Topic: Gensokyo Railway Series Special: The Origin of Cobol  (Read 338 times)

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Pergold

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Gensokyo Railway Series Special: The Origin of Cobol
« on: September 04, 2017, 09:44:15 pm »
THE ORIGINS OF COBOL





Cobol waited at the Human Village station. His train wasn't due for a while and was standing by in the meantime. Ichihiro pulled into the station and the two engines exchanged greetings.
   “I have some time before I take my next train.” said Cobol.
   “Me too.” replied Ichihiro, “I'm early and I won't be due for sometime as well.”
   Maybach was arranging his next train and saw the JNR DE11 talking.
   “Hello Cobol!” shouted Maybach.
   “Hi...uhh.”
   “My name's Maybach.”
   “Who's he?” asked Cobol.
   “That's Maybach.” explained Ichihiro, “He's a new diesel engine that Nitori had rebuilt.”
   “That's right.” said Maybach.
   “Does that mean you were built in the outside world?” questioned Cobol.
   “No. I was built in Gensokyo.” replied Maybach, “Were you built here?”
   “I was built elsewhere.” sighed Cobol.
   Ichihiro was puzzled, “Why did you say it like that?”
   “Let's just say, my time outside of Gensokyo...was troubled.” said Cobol.
   “We're your friends. You can tell us.” Ichihiro encouraged.
   Cobol looked depressed, he sighed. “Okay.” he said softly, “I'll tell you.”
   Maybach and Ichihiro listened in as Cobol began to tell them off his origin.
   “It started...when I was built.” he began
-***-
   I was built in thew early 1970's, built by the folks at Kawasaki Heavy Industries for the then nationalized Japan National Railways. Things were different back then. Steam was being abolished and we were replacing them. Some of them were preserved on smaller private railways, others were scrapped.
   There was this one steam engine I remember, his name was Hiro. He was a class D51, much like Hachirou-san. I met him on one of those smaller railways.
   “Kon'nichiwa 1067-kun” said Hiro.
   We didn't have names. We only had numbers, our controllers wanted efficiency and thought names will only get in our way.
   “ Kon'nichiwa Hiro-sama.” replied 1067.
   Much like humans in Japan, we revered our elders. Even if the case is that we are replacing them at the cost of their lives.
   “I'm being sent to a place far away!” exclaimed Hiro.
   “Why so?” asked 1067.
   “I'm being sent as a gift by my owner to the Island of Sodor!” said Hiro excitedly.
   “Really?”
   “Yes! I even heard that the railway on that island has a controller who prefers my kind and is nice to their engines.”
   Hiro's excitement over having a nice controller was an understatement. JNR's controllers and its predecessor's controllers of the Japanese Government Railway, were vicious. They valued honor and discipline over our well being. Hiro had it rough, he had to survive WWII and that has an effect on an engine. Threats of being sent to the Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere and being destroyed by Allied bombers threatened Hiro and his friends. From what his owner told me one day, he had a classmate who was melted by the bomb in Nagasaki.
   Even though the JGR controllers were scary, the JNR ones weren't much better. They favored the new electric engines and even the new Shinkansen locomotives who ran on special wider track. Its because of this that we diesels and remaining steam engines were treated as second-class by our electric peers and controllers. I remember vividly an ED76 named 256, he'd bully me and the other diesels.
   “You diesels are worthless, noisy, and smelly! We electrics are reliable, faster and above all, honorable!” 256 would often say to us.
   We had to grin and bear it, because if we did stand up to them, our controller would tell us off. Just like to 66, a DD16.
   “You smelly baka! Get out of my way!” said 256 that fateful day.
   “No! You bully us around like we were trucks and treat us so! I'd have you know that we are engines too and you must treat us with respect!”
   256 just grunted and went away. We celebrated in the shed, but the next day. Our controller yelled obscene things at 66 and sent him away. We never saw him again.
   Our controller would put us on heavy freight duties.
   “Your class is designed for this work!” said Masuda-kakka, our controller, “Stop acting so weak!”
   We were overloaded and would have breakdowns. We were repaired, yes; but it was hasty and done so that we could be back at work, busting our Diesel-Hydraulics yet again.
   There was this one time I broke down in 1980, long after Hiro had been sent to Sodor. That 256 and a friend of his taunted me.
   “What a poor sad smelly diesel!” laughed 256.
   “He should be scrapped on the spot!” his friend chortled.
   I tried to tell my controller about the abuse. But he said, “If you and your kind weren't so late with your shipments! You wouldn't have been treated as such!”
   “But, Mas-”
   “But nothing 1067!”
   But then, one fateful day. I heard some chatter from a station during one of my rare moments of rest.
   “Did you hear?” said a passenger.
   “About what?” said another.
   “The disappearances? They have been happening a lot recently!”
   “I haven't heard of it.”
   “What! You haven't heard about the disappearances?!”
   I was intrigued. I told my friends and classmates about it.
   “Its a youkai.” said a shunter.
   “A what?” I said.
   “A youkai! My driver tells me about them every day. He thinks its one of them. Youkai are these creatures that existed long ago but went away.”
   “Don't be absurd!” said a DE10.
   “But my drivers says-”
   “Enough of your silly driver. Those are just fairy tales shrine maidens tell to get their donations!” said the DE10.
   I would disregard this conversation until one night, I saw...her.
   It was late one night, it was August of 1981. I was late and was forbidden from the shed. I was cross, very cross, I hated 256, I hated Masuda-kakka, I hated JNR. That's when I saw this woman, wandering the yard.
   “Hey! You! What are you doing on government property!” I shouted.
   But she turned around. She had blonde hair, a white dress and an apron. She looked at me, then walked slowly towards me.
