Friday, April 5, 2013

Prompt: City on the Rails

Thanks to Jordan Grimmer for the gorgeous visual prompt!

“Mountain Station Five. Ladies and Gentlemen, arrival at Mountain Station Five. This is a scheduled three-day stop. Please see Channel 21 for activities information. Mountain Station Five.”

Joe thumbed off his comm and spun around to the window. The mountains spread out before them, and there was still snow on the peaks. He hoped to get enough time to hit the slopes at least once.

Pete clanged up the stairs from the engine zones. “What are you betting for departures?” he asked as he peered out the window back towards the mobile station locking onto the front passenger car. A man and a woman walked out with a stroller. “Hmm, I bet they’re back by lunch.”

Joe looked out the window and shook his head. “You’re such a pessimist. Mountain Five is a great vacation stop. I bet you we get 10%, at least.”

“Are you crazy? We didn’t even get 10% our last stop at Ocean One! You’re on. 20 credits says we don’t even see 10% get off the train in the next three days.”

Joe looked out again and sighed. There were about a dozen people on the station from Car 1. First class usually had the highest numbers, and if they weren’t even drawing out 10% there, then there was no chance for the rest of the cars.

The Rail City was the largest free-moving city in the Federation. Each 12-story car boasted 100 apartments, including 20 penthouse suites with views on both sides. There were shops, restaurants and services on the lower levels. The three central cars housed the schools and offices, including city government. City employees including the train crew, were spread across the bottom two levels of all the cars, providing continual service throughout the city. She truly was the City That Never Sleeps.

But the train crew thought it was all a waste. People lived their daily lives as though the world didn’t continually pass them by, with ever-changing vistas and opportunities to learn, explore, relax and enjoy. Despite the city’s stops at dozens of stations throughout the Federation, it was rare that even 10% of the population bothered to disembark.

Joe shrugged. “Not this time, man. I’ve got to save up enough for a flat for Rosemary.”

Pete rolled his eyes. “You’re dreaming, Joe. You’ll never be able to afford a flat on an engineer and teacher's salary. Why don’t you just get married and live in crew quarters like the rest of us schmoes?”

Joe shook his head. It was an old argument. But Rosemary deserved better. She deserved a view. And Joe was by golly going to give it to her. He worked overtime whenever he could pull it, and he did odd jobs on the side. He wasn’t shooting for first class, just a regular flat above the 4th level, where they’d be able to see everything they passed. He knew they would look out their windows every day and get off the train at every stop.

Speaking of which, he looked at his watch. “Pete, can you cover for me? I promised Rosemary I’d pick her up for a quick lunch at that little creperie I told you about last time.”

Pete waved him away. “Yeah, sure, sure. Bring me back some, would you?” Pete criticized the city folk for not leaving, but Joe didn’t think he’d set foot on ground in over two years. Some folk were like that. Like they didn’t ever want to leave the city anymore.

“Yeah, okay, I will. Thanks, man. I’m gonna drag you kicking and screaming to go skiing before we leave, though.”

Pete raised his eyebrows. “You and what team of ski boys? Get on with yourself. I’ve got work to do.”

Joe shook his head and headed down the metal steps to the central passageway between cars. He’d have to hustle to get to Rosemary’s classroom by lunch.

TBC (maybe)

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle, Bacon

Time writing:
~40 minutes

April word count:


  1. Prompt: City on the Rails

    The tracks were as tall as his shoulder and as wide as a city block. That makes sense, thought Will, since the train will hold a whole city. But the project still seemed unreal to him. He leaned against a rail and lifted his hardhat to wipe sweat off his forehead.

    "Keep that on," said Jen as she strode by with a clipboard. Two suits followed her.

    Will pulled his hat back on, knowing his sister would not make a big deal in front of these representatives of their sponsor, but also knowing that he would hear of her displeasure later if he abused her reticence. He climbed the temporary stair the rail top and walked along its pavement-wide length to the frame of train.

    A wheel lay canted between the rails, lying across what looked like absurdly narrow ties, although they were in fact quite thick, just not proportional to the rails based on a scaled-up normal track. He swung up onto the lower level of the car, where girders laid out what would be basic living quarters for the train staff. The holiday-makers would have scenic side-view rooms far above the rattle of the wheels on the rail.


    He turned; it was Jenn, running toward him, the paper on her clipboard flapping from the wind of her speed and the suits nowhere to be seen.

  2. Very nice, different take on the construction of such a mammoth project. And what's the sister's rush? What happens next?!