Blackout was out of his seat barely seconds after realizing that Lara was going with Courtney. He barely made it to the door and squeezed through to a surprised look from the Conductor.
"Where are you going?" the man asked him.
Blackout held up one of the flight cases he'd lugged with him. When he'd first entered the Tree with Eostre, the cases had seemed to weigh a ton, and by the end of the day's walking, 20 tons. He thought his arms were going to fall off for certain. And while the second day was nearly as agonizing, the third had been better. Following the stop over at Granny’s house, he found that the cases seem to weigh next to nothing. At first, he’d thought it had to do with the food, that it was magical, but when they’d entered the train and he’d taken off his jacket, Lara had pinched his arms and waggled her eyebrows suggestively, adding a “check out the pipes,” before walking away. He’d been forced to sit down immediately.
Now, he could hold the case without any apparent effort. The Conductor noted the blaster’s warning sticker on the exterior of the case, nodded in assessment of the possibilities such a case could warrant, and waved Blackout on.
He’d always wondered what it would be like to climb along the edge of a speeding train, and he realized it was nowhere near as easy as it seemed to be in movies. The wind tore at his face, and the barrier wall of ice which loomed increasingly large in front of them provided both a sense of urgency and danger. The gates at the end of the tracks were still closed.
Blackout followed Granny, Courtney and Lara to the front of the train, clinging to the hand rail with one hand and holding the flight case in the other. They reached the foot board over top of the pilot truck, and the intensity of the wind against Blackout’s face doubled. He gasped for breath, and found it hard to keep his eyes open without tearing, which resulted in frozen droplets forming on his eyelids.
Granny performed a movement that reminded Blackout of Tai Chi, while intoning a sing song chant which made him think of Enya’s music for some reason. The blast of the wind stopped immediately. Blackout gaped at the shield Granny had conjured between the elements and them, a bubble of protection.
“That’ll keep the wind and snow out,” she said. “But it will also prevent your arrows from flying true – it’ll be like shooting through water, so I’ll have to release it when you’re ready to fire.”
Courtney was nodding, already down on one knee, getting her bow ready to fire. Lara started, a little embarrassed it seemed, and began prepping her bow as well.
“Granny,” Lara said, “I’m really not that good a shot – I could barely hit things in the coffee shop when I was standing still. What is it we’re supposed to hit?”
“The top of the wall,” the Conductor said, stepping onto the pilot truck. “Up there, at the top of the battlement.”
They all looked up.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Courtney said. “That’s nearly 500 yards!”
“And closing!” the Conductor replied. “And I think with your friend’s little box of tricks, one of you might be able to get us access to the lake beyond the wall…otherwise, we’re going to come to a very abrupt stop!”
“What are you talking about?” Lara asked, incredulous. “This is ridiculous!”
“I think I know what he means,” Granny said, looking at the sticker on the outside of Blackout’s flight case. “Best get whatever it is you need out of there quick boy.”
Blackout dropped the case to the foot board and popped the latches. “I think this will do for whoever’s firing to the top of the battlement,” he said, holding out a small cardboard tube and a roll of electrician’s tape.
The Conductor grabbed both and gestured to Courtney, who handed him an arrow. Blackout lifted the first level of pyro and pulled out another cardboard tube; this one was considerably larger than the first. He grabbed one of Lara’s arrows and began strapping the tube to it.
“That’s too big,” Lara said. “I won’t be able to shoot that straight!”
“Aim high,” Courtney said.
“You’ll be able to do it,” Granny said.
“Gate’s not getting any farther away!” the Conductor announced.
Courtney took her arrow back from him and nocked it. She drew her arm back and aimed at the top of the battlement.
“Wait!” Blackout shouted. “It needs to be lit! The fuse!”
Granny made a quick gesture, fingers splayed, palm out, at the arrow and the fuse was lit.
“Can I shoot?” Courtney asked, looking nervously at the fuse.
“Not yet,” Granny replied, as Lara stood and drew her arrow back as well. Granny lit the second fuse.
“Would really like to not be close to this thing when it goes off,” Courtney said.
“You’ll be fine!” Blackout said. “It fires away from you!”
“Not comforting,” Courtney replied.
Granny was chanting in a low voice, one hand on each of the girl’s shoulders. A glow moved from her hands to surround both girls.
“I’m going to release the shield,” she said. “On the count of three…and then you fire. One…”
A blast of light erupted from the top of the battlement, slicing into the ice just ahead of them, cutting towards the tracks.
“THREE!” Granny shouted, and the shield was suddenly gone and wind, snow and now water erupting from the cut in the ice assaulted them.
“Shoot!” the Conductor yelled.
Courtney loosed her arrow, and a moment behind her, Lara released hers.
Blackout had done pyro at a concert once where his assistant had pointed the gerbs in the wrong direction. A gerb is supposed to shoot a fountain of white-hot sparks a variety of heights into the air. These ones were 20 foot gerbs, and when they’d gone off, they’d burned a trough into the concrete stage beneath the pyro stands, before arcing out over the audience. Just before the 30 foot gerb he’d placed on Courtney’s arrow reached the battlement, the gerb went off.
The white hot spray of sparks burned a hole in the ice of the battlement, the arrow shot through, and then blew a clean, cauterized hole through Coll’s undead chest before the arrow struck him just to the left of that steaming hole, sending him flying over the edge of the battlement, pulling the syringe from Dieter’s neck. Finn looked down in annoyance, the golden light from the gun having gone out before being seeing the box of gears and pipes yanked over the side as the tube linking it to the syringe went tight. He realized all too late that the box was also tied to the gun in his hands. He followed Coll, box, syringe and gun down over the edge of the battlement with a scream.
Blackout and the others on the train saw none of this. Their attention was focused on Lara’s arrow, which had struck one of the great doors barring their entrance to the frozen lake. The explosive had not gone off yet. The train continued speeding towards the closed gates.
“Is it just going to shoot sparks?” Lara asked in a panicked voice.
“No,” Blackout shouted in reply, “It’s not a gerb…it’s a…”
There was a terrifically loud ‘thump!’ followed by the door exploding into shrapnel.
“…concussion…we call them concussions. Saw one knock part of a ceiling out of a club once. Figured it would do the trick.”
“It certainly did,” the Conductor said. “Hold onto the hand rail!” he shouted as the train struck the remaining bits of wood and roared into the inner ring.
“Welcome to the
“Doesn’t look frozen to me,” Courtney said.
They all looked up in time to see the tracks ahead of them end, dropping off into a very unfrozen body of water.