The final update for this volume. I'm working on a pdf and an epub right now, but I'm just going to upload them along with the pdf and epub for the following volume once I finish the entire arc.
Chapter 5: Reasons for Company
Amidst the wailing alarm, the transcontinental express followed the northernmost of the four parallel tracks as it slowly pulled into the supply base.
Soldiers in brown uniforms rushed outside and watched in bafflement. When an engineer at the locomotive waved a red flag, the men seemed to realize that something was wrong—voices here and there began calling for superior officers.
Watching from behind the window, Benedict asked,
“Could I leave things to you?”
Major Stork, next to him, nodded.
“Of course. Please wake the passengers and have them gather in the dining car. No one must leave the train until then.”
Benedict and Fiona, along with Allison and Wil and the other crew, divided into groups as they went around waking up all the passengers, Thankfully, none of them had opened their eyes and left their cabins before arriving at the base, and none of them remained silent after several loud bangs on their doors.
As the passengers came out into the hallways, wondering if it was already time for breakfast, the crew only told them that it was an emergency and that they were to gather in the dining car.
“What’s the situation, sir?”
When Major Stork stepped out of the train first, her was greeted by an officer in his late thirties. He was a rank lower at captain.
“An emergency. An unforeseen incident occurred aboard, so I had the train brought here under my authority. I’d like to request some body bags.”
Saluting and stating his rank, Major Stork explained briefly about the murders. The captain, while surprised, also looked incredulous. Major Stork asked,
“Who is the commanding officer here?”
“He went down the mountain two days ago for an officers’ meeting and his vacation. I’m currently the acting commander.”
“I see. Thank you for your assistance. I assume that the telephone is available?”
Major Stork pointed at a concrete building that stood across three railroad tracks. It was a single-story building with a camouflaging green net over the roof—the base’s command center.
“I’m afraid not, sir. It’s been out since yesterday—the wires must be broken.” The captain replied grimly. Major Stork turned.
“What did you say, Captain?”
“The telephones are out of service, sir. It happens sometimes. The wires by the rails must’ve been cut by falling rocks.”
“Have you sent a dispatch rider?”
“No, sir. We’re not able to do so at the moment. Usually, we’d send in a truck to check, but…”
The captain trailed off, his gaze sliding to the long train before him. Major Stork understood.
“I see. This train came first.”
“Yes, sir. All use of the railroad, including this one, has been prohibited for the day. The soldiers have been given the day to rest.”
“I understand. First, I would like you to order every soldier on the base: That they are not to enter the train under any circumstances. And that they are to conduct themselves as gentlemen, on the honor of the Allied Kingdoms of Bezel-Iltoa. I will give more orders at the command center. Please wait there with the engineers.”
Loudly acknowledging Major Stork, the captain gathered the soldiers. Major Stork looked back at the fourteen-car train and mumbled to himself.
“Really, such a long train.”
“What in the world is going on here? At least let us relax in the morning.”
“Even if it’s an emergency, don’t we at least deserve an explanation? What are the conductors doing? They should be apologizing to us before anything. It’s not something you people are qualified for.”
Complaining to the servers who walked in front of and behind them, a couple in their sixties entered the dining car. All the passengers were now gathered in car 6.
There were a total of sixteen passengers and a total of eighteen crew members(including the cooks who were called back from the galley). The passengers, including Allison, Wil, and Fiona, set aside the tables and sat down on the chairs they brought from the next car.
“Everyone is here now? Without the two people in the VIP car.” Asked Benedict. The server answered that he was correct.
When Benedict stepped up to explain, the crew, who had earlier shot him icy looks, nodded compliantly.
Benedict introduced himself again. And as the passengers reeled in shock, he explained the situation. The passengers, finally informed of what had happened, were nervous—but they quietly lent their ears to Benedict.
Major Stork entered the dining car partway through. Benedict introduced him to the passengers and continued the explanation.
“So, I followed Major Stork’s judgement and we stopped this train at this supply base. It is not sure yet what we will do after, but if we are here, we will first secure our safety. In half the day, the village base will send the security force.”
