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Fermius Firefly

A Dream Log, whenever I remember the dreams I've had.

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Location: San Marcos, United States

Fermius is a pen name drawn from a series of short fiction I wrote when I published the small press magazine Stellanova (on paper.) I play RPG games to escape from my daily grind as a technology wage slave for the state of California. I eat out a lot in order to do my part in supporting our increasingly service level economy. I am butler to 2 feline masters. If you ask them they will tell you I'm not very good at it, late with dinner, don't have enough hands with brushes in them, and sometimes I even lock them out of their office.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Swamp Train

Most of the family were trapped in irons, chained together working on digging up rocks and gravel and then carrying it through swampy waters to the site of a rail bed that was being repaired. It seemed like it was either perpetually night, but I knew it was mostly just a thick misty cloud layer.

One of the other workers found an old still with bottles of moonshine all around it. He smuggled them back, one at a time, in the bottom of his gravel bucket. The supervisors finally caught him, their suspicions aroused when he kept volunteering for gravel duty.

Gravel duty was the messiest job. One had to go and dig around the bottom of the few low swampy hills, then wash the black, sticky and stinking mud off of the handful of small stones it contained. After just a couple of buckets full you would smell like the swamp bottom, and look like it, too.

The overseers pierced his tongue for it, and threatened to kill the next person they caught with alcohol in their possession. I knew this was going to be a problem, as the man had stashed the bottles and bags everywhere around our camp.

Until the rail bed was repaired, we kept finding the hidden contraband and then were forced to move it out of the camp, but somewhere we could eventually lead the guards to find the whole cache at once...right before the train came through to take them away, preferably. I and a couple of the others were also pilfering pry bars and other tools, as we knew we were going to be chained up when the train arrived.

The train arrived, and the overseers loaded up the young women and chained the rest of us outside of our camp.

"You gonna leave us here to starve?"

"No. Won't take long for the 'gaters to figure out you ain't going anywhere."

The now drunk guards all piled aboard the train. I could hear E yelling at them that they were "disgusting drunks."

E's size and demeanor had kept her safe up till now, but some of the guards were really drunk and I was worried for her safety.

Fortunately we had been chained together outside of sight of the rail cars, but right on top of one of our caches of tools and makeshift weapons. As soon as the last guards were out of earshot we started digging. It was only a matter of minutes before we were able to break ourselves free.

It was our plan to send a small group ahead of the train with ropes and the like to set up a way to take the rescue team and our women off the slowly moving train.

There were only three of us who snuck on board, just as the train got under way. The women were mostly in the last coach, making it really easy to just decouple the car. There was a tussel with the guards, they rushed the two men at the back of the car, while the smallest and least drunk one raced to get to the barracks car two cars up. I was waiting just on the other side of the door, when he came out I pushed him across the gap, slamming his head against the deck of the other car. I disarmed him and, after prying apart the coupling, rolled him off the platform, where he helped sloe down the rescue car.

The next car was actually empty, and as we passed the first of the revue ropes, I reached out and hooked it agains the window frame. The train peeled the windows out, creating a huge racket. The rest of the guards came running to see what was the matter, and I was hidden behind their coach door as the crossed the gap into the car that was being demolished.

I locked the door behind me and raced ahead to the dining car. The train was still picking up speed when I finally spotted E and the foreman. The train wasn't going even as fast as a run, and I spotted one of our crew setting a rope with a hook in it onto the front of the dining car. This one was low into the mostly decorative panelling on the sides ot the car. The trim started to tear away. E laughed at the foreman, a bad choice, as he knocked her off the bench I shouted to get his attention. He turned and then kicked her through the torn gap in the side of the train before drawing out his whip.

Apparently, he'd only seen the big rust pry bar, completely missing the percussion cap revolver in the other hand.

I could hear E wailing over the rattle of the train, so I hoped she would be okay. I then shot the foreman in the upper thigh. He dropped his whip and crumpled into the walkway. I tapped him on the head with the pry bar as I passed. Fortunately the owners of this operation had their car, with it's fancy domed observation deck on the front of the train, and I made my way through the freight car, taking a moment to open the large doors and push some of the lighter crate out. We still hadn't passed the rescue ropes, and I was able to shout that the women were safe back down the line.

I made my way into the engine room and convinced e driver to abandon his post, after using the pry bar to break his chains. He jumped, not even using a rescue rope. I pushed the throttle to full, opened up the air intakes on the boiler, and then shoveled coal into the feed chute until it was full up. The other workers were shouting that there was only one more rope, but I wanted to make sure the door to the observation cars was impassable. At least long enough for the train to build up significant speed.

I waited until we were going over a flooded causeway to jump out, trusting that a water/muck landing might be a little bit softer than trees or rocks.

Even before I hit the water I was thinking that we should follow the rails out and rescue any others we came across.

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