We're going to hop back a few months - I think? I'm a little bit lost with times at the moment actually. Some day I'll make a timeline with the dates of all these stories. Anyways. We're going back to when Zana wasn't duct taped in her bathtub and ReLocated who-knows-where. And where Lando is taking a train trip.
Have you ever been on a train and wondered why the roof creaks?
Because today you're about to find out why.
The train trip was going fine, which was a surprise for me.
Things I did rarely went fine.
Dad had dropped me off at Central Station early in the morning before heading off to the wharves, and since then I’d changed trains once and hadn’t even forgotten to pay.
But then, for no apparent reason, the roof started making ominous creaking sounds.
At first I ignored it. The holidays were just starting, and I wasn’t going back to Dragon Island for another week. And that week was going to be entirely normal, hanging out with equally normal cousins.
I flicked through the pages of my book, annoyed at myself for being so distracted by a sagging train roof. The words just wouldn’t be read so I stuffed the book into my backpack and stared lazily out the window.
Trees and paddocks flashed by, and I pretended to be engrossed in the landscape but I concentrated on the increased creakings from the roof.
None of the other passengers had noticed it, but then, none of the other passengers had any reason to think anything out of the ordinary was going to happen on this trip.
I drew a nervous breath through my teeth. As long as it wasn’t Zana Bradford it should be alright.
“We are approaching Branxton Station,” the driver’s voice through the intercom echoed boredom.
Some people in the carriage stirred at the voice, replacing phones in pockets and checking for any personal item they might have left lying around.
I looked out the window as the train station slid into view. Only two people stood waiting and I yawned, wishing I could find out what was on the roof.
Then two running figures dashed across the station and dived through the just opening train doors. I froze in my seat as the long shadow of a dragon wing swung across the platform before disappearing again.
The boys appeared in the doorway of my carriage, blond and auburn hair tousled and sticking out from under wide brimmed felt hats.
“Lando!” Titus panted, finding me.
I scrambled out of my seat and down the aisle toward them, ignoring the disapproving frowns of the other passengers.
“What’re you guys doing here?” I burst out, reaching them.
“We’ve been here for the night ‘cause we missed the last train yesterday – we’re going to Singleton,” Thomas started.
“We saw the train coming and had to run to get here on time,” Titus finished.
“But how did you know I’d be here?”
“Oh yeah, that’s the other reason why we were in a hurry out there,” Thomas said. “I’m guessing you didn’t know that your old friend’s sitting on the roof?”
“Old friend?” I asked, a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“Yup, Zay Nabradyford or whatever she calls herself,” Titus nodded. “She and a nice black-green, grumpy looking dragon are lying on top of this carriage.”
The roof creaked.
“Ah, I was afraid of something like that,” I said.
“She must be waiting for you to get out, so she can jump you,” Titus flicked a tuft of hair from his eyes.
“Egh…” I moved to the side to let a passenger pass. “I guess I’ll…have to…Er…did you have an idea?”
Thomas took off his hat, tossing it in my direction. I grabbed it instinctively. “Put that on,” he said, pulling off his jacket as well. “We’ll swap hats and jackets and I’ll go out there. Zana will think it’s you and come after me and by the time she works it out you’ll be long gone.”
“What?!” Titus turned an incredulous stare on Thomas. “That’s your brilliant idea?”
“Yup,” Thomas said, shoving his jacket at me. “It should work.”
“And what if it does? She’s not gonna be pleased,” Titus protested.
“Oh boy, no,” I agreed. “Look, I’m not letting you go out there and face her while I wait around here.”
“I’m not going to be facing her,” Thomas said. “I’m going to be running for my life.”
“Exactly! And why’d I let you do that?” Titus asked.
“No really,” Thomas said. “Just hear me out. I go out there, Zana thinks I’m Lando and chases me. The train leaves with you two on it, Zana realise that I’m not Lando and goes running after the train. It’ll take her more than ten minutes to catch up to you and by that time you can both be safe hiding somewhere in Singleton.” He paused and spread his hands, “See, perfectly easy!”
I chewed my lip, tapping my fingers on my leg thoughtfully. “What if something goes wrong?”
Yeah, like that was ever going to happen.
Reluctantly I began tugging off my favourite plaid jacket, passing it to Thomas. He took his hat out of my hand and jammed it onto my head, making sure it covered my eyes.
“Be seeing you later, when I can get another train down,” he said, cheerfully taking my cap.
The whistle blew and Thomas dashed out of the carriage, reaching the doors just before they closed. Titus joined me at a window.
A golden haired figure appeared on the platform, striding toward Thomas.
Titus pounded the sill of the window nervously. “Go on, you can do it,” he muttered.
The train lurched forward.
“Yes…he’s gonna do it,” Titus began to smile.
That was when the plan went wrong.