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief at Benedict’s assurance. At that moment,
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we can’t make contact with the village.” Major Stork said gravely. Those who knew Bezelese frowned.
“What do you mean, ‘we can’t make contact with the village’? Wil, please interpret us.” Benedict said in Roxchean. Wil interpreted Benedict’s words, then interpreted Major Stork’s explanation about the telephone into Roxchean. The air in the dining car changed.
Passenger and crew alike began to question what they should do. Someone commented that they did not wish to remain at the base with the others, when any one of them could be the culprit. Everyone agreed.
“But is that any different from heading to the village by train as a group, when the killer might be among us? We can’t get into contact with the village, and it will be evening by the time we get there. I think it will be a better idea to stay here.” Said the president in her forties in an authoritative voice. Everyone went silent as though convinced.
“At this point, we have no idea why this has happened. Who are the culprit’s targets? Was he only planning to murder the conductors and the cabin crew? Or was he after the entire train?”
It was just as Wil finished interpreting for the major.
“The culprit… is after me.”
Someone spoke. Everyone looked around, searching for the owner of the voice.
“He is targeting me. There’s no mistaking it.”
The voice came from behind Benedict and Major Stork—in other words, from the door leading to the previous car.
When Benedict and Stork stood aside, a man by the door came into view. He was about fifty years of age, and was short and rotund. He had thinning brown hair and a mustache that stood at the ends, and wore a black suit. The moment they saw Ien standing behind him, Benedict and the others realized who he must be.
The man grimaced as he solemnly walked toward the middle of the dining car. Ien followed expressionlessly, his hand in the large sack he had slung over his shoulder. It obviously contained the handgun. He was likely prepared to open fire at the slightest hint of trouble.
As everyone watched, the man stopped between Benedict and Major Stork. Benedict asked,
“I guess that you are the VIP car’s passenger, but what in the world is happening?”
“It seems that some have already realized, but…”
The man paused before he revealed his identity.
“I am Gauthier Terreur, the head of the Terreur Steel Foundation. I am the passenger on the VIP car.”
Allison, Wil, and the others who did not know him by face were shocked. Only Benedict, Fiona, and Major Stork—who knew about Terreur from earlier—were unsurprised.
“And I am the target of the killer. Look here.”
With that, Terreur took out a folded piece of paper from inside his jacket. He thought for a moment about who to hand it to, before holding it out to Benedict. Scrawled in rough handwriting on the note were the words,
[Terreur: Do not even think about returning to Roxche alive. I will kill those around you, one after another. First, I’ve taken care of the conductors and the cabin crew. If you doubt me, see for yourself. You are next.]
After reading the note out loud, Benedict said,
“I see… this is most certainly a threatening letter.”
“I discovered this a short while ago in the newspaper tray by my door. The killer must have left it overnight.” Said Terreur.
There was a moment of silence.
“So which one of you was it…? You’re in here, aren’t you? Or are you all conspiring together?”
No one could tell of Terreur was being mocking or serious. The silence grew heavier.
Dozens of seconds passed. Major Stork finally broke the silence, sounding irritated.
“You should have told me this from the start.”
Benedict followed in Roxchean.
“To say, the killer’s target is only you, and the other people who are still possibly the killer at least have no worry of being killed. The killer killed the crews to show you, and Allison and Wil by coincidence watched. That is one step forward.”
Major Stork tapped Wil on the shoulder. Wil quickly interpreted for him.
Ien spoke resolutely.
“We have a request. We do not wish to be with you, and I am sure you do not wish to be with us. After all, no one wants to be suspected of murder.”
“I agree.” Said Benedict. And once Wil finished interpreting, Major Stork also voiced agreement.
“Yes. You’re right.”
Allison, who was unable to join the conversation for quite some time, put a hand to her mouth and yawned. Then she looked at the people who were glaring at her.
“Then what shall we do?”
“What do you want to do?”
Asked Major Stork in Bezelese, and Benedict in Roxchean. In place of the silent Terreur, Ien replied,
“Allow us to remain apart from the other people by any means possible. Staying together here changes nothing—this plan is for everyone’s benefit.”
