Neon City


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Hello, I'm not sure what this will be, if it's anything. Just thought I'd try my hand at the nanawrimo thing.



EDIT 12/12/2015

Well, nanowrimo is done, and I did it. I won. Yes me, I hit 50,000 words. As was my goal. I didn't want to get a story finished, because frankly, that seems impossible in a month (at least at that length). I think a far better exercise would be to go for a far smaller, yet better structured higher quality story. But whatever. I did it. I like this idea, and will come back to it one day. Maybe, probably even, start again, but for now, this, Neon City, (terrible name) will sit idle. It's rough. It's unfinished. And its barely even spell checked. If you read it previously, thank you. If you do read it now, know it's unfinished, and thank you still.

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Chapter 1

The train rattled along... hmm, no didn't rattle, trains didn't rattle anymore, not now. Things were too perfect. The buzzed, hovering along on electro static tracks. Fizzing along a path to a destination. A network of transport a city was built on to perfectly suit its inhabitants. It didn't even shake anymore, the inertia dampeners took care of that, any jolts or bumps taken care of years ago. The power grid operated on a scale close to 100%. The system never failed. To a 99% average. Of course there were mistakes, but than meant arriving two minutes late instead of on time.


With her head resting on the window frame, outside the city whizzed past. Blindingly. So close to the rails the buildings of commercial district Alpine were a blur. A flash of color and Neon lights blazing across the plexi glass panel as they always were. Maybe she should catch a different train home, at least at a different time, maybe the colors would be different.


Cara's tool kit sat between her feet. The train still full. And she weren't that big an a hole to occupy a seat with the inanimate object. 200 km an hour through the middle of the city. Going that fast should've been incredible. But here, in the middle of the monolith of Neon city. That were normal. That were a train ride.


Below, out across the train down through the other window she could look down on the roads, the personal transports flitting along at speeds. Limited to 300... but who cared, no one piloted them anyway, it were all just automated drones shifting people back and forth. It took a permit to get one, extenuating circumstances. A reason to require a vehicle that could travel outside of routes of the transport network.


Cara didn't have one of them. Any of them, not a spouse who worked further from home than the transport network mandated. Not a occupation that meant she had to travel wider than the transport network allowed.


They'd fixed it. In the scheme of things it seemed such a small problem. But in terms of the whole, it was certainly a piece of the pie. The transport network, in conjunction with the population placement scheme had done many things. Fixed urban sprawl, which in turn fixed traffic congestion. Though that was also helped by the ruling councils decision to over turn the idea of the working week and nine to five being the working hours of the day.


They fixed it. The transport network, worked. Clean fast efficient. Perfect for a world that itself wanted perfect.


How though? Simple really. The population placement scheme dictated where you lived by what occupation you had. And because you're abode was just one of the same personalized apartments stacked high in as close to you job as was possible. The transport network could operate better.


Cara for example needed to go three places. Her home, her work, and where she went shopping. They were all within a twenty minute train ride from each other. The closest station being a ten minute walk from her front door. If she got a different job. Then the population placement scheme, would move her. If she got a spouse that lived further than the restrictions for distance allowed. Then they would be provided with a personalized transport for the spouse that had to travel. If, a suitable replacement position in the occupation couldn't be found.


It were perfect, or close to it. The ripples from the splash reaching far wider than anyone really expected as well. With a transport network. With little to no personalized transport. Crime had taken a dip as well. Falling substantially. How did one run when the way one got away was through a provided transport keyed to someones dna, or a public transport network. That required that same key to board and access.


It were a matter of logistics. And most didn't have them, or want them. The basic life standard act had been passed years ago. So everyone had what they needed, whether they worked or not. So having a job, an occupation just kept you from being bored, gave you as little extra leisure credits to throw around.


Bored... kept you from getting bored did it. Right now Cara would have argued with that. The train emptying, that's why she took this one, this time of the night, most of the time it emptied out, leaving her alone. Her carriage a lone cocoon for her to wander around in and stare out the window. Like she were doing no. Only one other person left, that old guy at the front, he got off at the next stop, she knew that. So she stood at the window of the train looking down at the road as the personal transports flew past, the trace of speed faster than she were going.


There it was, that hiss and wheeze, the release valves on the engines opening as the vapor exhausts opened, the inertia brakes activating. Grabbing at the weight of the train. Dragging it to a slow halt where at the head of the carriage, the front of the train, off got that old man, taking his oranges with him. With a smooth ratcheting fold, the doors closed, latching shut behind him leaving Cara alone on the train. She had two more stops like this. Some might have thought it sad, but at this point she'd take what she could get. Grabbing her tool kit, strolling to the front of the train. The driver less vehicle operating strictly on computer control and safety regulation. As winding up the whir of the engines breathed back to life.


They weren't even loud. They didn't even roar.


There she stood at the front, hands placed on the railing below the clear view port at the head of the train. Gripped on like a child pretending. But that was what she had to do. Staring intently out the window as the scenery very quickly blurred and streaked past. From 20 to 200 km in about half a second once the engines had spun up and the inertia dampeners kicked in.


“Louder” The command issued to her audio device, pushing the volume up in her ears. Beating waves of synth pouring into her canals, folding around tubes and structures till they looked to obliterated her drums with glorious beating screams.


Glorious. Speed. All she could do to shuffle her legs out wide as if she were straddled some kind of saddle was remembering she were still in public.


They didn't even have drivers. They didn't even turn, the transport network built of these incredible machines that went so fast. And these were just the short stop trains, the the national and international ones broke the sound barrier. Even the personal transports with all those roadways to power along operated on distinct regulated instructions. They didn't even turn.


Cara standing head of the train staring out the window , dreaming about doing the simplest of things. Go right... drift left.


She lived in Utopia. A perfect world of almost zero crime, of equality, health and education for all. Of a power and transport system so clean, so efficient, so renewable it were free.


But Utopia were boring. Utopia was stifling in so many ways, no matter how content, or fulfilled she was. Everyone had given up freedoms, not the big ones, not the ones that mattered, like education, speech, healthcare. But dumb shit, the little things you didn't really need. Like a pool. A personalized one, a backyard. Houses were gone, replaced by apartments so who had a backyard, a garden. Everyone just had a communal park allotted to their tower. Sports fields, recreation facilities. All provided.


But with the little things, went something Cara missed. Well she figured she missed them, she'd never been around to see them in the flesh, the transport network generations old by the time she came to be.


She should blame her dad, it were his fault. He'd done it, placed that bug, that itching little scratch gnawing at her insides. It started with a toy, then showing her the video of the races. Then doing just what she was doing now. Standing at the head of the train his arms clasped around her when she were young, both pretending to drive the carriages along the electro static rails, as if either had any control.


She wanted to go fast. Beating fast. Her flying, wind beating into her eyes. Just like the old days. Back before the bans, back before they stopped the thunder rail riders screaming along tracks. She had it in her bones, aching, she had it tattooed onto her skin. It was ugly, pointy and garish, but it was her favorite. The GX 87. Emblazoned down her arm in all its ratcheting thundering glory. Opened topped. Open housings, these were riders not just passengers, not just sitting in a train, in a personal transport vehicle. They were pilots, riders, in control. A pulsing engine and a waning grip on the steering mechanism.


But that were years ago. Decades. Nearly one hundred. The GX 87 were ancient by this time, housed in a museum. Not even lovingly. Just placed there as a memento of the dangerous past. She'd give anything to drive, no, to ride... no, to pilot one. But no one piloted anything anymore, no one drove. The transport network took care of everything. Even she as a tech engineer didn't drive the transport dollies. Everything were automated, get on, command the destination then wait to arrive, the machine would do the rest for you.


The music still beat about her head, pulsing with heaving waves. When she felt that incremental lurch. A daily nightmare of this slight reprieve, this slightest of enjoyments coming to an end. The station, her station pulling along side the slowing train. Her gripped hands fastened around the railing, wanting to hold on tight for longer, to keep staring out the viewing glass as the world careened past at a speed she were barely in control of. But no... just as every day she rode this train. There it were, at its end.


With a heaving sigh, those hands came free, latching onto the tools at her feet. Picking them from the ground as she moved to the door, slipping out of the opening onto the platform. All those others stepping on. Solus residential. Her tower. Her home. Her slice of life carved out from everyone else. Yet still remarkably similar. You could paint them whatever color you wanted. On the inside. If you were so inclined. But they were all the same. If you were single, you had a bedroom. A kitchen, a laundry, a bathroom, and then the lounge. Families got more bedrooms.


It was a walk, not a long one, but at the speed she were going it were wholly depressing. The shimmering blue of the lights running over head, the billboards on the platform sparking to like as a person walked past, hocking all kinds of wares to those that might want them. With her tools slung over her shoulder Cara ignored them all, moving her way through the crowds. Home called, food and then wasting some credits on the VR races as usual. The chattering voice of the advertisement beside her providing a distraction as she moved along, the wandering hologram holding out the fine product for her to peruse over.


“Don't ignore what you skin needs” The rather poor direction from the flickering messenger as it switched along the strip running along the floor. Following Cara along, assuming she wanted moisturizer purely for the fact she were female.


“Cancel” Cara ordered, the hologram flicking out, off to pester someone else. Until the next night where she'd do it all again. Just like the night before, and the one before that, down off the platform into the inner of the station, a hive, the towers surrounding it busy with the young and single. Where they were going though no concern of hers. It wasn't dirty, in fact it were the opposite, pristine, clean, oppressively almost. The custodial bots wandering around at a constant buzz cleaning and scraping every surface clear.


Mindlessly shifting robots flicking out of the way as people wandered through, filling tanks and reservoirs with trash before filing back to stations to recharge and return to work. They chirped and buzzed signalling lanes of use, wandering the crowds carefully. More courteous than half the people wandering the station, but then they were programmed to be. Protocol dictated them to clean. That a job no one wanted anymore.


The streets buzzed. Sparked with life, always a crowd milling about at one thing or another, any number of cultural festivals and events put on by the committee to suggest and promote diversity and acceptance. This one was for... no... she didn't know, it might have been there deep in Cara's head, but at the moment it were gone. There were kids running the streets. Walkways stretching from one side to the other, over in the distance the Solus designated park, and recreation facilities.


“Uh...” About as much interest as she could manage once she remembered.


