A Find in Lost Ways, Part 7

TJ sprinted down the path and aimed himself at Sarah Willoughby. When he was about ten feet away, she saw him and stood. She turned her shoulder to him – the one with the heavy black backpack on it – and braced herself. Unsure of what to do, he pulled up at the last second and instead of bowling her over, he awkwardly stutter stepped into her waiting shoulder, catching the pack square in the chest. The impact was enough to make Sarah fumble the satellite phone, but left her standing over TJ on his back, the wind knocked from his lungs.

“Are you an idiot?” She looked down at him scornfully.

He lay motionless, humiliated and in pain. The phone sat face up, inches from his ear, a gruff male voice still streaming from the speaker.

“The supplies are enroute, supposed to be delivered to a place called Herbst Junction,” TJ heard it say. “Give us twelve more hours, then we’ll get you out. You don’t want to hang around there much longer than that.”

She snatched up the phone, punched “end call,” and stepped over his chest.

He grabbed her boot and she stumbled, landing with a knee and both hands to the ground.

“Let go of me!” she spat.

“Listen,” he barely got the word out. His lungs were burning. “Just let me make one phone call. Just to have somebody come get me. I’ll pretend I never saw you I swear.”

“You are an idiot.” She dropped to her elbows and struggled to free her foot, but he held firm.

“Probably,” he said. “But if you don’t let me use that phone I’m going to follow you for the next twelve hours. I’ve got nothing better to do.”

“The first thing you’re going to do is tell them you found me.” She pushed herself up and tried kicking him. He bear-hugged her ankle and rolled, pulling her to her elbows again. “Ouch! You IDIOT!”

“I’m tough to get rid of,” he said. “Even if I tell somebody, your people will have you out of here before they find you. You’d at least have a chance. If I stick around, you and your … whoever they are will have to deal with me. You don’t want that trouble on top of whatever you already have.”

She swore. “Fine.”

She reached for the phone and flicked it at TJ. He let go of her boot, sat up, and dialed.

* * *

At the moment TJ was dialing, Annie was two hours from Salvation Point at the throttle of her northbound train. Her cell phone was exactly where it was supposed to be, powered down in the bottom of her duffel on the floor of the locomotive cab.

When she got to Salvation Point yard, she tied up her train, finished her paperwork, clocked out, and drove home.

She showered, ate a can of soup, and looked through her mail.

She emptied her duffel bag and started a load of laundry.

Then she checked her phone.

TJ’s message chilled her. She threw on hiking shorts and a tank top, grabbed a jacket and backpack, stepped into her hiking boots and raced out the door. Ten minutes later her Jeep skidded to a stop outside the yard office.

“Where’s Vern?” She didn’t wait for the stunned yard grunt to answer.

The two boxcars had been cut from her train and were rolling to a stop in the yard, where they would be put on a local for delivery to Herbst Junction. Forgetting her training for a moment, she sprinted across the mainline and into the yard. She ran up to one of the boxcars and grabbed at the hasps holding the door shut. It was locked and a plastic car seal was looped through the latch, making it impossible to open without the intended recipients knowing. She pounded the door with her fist and ran to the next one, where she found the same thing.

“You alright?” It was Jake, one of the newbie yard hands.

“Jake! It’s Jake, right?” She brushed her hair from her face and flashed a flirty grin. It worked.

“Yeah.” He smiled and leaned against the box car. “Something I can do for you?”

“These two cars,” she nodded toward them. “I screwed up, they’re not supposed to be here. If Vern finds out he’s going to kill me. Think you can get them out of here? Anywhere other than Herbst Junction?”

yard

“You mean, like, lose them?” he eyed her warily.
“Only for a little while,” she said.
“Sure,” he shrugged. “Happens all the time.”

“You mean, like, lose them?” he eyed her warily.

“Only for a little while,” she said.

“Sure,” he shrugged. “Happens all the time.”

“You’re the best!” She gave him a swift hug, then sprinted back to her Jeep. She cranked the engine and wheeled out of the lot, raising a cloud of dust on the road to Many Lost Ways National Park.

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Dear Digitrax,

Can you please come get your crap out of my house?

Our torrid affair started about ten years ago when you lured me away from my trusty but immature MRC Prodigy by flashy promises of wireless control and 128 speed steps. Now, here I sit, wounded and fuming at you once again, blinking DCS 150, LocoNet network, a couple of battery-eating wireless paperweights.

I should have known from the start by the sheer smugness of your computer geek directions. When you told me, “In advanced 28/128 speed step mode, the V-start value is interpolated from the first speed step to the middle speed step or ‘mid’ step, 15,” I didn’t understand but I trusted you. You knew what you were doing and you would let me run my trains, not my track, isn’t that what you said? Little did I know your “IT Guy” attitude permeates everything you do.

