Rise of the Silver Dragon - Book One

By Kevin Aodha

Fantasy, Action & adventure, Sci-Fi

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631
21 mins

Chapter 2

Chapter Two

1

Zido central station was the second busiest train station in the country. Passengers from the city could travel to anywhere in the kingdom by getting a train here. It usually got busier by 3pm, when people working in the city would return home via the inner line.
The red brick tunnels acted like amplifiers for the shriek of the train horns. The man at the news stand who was yelling the names of all the papers put up a good fight, but was no match for the sound of pounding train engines. There was a kind of aroma in the air. A blended aroma of engine diesel, cigarette smoke as well as tasty treats from the pastry shop and snack bar.
Platforms seven through to ten weren't especially busy, and the exact train Mik and Jace were about to board never did carry more than around three hundred passengers in one entire trip, despite having the capacity for three times that amount. It was the express train to Seafar City, but few people from Zido actually travelled there. It was as though they had taken Brinnlee’s advice that Seafar was too big and dangerous to head for.
Jace was walking out of the bookshop, empty-handed, and stood next to his family on the platform. “There’s nothing in there that interests me. Plus it’s too expensive to get anything!” he moaned.
“Well, it looks like it’s looking out the window until you get to Seafar for you then,” replied Brinnlee.
It was the nearest bathroom that Mik was more interested in, however. He’d been holding it in since they all left the house that morning. Mik wanted to ensure they got to the train station on time. Therefore, peeing had to wait until they had gotten to the station.
“There can’t be one too far from here,” said Brinnlee.
“The train isn't due for another five minutes. Even then it won't leave for another fifteen,” added Jace, as he set his suitcase on the ground between his legs.
“Maybe I’ll just wait until I get on the train,” said Mik.
“Don’t be stupid,” said Jace, “look, there’s one over there.” Jace pointed past the flower shop towards the far end of the travel information centre. There was a group of bathroom signs depicting the male and female symbols on them.
“Oh, come on, how could I have missed that?” groaned Mik.
He hurried over towards the bathrooms, tempted to place both hands on his groin and squeeze in case of any sudden leakage. He decided against it in case a member of the public, or worse, security saw him running through the train station cupping his privates.
He weaved in and out of the many pairs of legs of the other commuters that created a row of hurdles and started running again until he finally reached the bathrooms.
Without hesitation, he shoved a coin into the slot that released the lock on the door and headed to the first urinal he saw was free. After fumbling with his fly, he unleashed an almighty stream that made his eyes roll to the back of his head. It was a massive relief to him and one he figured no one could truly enjoy in a cramped train toilet. No, this could only be enjoyed in a bathroom big enough to throw your head back in relief.
He suddenly recognised that there was someone on either side of him. Everyone looked straight ahead, but Mik felt he may have made a fool of himself, making the spectacle he did when he started peeing. Nonetheless, it didn't matter, as both men finished at the same time and headed over to the sink. One washed his hands. The other gussied himself up a bit and took a comb to his hair. He then left without washing his hands. That was something that Mik didn't actually see, and probably wouldn't even want to know.
With the train getting ever closer to the station, Jace and Brinnlee it felt like Mik had been gone for ages. Brinnlee was panicky that way. She never strayed from a train platform in her life, for anything. There was always a nagging feeling in the back of her head that if she so much as turned her back to the rails, then the train would zip by her without stopping. This was why she urged Mik to use the toilet at home. The one time she had to go to the bathroom herself in a train station she returned shaking like a woman with hypothermia, thinking she’d missed the train, when in reality she still had ten minutes before it was scheduled to arrive.
Jace checked the time on his must-have Xenon mobile phone. The wallpaper was a photograph he’d taken of himself and a few of his friends from the neighbourhood. The time suggested that the train was already due. It wasn't like the Zido to Seafar express to be late. If anything it was generally early.
“Oh, would you go look for him, Jace?” asked Brinnlee as she scrutinised her watch, squinting at it as though it would change the actual time.
Jace sighed. “Fine, I’ll go get him, but if the train gets here, yell.”
