Joe poked his mug up over the side of the boxcar and feigned fear in order to draw the first mantisoid towards him in blind, stupid hunger. An excited light flashed over the thing’s pseudopupils as its spiny raptoriales clattered faster and louder over the car’s metal roof.
Joe waited until the split-second before the alien’s mouth crunched over his head to drop down and let the thing’s momentum take it sailing in a frantic arc over him as he hung from the boxcar’s side by his fingertips. The fallen creature hit the ground at high speed and bounced up and down several times as parts of its exoskeleton broke open with spurts of green goo. The thing finally rolled to a stop of broken alien-freak, very still and very dead.
Joe wasted a precious second admiring his handiwork before scampering down the boxcar’s side and swinging himself below the undercarriage. He climbed deftly across the metal rails with the ground speeding beneath him.
Looking out from the boxcar’s underside, Joe saw that Big Eater’s massive tentacle still twisting blindly in the air as the rest of the creature, still within the boxcar, repeatedly smashed itself against the side to gain freedom. Joe couldn’t see this, but he could hear and feel it, several times seeing the wheels on one side of the train jump off the rails from the impact of the thrashing.
The four remaining mantisoids appeared at the far end of the undercarriage, moving his way quickly, their creepy insect legs designed much better for this sort of thing than Joe’s simian-hands. He couldn’t out-crawl them. Luckily, his species was designed for something no mantis could ever do very well, and that was throwing — and Joe was a lot better even than most of his folk.
See, Joe Stone had been a major league prospect in his younger years but had passed that up to pursue a career as a sword-swallowing strong man in a travelling circus. That job had taken him to his very first experience of the Moldavian Midnight and his very first encounter with Desdemona D’Arnjay, the love of his rambling hobo life. It was a decision he’d never regretted and a hell of a story he liked to tell, but that was neither here nor there at the moment. He had alien-smashing business to tend to.
Joe yanked his flat cap out of his back pocket and used it to scoop up some rocks at high speed. Keeping himself jammed in place with his legs braced each side of the rails running the length of the boxcar’s undercarriage, he took the rocks one by one from the cap and winged them at the mantisoids.
Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk…four stones dead-center in the nasty mantisoid heads. The shots rocked them enough to cause them to lose their grip (two of them) or else reel back enough that their heads exploded onto the speeding ground below (the other two).
Joe barked, “Streeike one! Streeike two! Streeike three!”
At the last one, Joe smiled and said, “Yeer out!”
The Big Eater in the overhead boxcar must have been telepathically connected with its little brothers, because it thrashed aside even more violently, and bits of wood sprayed over the side of the boxcar’s in Joe’s view.
Truth of the matter was that Joe had no idea how he was going to stop the thing when he hopped aboard the train, but an idea suddenly clicked — the first boxcar. It was packed full of dynamite meant for the fine people of Kansas City. Joe suddenly realized that he had a better idea for it.
Before climbing along the undercarriage he knocked on the boxcar’s floor and yelled up to the giant monstrosity inside.
“Consider this the official invitation to the party, buddy. It’s going to be a real bang!”