9 0 0

They were provisioned and ready to move within the hour, shortly before dawn. The party consisted of Jesse and Clair; Gemma, Dariusz and Turner from WHOLE; Arcady and three young farmers, Shannon, Lorne and Derryn. Libby's body was wrapped in plastic and loaded with several bags of supplies. Axel and the rest of the Farmers were staying behind with Cashile and Dyta.

Axel: "Someone's got to mind the farm, as they say."

Clair: "Do you think the dupes will come back?"

Axel: "If they do, we'll ready for them."

Lorne: "Nobody fucks with the Farmhouse."

The journey by road took over an hour. They could have gone straight to the track, Shannon explained, and flagged down the train as it came by, but why make it easier for anyone watching to work out what they were doing? Satellites would notice the train stopping in the middle of nowhere and someone would wonder why. Instead, they turned onto the old Route 94-now a green strip with one broad lane for farm traffic-and headed west across the prairie for the town of Mandan on the bank of the Missouri river, where the train stopped anyway.

Their connection to the Air returned when they reached Route 94. I saw them reappear but stayed silent. It was enough that I knew Clair was safe, and that she had made plans. VIA occupied the One Penn Plaza building, a skyscraper on the west shoreline of the main island of the Manhattan archipelago. The original suggestion, back at the Farmhouse, had been to follow the Jersey Peninsula all the way to the seaport on 34th Street, but that was ultimately considered too public. Fortunately for the conspirators, there were numerous ways to wend through the archipelago of drowned boroughs in order to delay coming aboveground until the very last minute.

Turner: "The subway. Penn Plaza sits right on top of one of the old stations."

Arcady: "It'll be sealed up."

Turner: "And flooded. But that's okay if your friends' subs will fit through the tunnels."

Arcady: "We'll ask when we meet them. It'd be a perfect way to get in close without being seen."

That seemed sensible to me, but I didn't pipe up to say so. I was making my own plans, and still recovering from the shock of my second transformation.

Mandan was nothing more than a series of old buildings and apartment towers with no local industry or services, but it was large enough to have eye-in-the-sky drones surveying the empty streets. The convoy reached the train station unmolested and under the eaves of an ancient wooden building Clair and the others unloaded and stretched their legs. The train was approaching from the west. The light of the morning sun caught it, made its polished fittings shine.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Clair asked Arcady.

"Don't worry," he told her. "These guys are playing toy trains at a one-to-one scale. It's a joke, like rocket enthusiasts and car racers. No one ever pays them any attention."

"Never say never," said Turner. "Remember what happened at the Farmhouse?"

"I will never forget what happened at the Farmhouse," Arcady said.

113 (Twinmaker)Read this story for FREE!