CHAPTER 2: The Sound of Silence
The head conductor yelled as the Forever Express passenger train echoed its massive horn across the entire station. Contrasting the epic ancient wonder that the Grande Century Station was, the Forever train was a bullet-train of the 21st Century. The sleek silver wedge-shaped nose of the train suggested the sheer power and aerodynamic aspects of its design.
“Incredible…” Smythe muttered to himself as he marveled at it. He stood at the docking gate for a second just to take it all in, then jogged to the back end of the train, looking for passenger car ‘C’. When he spotted it he rushed towards the open side door when an arm blocked his path, almost knocking him right off his feet.
“Your ticket, sir,” the steward gestured for Smythe to hand him his ticket.
“Yes, well…” Smythe juggled both his suitcase and his newspaper while trying to produce his destination ticket.
“Do you mind, sir? We’re in a bit of hurry this mornin’. Conductor’s orders, 11:00 am sharp. It’s now 11:07 am… do you here what I’m sayin’?”
“I hear something alright…” Smythe snickered as he pulled his ticket out of the front pocket of his jacket and flashed it to the steward, “but why the big hurry?”
“Special cargo. Gotta be into the West as soon as possible. Nothin’ of your interest. Please step aboard sir, like I said, we’re runnin’ late. Your cabin is C12, on your right.” The steward replied in a monotone voice as he took one last look outside the train, then shut the door behind him.
Smythe inched along the corridor of the glamourous passenger car, peering up at the magnificent skylight. The clouds of northern Russia were a thick ash grey, and concealed the sun almost entirely. ‘Looks like a storm’s coming,’ he thought to himself as he approached the cabin door marked ‘C12’ in gold lettering. Just as he reached for the door knob he heard a deafening horn from the front of the train, causing him to hesitate and look over his shoulder towards the front of the passenger car. Suddenly the entire car shook, and kicked forward. The train was now in motion, about to journey into a possible hailstorm, and the depths beyond.
The door swung open into a small, dark cabin, lit only through the tiny bit of light that shone through the window drapes. Smythe scanned the room visually as he shut the door behind him, noticing the simple, yet elegant nature of it. The wallpaper was in the style of dark redwood, making the room feel almost like a log cabin. Only a small desk, which had a fridge under it, and a single, barely adequate bed were in the room. The side wall which faced the back of the train featured a sliding door, most likely splitting this cabin with the one beside it. Smythe placed his suitcase by the desk, and the newspaper on it, as he sat on the bed.
“Wonder how long the bloody bastard will take,” he muttered to himself, as he fell back into the bed, staring aimlessly at the ceiling. He took in a deep breath, waited a few seconds, then released it. This was the first time in days that he’s gotten some real rest, real peace and quiet. He listened carefully to the ‘thump-thump’ ‘thump-thump’ of the train. It seemed calming, relaxing, after all he’d been through. The calmness swept through him as his eyes slowly shut, and darkness swept over him. ‘Why am I here…’
Smythe’s eyes sprung open as he let the sound sink into him. He must’ve failed to notice the clock somewhere in his room, but as he quickly scanned the walls, none was present. He shot up from his bed and stood, his eyes darting across the room, his ears listening intently. Silence. His nerves loosened as his sat back on the bed, trying to forget such a rather simple distraction.
‘Beep, beep, beep…’
He sprung from his bed again, this time more aware then ever. The beeping sound was coming from the adjacent cabin, the room split with his by a small sliding door. A number of random technological beeps emitted from the room seconds later, followed by the scent of burning smoke. He grit his teeth together, considering the possibilities. Could it be a bomb of some type? The ‘special cargo’…?
Smythe grabbed his suitcase and quietly placed it on the desk in front of him, unlocking it. He swung it open swiftly, his eyes taking in what lay before him. The bottom of the suitcase was, besides a few scattered files, empty. Strapped to the top half of the suitcase was a single Beretta .45 handgun, three clips, and a silencer. Inscribed on the handle of the gun was the name ‘Betsy’. “I missed you, girl,” he whispered to it as he pulled it out, and slid a clip in.