My cap slipped up off his head, revealing the mess of red hair. Zana skidded to a stop and spun back to the moving train, yelling something incomprehensible. Probably something in some secret fairy-dragon language. But I wouldn’t know.
The carriage rocked slightly and my head slammed forward into the window. A dark shimmering dragon swooped off the roof, scooping Thomas up in one claw.
My vision spun with stars and I collapsed on the seat behind me as the dragon soared back up out of view. The carriage rocked again with its landing weight.
A shrill yell came from above, the dragon’s loud roar drowning it out a moment later. I could see the shadow of the dragon and Thomas on the train roof, and I struggled to stand up as the train gathered speed.
Thomas’s shadow started sliding backwards along the train.
I froze in horror for a full five seconds.
“The end of the train!” I yelled as soon as my brain kicked in again. “We’ve got to get there before he falls off.”
I dashed down the aisle, not even noticing the protests of the passengers. Titus ran at my heels, sprinting along the length of the moving train.
I smashed straight into the thin orderly.
He grabbed Titus’s arm and moved to block the corridor to the next carriage. “Excuse me boys, this is a train not a racing ground,” he started.
“We’ve got to go to the end carriage,” I shouted at him, and ducked under his blocking arm.
Titus tried to follow, but the orderly wouldn’t let go of his arm.
I dashed through the other carriages, trying to remember how many there were. Every sound from the roof made me run faster. I had to reach the end of the train before Thomas did.
The next carriage was empty except for a snoring old man.
I yanked the door at the far end open, almost falling out as a rush of air dragged me forward. Thomas’s hat flew off my head and I only just caught it in time, throwing it backward into the carriage. Shuffling out onto the small ledge, I gulped at the sight of the tracks rushing by underneath.
My hands tightened on the bar of the door.
A drawn out shout from above jerked my head up and I looked up. The train lurched around a corner and I was flung outward, still holding onto the bar. My weight slammed the door shut and I scrambled to keep my footing.
Above, Thomas appeared, desperately trying to grab onto something to stop his fall from the end of the train.
I grabbed at his arm just as he slipped, yelling, from the roof. My whole body was jerked forward as his weight came down heavily, only my tight grip on the door rail keeping us from falling off the train entirely. A stab of pain throbbed in my shoulder.
“Yikes!” Thomas yelped, feet kicking just centimeters from the train track.
Straining every muscle, I tried to pull Thomas up but the speed of the train combined with his weight was just too much.
“You’re gonna have to help me here,” I shouted, feeling my fingers begin to slip on the smooth metal.
“How?” Thomas howled as his foot smacked against the track whizzing beneath.
“Get your feet up onto the ledge,” I replied. “Now!”
His flailing feet kicked at the ledge reaching it and then slipping off at the first try. Then they touched again for a moment and I threw myself backwards, hauling him up. With a yelp, he grabbed onto the bar, clinging to it desperately.
“Not good,” Thomas moaned.
“We’ve got to get the door open,” I gasped, renewing my grip on the bar.
“They only open from the inside,” Thomas panted, hooking his arm around the bar. “I did an essay on trains once.”
“We need to get Titus to open it. Only he’s in trouble for not having a ticket.”
Thomas swung backwards a little as he let go of the bar, only holding on by his elbow hooked around it. Delving into his pocket, he dragged out a small black object.
I stared in amazement. “We’re stuck on the back of a train, and you’re going to hack into some random’s computer?” I nodded at the Com Hack in his hands.
“Not a computer,” Thomas gritted, tapping the screen rapidly. “I was hoping for the train intercom.”
One of my feet slid off the small ledge and I lurched backwards, jerking it up again. The train rounded a steep corner at top speed, the wind roaring in my ears.
“Yes,” Thomas exclaimed. “I think I’ve got it.” He held the Com Hack to his mouth and spoke into it urgently, “Titus Kanter, a call to Titus Kanter. Can you…er…open the back door…please?” Thomas slipped a little and I grabbed his arm, steadying him.
“Titus Kanter come to the back door,” Thomas repeated desperately.
A creak pulled my eyes upward, and I found myself staring into the eyes of Zana’s dragon. It bared its teeth in something that looked uncommonly like a grin.
“Go away,” I shouted at it.
It blinked accusingly at the angry tone and I saw the muscles in its forearm bunch.
“Just leave, and I’ll let you off lightly,” I warned.
The dragon roared and swept an arm down.
I swept a stream of fire up.
The fire and dragon arm met halfway, and the dragon ended up worse. Apparently being fireproof wasn’t enough to stop it from being sufficiently startled to fall from the train in a green heap of wings and spines.
It rumbled furiously and shot out a flash of fire after us.
“Titus Kanter—” Thomas was repeating again, but then the door shuddered once and fell open, sending us tumbling into the train carriage.