It were a ball sport thing, one of them celebrating a win. A match... hmmm. That seemed boring. But a lot did. Turning the corner up into her building, sixteen A. Solus residential district. Apartment 1834. Home sweet home, a longish elevator ride to somewhere near the middle of the building tools hung over the railing in the elevator as the stared at the control panel busily lighting up to come to her floor number. Listening all the while, so she could ignore the conversational advances of strangers that might decide she looked a good person to take too.


They always wanted to talk. With a slithering beep, the door opened, finally her stop, finally she were nearly home, just that walk down the hall to her apartment to sit and enjoy in the slightest of senses some time to herself. Slipping her hand up into the scanner waiting for the door to unlock, the nano second of time it took to read and register her dna, obviously just that second too long as behind her came a very familiar set of feet.


“Finally, come on. We need to go out” Wren announced as if it had been a plan for months. For her it had, but that didn't mean it ever happened.


“You need to” Cara replied. Sure that wouldn't be the end of it.


“We both need to... come on I don't wan to go alone” Wren getting close to the stage of begging quicker than she would have liked. Usually she wanted the banter to last a little longer before her desperation seeped through.


“I don't want to go, I have a thing” Cara turning on her feet, the door open behind her. An escape so close, all she had to do were step backwards and slam it shut, she could ignore the knocking, it were sound proof an the buzzer was easily disconnected.


“Come on I don't care where we go... we can even go to the stupid VR races, let's just go out” Wrens voice trailing longer and longer, conceding on what she thought were a dull evening as long as it meant leaving her apartment building for at least a night.


“Oh... can we” Cara turning on her excitement for a moment to jump up and down a little, no matter how flase it were.


“Yes... can we?” Wren. Still not reading it as truthfully as she should of.


“No” Cara replied flatly stepping back through the door. Leaving it open for her friend to trail on in once she'd accepted the defeat. It were inevitable, she could go out alone, go back home or come in. Eventually it reach its inevitable conclusion. Wren collapsing down onto the couch as Cara went about packing away her work gear for another day.


“So what are we doing that prevents us form going out” wren questioned, slumped like a cat into the seat.


“VR races” Cara replied, boots already stripped off, her jump suit pulled halfway down her body sleeves dragging along the floor.


“Ughhhh... The center is two train stops away... and there's people there” Wren complained reaching desperately for some interaction.


“Great, so I can share a head set with the last sweaty hog body to put it on and get pink eye” Cara grumbled wandering into the kitchen, pulling from the pantry the food she'd been waiting to eat most of the day.


“Eugh... gross. How you make it that disgusting is.... they clean them, they clean them all the time and... ah fuck it, fine lets just stay here... I can give you pink eye right here.” Wren running through her emotions, first disgust, then defeat... then just straight to threatening as was usual.


Cara had known her a few years. Two peas, from vastly separate pods. They didn't share much in common apart from a gender. But that didn't seem to matter much. They annoyed each other in close proximity and most of the time suffered through the others interests in the interest of having someone to do it with. But Wren still had a hard time dragging Cara to anything outside some very familiar walls.


“You hungry?” Cara ducking her head back around the kitchen, the room as small as it was required to be, smart and confined devices locked into walls.


“Feed me woman” Wren smiled kicking back, if she were going to be here she might as well enjoy I, feet thrown up on the coffee table. Waiting for the spread to be rolled out. Within minutes it was, the most simple of meals thrown together then slapped onto the table ready to be devoured. Nachos not the hardest thing to create, but Cara did have some sort of plan to lift them above the usual layers of cheese and salsa.


“Alright, turn it on, let's get this over with” Wren ordered. Much to Cara's shaking head, pulling up the display screen on the device next to the couch, finding the right channel waiting for the buffer to fill before the room faded down to black. The pilots were using VR, because real races were too dangerous. Apparently. Everything were simulated. From the tracks to the crafts, no matter what they were. Only the pilots real, controlling crafts vast and nimble from the safety of VR pods where ever they might be.


Watching them though even less dangerous, you could go to a venue, sit up in the stands with the rest whilst they all pretended this were real and dangerous. Or you could be Cara and her reluctant spectator friend Wren, and sit in a lounge room whilst around you he projectors worked their technological magic and displayed the race in the comfort of your own home, without the rest of what Cara had dubbed, the sweaty hog bodies.


Filtering in first the lines, plain and simple, geometrical shapes and lines than bent and formed. Till structure and dimension came. Color following in, shades and shadows building up. The blank room with the single piece of furniture coming to life like it hadn't been before. Even the couch they were on transformed into the seating high above the track in a grandstand. Crowds created by computer code filtering in to add the atmosphere most thought a race needed. Cara didn't think so, but she were here for something a little different than just the average. Barking out from within the speakers the announcer burst to life.


“Races fans, hello...” All the announcer could get out before Wren was voicing her disgust as usual.


“Oh god, I hate this guys voice... bring up the other one” She ordered taking a plate full of the nachos back to est on her stomach, her interest obviously waning already. So to keep the complaining at a minimum, Cara changed the voice, bending slightly to the will of others just to continue on with what she wanted.


“WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAH” Breaking the limits of speaker quality and good taste screamed the new announcer. Cara back to shaking her head.


“At least this ones exciting, come on Cara get hype, give us a scream.” Wren digging an elbow into her friends side waiting for the reaction.


“Round seven of the International championships bought to you liiiiiiiiiiiiive and uninterrupted. Grab your seats kids its gonna be a fast one” The voice beat out. Again Cara back to shaking her head. The annoyance was worth it though. As long as it kept Wren happy... and quiet.


Transported, from the plain old long room where they had been seated to the tops of a grandstand, a sprawling track stretching across the landscape , out into the horizontal depths of the land, then around, carving its way in wide swathes into mountains and valleys, up, down around in chaotic turns to close in the loop. Even without the atmosphere effects generated around the room, of the slight breeze and changes in temps, it were still as real as anyone could want. Apparently though Cara were not anyone.


Because this were not real, it were pretend. Exciting, to a degree, but still not real, not live, not dangerous, not speeding through cavernous tracks with tailing pursuers waiting to pass you around the outside.


It weren't the GX 87 inscribed into the skin on her arm like a marker of truth. But it would have to do.


Lost in her thoughts she hadn't noticed the race had actually begun, careening bodies of science and material flowing around the track at speeds no human should ever have gone. Hundreds of kilometers an hour belting along dodging and weaving as power was delivered in curves so great a dampening field was needed so the pilots could even operate. Well that had been years ago. Back when it was real. The third iteration of the speed wars. The first were motorbikes, crude machines locked to the ground by rubber. Actually dealing with physical traction of material and wheels. It were insane. The second set of speed wars had come once grav generators and  became common place. No need for friction when physics itself could be used to control a vehicle at high speeds. But even they weren't that fast. 300, 400 kilometers an hour. Computer assisted piloted Rails that sputtered around tracks made so large to accommodate the increased speeds.


And then the third wave of the speeds wars. The ones that had shut it all down, the one the committee decided were to dangerous, so everything had been turned off, slapped with a governor if it were real. The only racers, the only pilots now, in VR. The third wave had been the Thunder Rails. Engines, power units kicking out thousands of horse power. Capable of speeds upwards of 800, 900 kilometers an hour. Strengthened bodies, frames, coupled with the inertia dampeners to make them possible to ride. Even then, even with the safety, with the dampeners and the safety suits the bubbles. Death were present. Always, waiting around the corner, lurking in the depths of the engines, in the coils of a failing grav stabilizer.


The GX 87... that had been the last, that had been the beast that slay them all, pranced onto the field of battle from all those in the speed wars, all those companies and manufacturers trying to out do each other with insane machines. That had been the beast that actually did it. The last of the Thunder Rails. The one they all wanted to copy. Jealous itching hands put aside though, put away from work, from ever beating it. No one ever would have... not with that engine. Not without something more.


They had the sound right, that was at least one thing, from the videos she'd seen she knew that, the old races the whining rumbling in the distance before as they powered past in close proximity with a beating roar. You could feel it pounding in your chest apparently, a great thump at the heart like an echo in time. A grievous punch in the gut before with a dithering wallow away the rails would charge into the distance, before in a few seconds following the sonic boom would catch them up. A great crack in nothing but air pressure.


The noise they made given the power source was not surprising. Even with the engines being atomically sealed still out leaked that rumbling. Even at idle they beat a hole into anyone listening.


Cara leaning forward getting closer to the speakers so he could take it it in all its glory, the parade lap done. On the starting grid they lined up ready and rearing to plunge accelerators deep int the red lines. That something she hadn't really thought of before, so much of this carried on from those first vehicles. Chain driven, they even needed to be refueled to keep going. Thunder rails didn't have a red line. They only had a power curve so they could be slowed and controlled on corners. So physical pieces didn't fly off from the stresses of going from 0 to 900 all in the space of an instant.


Some of them didn't, they'd used to do that, take the power units slot them into aerial drones then drag race them with ai pilots. Speed were speed. It were exhilarating. But in a straight line. In a plain old raw display of power they were little room for pilot skill. A machine could always do better, quicker.


“And heeeere we wait for the emerald green of the lights kids, ready ready ready... GOOOO!” The announcer beat out, in perfect computer controlled timing with the lights. He weren't real, a simulation, vocoded and programmed with nearly infinite lines of dialogue. Either way with his beating computerized voice, there came the green, eager virtual bodies clung to throttling virtual rails dipping as front ends lifted under the power curve, raising from bustling inches along the track surface to the feet they sat at whilst moving.


With a grunting rumble, off they went, ripping up to speed along the open track. It were thunder, enclosed in the power unit, rumbling and wallowing. The glowing arching flows of the exhaust trails flowing out, behind each rail. Water mist colored by the glowing hum of the grav stabilizers. That one problem the VR races had fixed. In the olden days... old... in the physical races. Being front of the pack was obviously the place to be, not just because it meant you were winning. But being behind put you into the spray, into the wash of the exhaust mist from all those in front. A fine line in between the perfect draft, and getting a visor full of water spray at 900 kilometers an hour. In VR though. It were all just effects, graphical flair for the viewers at home. Slip stream calculated by computer, drafting in behind a competitor could be done in definitely without your face being filled with engine fresh water.


With the tap of a few buttons Cara changed camera controls, flicking up to the over head drone. The grandstand from beneath their seat gone, now just fresh air and whizzing wind as the pack cam took over. A bustling array of rails dodging and weaving along the track below to get that slight advantage and track position.


“Erh... this camera gives me motion sickness” Wren complained. Hiding her eyes for the moments.


“No it doesn't you're just scared of heights” Cara reminded her. Apparently she often confused the two things.


