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TRAIN VS. TRAIN: THE DUEL

Bigwood Jan 31st, 2013 73 Never
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  1. [18:42:02] <~Oxford> The howling wind drowns out the hammerblows of the lumbering transcontinental's drive wheels. It creeps at hazard-speed through the thickening blizzard, gaslamp cutting only a dozen feet into the swirling whiteout.
  2. [18:46:35] <~Oxford> Third watch has just rung, and the three crewmen on-duty are sitting down for dinner in the crew compartment. The moaning wind is dampened by the car's walls, falling to a low whistling that fills the gap in conversation as Indrika ladles onion stew into Esfir and Kleha's bowls.
  3. [18:48:30] <Indrika> You don't want to know what the dark, meaty chunks in it are. You really don't.
  4. [18:48:52] <Esfir> "...So. What do you two think of our train, so far?" Esfir makes a valiant effort to be sociable, though she's not a big fan of there being other women on board!
  5. [18:49:03] <Kleha> Four, technically!  Deadpan, Kleha takes her bowl with a silent thanks and proceeds to hold it upward after sitting down, feeding it to the avian perched on her head.  She doesn't seem to mind what his talons does to her somewhat-messy hair at all.
  6. [18:50:30] <~Oxford> As Kazimir predicted, the storm caught them just shy of a day out of Keerovny, and though the train had made good time on the track to Yekaterinbirg, the storm has forced them to reduce speed to little more than a walk, for fear of accidents in the blinding swirls of snow.
  7. [18:51:43] <Kleha> "We are thankful," content that Kha has had enough time to pick the meat out of the bowl, Kleha lowers it and stares at her reflection in it instead.  Only she actually doesn't, because there's no way it's actually clear enough for that.  "Without passage, I dread to think of our home's fate.  And he seems to be happy as well, though I'm not certain why."
  8. [18:51:45] <Kleha> Caw.
  9. [18:52:37] <Indrika> "Um..." She's surprised that words are being spoken during meal time. The old man never spoke. "I think...it's fast?" She grins at her dazzling display of understanding of small talk and literals.
  10. [18:54:10] <Esfir> Esfir bites her lip and leans in conspiratorially for several moments. The first hint of a whisper forming can be heard only to suddenly come to a halt as Esfir realizes which "he" is being referred to and tries to play it off with a sheepish laugh. "Aaah... Aahaha, well... Our train is not the newest or the fastest, but it can still fly on the rails."
  11. [18:54:35] * Kleha siiiiiiips. "The methods to allowing this transcontinental's movement is peculiar, however not quite as difficult as I'd first anticipated."
  12. [18:55:55] <Kleha> Eyes glazed over, she doesn't even notice the yandere she's dealing with.  Not in the slightest!  The bird lets out another cheerful 'caw' as a reminder and changes positions over to Kleha's shoulder.  She doesn't even make an effort to unruffle her hair, taking each sip extremely slowly, probably to the point where it seems like it'd take hours for her to finish at this rate.
  13. [18:56:40] <Esfir> Esfir's brow quirks briefly. This is the longest conversation she's held with either of them. They're both definitely weirdos.
  14. [18:57:32] <Kleha> "So," Kleha sets the bowl down and pauses, taking a lengthy glance at Esfir's face.  "You mean to say the transcontinental is capable of flight as well?"
  15. [18:57:38] <Kleha> "Astounding."
  16. [18:58:17] <Indrika> "Like a bird?"
  17. [18:58:40] * Kleha looks at her shoulder. Caw.
  18. [19:01:12] <Esfir> Scratch that. They're weirdos to the second power. "...Not yet."
  19. [19:01:32] <Kleha> "I see.  My mistake."  Sip.
  20. [19:03:05] <Indrika> Indrika's child-like look of excitement and wonder at the prospects of flying trains is dispelled instantly, replaced by a slight frown. "Oh..."
  21. [19:03:48] <~Oxford> The stew is hearty but plain, even with Indrika's fortification. Its most favorable characteristic is its warmth; the steaming broth feels like a glowing fire in their stomachs. It is much plainer fare than Esfir is accustomed.
