Marielda 04: The Crosstown Job Pt. 2

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Aboard a rushing train fifty stories over Helianthus Parish, the members of The Six continue their attempt to steal the navigation plates of the Crosstown Express.

Episode description[edit | edit source]

To look at a city from above changes it irrecoverably, and so it was for the passengers on Train Day. And say what you like, but the windows in the carriages seemed each to show a different city, a different nest of streets. Those in the engine room saw the smoke from the factories and furnaces, and Marielda hissed and smouldered. Those in the rear carriages looked down upon Canopy Row and wondered whether Chrysanthemum Parish had always been so close. Passengers in the dining carriage looked down onto the parks and boulevards and Marielda smiled back in cypress trees and laurel bushes. No windows lit the pala-din's carriage as they waited in the dark, and for them, in that moment, Marielda barely existed at all, as if a dream recounted long ago. There is a word for all of this, my friends, taking many meanings across our wide city, and the word is reconfiguration.

This week on Marielda: The Crosstown Job, Pt. 2

Just for a moment, you felt safe...

Opening[edit | edit source]

Now, the people of Marielda, they weren't exactly familiar with trains. After all, until the Crosstown Express, there'd only been the one. And that train rode the circumference of the city. Mostly carried freight. Some obsidian from the miners round Quinceton, some finished product from the manufactories of Iris. Maybe, maybe a cobbin or two. But when the old Crosstown Express screeched to a halt in the sky above Helianthus, everyone in town knew something wasn't quite right. But I can't say anyone knew exactly what it was the start of. Not The Six. Not Lance Sovereign Marielda. Not even Samothes himself. No one knew. Except me, of course.

Plot[edit | edit source]

As Ethan Hitchcock brandishes a sabre and begins collecting valuables from the occupants of the breakfast car, Thackeray draws his gun, a pistol with an extremely long barrel, and aims to shoot him. From the floor next to the bar, his twin Edmund Hitchcock throws the porcelain cat statue at Thackeray, which hits him in the chest and falls to the ground harmlessly. As Thackeray starts aiming back and forth between the two, they both begin stammering unnecessarily casual greetings to their old rival, who blasts a fist-sized hole in the floor next to Edmund, through which Helianthus Parish can be seen far below.

Hearing gunfire from the neighboring car, Castille and Sige run in and see the Lance Sovereign brandishing his gun at two of their friend, one of whom has a sword. As they enter, Thackeray takes a step back; not a retreat, but a tactical and aesthetic move which feels almost choreographed. He reaches his hand back and opens the car's front door, and pala-din can be heard awakening in the adjoining car.

From outside the windows, another train track can be seen coming out of the ground which will fork off from the track they're currently on, heading north to Chrysanthemum instead of down to the factories of Iris Parish. The car they're in begins to divide and reconfigure as a group of paladin march into the car. Because the engine is moving slowly, it seems to happen in slow motion; a smooth cut forms down the center of the car and additional bits of flooring begin to come out as the car is bisected. Other passengers seem more concerned by the mayhem in front of them than the splitting train.

Thackeray steps past the prone Edmund and advances on Ethan, drawing his sabre. Ethan feints as if to parry the blade, planning to step out of the way and blow trance powder from his hand into Thackeray's face. Sige charges head on to attack and distract him at the same time, having practiced this maneuver with one of the Hitchcocks and knowing to hold his breath. However, Thackeray sees through the feint and slashes Ethan's arm open, while Sige gets a faceful of powder, holding his breath at the last minute, and stands there staggering, bullishly blowing out of his nose in an attempt to dislodge what little made it in there.

In the engine car, Aubrey comes to at the same time as Peg and Zaktrak as the effects of the sleeping gas wear off. As the machine chugs slowly and erratically, she holds up an empty vial, with her hand hiding the contents, saying to stand still and they can forget anything happened. The two put their hands up and back into the back corner, where they hit a button causing bars to slide down over the front of the car, trapping Aubrey in with them. As Zaktrak says that they've got to keep these jobs and the pala-din will be here soon, Peg's arms reach around trying to find a place Aubrey can't see. She calls Peg out and tells them that they'll have an excuse, having been knocked out, with residue from her concoction still on the floor.

"Why do you make things worse for us?" Peg asks her.

"I'm trying to do a job too," pleads Aubrey.

"You know how hard it is for people like us in Marielda," continues Peg. "Why do you ruin things? We work hard to get here." She steps forward past Zaktrak, pushing him back, looming towards Aubrey, who, still holding the empty vial, tries fending her off with choking dust, a two-part means of nonviolent incapacitation in which she throws a poison and an antidote simultaneously to lessen the symptoms. The antidote cracks on Peg's skin, while she catches the vial of poison and throws it back in Aubrey's face.

Surveying Thackeray, Castille sees his coat change color as light hits it and notices a spark of light as Sige grazes him in the skirmish, putting together that the coat will protect him from physical attack. As the car splits beneath her, she uses her spider climbing skills to jump and hang from the right wall, losing her hat in the process. With Castille's pala-din body no longer in the middle, the porcelain cat figurine is now the only member of The Six now on the left car.

