Read an Excerpt from Book 3, "The Lost Train of Thought"
Office of the Administrator, Department of Thought & Emotion, The Seems
“I know you probably expected the Administrator of T & E to run this meeting, but as you’ll soon see, Dr. Thinkenfeld’s absence is not a coincidence.”
The Second-in-Command grimly turned to the first page of the Mission Report, and continued.
“Yesterday morning at exactly 07:35 AM, a Train loaded with all the World’s Thought for the next six weeks departed on schedule from the End of the Line. Unfortunately, it failed to reach the next station stop in Seesmberia -- let alone deliver it’s precious cargo back to this Department…’
The gasp that slipped between Becker Drane’s lips wasn’t the only one in the room.
“When all attempts to reach conductor or crew proved futile, the decision was made to assemble a team of Fixers who could accompany Administrator Thinkenfeld out to the End of the Line. A team whose combined skills made them uniquely qualified to locate and retrieve the missing Train.”
Eve Hightower grimly pressed the intercom button at the head of the table.
As the lights dimmed, she sat down in her chair, then swiveled it around to face a flat-screen display.
“Central Command received the following transmission early this afternoon.”
The images that flashed onscreen shook like a home movie or an even lower-budget version of “The Blair Witch Project” -- barely focusing on a flip-flopped foot, a mound of sand, the bright blue sky above, before tumbling crazily towards something new. But whoever was operating the camera soon got their bearings, and a wide and barren landscape finally came into view.
“I hope you guys are getting this.”
Becker immediately recognized the Australian accent of Casey Lake, and deduced that the footage had been shot via the Seeing-Eye attachment available on all the Toolshed’s latest optics.
“We lost radio contact with Central Command approximately one hour ago, but will continue broadcasting just in case.” A gust of wind caused Casey’s microphone to pop and skip, but the audio quickly recovered. “Update is as follows….”
The camera began to march slowly up the rise of a sand dune.
“Away team arrived End of The Line to find station staff absent and no visible sign of the missing Train. Initial sweep yielded no evidence of theft or intrusion, but following a hunch, Fixer Simms uncovered a set of tracks leading directly into the Middle of Nowhere --”
Becker was stunned to be looking at actual footage of that forbidden wasteland on the very edge of The Seems – especially when Casey crested the hill and peered down upon the other side:
“This is what we found when we followed those tracks…”
Stashed in the valley formed by a ring of towering dunes was a rusty red caboose. The Train it had once been attached to was nowhere in sight, nor were the rails it must’ve ridden there. In fact, the only other things visible onscreen were the sweeping sands and two figures scrambling about the car, both wearing Extremely Cool Outfits™ to protect themselves from the heat.
“How in the name of the Plan did it get there?” asked the old woman who was sitting directly to Becker’s right. “I don’t see any train tracks?”
“Please hold your questions until we reach the end of the clip, Sylvia,” answered a voice from the front of the darkened screening room, whose thick accent betrayed the same African heritage as the Fixer who went by the name of “The Octogenarian.”
Becker bit his own tongue and refocused his attention up onscreen, where a massive figure was poking his head from beneath the abandoned car.
“Locking clamp not broken.” As usual, the Fixer known as Greg The Journeyman’s Sprecheneinfaches struggled to translate his obscure Yakutskan dialect. “Perhaps caboose put here intentional.”
“By who?” asked Casey. “And for what purpose?”
A shrug was all Fixer #6 had in response, so Casey tilted her eyes (and the camera) up to the roof, where the third member of the away team was sitting in the lotus position, eyes closed, arms extended…
“Po, you getting’ anything?”
The inscrutable Li Po, #1 on the Duty Roster, silently shook his head no.
“Me, neither.” Casey spat with frustration, then spoke directly to whoever might be listening to her broadcast. “If you’re getting this back home, we’re pretty much flying blind out here when it comes to 7th Sense . Can only assume that stories about Middle of Nowhere are true, and will compensate accordingly…”
The voice of an Englishwoman called out, and Casey turned the camera towards where the caboose would be heading if it were still attached to a Train. A slender figure whose E.C.O. was blinking red (which meant ice cubes needed to be added to the nozzle at the top) was emerging from a path that cut between the dunes….
“No tracks as far as my Magnifying Glasses™ can see…” said Fixer #12, Lisa Simms. “But I do see puffs of smoke over by the mountains.”
“Than that where we must go,” said Greg, and despite the shadow that came over Fixer Simms’ face, she agreed with his assessment.
It was easy to see why the Powers That Be had assigned this particular group of Fixers. Casey was a no-brainer for team-leader, and if there was any chance of 7th Sensing where the missing Train might lie, Li Po would be the one to feel it. Greg the Journeyman’s physical strength was the stuff of legend, while Lisa Simms was the only active Fixer to have entered the Middle of Nowhere and lived to tell the tale . With such a mighty collection of talent, Becker couldn’t fathom what could have gone wrong…
He was about to find out.