They were drawing close enough to the capital to pass through more towns such as Leposti at any moment, where they might meet help--or opposition. Jago kept a fast pace through the car, Banichi bringing up the rear, but pausing a moment for a word with Cenedi, who nodded to something. Banichi cast a look back, as if in thought of the dowager.
So much Bren saw in his passing the door. In the next moment the wind hit him, the racket and rush of the unprotected platform, next to the thunder of the engine, an area where watching one's step was life-and-death. A ladder confronted them, a straight-up ladder, atevi-scale, and the whole platform vibrated with the joints in the tracks, with the deafening roar of the locomotive over all and under all.
"Nandi," Jago shouted into his ear. She took the computer strap from his shoulder, indicated he should climb first, and he did, hauling himself up the widely-spaced rungs as fast as he could, aware by the vibration in the rungs that someone was on the ladder behind him, likeliest Cajeiri ... he heard the boy shout something to someone, but he didn't stop or look down. He came up at nose-level with a catwalk, exposed to the raw wind, and hauled himself up onto that gridwork, kneeling on the metal surface and holding to the railing--thank God there was a railing. The train was passing through empty countryside at the moment, with a town in the distance.
And a swing of his head forward, into the wind, brought him the unexpected sight of a banner aloft, streaming flat out in the wind, atevi figures atop the train, sitting or lying, weapons braced. That banner was the red and black of the Ragi, of Tabini's house.
That was how the towns and villages turned out to mark their progress. That was the declaration they flew, unmistakable defiance of the authority claiming Shejidan.
Wind battered him as the train began a long curve. He felt Cajeiri's presence behind him. He summoned strength to wind-chilled muscles, hauled himself up off his knees, holding to the catwalk rail, and moved as briskly as he could along the outside of the generator and engine. The engine gave off the breath of hell itself, heat and fumes stinging and making his eyes run. Above all was the racket, and the rumble and the power of the machine, shaking his fingers to numbness on the railing.
The Ragi banner--outrageous and uncompromising: Know us, know this is the moment, if Ragi will stand up and be counted. This is the moment, if man'chi will draw you.