Pulp and Dagger Webzine Presents

Government Agent, Abram Donlevy in

The Terror of the Rails!

An Extraordinary Odyssey of Action and Wonderment!

Andrew Dunphy

Chapter Thirteen -  The Endless Tunnel

 BRAM AND MILES FILED INTO THE DARK TUNNEL along with a crew of mole people.  They were only distinguishable from their companions by their greater height, and by the glowing lights strapped to their brows.  The smaller mole people, born and bred in the darkness, seemed to need much less in the way of illumination, contenting themselves only with a couple of torches carried at the front and rear of the procession.

As they reached a portion of the tunnel -- an area that was no different from any other to Bram and Miles' untrained eyes -- the procession stopped, and the mole people set to work.  A pile of tools, picks and shovels, clattered to the ground from where they had been hauled in the back of a cart, and the mole people helped themselves to appropriate tools.

As Bram retrieved a pick axe, Miles snorted with derision.

"Tell me again just what the Devil you think you're doing?" asked the Irish-American raider belligerently.

Bram looked at him.  "Sir Terrest assigned us to this work crew, to help round out this tunnel."

"I know why we're here, I just don't know why you're going along with it," said Miles, stretching himself out upon the hard ground, making it clear he had no intention of participating.  Mole people moving back and forth were forced to step around him.

"We're the first humans," Bram glanced at the diminutive figures bustling about them, "well, the first normal humans, Terrest has brought down here to his sub-terrestrial kingdom.  We're the only ones who know he, and it, exists.  We're his prisoners, but he seems eager to incorporate us into his little family.  He wants to believe we will aide him -- I think desperately so.  After all, he can't build his Utopia without a population.  Besides, he's been living down here for ten years or more, surrounded by mole people, and the only human of his own kind, Raman Singh, is a mute.  He wants our companionship and understanding.  And I think it might be wise not to disabuse him of that notion...yet.  As long as we do what we're told, when we're told, Terrest seems content to let us have a fair amount of autonomy.  That gives us an opportunity to plan, to figure out what Terrest's grand scheme really is, and how to escape."

Miles netted his fingers behind his head and grinned.  "We know what his grand scheme is: to drive the British colonialists from the prairies above our heads.  Well, more power to him, I say.  Unless you've forgotten, my lad, I was attempting to strike a blow against you lap dogs of the British myself, before you arrested me and I was impressed into your service," said the would-be Fenian terrorist.

"I somehow don't think Sir Terrest's cause is your cause."

Miles shrugged.  "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," he quoted.

"You've no love for Terrest, or his dream of creating a Utopia for men of all races and creeds.  You'd turn on him in a minute."

"Excuse me, lad, but I thought that's what you were planning."

"I object to Terrest's methods, but I can sympathize with his dream.  You, though, have no interest in his dream, but admire his methods."

"To each his own."

"And what do you think Terrest will do to you when he learns that you haven't been pulling your weight on the work crew?  I don't suppose you'll be walking about so freely after that.  Maybe you'll find yourself back in that cell we were first imprisoned in."

Miles' eyes narrowed viciously.  "And who will tell him -- you?"

Bram grinned.  "No.  But don't forget that, though we can't speak the lingo of these sub-terrans, and they don't seem to speak ours, Terrest speaks with them.  You don't think he'll be asking them how we deported ourselves while out here, supposedly without supervision?"

Miles pursed his lips, then looked about at the bustling figures in their work suits, their fur trimmed faces and big eyes giving no indication they were paying much attention to the two surface men.  Abruptly, Miles stood.  "Well, break times over.  Hand me one of those shovels, there's a good lad."

As the two uneasy allies moved deeper into the tunnel, Miles looked at Bram who preceded him by a couple of paces.  A cruel smile turned Miles' lips.  "I see what you mean, though, about Terrest being down here all alone.  Wanting our companionship.  Must get lonely after all these years, especially at night.  That must be why he seems to be showing such an interest in that squaw woman you've taken a fancy to." Bram did not respond, or turn, but Miles saw him stiffen, saw the tenseness in his shoulders.  And Miles chuckled to himself.

* * *

Mary Manyrivers entered the large living chamber, the electric lights casting a steady, even glow over the carpet and furniture.  Though Mary's experience of the world was limited, and so she could not know for sure, she had an inkling that some of the furniture was of elegant, European design, perhaps brought by Sir Humbert Terrest himself when he first arrived in the west, while others were more crude, presumably scavenged from abandoned sod huts on the surface left by defeated settlers, while others were stranger still, presumably left by the mysterious builders of this underground city -- who Terrest surmised to be Atlanteans.

For a woman raised on the great plains among nomadic people, accustomed to the tents and lean-tos of her people or, occasionally, the fur trading forts of the white man, the opulence was momentarily staggering.  Father Forcier had spoken of the grandeur of the great cities of Europe, or even those places in the east, such as Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa.  Names only to her.  But now she thought she had an inkling of what those names represented.

