Saturday, September 01, 2007
New Beginning 353
All the daylight hours, we laid track, slicing woods and farmland indiscriminately with the metal rails. Up hill, down hill, we sweated through the last of a hot summer and into the start of a muggy autumn. In the Emperor's name.
As we eased into the rhythm, we got better at calculating where the camp at which we'd end the day's work should be built. After the first sevenday, we didn't waste any more daylight, or work cursing by torchlight.
Forts sprang up at the trackside. The boys of the legion ran to and fro with water for the men. Dust from the ballast coated everyone and everything grey. The ground boomed as gangs cleared trees from our path and fires burnt night and day. Our mouths tasted of metal.
The spikers sang as they worked; we bolters could not find songs to match our rhythm.
Thomas and I joined rails together.
Hot and dry one noonday we paused as a lad brought us water, a scrawny, ill-favored youth, constantly sweeping wisps of black hair from his brow. "A doomed enterprise," he informed us, indicating the length of rails we'd been laying. "In the future it shall be obsolete."
"Oh? Enlighten us, great seer."
Taking no note of Thomas's sarcasm, the boy continued: "Travelers will not be bound by inflexible strips of iron; they will proceed to their destinations freely, upon wide ribbons of stone as smooth as polished marble. Nor will they be slaves to prearranged schedules, but shall control their individualized, self-powered conveyances. People wagons, they shall be called, and the passageways auto-courses!"
Thomas winked at me. "And how shall this all come to pass, my sage?"
"I shall make it happen!" the boy proclaimed, and for an instant we were struck by a sudden aura of authority that seemed to emanate from him.
With a visible effort, Thomas managed to contain his mirth. "And by what name shall we know you, O great leader?"
Straightening himself and raising his chin, the boy declared, "My name is Adolf!"
Thomas shook his head as the boy trooped off. "May the fates preserve us from the day Germania must find its leaders at the local madhouse."
Opening: Sqrl.....Continuation: Paul Penna