End of the Line
The lump on his head, The bruises, the cuts and dried blood. He vaguely remembered the fight in his office. Masked men who insisted he turn over Project Titan. Everything hurt, but his ribs hurt the most. How did they even know about this project? Only those with top secret clearance had access to it. And he was just read in that day, and what it contained scared him.
Toby reached for his gun—it wasn’t there. Neither was his phone, or wallet. They emptied his pockets as well. The masked men had it all, and that included his building access and credentials. They had what they needed to enter any government building. Whoever planned this attack knew exactly what they were doing.
Staggering to get to the door, he heard something behind him. As he turned to check it out, he was hit from behind and everything went black.
Toby shivered and rubbed the knot on the back of his head. The dark room spun as he stood, he lost his balance, and lurched forward, tripping over a something, slamming his battered body into the wall. This wasn’t his office.
ARRRRGH! The biting cold showing whips of his shallow breath as he fought to breath through the pain. Calm down. Take it easy. You’re okay. Words to convince himself. The cold air and the pain said otherwise.
The smell of diesel exhaust, dust, and creosote mixed with mold and wet cardboard assaulted his nose. His stomach lurched again. He reached out and placed his hand on the wall. Cold. Toby pulled it back quickly. The throbbing in his head worsened, the dizziness returned. Cringing, he pressed his hands to his temples to stop the hammering. It barely did anything.
Sitting on the floor wasn’t an option, he looked for something semi-clean to sit on. A trunk in the middle of the room would have to do.
Where was he? How did he get here? More importantly, how would he get out of here?
A loud screech pierced the air.
Clickety clack. Clickety clack. Clickety clack.
The cold, damp air sent a shiver up his spine. Toby stood up again, slowly this time, to keep the pain at a manageable level and to keep from falling again, He couldn’t take much more pain and one lump on his head was enough.
Toby squinted as he looked around. Boxes, grain, and seed strewn on the floor. Some rolled up papers and trash. That and the trunk littered the floor. The smell, the clickety clack, and the side to side swaying made him more nauseous. Moving. He was moving.
Clickety clack. Clickety clack. Clickety clack. Train. Toby was on a fast-moving train.
Toby had bigger issues. He needed to get off the train—the train that appeared to be moving faster than a few minutes ago. Being stuck in a boxcar with no windows, he had no idea where he was, or even how long he’d been riding the train.
Even in the darkness, he could make out sliding doors on both sides, and luckily, doors on the ends. Maybe if he could get a door open, he could jump.
Several thoughts ran through his head. What was going to happen to him? His family? What if he couldn’t get off the train, and if those masked men got access to Project Titan—he shuddered at the thought. Project Titan couldn’t fall into the wrong hands. A blueprint for a toxin so deadly, touching it would cause immediate death. The consequences were unimaginable. He had to warn his superiors.
Toby fumbled his way to the door at the end of the car using the walls to help. Grasping the latch, he pulled upward, but it didn’t budge. He should have known. Getting off the train wouldn’t be that easy. The ache in his chest and his throbbing head forced him to stop.
After resting a few minutes, he tried both side doors and the other door at the far end as well with no luck. There had to be something in this car that could help him. What he needed was leverage. Anything that he could use to get one door open.
Aside from the trash on the floor, there was nothing he could use, and he couldn’t get into any of the crates or the trunk. He sat on the trunk with his head in his hands. Something nagged at him, but he couldn’t place it. Think Toby. Think.
A mouse ran past his feet, and it came to him. He had a knife. A small switchblade knife in his sock. Something he’d learned from an old Tae Kwon Do instructor and his Boy Scout leader. Have something you can use as a weapon and be prepared. Too bad he wasn’t friends with a locksmith.
It took some time, but he finally got the door open. Toby hated what he saw, and he knew exactly where he was. As kids, they called this piece of the railroad the end of the line because the tracks only spanned half of the valley below. As the story goes, the railroad went belly up and never finish this track.
The train was approaching the end of the line. Unless someone threw the switch, the train would run out of track and fall into the valley below, with him in it. Toby couldn’t let that happen. He had more life to live.
The landscape was a blur. The train had to be going at least sixty miles per hour, maybe more. Way above the allowed speed for a freight train. And unless the train slowed down, jumping off would kill him. Even if he had a way to cushion his fall, and the train slowed some, it would be dangerous.
Leaving the door open allowed for more light and made the car even colder, and Toby was already freezing. He realized he didn’t have much time. He had no food, no water, and no heat. He had to come up with a solution fast or he would die. That most likely was the goal.
As Toby worked to get what he needed to make his jump, he knew the train gained speed. Toby took all he could from the crates and the trunk and used it to cushion his fall. He had no choice, jump and take his chances or die on the train.
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