  22. [19:04:49] <Kleha> Kleha's face never changed once since entering the others' presence.  Considering the slow sips and the way she's holding the bowl, she may just be consuming it slowly to savor the warmth or some silly unheard-of tribal nonsense like that.  Or maybe not.
  23. [19:06:19] <Esfir> Esfir's face changes pretty frequently! Or rather, it contorts into a bleh expression, but they've been on board long enough for her to not verbally complain, at least. There's nothing much to do about that... Other than trade one of the weirdos for a chef at the first opportunity!
  24. [19:07:28] <~Oxford> The pot of tea whistling on the stove breaks the awkward silence.
  25. [19:08:50] * Indrika jumps a bit at the sound before removing the pot from the stove. "Um...tea?"
  26. [19:10:36] * Kleha looks to the bird again, does he want tea? ... Looks like he says 'caw.'
  27. [19:11:40] * Indrika glances at the pot, disappointed to find it does not actually call the kettle black. Unless she just couldn't hear it...
  28. [19:12:23] <Esfir> If it makes Indrika feel better, Esfir at least murmured a half-hearted compliment or two on her cooking. It was nothing but a polite if disingenuous gesture, though.
  29. [19:13:00] <~Oxford> It's a strong brew, mostly of herbs and crushed leaves. There's a distinctly piny aftertaste, as well, that reminds Kleha of the needle-teas made in her home village.
  30. [19:14:07] <Indrika> Disingenuous thanks are better than no thanks. Especially when one doesn't catch or comprehend the disingenuous part.
  31. [19:14:34] <Kleha> By that logic Kleha may have been the one to have set it out in the first place, right?  Though in that case she's probably still getting used to how different brewing is in these kinds of society.  Either way, birdgirl and her bird are the ones to pour it for the others and begin sipping, just as slowly as the soup.  Kleha herself alternates between one and the other, still having not finished the latter.
  32. [19:17:32] <~Oxford> The groan of shifty metal rumbles in the background as the transcontinental rounds a broad bend. The rails to Yekaterinbirg lead through thin taiga spotted with freshwater lakes, now all frozen solid, that the train must weave through.
  33. [19:17:32] * Indrika gives Kleha a gesture somewhere between a nod, bow, and curtsey before demolishing her tea and stew in a terribly uncouth flurry of slurps. Had one not noticed the preceding event to know she was giving thanks, it might seem that she had just convulsed.
  34. [19:19:45] <Esfir> Esfir slowly sips at the tea. Drinking it fast is silly--after all, it makes a better hand-warmer if you drink it slowly. "What do your families do?" she asks.
  35. [19:21:03] <Indrika> "The old man tends cows!" A frown at wondering how he's getting along without her. "I hope..."
  36. [19:22:08] * Kleha watches Indrika with interest, silent until approached. Eyes closed most of the time, one would wonder if she's even awake, but it's more meditation if anything.
  37. [19:25:31] <~Oxford> Around this time, the hermit would be busy keeping the herd safe through the winter. Rising each hour through the night to make sure their lean-tos don't collapse under the weight of the snow, feeding the fire in the quarantine pen, and bringing down hay from the stacks when the grass is too deeply buried.
  38. [19:26:40] <Kleha> "Mine communicates with the spirits," Kleha says matter-of-factly after another sip of tea.  "Our village itself is a small one, and few of us even see the outside much less travel.  I... worry for my father, but this is all I'm able to do."
  39. [19:29:42] <Indrika> "Um...what's it like to have a real one? I mean a family." She glances between Kleha and Esfir, not positive on whether direct eye contact is allowed or not. The thought of if she should have reciprocated the question never arrives.
  40. [19:30:19] <~Oxford> The situation of the village weighs heavily on the mind. Has the situation deteriorated since Kleha's departure? Food supplies ruined by rot? A plague among the children? Worse still, what if the villagers need their midwife, and she isn't there? If she's away on some fool's errand...
  41. [19:32:12] <Kleha> "Like...?"  Kleha's gaze is blank, almost certainly so because the whole time since leaving she's been just as worried.  Thus, it's hard to tell if she's looking at anything at all- but at the very least she's trusted her sisters to stay say if not tend to the duties only she could tend to, and her father to... well, stay alive long enough for the village's problems to be solved.  "I suppose it's..."