“I am not” Wren most definitely lying.


“Who are we going for?” Wren asked after the pause her eyes now back to being open, always after a few seconds the fear dying down to just a hum in the back ground.


“Red one” Cara pointing down the the Rail floating about the middle of the pack folding in behind several different Rails as the corner came up. A long winding right flowing down in the lip of a hill before rising to spit them out on another long straight.


“Whose the pilot?” Wren taking more of an interest than normal. Usually by now she were asking if there was anything else on.


“Max Holbrook” Cara's answer.


“Ohhh, a boy” Wren giggling like it mattered. Poking at her friend because she knew it annoyed her.


“Do you mind?” Cara replied.


“Do you love him?” Wren leaning in to ask the question, so close Cara wore her breath.


“He's an ordinary pilot, but he's got good taste in models” Cara answering seriously, no matter how childish the question.


“Why, whose ho going out with?” Wren back to serious as well, misreading the words Cara had used.


“No... the Rail model. I'm his girlfriend is hot shit too though” Cara correcting her friends misguided journey.


“Whats he look like, we could decide what he deserves right now” Wren announced leaning forward poking the image of the pilot and rail dancing about along the moving track beneath. Speeding trough the corner, off to the side up popped the pilots bio, a floating picture and information about the youngish looking pilot.


“Oh... he's alright... I guess” Wren passing her judgement over the young man. Still lounging like a feline on the couch, waiting to be impressed by the entertainment in front of her.


“He should shave though” Wren still rambling as Cara just watched on, tuning out her friends words and comments on the attractiveness of the pilots. Man or woman.


“So why is his model choice good. Is that the one in your little... tatt...oo” Wren leading into her next question, already knowing the answer. Even as a layman she could recognize the Rail in question. She'd seen it enough to at least. Her phrasing done well in the knowledge it annoyed the shit out of Cara. Emphasizing just the right syllables to turn it expertly into the pointed dagger she wanted. The smile on her face one of pride and glee as Cara glared at the young women to her side.


“You know it is” Cara replied huffing along thoroughly sick of it all.


“Why that one though... why is it special?” Just the edge of that teasing tone left in the question, some genuine curiosity linger as well in the query.


“You really want to know?” Cara dragging her attention away from the race for he first time, staring at the face staring back with a somewhat eager interest.


“Sure, why not...” Wren smiled. Figuring she might as well find out.


“Because it was fast” Cara started.


“Ok” Wren taking that as the whole explanation turning back to watching the race she wasn't really watching at all.


“But it wasn't just fast...” Cara carrying on anyway. If Wren had asked, then she was going to tell, whether the annoying little slag wanted to hear it or not.


“It could also turn?” Wren finishing the sentence as she imagined it. Quite accurately it would seem as Cara was silent a good few moments longer.


It had been the rest of the sentence, but not stated with that sarcastic tone.


It could turn quicker, sharper and keep more speed because the the way they configured the grav stabilizers. The GX 87 is why they had to reinforce the track surfaces...” Cara explained turning back to the race, now she'd gotten that out. It seemed the end point as now Wren were back to quietly watching. A minute or so passing of the announcer screaming, the Rails hooning along in rumbling waves of sonic pleasure. Before the next question popped up.


“Ok I'll bite, why did they have to reinforce the tracks they don't even sit on the surface?” Wren using her brain for this question, the logic were sound. It were almost a good question Cara smiled to herself.


“Before the GX 87... no one cycled extra power through the grav stabilizers, they shifted re-positioned to stabilize of course, help the pilot turn through the corners. But what he GX did, was cycle more power through them, they boosted to the stabilizers on the outside of the corner. Meaning you could carry more speed because you drifted out less. That extra power though actually cut into the tracks. In the end they were forcing so much energy in through the stabilizers they were getting stuff like this.” Cara explained pulling down the drop window in front of her, a virtual folder floating in the air. Picking out the file she wanted to play to Wren.


Archaic footage, only in 18,000i resolution, of a Rail in question. The GX 87 powering around a track in a time trial. Washing great swathes of track surface up from the ground as the grav stabilizers pushed raw exhaust energy out. Curling around a corner, a flying rooster tail of dirt water and track surface beating out into the air as the crowd roared with excitement.


“They revolutionized the Thunder Rails. And then everyone copied them. Never did it as well though” Cara explained, it all made sense to her.


“Why would they drift though?” Wren asked, that actually a better question. This kind of becoming the best night In Cara had for a while, getting to talk mess about what she wanted to, with someone that was at least pretending to be interested. Wren was a good friend. Not everyone would have done that. Hell even Cara didn't do that too often for what Wren wanted to talk about.


“There's no friction. Well not enough, grav stabilizers will do some. But because of Rail length. And natural arc to a corner you used to always float out to the edge by the end. Actually back, in the olden days, old old ones.” Cara sifting through the folder again going back to really old footage. This in still in the four digits for image resolution. Pulled up the video of the motorbikes she were after.


“They had the right idea, grip, friction to hold you stable. Tires. Rubber to stick you in place on the road.” Cara turning to her friend to see the reaction, unsure if she would have ever seen a motorbike in action, to hear the whirring whine of the engine and clank of the chain as it slacked off. Wren were quiet, still just watching on closely as the leather clad riders clung tight to a machine that were going so slow compared to what they watched now, or even just before.


“Of course rubber only lasted so long, once the engines were too powerful they just stripped the surfaces straight from the ti...” Cara got through before Wren finally announced what was on her mind.


“Holy shit this resolution... what the hell was wrong with people back then... its so ugly” Wren looking up from the screen a twisted face in disgust at the picture quality she were seeing.


“Ok... yep, great... that's what you should be taking from this, that video capture back then sucked compared to now” Cara shaking her head.


“Oh no, its fascinating it really is... I just forget how cruddy everything used to be” Wren dismissing the entirety of humanities technological development with one word.


“Crummy” Cara repeating it. Still with a shaking head.


“Yeah... but not you little Rail. That ones nice” Wren giving her that at least, a churlish smile added to show she were serious. Cara only adding more shakes. She's have slapped her if they weren't friends. She might even still. The GX were anything but little.


It were a beast. Truly of speed and nimble agile flair, without a prancing set of feet, but a tearing roaring undercarriage that could rip the track surface from the earth. Both went back to watching, Wren sinking lower and lower in her seat as the quiet rumbling of the Rails rolled through the speakers, like usual lulling her into a comfortable state of half sleep. Only the rising cheers from the crowd keeping her conscious at all. Powering on, so would come the complex second sector of the track. All of them split into three often distinct sections. Some tracks all straights and long winding corners, others tight and claustrophobic affairs. As claustrophobic and 100's of kilometer long tracks could be.


This one though, the Mausser ring. Located continents away, the other side of the world, a mixture of both, the first sector nothing really but two corners and three straights. Winding curving arcs cut into the hills before a close knit section of corners in the second sector.


“Is Max going to win?” Wren asked, actually remembering a detail from before, still awake she raised her head after a reasonably loud reaction from the computerized crowd.


“Probably not... he should, but probably not” Cara replied, confident of the fact.


“Why not” Wren asked, eyes floating away from the action for a while.


“He over cooks corners, gets too greedy in breaking zones...” Cara very matter of factly stated. That were Max Holbrooks problem. He were greedy, impatient. Wanted to take the first opportunity when they was like always a better one to take on the next corner.


“But he should win? Why?” Wren snuggling down again looking to be giving up on watching and just letting the drowsiness, and the flowing rumbles of the engine lull her brain into sleep like a distant thunderstorm would.


“GX 87” Cara replied. That was all the answer she felt she needed to give. But given the current company probably should have explained further.


“Because its good in corners?” Wren inquired, remembering well the fact delivered only moments ago.




“So why doesn't everyone use it?” Wren rolling her head back and forth on the couch looking for the most comfortable plae to rest.


“Because they're all identical in VR races” Cara explained, the disappointment communicated thoroughly in her words.


“But you just like the pretty one” Wren pointed out, doing what she normally did of being annoying for her own amusement. Cara leaving that alone. She didn't need to answer. She knew why she liked, why she loved the GX. In many ways the finest piece of engineering and technical knowledge ever created.


Some might have put that on prosthetic limbs. Spinal implants and such... but they didn't let you go fast... she didn't need to justify it, not even to herself, hell her dad felt the same way, and he had a prosthetic arm. As smooth and usable as any one of flesh could ever be, in fact probably more usable, he was thoroughly ambidextrous now with the right firmware installed.


Max were still hanging in the mid pack ducking in behind different riders taking the corners far better than he was, corners, given the Rail he were pretending to ride should have been able to take at far higher speeds. Cara had to concede one thing though, he used what he had, a fine sense of tailing, drafting in behind the racers ahead, keeping him in the mid pack when his skills dictated maybe further back was were Max Holbrook belonged.


“Why didn't you ever do this?” Wren inquired, eyes firmly closed. A very short time away from snuggling in next to her friend, looking for an arm to curl under like the cat she were imitating.


“It's not real...” Cara answered. Sure of that. It made all the sense in the world to her. The enjoyment there, was the danger, the thrill, the wind whipping past, two millimeters outside the inertia field keeping you only just safe. That fact that if you ran off the track in VR you'd just reset, plonked back into the center of the track with all your collision turned off till you were back at speed.


“You don't want to do this because you can't die?” Wren looking up, backing away from her friend to get a proper perspective of the person next to her. This conversation edging towards something darker than they'd ever talked about before.


“No...” Cara said... Cara lied? Was that a lie. Cara didn't want to die... that meant she couldn't have raced anymore... among other things. She wasn't afraid, but that's were the the thrill came from. Without the danger it were just, safe, plain. A simulation of adrenaline instead of the actual thing. What was the point if you weren't afraid, if outside of that very bare, and ever so tenuous grip on safety you had, danger didn't lurk.


There was no death in VR races, no crashing, no consequence for pushing the limits to the edge of the control you had. Maybe she were looking at it the wrong way. It wasn't good that pilots used to crash all the time. That when they did bodies were hardly ever found intact before bubble suits and all the safety precautions.


But the reward for pushing hard, were those few seconds you gained when all those that tried to push harder lost it, trailed out to the outskirts of the track, planted into the walls of the track. The reward was knowing you did it better than them by our little time you spent in the hospital... or grave. No pilots quite being as good to come back from that though.


“There just needs to be something more, some punishment, some danger... The limit isn't the limit when its not real, when if you do step over it you can just be dropped back into the the middle of the track, and hope you can catch up” Cara explained. This something she'd put quite some thought into.


