Train Ride

"Hey there, sweetheart. Wanna go for a ride?"

Shelton was leaning almost completely out the train window and had a pretty good view of everyone on the platform. The window beside him was occupied by Petras; he wasn't leaning out like Shelton, and only rested his head on his hand and appeared bored. The lady Shelton called out to and her friend whispered something amongst themselves and giggled. He grinned at them, but was distracted when a group of five soldiers appeared within view. The women noticed his change and turned to look also. Escorted by a large number of armed men were Lev and his wife.

Despite Andrei's warnings, Rex demanded they go to Urgal immediately. They abandoned the vehicles and weapons; the only thing they had for defense were the sleek bulletproof shirts and small arms they hid on themselves. As it turned out, the only train leaving the day they arrived was the scenic train for Lev's wife. The back of the train was several cars for cargo; this is where the working class people rode. The other cars were very nice, very expensive and reserved typically for aristocrats, politicians, and in special occasions, soldiers. Rex's group was unable to fit all into one car, so they were divided amongst two of the three cargo cars.

"Good day, Mr. Fedorov," the women greeted.

"Hello, ladies," he smiled back. "It's a bit cold outside. Why don't you hurry and board?"

"Thank you, Mr. Fedorov."

"Huh, he seems like a pretty normal guy," Petras muttered aloud.

What sounded like a large firecracker echoed across the platform and sent everyone to their knees – except Lev. The bullet from the rifle hit one of the men next to him; the wound was on the outside of the shoulder, which meant the assassin missed on accident. While everyone around him panicked and scrambled, Lev stood up taller and tried to see over the chaos. He made sure his wife stayed low and behind him, a move which probably saved her life. A few seconds later, another shot was fired and missed again. Finally, the soldiers spotted the assassin and went after him.

It was a fairly spectacular sight for Shelton and Petras as they watched this aristocrat stand tall in the face of an enemy; even the soldiers had crouched after the first gunshot. After the soldiers went after the assassin, he carefully helped his wife to her feet and asked the injured soldier if he was alright. Shelton and Petras felt jealous; why did they have to deal with Antanas when such a nice guy could have been their regional manager?

"Are you okay?" Lev asked his wife, truly concerned. She nodded to him; his face twisted, unsure whether he should smile in relief or frown over the fact she was ever put in such a situation. "Don't worry, baby, I'll make sure that guy pays for scaring you like that."

Something bumped into Lev; he turned around, expecting to see another attacker. Instead he found a young boy rubbing his nose, which was damaged during the collision, and an older boy behind him. "Sorry, mister!" the boy, Little Antonio, cried.

Shelton and Petras perked up; the older boy was Caesar!

"Ah, it's okay, kiddo," Lev said. "Hey, sorry about your nose there. Is there any way I can make it up? How about you and your friend there sit with us in the front? How does that sound?"

"Yay!" Antonio jumped, his injured nose now a thing of the past. "I've never ridden on a train before!"

"Haha!" Lev laughed loudly. "You're a cute kid! I like you!"

A few soldiers started to shuffle Lev and his wife away; Antonio and Caesar were brought along with them. In front of Shelton and Petras was now a sea of blue uniforms and red berets. One boy in particular stood out. "Hey, that's the soldier from earlier," Shelton pointed out. Dmitri stood out a bit; he had removed his beret so his light brown hair shone despite the lack of direct sunlight. They noticed the others that were with Dmitri the first time they met him weren't there; they wondered if the others had even survived. But then again, why should Shelton and Petras even care? That sea of blue and red was the enemy; both sides were determined to kill each other.

In order to avoid being spotted by Dmitri, Shelton and Petras slid down and relaxed for a moment. The little cargo car had no lighting, so they could barely make out the others with them. Andrei sat beside Petras; across from those three was Antoine, Antanas and Lena. Near the exit was an American they had never spoke to, and based on his silent attitude, they never would speak to him.

"Sounds like your word about Lev and the Stars being here was dead on," Antoine said to Andrei. Shelton nodded to confirm Antoine's statement.

Andrei shrugged, "Some kid named Fyodor sold us the info."

"Fyodor?" Antoine repeated. "That's weird. Usually Little Andy would be right on that. This Fyodor guy wasn't too expensive, was he?"

"Hell if I know," Andrei answered. "Lena paid, I didn't."

"Cigarettes and cigars; packs and singles!" a vendor outside bellowed. He repeated himself several times. Petras didn't pass up the opportunity and stuck his head out the window.

"Hey!" he shouted to the vendor. "Hey you! Come here a second, would you? How much for a single?"

"A mark, sir," the vendor said. "But if you buy yourself five, I'll charge you only two for the whole lot."

"Ah, damn I only have one mark," Petras whined.

