Infinispace: Mag-Rail Station

Images & Words: Void the Light – Part 7

Mag-Rail Station

Neal Ulen

When : Where
259 DE (2569 CE) : Terra / Techspire / The Tangle

This is approximately 1/3rd preivew of a first draft novella entitled Void the Light (tentative title) which takes place in the Infinispace Universe.

The novella is set about 30 years before the events of Infinispace: Deception and is ~50,000 words in length. It will be posted in serialized format.

0 - Prologue
1 - Martos
2 - Integrators
3 - The Rat...
4 - ...In The Cage
5 - Benize
6 - Taria
7 - Meetings
8 - Direction
9 - Lost
10 - Challe
11 - Fixer
End of Preview
Barriers, whether of the mind or the real, are always erected on a foundation of fear and paranoia. They serve two purposes, and two purposes only: to keep enemies out or to keep the controlled in.
—Helionis et al. / ‘Accounts of the Techspire’ / 2420

Preceded by Void the Light – Part 6.
It was near dusk and the orange light of the sun still reflected off the upper reaches of the Spire.

The towering Old Barrier mag-rail station glowed like a beacon in the dark, its open air structure looming over the streets of the Tangle like a bastion of civility in a forest of decay. Every few minutes a humming train would glide into the station on the elevated guides suspended a hundred feet above the crowd, weaving in and out of structures and buttresses as it approached. Citizens were disgorged from the cars by the hundreds with every stop. Their choreographed procession would then scatter for the ramps and stairs that would take them to street level and their desired directions. The mag-trains were the only mode of long-distance travel within the Tangle, and citizens had mastered the efficiency of their use over hundreds of years, injecting a level of conditioned order into the chaos of human movement.

Martos stood under one of the brown, pitted buttresses that supported an elevated guide. He could just make out the glowing tip of the Spire poking above one of the tall buildings across the street, its top was shrouded in thin clouds. Even from this distance, he could just make out the telltale specks of small ships lifting toward orbit, or smaller craft slowly spiraling down to lower extents.

It was always dark in the deep clefts between the buildings of the Tangle. Only the Spokes were well illuminated during nightfall, from both the gaudy shops lining its edges and from the eternal, dazzling beam of energy and data that streamed into space from Pinnacle City atop the Spire. What happened to that enigmatic beam after leaving the Earth, Martos didn’t know. For Citizens it was one of the constants of life, like the sun passing overhead and the annual Lottery. Few spoke of it. It was no different for Martos. There’d never been a day in his relatively short life when that ghostly beam was not piercing the sky.

He looked at his chronometer and could just make out the time from the dim glow of the transfer station lights high above him. Eight o’clock.

She should have been here by now.

Waiting for Taria was excruciating. He’d been lurking in the shadows at the base of the buttress for almost an hour, trying his best to avoid the crowds and making eye contact with no one. Another mag-train hummed away from the station and its former occupants streamed down the switchback ramps and stairs toward the streets. He’d lost count of how many trains he’d seen come and go during his wait. Maybe Taria couldn’t find him in the shadows amongst the throng.

As he was still looking up at the distant station, he felt a bump on his right arm and looked with a start to see his beautiful, black-haired Taria standing in the shadows next to him.

How the hell did she sneak up on me?

Taria dropped the overstuffed bags hanging from each shoulder and flung herself into Martos’ arms. They hugged silently and passionately as Citizens shuffled through the twilight darkness in their never-ending calls of duty and obligation, oblivious to the Uncitizen standing in their midst.

“Are you alright?” Taria inquired as she unfolded from his arms and cradled his face in her cold hands.

“Nothin’ a year in the tropics wouldn’t fix,” he said, reaching up and taking her hands in his.

“What?” she said, staring at him.

“Nevermind, just more anachronism for you.”

There was a pause, then both simultaneously burst out in subdued laughter at the absurdity and timing of the statement.

“What took you so long?” he asked.

“I did what you said and took a more discrete path. It just took me longer than expected. It’s shift change for many Citizens.”

“Exactly. You scared the hell out of me. Didn’t even see you through the crowd,” Martos said. He then leaned over and picked up what looked like the heavier of the bags. He opened it and quickly rummaged through it to see what Taria had packed. Out of the meager possessions they owned, it looked like everything they would need.

“Okay, grab your bag. Let’s go.”

“Where?” she asked as she scooped up the second bag by the strap and slung it over her shoulder.