I started to get you figured out, though. We had some good times, did some steamy advanced consisting and we programmed, you remember, right there on the main? But now you make my locomotives randomly run, or randomly stop. I tell you I want this consist for train A, and when I turn the throttle, train B starts to roll. I’ve given you fresh batteries, keyed in the consist again, restarted you. I’ve held you close to my face and pleaded. And, I’m sorry for all the times I’ve yelled “you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck” at you.

Maybe I’m not smart enough for you. You as much as told me so, in that heady time when I still had faith and was willing to go to your website for help.

I wanted to move on a long time ago, but I’d invested too much. You can change, I told myself, so instead of letting you go I kept letting you get closer. Another throttle. More decoders.

Starting over is so hard, though, and costs so much.

Maybe if I put away the laptop, and hold you just right…

The Conductor’s Guide to Nascar

How to be a nascar champion first get in a racecar and start driving run a few laps then get in the same car in a race

mabey 200 laps or 400 laps  I dont know but you half to run a full season I race on my game all the time

I just iove playing my game so much aspechuley with my brother the game also has a season you can run I have

nascar the game inside line you can do road racing or oval racing if you dont want to run a season

you can run single race or moltiplayer

published on 2 10 13

The Conductor is in first grade. He likes to run trains when he’s not racing.

A Find in Lost Ways, Part 6

Paperwork complete and signals clear, Annie’s hand was reaching for the throttle when the radio chirped and Javier gestured for her to wait.

“Looks like we got a late add,” the conductor said, poking the touch screen of his onboard computer. “Just two. Couple of boxcars for us to drop at … Herbst? Is that right?”

“Herbst Junction?” Annie wrinkled her brow. “Really?”

“That’s what it says,” Javier keyed the mic and radioed the tower.

Herbst Junction was a tourist stop on the border of Many Lost Ways National Park. Backpackers took the steam train from Salvation Point there to hike into the backcountry. Crews used the short siding there as a runaround when sorting cars for the Flagstaff local, and occasionally as overflow when the Red Earth Co-op siding got crowded. But Herbst Junction was almost never listed as a destination for freight.

“Yardmaster says it’s right,” Javier reported. “Looks like … ‘mechanical equipment,’ no other description. Light loads – only five tons per car. This is weird.”

“Well,” Annie sighed. “At least they’ll be a couple thousand feet behind us.”

IMG_1006

“Well,” Annie sighed. “At least they’ll be a couple thousand feet behind us.”

* * *

TJ looked over the river to the spot where his raft had disappeared into the current, then paced to the edge of the trees and stared in the direction Sarah Willoughby had fled.

He had a decision to make.

On an ordinary day, he could sit on the riverbank and within a couple of hours a raft trip would come by and pick him up. But there were no trips today, and he wasn’t sure there would be any tomorrow. He could follow the river on foot, a good 12 or 15 miles to the takeout at Herbst Junction, but the trail was iffy at best. He could turn inland to the backcountry and hope to come across the searchers.

Or he could try to follow the Senator’s daughter.

He breathed deeply for a moment, then plunged into the trees.

Tall and lean, and in reasonably good shape, he would have no trouble running down the presumably exhausted girl, if he went in the right direction. He scanned about for trails and saw at least five possibilities. Would she have gone uphill? Would she stick to the river? Would she stay in the cover of the trees?

TJ imagined a true outdoorsman would have useful insight, and he chastized himself for lacking such clarity. It was a conversation that constantly raged in the back of his mind – a small voice insisting that he belonged in a cubicle after all. He was constantly working to convince himself that he was strong enough, smart enough, clever enough to live this independent, unconventional life. Moving to the wilderness and living on the fringe wasn’t a lark. He was the real deal. He repeated it to himself over and over, but didn’t really believe it.

He wondered where Annie was, and wished she were with him. He wished he could ask her advice. She would know precisely which trail to follow. But if she had been along, he considered, they would probably be paddling home with Sarah Willoughby right now instead of wandering the woods with no way to even call for help.

He decided on the path of least resistance, not because he reasoned that she would, but to preserve his own energies. He jogged along the flattest path, which ran close to the river just inside the trees. He rounded a corner and for the second time in an hour came across Sarah, leaning against a tree.

She hadn’t seen him. She was 50 feet up the trail, tucked to the side in the shade, a bulky satellite phone to her ear. It took TJ a moment to realize it. A phone! His own cell phone was probably at the bottom of the river by now, but even if he had it he wasn’t likely to get a signal here. Hers seemed to be working.

It only took him a moment to decide – he would simply overpower her, take the phone, hold her down while he summoned help.

“Yeah, sure you will,” he told himself, doubt taking hold.

But his feet were already thundering down the trail.