Commonwealth, XXXVI: Signal Passed at Danger

Commonwealth, XXXVI: Signal Passed at Danger May 22, 2020

Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, part 1, chapter 9

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from my novel Commonwealth. The rest of today’s installment is free, but only on my Patreon site. If you want to read the next part today, it’s already up on Patreon as well. You can sign up for as little as $1/month, or $2 for exclusive author’s notes and behind-the-scenes material. There’s also a table of contents for all published chapters.

In her private car, Secretary Asha Remington awoke with a start.

She was groggy for a moment, until she realized – with a spike of mortified anger – that she’d slept much longer than she had intended to. She sat bolt upright, glaring around as if seeking someone who was to blame.

The second realization arrived a split-second after the first: The train had stopped.

There was no vibration of motion; no familiar ch-ch, ch-chunk of the wheels; no pervasive rumble of the engine. The train was motionless, silent, except for the faint pinging and ticking of a hot chassis slowly cooling off.

Where am I?

She yanked up the window shade. It showed the concrete wall of a tunnel, strung with amber lights.

They hadn’t arrived at their destination; someone would have found her and woken her. She felt another hot surge of embarrassment at the thought of that and was momentarily glad she had avoided it, but her fleeting relief was instantly drowned in anger again.

She checked her watch.

An hour late!

Worse, she realized. They were an hour behind schedule and hadn’t arrived yet. She had an urgent appointment, and time was slipping away while they sat dumbly in a tunnel.

Throughout Asha Remington’s sixty-six years, she had never hesitated, never second-guessed herself. She had an invincible confidence in her own righteousness. As soon as she perceived a problem, she knew exactly what she had to do to solve it.

Anger galvanized her into motion. She flung open the door of her private car and stormed down the aisle of the train. The other passengers glanced up from their seats sleepily, in dull surprise, as a vision of wrath in a fur stole and a long coat swept past them.

The door to the locomotive was marked with an “AUTHORIZED PERSONS ONLY” sign, which she ignored. She thrust it open and burst into the cab, where the two crew members were looking out at the track and conferring in low voices. They glanced up, startled at the intrusion.

“What is the meaning of this?” she demanded.

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