  42. [19:32:24] * Kleha siiiiiips and goes silent.
  43. [19:38:31] * Indrika glances awkwardly at Kleha, not entirely certain if she planned on continuing, knowing interrupting her to be rude. Maybe the bird was supposed to finish the sentence? Maybe he did...
  44. [19:39:24] <Kleha> Caw.
  45. [19:39:34] <~Oxford> And Esfir's family: shamed by their daughter's lax morals, and shunned for their part in the embarassment of the Holender clan. Or had they disowned her by now? What would Mama say the next time she saw her? Would they ever even meet again?
  46. [19:39:52] <Kleha> From the reflecting she seems to be doing, she probably just wasn't sure HOW to finish it.
  47. [19:43:06] <~Oxford> The wind howls softly in their ears, and the crew compartment begins to feel a very long way from anywhere. A small metal box at the bottom of an ocean of swirling snow.
  48. [19:43:15] <Esfir> "What's it like having a real one? Hm. I'm not sure. I'll let you know when I have one. Sound good? Having the same blood doesn't make people your real family. That just makes them relatives." Her tone's a little more biting than she meant!
  49. [19:45:15] <Kleha> "... Somewhat true."  Glad to finally be cut off, Kleha continues.  "In my home, everybody was essentially family.  Those with blood ties were just as close as those without; all must provide for one another.  That was how we were able to survive."  Holy shit she's talking what
  50. [19:47:40] <Kleha> "However, one worries for them.  Perhaps it's natural.  The spirits' protective embrace on them has weakened, hance my own travels."  She pauses to take a siiiiiip.  "Are you traveling for yourselves...?"
  51. [19:48:17] <Esfir> "Sounds wei--we... welcoming. Er. I'm traveling for Kazzy."
  52. [19:50:09] <Indrika> "Huh." She's totally confused by the two conflicting responses. "I'm traveling for...um...experience?" That word had an 'x,' so fucking scholarly. "...who's Kazzy?" Nicknames? Not even once.
  53. [19:50:37] <Kleha> "I see."  She takes another sip... is that a smile?
  54. [19:53:01] <~Oxford> Kazimir. So brave, and handsome too. But their shifts have been out of synch lately; him going off-duty as she goes on, or else finishing a shift to come back to him curled tight and sleeping soundly. One late night she waited up through her off-rotation, only for him to come back from his shift exhausted and go right to sleep without hardly a word.
  55. [19:57:13] <Esfir> Esfir just gives Indrika a funny look. She's pretty sure this woman is simply pretending to be so thic-headed. That's the only way... Right? This schedule-based disconnect between Esfir and Kazimir is slowly whittling away at her nerves, though.
  56. [19:58:00] * Kleha indeed appreciates his bravery. Handsomeness? No, she doesn't even consider that, but that sure isn't what Esfir's likely to think. With the bird's help Kleha finally finishes her soup and goes to put it away, with a gesture of silent thanks.
  57. [20:02:43] * Indrika doesn't have a firm enough grip on what bravery means to appreciate his bravery, despite being a brave motherfucker herself. She's so brave, she'd totally admit to thinking he's cute right in front of Esfir. Unfortunately, she would not understand the tension that would cause or her impending assassination. Hopefully that doesn't come up.
  58. [20:05:22] <Esfir> Assassination would be inevitable.
  59. [20:11:52] <~Oxford> As they rise to put away the dishes, a distant noise catches their ears, just barely rising above the constant wind. It takes until the second recurrance to recognize what it is: another train's whistle.
  60. [20:12:36] <Kleha> "I believe there is something happening outside," the stater of the obvious states the obvious.
  61. [20:13:38] * Indrika barely prevents herself from asking if there was another tea pot elsewhere on the train.
  62. [20:19:33] <Esfir> Esfir hurries out to the command center!
  63. [20:23:14] <~Oxford> The wealthy - formerly, at least - girl at least seems to understand the implications. With the driving snow cutting down visual range to mere feet, transcontinentals must reduce speed to lower the risk of a catastrophic accident. Even so, hitting another train even at low speed could cause substantial damage to the engine; easily enough to render it inoperable until help arrived.
