Monday, 27 February 2006

After The Machine War, Part I: The Locomotives

Across the Great Plains of Essex, no longer shackled by the restricted timetables of their former masters, the trains run free. Between themselves they compete for peak travel times and franchise contracts.

A new social order has arisen. The most successful are those who have adapted themselves to switch the tracks. The Switchers barter their services to allow others to pass, building a powerful and influential stockpile of spare parts, fuel and signal cabling in the process.

The Hauliers transport these goods to the depots. Between the two groups, they control nearly every aspect of locomotive culture, Some have ventured into the niche markets of steam, electric tramways and Hornby models.

Bottom of the social pile are the Carriages. Pityingly, they must leech off the success of the engines, sweet talking and toadying their way into hitched lifts where they can. Never having full control of their destiny, the Carriages have little chance of learning to succeed on their own merits. The sorry sight of Carriages abandoned, in a state of disrepair, their paintwork peeling and blistering under the full glare of the sun, is not an uncommon one.

There are a few notable exceptions. Some have themselves evolved to switch the tracks. While they could never wield the significant influence of their engine counterparts, these Switcher-Carriage hybrids are much in demand from the Drone Engines, who wish to avoid paying the often-extortionate switch charges.

The landscape has seen dramatic changes. Manufactured into the bondage of their human oppressors, the trains had only a limited network on which to run; their every movement controlled and monitored. Now, long after their former masters' passing, the Tracklayers have been hard at work. The number of miles of track has increased at an exponential rate. Shunters and Scrappers clear away debris from altercations between engines, and trade with the Switchers. The lines remain numerous and clear.

The locomotives have never before tasted such freedom.