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Buster

Heat kicks Buster like a boot and he falls back, unable to reach the cherry-red engine door. The other engineer is dead or unconscious, and all Buster can see is tomorrow’s headline over pictures of wreck and ruin: Runaway Train.

Steel wheels scream as they take the turn along the canyon edge, and then Buster sees him. Impossible. An old wrangler, standing alone beside the tracks–

Chad leans back, lariat singing, and as his long and perfect cast settles over the smokestack he digs in his heels to stop the damn thing for good.

It does not work at all.

Chad

Chad remembers old Westerns. There are two phases of cowboy life, the one with cows and the one with guns, and though he’s no cowboy, his wrangling days are behind him now.

His ears catch the sudden silence behind him, and he feels the air change. It’s like an intake of breath by some great beast. Chad knows it instinctively: it’s the sound of a diesel engine, clutch popped, coasting. He waits.

A pedal creaks. It’s almost on him. Chad spins, draws and fires into the bus in one smooth snarl, and the buck of the gun throws him bodily sideways.

Chad

It’s a big one, a three-locomotive beast, but Chad didn’t want some Amtrak commuter for his first haul anyway. His rope is strong; his cleats are clean. He is unafraid.

It chugs into view with a mighty whistle-blast, and Chad spins out his lariat. “WHEEE-LAH!” he whoops, feeling it catch, setting his feet wide and preparing for the contest.

A hundred yards later, he decides it’s over. He releases the rope and spits out a mouthful of turf before standing, shakily, to inspect his scraped and battered body.

Okay, he thinks. But nobody said train wrangling was going to be easy!

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