“I still don't get it” Wren sighing aloud.


“Well look at it this way, you're annoying right... right” Cara started. Turning to her friend next to her. The response and rather well considered glare.


“Yes, you are... but you enjoy being annoying up to the point it gets you punched in the face” Cara added as if all this made perfect sense. Wrens reaction to still just stare through narrow slotted eyes, the smallest of lingering scowls edging over her lips.


“You dance the line. You push it right up till the limit hold back just that slightest amount till you tip over and bam. That's the enjoyment in being the annoying shit you are, right?” Cara asked. Still nothing but the glare returned, a silence bar the huffing breaths.


“Right Wrenny?” Cara poking, prodding, right now she the one enjoying that line of annoyance right before physical violence.


“Hmmm... alright.” Wren finally conceding on the point. That she understood maybe not that she were annoying. Not outside of what was garrulously charming.


Cara smiling to herself. Maybe she were over thinking it, putting to much into the ride along the edge, that she perceived that bit to the be the exciting part. But she couldn't not. That was what it had been told to be all her life. And now, here in this apartment, in this district, in this city. The edge seemed to far away. Everything so perfect and safe that reaching it would be impossible.


Whenever Cara did load up the VR and plot herself down on a track, she were fast, as fast as any of the racers there were watching now. But the excitement always seemed to peter out. Fade away after a few laps. All of it missing from from her chest, from her gut, from the wrenching hands, that should be white knuckled and clasped around the steering arms and throttle of a Rail.


She wanted the edge. The curling winding line between control and danger. VR could never do that.


Max were sticking with them, it were mildly impressive. Hanging mid pack slowly moving forward, maybe he were actually getting better. Hunkering in down behind the pilot in front around a tight left hander. That was good that was the right line, stick in close on that corner then swing wide before the next, cut in and get on the gas quicker. Then there was all that more straight to take. And the pilot you'd passed could never catch up.


Cara switched cameras, sliding it down to the pilots view, Max's head swiveling about in the false inertia field, the blue hue bathing the instruments. Cara leaning forward holding her hands down were the controls of her own rail would be. The speeding scenery smashing past at a speed it were just a simple blur of color. In the wash of the rider in front, coming the corner quickly. To take it safely, even being behind you had to brake first, lighter, but first, ride the handle into the corner, follow on out. Use the hole punched in the air by the pilot in front to keep speed, keep the engine revs high. Max doing it near perfectly. Front aero fairings pushing in close the the other pilots back end. Round that left. The Rail wanting to kick out under power, but he balanced it well, the shock through the camera of the grav stabilizers beating waves into the ground holding that wanted line.


Cara leaning down just that little more. As Max let loose the clutch, a hold over from hold engines, but a good way to control the power output. So did she, pretending at least. He swung wide, out of the slipstream, curving out to the outside of the track. While the pilot he'd followed, chose their own path.


Max reaching his apex before all those in front of him, turning straight.


Cara smiling slightly as she dropped the clutch. Rocking back in the couch as the camera jolted from the inertia simulation kicked in. Wanting to buck and rip from under the pilot, there that representation of the GX took off. With a cracking rumble from deep within the power unit it blasted the Rail forward, screaming past those few riders on the other racing line. Down he went, Max squeezing into the inertia field as it shrunk and pushed his body down into the saddle, the helmet view of the action an enclosed little window of action, the blur of the surrounds, the disappearing riders falling behind as he had so much more speed.


Cara raising her hand to give him a little clap of approval, that one of the better passing maneuvers she could remember him pulling for a while, as textbook as it was. He had a short run up to the next corner, where, just like Cara had promised, Max over cooked it, sliding in too fast ruining all his good work on the previous. Cara's clapping hands going from quietly slapping together to raise in the air in unpleasant, but expected surprise. Before being folded back into one another. A trailing stream of Rails piling past Max as he wound off the track into the run off area. Slowing enough to curve around and not lose too much time finding his way back on.


“Back of the pack” Wren noticed lifting her eyelids for a moment hearing the commotion of the announcer. Unsurprised her friend, and her predictions had been thoroughly correct. They were every other race, so why would it change now.


“Back of the pack Max” Cara nodded. Not that she was happy about it. But being right, was being right. He slid back in line some way behind where those that were actually competitive were racing. The biggest thing that annoyed Cara about it was how wrong it all felt. Sure it were just pixels, Virtual race craft, identical to one another. But the GX didn't deserve that. A sullied memory by a ordinary pilot who couldn't manage a corner to save his life.


The race went on, as did Wrens descent into the rapturous sleep of boredom. Cara looking on at the dozing young lady as the final few laps ticked over. Max and his Rail slipping further back in the pack, more corners over shot. More pilots handling the curves better than he ever could. It made it annoying to barrack for him, as much as she were only doing so because of the Rail he were pretending to ride.


Maybe Wren were right, she should drop all that stuff about it not being real, she were as good a pilot as half of those whizzing around the tracks at simulated speeds, let alone Max Holbrook. Cara had beaten every record he in particular had set by more than seconds... she'd just never made those records public, never uploaded them to the server to brag and push into the faces of all the rest. The GX deserved better. But then there she came back to her thoughts, the GX deserved to be real. Deserved to be ridden around a real track.


“Ehhh” The murmur shooting up from the sleeping Wren, snuggled down like predicted under Cara's arm. She didn't care about racing, never had, never would likely, but she were always there, always willing to indulge her friends passion, it were nice... more than that. Cara beginning to wonder if she deserved this dozing chum to begin with. In the good sense of course, as much as she could be grating, with the questions, the assumptions, the disinterest. Wren were always there. It was more than Cara could say about herself most times.


“Time?” Cara asked, the question beating out into the room, before like automatic the answer came background


Displayed on the wall in giant digital numerals the answer to the question. 10:34 pm. Pulsing a few times before disappeared again back into the pale background till the question was asked again.


“Ugh...” Cara sighed, t wasn't early. But it wasn't late, within half an hour they could be at a bar in Alpine district getting some drinks. If that same half an hour had of passed before she checked the time, she could have convinced herself out of it. But no though... no. too late for that, too early by the closer description. Pushing Wren off her, getting to her feet Cara clapped her hands a few times, waking the sleeping layabout on the couch.


“It's over... how much did he lose by?” Wren barked sitting up forcing her eyes open.


“Thirtieth of fifty, come on, we'll go out somewhere” Cara held in stasis , ready, almost hoping for Wren to say no, it were too late now. But like she'd been shot full of stimulants, the sleepy little lady perked up immediately, just like she'd been waiting for this all along.


“Yay...” Hands clapping in front of her face.


“Change bitch, I'm not being seen with someone in overalls” She announced in exactly the same chipper voice. Pointing to the depths of Cara's apartment, the order thrown out so casually it almost wasn't taken seriously.


“Go, now... do it” Wren enforced moments later, Cara with a roll of her eyes vanishing for the moments it took to change reappearing in clothes far more casual, yet still not likely to meet the standards Wren had laid down.


“Oh... well I guess you don't have much else” Wren frowned. Once Cara re-emerged.


“I can change my mind if you like” Cara threatened.


“Well you'll still be dressed poorly, that won't change anything” Wren replied getting form the couch, fiddling with the lay of Cara's jacket, teasing out her hair a little like she were her daughter or own personalized little doll. Cara dodging her head around fending off the advancing 'fixes' from her friend, pushing her out the door all the while. Once they were moving she'd usually give up.


Even to the elevator she were still trying, attempting to put in the last changes she felt were needed. Wren were just lucky Cara even had casual clothes of some standards. And not just those work overalls. There was even less one could do to them to fix any perceived problems.


“And you're trying to tell me you're not an annoying shit” Cara thrusting her hands up one final time in the elevator to say enough. One lasting motion to fight off the attack, no matter how good natured it was.


“Fine... Where are we going” Wren giving up but remaining chipper.


“Alpine... right?” Cara asked, as little effort as it really was to go further, she could be bothered. And everything at that commercial district was as good as any other.


“Yeah” Wren leaning on the hand rail as they rode down, a beat to her voice now she'd gotten what she wanted. Even Cara didn't seem to mind being outside now she actually were. A drink might be nice.


Wandering along the walkways up to the train station. The wait never long, ten minutes at most as they ran twenty four hours a day, every day of the year. With no drivers, why not, they'd never break, never be late, outside that two minute allowance, and even then that hardly ever happened.


Back to the platform, the opposite side to the one she'd been on only hours before. Still the same set of advertisements playing, wandering past, the chipper little harpy of the salesperson beaming back to life. Following along to two walking young ladies.


“You need healthy skin, healthy skin needs you, don't delay...” The words being ignored thoroughly by Cara. Wren however leaning in, getting close to her face.


“Maybe you should be listening to this” She had the nerve to suggest, even if joking.


“Cancel” Cara glared, both at the advertisement now flicking off, and her little friend. You could always turn them off, that were a rule, mandated law, a simple command of cancel and they all had to stop. Not everyone did, that's why they still existed. Something about white noise. Someone had probably done a study on it. Sometimes Cara thought she were the only one that bothered turning them off. It were always shit about skin care, beauty products. All the things the the advertisers assumed she were interested in because the bio metric scanners read her body and found out she were female.


They didn't even have to wait, as they wandered up ramp to the platform the waiting train were right there, sitting ready as if this little journey were fabled to continue, stepping aboard the nearly empty carriage they found a seat. Cara leaving her little ritual to when she was alone. Besides Wren were talking, and she usually liked to be doing it at someone so she didn't look like a crazy person. Cara tuning back in once she heard her name mentioned a few times, obviously something being addressed directly to her.


“What?” Cara asked, showing no shame she'd been in her own little world for a moment.


“No its okay, I don't mind being ignored” Wren going silent for a moment, clearly lying.


“Alright then” Cara nodded turning back away. She could pretend as good as anyone.


Both just pretending for a few good moments before Wren finally got sick of it. Of the two she the one that always capitulated before the other.


“How do they work?” The question asked obviously for a second time, but still not clear what she were actually asking about.


“How do what work?” Cara replied. With Wren it could have been anything, whether the question was serious or not.


“The cloud cans... I mean, they're on everything right, the trains, power stations. He Rails as well right?” Wren making it clear. Cara giving her the slightest of glances just to check if she actually wanted to know. He look on her face suggesting no sarcasm lurked quite yet with the request.


