This is just a random one-shot I wrote because the idea of it popped into my head. Got a bit long, but to hell with it. Had to get it out of my head.
And yes, I'm still working on The Wall, all three of my followers can sit down again. It'll get made in time.
The rail management division of the Zootopia Transit Authority was a calm place. Calm, and boring.
The wholly underground rail lines were automated, requiring little personal input except for the weekly maintenance stops. The above ground lines were manned, but only as an emergency override- most of the time they ran on automated timers, never off schedule more than a few seconds. The old-world dictator Muzzleini said he'd make the trains run on time, but he had nothing on the ability of a computer counting nanosecond clock cycles.
That's why the job of Train Coordinator was considered one of the most boring positions possible in the ZTA. At least the bus managers had to deal with traffic accidents.
The rectangular room that housed the control office was roomy and well lit by fluorescent tubes, originally built for an era when nearly a hundred mammals were needed to effectively manage the burgeoning rail transport system both inside and outside the city. That number had been cut down to only five in recent years, the endless desks replaced with a massive row of flat panel monitors along one wall, a couple desks with their own computers and phones facing it. Two of the five desks were occupied, one holding an aged, bored looking pig starting his millionth game of solitaire; the other sporting a whitetail deer deep in conversation with some unknown party through the phone. Three prairie dogs stood behind the desks, taking turns throwing oversized darts at a cork board along the back wall that had seen much better days.
The pig looked up from his own computer, absentmindedly perusing the information that flowed along the screens above. Nothing was delayed, nothing reported any faults, nothing was even running slower than normal. A perfect day, just like the one before it. And the one before that. And the one before that.
The pig leaned back in his chair and stretched his achy muscles, closing his eyes as he envisioned finally clocking out within the hour. He had been with the ZTA ever since he first apprenticed in the maintenance division many decades ago, and was now simply coasting through until he could collect his pension. One would call it an easy life, but the many scars along his arms told a much different story of ZTA's older, less desirable service districts. And the daily relief of hitting the lever on the punchcard clock was one that would never leave him, even after they had replaced the punches with magnetic stripe readers.
A chorused yell broke the silence, as one of the rodents behind him undoubtedly scored a direct hit to the picture of the city's mayor that served as the bullseye. The pig opened his eyes, again running over the information adorning the wall.
He was about to turn away to refill his mug of tea before he realized something felt… off. He knew the entire inner city system like the back of his hand, and had gained an almost uncanny intuition for finding problems that most other mammals would overlook.
He rescanned the information, nothing seeming amiss until his eyes fell along the power readouts for the Banyan Street transformer array. Voltage down, current up. Way up. Drops like that only occurred when cars were under heavy acceleration, something that shouldn't be happening in a disused subway stop. His face deepening into a frown, the pig turned to the deer on his right and waved to get her attention.
"Ohh, and then that little darling just swept me off my feet- Um, hold on a min Janet, Ralph needs somethin'." She put the phone down flat on the desk. "What's up?"
He cleared his throat, gesturing to the monitors above him and addressing the deer with a gruff voice. "Something up on the Banyan transformers. Power's actin' funky."
The deer peered at the monitors, before turning to her own and quickly tapping through menus on her touchscreen.
"Hmm, you're right. Seems to be a pretty heavy drawdown, but why there?" The deer turned to the prairie dogs behind her, letting out a piercing whistle to get their attention. "Ey, can one of you loungers get the cameras up? We got a problem."
"Sure thing, boss!" they said in unison, as they skittered back to the smaller vacant desks. The taller one directly in front of Ralph's desk tapped rapidly has he navigated the ZTA camera system. "Where you lookin' at?"
Ralph spoke up first. "Banyan street, incomin' and outgoin'."
The rodent tut-tutted as he scrolled through a list on his screen. "Not much stuff still functioning down there. Half's offline, other half's got smashed lenses. Pretty messy after the Happytown riots... Oh, here's a midpoint tunnel camera-" A few more taps later, and a fractured picture of a subway tunnel came up on the wall of monitors.
They only had to wait a second before a dilapidated looking subway car came barreling down the tracks, some larger mammal stuck in the front window while flailing wildly. Some smudgy blurs indicated there was in fact someone inside the car, but the ancient camera wasn't capable of picking details out as the car sped by.
The pig jumped right out of his seat, his usually detached countenance now mauled with anger. "Wha-… WHAT THE FUCK?!" He whirled on the deer, his snout snarling. "What's on those damn rails?"
The deer jumped, quickly putting a localized traffic map up on the screens to her right. "Uhh, looks like the 3:25 train to Watering Hole just went through, that car's heading in-town. Other than that it's empt…. Shit. There's a full sized RhinoFreight hauler merging into that section heading for the industrial depot, 'bout 3 minutes out. He's booking it, too."
The pig wasted no time, dropping his large frame right back into his seat, which groaned in protest. "Marcie, get Command up. Tell them we have a rogue decommissioned car. Rats 1 and 2, send the E-stop sig to every machine on the Animalia line. Rat 3, get me more damn cameras!" He bellowed the last line, causing the third rodent to shrink under his gaze before getting back to work. Four more camera feeds popped up on the monitors in quick succession, with a fifth off to the side showing the large section of elevated rail where the Zootopia Loop merged into the Animalia line.
One of the rodents spoke up, his voice little more than a warble. "U-uh, suh, the RhinoFreight is an outta town rig. Don't have no ZTA comm systems."
"What the fuck is it even doing on Animalia?! Who approved it's transfer- y'know, don't answer that. All other traffic is stopped, yea?"
"Y-yes, all except the freighter. I got the reds up all down the track too."
