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Transpolar Dream by Roy RadianSUMMARY: Entry for the February '09 Flash Fiction contest.
The old man Anker took a lump of chlorine and drops it to the kettle, the brown water simmers and the color dissipates to a dolomite white.
"What a waste. A tenth would be enough to make the water drinkable."
"Must you spoil a little bit of luxury, Stein," chided the old man, he took the kettle and poured the water to the mugs. "Besides, my time has come. I'll be going soon."
"To Polar?" asked Stein.
He smiled. "Yes, to Polar."
"Are you sure it's safe? Nobody succeed crossing the bridge with automatons on guard, and the Strand Channel has quite a collection of wreckage boats."
"I've been back and forth to Polar. When your time comes maybe you'll follow, riding the train." He sipped the water and sighed. "I'll be missing you, boy."
Stein squeezed the old man's hand. "Don't worry, I'll visit you sometimes."
The old man Anker laughed. "And how do you propose to do that."
"By train, of course."
Stein covered his head with raincoat when droplets of rainfall pouring down in heavy mass and the storm that ensued raging across Strand Channel. His vision blurred and the world around cloaked in gray shade.
"The train wouldn't cross the bridge." said Quant, wet and quivering beside him.
He stretched his palm, bended it to a bowl shape, and waited until it's filled with rain drops. The black puddle in his palm stirred as he loosened his fingers and the water streamed down, leaving granules of various elements behind.
"I've seen denser than this," he showed the granule to Quant, "and the train still passing the bridge. Hell, I hope the storm keeps going. I reckon those four legs automaton could use some sort of malfunctioning with this abundance of metal."
"How's the decoy?"
Quant unhooked the bag from his shoulder, rummaged inside, and brought two boxes of remote control out.
"I positioned them ten meters inside the safe zone and programmed the track at forty five angles, diagonal. Our robots--" Stein cringed at the mention of the word, an assembled four wheels piece of junk isn't his solid idea of robots, "then will scatter to different directions to distract the automaton while we headed to railway RB point."
"Unfortunately," said Quant, staring north where several shapes, two meters tall, barely discernible, hovering over the mouth of the bridge, "The proficiency lessened unless the storm recedes. It's either the storm or the automaton."
"Tough luck, huh."
Stein crouched to the ground and picked up a broken shape stone, the stone tingling in his hand, still sustaining its half-life radioactivity. A decent memento to remember Roskat, but who wants to remember this godforsaken place, it's filled with nothing but toxic and radioactive pollution. A waste of humanity piled up over hundreds years. He gripped the stone and flung it upward east, to the deepest of Roskat where it's belong.
"No regrets, right," he clasped Quant's back. "What's left is the train."
They spent the interminable waiting time huddled together, back to back, greedy for little warmth spared. No words uttered, both occupied with their own thoughts.