Jace made his way over to the bathrooms. On his way, he caught the attention of two rather strange looking figures, both of whom had turned some heads as they came into the station. The woman was dressed in a long, black trench coat with shiny leather, black boots. Her hair was bound back and she wore no makeup at all, leaving her face a little pale. She saw Mik run by five minutes ago and saw him head into the bathroom. She seemed like she’d only come to the station to look take a look around and spy on members of the public.
A moment later, her partner joined her. He too was dressed in a long coat and boots. He had his hair gelled backwards and sported a gold earring. They both looked like they belonged to an organised crime family. Their outfits matched each other so well they could have been in uniform. “Did I miss anything?” asked the boy.
“Almost everything,” she replied in a deep yet pleasing voice.
They both looked over platforms from the bridge just above Brinnlee. They’d both spotted the trio talking to one another and sought to figure out which of the boys was Mik. In reality, it didn’t matter, because if they had the wrong one, he’d lead them to the right one. The pair seemed more than a little dubious, standing in the middle of a busy train station dressed head to toe in black and looking at everyone in an investigatory manner. They didn’t look like a couple, but there was a definite connection between the both of them, as though they’d known each other for years.
“Our man has only just gone into the bathroom,” said the girl.
“All right, I’ll go find him then. Unless you want to come with me?”
“Why, would you feel weird if I wandered into a men’s bathroom?”
“I’m not saying you haven't done it before, but if you’d sooner wait here, I’ll understand.”
The girl laughed softly at his remark. There were additional reasons for why she wasn't about to burst into the gents toilets and make a scene. Witnesses for one. The station was too crowded for the pair to walk up to someone and lay their hands on them, even if they had their orders.
“Let’s monitor him for now. We’ll see what train they're getting on and then find ourselves a suitable hiding place until we can confront him,” she said.
“Who are we hiding from?” asked the man.
“We don’t have tickets, dummy. I don’t mind getting thrown off, but not until we get what we need.”
Instead of waiting for the train on the platform with the other commuters, the dubious duo remained on the bridge above the platform until the train arrived. There was no reason to increase their chances of being spotted. They already looked like they were on an assassination mission and about to withdraw a pair of sawn-off shotguns from their coats. It was safer for them to remain unseen and then board the carriage in secret.
Jace weaved in and out of the shifting crowd of passengers who’d just gotten off the Twilight for Zido express train. They seemed unwilling to slow down or get out of the way for Jace as he barrelled through them like a bat out of hell. His eyes were set to the entrance to the bathrooms, hoping that Mik would suddenly appear and head back to the platform. He wasn't confident, but he had a feeling that his mother had just called to him that the train had arrived. He slowed down, and to his horror noticed that the train had in fact arrived and was already letting passengers off. Brinnlee waved for him to hurry up.
The next few seconds felt like an hour. He quickly sought a coin out of his trouser pocket, dropping a few coppers on the way and slipped it into the slot. The door flew open and he was immediately ambushed by the stale stench of urine and cheap hand soap. “Mik,” he yelled. His echo bounced off every wall in the bathroom. The sound of running water from the sink suddenly stopped and out of nowhere appeared a slab of a man who came charging out, knocking Jace to the side. But there was still no sign of Mik. He crept further into the bathroom and finally saw his elder cousin drying his hands with some paper towels. “For God sake, Mik, the train is here. Let’s go!”
“It’s here already?” replied Mik, as he vigorously dried his hands.
Jace ran back out of the bathroom and, through the now thinning crowd, saw Brinnlee once again waving for him to hurry up. He looked behind him and saw Mik running with one of the paper towels still in his hand. The two boys ran as fast as their legs could carry them. The train was in their sights and everything and everyone else was nothing more than a blur. “Move your ass!” yelled Jace.
Without a second thought, Brinnlee picked up the two heavy bags and threw them onto the train carriage. They landed sprawled on the floor and the clunk they took would have rendered anything perishable now severely damaged.