"Come in, my dear," said Terrest, standing by what Mary recognized as a phonograph player -- she had seen one once before, carried by a fur trader.  Terrest came up before her and, bowing, kissed her delicate hand.  He was a tall man, and though older than her, there was a power and a charisma about him that she could not quite deny.  After all, had he not set out in search of a personal dream and, against all odds, had he not carved out a life for himself in this, most unexpected of realms?  How could she not admire the man's accomplishments? 

"Do you dance?" he asked.

She cocked her head, listening to the soft, languid notes arising from the phonograph.  It was not like the music of her people, nor the wild, fiddle music she had heard at the forts.  "Not to this," she admitted, shyly.

"I'll show you," he said, taking her in his arms and guiding her around the floor, his boots never once endangering her bare feet.  "Brahms," he said.

She didn't know what that meant, so she just smiled and nodded, "Brahms to you."

He laughed, but without derision.  "I have not danced for many years, not since my wife died."

"Wife?" She looked at herself, at the elegant dress Terrest had provided for her.

He nodded, seeing her glance at herself.  "The dress was hers.  She died in India."

That was all he said, but it was enough.  Mary remembered his tale at the dinner table, relating his experiences in India and how they had led to his disillusionment with his civilization, and how he and the Sikh, Raman Singh, set out to find something better.  He had made no mention of a wife then, but now she was left to wonder just how much her dark and unspoken fate had contributed to Terrest's utter alienation from the world above.

As she swayed in his strong arms, she was not ignorant of the significance of being a woman, here, in the dress of his dead wife, of the role Terrest was clearly casting her in.  And she was not sure what she felt about that.  She had regarded most white men with distrust and suspicion, never imagining that she could love one.  Save for Father Forcier, of course, but he as a dear uncle.  Yet within the last few days she had found herself -- not in love, perhaps, that was too premature -- but attracted to two very different white men: Bram Donlevy and Sir Humbert Terrest.  Two men on opposing courses, heading for a dangerous collision.

"What will you do once you have driven all the white men from the plains?" she asked, not as yet convinced that Terrest could actually accomplish such a gargantuan task.  Yet when he spoke of it earlier, it was as if it was almost a foregone deed, as if his ultimate plan was almost complete.  And if he could accomplish it, was that not something to be encouraged?  she wondered.  Had not many of her people dreamed of just such an act?  Yet, at the same time, would that not be its own monstrous act?  After all, could such a thing be done without bloodshed?  And were there not white men who had laid down roots, built homes?  Were there not white women and children who would suffer? 

He stopped in mid-turn and looked at her soberly, as though pained, his eyes softening.  "I don't think you understand, Mary.  In order to build Utopia, I must start with a clean slate.  It is not just the white men who have proven themselves corrupt and barbarous, but the Indian people as well.  As an Indian yourself, you must be as aware as anyone of the failings and iniquities in your own culture.  No, it is not just the white man who must be purged from the land above our heads, Mary."

Then, boldly, he leaned down and kissed her on the lips.  She did not resist, but her eyes were cloudy with thought.

* * *

Father Forcier walked through the eerie, unnatural streets of this lost, sub-terrestrial city, the strangely organic buildings rising up about him like canyon walls.  Around his legs swirled the playful children of the mole people, curious about the priest in his black cassock.  He smiled at them, reminded of when he had first come west to the Indians, many years ago.

He had been able to provide little to the Indians, his spiritual succour of little use against material woes.  But here?  In this world of eternal darkness?  He might be able to provide something, not just for the sub-terrans, but for Terrest himself, who was clearly a troubled, bitter man.  And, in return, he could learn so much, this ancient realm a treasure trove a mysteries and answers.

* * *

Terrest pressed his cheek to Mary's and said, breathlessly, "Anything you ask is yours."

"That vessel of yours, the Charon," she said flatly, "show me it again.  I've never even been on so much as a train and I'm curious how it works."

He looked into her eyes, a smile touching his lips beneath his mustachio, glad to see her taking an interest in his world.  He seemed not to recognize the coldness in her voice.  "Of course.  Come."

* * *

As Bram and Miles and their group of mole people filed back into the city, Bram glanced back the way they had come.  A second group seemed headed toward the tunnel they had been working on, a group headed by the mute Sikh, Raman Singh.  He stopped, frowning.  This second group appeared different than the first.  They did not carry picks or shovels, but instead sported bundles upon their backs.  And what was so significant about that particular tunnel, a tunnel that seemed to carry on for miles, seeming with no end? 

He could not be sure, here, in this world of twilight, but he had a strange sense that the tunnel headed eastward.  Did it reach as far as the Ontario border itself?  Did it have something to do with Terrest's vow to drive every man, woman, and child from the surface above? 

Bram knew he would have to find out.  And to stop it...any way he could.

Next episode: Total Destruction!

Previous episode: Of Atlantis and the Utopia Plan

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The Terror of the Rails is copyright 2003, the author.