Chugging along the fish-filled tracks, the octopus train pulls into the station, aided by its mighty tentacles. What stories does it bring with it?
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Penelope tapped her fingers on the window and sighed. Ever since the land-dwellers had signed the treaty with the Aquarians, the climate in New Cascadia had been engineered to create a dense and persistent fog. Already it was thick enough that schools of hollowfish swam alongside the train tracks. She could look forward to a week of gray weather.
She was surprised how many Aquarians were hanging around the dry dining car, their slicksuits shimmering with hydration. A squat female, her long fingers wrapped around a highball of kelp liqueur and soda nodded to the seat opposite Penelope. Penelope extended a hand and murmured, "Please," but winced at the flecks that came off the slicksuit as the Aquarian squished onto the bench.
"Never been on an octotrain before." The Aquarian's crouched her torso over her glass. "Never been on any kind of train before, actually."
Penelope shrugged. She'd brought a book, but she never could read when there were people about. Occupational hazard, she figured. "It's not much different," she said.
The Aquarian pulled her shoulders in. "Underwater, a thing this big would be a monster. It's weird to ride it. I feel like I've been swallowed whole."
Penelope managed a smile. "I hope if I'm ever swallowed by a monster, it has a full bar in her belly."
The Aquarian laughed as she twirled her glass.
"You going all the way to Bell's Harbor?" Penelope asked.
The Aquarian nodded. "I've got a…a thing."
Penelope's smile widened. "A thing, that's descriptive." There were half a dozen things that were quasi-legal in Bell's Harbor that could get you thrown in jail in the rest of New Cascadia, and Penelope knew that kelp liqueur was a common Aquarian cure for pregnancy sickness.
As if on cue, the Aquarian woman took a healthy gulp of her drink. Her eyes squeezed shut as she swallowed, then popped open. "What about you?"
"Murder," said Penelope, strumming her fingers on her book.
"Excuse me?" the other woman asked.
Penelope flipped down the collar of her jacket, revealing the Purple Legion pin in the buttonhole. "Off-worlder washed up on shore with a breathing apparatus and a harpoon in his gut. Locals called in the PL."
"Oh." The Aquarian's eyes widened, then flicked down to her abdomen. "I should let you…" She made a motion to get to rise, but Penelope waved a dismissive hand.
"My only interest is in the murder. I'm off-duty until then."
Suddenly, the train lurched and the lights flickered twice before shutting off completely. Penelope shot to her feet and pulled out her gun, listening to the muffled stomping of feet on the carpet. When lights turned on again, the bartender was slumped over the counter, something that looked like a hatpin sticking out of his neck.
"Well, I was off-duty," Penelope muttered.
Now she could look forward to a week of gray weather and murder investigations.