The trail of exhaust smoke was the most beautiful sight Thomas has seen all day. He grabbed his second in command and they made their way up to the lookout spot. Yanking his Bowler rim so the hat was firmly on his head, Thomas crawled to the edge to avoid being seen.
He snapped his fingers and Marcus handed him the large spyglass. Snapping it out, he trained his eye on the trail in the distance before pulling it toward the smoke.
“Watcha see, Thomas?” Marcus whispered.
“Whatcha whisperin’ fur, Marcus?” spat Thomas, “They can’t hear ya one way or another!”
Thomas spotted them around the bend. Three Paddock’s Carriages with their drivers manipulating the engines to keep moving. However, it was the large Paddock’s Carriage in the middle that caught his attention. Different than the three, this one was an armored carriage, twice the length of a normal carriage and four sets of axles. It had a team of six specially modified engines to pull it lazily along. On top several riflemen lazily laid about. It was the combined exhaust of these six spewing up the majority of exhaust he could follow.
So this wasn’t just any old caravan, after all. Something awfully valuable had to be in an armored carriage like that. You didn’t see private carriages that big unless they were government or bank owned. He couldn’t hide the massive grin on his face as he stared at them.
“Right into our trap,” said Thomas, “It’s a big one, Marcus. Four of ‘em. One is a payday to believe!”
“You reckon?” said Marcus, “Oh boy, the boys’ll be pleased!”
“We might even be able to afford a small dirigible,” said Thomas, “Why are they so far off the train route? They don’t even have any steam bike support.”
“Whatcha think, Thomas,” asked Marcus, “The rumblers out first and the bikes out the back?”
Marcus was hinting at the three old modified steam tractors they had. Repurposed from Paddock’s Carriage engines, these old machines had large from wheels that would protect the riders from incoming fire. They had been specially modified with some armor to protect the unit and the engines had been upgraded to give them some ferocious speed and power. The gang had used them to block paths or ram caravans while the rest of the crew on Steam Bikes swooped in and assaulted the survivors or grabbed the loot.
As Thomas was planning the assault in his head, he spotted one more object round the bend. It was falling behind from the rest of the caravan, but it seemed faster and bigger. Thomas’ heart dropped.
“Damnit,” he said, almost spitting out the words, “It’s a Landship.”
“Naw. Out here?” said Marcus, reaching for the spyglass, “Is it an escort?”
Thomas batted away Marcus’ hand as he observed further. The landship was a decent size. Six legs. Looked enclosed. It had two ‘arms’ that looked to end in drills and on the stern deck a large cannon. Thomas wanted to shake his head. He was pretty sure he had heard of this Landship.
“It’s armored,” said Thomas, “Looks to be an air cannon on the back. Marcus, I think this is that Scorpion Three or somethin’. It’s an escort Landship.”
Marcus sighed, “Well, now what? The job blown?”
Thomas relooked over the caravan. He even waited for them to clear the bend so no further surprises would sneak up on them. Thomas started thinking rapidly, putting down the spyglass.
“What we have for cannons?”
“What? One of the rumblers and two or three hand cannons,” said Marcus, “I think we may have one back at the camp but we can’t roll that out here in time. Issue is, Thomas, we ain’t got ammunition. I think George has two shots and Leroy has the shot that’s repurposed to blow open carriage doors.”
“Well, shoot, Marcus,” Said Thomas, “I think this is shot.”
“Isn’t that Scorpion walker an Airship killer?” asked Marcus, “Shouldn’t our Rumblers be fine?”
“We can’t damage it none and we’ll never get into those carriages with that thing looming over. And have you heard the stories of those bullets?”
“They say they puncture through anything. That’s why it’s the Airship killer, even armored balloons get holes in them! One of those in our Rumbler’s tires and they’ll be sitting ducks to the cannons or those smashy drills!”
“Let’s board it. O’Neil can bust into anything!” said Marcus, “And with something that strong on our side, we could get Airship shipments and those hauls are so much bigger!”
“With all our attention on that ship the caravan’ll get away,” said Thomas, rubbing the stubble on his chin, “And we can’t ignore it either. Damn. There’s no way around this, Marcus. That escort is too much. We need the money for bigger weapons if we’re going to take on a haul like that!”
“We need a haul like that to afford the bigger weapons,” said Marcus.
Thomas swore, peering back through the hourglass. If they didn’t act fast, the caravan would be long gone, and they’d lose their advantage. However, he couldn’t shake the looming threat of the escort out of the back of his mind.
“Shoot, Marcus,” said Thomas, “I think we need to wait and fight another day. We can’t risk that big ol’ bruiser with a team this size. We’d lose more than we gain.”
“Shoot,” said Marcus, slapping the rock.
“Shoot,” said Thomas, glaring at the juicy caravan as it slowly began to putt out of range.