“Lightspeed Subway”

– another in the Sidequest series: fiction fragments which may be expanded someday –

The “incoming capsules” indicators lit up, and Josmin braced for the thud of air that would come from the subway tunnel. The gust wouldn’t knock you over unless you’d had an especially long day, but loose items would sometimes go flying.

The capsules burst from the tunnel entrance, already slowed to a quarter of their initial speed by the long line of control rings stretching back down the tube. Mana gems embedded in the rings glowed violet as the thaumatronic system absorbed velocity, and the capsules glided to a gentle, precise halt next to the platform. The passengers inside stood eagerly to leave, having never felt more than a gentle surge.

Josmin knew people who wouldn’t board the express capsules. Despite hundreds of years without accident, the idea of traveling through solid matter for most of the trip was one they couldn’t bear. He had to agree that the theory and engineering were far beyond him; an encyclopedia article lost him somewhere around “eight spacetime dimensions” and “phased etheric vibrations”. All he cared about was getting 30 kilometers to the other end of town in mere seconds.

He entered one of the capsules and took a seat, as did the other couple dozen folks. The capsule was full this trip, but not crowded; the afternoon rush hadn’t hit yet. He felt a tiny surge as it moved forward into the next set of control rings; the mana gems dimmed as they fed the speed back into the chain of capsules. The momentum field in his capsule could have prevented even that surge, but it turned out people liked the sensation of gentle movement even as the passing rings turned into a silver smear outside the window.

The rings disappeared. There was an electric blue darkness in the capsule with him. For a fraction of a second, Josmin had an eerie suspicion that he no longer existed –

– and then he heard the gentle thud of air being pushed out of the way by the decelerating capsules, and saw the rings reforming from silver blur outside. He’d just moved from south of the Scar to the Boreal Hills in practically no time. He stood to go, slinging his bag over his shoulder. Perhaps for a moment he truly hadn’t existed: it still beat the Void out of traveling by transbeam.

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