The Railway

Mutated rodents roamed the muck filled drains of the city that reeked of diesel, and the situation was little different above the surface. The city looked like it had been cleaved in two, with a massive pair of rails passing right through it, and stretching beyond forever on either side. The city had in fact, come around the rails, would not have existed if it were not for the tracks that passed through it. The southern end of the city was a refinery, a maze of desalters, distillation plants, and treatment centers, with pipes and valves running through in improbable and more often than not, impractical ways. A river of waste spewed out, that blackened the soil for miles around and encouraged the growth of strange plants that looked like very large, and very still insects.
Along the length of the city ran two concrete platforms, on either side of the tracks. Twenty five tiers of steel were erected on these platforms, to access each of the levels on the mammoth train. Two of the lowermost levels were always refrigerated. The seventh and the twelfth one were sealed off to the public. A strange assortment of structures towered over the various levels of the platforms, and the city sloped downwards on either side.
A solitary hovercycle made it's way towards the city, traversing the wastelands at an alien speed. The hovercycle was one of the hundred with pedals modified for curved leg bones, a special order for the special servants of the Railway. The long orange hair of the rider billowed around him like an aura. His riding jacket had a golden monkey motif - a mark of the Orang-Utan union. The rider ate on the move, throwing back an occasional banana skin in his wake. On paper, the Orang-Utan's identity was a number - made up of the location of the facility that cloned him, the batch of genetically modified embryos that he came from - and the number of the test tube that he crawled out of. As most beings, he ended up getting a nickname - an uninventive one at that. Mog was a little too Neanderthal for his liking, but it was better than M09.
When he reached the city, it was the dead of the night. The city boomed and throbbed of unnamed sins. Mog the Orang-Utan maneuvered his hovercycle to a hidden recess, which had to be accessed using his hand-prints as a key. The main road meandered to many places in the city, but not to where he wanted to go. The narrow motorway twisted and turned beneath the city, then sharply rose to end directly on the twelfth level of the platform. He parked his hovercycle, hopped off, and apprehensively looked at his welcoming committee of one giant insect. Nura the mantis always made him nervous, so he pulled out a banana, peeled it, and began to contemplatively chew it in small bits while eyeing the gait of a six legged, bug-eyed, green monstrosity.
Nura, as always, was as graceful as a cat with eight legs. "How was your journey?" asked Nura, in a matter of fact manner. Mog used the back of the hand holding the banana to rub his waist, while the long fingers on his other hand scratched his head, an instinct that no amount of genetic engineering could remove. "It was tiring, as always" he said. "Is the package safe?" asked Nura. The Orang-Utan was always confused while talking to an insect, because they utterly lacked any kind of facial muscles to express with, even if they could really feel anything in those strange brains of theirs. Stupid question thought Mog. He wouldn't have been there if he had not been careful. But Mog was not accustomed passing obvious remarks, so he answered as best as he could, in a low growl "Undamaged, rode with the right side pointing up throughout, and made sure that it was free of shakes and bumps for the entire eight weeks." Nura was pleased, so he made the gesture of prayer. "Then, we wait."
Like a false star, it shone on the horizon. The great lantern at the head of the monstrous engine that pulled the train. It would be a full twelve hours before that engine traveled from the horizon to the city-station. It would re-supply itself, people would climb in and climb out, crates and mail would be moved, and the journey would continue. It was a nation and an economy on it's own, just the train. But on the secret levels, something strange was going on. Mog was doing something he was not genetically engineered to do. Mog was philosophizing. With a goddamn mantis.
"I don't like the idea. So many people. So many things. All that copper and iron and steel. All the machines and gears and wheels. The engine is really unique. It is a beautiful work of engineering. Why do you want to blow it up?". Nura considered the question. His primary concern was this lowly employee to carry out his duties. It was a great thing for employees to question everything... but not in this line of work. He did his best to be polite. "I will explain only once - that is all the time we have to chat" he said "those humans have started taking the railway for granted. They do not care about the tracks, the stations and all the guards and engineers who service them. All they really see is the train itself. They will not move to something bigger and better if this one is not done away with. It is too good and too well built to fail on it's own. The designers did not plan on the contraption to last as long as it has. They did not factor in failure, so we have to make it happen. Only because we can replace it with something better. The corporation's profits are held up because this century old piece is not junk, and works so well. There has been nothing for all our engineers to do. So do your job, and don't ask questions. Now, if you will excuse me, I am expected to meet some of the Merox people, and you, my friend, have a Train to catch."
Mog was confused. There was still the servicing. So many ways to make it fail, why blow it up? Why be so dramatic? He shut that train of thought. It was going to be easy really. No one travelled on that level. An explosion originating there - no questions would be asked.
He climbed in, looking at the small part of the engine that he could see. On it's last voyage. The bulk of metal dominated his mind. At one time, it was a dream come true. The perfect machine. An engine that could run forever as long as it was fueled. A design that kept it at the cutting edge for a century and more. Then the deafening horn of the engine interrupted his train of thoughts. Mog had a passing impulse to shimmy up a tree and hide there. As the train gathered momentum, he returned to his thoughts. Something was going to change, and Mog felt nervous enough about it to finish of another bunch of bananas. As he climbed in, he thought of everything the world was based on. The fuel driving the enterprise. The distilled decayed blood of the lizard-lords that died out millions of years ago. It was not meant to last.

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