Prologue VII - The Woman in Fatigues
On that day, Rachel put on her fatigues and prepared for a long trip.
Her target today was the privately-owned luxury express train, the Flying Pussyfoot. It was a direct trip to New York, so as long as she managed to make it on board, she would be safe from being discovered during a routine ticket check. All she had to do was keep out of sight of the conductors.
In other words, she was a serial stowaway. She'd boarded without a ticket over a thousand times now, with a perfect track record.
She did not feel at all guilty. This was both part of her work and a personal vendetta.
She was an agent working for an information agency. She made a living by collecting all kinds of information from across America and selling it to the brokers.
The broker in New York valued 'living information' above all else. He also preferred to hear information in person instead of by phone. Apparently it was because it was easier to tell if a person was lying by looking them in the eye. He was a strange man, but Rachel did not dislike him. She didn't at all care for the pretentious man who ran the desk, but she had a friendly relationship with the others at the agency. Of course, the fact that the President ran his business in an organization despite his profession may have had something to do with his eccentricities. Rachel never thought too hard about it, maintaining a good rapport with the others.
The President would often ask Rachel all kinds of questions. Some of these questions about the city were completely out of the blue, but he explained to her that he was asking in order to analyze the kind of information that was difficult to identify at first glance. Rachel had a hard time understanding what he meant, but she was happy as long as he continued to buy her information.
Rachel was always on the move, from one city to the next. Most information brokers never took the trouble. After all, few would ever need to know information from other cities.
Not only that, the transportation costs were staggering. If she could not find useful information even at this price, she wouldn't have a business to run, let alone profits for herself.
But Rachel had no such worries. After all, she always stowed away on the trains she had to take.
"This is revenge." She had once told the President.
Rachel's father once worked as a mechanic for a certain railroad company.
It was not an unusual case. One day, there was an accident caused by a faulty component. The company put the blame entirely on Rachel's father, even though it was actually the fault of the management, who ignored the workers' repeated requests to change out the old part.
How ironic was it that her father, the man who claimed that it would be dangerous to continue using the faulty component, would be held responsible? There was no evidence to support his appeal, and his fellow mechanics had been scared into silence.
It was a common sort of story in any era. Rachel grew up watching her father endure one hardship after another.
Her hatred for the railroad company eventually spread to the railroads themselves.
But she was also well aware that her father loved the rails more than anyone. As she struggled between her vendetta against the railroad company and her father's love, Rachel finally reached the conclusion of stowing away. This would not harm the trains or the passengers, but it would definitely inconvenience the railroad company in some small way. Of course, the damage she was causing was minimal and she was only doing this for her self-satisfaction. But taking into account the legal dangers posed by her actions, Rachel's acts of self-satisfaction were also acts of self-harm.
Yet she continued to travel as a stowaway in order to suppress her anger. Perhaps she was trying to find her reason for living in her actions.
Hearing this, the President told her, "Interesting. If you ever manage to find your purpose, I suggest that you buy tickets. Buy the tickets that you would have bought were it not for your stowing away. Think of it as paying your own father, as opposed to paying the railroad company." He chuckled.
She would buy tickets for her father. Would such a day ever come? The question nagged at her each time the train shook.
All kinds of information made its way to her from Chicago today. The troubles surrounding the Russo Family, and story about the factory explosion--information like this swirled through the criminal underworld like a turbulent storm.
She told the President about this by phone. He told her that he wanted to hear about all of this from her in person.
As it happened, the Flying Pussyfoot would be departing for New York today. It was the pet project of some rich man somewhere--the type of train Rachel hated the most.
It wasn't as though she was strapped for cash, but Rachel headed to the station with her stubborn, misplaced determination to board without buying a ticket.
She cautiously looked around the area of the freight cars of the Flying Pussyfoot. This was because the freight cars were her usual haunt when it came to her trips.
There she heard some bad news.
An orchestra would be stationing men to watch over the freight holds. Rachel checked the couplings as she wondered how she would counter this problem--if she found herself in danger, the structure of this train would allow her to either climb onto the roof or crawl along the bottom of the train. The bottom of the Flying Pussyfoot's cars were a little wider than those of regular trains. Rachel sighed, relieved at the prospect of having a safe hiding place--the kind of thing no normal human could ever find relief in.
That was when Rachel found herself facing a strange man and woman, both wearing black. They were dressed like members of an orchestra, but their sharp eyes told her that there was a more sinister motivation in their actions. She decided to walk away, but Rachel could feel the woman's eyes on her for some time afterwards.
'I'd better stay away from those guys.' She thought, waiting for the train's departure time. Once she made sure that the conductors had boarded the train, she approached the train from the station employees' blind spot. She then expertly jumped onto the train and hid herself under the couplings.
The departure bell finally sounded.