Then, Ien repeated himself in Bezelese. And finally, he turned to Major Stork and said stiffly,
“After all, is it not your ‘mission’ to solve this predicament?”
Major Stork shrugged and mumbled about how Ien was contradicting his earlier comment. Then, he thought for a moment.
“Then shall we go on ahead? The others can wait here.”
“What are you saying?”
When Wil interpreted Major Stork’s suggestion, Terreur spoke up. Stork answered.
“We will separate the train and flee by ourselves to the village at the foot of the mountains.”
Major Stork explained his reasoning. Wil put all his efforts into interpreting for him:
If the culprit was after Terreur, and if one of the crew or passengers was the culprit, they could not be left in the same space—not even on the same train.
That was why, in order to evacuate Terreur to the village at the foot of the mountains, they would separate the train at the dining car or the lounge car. The front of the train, which included the VIP car, would head for the village at full speed.
The other passengers’ cabins were further back on the train, so they could simply return to their rooms. The base could provide them with electricity and water, so their only problem would be boredom. The crew, whose quarters were near the front of the train, would be less comfortable—but they should consider it a part of their work and bear the inconvenience for the moment. If things went well, someone would come for them by morning.
Though it was impossible to predict the future, their once-in-a-lifetime trip could, unfortunately, be cancelled. He was very apologetic on behalf of Sou Be-Il, said Major Stork.
“I’ll take care of that. If it’s proven that you have nothing to do with the killings, I will take responsibility and ensure that you will be able to take this trip again.”
At Terreur’s offer, Major Stork turned to the passengers and crew.
“That is what he says. What do you say, everyone?”
No one opposed the proposal. “Then it is decided,” said Major Stork as he made note of several details. He suggested that the passengers bring out any of their cargo if they were worried about them. Saying that he would order for carts, he instructed the crew to carry out materials and ingredients, including food.
“Finally, Major Carr.”
Benedict waited for Wil to finish interpreting before he responded to his name.
“I would like for you to join me.”
Benedict looked a little surprised. Major Stork continued in a mechanical tone.
“I have two reasons. First, I simply need more manpower. Without even crew members to help, it will be difficult to fight off a potential emergency even with the three of us. Second, I cannot leave the Hero of the Mural here to be suspected of murder. This is a matter of national pride. I do not believe that you are the killer.”
Wil did not interpret Major Stork’s explanation. Benedict replied in Bezelese.
“I understand. I will join you until we reach the village.”
“Thank you. But about your friends… what will they do? I don’t really mind if they choose to come or stay.”
“I will speak to them later.”
Once Benedict and Major Stork were finished, Wil briefly explained that Benedict would accompany Major Stork to the village. Fiona stared in shock. Benedict smiled lightly and winked.
“I have a question. What about us?” Allison asked, suddenly raising her hand. Major Stork nodded.
“I was just about to ask. I’d like for the two of you to join us.”
“Why?” Wil asked. Major Stork replied,
“I have three reasons.”
“That’s one more than Benedict.” chuckled Allison.
“First, I do not at all suspect the two of you, who were the first to discover the murders. After all, the two of you alone could not have killed so many. Second, you two are witnesses. That means that you may also be in danger. Third, you are friends of Major Carr. I thought that you might want to remain at his side. I will leave the decision to you. In addition, you two are capable of speaking Bezelese. Though your interpreting skills would be an asset here, it would also help me greatly during the journey to the village. So I suppose that makes four reasons, not three.”
Wil looked at Allison. She met his gaze and answered immediately.
“All right. Then we’re coming with you. Is that all right with you, Wil?”
“Yes. We’ll follow Benedict.”
“Then it’s decided. Is this to your satisfaction? Have I been faithful to my mission?” Major Stork asked, turning around. Terreur, who had been silently listening to Ien’s interpretation, answered in a haughty tone.
“Excellent. Once we safely reach the village, I will reward you handsomely.”