In front of Mik sat an abandoned luggage trolley someone had left in the middle of the waiting area. With the trolley now locked-on, he pushed his legs to their limits and prepared for an almighty vault over the obstruction, gaining him not only a clear passage to the train, but perhaps a round of applause from those watching. Just as he lifted himself off the ground, it was clear to him that he’d launched himself too early, rendering himself helpless and he fell back towards the ground. He clipped his foot on the side of the trolley and stumbled towards the ground. It only took him a second to compose himself, even after body slamming the hard floor, and began running again.
By this time, Jace was already away in front and had made it to his mother's side in good time for her to give him a kiss on the cheek and say her goodbyes. He then hopped onto the train and sighed in relief, but only for a moment before things went from bad to worse.
At that moment, the doors closed. All Jace could do was place his arm in between the two doors and hope that they would spring back open. Before they did, they slammed shut on Jace’s thin arm, causing him to yell out in pain. Brinnlee, from the other side, managed to squeeze her fingers between the gap just above his crushed arm and began to wrench the doors apart.
Just like that, the doors flew back open, and Mik saw his chance to redeem himself after falling flat on his face by jumping action hero style onto the train. He skimmed through different ways in his head to glide smoothly onto the train, he suddenly noticed that the consist was now moving. Shit, he thought, as the sight of Jace, who was standing in the still open doorway, holding his hand out for Mik to grab, was getting further away.
“Mik, don’t do it!” yelled Brinnlee, who stood away from the moving train and cringed in fear as though she just knew that Mik wasn't about miss that train.
This time don’t screw it up, thought Mik. He ran alongside of the train, which was still going under ten miles per hour, but steadily rising. Without thinking about how he would get his two feet planted safely on the floor of the carriage, Mik grabbed the handle next to the doorway and instantly felt himself being dragged along the platform. To any passer-by, it looked like someone was filming an action movie. There was the hero being dragged by an entire train. The platform on which our hero was still essentially stood that was quickly running out, and beyond it became nothing more than railway tracks and the impending doom. However, just as he was about to let his common sense kick in (which it rarely does), and stop chasing the train, Jace stuck his hand out and grabbed his cousin by the arm and, with all his might, pulled Mik upwards and towards him. Mik grabbed whatever he could from the inside of the carriage that would hold him and pushed with his right foot until he was able to stumble into the luggage rack. He landed safely on several items of luggage that were now knocked out of their strategically placed positions. He took a moment to breath and thanked his lucky stars that he didn't get left behind, and then looked up to see the door closing.
An exhausted Jace leaned with his back against the wall gasping for breath. The two boys looked at each other and laughed. It was then Jace sprung to the doorway yet again and pulled down the window. A torrent of wind now flooded the carriage and blew his hair in several different directions. He looked towards the station as it got further and further away. Brinnlee was still on the platform, but now she was waving goodbye to them. She was smiling. She was just glad that the boys had made is somewhat safely on the train. Jace smiled and gave her a wave back before shutting the window back over.
“Oh god. Help me up, man,” said Mik as he reached out his hand.

2

The train ran through the city at a steady pace and finally reached the outskirts at around half past noon. At that point, the engineer finally cranked the power to the max and the train serially sped up through the forest.
During winter, the passengers would be propitious enough to have a front row seat in view of the icicles hanging from the rocks and trees. It was easier to see them during winter as the train driver had to slow his speed until he could steady the train with enough sand sprayed on the rails. In summer, the woodland creatures could be seen standing at the embankment, and look in intrigue at the passing consist.
The cousins sat on the comfy leather seats facing each other. As expected, their carriage was practically empty, and all that could be heard were the wheels of the train clacking on the lines underneath. Mik took his long blue trench coat off and laid it neatly beside him, revealing his black shirt with a small dragon logo on the left breast. His coat had a funky gold trim and a tall collar that stopped just short of the back of his head.
“Hey, what’s that?” asked Jace, pointing at Mik’s waist.
Mik moved his shirt out the way to reveal a brown holster he’d attached to his belt. It was empty, but its presence still surprised Jace. “My holster. You like it?” he replied.
“No, I mean where did you get it from?”
“It’s mine. I bought it myself. One day it’s gonna hold my service side arm.”
“They’re going to give you a side arm, what for?”
“What do you think, dummy? All the spies carry a piece. It’s the first rule of the game.”
