Click. Click click. Kaid put down the image translator and gazed towards the horizon. It had finally stopped raining. The upper atmosphere was still boiling from the shock of the ships coming in, the clouds showing a grey-black swirl that twisted this way and that like an animal in pain. In the far distance, the horizon showed several rising plumes of dust from missiles that had missed their targets. These were dwarfed by a much larger debris cloud which seemed to be nearer, probably an ammunition ship that had been hit on entry. Fortunately they were mostly drones, and command always reckoned on up to 50% losses in these drops anyway.
The horizon was still lit by occasional dirty yellow flashes, the last of the post-drop bombardment. Soon it would be time to move. He looked at his display and saw their partner unit just to the West of them, along their line of advance. The readout identified it as RZ-9476 but they all knew him as “Old Gray”. The fact that the initials matched up to some obscure cultural reference from the late 20th and early 21st century was amusing to the marines in an ironic sort of way.
Author’s note: One of my favourite pastimes is to cycle around Singapore late at night, when it is less frenetic and when there is time to think and reflect. One of my routes leads me past Pasir Panjang Container terminal, and I am always fascinated by the gigantic concrete piers that straddle the container storage yards, stretching for kilometer after kilometer (see picture below). Seeing them lit up at night was the seed for this story, which explores a future in which mankind has been forced to live above ground in rail cars that serve as mobile dwellings.
The Rail Dwellers
A short story by B.G. Luse
It was night. The rain kept falling, incessant as the clouds that had blanketed the landscape for days now. The rain splashed on the dull grey concrete of the towers and piers, running down in small rivulets to the dark earth beneath. It seemed a long time since it had done anything but rain.
“Is there any mail?” Evan’s voice came from one corner of the dull metal container that served as a home for the family. It had once been red, the paint now faded to a colour between that of rust and burnt earth. The rain drummed on the metal roof and bounced off in little crown-shaped splashes which eventually also succumbed to gravity.
“No I don’t think so…” came Elsa’s voice from the corner near the stove. She was waiting for some water to boil. It was dinner time, at least when it had been called dinner. Now it was simply called the eighteen hundred. Continue reading →