* * *
The sun slowly rose into the air, its blinding light shining on the supply base in the hollow.
The crew focused their efforts into transporting cargo from car 2 to the passenger cars. There were over two hundred meters between them—carts laden with the passengers’ luggage went to and fro on the concrete pavement by the rails. The cooks moved food and ingredients that were stored in the galley.
Allison and Wil took their things and moved them from their cabin to the freight car. The door to the cargo hold was left wide open, and there were several shelves inside. Allison and Wil put their luggage on the shelves and secured them with the built-in elastic straps
At the center of the cargo hold was a metal enclosure secured with a lock. Inside was a mountain of cargo covered in cloth.
“So this is all Mr. Terreur’s…” Wil mumbled.
“Props if he could actually carry all that on his own. Maybe he’s thinking of setting up shop in Sou Be-Il.” Allison said, astonished.
It was just as they returned to the door of the freight car.
“You there. Boy.”
Someone called to Wil. When he turned, there stood the female president who had ordered him around the previous day. The man who seemed to be her husband instructed one of the crew to take a cart full of luggage and left ahead for the passenger cars.
Allison made a face. Wil answered.
“There wasn’t enough room on the cart for this one suitcase. Could you help me carry it back to the passenger cars? Let’s talk for a while on the way.”
The woman was pointing at a small leather suitcase on the concrete. She was carrying nothing.
“Hey! Wil’s not your servant! You can carry that puny thing on your own.” Allison protested.
“It’s all right, Allison. If she needs help, I should help her.”
“You’re way too nice, Wil.”
“Then I’ll come with you.”
“Just wait here, Allison. You have to watch our things.”
With that, Wil left Allison and jumped out of the car. He picked up the woman’s suitcase and gave Allison a light wave.
“Shall we?” Said the woman as she began to walk. Wil followed after her, suitcase in hand. Allison watched and mumbled to herself.
“Talk about being a doormat. …Though I guess I really like that about him.”
About twenty meters later.
“May I assist you with anything else, madam?” Wil asked, catching up to the woman and walking at her side. The woman snickered and looked up at the sky.
“Please, that’s enough, Wil. Hearing ‘madam’ from you is almost giving me goosebumps.”
Wil chuckled and nodded.
“All right, ma’am.”
“Very good. Now, I have a lot of questions I’d like to ask you, but let’s set that aside for now. We’ll talk about it later. There’s something I simply have to tell you now.”
“Wouldn’t it be better for you and that girl to remain behind here? I’d prefer to keep you out of the dirty business that fills the world of us grownups, but Mr. Terreur is a man with many enemies. It’s not surprising in the least that someone is after his life. To be perfectly frank, it wouldn’t be very strange for there to be a hitman lurking among the passengers or the crew. On the surface, he’s the president of Roxche’s largest steel company. But he’s involved in all sorts of shady business—coerced transactions, countless illegal actions, and a very close relationship with the military, where he sells cannons.”
“I see… I’d heard the rumors.”
“Mr. Terreur actually has no business being on a tour like this.”
“Because he’s soon going to be arrested. The government turned a blind eye to his actions in case of another Great War, but the Hero of the Mural brought peace to the world. So it’s only a matter of time before Mr. Terreur is captured. Even the politicians who covered for him from the shadows seem to have abandoned him. Three generations of Terreur Steel, now on the verge of collapse. That’s why you don’t have to get involved, Wil. Say something—anything—to convince the girl and remain here.”
For some time, Wil did not answer. But once they had walked the length of half a car, he spoke.
“There’s something I’d like to confirm. I’m not doing this for Mr. Terreur.”
“Is this something important to you as well, Wil?”
This time, his answer was immediate. The woman nodded lightly.
“I understand. Then I won’t try to stop you. But if you feel like you’re in danger, run away and don’t turn back. Don’t die, Wil. Come back and help my son with his studies again.”
“Your blond friend seems to be quite angry, so be sure to apologize to her later. I can see that she cares for you very much; she’s a good girl, Wil. Treasure her as much as she treasures you.”
