“Now this is more like it!” Said Senhor Capoeira Capybara. The train station was enormous--and it may have been infinite, since it extended in both directions to a vanishing point. It was an unending line of gates leading alongside waiting trains. The signs on the arches looked like printed paper, but their shifting as they walked along showed they were digital.
Acting as if he felt his previous remark required explanation, the big rodent said “no more searching out hidden doorways in burned out cities: just climb aboard for any destination in cosmic infinity!”
“Which would be ideal if we knew where we’re going,” Responded Terence with a slight drawl. “And I haven’t seen any destinations that are reliably our homeworld. ‘Iwerksland Amusement Park’ doesn’t really qualify, even if it says ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’.”
“At least we have some measure of control,” the capybara sniffed.
Jeanette was feeling optimistic, still suffused with the beauty and excellent food of the Princess’s Palace. It was as he said: limitless opportunities right there for the taking! And it had a beauty to it, as perhaps only a girl for whom even ordinary trains were completely exotic. (There was none of the endless trudging of airports, for example.) Nonetheless, she was on the lookout for an information booth, and was irritated by their absence.
The station was crowded, but the overall impression was strange: there was a parallel march of curved poles that resembled streetlights, and people seemed to vanish and reappear as they passed beneath them. Some passengers disappeared by turning to the left or the right. Jeanette pointed this out to her father. He shook his head, unable to explain it, so she turned to the capybara who at least had more experience in interdimensional travel.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “It may just a sophisticated means of crowd control, but it also might mean that this station has a higher dimensionality than it at first appears to have.” While she had really begun to like Senhor Capoeira, she thought he could have stopped after ‘I’m not sure.’
For all the strange place names on the placards, most of the trains seemed similar: long, sleek and silvery. The engines might have been different, but they were far away at the end of the canopy. There were a few that caught Jeanette’s eye: an older, though glisteningly polished, train whose placard said TERMINUS, OWLSWICK & FORT MUDGE and another in somber greens that just said 999. She began to feel, after nearly an hour of walking, that this was all unfair, and not so much superior to an airport after all.
She was almost about to rebel and sit down on the floor (there were NO benches), when Terence stopped in front of her. She looked up and saw what he saw.
This train was huge, and jet black. There were also black horned flanges jutting out, and thick black pipes snaking over the surface of the cars. While some of the placards had refused to translate into English for them, this one was resembled German gothic type (which tended to be on the game boxes of the kind of shootemups she absolutely hated), but so crammed together that it seemed to be nothing more than a grid of thick pointed fenceposts, with some going further up or further down, and black diamonds here and there. The placard was also edged in an angry red--angry because it was animated.
Terence started to move towards the train, and Jeanette grabbed him, saying “Dada, please, no…!” He looked down and smiled at her. “Don’t worry, Jeanette, I’m not going to do anything stupid.” She still held on for a bit, but then let him go.
Terence did seem to be taking precautions: he craned around to see more of the train, but at a distance. He also always kept some passers-by between him and the gate.
In the end, though, it didn’t matter. Coming down the platform at a thundering run came a column of beings who were either two-legged beetles or men in massive beetle armor. There was an oily rainbow sheen on their skin and they carried vicious-looking barbed pikes. Even though her father has in the middle of the crowded platform, they surrounded him in perfect efficiency and rushed him back to the train, which now emitted clouds of steam as if this was all they had been waiting for. And all before Jeanette could take a breath.
She broke away from the capybara, screaming “NO!” At the top of her lungs, but as soon as she reached the gate the monstrous train was already a hundred feet down the platform and picking up speed.
She broke the sixth wall and grabbed a huge Colt Automatic and fired at the receding train, as tears poured down her face. The bullets bounced off the black metal and the train pulled away.
She fell to her knees, the gun vanishing as it left her hands.