A few flames followed us through before Titus slammed the door shut again. Grabbing the fire extinguisher from the wall he spun back, shooting a cloud of freezing liquid in my direction.
I realised that my jacket was on fire.
Or at least, it had been until Titus had frozen it out of existence.
“You okay?” Titus dropped to his knees beside Thomas.
“I think I might be alive,” he groaned, sitting up. “Just got a few bruises, a fatal case of graze on my elbow and I think Lando lost my hat.”
“He didn’t actually,” Titus picked the hat off the floor. “But he did set fire to your jacket.”
I picked myself up slowly. “That was close,” I said, rubbing my sore shoulder. “How did you get away Ti?”
“The intercom message was enough to distract the guy so I just ran,” Titus replied. “Nice job there,” he added to Thomas.
The thin orderly that had stopped Titus appeared through the door, long legs striding forward. “Do you boys realise that this is a passenger train?” he asked, frowning down at us.
“Er…yes,” I nodded, uncertain where the question was leading.
“And are you aware that it costs money to be allowed on trains?”
“Yeah,” I pulled the crumpled ticket from my pocket and showed it to him.
His eyebrows loomed lower over his eyes. “And you two?” He looked at the twins.
“Ah, well, about that,” Titus muttered. “We kinda don’t exactly…have tickets.”
“Which is illegal,” the man added.
Thomas flashed me a look of alarm. “Please, we didn’t mean to—”
“But you did, if you will kindly inform me the phone number of you parents I am terribly sorry to say that we will have to ask you to get off at the next station,” he said firmly. “A passenger train is no place for disturbances like these.”
The twins nodded silently. Then Thomas raised a tentative hand. “Um, sir, what if our parents are in America?”
“Our parents are in America so it’s probably, like, midnight or something,” Thomas said.
“And we were traveling to our uncle’s place for the holidays,” Titus added.
The tall orderly hesitated. “You will have to get off anyway, we cannot have disruptions during the trip.”
“And you,” he turned to me and I felt my heart sink. “You can join them.”
“I—” I began, but he interrupted me.
“Open flames are not permitted on trains and I don’t see how the bottom half of your jacket managed to get burnt that much without open flames.”
I shut my mouth abruptly. Technically I hadn’t actually been on the train at the time, but I doubted that it would make much difference.
“Consider yourselves lucky that I’m not reporting you as terrorists or something. Stay in this carriage until the next stop and I will come and escort you out.”
“Okay, sir,” Titus said to the man’s back as he strode back out of the carriage.
“Ah, sorry about that, guys,” I muttered, slumping down in a seat. “Hope you don’t get into trouble.”
“That’d be nothing compared to the trouble Zana was going to get you in,” Thomas shrugged.
“Besides,” Titus added. “Mum and Dad know all about the dragons and everything, and they’re convinced we’re all the heroes of the world.”
I thought for a moment. “Well, you could say we were.”
The twins grinned. “Oh yeah,” they agreed in unison.
The driver’s voice came down along the train’s intercom, accompanied by a faint sound of music. “We are approaching Singleton Railway Station, please ensure your belongings are all in place,” the voice sighed. The intercom crackled with a moment of static and silenced.
“Well, I can’t really say the plan worked how it was meant to,” Thomas said. “But we’re still ending up somewhere other than where Zana is.”
I nodded, watching out the window as the station slid into view. “That’s a perk, I guess.”
The thin orderly was back in a moment and sternly led us off the train, picking up my backpack on the way. He left us on the platform with a stern warning not to get into any more trouble.
“Well,” Titus pulled his hand through his untidy hair. “I guess we’d better get going, find our Uncle and everything. Very considering of that man to drop us off at the town we wanted to be in anyway.” He grinned.
Thomas waved his Com Hack at me. “You’ve got your PCP?”
I nodded, pulling the PCP – Private Contact Phone – out of my pocket. I rarely went without it ever since the twins had finished encoding it.
Never know when you’ll need one.
“Yup,” I said, flipping the black phone in the air and catching it again.
“Tell us if anything goes wrong,” Thomas said.
“Same to you,” I said. “Not that anything else’s going to happen now.”
There’s some famous last words for you.
What could possibly go wrong?
Everything could go wrong. Trust me.
I’m an expert on going wrong.
- - -
So yep there you go. This was written a few months/a year/I don't remember when ago by specific request of my brothers. Originally I was telling them the story aloud and making it up as I went, but then I had a flash of inspiration and thought up the rest of a half decent plot and I stopped telling them the story so I could write it.
Of course I left them waiting on a nice cliffhanger ending. Because I'm mean like that. :P
And then because I'm extra mean, I didn't write the story for another month or so.
But luckily for you guys you'll get the second half next week, rather than waiting half a year to know how it all ends. *bows graciously*
Have you ever been on a train trip?
Do you have any ideas/requests for more Lando stories?
(I'm running out here, I need some more soonish)