Watching Wil depart for the freight car again, Madam Epstein whispered,
“Euphemia’s going to be in tears, isn’t she?”
Her husband agreed.
“We’ll have to bring back a very big present for her.”
* * *
The supply base command center. In the room furnished with chairs and a table, the acting commander asked,
“Separating the train and heading for a village, without even permission… Are you certain?”
“I have no time to be playing games, Captain.” Major Stork replied firmly.
Next to them stood the two engineers who worked the diesel locomotive, both about forty years old. They quietly listened to the conversation.
“Let me repeat myself. We will separate the train between cars 8 and 9, and head for the village with the VIP near the front. Everyone else will wait here to be picked up.”
“We have discussed the matter and agreed to this conclusion as a group. As the people in charge of the tour are dead, no one may veto the decision. And as for myself, my mission comes before all else. Please take care of the rest.”
“But we’ve never received such tr-”
“Please take care that you do not trigger a second Great War.”
The captain did not answer.
Major Stork turned to the engineers, who stood blankly.
“You know what to do. Get the train through the mountains at maximum speed and head for the village.”
One of the engineers tried to speak, but Major Stork cut him off and added calmly,
“This is an order.”
The engineers were silenced. In the midst of the tension, a young soldier about twenty years of age entered with a kettle and teacups on a platter.
“Er… I’ve brought some tea.”
Major Stork looked at the soldier and replied, sounding strangely glad.
“Ah, thank you. But by any chance, do you have any apricot jam?”
The soldier placed the platter on a desk nearby and looked back, confused.
“Apricot jam. There’s nothing like tea with apricot jam in the morning. You don’t have a single bottle?” Major Stork asked. The captain and the engineers pretended to not be a part of the conversation, quietly pouring themselves tea. The soldier stared blankly for a moment before finally replying.
“…There’s no apricot jam on this base, sir. Not a single bottle.”
“Is that so? That’s unfortunate.”
“Oh, but we might have some blueberry jam in the fridge. We got some at breakfast this morning.” The soldier suggested. Major Stork shook his head.
“Blueberry’s better for lunch and dinner. I don’t need any at the moment.”
“Huh? Oh, right…”
“Please don’t worry about it. Now, it might be a bit of a hassle, but please get me a bottle of jam in a paper bag.”
Then, Major Stork stopped the soldier as he turned.
“By the way, where might I find the restroom? Please take me to one.”
Major Stork was led by the soldier to the officers’ restroom inside the building.
It was a narrow room, with three toilets and urinals lined up next to each other. Making sure that no one was inside, Major Stork opened the door and called in the soldier. The soldier discreetly entered, as only officers were allowed in that restroom.
“Let me be brief. The situation is ‘Apricot Jam’.”
The soldier nodded grimly and whispered,
“Yes, sir. Do you need reinforcements?”
“No. But prepare me two or so of boxes of 50 9-millimeter rounds. The ones marked at the military supplies factory in East Iltoa. And a spare barrel, in case I need to do some cover-up work. That is all.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll have them ready shortly.”
“We are leaving the passengers behind. Should, by any chance, something happen to this base, make sure you escape even if no one else does. That is all.”
“Understood. Fortune be with you, Colonel.”
“I’m counting on you.”
The soldier nodded and left the restroom. Major Stork loudly thanked him for bringing toilet paper.
“Honestly, I wish for you to stay here. I am pondering if I should order you to stay here.”
Benedict and Fiona’s cabin in car 10. Benedict had packed up first, and turned to Fiona. Fiona did not turn to him as she folded her clothes beside the beds.
“I don’t care what you say—I’m coming with you. I’m staying at your side, whether it’s safe or not.”
“I am a soldier. I am somewhat adjusted to danger. Allison as well. Wil has reliable shooting skills. And he is calculating.”
“Are you trying to say that I won’t be of help? You’re right.” Fiona said, putting her clothes in her suitcase and shutting it. Then, she put her right hand over her chest and stared, her dark eyes meeting Benedict’s.
“But I’ll never abandon my family, no matter the reason.”
Benedict was silenced.
