Another weekend, another day for the Tales to carry on…
This one’s a bit special, if only because of the subject matter, and a little silly! Rescue the Princess was for Leah, and this one’s for JJ, and you’ll all see why when you read it.
Oslan (Milky Way).
Joseff Jameson was the senior conductor for the Trans-Planetary Mag-Line. Today it was the 3.10 to Ark City. It was a long journey travelling on the mag-rails metres above the countryside.
He’d done his third short-journey carriages walk-through of the journey and was about to check in on the sleeping cabins when he was called to the cockpit.
The young driver was a firm favourite of Joseff’s; he had enough charm and cockiness to be fun, and humility and wisdom not to make a mistake. Or to make an idiot of himself.
“We’re just about to pass over the Deep Sea, Joseff. The sensors are showing a lot of large returns. Could be just schools of plankton or fish; could also be our old friend, Fred.”
This was all they needed after today’s antics.
Fred hadn’t made an appearance for a couple of weeks, leaving the mag-trains alone. But he always came back, attracted to the magnetic fields of the floating trains. Joseff had had ninety-five incidents with Fred this year so far.
“Sorry, thought you should know.”
Joseff nodded. “Thanks kid.”
A grin passed over the young man’s face, mischief in his eyes.
“No problem, old man.”
Joseff chuckled as he left the cockpit.
“I’ll brief the others,” he said. The other conductors and staff were new to this line. It would be an unusual briefing to be sure. Fred was a legend on Oslan, protected by local laws, but still a damned nuisance.
He didn’t get the chance to even start the briefing.
They were already over the ocean.
Someone in First Class screamed incredibly loudly.
Joseff ran to the nearest right-side window and saw what he had been hoping not to see. Sure enough, giant purple tentacles lined on one side with round sucker pads were emerging from the ocean to one side of the train’s path. Each dark indigo tentacle was half as thick at the base as the train’s carriages.
“Hello Fred,” Joseff muttered.
Today was a bad day for this.
This morning, one woman’s waters had broken and an older gent had had a heart attack. Both had had to be airlifted to the nearest medical centre. Each time, the train had to stop for at least half an hour.
More delays had ensued when a herd of pachyderms had knocked over one of the magnetic towers the mag-trains used to carry them along above the ground.
The driver wasn’t slowing down.
Good boy, he thought.
More screams rent the air as others realised what was happening. The junior conductors cowered with fear, refusing to move from their spots in the carriages.
“Gotta do everything myself.”
He grabbed a stun rifle out of the armoury locker and clambered up one of the roof access ladders. He opened the hatch and let the wind rush in, threatening to dislodge him. He steeled himself and jumped onto the roof.
“I’m getting too old for this,” he said into the wind.
Fred was getting closer and closer, his tentacles reaching towards Joseff.
“Dammit Fred, this is a bad day for this.”
Fred answered with a muffled growl that vibrated through the train and his own body.
He planted his feet and pointed the glowing stun rifle at where he knew Fred’s swimming body to be. The creature was swimming gently beside the train’s path, tentacles grasping at the carriages.
He fired a pulse of energy toward one of the tentacles.
There was an incredibly deep cry of pain and the appendage jerked back. Another one came swinging in above the carriage horizontally. It smacked him onto his back, although it wasn’t especially hard. Fred was playing with him. Or as close to playing as a hundred-tonne sea creature could with a frail old human.
Fred liked to play.
Cold water sprayed over Joseff as another swept above him. He tried to grip the rifle.
And realised he’d dropped it.
Fred was raising his ugly head up out of the water. If Joseff didn’t hurry up and do something soon, the great creature would grapple onto the train and pull it down into the water.
It had never happened before, at least not in Joseff’s professional career, and he wasn’t about to let the childish creature break that impressive record.
The train stopped.
There was another train coming from the opposite direction, Joseff’s train having to stop to prevent any accidental magnetic discharges that push or pull the trains apart or together. It had happened, that was why the protocol to stop was in place.
Fred’s face was now out of the water, his big dark eyes looking up at Joseff playfully. His defanged hole of a mouth was shut, but he was grumbling and cooing.
Joseff remembered what was hanging around his neck. His portable ticket machine. He unwrapped it and hussed it at Fred’s face.
The little machine smashed to pieces right between Fred’s eyes.
“ENOUGH FRED!” Joseff bellowed. “YOU HAVE CAUSED CONFUSION AND DELAY! NOW GIVE IT A REST! I’M NOT PLAYING WITH YOU TODAY! GOT IT?!”
Fred snapped his head back, as if slapped.
He grumbled and whined mournfully like a scolded puppy, and then retreated into the water. Joseff made sure he swam off away from the area before heading back into the carriage below. His joints ached from the effort.
He was getting too old.