Lena appeared beside him and shoved her way through the window, too, surprising Petras. "I'd like five cigarettes, please," she asked. She presented the vendor with two marks; he snatched them with a big smile.

"Sure thing, Miss," he grinned. He pulled out five mismatched brands of cigarettes and the exchange was completed. There was no time for Petras to ask for any, because the train rocked and started to move forward; he watched in dismay as the platform grew smaller and smaller rather quickly. With a heavy sigh, he pulled himself inside.

Much to Petras's surprise, Lena gave him two of the five. His face lifted into a smile instantly and he beamed, "Thank you!" Before she had time to respond, Petras shoved one of the cigarettes in his mouth, produced a lighter and lit up. He savored the vapors as they tainted his body and relished in the almost instant release of stress. He blew the smoke out in a loud sigh and said, "Man, that's nice."

As Petras took another puff, he watched as Lena placed the other three in her jacket pocket. "You smoke?" he asked. She nodded. "There's something sexy about a girl who smokes," he said.

She ignored him like she always did. Besides, there was someone she needed to look at. Hidden in the corner was Antanas; he specifically chose that place because the cargo crates and luggage had created a nice shelter. From the corner he couldn't see anyone unless they leaned over the crates, and likewise they couldn't see him. But, he knew there was one appointment he couldn't opt out of; for his own sake he had to let Lena look at his thigh wound.

Lena was slow and careful in her approach to him, because she knew he didn't like her much. He avoided eye contact as long as he could; it wasn't until she was practically on top of him did he finally look at her. "You don't smoke," he stated.

"Do you want a cigarette?" she offered as she attempted to undo his pants.

He waved her off, "I only smoke cigars. Here, let me do it." He unbuttoned the cargo pants he had been lent and slid them down to his knees. Exposed was the large gash and the makeshift stitching job; around the wound it was swollen, red from dried blood, and bruised. Part of the stitching had become undone again; fortunately, it hadn't started bleeding profusely. Lightly she brushed her hand against the cut. He jumped from the pain and the coolness of her fingers.

"This might be infected," she informed him.

"What can I do about it?" he asked. She could tell by the look on his face that the wound was wearing down on his psyche; it wasn't small scratch by any means so she couldn't blame him. While Rex gladly handed out painkillers and the like to his soldiers, Antanas was passed up every time. He probably felt unwelcomed.

"Please let me clean it," she said softly. He hesitated; every time she's helped, it's hurt – a lot.

"Are you two going to have sex?"

"What?"

The two adults swung their heads back towards the window just above Antanas. Hanging off the top of the train upside down was Antonio. Antanas rolled his eyes, "Do you even know what sex is?"

"Of course," Antonio nodded. "It's when a man sticks his penis in a girl's vagina."

"Woman's," Antanas corrected. "There's a big different between a girl and a woman."

"Antonio, what are you doing here?" Lena asked.

"Mr. Fedorov let me ride with him for free," Antonio gloated. "Caesar came, too"

"Oh, yeah, that reminds me," Andrei suddenly said. He popped up over one of the crates. "Do you have a daughter?"

Antanas scowled at Andrei. "Yeah," he answered. "Her name is Candace. What does it matter to you?"

"That Fyo guy made mention of your brother Lev. As a father myself, I feel like I got to tell you. Supposedly Lev took your daughter –"

Andrei never got to finish. Despite the injury and the fact his pants were down around his knees, Antanas leapt from the floor and grabbed Andrei's collar. "What the fuck do you mean?"

"I don't know," he answered calmly. Within the blue eyes of Antanas, he saw pure hatred and a small tint of worry.

"What did he do to her?" he demanded.

"I don't know," Andrei repeated.

"I swear to God, I'll kill that bastard if he touches her!"

Andrei threw his hands up, signaling he wasn't about to resist. Antanas pushed him away; as he adjusted his own shirt collar and sat back down on the floor, Antanas muttered, "I'm sorry." He felt awkward afterward; not because he leapt up in only his underwear, but the fact he had shown such a blatant display of hatred towards his brother and worry for his little girl. He used his palm as a shield, so he could cover his eyes from the watching group. He didn't want any of his emotions to be used against him. He had no weakness.

"Antonio," Lena called out.

"Yeah?"

"Why don't you go back to Lev and see if you can find out what happened to Antanas's daughter?"

"Sure thing, Briska!" he said with a mock salute. He looked towards his feet and said, "Okay, lift me up Caesar." He gave a small wave as he flew up onto the top of the train. Once on top, he wiped his brow and informed Caesar of their mission. "Looks like we got a job to do!"

Antonio didn't wait for Caesar; he took off running along the top of the train. The only significant gap between cars was in between cargo cars. Once he reached the passenger cars, the gaps were mere inches, which made running a much easier task. They had to run almost to the very front of the train; Lev was in the second car and the train was about ten passenger cars long. Antonio's memory kicked in and he recalled exactly what window Lev's table was at. He came to the first window of the second car and stopped. He threw himself down so he hung upside down again; this time, he used his own balance to stay up.