“Yeah, of different sizes and outputs... but yeah. Cloud cans power everything nowadays” Cara replied. Cloud cans the very layman, general term for the power units connected to just about everything. If they didn't have one, then they used a battery that were charged from one.


“Didn't you learn about this in school?” Cara asked, it were true everyone did, or were at least supposed to, it were quite common science. But as with everything only those that cared continued to remember. Knowledge was soon forgotten when it was just there. Like magic on came the lights when you wanted. You apartment was cooled to exactly the right temperature. The trains cruised along at speeds blurring to the eye without ever losing power even for a minute.


It were so free, so present and persistent, that no one really cared.


“It's not an actual cloud though is it?” Wren asked, head resting on the back of the rain seat, the carriage along with the rest pulling away, flying along the tracks towards Alpine district.


“No... Well, kind of yes. It's actually two clouds, super densely compacted into the two different chambers of the unit” Cara explained, all this fairly basic to her, it was what she did. Her job was to fix and install power units.


“So the Rails sound like that because there's actually a storm inside the engine?” Wren asked


“Power unit” Cara offering the correction.




“Saying its a storm is kind of simple, but yeah it is. Thunder Rails were called that because they ran off the power of lightning. Like everything else. They just, kinda for still removed the sound baffling, let the rumble through.” Cara went on.


“Isn't that dangerous?” Wren guessing.


“The first ones were?”


“So there's a cloud inside them?” Wren turning back a few pages inviting a more thorough explanation.


“Alright, the intake takes in hydrogen and oxygen. And makes water. Couples the two hydrogen particles to an oxygen in the intake chamber. Then turns that into a gas, a cloud, siphoning half to each side of the power unit chamber. Agitating the two sides so they're electrostatically charged. Because both sides are super densely packed. Like your head” Cara slotting in an insult just because she felt it were warranted.


“That would actually mean there's a lot in there, that's a compliment” Wren butted in just to water down any insult Cara thought she were giving.


“Because both sides are super densely packed, you get a big charge. A lightning bolt, a near constant one. That feeds through the leaf filter. Its really the one part of the power unit that wars out. Which feed out into the transformer, which feeds to the grav stabilizers and the propulsion systems.” Cara spoke, enjoying herself clearly, not often did she get to explain this, not matter how many times she had to Wren. But it were always enjoyable, and something more stuck each time.


“That's why the exhaust is water. Its rain basically... its gotta filter out somewhere apart from keeping the unit cool. It's an Inter cloud discharge... can you remember that?” Cara asked pleasing poking at her bored looking pal.


“What, sorry I was being bored to death.” Wren widening her eyes.


“So what do you do with them?” Her next question.


“Honesty it's changing leaf filters most of the time. The membrane that sits in the middle between the to ends, in the lighting bolt. Absorbs the power. It cooks, even though its made from silicone, slowly hardens and loses absorbancy.” Cara putting through her job description. Plain, boring most of the time, but there was a simple pleasure to the monotony.


The wonders of the cloud can, saved the word from ending. At least humanity. Incapable of having less, finally inventing a way of having all that, just not having it cost anything.



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Chapter 2

Thank god it were the weekend because that short few set of hours out turned into something more, Saturday and Sunday disappearing into a wallowing hovel on inactivity trapped inside the dark confines of an apartment. Only the noise of the playing oceanscape quietly bustling on in the background as Cara plodded around the apartment in the blue tinged projection, the VR fish and creatures milling around zipping in and out of coral reefs as sh e floated under water in the most false of places.


A pleasure though, a pounding head, a gurgling sick feeling creeping up in her throat when she dared eat anything the first day. No doubt that shit lord friend f hers were feeling fine, chipper and alive beating around her place. But maybe since she hadn't heard sight nor sound that was a lie. Wren couldn't be handling this better than she was.


Alcohol were bad. They should have gone to the synthetic stuff, but then again that line called, that dangerous place between safety and danger. To ride along it with the real genuine product, risking all that frivolity and joy in the moment with the mountainous risk of the next days hangover. This was one time when the bounds of safety had been stepped over. Well and truly.


Synthetic booze wasn't that same, it had no risk, but also not really much of a kick. It were watery, light, had no taste. But given it were safer, maybe they should have been drinking it instead. Too late now at least to think that. Friday night edged into Saturday morning, slowly into Sunday afternoon somehow without much happening. Only really the virtual fish of Cara's ocean relaxation program moving about. Golden colorful little things flitting about in the rocks. Not a predator or ice cube to be seen.


Then it were Monday morning, like a flash Cara were standing on the train platform, waiting those short few moments to catch her usual carriage into work. The mixture of same people milling about. All ones she recognized, but never talked too. A few lingering pangs still lurking about but most by now having disappeared into the murky memories of the weekend. The chiming ring of the bells signalling the arrival of her day, the train rolling in seconds later, held in stasis till it were full. Paused minutes before the doors hissed shut, clamping down tight the train speeding off.


Hyde manufacturing district. Loading off the train, near empty by now, it were on the outskirts of her mandated travel limits. Literally a few hundred more meters and she would have been moved to a closer residential district. But there she were, ready for another day, wandering down along the side walks till she arrived at work.


Cara where an engineer. In older times she would have been called a mechanic. But things had gotten far more complex yet strangely simpler as well. It were a power unit not an engine. And most of the time what went wrong with each took very little effort or knowledge to fix. It were a great use of four years of school replacing leaf filters in transport power units. But that's what she did, there was little use complaining now, when she could just go back to school and learn something new.


That thought would have made her shudder, if she'd ever thought it. Luckily Cara were committed to this life, simple and mechanical, splitting power units down the seam. Pulling them apart replacing that delicate yet strong leaf filter then closing them back up with an expert care.


Quite often menial, but on a Monday after a weekend of raucous activity. Menial went down just right.


Slinging her tools up onto the bench she leaned against the surface waiting for orders. It had been quiet lately, that were usually the case, something about the certain seasons effecting the wear and tear on the leaf filters. Always the case in the colder months work picked up, now just after the change in seasons it were starting to slow down. Shuffling about in the back of the workshop the noise of her boss. Grunting and complaining as he shifted about. Going over shelves and stock like he were looking for something.


“Hey Gordo... we starting or what?” Cara shouted over the top of his mumbling tirade. The stout fellow wandering out form the back unaware as always he had company.


“Oh. You here... go on start you don't need my permission” Gordon replied, shaking away any need for her to be formerly told to get to work.


Cara liked to wait, she could squeeze a good half an hour, maybe even a full one out at the start of the day if she waited around quiet enough. There seemed little point today though, if the work were done she could just go home early, so why wait around. Looking down through the data pad picking out the oldest listing, wandering over to the lift jack taking it off the rack, even this had a power unit on it. A trolley with a raising platform, powered by the smallest of units tucked into the inner workings. Scooting it along just like no one were meant to, she used it as a skate board, tracing into the warehouse to pick out the unit to work on, dragging it back with little effort to the work bench. The unit being hoisted effortlessly up onto the bench.


The lift jack slid away to the corner to endlessly hover like it had for years now. Cara pulling the first tool she needed slipping the release on the top chamber of the cloud can, a hiss of water vapor spraying out as the pressurized gas shot from the release. A good minute of so as out the warehouse door the spray shot, wetting down the pavement with each launching spray, the second chamber given the same treatment once the first was done.


Opening a can without venting the chambers were the best way to cook yourself in you own skin. The colorful warning signs plastered all over the walls warning of that. Engendered silhouettes, and great swathes of pictographical lightning in collages of dangerous scenarios all over the walls. It was kind of a collection, Gordon liked them. One sign was really enough, and they all pointed to exactly the same thing, but each time a new one came out, he'd add it too the wall.


Men and women of the simplest descriptions being shocked into oblivion. Cara couldn't fault him they did seem to have a certain flair.


With the clouds vented, she began splitting the unit down the middle. Cracking open the rounded piece like an egg. Two perfectly machine formed halves folding down in the cradling clamps on the bench. That were a smell. Of burning ozone, intoxicating and thick, noxious almost it were so glorious, the encased inner of the unit looking fine though a thick coating keeping the outer from being touched by the arching beams of plasma while the unit were active. Sitting on the bottom half, the bluish tinted leaf filter, where new they were malleable, soft to the touch, would bend and wrap around a finger should you want. This were hardening, crunchy almost. Cooked from a year or two of use.


Blazing hot flashes of lightning whipping through it. Trailing down from the blistering warped center. The filter connected to the outlet for the energy to flow to the transformer. Unclasping the simple ties holding it in place Cara levered off the old filter, some of the more cooked crunchy parts sticking to the housing. The laborious boring part coming now, cleaning them off, scrapping and polishing the remains away so the new filter would fit snugly into place. Gordon still behind her in the stock room going out his whining, flustering about like the world were wrong when he'd likely just misplaced his tablet.


The two sides of the unit scrapped clean, even given a wash in the particle cleaner, they rested back in the cradles on the bench. Cara fussing over the new leaf filer, sliding it in to sit just right, clamping it down in the holes, slathering the fixture points in thermal paste, then the surface of the filter. Letting it sit a moment for the paste to coagulate before closing up the unit. The twist of the unit into place, atomically forged threads and pin holes keeping it snug. A lathe of the most exacting measurements building the units shell to the most perfect standards. Ensuring not even a spark escaped. Then that were done. Just the first of many to do that day, even if it were a slow month for the work. Lifting it back off the table, sliding it back to be picked up, moving onto the next one in the line, the exact same procedure to be down. Maybe if Cara were lucky the filter wouldn't stick, that was the extent of a good day at work most of the time.


The day did not prove good, stuck filers, leafs as crunchy as autumn discharge from the trees. Discarded and pulped grind done to a paste to be recombined and recycled into new leafs fresh for use in power units again. The technology had almost been perfected. Soon maybe they wouldn't even need to be replaced, they'd just run forever. Under a constant barrage of the lightning flowing through. It were hard to tell which was the more ingenious part of the science, the filter or the can itself. Figuring how to make lightning, how to have it at a constant feverish buzz to over power almost everything in the world with clean unending power, or the way it was captured. Fed from its source out into the world.


Cara forced into a ritualized production line of cracking the casing open prying off what she could then pushing the unit through the cleaner, as boring, as workman like day as she could imagine plodding through memory. Music blaring through eardrums, beating into her head to make the day pass quicker. Just waiting for that end of siren, or her boss to tell her to piss off back home. They'd done everything for the day.