With that, Fiona struggled to hold up her suitcase and walked up to him.
“Sorry to make you wait. Shall we?”
* * *
The train was separated as the soldiers watched.
First, the engineers opened the cover over the coupling, plugged the brake hose, and separated the braking mechanism. They then cut the electric cables, put a cover over the ends, and secured them to the car so they would not dangle. They unlocked the coupling and unhooked the chain connecting the cars.
The engineer who crawled out from under the buffers turned to Major Stork.
“I’ve finished separating them.”
“Understood. Thank you.”
“I’m sorry to repeat myself again, but…”
“Yes, I understand. I will take full responsibility. Please head to the locomotive and begin the preparations. I will send you instructions later by radio. Please keep an ear out constantly.”
Once the engineers went back to the locomotive, Major Stork turned around and instructed the four people to board. Benedict first climbed up to the lounge car, which was now at the very tail of the train.
Wil followed after Fiona, but glanced back at the passenger cars. From by the windows and the cars, people watched them—some with concern and others as though urging them to leave. Wil lightly waved at the Epsteins and entered through the door. Allison lightly hopped on after him.
Major Stork excused himself to the captain standing beside him. He sounded as lighthearted as if he were going shopping for groceries.
“Take care, sir. I’d like to request that you inform the village about the broken telephone line. Thank you.”
“Understood. Please take care of the rest.”
The moment Major Stork made to board, a young soldier ran over with a twenty-centimeter by twenty-centimeter paper bag in his arms.
“Ah, thank you. I didn’t think you’d really bring it. I’ll have this at lunch.”
Smiling, Major Stork took the bag and disappeared inside.
There was a whistle as the diesel locomotive began spewing smoke.
The transcontinental express, now only eight cars long, slowly began to move. The soldiers, the passengers, and the crew watched the tracks until the train disappeared.
* * *
“Hahahaha! Excellent work!”
Terreur roared in laughter as he watched the scenery begin to pass outside his window. The interior of the VIP cabin was luxury incarnate. Terreur leaned all the way back on a large sofa. On the table next to him was a bottle of expensive liquor and a glass.
Ien stood beside the table. Major Stork was holding the handrail by the window.
“Ien. Tell the man ‘good work’.” Terreur said in Roxchean. His face was flushed with alcohol.
“The master has praised your actions.” Ien said tersely, indifferent.
Major Stork’s tranquil smile did not budge as he replied.
“Thank you. I caused you a moment of worry, but things are going well. I’ve informed the other allies at the supply base that things are proceeding as planned.”
Terreur looked very pleased as he spoke with Major Stork through Ien.
“After having to put on that ridiculous show, I was almost worried.”
“The Hero remains on the train to protect a wealthy man from the threats of a killer. And at his side is a future queen. Their untimely deaths will shock the world.” Major Stork said dramatically.
“That aside, what use was there in bringing the boy and the girl?”
“I was actually trying to be considerate, sir.”
“What do you mean by that?” Terreur wondered.
“The girl—is she not quite lovely? I’m giving her to you as a gift. Once things are finished, do with her as you wish. The boy happened to follow along, but it will simple to kill him when we get the chance. Or if you would prefer the boy, I’ll give you him instead.”
“Ah… Of course! Hahaha!” Hearing Ien’s interpretation, Terreur chortled. “Excellent! Stupendous! You know how customer service works!”
Major Stork smiled slightly at Terreur’s unpleasant grin.
“But until then, you must not lay a hand on them. Please continue to play the role of a poor, victimized VIP.”
“Of course. Ah, for your information, I have no need for the boy. Throw him off the train when you get the chance.”
Nodding, Major Stork put on an unusually stiff face.
“And I have one personal request.”
“What is it?”
Major Stork bowed slightly, as though looking into Terreur and Ien’s faces.
“Please allow me to kill Major Carr personally. His thoughtless actions concerning that accursed mural are unforgivable. And give me the woman. I will make her suffer as he watches before killing him. I will take both their lives with my own two hands.”
After hearing Ien’s interpretation, Terreur looked taken aback.