Martos only looked up and pointed at the station. He moved off into the bustling avenue and made for the general direction of the nearest stair.

“The mag-rail can take us almost anywhere in the Tangle,” she asked as she fell in stride beside him. “So, where?”

The other Citizens paid no heed to them and Martos ensured his hands were jammed into the pockets of his jacket to hide the Mark.

“We’re going to go have a cordial chat with Benize,” he said coldly.

Martos stood under one of the brown, pitted buttresses that supported an elevated guide. He could just make out the glowing tip of the Spire poking above one of the tall buildings across the street, its top was shrouded in thin clouds.

Taria saw the determination in his face and heard it in his voice, but she didn’t share it. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. You believe he betrayed us. If you’re right, he’s just going to do it again.”

Martos now frowned. “I think I was wrong.”

“How can you be so sure?” she asked, adjusting the strap of the bag gently thumping against her hip.

“I’m not, but he knew nothing about the child. He couldn’t. We didn’t even know about the child until today. We’re to blame like he said … for being careless.” Martos turned his face to his feet as they trod the dusty and worn pavement. “But I’m not sure even our carelessness is worthy of blame in this case. I think he was just reacting like any other terrified Citizen would have reacted to what happened at the market. I’ve thought about it a lot since we spoke and I just couldn’t come up with a plausible reason why he would betray us … a laborer and a Ward attendant. We’re low Citizens, barely worth the effort.”

They walked in silence for several minutes, elbowing their way down a narrow backstreet to reach the stairs on the entry side of the station.

“I suppose you’re right,” Taria replied after some reflection. “I’m sorry … this is my fault.”

Martos stopped and held her by the shoulders. “No, this is both of our faults, or neither of our faults. Like I said, I don’t think our carelessness is worthy of blame, or at least it shouldn’t be. It just happened. I don’t know. But, it doesn’t matter at this point.”

He put his arm around her shoulder and they continued walking.

“Benize is the only person I know who has any chance of helping us. He knows many people … contacts. He dabbles in black markets. He’s relatively wealthy, if such a thing exists for anyone not living in the Spire itself. Benize is the only chance we have even if the only help he can give us is to point us in another direction. And that’s my goal right now … to just keep moving, because if we stop it’s the end for us.”

“And why would he help us?” she asked.

Martos was silent for a moment. “I’ll convince him,” he said.

They turned a corner and found themselves staring down the Southern Spoke as it gently curved up through the distant Rise and into the base of the three-mile-high Spire. Even this far away its base was so wide that it devoured what little sky existed behind the small looking skyscrapers splashing up against its footing. Its sides twinkled with lit windows, bays, balconies, open air plazas, mysterious equipment, and puzzling mechanisms the size of buildings themselves. Ships and transports continued to flit up, down, and around it like insects caretaking their hive. Incredibly fast funiculars spiraled around the outer skin of its long conical shape, moving the privileged and powerful. Buttresses extended out vertically to support the massive buildings that held the most powerful occupants of the Spire. At the top perched Pinnacle City, lighting up the surrounding fog of clouds in a multi-colored glow.

Martos could make out large transports, only specks at this distance, sluggishly pushing away from Pinnacle City docking spindles and slowly rising further in to the atmosphere, presumably into space, and eventually to far off colonies and stars of the Sphere.

Illuminating all was the perpetual and pulsing beam of light stabbing out from the top of Pinnacle City.

Taria wrapped herself around his free arm, holding him closer, knowing exactly what he was thinking. Somewhere in that Spire were the bastards who created all this madness and made it illegal to act human. They’d done so for innumerable generations of Citizens remaining on Terra, and would continue to do so. They couldn’t be stopped.

Martos tore his gaze away from the Spire. He couldn’t bare it anymore. Part of him had been inside that Spire mere hours ago and he wasn’t about to let them pull it back into their interrogation playground.

Keep moving.

Not far from where they stood were the set of stairs to the mag-rail station.

“Up we go,” he nodded towards the steep stair.

Continued in Void the Light – Part 8.

Images & Words © 2021-2024, Neal Ulen.
Other images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).

1 Comment

  1. What a great image to pair with your story. Wish that picture simply evoked images of a dystopian, sci-fi universe instead of our current reality.

    I vividly remember reading this years ago and am wondering if this is close to where we left off in the story. I think I might only be a couple posts away from new (to me) material! Can’t wait!!!

    Side note…I like the graphics you added to your form.

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