Inside he saw Lev and his wife; their table was clear except for drinks and their menus. "Hey Mister Fedorov!" he greeted from the window. Lev looked up from his menu and smiled.

"What're you doing out there, kid?" he asked. He extended his hand and said, "Come on, get inside before you slip off." Lev had to reach out the window a bit to get a good grip on Antonio. Expertly he pulled the young kid inside and set him on the floor. Before anyone had time to even notice Caesar, he flung himself inside through the window. Somehow he missed the wine glass and was able to slide off the table and land on the floor. The rest of the dining car ignored the commotion; no one would stare if Lev Fedorov was involved, nor would they ask him about it.

Lev pushed Antonio towards the side with his wife and the kid gladly accepted the chance to sit next to the beautiful young woman. Caesar, meanwhile, took a seat on the outside of Lev. While Antonio tried to strike up a conversation with Lev's wife – "What's your name? How old are you? Do you like cricket?" – and failed, Caesar remained quiet and watchful. The dining car was also home to several soldiers, but they seemed too preoccupied with their own games.

"Would you two like something to eat?" Lev asked. Caesar shook his head, which signaled to Antonio he better decline, too.

"No thank you," he reluctantly declined. They slipped into silence as Lev mulled over what to get for himself. Meanwhile, Antonio tried to formulate a question about Antanas that didn't come off too straight forward. As he molded it in his head, he decided he would just wing it. "It's really too bad your brother hasn't been found yet," Antonio said in the sweetest voice he could muster. Lev glanced up at him with a slightly confused expression. "I'm sure his family is really worried."

Lev let out a small chuckle. He reached across the table and patted Antonio's head. "You're a good kid. Isn't he, sweetheart?"

"Yes, dear," his wife obediently answered. Antonio frowned under Lev's hand as he ruffled his hair. The way his wife responded was so planned, practiced; like if that was her response to everything he said. She surprised Antonio when she spoke for herself for the first time since he met her. "Lev has made sure that Ton's family is safe until we can find him," she assured Antonio. He cocked his head; Ton was a weird nickname.

"Yup," Lev nodded. "Well, to be honest his wife is with the Chinese, but I'm making sure they take good care of her. His daughter is with me when I'm not traveling; you'll see her when we reach the Port. She's a cutie."

Across the room, the soldiers overheard part of the conversation. Only part of it, because they were having fun causing ruckus. It originally started with one of the soldiers trying to strike up a conversation with one of the aristocrats' daughters. She ignored him; he was merely a lower-class man who's only hope for a future was found in the military. While he didn't like being ignored, he didn't bother starting a commotion over it. His friend, however, was happy to; after digging through his supply bag, he produced a cheap rope supplied to them for whatever ridiculous reason. While the soldiers never would have needed it for their policing duties, they always found a use for it.

The soldier tied it into a loop and managed to lasso the girl on the first try. Her shriek was enough to make Lev look over at the soldiers with a raised eyebrow, but he ignored her once he saw her get pulled right out of her seat. "Stupid. Girls should know better than to pick on a soldier," he remarked. A few of the more flirty girls wanted to join in and the soldiers were happy to give them the attention.

It was Dmitri's turn; it took him a few tries, but he managed to rope one of the girls who had joined. Things took a turn when he pulled the girl in. Right as he was about to pull her onto his lap, she quickly slipped out of the poorly made lasso and wrapped the rope around him. Not that he minded; she continued to flirt with him while he was partially immobile. A loud curse from Lev stopped the party, and Dmitri looked past the girl to see what caused the aristocrat to shout. He never found out. Instead, his eyes focused solely on the teen seated next to Lev. The teen looked familiar, and Dmitri rattled his brain to try and remember. It wasn't until Caesar stood to allow Lev to leave did he remember.

The way Caesar stood and carefully glanced over the area reminded Dmitri of a kid he had seen in a small town; the one responsible for killing his friends. When Caesar stepped, he lost his footing a bit. He lifted his shoe and presented the world the ice hiking blades that hid in his boot. As Caesar twisted the blade and tucked it into the sole of his boot, Dmitri discarded the girl and pushed her completely off of him and onto the floor. By the time Caesar had his blade tucked away and looked up, Dmitri was halfway to him.

Caesar recognized the soldier right away, so he immediately began to think of the best course of action. He could have stayed in the dining car and fought him, which wouldn't have been too hard considering Dmitri still had the rope tangled around him; yet, Caesar knew that the rest of the soldiers would quickly join in and if he was forced to talk, he might reveal the existence of Rex's team. The only option was to slip out the window and crawl atop the train. Lev's wife made a noise of surprise when Caesar stepped onto the table and disappeared out the window. Dmitri somehow managed to do the same, though he wasn't as agile as Caesar and still had the rope on him.

