The Railroad Engineer

Going on to the letter R in the A to Z Challenge, we have an entry that’s more of a worldbuilding piece. But it’s a major thing that will become a factor in a future book.

The Railroad Engineer


New Athens

Twenty-fifth day, ninth month, third year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (9/25/03 AE)

Paolo Fernandes studied the tablet screen while Susan McKinley stood rigid in front of his desk. She’d been working on the design for two years with her team and had several setbacks, including outright rejection. This was it, she was sure. They’d met all the conditions given to them.

“Mmm, very good,” said Paolo. “Much better than the last few designs. I like this.”

Susan exhaled and smiled. “Thank you. We worked hard to meet the requirements.”

“I especially like how you’ve designed it so we can add station at any point on the line without any alteration to the structure. Ingenious. Very good job.”

“I’m relieved to hear that.”

“I know it’s been difficult. But we had to make sure we made as little impact on the environment. I understand it’s difficult to construct a maglev line that’s entirely elevated and underground for several thousand kilometres, but we can’t have anything at ground level,” said Paolo. His tone became firm and serious. “That was one problem on Earth where wildlife was segregated into small patches of land and risked their lives to cross over any barriers. And with a nine hundred kilometre per hour train, I’m sure it would be disastrous if anything was hit. There are some large animals out there.”

“That’s why we worked so hard on this design. The amount of concrete involved will be astronomical, though. But with the new method we devised to extract rocks and make the concrete on-site, it should have minimal impact and be much faster.”

“Susan, this will be a very long project. I’d like you to be in charge of construction.”

“Sir, there must be someone better. I’m just an engineer.”

“You know this design better than anyone. I’m confident you’ll make sure it’s built to your specifications.”

“I don’t know what to say,” said Susan. Excited, nervous, confused, she felt it all. “I’ll do my best.”

“I know you will,” said Paolo. He smiled as Susan turned and walked toward the door. She realised how generous the Governor was. Could she do this? She could only try.

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