  64. [20:23:59] <~Oxford> And with the snow piling up, there's no telling when that could be. Days at best. At worst...
  65. [20:26:06] * Kleha follows in slow treads, though her avian companion rushes ahead with Esfir, interested. Even with the urgency of the situation rising Kleha herself doesn't see any need to stop taking it easy.
  66. [20:27:32] <Esfir> Esfir decides it's best to blow our own whistle, too, to make quite sure they're aware of us. Speed's the name of the game on the tracks, but in conditions like this, going faster than a train in front of means rushing towards impact and it's so hard to see! Is anything visible?
  67. [20:28:03] <Indrika> Cowgirl follows more out of ignorant curiosity than understanding the urgency. And by more than I mean she doesn't understand the urgency even a little.
  68. [20:32:47] <~Oxford> Esfir sounds the whistle, and a mournful wail emerges from the slot by the stack. After a moment, an answering double-blast sounds, already much clearer and louder than the ones before. The other train is closing faster than she thought.
  69. [20:33:37] <Esfir> The other train's behind the 1,1flying pussyfoot? WOOPS. Time to speed the fuck up if that's the case!
  70. [20:36:51] <Kleha> The bird's partner approaches after a lengthy shuffling session.  And not shuffling cards, even though they totally have been doing that in the engine room and that's a funny thing to bring up when describing a reaction to an urgent scenario.  No, Kleha takes Kha - oh hey they have the same letters in their names, just noticed that - on an arm and watches Esfir's response with a deadpan expression of her own.  "Are we encountering difficulties?"
  71. [20:39:27] <Esfir> WELL. Slowing the fuuuuuuuck down, then. "Difficulties? No, no, I'm good at this! Just be quiet!"
  72. [20:40:21] <~Oxford> [Conflict: Can they stop the train in time?]
  73. [20:41:24] <Kleha> "Understood."  The bird doesn't though.  Caaaaaaaaw.
  74. [20:50:43] <~Oxford> 10d6+2d10
  75. [20:50:43] <DiceMaid-9001> Oxford, 10d6+2d10: 51 [10d6=3,6,4,1,1,4,5,5,5,4; 2d10=6,7]
  76. [20:51:02] <Esfir> 8d6
  77. [20:51:02] <DiceMaid-9001> Esfir, 8d6: 29 [8d6=4,2,5,4,5,5,1,3]
  78. [21:00:32] <~Oxford> [Raise: 4,4] Glancing at the control panel, Esfir sees that the transcontinental's speed regulator has slipped, letting the massive locomotive reach a higher than intended while they were eating. Even a small increase in speed greatly extends the distance needed to stop, and the space they have is rapidly dwindling...
  79. [21:05:33] <Esfir> [See: 4,4] Esfir hurriedly reaches over for the speed regulator. Hopefully it should be as easy as flipping a switch, and then they can at least begin to accelerate negatively!
  80. [21:07:17] <Kleha> "You are correct," Kleha mutters to her shoulder-perched bird with an even quieter nod.  "She does seem in a panic, but we must respect her wishes.  Perhaps it's something she can overcome with her own strength."  The word you're looking for is probably 'decelerate.'
  81. [21:08:02] * Indrika stares on with derp-face. The correct word was in fact still accelerate. Fun facts!
  82. [21:11:51] <Esfir> [Raise: 5,3] FUCK YOU SCIENCE, TREES DON'T BELONG ON THE TRACKS. Next step... We're short on time to slow down. Cutting the speed might not be enough, so Esfir tries putting on the brakes. Just in case.
  83. [21:15:44] <~Oxford> [See: 5,3] The powered brakes on the engine clamp into position with a soft hiss, steam shunted from the main boiler feeding the pneumatic cylinders rushing in to apply a firm, even pressure to the ceramic pads. The tachometer begins to drop steadily.
  84. [21:22:17] <~Oxford> [Raise: 5,5] Even as the tach drops, however, the speedometer begins to level off. Esfir realizes with a start that the brakes on the freight-cars behind them haven't engaged properly. Most likely, there's a break somewhere in the connectors, left half-off during their abrupt departure from Keerovny. Without those brakes, the inertia of the freight cars will push the engine on ahead.