Mik studied hard for the suitability test he took online. If the academy were happy with your results, they invited you along to their training academy. It wasn't a done deal. Anyone could opt-out any time they wanted, unless they signed the contract at the induction. He spent hours going over pages and pages of rule books, battle plans and even read the memoirs of some of the kingdoms greatest special agents. Most of the information was useless to him when it came to taking the test, but he would have studied it anyway, test or no test.
“You’d better hide that in case any cops are wandering around. The transport police could be snooping,” said Jace.
“Relax, it’s empty. Right now it’s just a fashion accessory.”
Just then, Mik threw his jacket over his lap to hide his holster when the carriage door flew open. He looked round and saw the ticket inspector enter. “Tickets!” he yelled. The inspector carried a small scanning device by his side and on the other side a radio and a panic button. More than a few passengers had tried to confront the inspector over a ‘missing ticket’, and have used one too many obscenities any one man could take.
Jace snickered when Mik threw his jacket over his legs. He fished the tickets out of his pocket and waited for the inspector to check them. When he finally did get to the cousins, he looked carefully at the tickets and then the boys. He smiled and said “Off to join the military?”
“How did you know?” replied Mik.
“That’s all the young men and women go to Seafar city for these days. It’s a shame really. It’s such a beautiful place to go sightseeing.”
“That’s what I’m doing,” added Jace. “My cousin is joining up, but I’m coming back home tomorrow.”
“Good for you, lad. Take a load of pictures. They will make a fantastic conversation piece,” said the inspector. He scanned both tickets and handed them back to Mik who placed them in his jacket pocket again.
When the inspector walked away, Jace said, “You totally shit yourself there. You’re not as cocky as you think with your holster, are you?”
Mik snorted “Give me a break.”
The inspector checked the tickets of a young couple a few seats down. Up until that point, nothing could have interrupted the serenity of the silent train carriage when the inspector suddenly lets loose a telling off to someone on the far end of the aisle. “Hey, you over there, what do you think you’re doing? Come here right now!” He dropped the tickets back on to the couple’s table and stormed off like a great yeti down the aisle to the end of the carriage.
Mik poked his head out into the gangway to see what the commotion was. But all he could see was an empty doorway at the end. It was bizarre and a little frightening to see the inspector talk that way to other passengers. It was either a case of schizophrenia or someone had been misbehaving enough to turn the man bright red.
“What the hell was that about?” asked Jace, who glanced his head over the back of his seat to get a bird's eye view of the situation.
“I don’t know. No one’s there. Holy crap that guy can move fast,” replied Mik.
Mik glanced at his watch and when he looked up he saw the inspector making his way back through the carriage towards him. The large man thundered past him with a dissatisfied look on his face. Voices calling for his attention blurted from his radio, but he wasn't answering them.
With everything now calm, the boys focused their attention out the window. The city was pretty far away now, and at this distance, one could really appreciate the grand architecture the city had to offer. Raymerian skylines always one of Mik’s favourite sites to see when he and his parents would take long train journeys in the summer. The trip to Seafar city was always a beautiful experience, even once the trip through the forest had ended, along came the invigorating countryside with its streams, lakes, roaring hills and ancient heritage sites. It was a grand kingdom right enough, proved by its ever increasing tourism, despite the troubles the government was having with republican rebels.
The two leather clad trouble makers from the train station had managed to sneak their way onto the train just as they’d planned. Of course, with no tickets they had to keep on their toes to avoid being detected again. It wasn't going to be an easy journey for them. There were too many train stations nearby for them to act now. There were also too many people getting off and on the train as well as frequent ticket inspections. They’d managed to escape the watchful eyes of the inspector by running into one of the other carriages and hiding amongst the bags and suitcases on the luggage rack. It wasn't the most comfortable way to travel, but for now it kept them out of trouble. “I can’t bear this any longer,” the girl said, “it’s far too cramped in here and I think my leg is falling asleep.”
“Keep quiet, will you? It’s bad enough we’ve already been spotted by that old geezer, I don’t want to have to put up with your complaining too,” replied the boy.
“Just move these stupid bags out of the way. That guy must be gone by now.”