“Do as you wish.”
When Ien interpreted the answer, Major Stork nodded with a word of thanks.
Terreur hissed quietly to his bodyguard, annoyed.
“What a disgusting man, so easily showing off his personal grudges.”
“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and speak with Major Carr. As with before, we will deal with any unforeseen trouble. Of course, nothing will happen—but I would prefer that the two of you remain inside if at all possible.”
With that, Major Stork turned—with Ien’s instructions to make up excuses to the Hero behind him—and left the bodyguard lounge, going into the hallway. He was carrying his suitcase. The edge of an envelope stuck out from a slight opening.
Major Stork closed his eyes and sighed. Then, he opened them again with a renewed look as he left for the dining cars. Soon, he passed the coupling and arrived at the galley hallway.
“Oscar Whittington… did you place a curse on me as you died? A curse where everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong? Is this your revenge?”
The man in the Royal Army uniform whispered under his breath as he walked down the long hallway.
“Very well. I will fight your revenge. I will pay back your vengeance double.”
* * *
The supply base.
Once the front of the transcontinental express had departed, the luxurious cars left behind created a rather odd atmosphere amidst its surroundings. The soldiers were hesitant to approach the cars, and the passengers remained holed up in their rooms with the curtains closed.
Out of nowhere, the roar of an engine echoed from the sky. A small observation aircraft with the mark of the Royal Army, not the Air Force, circled the hollow as it descended. The craft was like an aquarium, with the front made of glass. Three people sat there in a line.
As the soldiers watched, the craft used the concrete pavement parallel to the tracks as a runway as it easily landed.
Leaving the pilot in the plane, two officers from the Royal Army disembarked, taking off their thick coats. They were both young officers—first lieutenants in their twenties.
And both wore armbands with the words ‘Military Police’. The military police was a police force within the military that dealt with internal crimes and exposed breaches of conduct. That was why their presence was never welcomed. To be more accurate, they were outright hated by the rest of the military.
“It’s just one guest after another today…” The acting commander sighed, but he quickly composed himself and greeted the visitors. He then led them to the command center.
The two officers remained stoic even after exchanging greetings. Once inside, they declined the offer of chairs and demanded an explanation about the passenger cars. The captain clarified the situation, mentioning Major Stork by name. The officers exchanged glances. They asked several times if the major really was named ‘Stork’. The captain said that he was.
“If only you had come a little earlier. In any case, what business do you have here?”
The two officers mechanically replied that their duties were confidential. They stood and picked up the coats they had hung over the backs of the chairs.
“If nothing else, could you contact the village and tell them that our telephone is out?”
The officers replied that they could not do so due to their duties, and began heading for the door.
“O-one moment, please!”
A soldier about twenty years of age, who was holding a platter, loudly called to the officers. They turned.
“I’ve brought some tea…” The soldier trailed off. The officers looked annoyed by the mere fact that they had to respond.
“No thank you.”
In the little kitchen in a corner of the command center, the young soldier threw out the tea and began washing the cups. Suddenly, he heard the sound of an engine. Outside the window, the observation craft took easily to the air.
“The military police…”
The soldier stopped and looked at them, irritated.
“Never thought we’d get military police all the way out here. This isn’t good.”
The craft soon disappeared out of the frame.
In the sky over the base. Inside the observation craft, one of the first lieutenants turned to his friend behind him, and whispered so the pilot could not hear.
“What in the world is he planning? They weren’t scheduled to stop by the depot.”
“I don’t know.” The other officer replied, bitterly shaking his head.
“Not only did they separate the train, but they’re also traveling ahead of schedule. What’s going on here?”
“Who knows? We’ll just have to ask the man himself later… but it’s a good thing there’s fewer people on board now. Now we’ll be able to take over much more easily. After all, we have to make certain the target ‘dies’.”
“Yes… you’re right.”
“Anyway, we’ll be late if we don’t wake everyone up now. If the train makes it down the mountain, all our efforts are going to have been a waste.”
The observation craft ascended as it headed west.
-To be continued in Part 2-