Another very early draft from two years ago. This one has some potential but there are a couple of glaring issues – like this transparent glassy material that Rook has never come across before or since. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially considering such a material would be invaluable in the construction of spacecraft…
Anyway, enjoy this early draft. Definitely one to come back to.
As this was a particularly busy station at a particularly busy time of year, I was jostled out of the maglev carriage by various commuters whose manners had been left in whichever high-end estate they came from. It was difficult not to be judgmental around these sorts of people: not quite the corporate elite, but the sort that would trample all over everyone else to get there.
I almost lost my grip on my case as I tried to clear myself of the stampede of leather shoes, and readjusted my hat as they power-walked towards the nearest escalator. From behind, they all looked identical: each wore exactly the same black suit, a few of which sported worn shoulder pads and slightly off-kilter lapels; and each wore shoes so scuffed that no amount of shining would make a difference. In the wake of this middle-class rabble, I headed for the staircase, striding past the escalator-bound businessmen, and reached a walkway that ran above the lines, linking each platform up to the rest of the building.
I’d seen my fair share of nodeway stations, but they weren’t often this spectacular. Now that the crowds of business associates and salarymen had cleared off, it was much easier to survey the surroundings. The whole station, including the staircase, was designed with an almost marble-like off-white motif, with the occasional transparent panel which opened up to the vistas of outer space. It made for quite a pleasant contrast: the rich, chaotic colours of nature versus the stark cleanliness of humanity.
Along the walls were lines of a none-too-vibrant colour, each assigned to a specific platform. This was probably meant to satisfy the various cultures that set foot in the station, though it often ended up being a little too vague – a few groups of travellers looked decidedly lost, despite having studied the signage to a science. The station’s crewmen, all undoubtedly funded by Futurist tax money, ambled around in their utterly redundant high-visibility clothing, while a small army of blue tronics on caterpillar treads made short work of any muddy footprints or litter that tarnished the otherwise perfect white floor.
The walkways themselves were largely constructed from a hardened transparent material – which I initially thought was glass, but on closer inspection, was much tougher. Set into the walkways every so often were benches hewn from the same transparent material that, despite their elegant form, looked too uncomfortable to be of much use.
To this day, I’m still not sure what that transparent material was.
As my eyes scanned the station floor, taking in the fascinating architecture and the smooth, graceful shuffling of maglevs, somebody bumped into me – quite roughly, too, despite the corridor being wide enough for a coachload of tourists to pass through unharmed. I looked around, and regretted my decision immediately.
It was Hocus. How? He’d been going the opposite direction last I saw him!
“Ah, glad to see you again, bard.” he said in his ever-derisive tone. “Got another gig in some little working-class pub, hmm? Plenty of them around here. Lots of drunk tourists to entertain, too, hmm?” I wondered if he was this condescending to everyone he met.
“Actually, Hocus, you’re absolutely right,” I jeered back. He didn’t seem to notice the sarcasm, so I continued, “I’ll strum for a bit, maybe an hour or so, and then I can sit back with a nice, cold drink and do nothing for the rest of the evening. Absolutely nothing.”
That was a slight embellishment on my part, but I knew that, even with his money and apparent power, he still couldn’t afford the luxury of a day off. His slight twitch in facial expression said it all: I’d managed to boil his blood, if only a little.
“Ri-i-ight. I see. And tell me, how much are we talking for that hour-or-so of work, hmm? I see you haven’t replaced that battered old thing,” he gestured to my guitar case, “so…about a tenth of what my contracts pay, I think. I’m happy for you.” An arrogant bearing lifted the corner of his smile, his face that of a reptile preparing to feast on an unwary insect.
Every time he brought up the money, it just made me think of all the bands he’d had sign one of his contracts. You know, the ‘one-hit wonders’: those that released one or two decent songs, usually written by someone else, then disappeared into obscurity making the most creatively-derelict music you could think of. Acts like this were cheap to maintain, and from those one or two chart-toppers, people like Hocus would rake in far more than they would ever pay out.
It was a solid business plan. Except for the major issue that the bands couldn’t create anything exciting and new for fear of losing their contract – and their regular income.
Saying that, it wasn’t an issue for Hocus. Not one bit. And he wanted nothing more than to see me, an established musician in my own right, under that yoke so I could make him a pile of cash while probably earning less than I did running small-time gigs at little pubs.
So, as usual, I didn’t give him an inch.
“Glad to hear it,” I quipped. “How about you get on with whatever delightful paperwork you’ve gotta do, and leave me to my music?”
“Oh, I’ve no paperwork today. Just a two-day maglev journey in first class, followed by a rather important meeting with, oh, you know, the chair of Yamamoto Electric. Plush seats, hand-ground coffee…sounds like paradise, hmm?”
He strode away confidently, without even so much as a ‘goodbye’. That suited me just fine. I took another quick look around at the immaculate nodeway station around me, before continuing down the marble-like stairway and into the equally spectacular foyer. Towering over the station’s clientele stood three sculptures, cast in an almost pearlescent material. One depicted a heroic-looking man with thin hair and mutton chops, while the other two showed artists’ representations of some of the technology used in maglevs. It was all quite impressive, but I had places to be, so I crossed the foyer and stepped out into the warm, clear morning air.
I’d picked the right day to arrive.
In most countries I’d been to, heat like this wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It bogged you down and made you feel like you’d been carrying a boulder around all day and were just beginning to feel the effects. It soaked your clothes, but lacked the cooling qualities of rain. It made the air unpleasant to breathe, and kicked up the stench of sweat wherever you went. Here, on the other hand, it was somehow different. The planet’s star still spread its benevolent light over the city, but instead of feeling stodgy and thick, the warm air was crisp and light and thoroughly pleasant to be in. It was a lot like being at home, where the relatively thin atmosphere and abundance of plant life came together to create light, breezy summer days and sharp, frosty winter evenings.
The difference here was that there weren’t too many trees, and not a whole lot of green, either. Despite that, I made the best of it and walked out towards the throngs of holidaymakers who took it in like it was a drug, and shoppers who acted like they were in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm. Something about being outside bothered them, but since I wasn’t planning to stick around for long, it didn’t bother me.