Suddenly she felt a tap on her shoulder. Pulsing waves of music coursing into her head keeping all sound and distraction clear. Gordon like a lead footed ninja wandering up behind her to get her attention. Speaking a few times but having to break personal space to get her attention, because of the volume.


“You'll go deaf” Gordo assured her as soon as the ear phones were removed.


“Yes mum” Cara replied nodding along. The usual reply to this conversation. Dismissing all advice no matter how well the intentions from someone older than her.


“Look I gotta go, got an appointment to get to” Gordon announced wanting to leave pretty quickly obviously, maybe he'd been talking to her for quite some time before realizing she couldn't hear him.


“You going to a strip club?” Cara asked, intently looking at her boss, the far older man staring back. Thhat was the usual question she asked whenever he disappeared early, but still the reaction she got each time was just as shocked and appalled as always. A constant way to lighten her day at the end of a rough boring one.


“No... I have an appointment. I need to go now, remember to lock up before you leave... if you have any time too, finish up the inventory of the warehouse. There's only few things left.” Gordon now ordered instead of asked, annoyed, pissy, even about Cara's question.


“Alright... TIP YOUR DANCERS WELL” Cara agreed, then yelled after him as he was wandering out the door. Th momentary halt in his footsteps telling her held heard. Her little jab was successful. But he didn't stop long, knowing any type of return would only invite more.


Then she were alone, hovering around the warehouse without much to do. All the power units cleaned, Cara wandered to the door of the stock room looking in, stock take were even more boring than what she normally did. But having just annoyed Gordo to some amount she did kind of owe him to finish off what small amount was left. Plodding down a list checking off units to serial numbers, making sure any extras would be returned to the transport commission.


That was the thing, with the transport network, with the only personalized transports being handled, licensed out by the transport commission. All power units belonged to them, to the world committee. They were controlled in strict order and supply to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. Each cloud can had a serial number, each one registered and tagged in at every place they visited to keep exacting coverage of every single unit.


Down the line she went, Cara noting off each number, the extra's they had in stock in case a unit ever somehow failed, though one hadn't for a long time, having the extra's though was always mandated. A monthly stock take assigned to every place that handled them just to make sure nothing ever went missing from the spares.


Cara checking and rechecking each number to be sure a mistake could be quite costly to Gordo should she make one. Sat in the back tablet in hand plowing through the data slowly finally when she were done, so was the work day... almost. One more step and Cara would've been out the door, wandering to the train station to go home. Sit in her apartment waiting for the chime to ring with Wren wanting to be let in like a stray cat.


That niggling little bite at her head telling her to turn, she were forgetting something, seeing it, but not registering the exactly just what it was. Turning around. She'd been sitting on it. The boxed Power unit. Sitting beneath her, a rock in the desert, why would she notice just one more unit in a warehouse full of them. Back across the floor to pick up the tablet flicking through the stock list, she'd just done she knew she had, all of them accounted for. But that one, that seat of hers, finding the serial number on the box, flicking down through the list... that unit, was extra.


It was a chill at first, a coiling spring in her gut quelled by common sense and patience. Extras came all the time, delivered by accident, it was merely a case of informing the commission and they'd pick it up, or assign it to you anyway. The box looked new, pristine almost, a crate sitting in the middle of the floor.


Cara picking up the tablet, about to open a link to the commission when she stopped. Halted by that spring in her gut. Held by a moment of excitement and possibility. Just for the hell of it, just for the sake of curious minded and impossible chance. Cara walked back into the office calling up the data base. A list of all ther power units in circulation, registered every one of them. An exact location to the moment last logged for each. With that serial number in her head, typing it int a dialogue box to search for the home for this wayward unit.


“Hmmmm” A lip bitten at the result, no, it couldn't be right, that couldn't be the case. The stabbing excitement jamming a blade into her being daring her to scream and leap to action.


No... she just mast have remembered the serial number wrong. It had to be the case, walking the first few steps then sprinting the rest, breaking out into energetic panic as she clambered back over the unit and its identification number. Even opening he box to read the exacting numbers emboldened onto the unit itself. Tablet held, hand shaking as she searched again reading off each number exactly, double checking as she went, getting back to the end and pushing search again.






“Come on...” Cara's near silent encouragement. Desperate, sweating, urging with ever fibre of her being for it to be...


Beep, chirped the tablet, the search done.




Opening her eyes slowly, search complete... no entries found.










A shaking hand dropping the tablet to the floor, the data pad rattling to a halt as Cara turned around, like the lightning trapped inside the unit was in her, so energetic and buzzing stepping to the door, of the warehouse, checking all around her for anyone watching, anyone around at all. Maybe it was a joke, a test. Some sort of hidden camera operation to see what would happen.


Shaking, she were shaking. Vibrating with excitement. Plans silent in her head activating like clockwork, plans she never even thought she had. Maybe jokingly made in a dream, some far off fantasy that could never happen, ever... she could never have built her own Rail. It wasn't a possibility... was it?


Was it now... could she build one, by herself. Did she have a power unit. A clean, trace less box of lightning that no one knew existed. Cara couldn't take it... could she. All those words flying around her head as powering through the warehouse she were already grabbing a hold of the lift jack, stumbling excited steps back and forth wondering just what do do with this discovery.


“Just... wait... shit” Cara shouted holding herself still a moment. Leaning on the loft jack catching her breath.


“I can't... I just can't” Cara explaining to herself.


“What if I get caught...”


“But whose gonna catch me” That secondary voice screaming out from the back of her head.


Also something worth considering Cara thought.


“No... no...” Cara back to the other side... Considering in her head all the things she'd need to find as well, all the things she'd need to build, to create a functioning Thunder Rail, to test... using herself as the dummy.


She couldn't just steal a power unit could she. Those the words flowing over and over through her head as she wandered the warehouse looking for a place to hide it. An out of the way corner for it to sit whilst she decided if she really wanted to walk that path.


“I can't... I can't...” Legs cowering together like she were about to wet herself with anticipation. Claiming over and over again out loud, in her head about how she couldn't whilst her body planned otherwise, such was its need to do this. Scooting back and forth on the lift jack her power unit sat on it proudly. Waiting ready like it had a voice and called to be put to work.


“Its illegal... its stealing” She mumbled. Halted for a second finally, stuck in the middle of the floor looking at the crate. Its contents sparkling, shining up through the gap in the box. No it weren't she knew hat they didn't shine. Power units never shone, but by god this one did. Glinted like gold and jewels flickering in the sun. beaming like the rays themselves to glisten all day long.


“I can't steal a power unit...” Cara sighed, her excitement simmering finally, slowing to a halt almost. Her eyes closing deep calming breaths taken, her legs settling into a a normal rhythm.


Conscience... sense, logical thought, whatever it was was a strange thing. Sitting in the pit of Cara's head, waiting for her to stop moving, to stop wandering and fretting to grab her by the ear and lean in with th most devious of logic thoughts in a whisper.


She'd have sworn like hell it were Wrens voice, just that familiar soothing tone and smart arsed nature, ending with a licking little note of humor.


“No, you can't steal it... it doesn't exist” That voice said.


Cara arms locked, clenched tight around the handles of the lift jack... the voice were right... the voice were absolutely right. Trembling in her gut, arms held in the heaviest of locks, feet about ready to leap away.


She couldn't steal it, it weren't real. It were solid, forged of steel and material to the exacting descriptions required. Cara were checking that now, jamming her hands inside the crate, running her hands along the polished surface. Feeling ever inch of the smooth surface. Not a single imperfection to be found by her hands.


It were like it had fallen from the sky, dropped from a cloud itself, a gift from nature. Her very own power unit. Now she just had to use it. It would be a crime, an insult to fortune or whatever slung this into her lap not to right.


“Take it” That voice said, that voice demanded. Greedily smiling in its own little imagination of the thrill of it all.


Had Cara been of somewhat more stable thoughts at the moment maybe she would've thought it stranger her conscience seemed to be only made up of one voice. The envious naughty side ruling over all others. The good law abiding one either too quiet to be heard, or just thought it was a great idea as well.


Maybe it should have been more of a worry that the voice seemed to be Wren. She wasn't even in charge of her own conscience? Or was that just a mechanism to pass blame away from herself. Allowing herself to carry on with what she were doing without too much thought of the trouble she could get into.


But it seemed too late for that. The crate resealed. Clipped shut and held tight. Covering in the packaging tape like a mad man might they're favorite wall with insane scribbling.


Needless almost. Who knew what a power unit crate looked like. But sense had left a while ago, with caution sanity and any chance of backing off this very illegal idea. Cara would take it home. Keep it there till she had a plan, till she knew what to do with it. Whatever that was, sense, cowardice maybe returning at some stage before she'd gotten down the pat of doing something she could truly regret... and love.


That were the thing, building the Rail, would be incredible, exhilarating to a degree she wasn't sure she could contain. But what then, ride it, crash it... that's if she even had the skill or the know how to complete it. What if Cara got halfway done and couldn't figure the rest... or got caught midway through. The failure would be one thing, but having the project taken away from her when she knew she could have finished it. That would've been torture. Excruciating. To see her roaring thunderous baby taken, to be stripped down and destroyed because that's what the committee had ordered. Could she handled that. The jail time...


“Oh... jail” That the first time it had dawned across her that maybe this wasn't a great idea, even whilst her hands still worked the machine wrapping so much packaging around the crate.


But jail were nothing, she could deal with it. Worse would be not finishing. Doing the work, completing it. Or getting close, then not being able to enjoy the fruits of her labors. Not being able to wrap a hand around that accelerator, and feeling the girding power boot her forward.


Doubt, all of them lingering far behind her as the warehouse door slid shut. Standing by the closed opening a moment or two longer considering the path about to come. She must have been hours past work hours inside the warehouse, no outside it were dark, gloomy oer head as if to give some sort of clue as to where she were headed.


The world itself trying to say no, turn back. This is folly.


But folly sounded fun. Folly sounded like finding those out forest tracks out in the wilderness, beating through them at hundreds of kilometers an hour whilst thunderous roars screamed out from under her. Everything said stop. Even that voice had quietened down in her head now she had some distance from the events. Still there. Still yapping away quietly making plans about steering columns and stabilizer rigs, whilst Cara mulled over her life being spent in jail just for indulging in a hobby.


Breathing heavy. Held motionless the lift jack and power unit, hidden in wrapping sitting in front of her. Decision time. Commit. Or be a coward. That was the question she asked herself, keeping it in those harsh terms. She needed to. Or that dream, no matter how much she wanted it might not happen. She couldn't be a coward. She could respect the law, abide by the will of society and the Committee. But she couldn't be a coward, so that's how she phrased it.