From the other side, it would have looked like a dozen suitcases sliding and shimmying on their own. It only took moving one case to reveal their temporary hiding place, but once they’d concealed themselves in their cave, the cases decided to shift and collapse on each other. It wasn't unusual to see the commuters’ bags laying in a disorganised fashion, so the inspector would have been none the wiser.
Suddenly, with one kick, the boy shoved one of the cases up against the train door. It took great strain to roll himself forward and crawl out of the baggage rack. The girl immediately stretched her leg out, hearing her knee crack as she did, and slid her way out of the luggage cave on her back side. Once they’d stood up and felt the blood return to normal flow, they dusted themselves off and began their investigation to find Mik.
“I love how beautiful the countryside is this time of year,” said Jace, looking out of the window.
“It sure is something special,” replied Mik, “I just wish the city had a little more nature in it. Even the parks are surrounded by heavy traffic.”
The train began to slow down. The engineer had announced that they were now pulling into Swan village train station. Mik could feel his destiny getting closer than ever. He could almost hear the hustle and bustle of Seafar city’s roaring main roads, the smell from the thousands of street vendors selling greasy snacks and feel the vertigo he was going to get atop the city’s tallest buildings. Feeling completely rested was unfamiliar to him. For a moment, he felt a peculiar dizziness, a light-headed feeling he got that morning, before they arrived at the station. He was nervous, or at least he told himself that. He didn't want it to be anything else, like an illness. He didn't want anything to ruin his chances of getting to the academy.
He would feel even worse the second the leather twins walked into the train carriage. Of course, he couldn't see them, in fact they hadn't yet found him either, but he felt a storm cloud grow above him. An uneasy feeling crept up on him along with the occasional shiver and feeling of something about to happen. He often got that feeling, just before he got into trouble for something. He felt it both at home and in school when he was younger.
He was about to reach into his pocket for his amulet, for he always enjoyed fiddling with the damn thing, when a husky voice from behind him made him stop in his tracks.
“I wouldn't do that if I were you,” said the voice, “keep your hands where I can see them.”
Mik looked up at the boy in the leather coat standing over him. His hand was outstretched as though he was about to restrain him. “Who the hell are you?” asked Mik, understandably cagey of the stranger.
“I said don’t move, you little brat.”
“Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?” demanded Jace.
Suddenly the girl appeared from behind the boy. She threw open her jacket to reveal a belt with numerous holsters and cases on it. From one of them, she pulled a small dagger. “Why don’t you tell your cousin to keep his pretty little mouth shut?”
“Who the hell are you two? What do you want from us?” asked Mik.
“I think you know what we want. That lovely piece of jewellery in your pocket,” said the boy.
The girl helped herself to the seat next to Jace. She kept her eye on him and her shiny blade within fatal stabbing distance.
Jace could feel his heart beating in his throat. His palms became sweaty, and even more so from seeing the steely look of determination in Mik’s face. He knew Mik wouldn't take something like this lightly, and therefor attempt something stupid that would get them both into more trouble than they were already in.
Soon, the boy was right in front of Mik. He gave him a hideous, toothy grin. “I’m only going to give you one more chance to do as I tell you, Mik Fausten. I want the dragon amulet from your pocket, right now,” he said.
“I don’t know who the hell you are,” said Mik, “but you ain't getting anything from me. Get the hell out of here, and take the tart with you.”
“Watch your mouth, you little bastard,” said the girl, who now pointed her dagger towards Mik.
Mik felt the cocky daemons rise up inside him. It wasn't the best time for them to show their faces, then again it never was. It gave Mik the ultimate feeling of power and strength over someone. He reached into his pocket, and in the usual fashion, took out the gleaming dragon amulet with the chain wrapped around his finger. He held it up in front of the boy’s face and swung it from side to side.
There was another station the train was due to arrive at less than five miles away. The carriage was empty, and so the leather twins figured it would be easy enough to snatch the amulet from Mik without any witnesses around. But the carriage was going to fill up, and soon.
“Try and take it, man.” Mik teased the boy and laughed in his face.