   “Don't make me-”
   “Shhh...Don't say a word, you stupid locomotive.” she said.
   “I'm just-”
   “Shut up.” she snapped.
   “I just wanted to know why your here.” I asked.
   She just gave me a vague answer, “I'm just going for a stroll...looking out for people.”
   “Why are you in a rail yard!”
   “I'd ask you the same thing...1067!”
   I was unperturbed. I only knew that she read my number off my sides, so I only starred at her.
   “Something's bothering you.” she said blankly, “Now what is it? Speak!” again she snapped.
   “My controller is a terrible man! He cares not for his engines and has favorites!”
   “Who is this controller.”
   “He is in charge of JNR's engine movements. His name is-”
   The woman cut me off, “I know who he is.”
   Then she turned around and left, “Excuse me!” I asked.
   “Yes?” she said.
   “Are you a youkai?”
   She giggled, “Perhaps.”
   I looked away, and when I looked back at her. She had disappeared! I now know that she is Yukari Yakumo, but I didn't know her back then. The next day, we were told that our controller had disappeared in the night and a replacement was being picked. We thought that the new controller would be nice, but we were wrong, so wrong.
   The new controller was mean and expected more out of us. We hauled heavier loads, we had to operate at higher speeds, we had to be modern.
   But every now and then, the woman would come back to the same yard and I'd tell her the atrocities of our new controller. Then somehow our old controller would be magically gone and a worse one would take his place. JNR declined, our drivers would always be on strike and they would all be punished. JNR started losing money and repairs and other maintenance got cheaper and cheaper. But every time I told the woman about the current controller he'd disappear. I kept shooting myself in the motor and there would always be a worse controller.
   But one night, I told her about our new controller in 1988, and he'd be gone too. Then everything changed.
   The railway was in serious debt and the government was deciding on privatizing us.
   “Oh yes! We will be freed!” said one engine.
   But then in 1989, we were split off. We were distributed to the various Japan Railway groups. I was sold to JR Central. Our controller was nice, but cared more about the electrics. Luckily I never saw 256 every again, but I was alone. The newer locomotives ostracized me and we were punished for minor things. Soon I was put on a siding, what had happened was that I was taken off the roster, I was to be scrapped.
   But then, years passed. I slowly became rusted. I was always cold. My luck finally changed once I saw the woman again and she had a friend, she had fox tails, I remember the shunter from long ago saying that they were called 'kitsune', but I never thought much of it.
   “What are you doing to me? Are you going to make me disappear too?”
   “Yes and no. I have a friend who just bought you.” she said.
   So the two youkai drove me to an abandoned siding and she opened up something called a 'gap'. She drove into the abyss of eyes and violet sky, there were rails. The ground seemed to float in an endless space of junk and other gaps, islands of land dotted around like clouds. It was scary, I thought I was going to come off the rails and fall endlessly into an empty void of eyes and nothingness.
   So then I got out of her gap place and I ended up at the Kappa Valley Locomotive Works. And that's how I got here.
-***-
   The other engines were stunned.
   “I-I-I'm so sorry, Cobol.” said Ichihiro.
   “And I thought I had it worse.” sighed Maybach.
   “Well, I feel much happier now that I'm on a railway with a controller as decent  as yours.” said Maybach.
   “So.” came a voice, it was Yukari's.
   “You decided to tell them our story?” she said.
   “Yes. But they asked.” replied Cobol.
   “Ufufufufu...Well, that was awfully nostalgic, especially for me.”
and with that, Yukari disappeared into her gap.
   “I wonder how she does that.” said Ichihiro.
   “Do what?” asked a clueless Maybach.
-***-
   “Yukari-sama! How come you've come back so soon?” said Ran, curiosly.
   “I just need to check something, downstairs.”
   Yukari went down into the basement, it was full of boxes. Then she unlocked a mysterious steel door and opened it. This was the room where she prepared her humans. Sharp knives and cleavers hung from the wall like paintings, blood stain litter the floor and walls. She walked to the other end of the room, past an old steel operating table that she used for 'butchering her meat' and into a door that lead into a large walk-in freezer.
   It was cold, ice and frozen dust were all over the place. This was where she kept her humans, cut and ready for preparation for Yukari's meals. She had to move some crates and found one with the logo of the old JNR, she opened it. Inside were the heads of the controllers Cobol told her about. They had their names written in blood red scripture and where she could, wrote down their crimes. One said “Corruption”, another read “Gross incompetence”.
   She held up one of them and tossed it up and down in her hands like a ball.
   “It had to be done.” she whispered, “Their decline was coming, something had to give.”
   She placed the head back in the crate. While JNR's decline and eventual death was the result of many things, deep inside Yukari, she knew that the end for them was coming. This was her vigilante deed, weeding out the corrupt, stupid, abusive, dishonorable, people that resided in JNR's higher echelons. She knew that she wasn't the sole reason JNR had to be privatized, but only a mere part.
   Yukari placed the lid of the crate back and walked out. She wondered about other nationalized railways, British Rail came to mind. Her involvement in Gensokyo Railways and the merger between them and the North Western Railway taught her many things. She knew that in a far off land of England, similar things were happening there, just like in JNR.
   She also entertained the thought of America's government, “Another time.” she sighed and locked the large steel door up again.
 

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