Greenbelt Space Express

The ground jolted, shuddered, and Sylver supported himself against the oak-panelling.

“Conductors these days,” he muttered, rightening himself to the tilt to the corridor. “They don't know the force stabiliser from the throttle.”

Climbing over a toppled crate of leaf tea, Sylver lit one of the hanging lamps. Electric-blue burst like a supernova drowning the wooden train corridor in brilliant, radiant light.

Perching on the edge of a makeshift seat, Sylver removed an aluminium flask from his bag, next placing a white china cup next to it.

He did not need the drink. The hot tea was unnecessary, but the sentiment of it remained the same, and the fresh, aromatic scent of the beverage always sent a joyous buzz through his senses.

Sylver poured a cup and lifted it to his nose.

The door to his left rattled.

Odd, he had not felt any other turbulence.

Rising to his feet, Sylver stood before the door. He brushed the metal nameplate in its centre, his finger running over the ‘S’.

“Storage,” he mused. He rapped on the door. “Somebody trapped? A kidnapped mop, perhaps?”

“Get me out!” a voice screamed. The door rattled again.

Sylver straightened his bow tie. “Stand back!”

Checking the corridor and deeming it clear, Sylver raised his leg and kicked. His foot slammed, once, twice below the bronze doorknob.

Wood splintered. A jagged crack jutted across the wood. The door swung open, and a shaggy-haired boy stumbled from the dark.

Sylver took in the appearance of the arrivals strange clothes. He wore a long-sleeved multi-coloured jumper, and his blue trousers seemed to be more ripped holes than actual jeans, exposing the pale nobbles of his knees. Thick, black boots claimed his feet, and they looked like they had not been polished in a while.

The boy whirled around, and Sylver grabbed his thin shoulders.

“Steady, son!” Sylver said, and he could feel the boy trembling. He did not look much older than eighteen moons by human standards. “Where in the galaxy did you come from?”

The boy appeared to search the ground, his mouth flapping like a trout. “I... Wh— what?”

“How did you find yourself in the cupboard? Did someone put you there?”

“Cupboard?” The boy croaked, “No, no. I was... I was just... I can’t...”

The boy shook his head, again and again, and again, until Sylver was confident he would end up dislocating his neck.

“Hey, ho, good chap. Best you stop that. Here, take a seat. Come,”

Sylver took the boys hand and directed him towards a stack of wooden crates. He dusted the top with the sleeve of his jacket and helped the boy take his perch.

Once the boy had settled, Sylver asked, “What’s your name, son?”

“Er...” The boy massaged his forehead whilst his foot also tapped an inharmonious tune. “Er, Leith.”

“Sylver. Right, then Leith—”

A groan whined through the train, and the corridor shook. Crates toppled, the light flickered, and a metallic twang informed Sylver that his flask had found a new home on the floor.

“Where are we?” Leith squealed.

“Why, the Greenbelt Space Express, of course. The Ceshan D to Gelrora line.” Sylver checked his watch and grinned. “Ah, now this is a treat. We should be coming up to the Wol Star Cluster about now.”

Patting Leith’s shoulder, Sylver strode two steps to the other side of the corridor. He drew the velvet curtain, and the golden, oval window framed the scenery perfectly—a sight made for a gallery.

Colours collided in a twirl of an artists’ pallet. Bright purples, vibrant greens and sunny, rusty oranges twisted together in clouds of different pigments, standing bold against the sky’s obsidian canvas.

A luminous splattering of stars dusted the view favourably, completing the sight like a signature.

Never in all his years would Sylver ever get bored of seeing the wonder of the Wol Star Custer. He had travelled around the galaxy and far beyond, but never once had he seen anything so breathtaking—metaphorically, of course, for he had no organic lungs.

“You can only see it at the rear of the train,” Sylver whispered in awe, “It is due to the way it belts around. It is why I was back here when I found you—to see this.”

Wood creaked behind him, and Leith appeared at Sylver’s shoulder.

Leith gasped, his breath fogging up the glass. “We’re in space?”

Sylver chuckled. “Well, of course, son.”

“In actual space? A train in space?”

“Yes...?” Sylver said slowly; he was sure he had mentioned that already.

Tapping the side of his head, Sylver felt for any bumps or lumps, any tears in his skin. He felt nothing.

“Strange, my memory circuit seems fine. Surely you knew you were in space? How did you get on board?”

Leith kept his eyes on the window, his pale face flashing in colours of rich pinks and royal blues.

“Memory circuit?”

“Yes, memory circuit.” Sylver stepped away from the window and gestured to his whole being. His head twitched. Shoot—he knew he should have worn his best jacket. “I am a cyborg, son.”

Leith's eyebrows raised, vanishing into the loose curls of his blond hair. “A cyborg?”

“Yes, son. Is my voice box not functioning correctly as well? I suppose I should not have cancelled my medic's appointment to come on this trip. I must remember to go when I return.”

“No, no. Your voice... is fine.” Leith affirmed, but Sylver couldn't help pick up on the slight hitch in the boy’s voice—the dusting of a question.

Oh, fry my circuits, Sylver swore.

“You are not one of those Cyatup devotees? I will not tolerate any prejudices against me. And neither will the conductor, I’m sure.”

Leith raised his hands—the intergalactic sign of surrender. “Huh— No, I don't even... No. I’m of them!”

Sylver hummed and crossed his arms over his chest. The boy may not have been a Cyatup supporter, but he was something. Be it a floozy, a drunken, or an indigent stowaway—Sylver couldn't quite put his finger on it.

“Where did you say you came from?”

“Er...” The boy stumbled back, returning to his seat on the crates. “I’m not entirely sure. Everything is kinda muddled. I was... I was at the museum, and walked into the loo, when suddenly—” He slapped his legs. “I ended up here, locked in there!” He jabbed his thumb towards the storage cupboard.

“A museum, you say? On Tharia?”

Leith frowned. “No. Earth. London.”

Sylver barked a laugh. “Don’t be daft, boy. No one has inhabited Earth for over one hundred years—part of the Care Program. Everyone knows all humans relocated to Renkore. I’m not a simpleton, you know.”

Leith stood and tugged something from his back pocket. The rectangular device laid flat in his palm, the screen a black, an endless shiny portal. Leith tapped the device, and the screen glowed, dousing his face in white light and shadows.

“Damn,” he swore, “no signal.”

“Well, indeed not, son. We are in space, of course. And, might I add, those devices have not been used in over three hundred years. Where ever did you acquire it so well intact?”

Leith tapped the screen again. “My mum,” he mumbled.

“Fascinating stuff!”

The train jolted, and Sylver collapsed to the side. His head smacked the wall—a static buzzed. Above, the lamp fell, smashing, extinguishing the flame, drowning them in shadows.

“What is that!” Leith cried, his body too, sprawled in a tangle of limbs on the floor.

Red light flooded the corridor, and a claxon blared. Dread flooded Sylver’s systems, his semi-mechanical head thumping.

“We are under attack!” he shouted, “We must get to safety. Follow me!”

Sylver jumped to his feet and grabbed Leith’s wrist, tugging him forward, but the boy didn't move.

“No! I want to go home!”

“There won’t be a you to go home if we don't move, so if you will not come of your own volition—” Sylver raised his tea flask. He winced. “Apologies for this.”

He wacked the boy on the back of his head.

“You will thank me later,” Sylver groaned, and he carried Leith’s limp—but alive—body down the corridor, out the door and hopefully to safety.

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