"I don't have time for this," seethes Thackeray, moving for the now-unobstructed back door to check on the engine before the split gets further. Ethan follows him, shouting, for Aubrey not to let him in as five pala-din move into the breakfast car from the front, with more inactive in the next car.

As Aubrey chokes on her own dust, Peg begins to speed the engine back up. Though Aubrey tries to surreptitiously edge up to a component she can sabotage, Peg picks her up and places her in the center of the room, telling her to stay where she can be seen. A crystal inlaid around the doorframe glows red, and the two engineers salute as Thackeray walks in and scans the room, sees Aubrey in the middle and asks "Who is this?" before glaring at Zaktrak while he mumbles some half-explanations.

In a flashback, Ethan is sent to research at bars where train engineers hang out and just gets drunk with Zaktrak. Though he can't quite remember the details of their conversation, the two feel warmly toward one another, and Zaktrak's eyes light up when he sees Captain Hitchcock step into the room behind Thackeray, thinking that the two are together. Ethan gestures for Zaktrak to close the door, and as he does, clobbers him over the head as Aubrey grabs at his ankles. Thackeray stumbles, drawing his sabre and putting it to Ethan's throat as he comes up. As Zaktrak gasps in confusion, Peg protectively pulls him back.

The five pala-din in the breakfast car surround Edmund as he lies on the floor. Castille climbs up the wall and out the window, and for just an instant before she makes it out, their heads snap to look at her. Outside, she can see that the left train has added another engine car, but no equivalents to the two cars carrying passengers from Helianthus. She moves forward across the right train, which is headed for the giant white church in Irish Parish. On top of the car in front of the one carrying the pala-din, she can hear music from below and looks down through its windows to see a nicely carpeted ballroom compartment with potted plants, a skipping record player, lots of "older people who are three seconds from napping". The room is decorated with the symbol of Maelgwyn's Faithful. She continues forward across the roof.

"Thackeray! Hey, Thackeray!" shouts Ethan.


"It's good to see you again!" Ethan continues, before the Lance Sovereign slashes at his throat. Though Ethan twists away to use his cavalry jacket's collar to guard his throat, he still feels outmaneuvered, sensing that Thackeray is a better swordsman. Aubrey runs to the back door, twisting a wheel and swinging it open. loose items in the compartment start flying out the back, as the train has now regained most of its speed. Peg, holding Zaktrak, latches her legs through grates on the floor. Thackeray draws his gun on Aubrey, who puts her hands up. He doesn't shoot, but takes a few steps toward her, with his gun out and his sabre pointed toward Ethan.

Edmund, surrounded by pala-din, weakly moans "Castille" before Sige rips a bolted-down table from the floor and uses it as a battering ram, bowling through the group of statues. They fall in a surprisingly human way, like children who don't know the right way to fall yet. Two, their faces shattered on the ground, don't get back up, while the other three draw shortswords.

Castille is on the copper roof of the second car from the front. It's very hot, though she can't feel it. Seeing no windows on the side of either this car or the one in front, she punches through the roof, tearing a hole and entering via the ceiling. Inside the dark car, illuminated only by the hole she made and light shining beneath the door to the front car, is what looks like a trainset diorama of Marielda, pistons moving as different train tracks are laid out and other parts of the city are being reconfigured in what seems to be real time. As she grasps around trying to study the diorama, she hits a button which opens the car's front and rear doors. The light shining through the front window of the car ahead is so bright that she cannot see anything else in there. Putting on her spirit mask, she tries again to study the diorama, and, seeing a glowing energy beneath the table, leans down to look.

In the engine room, Aubrey yells "Push him!" and lunges at Thackeray's lower body. Ethan throws his sword to one side and shoves the Lance Sovereign all the way out the door, but gets pulled out in the process, hanging from Thackeray's boots, feet inches from the rails, as Thackeray hangs from the train by one hand.

As Edmund takes advantage of the confusion and dashes into the next car forward, Sige crushes a rage essence vial in his hand and draws his trench knife. Holding it in a reverse grip, he shoves it into the head of one pala-din, piercing the marble in a way that doesn't seem possible, as if he had found a flaw in their build, before shattering another's face with a spinning backhand. The third shows no fear but steps back to block the door to the next car.

Edmund moves through the dark car past five inactive pala-din and into the ballroom holding a social event for rich members of Maelgwyn's Faithful. A single old couple is attempting to dance to the looping record. Rushing through the door, he quickly reads the room and shuts it behind him.

"Well folks, we're having a little trouble further down the train," he begins to explain, "But I just wanted to reassure you that everything seems to be going okay. I hope you're enjoying Train Day." Edmund reassures an old and frail man to his left that everything is alright as sounds of carnage come from the cars on either side, with Sige and Castille smashing through pala-din and the roof, respectively.

"You know, uh, I used to live here back in the old days when things were slower and quieter," the man explains to Edmund. "Before all the heat, and the war, of course, of course."

