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 Fourteen -  Total Destuction!

 THERE WAS NO NIGHT IN THE SUBTERRESTRIAL CITY in which Abram Donlevy found himself an unwilling "guest".  Nonetheless, there seemed to be a period when activity decreased and most of the inhabitants had retired indoors, presumably to sleep.  It was then that Bram set out.

He crept stealthily through the crooked, perpetually twilit streets, ducking at any half-heard sound.  But there was no one about.  He also kept an eye out for any of the strange beasts that might be lurking in the dark tunnels that broke off from the main cavern in which the city resided.  Slowly, he made his way beyond the city limits, and once clear of the buildings, he hurried his pace, until he was racing across the craggy stone terrain of the cavern, weaving between stalagmites to obscure him from prying eyes.  He was headed back toward the tunnel he and Miles and been working on earlier -- the tunnel into which he had subsequently seen Raman Singh lead a second party, their backpacks fully loaded when they entered, but not when they returned to the city sometime later.

He climbed the rickety ladder that led to the tunnel -- it being on a much higher elevation than the cavern proper.  He turned on the electric light strapped to his head -- one of the impressive technological devices Sir Humbert Terrest had at his command.  And Bram, then, headed into the tunnel.  He had asked Miles O'Leary to accompany him, feeling two bodies could accomplish more than one.  O'Leary had refused, and so he must find his answers on his own.

The tunnel was long, as he had suspected when he and Miles had worked on it earlier.  He walk for many long minutes, with no end in sight, his footsteps echoing forlornly in the darkness.

He stopped abruptly, thinking he heard another set of footfalls behind him.  Clamping a hand over the hot light of his head lantern, he held his breath.  But there was nothing.  At least, nothing now.  He resumed his pace.

All the while as he walked, he cast his light over the floor and stone walls, seeking some clew as to the tunnel's purpose -- for he was convinced it had a purpose, a nefarious one.  But there was nothing.  No sign of the equipment he had seen Raman Singh carrying into the tunnel.  He stopped, weary, and stretched, his light only accidentally stabbing upward to illumine the ceiling.  And then he saw it.  Thin, black wires running along the ceiling.  He stared for a moment, then began walking, hurriedly, keeping his light focused on the ceiling.  Eventually the wires came to a large bundle, also affixed to the ceiling.  He recognized the bundle -- it was a stack of dynamite sticks!

Running faster, he came to another such deadly pile attached to the ceiling.  Then another.  He stumbled to a halt and let his beam shine away into the seeming unceasing darkness of the tunnel.  He had no doubt that, however long the tunnel was, it was likewise rigged to blow its entire length.

But why?  For what purpose?

He stared grimly, unseeing, as his mind considered the possibilities.  Terrest had vowed to destroy the railroad, and to drive every man, woman and child from the plains above them in order that he might construct his Utopia in peace and isolation.  But how could he hope to do that?

His eyes widened.

A railroad that ran hundreds of miles eastward...and a subterranean tunnel, likewise running for miles, rigged to explode.  If the tunnel paralleled the railroad, Terrest could collapse the entire railroad with the flipping of a single switch!  Not only would it destroy months, years, of work in an instant, but it might well stop any future such endeavors.  After all, no one on the surface could possibly imagine a human hand, and so the conclusion might well be that the prairies were geologically unstable.  And without the railroad, the settlers would be easy targets for Terrest's "Devil" to terrify them into fleeing.

All very clever.  All very ambitious.  All very diabolical, he thought.  Hundreds would die if the railroad collapsed into the earth unexpectedly.  Even more.  Whole towns had been built up along the growing railroad.  If the earth opened up under the railroad, would not the surrounding land also become unstable?  Might not whole buildings be dragged into the yawning maw Terrest was intent on cracking open?

Bram stared for long, silent minutes, literally stunned by the enormity of what Terrest contemplated.  Then, he set to work.

Hurrying further along the tunnel, Bram selected a suitably deep distance and, finding a discarded ladder, climbed up to one of the dynamite caches and simply disconnected the wires from the blasting caps needed to detonate the sticks.  Then he started back tracking, but when he reached the next group of dynamite, he did not disconnect it.  Instead, he merely removed most of the sticks, leaving only one stick still in place.  This procedure he repeated as he slowly made his way back toward the entrance to the tunnel.