The girl looked at her partner in crime with a grin on her face. He looked back at her with a similar smirk. Suddenly the girl’s expression changed and she lunged forward in an attempt to snatch the amulet from Mik’s hand. Just then, Mik flew back in his seat, threw his leg up and smashed the sole of his boot into the girl's chest. She flew back onto her own seat and slumped down into a painful coil. The boy looked stunned and stumbled backwards. He accidentally kicked the girl’s dagger under the seats. When he bent down to pick it up, Jace swung into action and jumped on the boys back, wrapping his arms around his neck.
The girl recovered from her blow to the chest and stood up to confront Mik. As Jace and the boy grappled with each other, Mik looked the girl dead in the eye. He grinned at her. He did feel a little attraction for her. After all, she was rather pretty. Her eyes did sparkle and looking at the skin-tight top she had on under her jacket, she was physically fit. However, it didn't seem like the attraction was mutual. She’d just been bested by someone younger than her. She’d obviously been trained to fight, she and the boy both looked like special operatives. So she wasn't likely to take the blow to her chest lightly. “You made a big mistake, you little bastard,” she said.
“You think so? The pair of you made a mistake messing with me!” replied Mik.
Feeling a little scared, but filled with adrenaline, Mik flew forward with venom in his eyes and grabbed the girl by her arm. She immediately swung a right hook and clipped Mik on the side of his jaw. The pain shot through him like a lead bullet. He fell against the window and held his throbbing jaw in his hand. She was a tough one alright. Mik reckoned he got a lucky shot in earlier and figured he’d never be able to do it again in a million years.
Just then, the boy and Jace fell to the floor. “Look out, Mik,” yelled Jace, “he’s going for the dagger!” He grabbed the boy by his collar just before he could reach the blade that had now shimmied out onto the aisle. He dragged the boy from reach of the dagger and threw him to one side.
It was then the girl fell to the floor and grabbed it. She immediately spun around onto her back and pointed it at Jace who now stood over her. “One more step and you’re dead meat, kid,” she threatened.
“Don’t call me a kid, bitch!” He raised his foot and brought it down hard on her wrist, pinning her to the floor. However, her hand holding the knife was still free.
The boy crawled off, but made no coherent sound. Mik could see him out of the corner of his eye. “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” The boy quickly stood up and retreated through the door at the end of the carriage. Soon after, Mik gave chase. The metal chain that hung from Mik trousers clinked against the chairs as he ran after the robber.
Jace turned to see his cousin running down the other carriage and took off after him. “Hey, wait!” he yelled to his big cousin. He knew the girl would be right behind him in a matter of seconds, but he didn't care. He couldn't imagine Mik defending himself successfully against the both of them on his own.
The train was slowing down and the engineer made his second announcement, telling all passengers who wish to get off at the next stop to collect their luggage. Time was running out for the leather-clad duo, and it looked like they had a tough tag-team match ahead of them.
The chase carried on through several carriages, and now people were beginning to notice what was going on. Some flinched in their seats as the two boys ran past them. Others only looked up from their papers and tablets in wonder. They were quickly running out of train, and it didn't look like Mik was about to give up his pursuit. The boy showed no fear even though he was now the one being hunted down. For a moment it looked like he was about to run through to another carriage, but when he reached the end, he was unaware that the locked door led into the guard’s cab.
The boy came to an immediate halt. He glanced backwards and saw Mik run towards him. It was time for the ultimate face off, and it had to end right there and then. There was no other place to run.
Now, standing in front of the man who tried to hurt him, Mik Fausten wiped a spot of saliva from the side of his mouth and stared the robber down. Both of them could only look at each other until they got their breath back. “Are you ready to give up?” asked Mik, already sure of what the boy's answer was going to be.
“You must be joking, right? I’m only getting started,” the boy replied.
Just then, Jace came out of nowhere and stood beside Mik. “Are you alright, Mik?” he asked.
Mik didn't answer. His gaze was fixated to the boy, making sure he didn't move a single muscle. Of course, at this point, both of them were too exhausted from the fight and all the running to even advance on each other.
“Who are you, and what do you want with my amulet?” demanded Mik.
“I’m part of a force you can’t beat. If you don’t give me the dragon amulet now, we’ll take it from you,” replied the boy.