Ralph glanced at the universal clock mounted on his desk. A minute had elapsed. An unresponsive freight train. A rogue car that shouldn't even be capable of rolling.
The rogue car flew past the second camera on screen, its speed unchanged.
"Speed?" Ralph questioned the second rodent.
The prairie dog glanced at his screen. "Hair over 40MPH, suh. Still accelerating."
"Shit... Ok, that puts it at the A-Z junction in a minute. That freighter's 'bout another minute assuming he follows the right inner-city speed curves. Fuck, this one's gonna be close."
He grabbed an aged ringed binder out of his desk and plopped it down, flinging it open and thumbing down the index. The other mammals watched him with bated breath, unable to do anything more to help the situation as the pig muttered to himself.
"Cut power now, that freighter's gonna roll right through the car and pile up outside the tunnel... Can't stop the freighter, can't stop the car…" He paused, his hoof on one page in the binder.
"Marcie! Can ya trigger the southbound switch to the Museum spur? ID's AM4-9121, unit 5."
The deer frantically typed on her keyboard, before stopping and slowly shaking her head. "Not wired up. Got cut out during the renovations, it was one of the mechanical types."
The mood in the room suddenly became somber.
"…Fuck. Fuck me sideways."
The pig slouched back in his chair, his anger deflated and his hooves over his eyes.
"That's the only switch. Ain't nothin' I can do, them souls on their own."
All eyes turned to the monitors on the wall, which now displayed three different angles of the same section of track.
The section of track that was about to become a gory scene out of a war movie.
It was the scenario that the grizzled hog had feared all his life: runaway trains with no way to stop them. A lose-lose no matter which way anyone looked at it.
He looked back up just as the subway car burst out of the tunnel, still moving at a rapid pace and showing no signs of slowing down. A camera facing the opposite direction caught the glint of the RhinoFreight's signature polished front horn, just coming around the bend that obscured the train's quarter mile long set of cars.
"Wait… What the fuck is that?" The tall rodent had jumped up on his desk, leaning into the monitor bank. "Is that… There's a fuckin' rabbit on top of the bloody rail car!"
Sure enough, Ralph could just make out the long ears of a gray rabbit flopping in the wind, as it crouched on top of the car.
"She mus' be fuckin' in-sane! They're up close to 60 already!"
Time seemed to slow as the two trains flew towards one another. Smoke began flying from the brake pads on the freight cars, but Ralph knew it was a wasted effort. Too much mass, too short a distance.
He saw the pink-and-gray blur of the rabbit move to the front of the car as it seemed to speed up. What appeared to be a large ram was stuck in the front window of the car, struggling frantically to break free.
May God help their souls, and look upon them with grace.
Scarcely 400 feet separated the trains, speeding ever closer.
Accept them into Heaven as one of your own.
The rabbit slid down the handles protruding from the front of the car, delivering a roundhouse kick that dislodged the ram from the window and sent him flying.
It clicked in Ralph's brain a microsecond before it happened.
The switch! The bloody switch!
The ram sailed through the air, smacking dead center into the lever that controlled the rail switch. Everyone winced at the contorted shape of the ram's body, but were quickly pulled back to the approaching trains…
...which cleared each other by mere inches, the subway car veering off onto the spur that lead to the Natural History Museum.
No mammal could look away as the speeding car leaned farther and farther, physics taking over. Past the point of no return, it slammed over onto its side, sparks bursting from underneath as it smashed a support pole, seemingly not slowing a bit as it disappeared into the tunnel ahead.
It took a few seconds for the mammals to process what happened. Ralph was the first to snap back to consciousness, letting go of the arm on his chair that he didn't know he was gripping so tightly.
"Marcie… There's…. ah, nobody down that spur, yea?"
The deer turned to face the pig with a ghastly expression on her face. "As… As far as I know, it's supposed to be shut down until next September..."
"One of you rats, get the Museum station cams up."
A few cameras flitted across the screen, eventually the one showing the station overview. The car had already impacted the far wall, having become little more than a smoking shell.
Ralph exhaled in relief. "Well, then."
He flinched as the car on screen suddenly exploded, a fireball engulfing the steel frame with shrapnel flying in every direction. Black smoke billowed up to the ceiling, partially obscuring the camera's vision.
"Where'd THAT come from?"
"Dunno, them cars don't carry anythin' burnable"
"Hey, hey, you think it was a-"
"SHUT UP!" Ralph bellowed, cutting off the three excited prairie dogs who had begun their incessant chattering. "Rat 3, pull up the other station cam. Lord, if that rabbit was in there..."
The screen changed again, showing an opposing view of the station's main platform through a smoky haze. In the middle of the platform were two specks sitting on the ground, seemingly awake, alert and magically unharmed by what should have been an inevitably fatal situation.
One of the rodents let out an involuntary whoop. "Hell yea, the damn rabbit survived!"
"Yeaa! Wait, who's the other one?"
"Dunno, looks like a fox or summthin."
"What's a fox doin' with a rabbit?"
"Stealin' rail cars, dumbnuts! Ain't that what foxes do, stealin' stuff yeh?"
This time, Ralph ignored the chattering rodents as he stared at the screen. The two figures stood up and quickly took off towards the museum, the rabbit swinging a small case at its side.
A grin spread across the hog's snout, as he let out an odd noise somewhere between a guffaw and a snort. This quickly devolved into a joyous laughing fit, pounding on his desk, overcome with a sensation he hadn't felt since he won 800 bucks in a baseball betting pool six years ago. Something about beating 'insurmountable odds', the bookie had said.
Insurmountable odds were damn right.
He turned back to the deer, who was still staring at the monitor in shock.
"Hey, Marcie. You wanna give Maintenance the bad news, or should I?"