Tall Tom Thomas Takes the Train
Tall Tom Thomas patted Fuzzball as they headed home. The bear had three casks strapped to its side that sloshed with the promise of a relaxing evening. Tom had finished a busy day. He’d spent the day making some old buildings barn-worthy, and most importantly, taught two settlements how to make casks. He was pretty proud of that last one.
Tom slowed as he approached a main road. Cracked and crumbling, they were still frequented by the Free Riders. With the troubles recently, Tom had started to see bandits cropping up again. They couldn’t hack raids on the Fang cities and the smaller settlements couldn’t sustain a bandit population. But raiding the trucks? That’s a possibility. So when Tom heard a noise that couldn’t be a truck coming from the West he was concerned.
Tom guided Fuzzball out of sight and returned to the road. He stood in the shadow of a stripped tourist’s bus on the side of the road and leaned on his axe. Tom hadn’t spent all day putting buildings together for some punks to come tear it apart looking for an easy target.
The sound came closer. Now it was obviously an engine. And now he knew from the engine’s moan, the man at the throttle was John Luther Jones.
It wasn’t a truck that came down the highway. It was a train. A locomotive of sorts. It looked for all the world like a diesel engine mounted on giant wheels slowly rolling down the road.
So it was definitely Jones. Which, Tom mused, was only marginally preferable to bandits in this case.
It was quite a few minutes before the engine rolled up to where Tall Tom Thomas was waiting. John Luther Jones stick his head out the window and hollered, “Come aboard, friend! Times are changing, and we must be going!”
Tall Tom Thomas just shook his head. It was too soon. Just too soon. He walked back to Fuzzball, took the casks from the bear, and lifted the harness to his own shoulders.
“Be good,” he said. “I probably won’t be back.”
The engine moved with a mind of its own as Tall Tom Thomas sat across from John Luther Jones and Phillip Jones. Tom took up most of the row of installed seats. It wasn’t particularly comfortable.
“You aren’t supposed to be here,” said Tall Tom Thomas. “I still had many things to do here, and you’re supposed to be on your way to San Diego. We promised.”
Phillip watched the road while John spoke, “We tried. I don’t know what happened. They wanted to get their whole group together before they made the deal, but then the Fangs showed up and they decided to burn the town and run for Were territory. Except for one, she got shot for her trouble.”
Tom looked concerned for a moment, “Surely, you don’t mean….?”
“Oh no. No,” said John. “You’d have known if that happened from the thousand pounds of pain that would land on your head. Ours too. Serves us right for having a soft spot I suppose, now that it’s all gone South.”
“West,” corrected Phillip from the other room.
“Idiom,” said John. “Sorry Phil.”
Tall Tom Thomas looked out the window and watched as the home he’d aided and protected rolled past.
“So we need to catch up with them,” Tom said. “Subtle didn’t work, so now we have to try blunt. How much time do we have left?”
“Depends. We timed the pledge traditionally, spent one month teaching her everything we knew, so technically we have until the September Equinox. That’s still almost two months away,” said John. “But that caravan had more mages than you can shake a stick at. Even with the cape, I wouldn’t bet on the status quo lasting that long.”
From the front, Phil called out, “Barricade on the road! Looks like United Cities. Should I fire the cannon?”
Tall Tom Thomas looked at John Luther Jones.