The engine waited for its moment without complaint. Having set the wheels in motion the plan now drove itself forward, with or without Chancho’s assent. Momentarily he glazed over with doubt. But the lift’s gears tugged the armored car upward, gradually closing off his only means of exit. In reluctant surrender to the plan of his own initiating, he hoisted himself up to the original level of the tunnel and then jumped to reach the level where the armored car rested.
Dangling from the lift as it rose closer to the roof of the tunnel, Chancho realized he never thought the plan would actually work. He’d seen these last stages of the plan as a vague generality, thus proceeding through the early stages without acknowledging their end.
He swung his leg up and over the edge of the lift, rolling onto the uneven tracks just as they pushed past the roof of the tunnel and settled into place. Ah Puch had been right. Chancho played the revolution like a game, but human lives were at stake, many more than just his own.
He heard the rocket engine chug free of its restraints in the tunnel below. The lights flicked on automatically now that the electrical connection had been completed by the lift itself. No more kerosene lamps, the belly of the whale buzzed with diesel-powered electricity.
Ah Puch reached down to help him up, a grin stretching both corners of his mouth. “You did it. Your crazy plan actually worked.”
Chancho dusted himself off and felt the sudden urge to see the grisly conclusion of what he had set in motion. He needed to see it for it to be real. “Let’s get topside.”
“Good idea. It should be quite a show, and we need to make sure before we celebrate. Who would’ve thought you’d be the pragmatist.” Ah Puch slapped the side of the armored car as they squeezed past it toward the ladder going topside. “Jorge, hit the latch. We’re going up to see the fireworks. Then we’ll come back down to run our fingers through some of that gold.” He slapped Chancho on the shoulder and laughed.
Chancho reached the ladder first and flew up the rungs. In seconds he reached the trapdoor. With the mechanical lock having been thrown from below, he could see faint cracks of light around its edges. Shoving it upward with his shoulder, dirt and sunlight sifted through the opening. He emerged onto the surface in a daze. Shielding the sun he scrambled toward an outcropping of rock and followed the distant track with his eyes until he saw it.
The dull black engine chugged forward at an increasing speed. It even looked like a rocket, its huge cowcatcher making up a third of its length. It was an ingenious design, created to derail and incapacitate an object of much greater mass—to create chaos and distraction.
The others joined him on the rock. Chancho spoke to Ah Puch without shifting his gaze. “We did it, didn’t we? I mean, changed the revolution?” The general’s train came into view around the bend, returning to collect its lost prize. “It was worth it, right?”
Ah Puch knew what his friend was getting at. “Yes. It was worth it. You’ve made Mexico a better place today, my friend. You’ve proven the ideals of the revolution can and will prevail.”
The moment of impact came. The rocket engine slammed underneath the passenger car full of Constitutional soldiers, heaving it upward and derailing it. The rocket continued its forward momentum until it reached the officer’s car, bucking it off the rails as well. But before it could reach the General’s private car it detonated with an ear-clapping concussion. Flame and smoke burst outward before being swallowed by a larger surge of destructive force that tossed fragments of steel and iron arching in every direction.
“Aye yi yi yi yi!” Ah Puch and the others danced about, waiving their sombreros over their heads. Meanwhile, a half-dozen riders, one of them Pancho Villa himself, rode around the backside of the hill with the four victorious revolutionaries’ horses in tow.