Letting the phrase echo about in her head till it bounded to a stop, caught at the front, sitting just behind her eyes.


So which was it?


“Not a fucking coward” Cara beat out into the empty street, pushing off with a doubt back foot. The lift jack pushed along in front of her. The power unit resting on top, hidden under all that packaging, waiting for its new home in her apartment. For at least a bit. She'd need a space, bigger than her apartment, somewhere out of the way, somewhere with power. Somewhere she could build. Where though.


Eyes on a swivel, head darting about as she walked, her suspicion of everyone going into over drive as she walked to the station. Everyone could have been watching her, everyone could have known just what was wrapped in the plastic. It was a trap, a snare set to catch people just like her. The unit specifically sent out to get her in trouble. Gordo must have been in on it.


She'd slap him for that, never for give him for not trusting her. As she walked along the path to the train station breaking the law with every single step. Slowing, almost step after step, the further she got the more years it would be right, that's how the law worked. If she turned around now right it would be alright. Drag the unit back, say sorry and hope all was forgiven. It were quickly edging up on getting too late for that. On the station platform the chirping alarm signifying the next train coming in. Cara held on the near empty platform watching every one else just in case.


Watching them watch her. Why were they staring, where they staring. They knew... they were cops right... if she asked them they had to say right? That was the law. Wasn't it. It was a minute at most till the train came in.


“Make your choice” Cara mumbled to herself. Eyes slinking up to watch those few people lingering around the platform getting from the seats to wander forward as into the station came the train, buzzing down from speeds incredible. Speeds that she could be beating, outdoing well and truly. All she had to do were step forward.


That was it the train right there, the door open, the blinking lights running along the ground of the platform into the openings. Two steps and she'd be inside. Two steps from courage or cowardice, being still was no use. Was the easy way out. Even easier than being that coward. Because bowing out, turning around and taking the power unit back to the warehouse would mean giving up, sacrificing a dream she wanted so badly.


There was the chime, final warning, doors closing in five, four, three, two... one.


Eyes open, hands gripped to the lift jack, sneaking pupils looking up through the slight few windows in the carriages. Curious if now beating down through the train those undercover police might be coming for her. But it was worth it right... to live the dream for the few moments longer.


As the train pulled away, in that last carriage standing in the cargo space, Cara watched, daring not speak, daring not even move. A hiss and bellowing murmur piercing out from under the train as speed was gathered, home edging closer and closer with every single meter. But with that was safety, was the chance at clemency and forgiveness as well as the train powered along the rails.


No one was coming, no one at all, not beating through the doors, not screaming at her with waved batons to get on the ground. No cuffs or restraints in sight, just silence, white noise induced through a dampening field over the power units below forcing the train along.


Was she there... home, or were they just waiting for her at the exit. She'd pile out at her stop and find the platform full of cops waiting to take her in. Wren would be there too, smiling, shaking her head in glee and disbelief, something something to annoy her even more.


The last words she heard before she were dragged away to jail would from her smart mouthed friend, poking her for getting caught. Yeah, that's just what would happen, as the station came closer and closer Cara's hands loosened around the lift jack. Letting it drift from her personal space a moment.


It wasn't hers, it just floated after her... it was already on the train.


How long would those excuses fly. Till the security vision was checked... The vision?!


“Fuck...” Cara huffed, from the warehouse to the station, to right now there was a camera watching her. Not specifically. But they were always watching. The drifting lift jack seen in her hands for a long time before she might have thought she could just say it belonged to someone else.


Maybe it had gathered sentience somehow on its own decided to follow her home like a lost puppy, this were the first example of truly intelligent sustaining AI. And it were in a lift jack in an engineering shop, run by a man called Gordon. No one would swallow that. But she'd try like hell to convince them, every twisting word and turn of phrase used to ever lever the excuse into them or successfully paint herself as insane.


They were the only two answers.


“Shit” Cara sighed head coming down to rest on the lift jacks handles, the full force of her mistake thumping into her gut. The train itself beating into her stomach at full speed with a message of mistakes and dalliances across the line of common sense. They'd be waiting at the next station, at her station. Batons ready, guns even... yes, they'd re invent guns and bullets just to arrest this one young lady because she dared to think she might build something.


But such was the torment in her head, in her heart and gut. Just waiting for that tap on the shoulder. A cop... they'd be standing there right behind her wouldn't they, waiting all this time hearing her thoughts. With the briefest of glances she turned her head, throwing a nervous look over her shoulder, nothing but train, nothing but seat less cargo space for people hauling things home on lift jacks of their own.


“Stupid... they're not coming... no one knows.” Cara beat into her head, demanding she believe it her self with confidence. Forcing it It in, deep breathes taken. Even then they stopped shallow, half filling her lungs with panic and butterflies.


The train chimed, beeping out its intent to stop up ahead. The announced station of Solus Residential coming into view only just.


“Its fine... its fine, no one can see me, no ones going... to... be... wa...” Cara's voice slowing, halting with every word as the train pulled up, as sliding, as if upon a cloud of righteousness and uniformed glory, the two officers waited right at the entrance Cara were about to exit.


A slithering fold accompanying the door opening, as the two smiling officers stood ready to board. Cara standing silent like she were breaking the law. Handily she were. Exceedingly guilty at the moment waiting for the cuffs to be slapped down then her body throw to the ground and kicked.


They smiled, they smiled with a knowledge of what was going on so clearly Cara stood mouth agape in panic. They had to know, that was what that look meant. Proud and smug they had a vast array of knowledge that someone thought they'd been hiding away successfully.


“Evening... You need a hand” The one on the left asked. Offering forward to grab the lift jack from Cara's hands. A courtesy in only the sense of manners, the lift jack took all the weight, pushing them with no matter the load were a doddle even for a toddler.


“I didn't... No... No, I'm fine... you first” Cara pulling the lift jack closer to her in the panic, bringing it away from the police officers. Letting them through with a swift movement away from the door.


“Okay... have a nice night” The only reply he gave. Not accompanied by a swinging baton, or screams of 'get on the ground bitch'. Anything as theatrical as that. He just gave is greeting along with his partner and moved passed. Cara replying with a nod and a word of some sort before ducking her head, staring down at the handles of the lift jack. Once the door were clear she pushed passed. Almost, the edge of the jack colliding with the train. The two officers turning on the spot to eek out the noise. Cara in a panic realigning her path out trying again. This time nailing the hole with a sufficient amount of clearance.


Charging along the platform with the concentration of a maniac. Counting the steps she knew it would take for her to be back home and safe.


“Hey?” Came the cry from behind her. Like a knife it jabbed into Cara's back, stopping her from walking, the slightest of urges to run. To cast aside the jack, or just drag it with her for that moment longer of having her own power unit. She'd get caught, she couldn't run forever but here, no... god her gut told her to bolt.


“Stop...” The command reaching over her shoulder as she dared take another step. Cara halting, in panic. Her hands would've been shaking if she didn't grip on the handles of the jack till they were opaquely white.


Footsteps, booted feet wandering across the platform , a march they way they all marched. Why couldn't he let her be, the thug jack booted Nazi trying to hold her back from her dream she should give him a piece of her mi...


“Your tools... right... they aren't someone elses?” The bag held at her side, the cop extending out his arm offering her back her own belongings. She'd left them, there on the floor. Panicking in the sight of the police.


Deep breath Cara, deep breath. Take the tools and walk away, be calm, don't say anything stupid, or suspicious, and just walk away.


“Thank you sir officer... sir... thank you” Nailed it. As calm as a tantrum, but somewhat normal. She smiled, baring teeth like she had never done the simple act before. Everything the most desperate of reactions just to seem normal.


“Ok then. Glad to help” The officer walking away, just convinced she were weird, not a criminal, so it was a success of some sorts. Cara nodding as he walked back to the train, his partner holding the door open, already the chime going off to signal the train wanted to depart. Counting each step as he went, strides of uniformed busy work disappearing into the depths of the train off to patrol else where. Leaving Cara just to panic by herself. Already lining up behind her the usual advertisement holograms waiting to give her a spiel about her skin, about her recreation credits and were she should spend them. They weren't going any where for a while yet, not anywhere she usually spent them, she had things to buy... right. Equipment, materials, tools... something to kill the butterflies in her gut. They wouldn't stop, fluttering constantly.


Whipping back and forth till she were home, probably even past that, now she just had to make it there. The platform quiet but not empty.


“Give you skin what it nee...” Came the advertisement as Cara started off again.


“Shut up... no fuck off, cancel...” Her thrown words eventually getting the right one as she walked. Fizzing out the hologram sunk back into its path fading from sight, but ready to annoy the next person that walked past. Cara tracing around the streets dodging everyone with a wide berth. Making sure none saw the crate as much plastic as it were wrapped in. no one could recognize it. She wouldn't even give them a chance to. Moving to the back of her building, the freight elevator ready and waiting at the bottom floor. Safety, solitude, nothing more than a lift jack itself. Just a big one sat in a shaft ferrying loads up and down the building.


Leaned against the wall her panic dying a moment, the briefest of seconds to relax, to gather her thoughts and things before the mad dash to her apartment. To get in quiet and silent so Wren wouldn't hear. Like she always did. Oh the questions, she could see them now, hear them even clearer.


'What's that, what are you doing with it, you want to go to jail, can I try it when it's done, do you want to go out???'


All of them, endless and breathless beating in Cara's head all licked with the healing little flavor of Wrens voice. Cara couldn't tell her. She trusted Wren, with her life... but that was too much. She was sure Wren could keep it hush, keep it to herself. But what if Cara got caught. There'd be questions. Those slung to friends and family with desperate frequency and alarm, from not just police, but the media, the press. Cara would be a fascination.


Hmmm, Wren might enjoy the attention. Sliding open the freight elevator came to a halt. It sat at one side of the building a far shot away from the other elevator. This path, would take her straight in front of Wrens apartment. Not usually cause for concern, but tonight, she knew it would be, absolutely. Wren for some reason would be camped at her door looking through the peep screen just waiting for her, even worse be sat outside, folding chair and fire lit just to rub it in. Wren had great timing like that, knew exactly when to do the wrong thing.


Hmmm, that implied it were on purpose, Wren were anything but malicious, she'd never do it on purpose. Cara staring down the hall, pushing the lift jack out slowly. Step by step expecting with everyone Wren to appear like a trap door spider from her apartment.


