As soon as Violet returned to the compartment she heard several heavy thumps hit the roof of the train. Eli pulled his hands from his bloody nose long enough to look around, confused.
“What the hell was that?”
As if in answer, a large, heavily muscled pirate swung into the train through the window. His bulk propelled him forward and he barreled into Violet, lifting her off her feet and through the door behind her.
Other passengers had been in the process of running down the hall when this happened, and one poor sod had been in front of the compartment door when Violet burst through. Violet landed on her back on top of him, and she could feel him struggling underneath. She tried to roll away but the blow had knocked the breath from her lungs, leaving her preoccupied with remembering how to breathe.
The pirate stalked through the door, drawing a flintlock pistol from a dark red sash tied around his waist. He lowered it toward her face, scowling.
“I had this whole vision of crashing through the window and smashing down the door, all heroic like. You got in my way. You smashed down my door. No one gets in my way. No smashes down MY door.”
Still struggling to breath, Violet reached down to her gun belt to draw her own weapon, but her fingers found their way into an empty holster.
Dammit, she thought, staring up into the barrel of the flintlock, fighting to breath one last time before–
A loud BANG rang through the hallway. Violet froze, staring up at the pirate. Had he missed? No, he hadn’t even fired. Nothing had changed, except for a red hole in the left side of his head, and the tiny wisps of smoke leaking from his nose and mouth.
The pirate’s hand loosened around the flintlock and it fell, landing on Violet’s stomach, its hammer still cocked back. The pirate fell limply to the side, propped up in the doorway.
Violet looked to her left and saw a woman with a rifle. She worked the bolt on the rifle deftly and came forward, keeping the barrel up and trained down the hall.
Violet finally regained her breath and sucked in air. Down the hall, behind the mystery woman with a rifle, another door burst open and a man stumbled out, holding a wounded shoulder. Two pirates poured out after him, one wielding a bloody knife. The rifle woman turned and shot the knife wielder point blank. The second didn’t flinch, rushing forward during the split second in which the rifle woman had to work the bolt and chamber another round. He grabbed the barrel and pushed the woman up against the wall, using the rifle to choke her. The man with the wounded shoulder stopped to see that his pursuers were now otherwise occupied, and ran away, vaulting clumsily over Violet in his retreat.
Violet remembered the unfired flintlock that had fallen across her chest, reached up, and grabbed it. She took aim with her one (thankfully, dominant) eye, and pulled the trigger. The powder ignited and hissed, and the flintlock thundered in the small space of the hall, filling it with smoke. The power of the weapon, the likes of which Violet had never used before, took her by surprise. Unprepared for the kick, the weapon jerked up and hit the pirate in the top of his skull. A chunk of it disappeared, but the shot did not kill him. He fell away from the rifle woman, however, and blundered down the hall making an ear wrenching, staccato squeal. He hit the wall and spun around as he fell to the ground, convulsing.
The rifle woman pushed away from the wall and leveled her weapon at the pirate, but did not fire. Instead, she spun around and came toward Violet. She held out one gloved hand. Violet took it and pulled herself up. The unfortunate man trapped beneath her scrambled to his feet and ran.
Violet watched him go, and then turned toward the woman with the rifle.
“Are you Violet?” the woman asked. Violet’s gratitude turned to confusion.
“Uh, yeah,” Violet said. “How do you…”
“Where’s the other one?”
No sooner did she ask it than Eli flew out of the room and landed on the floor between them. Violet looked and saw another pirate standing in the compartment. He was unarmed, but his bulk filled the compartment and blocked the window. The rifle woman wasted no time in shouldering her weapon and firing. The round struck the man’s massive shoulder with a wet smack, spinning him around. Violet tossed the flintlock up and caught it by the barrel, then chucked it at the back of the pirate’s head. The blow sent him stumbling forward and halfway through the window.
“Son of a bitch!” Eli shouted, popping up to his feet and rushing forward, planting his foot in the pirate’s backside and giving him the final push needed to complete his journey through the window and into the great, open emptiness beyond. The man’s screams faded to nothing.
Eli turned and Violet saw his attention lock on the rifle woman, who had taken to reloading a few more rounds into her rifle. His eyes gave her a once over before turning to Violet.
“Hester Dowd,” the woman said before Violet could answer. This was for the best, because Violet hadn’t really had an answer to begin with.
Hester looked down, saw something and bent to pick it up. It was Violet’s revolver. Violet reached out to take it, but Hester held it close.
“When you choose to wear your six-guns, you wear both of them,” Hester said. “And when you wear them, you make sure they are secure.”
Violet’s skin rippled. “You’re a Cartographer–”
“Neither of those should have been a problem, because we only wear our guns in battle, or when we want to make a statement. Never in public, on a train on our way to an assignment.”
Hester presented the weapon, and Violet reached out to take it. Before she could even brush the gun with the tip of her fingers, however, the senior Cartographer brought the gun up and bonked her on the forehead with it. It wasn’t a severe bonking, but it took Violet by surprise and was hard enough to convey that Hester was trying to teach her a lesson.
Hester presented the weapon again, and let Violet take it. She slipped it into her holster, and Eli took a spot next to her.
“Told you,” he said. Violet sneered.
“Now is the time to wear them,” Hester said. “Where are your weapons, boy?”
“In the cargo hold,” Eli said proudly.
“Idiot,” Hester said, and Eli deflated. “Just because we don’t wear them openly doesn’t mean you don’t keep them close at hand.”
“Well…where are yours, then?” Eli said.
“In the cargo hold.”
Violet and Eli shared a quick look, then returned their attention to Hester. She hoisted her rifle, an intimidating gesture, as she was a full head taller than both of them.
“But I brought this,” she said. “Let’s get moving. There are things more important than our guns in the cargo hold, and I have a hunch those things are what the pirates are after.”
Hester stepped off, leaving the room and stalking down the hall. Violet holstered her weapon and followed.
This is Part 2. Go here to read Part 1.