by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
Captain Ochre was halfway through a first draft of his post-mission report when the Monorail gave a decidedly ungentle shudder. He glanced up from the pad on the table in front of him and gazed out the window. The scenery outside the Silver Phantom appeared to be moving past more rapidly than before.
He stood up, opened the door of his compartment and looked along the passageway. Nothing out of the ordinary. As a former law enforcement officer, Ochre decided to investigate. The journey had been uneventful so far and if nothing else at least it would pass some time before reaching the New York terminus and the Spectrum Helicopter waiting to transport him to Cloudbase.
He strolled along the corridor, the floor quivering almost imperceptibly beneath his boots. Passing through the connecting door to the next car, he saw rows of people sitting in the standard class layout. There was nothing to arouse his curiosity here either. Some dull-looking executives, a young woman reading a paperback, a few family groups and an elderly couple who might have been returning from a vacation.
Ochre passed the bar counter on his way to the next car, beginning to think he had been over-reacting to what was most likely a simple spike in the power-system, when the whole monorail gave another, more-violent jolt. He braced himself against the bar, managing to stay on his feet. A few glasses tumbled off the counter and smashed. There were startled noises from the seated passengers.
Taking a moment to reassure them, Ochre proceeded along the train, aware that something was certainly wrong and that the monorail was definitely travelling much faster than it should have been. The scenes in the next few cars were similar, it looked as if a couple of passengers were being treated for minor injuries by a couple of efficient-looking attendants. Flashing his Spectrum pass at them, Ochre said that he was going up front to check things with the engineer. One of the attendants replied that they’d already tried to get through, but that the door had been jammed and the engineer hadn’t responded to radio calls.
Ochre didn’t like that sound of that. Of course it was possible that the engineer had taken ill, but that didn’t explain why the door had been jammed. Already sprinting towards the access hatch to the leading car, he got on the radio to Cloudbase and in seconds was relaying the situation to Colonel White.
In the control room of Spectrum’s floating HQ, the Colonel’s face was a mask of steely concentration as he listened to Ochre’s report. He knew the Mysterons were devious and brutal in their methods and was well aware that it would not be outside their murderous style to destroy a train full of innocent people simply to kill a valuable Spectrum asset like Captain Ochre. Lieutenant Green calculated that at its present rate of speed, the Silver Phantom would reach the New York monorail terminus in less than ten minutes. If its speed remained unchecked, it would smash through the station, likely killing everyone aboard and potentially countless others in the station itself.
Back on the train, Ochre drew his pistol and fired at the locking mechanism, blowing it apart. He threw his shoulder against the door, but it didn’t budge an inch. He looked around for something to use as lever, but there was nothing. The seconds were ticking by too fast for his liking when he arrived at the only alternative he could think of.
Ignoring the door to the leading car, he reached out and yanked the emergency release on the outside escape door. The panel was torn off and pulled out into the blinding sunlight, landing far from the speeding monotrain. Next, Ochre drew out a sturdy thin wire from the pouch on his belt and clipped it around a small grapple hook. He fitted the grapple to the font of his pistol and loaded a propellant charge into the chamber. So far so good, but the easy part was over. Captain Ochre braced himself and then, with a firm grip on an interior handhold, he eased himself halfway out of the speeding vehicle.
The force of the wind nearly pulled him out as he fought to maintain his grip. Then he saw what he was looking for, the support column mounted just above the engineer’s cabin, below the monorail track. It was perhaps a few metres away, but what a few metres they were. Leaning out as far as he dared, Ochre took aim and fired the grapple. The small projectile danced away from his pistol, snaking the precious line behind it. It coiled around the support and the line went taught. Ochre double-checked the other end was secured to his belt and, praying that the grapple was firmly attached, released his grip from the interior handhold.
The tremendous flow of air rushing passed kept his body from falling to the ground, but it was impossible to get a grip on the smooth frame of the train. Ochre was bashed against the side of the speeding vehicle as he climbed the wire inch by inch until he was level with the cabin window. He managed to brace his feet against the now sloping side of the train and fired a few shots to shatter the glass before swinging through the window frame.
He looked around for the engineer, but there was no one inside the small cabin. So the train was under Mysteron control after all. He looked at his watch. Less than two minutes to go. Ochre raced to the controls. A quick glance through the front window revealed the station building in the distance, a distance contracting all too fast. Ochre pulled the deceleration control level, but it didn’t move. He tried again.
There was a rattle behind him, the missing engineer’s tool kit fell over as the train took a corner far too rapidly. Ochre snatched up a solid-looking wrench and using it as a pivot, tried prying the braking control lever into position. At first it barely moved, but then, painfully slowly, it started sliding along the control groove. Ochre threw his whole weight against the lever and with a jolt and a click it locked in place.
Ochre gasped as he was thrown against the controls by the sudden deceleration. There was a scream of metal on metal and the noise of sparks from above the cabin as the brakes bit into the track. The outer buildings of the terminal flashed by the window, but they were slowing. Ochre pulled himself up, the end of the platform lay ahead. It was going to be close. 30 metres… 20… 10… 5… Then with a crash the Silver Phantom hit the buffer beam on the rail above the train and stopped dead.
Fortunately, thanks to Captain Ochre’s heroic actions, none of the passengers received serious injury and the Mysterons’ scheme was thwarted. However, the war of nerves continues and Spectrum urges all agents to remain vigilant in the ongoing battle against them.