The woman was halfway through the turnstile at Station 6, her dropped burrito frozen in the air just as she was frozen in space, reaching for the tokens that had spilled from her purse.
The man in the pressed suit was frozen mid-sprint, his mouth open and his eyes fixed on the train ahead, which was stuck halfway out of the station, the smoke it emitted hanging suspended in the air.
I slipped past the businessman and through the still turnstile, the soft staccato of my footsteps the only audible sound.
This was an issue for me. It would be much easier for me to sneak onto the train now, but stowing away tends to be more effective when the train actually moves.
In front of the train, the air shimmered slightly, and I could see grass swaying in a light breeze, taunting me with their movement. As I leaped down onto the tracks to investigate it, I heard another set of footsteps behind me.
“This is impressive. I didn’t think the time stoppage would be so complete.” The voice was deep, and contained a measure of surprise.
From where I crouched on the tracks, I raised my head and peeked back onto the platform in an attempt to see the speaker. In fact, there were two people approaching the train.
In front was a tall, broad shouldered man, his black clothes tight over bulging muscles and his hair and beard closely trimmed. A poorly healed scar ran down the bridge of his nose and cut a cleft into his chin, marring his chiseled features. It was his heavy boots that created the ringing footsteps I had heard.
Behind him walked a slight woman, dressed simply in a loose green dress that fell to her knees. Her feet were bare, which accounted for her silent movement, but that wasn’t the strangest thing about her. Her eyes shone a brilliant white and her hair, also glowing, floated around her head as if she was underwater.
“I don’t know what you expected, Travis,” she said. “I informed you of my abilities.”
“Forgive me for being skeptical when you told me you could stop time.”
“My demonstration hadn’t convinced you?”
“It did, but it is rather impressive on this scale.” Travis snatched the burrito from the frozen woman’s hand and took a bite. “How long can you keep it up?”
“As long as you need to grab that diamond shipment.”
Diamond shipment? This brought to mind all sorts of questions. Why was someone using a public train to ship diamonds? How the hell could this woman stop time? And finally, why hadn’t it worked on me?*
I crouched further down as the bandits passed me and entered the train. Perhaps the time stoppage wouldn’t be as inconvenient as I had thought after all. Diamonds could pay for hundreds of train tickets. My days as a stowaway seemed to be numbered.
The interior of the train was dimly lit, but I followed closely behind Travis and the witch, using her glowing hair as my guide.
“The door is locked, Thyra,” Travis said as he came to the final car.
“You’re the thief. Deal with it.”
From where I hid a car down, I could hear metal scraping on metal, and then a soft creak as the door was pushed open. I glanced around the corner in time to see Thyra disappear into the room.
Now was time for a plan. I had seen a gun on Travis’s hip, so fighting him was out of the question. I would need to find another way.
I hurried out of the train and began to strip all of the frozen passengers in the station. Every article of clothing, once removed, I piled on the tracks just in front of the train. When that was done, I grabbed an old man’s cane and hid behind a trash can.
When the bandits emerged from the train, Travis and Thyra were both smiling wide, each hefting a black leather pouch.
“What the hell?” Travis stopped in shock. “Is this some side effect of your spell?”
Thyra seemed just as confused. “This has nothing to do with my magic. Where did all their clothes go?”
After a minute they noticed the huge pile of clothes on the track, and Travis hopped down to investigate. As he did, I began to creep up behind Thyra.
As impressive as her magic was, it apparently didn’t warn her about homeless men sneaking up on her. I slammed the cane into the back of her head, and then everything happened at once.
Thyra collapsed to the ground, and the world around me leapt into motion. Everyone in the station became aware of their nakedness, and the train splattered Travis all over the tracks.
I scooped up Thyra’s diamonds amid piercing screams and shuffled away unnoticed.