Or "Hot Rails To Hell"

Akira "Ace" Merrill hates Angelus.

Perhaps "hate" is to extreme a word. As he's only seventeen, Ace is a little young to really hate much of anything, although he's doing the best he can. In truth Ace is a prime example of 'familiarity breeds contempt,' and Ace is very, very familiar with Angelus, and thus, his contempt for the city knows no bounds.

The problem, you see, is one of boredom. Ace's parents are well off, very well off. Thus, Ace has never really wanted for anything, and at the same time, has been able to see much of what Angelus has to offer. And now, at the tender age of seventeen, he feels he's pretty much exhausted the entertainment possibilities of Angelus, and can't wait to get out (off, really) the city and into, as he puts it, 'the real world.' Of course, if asked what the 'real world' was, Ace would be hard-pressed to answer, but he does know that it isn't here, where he is now, sitting on a mag-lev train, feeling it gently rock back and forth while rain (constant rain) beats at the windows.

It might just be the rain that annoys Ace the most. It never seems to end and is a prime reason Angelus has such a high rate of depression and suicides. Which, come to think of it, is a critical component of the Ace's definition of the 'real world.' Somewhere with less rain than here.

Tugging at his jumpsuit—such suits are all the rage right now, having been adapted from protective gear worn by aerospace pilots and power armor operators—Ace glances down at his boots, which are smeared slightly with mud. And he'd just cleaned them. At least the suit is okay. Woven from lightweight carbon-fiber nanotubes, it is strong, durable, tear-resistant, hard to stain, and easy to clean. Expensive, sure, but that's not his problem. If he wants nice things, Ace will buy nice things. Money is a worry other people have.

Speaking of money and nice things, Ace debates asking Chew about renting another pleasure clade this weekend. Last time they'd gotten a slender cat-mod, with a tawny-furred and tiger-striped body, white hair, a long tail, and tits that wouldn't quit. She'd been the life of the party, out-fucking several of Aces friends (and Ace himself, but he won't admit it). If he had to name one thing he did like about Angelus, Ace would say clades, especially domestic and pleasure models. There are several clades back home in fact, handling such mundane chores as cooking and cleaning—all the things real people shouldn't have to be bothered with. Better yet, the two maids are nearly as well-built as your average pleasure model, and have the same general attitude—which mean they practically put-out on command. Ace has been taking advantage of this since he was fourteen, losing his virginity to one (then claiming later it 'didn't count'). He's not sure, but Ace is fairly positive his father has been doing the same, which seems only fair, as his mother may be borrowing the groundskeeper from time to time. But then, they're just clades, so it's not like anyone is being unfaithful. It's more like practice, or maybe interactive masturbation.

As the mag-lev pulls into the next station, the rocking and hissing wakes Ace from his daydream of naked cat-clades. Opening one eye, he mentally curses the accident which turned his sports spinner into so much junk. The mag-levs were cheap, fast, clean, and efficient, yes, but they were also filled with the great unwashed masses of Angelus, masses that tended to sit next to him in all their smelly, rain-soaked glory. Sighing, he decides to make the best of it, turning to stare out the window at the unceasing rain, and doing his best to ignore the rest of the train.

A bright flash of blue makes Ace abandon his plan, not that there was much of a view outside anyway. One of the great unwashed has entered the train, and Ace has to admit, it makes for a welcome break to the general flow of salarimen and clades he usually sees boarding the mag-lev. She's short, far shorter than Ace himself, and looks to have the same size and build as the white-haired cat-clade he'd spent his seed on the other week. Of course, unlike the clade, she's dressed in a long high-collared royal blue coat, with a broad white belt (edged in purple), and a patch on her shoulder that reads "XSWAT" in bright yellow. Ace isn't sure what (or who) XSWAT is, but he's pretty sure she some sort of cop. Well, she looks just like one anyway, just smaller.

Tracking her with his eyes, which are barely open and safely shielded by sunglasses, Ace watches as the dark-skinned woman makes her way through the rush that always accompanies a train stop. He notices her hair, which is long, luxurious, and an interesting mahogany color, is soaked, and hangs far down her back. There's a holstered gun at her waist, and what he guesses to be a nightstick on the other hip. She must be a cop, but he has no idea what kind. Her face reminds him of the cat-clade as well, sort of pixie-ish, not that he'd use those words, but you get the idea. The only thing that detracts from the package is the dark streaks under each eye and the weird scribble tattooed on her forehead. Ace doesn't understand tattoos, but then, he doesn't understand piercings, skin-dyes, hair-implants, or many forms of cyber. On the other hand, boob jobs he can understand, and is all for.

A mixture of surprise and annoyance greets the woman's decision to drop down into the open seat next to Ace. He's not stupid enough to say anything (you can't tell a cop 'this seat taken' when it's obvious no one is using it), but he'd figured she stay standing, the better to watch everyone else with. That's what the real cops do when they come on the trains. Then again, Miss XSWAT looks rather tired, and Ace notes with a small thrill of disgust her long blue coat is spattered and stained with... well, he isn't sure what, but it smells faintly of rot. Wonderful, its pouring rain out and this damn cop can't bother to get rinsed off.

Ace debates getting up, only to realize the cop's nodded of. Her chin has fallen to her breast and her eyes are closed. Wonderful. If he pushes past her, she'll wake up and probably run him in for disturbing the peace. It's times like this he wishes the trains had first class cars, so he wouldn't have to be bothered with such nuisances.