Suddenly a shape loomed up before him, emerging from the shadows to stand silhouetted by the vague light of the cavern beyond, cast by the distant underground city.  He did not need to see the man's features to recognize the towering figure of Terrest's chief lieutenant, Raman Singh.  And in his hand he carried one of the electric pistols.  Obviously, Bram realized, he had not been mistaken when he thought he heard other footsteps.

Bram stopped, dropping into a ready crouch, trying to decide if he could bluff his way, if he could convince Singh he was here for some innocent purpose.  Then he heard a cold, cruel chuckling and he knew any protestations would come too late.  Emerging from the shadows was another man he readily recognized.  Miles O'Leary.  He had been betrayed!

"Aye, lad," Miles laughed.  "It seems I'll have the last laugh after all."

"Miles, Terrest intends to destroy the entire railroad.  Whatever his reasons, whatever his justifications, hundreds, maybe thousands, will die!"

"I'm not sure you've ever grasped the picture," sneered Miles.  "Terrest is doing what I would have if I had the resources, and the imagination.  Our motives are different, I'll grant you, but that's quibbling.  Besides, we're never getting out of here without Terrest's say so, and sabotaging his master plan is definitely not the way into his good books.  So, I'm just following your advice.  (a slightly misconstrued interpretation of Bram's comments made last chapter ~ the ed.)  I'm making nice with the man in charge.  Pretty soon, if I play my cards right, I'll be running this place.  And then all of Terrest's gadgets and devices will be working for my cause, not his."

Bram stared at Raman Singh, who was mute, but Miles seemed to have forgotten could hear as well as any other man.  "You hear that, Raman Singh?  He betrayed me, he'll betray you and Terrest.  You can't trust him."

Singh's eyes darted from Bram to Miles, unsure who to watch more closely.

Miles stopped smiling.  "Hey now, I was just making idle chatter.  I'm on your side, big fellow."

Seeing his chance, Bram launched himself into the Sikh while he was staring at Miles O'Leary, smashing the man back against the hard tunnel wall.  They grappled momentarily, both trying to wrest the electric pistol from the other, but it was a test of strength Bram knew he would lose.  Instead, he clawed at the wires that connected the pistol to its battery back, tearing them loose.  Realizing his weapon was now useless, Singh threw it away and bodily heaved Bram from his feet, throwing him the width of the cave.  Bram landed hard, but kept his senses long enough to roll away just as the big man stomped down where his head had been.

Bram kicked out and up, catching Singh in the inside of his knee.  The big man grunted and stumbled against the tunnel wall.  Painfully Bram dragged himself to his feet, gasping hard for breath, even as Singh turned about, ready to come at him again.  The big man lurched forward, the blow to his knee obviously making him unsteady on his feet.  Bram side stepped and delivered a sharp, rabbit punch to his side.

Singh snorted and swung out wildly, catching Bram a glancing blow across the side of his head.  It was enough to send him reeling dizzily away.  Hands to his face, Bram heard the crunch of loose gravel as Singh came at him again.  At the last minute, he whirled, driving his fist unexpectedly into Singh's stomach.  He followed that with an upper cut to the man's bearded jaw.  Then, a knee to his groin, just for good measure.

Bram staggered back as Raman Singh collapsed at his feet.  Sore and wobbly on his feet, he whirled about to face Miles...but the man was gone, fled when the fight appeared to be going against the Sikh.  Wearily, Bram picked up the discarded electro pistol and slipped it in his belt.

A scrape on stone caused him to turn.  Raman Singh was dragging himself toward a metal box that Bram had not noticed when he first entered the tunnel -- a box from which wires arose, reaching up to the ceiling.  A box with a plunging lever.  It was the trigger for the dynamite that would collapse the tunnel.

"No!" Bram shouted.

But Singh, sensing defeat, grabbed the box and pushed down on the lever.  There was a momentary silence, as though the world held its breath.

Flashes erupted down the tunnel.  Then Bram heard the first explosion.  Then the second.  Then one after that and another after that and a cloud of dust and debris rolled toward them like a tidal wave...

Next episode: Escape!

Previous episode: The Endless Tunnel

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