There wasn't much going through Dmitri's mind at that moment other than revenge. He lost three friends because of Caesar, and he wanted a little payback. As he lifted himself out the window and onto the train, he caught the sight of Caesar sprinting towards the back of the train. He wasted no time in following the teen and he nearly caught up with him. It wasn't until they reached the passenger cars did Dmitri slow down. While Caesar hopped across the sudden break in cars without problems, Dmitri halted for a brief second. When he looked up, Caesar was gone. Determined not to let the boy get away, Dmitri leapt over the gap.

Once he was there, he realized he had no idea where Caesar could have gone. Frozen with disappointment, Dmitri simply stared towards the back of the train. Something – or someone – caught his eye as it was thrown from the back. There were only two things Dmitri could think of: Caesar, or the rear car guard. He assumed it was the guard and the one who kicked him off was Caesar. Even angrier knowing that another soldier had been killed, Dmitri hurried to the back of the train.

Without thinking, he jumped onto the back platform. Naturally, Caesar was already waiting. The teen had produced a Chatellerault knife from his jacket pocket and allowed Dmitri to land before he lunged at him. Dmitri backed away from the first swipe but bumped into the door for entering the cargo car. With nowhere to go and no time to react, he wasn't able to dodge the next stab, which hit him just under the ribs. At first, he felt nothing, just pressure; within mere moments he felt as though he had been punched. Soon, the feeling of being punched was replaced with a pounding sensation.

His mind halted all other observations other than where Caesar held the knife. He felt it slip out of his abdomen and watched as Caesar brought it up to slash at Dmitri's throat. He ducked and swerved to the side, escaping the trap. The blade didn't halt despite the miss and simply changed directions. Even though all of his attention was focused on the blade, he didn't move fast enough to completely avoid the next slash. His only option was to lean back and try to knock the blade away; he was able to hit Caesar's hand, but the blade still reached Dmitri.

Dmitri watched as the blade went from being near his mouth to right in front of him. His heart stopped when the blade came close enough to his left eye he lost focus. Instinct took over and he closed his eye. Unfortunately, the eye lid wasn't enough to prevent the blade from tearing through it and scratching the eyeball. For that wound, it was an instant sharp, stingy pain. He let out a shocked shriek and covered the left side of his face. Caesar prepared to stab him again, but this time, Dmitri punched the teen before the blade was lunged at him.

His fist connected with Caesar's throat and damaged his windpipe. The knife clanked against the platform as Caesar's hand went to the source of his pain; if he hadn't panicked, he would have won. Instead, Dmitri's cool-headedness despite his injuries allowed him to prevail. Still, once he saw Caesar drop the knife, Dmitri felt an urge to inflict some serious pain. He punched Caesar again, this time in the face; when the teen fell, Dmitri hit him several more times in the head. Caesar, trying to fight back, got his hand tangled in the loose rope.

"You fucking prick," Dmitri spat. "I lost three of my best friends because of those damned boots of yours!"

Caesar's heart raced and his breathing quickened; Dmitri's deformed eye sent blood down his face, which dripped onto Caesar's cheek. Even though Dmitri took that moment to speak, Caesar was unable to fight back, because the hits to his head had slowed down his thinking and reaction time. Through his blurry, distorted vision he watched Dmitri removed the rope from his hands; Caesar felt a short, quick burst of hope that he would let him go free. Instead, the rope was tied around his feet. His head ached too much to care anymore; he felt the rope tighten and Dmitri helped him to his feet. For the first time, he realized the soldier in front of him was almost the same age as him and he felt a small ting of regret. Yet, through Dmitri's good eye he saw raw hatred and he felt as though the regret was unwarranted.

Dmitri saw Caesar frown and he mimicked his actions. "I'm going to make you regret killing my pals," he said. With all the strength he could muster through the pain of his wounds, he pushed Caesar off the back of the platform. The force of Caesar hitting the ground caused the rope to tighten around Dmitri; he held onto it the best he could as he untangled himself. He watched without much emotion as Caesar was dragged behind the train. He had hoped he would feel some sort of relief or satisfaction, but that wasn't so.

Pain started to weaken him and he let the rope slip out of his hand. Between the throbbing in his body and the sting in his eye, he felt defeated. He wondered if there was any chance he could survive; what were the odds a doctor would be onboard?

Olsen, he thought. He started to walk towards the car door but his body kept getting stiffer because of the injuries. I should rest, just for a while, he decided. So he fell to his butt next to the door and let out a strained sigh. He looked towards the tracks; they had moved on and Caesar was long gone. Slowly, he let his remaining eye shut.