“This makes no sense. What the hell do you want with it?”
“That’s none of your business,” said the girl. She came up behind Jace and threw him against the wall and held him in place by holding her arm against his neck. She also managed to keep a hold of the dagger she’d procured from the carriage floor and pointed it directly at his jugular.
Mik quickly sized up his opponent. The boy stood no bigger than him and they were evenly built. But he looked back at Mik with determined and hostile eyes, the kind of eyes that could intimidate even the strongest of men.
Slightly dazed, Jace looked his attacker in the eyes. The girl had a serious look on her face that said if you move an inch, I’ll cut you to pieces, little boy. He could feel the cold, sharp steel against his throat. Even breathing forced his throat against the blade even more. He wasn't about to do anything stupid. He didn't even know what he could do.
The boy said “I gave you every chance to hand it over. I’m getting sick and tired of your disobedience, kid. You have no idea who you’re up against, or who you’re angering right now.”
“You’re nothing more than a thug. Stop trying to act like you’re important,” replied Mik.
The boy had become sick of Mik’s smart mouth. The thought of being talked down to by a younger person burned him up inside. Everyone had to obey him, or at least that’s what he thought at least. In a way, Mik’s cockiness and reluctance to part with something so special when someone demanded it reminded him of his younger self. But it didn't matter. He was the boss now, and whatever he demanded, he got. “I’ll teach you not to screw with me.”
With one swift move, the boy grabbed hold of Mik’s arm, but before he could do anything else, Mik planted an almighty wallop with the toe of his boot into the boy’s groin. It took only a few seconds, but the boy had played the scenario over and over in his head a million times within that short space of time. He knew the major pain would come in a few seconds. His grip on Mik loosened, and suddenly he’d been rendered useless. No matter what training anyone had, a simple kick in the nuts turned someone into a helpless little creature. Everyone knew that.
There was no question about fear after that. Jace knew that Mik had his hands full. He had to take care of the girl himself. Despite her having a knife to his throat, he didn't wish to inflict too much damage oh her. The sheer thought of making her bleed, and then hearing his mother lecturing him on how you must never raise your hands to a woman, no matter that she had done, even if she threatened to kill you where you stand. But it wasn't time to consider the implications of striking a woman. She had to be on the floor and in pain within the next minute. He never had the physical strength to fight. Besides, his arms were frozen in fear like most of his body was. Instead, he did the only thing he could. Risking being impaled, Jace threw his head back and launched it towards the girl who was now looking at her partner cup his balls and breathe through his agony.
The sound she made confirmed to Jace that’d he’d made a direct hit. The girl dropped the dagger from his throat and flew back, her hair in a waving dance over her face, and dropped to the floor clutching her nose.
He was finally free of her grasp. He looked at his big cousin and they both nodded at each other. They knew what to do - keep them down.
Mik grabbed his attacker, who was still hunched over, by the collar and threw him to the ground.
At that moment, the door to the guards cab swung open. In the doorway stood the ticket inspector, eyes wide open and his jaw dropped to the ground. In front of him was carnage. The kind of scene he’d never laid eyes on in his entire career - a group of passengers fighting, with two already decked out. “What in the name of hell is going on here? You two, what’s going on?” he bellowed.
“It’s not our fault,” said Jace, “these two attacked us and tried to rob my cousin.”
The inspector noticed the dagger on the floor. He walked over to the boy, who was now on his knees, and grabbed him by the shoulder. He lifted the boy to his feet and looked him in the eye. “It’s you, the both of you! You were the ones worrying the passengers earlier. I wondered where the pair of you had got to,” he said.
Suddenly the train came to a halt. Crowds of people could be seen outside on the platform. “Holy crap, were at the station already?” asked Jace.
“You two get back to your seats,” said the inspector, “I’ll handle these two troublemakers.” The inspector dragged the boy into his cabin. The girl brushed the hair from her face, and when she saw the dagger next to her, reached out to grab it. Her plan to continue the fight was thwarted when the inspector’s size eleven shoe stomped on the handle of the dagger. The girl looked up and saw his beetroot-red, angry face staring back at her. He grabbed her by the arm and, almost by dragging her, took her to the cabin. “I’m calling the police. This train doesn't leave until you two have been carted off to jail!” he said.