“Time” Cara quiet little command, her wrist ban throwing out the display to the wall. Nearly midnight. She'd have to be in bed. She couldn't be there... could she... The only thing more annoying than this constant questioning, would be the smile on Wrens face knowing she were the cause of it all.


“Fast of slow” Cara asked her self. Which was the way to go, how could she get passed as silently as possible. One foot placed up on the lift jack, the other resting on the door of the freight elevator, Cara pushed off. No foot steps. Silent like a shark in the depths of the ocean forward. Eyes watching all the while that door sitting between her and home. So close, edging forever closer, the trap waiting she could feel it as she got closer. Hands gripped on the handles. Foot lightly dropping down to scoot off the floor with the lightest of touches. Ducking as if it would make a difference as she slid past on a blanket of friction-less travel that door she were so afraid of at the moment.


Just its contents, just its light bubbly questioning inhabitant. A spider of glee and attention that just wanted to talk and be involved. But no, not now, not with this. Cara just floating on by, skipping past the few doors down the hall till she came to her own. Stepping down from the jack and its scooting movements. A careful hand lifted to the scanner, eyes all the while on Wrens door dreading it would open, and there would be the bleary eyed friend staring not at her but the crate sitting on the lift jack. Then she'd know too. Straight away. It would be some uncanny use of logic and deduction. Or just a guess, some lucky stab in the dark. Wren would stand there take one look at the crate and know what it was. The scanner beeped, the door cracking with a silent little wave, Cara pushing it open, letting the lift stagger through as she just watched. Measures of distance most wouldn't have thought stressful as Cara slipped through the gap behind the jack, pushing the door closed behind her. Resting against it it as the lift jack and its contents bounced ever so softly off the walls of her hallway. Rotating in peace and quiet. Spinning ever so slowly, displaying all its angles and captured grandeur in her little slice of privacy.


She... she had it... she had it home. In her apartment. Her own power unit.


Seconds, minutes hours, maybe even days more she stood transfixed, leaning on the door just staring at the slowly spinning crate in her apartment. The comforting buzz of the the lift jack all the white noise she needed to drift off it a trance and slide down the door to sit on the floor. Watching it.


Rotate. Like a prize on a game show, spinning ever so softly and gently around. Displaying every angle, every caressing little corner and stretch of surface like it were enticing her to sleep with it. And this were just the box it came in, just the crate spinning on a blanket of air and energy. Singing, calling, cooing like a lover, come to me, embrace me.


Cara had to hold off moments. Her legs didn't work, even her arms to push her from the floor to her knees to crawl the distance wouldn't work. Just sit for now. Watch it, wait for the dream to end, wait for It to shatter and she was awake at work, none of this had happened. And she were still running through a stock take or waiting for a unit to vent its gas so she could crack it open. Maybe that was it, she forgot to vent a unit before cracking it open, and now her body were sprawled smoking on the floor whilst Gordon panicked. She were dead and this were heaven... Alright then. That still resulted in her sitting in her own apartment with a power unit of her very own.


“Mine... its mine” Cara smiled collapsing down onto the floor, legs kicking all the while as she began to laugh. Giggling like a madmen rolling across the floor kicking legs and waving arms with delight.


This were a dream, a fantasy. Completely. Gut still churning head beating with a stress headache and just the raw insurmountable pile of possibilities. But she couldn't stop smiling. A face aching with pride and glory. Staring across the floor to her power unit, as if it were a lover. Long lost and now found, reunited at last to be together forever more.


But this were more than that, love could sour, boys could be jerks... A thunder Rail though, a GX 87... oh... they were forever. They only hurt you if you let them.


Peeking through her cascading fringe Cara peered at the box like it might try to escape, they were both playing coy, coaxing the other to come and join them. Flashing some ankle before running away around the corner to dare another slight little peek. Hands scrambling she flew along the floor,right herself to crawl. A ball of limbs and excitement clambering onto the crate grabbing at its edges with a desperate fury, hands clamping down trying with raw strength alone to open it up.


“No... just, wait... I need the crate... Slowly.” Cara pulling herself back from using her teeth and nails to open it, rip the box open, obliterating its form completely from nature. So badly all other crates might fear for their safety should the news get around. But she couldn't. She needed patience, and the crate, the unit wouldn't stay here, it needed to be shifted, moved, taken to a secure location to hide to be fitted.


“Hnnnghh.” Again that smile, childish and incandescent, glowing with her excitement. Cara pushed the jack into the lounge, lining it up in front of the couch. Slamming down on the furniture pulling the her tools from her pack. Turning over and over in her hand the knife to strip away the packaging from the crate. She could get more, but for now she needed to see it, needed to run her hands over that brand new toy she shouldn't have. Running the blade down the blue plastic strip, slicing it open getting to the hard outer of the crate. Screws holding it closed, with a simple twist of the few holding the crate to form. The sides collapsed down. Like a puzzle solving itself laying flat on the lift jack.


There it were. Beautiful, machined engineered glory. Worked and forged in an atomic lathe to be as close to perfection as even a particles would dare. If Wren were here she would've questioned if that were it. If this were all it was that she were excited about. One roundish lump of titanium. It didn't even shine or sparkle. Right now it didn't even make noise, those two chambers at opposite ends of the uit empty from the required gases to make the rumble happen.


But yes... that were it. That were engineering perfection. A strong shell with little to no moving parts, and only one single piece that needed replacing. Rounded a curved top, with the required brackets protruding from the casing itself, no need to puncture that perfect outer shell with holes or bolts.


Its dull finish only dull to those that didn't care. To Cara it glistened like a diamond. Sparkling, rumbling even, its noise echoing out from the depths of her imagination, before with her hand she called up a recording of the real thing sitting alone with the tumultuous pulsing noise beating into her head. The underside there sat the housing for the leaf filter, ready to flow into the transformer. To in most case be governed down to a lower output of power. That the reality of the power unit since the committee stopped the real races. The full limit to the power units potential never reached. They were restricted limited to top speeds, not just to keep the leaf filters from being over used.


But also, and this were Cara's conspiracy theory turning to full activity, that they just wanted to make it seem like they cared. The committee had done the effort, the math and calculation on the transport network deciding a speed that would work, and now going higher than that would throw off the entire network. It was working so why change.


Twisting around the power unit atop the lift jack Cara stood from the couch, positioning herself above the shell, as if she were grabbing onto the handle bars of the Rail she were imagining already. Looking down at the unit as through the apartments speakers came the rumbling grunt form the recording. The prolonged noise something different to regular thunder, that from a cloud, natural and in the sky. The units had never had the same crack and wallow as those storms over head. The units were tinny, almost, still deep and rumbling, a force you felt not just in your gut and bowels, but down into your bones as well. The GX 87 itself had a thick warble. Long rumbles, pulsing in and out, the exact moment the recursion intake happened. The sucking of new gas into each chamber hidden from those untrained ears.


That were another reason the GX were the machine to emulate. Its cycling, its intakes were the best. Intelligent to a level above pure genius. Something else Cara would have to figure out. The excitement, it didn't peter out, didn't disappear. It just shrunk. Shifted to the side to let something else in. the enormity of the build. Of the level of engineering she were sure she were trained, or could even get the materials for.


The power unit, true, that were the big thing. That the hardest part and that had been gifted in divine like fashion.. But everything else. Could she get that? Source it legally or... the other?


Cara shaking her head. She needed to sleep, needed to rest her head and think about it another day. Grabbing the jack, lifting the edges of the box back up to enclose it around the prize she still weren't sure were actually real. Screws replaced sitting safe inside its own little house Cara pushed away the jack. Finding a space safely under her bed, there it sat, levered down to the floor to rest until she could move it again.


That were a strange comfort. The thought of the unit sitting ready beneath her as she tried to keep her head calm and eyes closed. Sleep might be hard for the fact that when she closed her eyes, all she could see were schematics, plans, a shopping list to wile away her recreation credits on.


And then the other visions. Passing whizzing scenery of mountain roads and metropolitan highways. Flying up neon lined roads weaving around corners at speeds designed to illicit urine to flow from ones body.


Sleep, its seemed impossible, but eventually it did come, flowing from the deep ether and energetic stress of the day. Draining everything from her body Cara collapsed off that cliff, falling into the dark only to be awoken a few short hours later by the alarm. With the buzzing bleating echoing around her head she laid back staring up at the ceiling, wondering if it had all been a dream. Counting the notches, and pits in the roof, a daring hand clasped around the frame of the bed jutting out form the wall.


It urged her up, it urged her over to gather the smallest of peeks under the piece of furniture she were lying on, creeping down lower and lower her hair falling down, blood rushing into her eyes as she took so long o n the journey over. If it were a dream, oh so cruel it would have been. Her hopes so high, so now entrenched into her being that she may have now had to go out and still a unit. Find a parked personal transport vehicle and lever the bastard unit off to snuggle up to.


The lip of the bed edging closer right there, right out of view by the angle she were on. Scared to look, just in case it had been false. That scant distance more and...


“Thank you” Cara sighed, seeing it just were she'd left it. Hand resting on the floor supporting her weight she moved it up to touch the unit in its crate, slipping from the bed collapsing to the floor in a heap.




Undeterred she stayed there a moment longer just staring, a hand reaching out fingers prodding at the crate just to be doubly sure. Solid, quite real. Quite real indeed. And very much hers. And there was that smile again unending and wide, creeping across her face like she had a crush on someone and they noticed her. Smiled back, said hi...


Rolling over she got from the floor, breakfast. Food, getting home last night late, she hadn't eaten, not since lunch yesterday, the butterflies and fright making that an idea she hadn't even considered. But now famished. Dumping the nutritional paste and fresh fruit straight into the blender. Waiting the few short moments till it were blitzed to a puree she could drink. Down on the floor in the lounge room flicking through images she were calling up. Filtering through the old Rail riders as she drank the sludge form the cup it were mixed in. Something standing out over those of the VR racers from today.


The old racers, men and women alike. The ones that did it for real, peaceful images in casual scenes, racing colors stripped down to the waist. Ropey, thick arms held from wide shoulders and chests. Some level of strength required to contain a Rail, even with all the technology keeping them to the tracks surface.


Cara looking to her own arms. Skinny, not overly. She weren't a twig like Wren. But looking from the images displayed to her own physique, she noticed a little something lacking. She wanted to be good, to be strong and fast when it all came together, wanted to be in control of the rail and not just along for the ride. A passenger on a careening piece of tenchnology.


This would be work.


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