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Time marked itself into moments with the chuffing and clacking of the train. Amos had drifted off to sleep, exhausted from their trot through the city, his head resting on Nym’s shoulder. Nym gazed out the window watching the districts of Meiville move past, the moon riding high into the sky.
She was alert and responding to every moment within their car. She had taken note of her fellow passengers, most of whom were reading or resting. A few mothers wrestled or rocked their children who were restless and up past their bedtimes. The train conductor moved through the car at regular intervals surveying them all with ever watchful eyes.
Nym kept a hand over her stachel, guarding the notes and journals of Marcel Ghostraven, and she wondered at the content of her dream, the strange place called Lys, and necessity of speaking again to the Mayor. But nothing troubled her more deeply than the question he had so simply asked, “Who are you?”
She couldn’t get that question out of her mind. She struggled to remember anything before she had found herself standing on the beaches of Meiville with a strange cog in her hand. Her memory of feeling an overwhelming sense of dread and an unwavering need to find Marcel. She could not remember being a child, having a mother or father, did not know where she grew up or even if she attended school. She wondered if, like others in Meiville, she had been mind controlled until she contacted the cog, and if so – would they all forget their lives when they were made to wake up? The thought disturbed her deeply.
All of these things stirred as the sleeping city of Meiville paraded by, golden lights in homes and kitchens and bedrooms, gaslights lining empty streets as the city settled in for bed. The train clacked onward and she held Amos’ sleeping hand, taking comfort in his strength. The next stop would be Steelton and Nym was reassured that they were almost to their destination.
From the back of the train car, Nym heard the metal raking and exterior noises as the train car door was opened and closed, a momentary buzz of action that disrupted her thinking. She did not look back, the conductor was due his rounds and she knew that if she responded by turning every time he walked into their car she would seem suspicious. She listened as the heavy feet advanced the isle slowly, keeping her eyes to the window.
Her heart fell as the steps stopped at the seat that she and Amos shared and the weight of a heavy body settled into the seat across from Amos. Her mind was racing as she turned and looked into the dead eyes of the ruffian Marcus. She knew that their assessment of the train’s safety had been very wrong.
He gave her a cold smile. His lip was busted and bloomed with an angry red gash. His front teeth were chipped and broken, his hat concealing a bandage to his for head. He held an overcoat which was folded over his arm concealing a pistol which he engaged as he sat. She looked down at her own bag. Marcus clicked his tongue in warning. He was keenly aware that she carried a pistol and it was a tool she would not use against him again.
Nym shook her shoulder gently drawing Amos from his sleep, and he sat upright immediately recognizing the situation.
“When we arrive at Steelton District,” Marcus said coldly, “we are all going to walk very quietly together. A car is waiting for us and we will all be civil and accept our roles. If anyone attempts anything, even the slightest effort to draw attention, I will pull this trigger and things will get a lot messier. There are kids on this car and people who ain’t lookin to go home dead. I’m sure you ain’t not wanting that for them?”
Marcus looked over at a young mother who sat rocking a bundle of cooing blankets. He gave her a cold smile. The woman, nodded uncomfortably and continued to rock her baby, avoiding his eyes.
Nym understood well that this man was a killer and he would not refrain from murdering infants to achieve his devices. She felt sickened.
“The conductor is one of Ours,” he said, “so don’t look to him to save you. I must admit it was cute watching the two of you scurry your way into our trap, almost laughingly simply, really.” Marcus smiled at Nym again, condescendingly, and held out his hand motioning for Nym to hand him her satchel.
“Eudora was a nice treat though,” Marcus gave Nym a lurid smile, “I’m sure she enjoyed our meeting too.”
She watched with desperation and fear as he shuffled through her bag with disregard for the writings and papers that she had worked so hard to collect. She remembered the smiling Eudora and ached with the realization that Marcus had hurt her in some unknown but certainly cruel manor.
Marcus smirked at Amos, “Ladies and their bags, what a load of junk!” He withdrew Nym’s pistol, “I’ll be keeping this.” Marcus tucked the gun into his belt with a satisfied grin. “I assure you, you aint gonna need it after Magruder’s done with ya.”
Amos’ hand tightened around Nym’s as Marcus handed her back the satchel. He had payed no mind to the Apport Sextant, still resting safely within. This, at least, was consolation for now.
Nym felt the train slowing and heard the dual blasts of the whistle as it came into the station. She continued to hold Amos’ hand which was growing hot in hers, and her mind hunted fruitlessly for viable options of escape.
As the train went silent and passengers began to stir, collecting their belongings and filing into the streets of the Steelton District of Meiville, three sat unmoving. When most of them were safely departed, Marcus motioned for Amos and Nym to stand and exit, keeping his concealed pistol drawn upon them,unwavering.
The conductor stood at the door watching them with a smug grin, ensuring their delivery to the waiting driver without delay. His hand at his holster prepared to draw at the slightest provocation.
The two stepped into the crisp night air and began walking toward the waiting car, Marcus’ gun between them, his body uncomfortably close. Nym’s heart raced, terrified and hopeless. Amos held her arm and tried to be reassuring.
Their slow procession was disrupted by A single fired gunshot.