to a railing and jumped off the train. Hector caught up to give her covering fire; maybe he could get most of them before they had a chance to jump out of the truck.
    Delilah angled her sword towards the ground; it bent as it struck the ground first. When her feet touched the ground, she spun her sword around drove it into the ground. As the sword released it's energy, Delilah shoveled up rocks and dirt and hurled them at the first truck. The shower of rocks shattered the windshield of the car like a blast of flack. The driver and his passenger were an unrecognizable mess.
    Hector was shocked, to see how fast this happened. How much were they paying her? Hector easily picked off people as they jumped out of the trucks.
    Delilah tossed her sword towards the tracks out of the way and took the vulcan cannon off her back and aimed it at the truck. She pulled the trigger and the barrels spun, spitting out three large slugs with a boomboomboom that tore the truck, apart. The first twelve rounds were loaded with slugs and the other thirteen were double zero buckshot. Delilah was ready to shred the next three trucks that came near her.
    While Delilah and Hector were protecting the front of the train, Judeu stayed at the back of the train and waited for the trucks to surround the rear. He turned a latch at the feet of the guard car and raised a steel plate; he raised three more plates that faced the sides. They ran the width and length of the car but came up to waist height. The first trucks to reach him came from behind the train.
    Judeu waited for the first truck to get within range and fired his pistols. They were made to fire large caliber while the machinery under the barrel absorbed the recoil. Judeu showed precision and skill, putting gaping through people, wasting no bullet. The people on the trucks started shooting back. He couldn't imagine why they were putting so much effort into taking this train.
    “We have a problem.” The voice on the box said, “something big is heading towards us from behind.”