Through the ringing in Chancho’s ears a four-stroke, diesel engine pulsed to life, followed by a small explosion detonating the deadman. Cringing, he waited less than three seconds for what he knew was coming next. Thankfully the crashing of the armored car into the deadman sounded little worse than overly rambunctious freight cars coupling—no secondary clatter of a car derailed.
He checked his person for major injury. While bleeding in a few places, nothing seemed to be broken. He gave a second thought to the trailing train cars, but figured they would have run him over already had they been coming. Wrapping his bandolier securely around his waist, he hobbled toward the armored car on heelless boots. “Ah Puch? Emilio? Jorge?” He arrived at the landing on the back where Ah Puch was picking himself up.
“I think I should be a better Catholic, after surviving that.”
“I hope that doesn’t mean you’ll be a worse bandit.” Chancho dusted him off.
“By no means. I hear the Church needs a good bandit every now and then.” The two friends allowed themselves a smile before checking on Emilio and Jorge, who were fine despite being buried in lettuce and tomato guts. Finally Ah Puch brought them back to reality. “Chancho, the train will be returning.”
“Right. Everything’s fired up. I’ll start the lift. But after that collision we’ll need to clear the tracks. We can’t leave anything behind, or all of this will be for nothing.”
“No evidence. We’ll take care of that. Just make sure the belly is ready for its meal.” Ah Puch and the others scurried to the front of the car to clean up any debris and ensure the deadman would either retract or detach. Chancho inched along the wall until he found a control box dangling by its electrical wires.
He hit the first button. An orange-yellow light banished the darkness as three fixtures in the ceiling, still swinging from the impact of the armored car, flicked to life. The second button caused the floor of the cave to shift. It dropped a centimeter before cranking upwards at a rate of a centimeter per second.
He stood still, listening to the creaks and groans, thinking it indeed sounded like a behemoth of a whale slowly rising to the surface. The air in the tunnel tasted like the oil soaked dirt crusted on the fenders of the tractor he had maintained at the orphanage, before he’d left. The memory gave him both hope and guilt.
He waited a moment longer until it was safe to lay the control box on the slowly rising floor of the tunnel. He ran along the rail until he reached the end of the lift and jumped down to the original level. Breathing heavy a sudden dread overtook him as he watched the lower level rise to fill the tunnel.
An engine of sorts emerged from its earthly womb. Just born, and yet only moments away from its inevitable end—a harbinger of death being its only purpose in life. Painted dull black, it absorbed the sickly yellow light. Against the starkness of the moment, Chancho realized this contraption of his design was merely a diesel-powered rocket on wheels.
It was gruesome, and he hated that he had built it. But the plan—the life of the plan drove him on. He jumped down to the track that would become the new floor of the tunnel and scooted behind the rocket engine’s controls. Designed for one simple reason, the device took to its role quickly. The motor fired and pulsed up to speed, surrounded by nothing but a jacket of dynamite and iron plating.