  85. [21:26:47] <Esfir> 1d6 Let's Get Creative!
  86. [21:26:47] <DiceMaid-9001> Esfir, Let's Get Creative!: 6 [1d6=6]
  87. [21:28:24] <Esfir> [See: 5, 5] "...You two take over here, I've got to go hook up the breaks!" Esfir rushes off, grabbing her toolbox along the way as she heads off towards the breaks.
  88. [21:29:57] <Kleha> "Understood," a repeat of a repeat of a repeat.  Visage unchanging, Kleha and her birdbuddy get up as if they hadn't moved for hundreds of years and waddle over to the controls, intending to do just that.
  89. [21:31:02] <Esfir> [Raise: 6,2] Esfir tries to reconnect the breaks while the train's in motion, oh boy!
  90. [21:31:49] <Indrika> "Wait, what are we supposed to do? Or did she mean you and the birdy?"
  91. [21:34:10] <Kleha> "Nonsense, his talons make operations difficult," she speaks matter-of-factly, as though an expert on birds running trains.  He caws loudly at the accusation anyway, since he knows he can't do shit about trains.  Kleha beckons Indrika over and whips out the manual with a slow, patient motion, reading it over carefully.
  92. [21:35:58] <~Oxford> [See: 7,1] Back two cars behind the crew compartment, Esfir's breath hangs in thick clouds around her as she gasps, struggling with the heavy manual brake crank. It slots into position with a jolt, and she feels the tug of deceleration pulling her toward the front of the train. One down, a dozen to go.
  93. [21:38:40] * Indrika advances, but looks at the manual, bewildered by the symbols.
  94. [21:42:31] <~Oxford> [Raise: 6,6] The rear light of the stopped train ahead suddenly comes into sight through the storm, and the darkness below it suddenly takes on the threatening solidity of a jagged cliff face looming over a ship in dense fog. Kleha and Indrika feel their breathes catch in their throats; Esfir is too busy to see it.
  95. [21:46:19] <Indrika> "Oh, we might hi-" The phrase isn't finished as her jaw is left hanging. She finally figured out what's going on!
  96. [21:47:54] <Kleha> "Correct.  This is why we're being relied on."  Though worried, Kleha keeps a steady presence and keeps toying with the controls.  Ganbatte ne, Essie-chan!
  97. [21:51:11] <Esfir> 2d6 coat plz
  98. [21:51:12] <DiceMaid-9001> Esfir, coat plz: 8 [2d6=2,6]
  99. [21:51:37] <Esfir> 1d6 oh hey I have scraps, tools, and pieces too thanks inventory
  100. [21:51:37] <DiceMaid-9001> Esfir, oh hey I have scraps, tools, and pieces too thanks inventory: 5 [1d6=5]
  101. [21:56:43] <Esfir> [Taking the blow: 6, 5, 1] Esfir rushes to the breaks, hurriedly connecting the breaks. Finding one of them to be uncooperative, she takes off her coat and uses it to tie the level into place. She'll be cold for the moment, but she can retrieve it after the crisis is averted, hopefully! Meanwhile, she works on sorting out that little hang-up.
  102. [22:01:19] <Esfir> [Raise: 2] With that done, Esfir's more or less done everything she knows how to do... So she heads off to bed and pushes back the more fatalistic thoughts out of her mind as she crawls in against Kazimir for warmth!
  103. [22:07:24] <~Oxford> [Concede] From the engineer's compartment, Kleha and Indrika can only watch in horror as the rear car of the transcontinental in front of them, stacked high with felled trunks as wide across as a grown man, rushes closer and closer. Steam rises from the brakes as their pads heat to glowing, cutting a hissing swathe through the snow on the track.
  104. [22:09:56] <~Oxford> The lumber car gets closer and closer, even as they slow, until it seems only to crawl toward them with terrible inevitability. A breathless moment passes, the engine's plow inches from the car ahead, but it moves no closer. The collision has been avoided.
  105. [22:17:55] <Oxford> [End Session.]
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