Mik and Jace looked at each other and each sighed in relief. “Are you alright, Jace?” asked Mik. He was talking through deep sharp breaths.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I don’t know where that head-butt came from, but it worked,” he replied.
“It probably saved your life.”
The two boys returned to their carriage and found that several other people from the station had taken seats. As far as they were concerned, no one in their carriage had the faintest idea of what had gone down. It was the others who’d glance at them on their travel back to their seats. There were a lot of raised eyebrows, but not a single word from anyone. Mik preferred it that way.

3

Sometime later, the train sped further towards the capital. With the criminal duo taken into police custody, the train returned to its usual peaceful state. Although, a few people who had witnessed the fight had come up to congratulate the boys on their victory. Suddenly, it didn't seem so bad that people had noticed what had gone on, and Mik felt a kind of pride in himself that he’d never truly felt before.
Jace sat not-so-relaxed on his seat. He wasn't bothered about talking to the impressed onlookers. He had the disturbing image of himself being pinned to the wall with a sharp, metal object pressed against his skin. He couldn't get it out of his mind how he could have died if the girl suddenly decided she’d had enough of seeing her partner get decked by Mik. Instead, he focused his attention out the window. Looking at the country side still calmed him. It always did.
Once the inspector completed checking the tickets of all the new passengers, he walked over to Mik. “That was one hell of a scare I got when I saw you four fighting like that,” he said.
“Sorry, but they tried to steal my amulet from me. When I wouldn't give it to them, they tried to attack us,” replied Mik.
“I understand. The police informed me of everything. Two really nasty characters they were. And quite known for it, too.”
“Really, do you know who they are?”
“The cops told me they gave them some story about being part of the People’s Revolutionary Force. They reckon themselves a pair of rebels, like the ones on the news.”
“Maybe they are,” added Jace, “They both looked like a pair of assassins. What I want to know is why they wanted your amulet, and how they knew your name.”
“Well whoever they were, it’s a matter for the police now. If it turns out they are working for the rebels, they won't see daylight ever again.”
The inspector congratulated the two boys and said his goodbyes. He walked back towards the scene of the crime, and on his way, reassured the passengers for the final time that everything was now all right. He knew there had been the odd one or two who’d sent out an alert to their friends on social media sites, called home to say what was happening and even taken snapshots of the two criminals being hauled away by police.
Mik looked at the amulet the duo tried to snatch from him. What is it about you that they wanted? They’d taken such a great interest in it, enough to stalk and eventually try to assault and possibly kill in order to get a hold of it. “I wonder what the hell just happened back there,” said Mik.
Looking out the window, Jace said “Who knows, goddamn nut cases. Whatever they wanted that amulet for, it must have been damn well important enough for them to do that to us. Although, I can’t see what significance that thing could have to anyone.”
“It’s important to me.” Mik looked a little offended by Jace’s remarks.
“I didn't mean it like that. I know why you have such an attachment to it. It’s good you have something to remember your parents with, but who else could ever really need it?”
“I don't even know who either of them was. All I know is that if I ever see them again, I’ll kill them.” Mik slipped the amulet back into his pocket. For the rest of the journey, he would sit with his arms folded. All he wanted to do was get to the city and put today’s ugliness behind him.
A while later, Mik had to nudge Jace awake. He’d fallen asleep just over an hour before the train was due to arrive in Seafar. When he came round, he saw the passengers reaching into the overhead lockers to fetch their belongings. “We’re here, buddy, time to go,” he said.
“How long was I out?” replied Jace.
“Just over an hour. You snore like a son of a bitch, you know that?”
“How would I know that if I’m asleep? Anyway, you’ve shared a room with me for years, why have you never told me?”
“I assumed you already knew. Anyway, it’s time to get going.”
The boys grabbed their bags at the end of the carriage and joined the line of people exiting the train. All of a sudden they were in a bigger city than the one they’d come from. The buildings were taller, the people were louder, but all the smells were just the same.


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