The mag-lev's rhythmic rocking's start to put Ace asleep as well. He tries to fight it by giving the female cop a careful, albeit surreptitious, examination, but her coat doesn't give much hint of the figure underneath (although based on her waist, it looks pretty sweet), so he gives up. He's just about to drift off when a slight clacking noise causes him to sourly start awake. It it's not one thing, it's another. The noise seems to be coming from the cop. Specifically her belt somewhere. Ace debates waking her (how would you wake her anyway? jostle her shoulder? poke her side? yell in her ear?) when a loud thump from the train roof causes him to look up.

The mag-lev shudders and there's the squeal of scraping metal. The car twists to one side, then the other, causing many of the passengers to tumble about with flailing arms and legs. Ace himself smacks up against the window, and utters a sharp "The fuck?!?" in response. He catches a quick glimpse of the cop, standing, and looking up, and then another shudder tosses him to the floor.

The indignity of ending up face down on the floor is soon replaced by a twinge of fear. The mag-lev is still rocking from side to side, and Ace wonders if the train is going to crash—and if so, can he sue anyone over it. It seems only fair, after all.

The sound of tearing metal erases all thoughts of lawsuits in an instant. A wide-eyed glance up, at the roof, shows him the metal ceiling peeling away, letting in wind, cold, and wet. The cop is just standing there, feet set firmly apart, one hand grasping a support pole, the other resting on something attached to her belt. Ace is about to yell "Do something!" when the roof sort of collapses in a spray of water, shattered lights, wires, and paneling. There's a brief glimpse of something he can't really see amid all the debris and then a loud grunting that he feels more than hears.

Things get strange quick. The train stops swaying back and forth, which is a plus, but the hole in the roof, as well as whatever it is that came in, have caused widespread panic in the car. A cacophony of screams and shrieks echo through the train, a high-pitched counterpoint to the deep bass rumble of the intruder. Curiously, over it all, he can hear the female cop yelling.


Risking a quick look, Ace bobs his head up, finding the cop standing there with one hand in front of her, apparently supporting a huge sheet of translucent pinkish paper covered in meaningless scribbles. Beyond that is a towering shape that fills the front of the car. He can't see it clearly, and is glad, as what is visible looks utterly, and totally, wrong. Worse yet, the shape looks to be swelling up and expanding, as if it is trying to force its way past the paper sheet the woman seems to think will be of some use.

Getting to his feet, the Ace decides it is time to get off the train, and if he has to trample someone to do it, well, tough luck. Behind him there's a ripping sound, as if someone has let the mother of all farts (why he is thinking this he can't say, but it starts him laughing, which is not a good thing when you're about to die in a mag-lev train crash), and then a really nasty wet noise.

A round object whips past Ace's head, to splatter in a spray of slime on a far window of the car. Something hits him in the back and he goes to his knees. He rolls forward, over someone's legs, and looks behind him. There's a large bug there, all overlapping plates and multi-jointed legs, glistening with slime, and uncoiling from a tight ball. It chitters faintly and waves long antenna in the air. Ace feels his gorge rise and tries to swallow it away. He suspects the source of the farting noise, and fears he's just been sneezed on.

Beyond the bug the cop stands, her sheet of paper covered in dead and dying bugs embedded in a thick coat of slime. The curve of the train means there is space to either side, which explains the few who were able to get past. The swelled shape is gone, or at least, much thinner. Ace is thankful for that—as what little he saw is going to last him a life time. The cop, meanwhile, is still chanting, her words clear, but utterly incomprehensible moonspeak to Ace. Not that he cares, the bug has trundled his way, and is now trying to attach itself to his boot. Ace scrambles backwards, but there's only so far he can go—the people behind him want to get away just as bad as he does.

All the flailing, screaming, shoving, and twisting has one unexpected benefit—the bug ends up crushed against the floor by Ace's boot. The sudden stink is enough to make one gag, but Ace has other things on his mind. He pushes a child out of his way and crawls over a seat, trying to put as much space between him and the bug-spitter as possible. There's a brilliant green flash behind him and another bass-level bellow that threatens to loosen his bowels. Another wet sound follows and a fine spray of slime mists much of the train cabin. He manages a quick look and sees the woman is still standing, but the shape seems to be gone. Then again, so is a lot of the train. Most of the windows in the front are missing, as is the roof, and some of the cabin walls. Rain is now pouring in, mixing with the slime to create a noxious soup.

A bright yellowish-red light illuminates the front of the wrecked train car as the female cop produces what looks like a flaming sword. Ace stops struggling and simply stares. He's heard the word 'magic' before, but like many things he never paid it much attention. Now, seeing it first hand, he's both fascinated and frightened, and honestly unable to turn away. The burning blade comes down with a hissing crash and a spray of steam and smoke. Something he can't see groans and shudders as a cloud of blackish smoke billows up. A moment later a cloud of flame blossoms from the near the woman, engulfing something on the floor and making the black cloud larger.

Ace is dimly aware the train is slowing. Lights are flashing, red-white-red-white, while an alarm whoops and a voice comes over the speakers, asking people to be calm and remain seated in a neutral tone of voice everyone ignores equally. He is wet, bruised, and slimed, and he is certain of one thing—he totally and utterly hates Angelus.