This is, the operator thinks, possibly the worst day to hear the stolid parping of the some-moron-thinks-he’s-a-train alarm.

A glance at the monitor pointed to by the sensor indicator told the story. Courtesy of the motion-and-presence trackers, it played back the moment at which the aforementioned moron had forced open one of the doors of his stopped train –

the Midmorn-18 eastbound express, Clifftop line, reflex filled in, currently holding for 22 minutes awaiting a pause in Inclinator emergency traffic –

– dropped to the trackbed, and jogged off down the tunnel towards Upslope station.

The operator glances at his board, and the covered, key-locked switch labeled ETHICAL STRICTURE. A timer below it, freshly reset, counts down by pulses from seventy-two, a mechanism implemented to ensure that no changes could be made without mindful forethought. At its normal setting, OPTIMAX, traction power would automatically have been cut to the section in which the not-train was detected, and security robobulls automatically dispatched to drag the hapless wight in question to an uncomfortable interview with security and a lengthy repayment of his fellow passengers’ inconvenience.

But today…



STATUS: Impact of not-under-command bulk freighter TDMMS Pelagic Pedestrian on foreshore defenses sector 112 has caused failure of sea wall and protective kinetic barriers in that sector. Minor flooding, since secured, has occurred in Ironclad Docks District to +18 in over datum. Estimated time to repair (including salvage of freighter): 18 hours +/- 6 from mark.

FORECAST: Arrival of storm producing sea state HIGH with wave height estimated at 402 in over datum at event locus predicted at estimated time 4 hours +/- 1 from mark. Consequences predicted include total flooding of Ironclad Docks District. Severe infrastructure damage. Mass casualty event.

IMPERATIVE: I am requisitioning all available transportation to evacuate Ironside Docks District. Clear all non-evacuation traffic from Inclinator. Trains engaged in evacuation activities are granted priority over all other traffic. All currently-unassigned consist elements capable of passenger transport are preempted for evacuation traffic. Otherwise proceed in accordance with established emergency protocol.

To secure transportation under current, predicted, and undetermined conditions, adopt ethical strictures GRANITE EXIGENT.


…the key was turned two steps beyond that, and the computerized systems instructed to maintain traction power and transit come hell or literal high water. Or, indeed, the presence of any obstruction in the tunnels not sufficient to impede the passage of a train.

Which meant, the operator’s thoughts continued even as the security monitor flashed white and dimmed and the alarm self-silenced, that one stumble into the maglev coils or a slip sufficient to contact the traction power bus-bar would be regrettably, inevitably, lethal.

“Note to Track Maintenance,” the operator murmurs into his command headset, grimacing at the monitor that now showed only a shadow on the bed of the twilit tunnel. “We have rat chow in the tunnel between Upslope and Seawatch, section four. Once the isohaz clears down, send a recovery team to pick up the marble and hose off the trackbed. Operations, clear.”

Notable Replies

  1. This is the point where you let the idiot be a Darwin Award winner and his resurrection should be especially karmic because of that. With a lot of yelling and the Mother and Grandmother of all guilt trips.

  2. Hopefully he’s not a tourist from somewhere where they don’t believe in vector stacks.

  3. It doesn’t look like the train was started. The maglev coils on the track, energised continuously, were the ones that fried the passenger.

  4. Avatar for avatar avatar says:

    Well, he’s probably a tourist from somewhere, but if it’s somewhere in the core Worlds, his odds are pretty good. (Not the Echelons. They have even less tolerance for this sort of thing, if you can imagine it. The League, maybe?)

    Hey, never say never. It’s been waiting less than a half-hour minutes for a break in Inclinator traffic long enough to temporarily un-congest the congested routing resources at Upslope station, which is really not all that bad when the area’s the center of an emergency preemption.

    (That said, it was probably already on its way, and they don’t want to shut down the unaffected areas of the transport grid. If they did that, everyone from the evacuation would just pile up at Upslope and get in the way of the emergency response. Even if it means some short-term congestion on the other lines, they want them running at best-possible to move those people out of there and on their merry.)

    It’s the Empire, so yes. Not to mention that given their approach to transparency of operation, anyone with a hand terminal could punch up the same system operating map that Operations has on their wall screen.

    (And those who have done the responsible thing and read through their Codex of Civic Services and Citizen Responsibilities should also know something about emergency procedures and possible consequences of same.)

    This one’s just an impatient idjit.

  5. Y’all probably don’t want to know how often that happens in the US on train tracks…

    It’s formally called a “trespasser strike”.

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