"The war, yes."

"In the old days, things were… You know, I knew that boy, in the old days."

"Oh, yes? which boy was that, sir?"

"Oh, the one—can't say his name. You know how they are, the Golden Lance… And you… He said there'd be beautiful things if we followed him, but me, I—I'm a loyal citizen. I'm a loyal parishoner, and that's me, a Samothes man to the end. And look at this! We got a tr—train day!"

The man smiles tries to gesture widely, but can't even get his arms up. In one window, the volcano can be seen to the east, and in the other, the snow, woods, and mountains to the west, and Edmund gets the feeling that the man is from a time impossibly far away. Edmund repeatedly tries to extract himself from the conversation and the car's front door opens as Castille hits the button in the next car forward. Captain Hitchcock finally manages to step away into the map car.

Underneath the table, Castille finds a slot that opens up, containing a pair of metal clamps holding a large stone tablet, and five other stone plates underneath a claw that can move them around. In a flashback, Castille turns out to have also been at the bar with Hitchcock and Zaktrak, and learns from Zaktrak how the plates work.

"I'm such a lucky guy," he tells her, "All my friends, pretty much all my friends work in the factories, But I got this train job. I got it because this friend of mine, he works with the Artificer. The Artificer Mundane, he's working on these, these amazing things, they store… They're like books, but for machines. It's like, what if a factory, or a train, or a windmill could read a book."

From Zaktrak, Castille knows that each plate contains a different route and is valuable, but the one with the master route, identifiable by having the most and smallest etchings on it, is the most valuable, though hardest to decipher.

Aubrey scrambles to look over the edge, where Thackeray is trying to get a second hand up and will clearliy grab her if given the chance. Using her climbing gear, Aubrey hooks a rope on one of the grates and throws the end down to Hitchcock. Holding onto it, Hitchcock lets go of Thackeray, flying out nearly horizontal from the rushing train. With the cobbins' help, he climbs along it back into the train. Behind them, the door closes and Thackeray is gone.

Sige, still irrationally aggressive, keeps punching the last pala-din in the breakfast car, working the substance out of his system and loosening up his muscles as all of the panicked passengers pound at the back door in an attempt to get away from him.

"You owe us big time," says Zaktrak in the engine room.

"I promise we will pay you back," Aubrey pleads.

"We're gonna get in so much trouble."

"It's okay," Peg tells him. "They'll pay us back. Or else."

"What's life without a little trouble, right guys?" asks Aubrey. With Peg's reluctant consent, she stops the train, just a short ways from entering the top of the giant white Iris Parish church. Aubrey gives a handshake to Zaktrak and Peg, the latter grabbing the back of her neck and wrapping her fingers around front for a moment as they do. With all five members of the Six and Zaktrak taking one plate each, they are able to get them all from the map car, but ponder how to make it out. They had previously arranged to meet Snitch Nightly, who is driving a cart near where the tracks were supposed to be before they were raised into the air.

Deciding to try putting the train in reverse, the group moves into the front car, led by Castille wearing her spirit mask. Though a blinding light shines through the window which covers the entire front of the train, Castille sees that part of it is blocked by a throne in the car. Adjusting her mask down, she sees that the train will go into the church, past a ball of light, and into a stop. Moving past the throne, she looks back and sees a bearded figure sitting there, hands folded and looking forward, wearing an open robe, loose pants, and a simple golden crown. The figure has a golden aura, and at first she thinks it is the light or that he's a spirit she's seeing through the mask, before others come in and also see him, realizing that he is a hologram-like figure projected from a yellow crystal above. He looks up at Castille and suddenly she's in the body of the cat.

The cat, which is in the train that split off, moves forward through the cars, out of her control. It goes past the luncheon car, the pala-din, the ballroom where all of the younger attendees of the Maelgwyn's Faithful ball ended up, and the diorama room, into the front of the other train, where Samothes sits in his throne. The train splits another time as it continues down the Crysanthemum Parish border, with half looping back while the half that Castille is on crossing the water and headed for the lap where Samothes lives. The cat leaps up into his lap and he pets it, twice, with a feeling of parental care and exasperation, and Castille feels the foreign sensation of warmth.

She returns to her pala-din body and the hologram of Samothes switches off. There are switches to turn the train in the other direction, but with the engine broken and the plates removed, the train isn't going anywhere. However, a slightly tilted new track appears beneath and in front of the stalled train, which dives down before pulling up and zeroing out in an empty Iris Parish station that wasn't there five minutes ago. The group, Peg and Zaktrak included, climbs out of the hole in the top of the car and sneaks away.

Castille suggests they hide out and celebrate at her place nearby, since it's a pretty remote area where no one really lives, but her home is just an empty studio with a forge, a bunch of weapons, and no food or drinks. Peg announces she's going home, while Zaktrak says he knows where there's a good bar. As everyone leaves, a little cat hops in the window, curls up on the bed, and turns back into a statue.

Cast[edit | edit source]