‘Thump, thump, thump…’
His heart beat rapidly as he screwed the silencer onto the barrel of the Beretta and crept up to the side of the cabin. Gun in one hand, pointed up, and the handle of the door in the other, Smythe took one more deep breath, and then slid the door open as fast as he could.
As if in one swift motion, he hit the light-switch on the wall beside him and pointed the gun in front of him, scanning the room with his eyes as they adjusted to the light. He was amazed at the many high-end laptop computers that were piled up on the desk, as well as the wiring that lined the walls of the room. The beeping sound was emitting from a briefcase under the desk. His hand that was holding the gun darted from one side of the room to the other, with his other hand supporting his wrist. His sight came to rest on the lower bunk of the bunk bed in the far corner. A lump of a man was apparent under the ivory white sheets of the lower bed.
“You. Get up, with your hands behind your head. No sudden moves, or you’re dead,” Smythe ordered menacingly, as the man grumbled something and raised from his bed still covered by the bed sheet. A loud thump echoed the room as he hit his head on the foot of the top bunk, and then groaned in pain.
“Stay quiet. Get down on your knees, and take that bloody sheet off,” Smythe trained the gun on the man’s concealed forehead.
“Oh, for God’s sake Jonathan!” the man complained as he threw the bed sheet off of himself, “It’s me!”
Smythe opened his leather jacket and holstered his gun in the custom designed strap under his left arm. He studied the man in front of him
“Miles Fairbanks… God knows why they sent you instead of the usual fellow,” Smythe studied the self-proclaimed ‘techno-whiz’ in front of him. Although he was only pushing 40, his dark grey, curly hair made him look much older. He wore black slacks and a black turtle neck. A still-burning cigarette was in the ash tray on the corner of his desk. Suddenly a revelation hung in the back of Smythe’s mind.
“You… you were that man, at the station?!” Smythe accused. Fairbanks snickered loudly as he pulled out a chair and opened one of his laptops.
“Oh, pipe down, Jonathan, I had to keep an eye on you somehow,” he booted up his computer. “And next time try not to come rushing in here like an animal, Smythe, you scared the living daylights out of me!”
“Well, I…” Smythe seemed embarrassed as he completely forgot why he had rushed into Fairbanks’ room in the first place, “I heard some suspicious noises, and suspected a bomb. What’ve you dragged on board with you today, Miles?”
“Ah,” Fairbanks smiled proudly, uncovering the device emitting the loud noises, “this is my personal favourite. A custom-made satellite tracking system, programmed specifically to track your body signal.” He plugged the device into his laptop. A wire-frame map of the entire train appeared on screen, with a small flashing dot representing Smythe. “That’s why my baby here was acting up, you were in the bloody room right next to me!” Truman joked. “This way I can monitor your progress. I have something else. Put this in the inner earlobe of your right ear.” He handed him a tiny adhesive circle, about half a centimeter in diameter. “This is a two-way, single-band radio, allowing us to communicate should the need arise.”
“Hopefully, not,” Jonathan replied, and then cleared his throat loudly, seemingly annoyed. “…And the mission objectives?”
“Right,” Truman said, quickly keying in swift commands on his laptop. Seconds later an image profile window appeared on the screen. A woman appeared in black in white, and most of her data profile was listed as ‘unknown’, except for the fact that she was Korean and her status was ‘active’.
“The woman. The lady in red…” Smythe whispered to himself.
Truman closed the image window and turned toward him.
“She will be in one of the dining cars at around noon, hopefully alone. So far she is our only connection. You’ll need to interrogate her, Smythe, by any means necessary…”
“I’ll be sure to pump the information out of her,” Smythe replied slyly. “But who does she connect us to? There’s something you’re not telling me, blast it.”
Truman turned back to face his laptop, eyes glued to the screen.
“Good luck, Jonathan,”
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