The train ride to St. Ulixes, Mallontah was a three day ordeal. Senta had left on the U-711 at 5:00 AM of 23rd of Quaduary. She had spent almost all her money on the round trip ticket, with just enough left over to allow for meals. She had a sandwich from the snack trolley at teatime, but wasn’t hungry the rest of the day. So she sat there, thinking that she should get her carpetbag from the rack and read The Contracting Universe but having absolutely no desire to do so.
As the sun set and the train continued to chug on toward Mallontah, Senta got up from her seat and walked to the next compartment, where bunk beds lined the wall, each with a blackout curtain surrounding it. Her bunk was about in the middle of the car on the right hand side, second from the bottom, with two bunks above it. Not all the sleeping places were taken. Many more passengers made the trip from Mallontah to Birmisia, than visa-versa. As she climbed into her bed, there was just enough light outside for her to make out a massive herd of sauraposeidon moving across the plain. She was asleep almost immediately.
“Ugh,” she said, squinting her eyes as the bright light through the window splashed on her face. It was morning already. “Uuthanum.”
A window shade flipped down to cover the portal.
Senta managed to sleep another half hour, before the sounds of people climbing out of their own beds around her forced the last remnants of slumber from her. Pulling back the blackout curtain revealed a startled man standing right beside her.
“Good morning,” he squeaked.
“Is it?” asked Senta.
The man hurried away, scooping up two small children and pushing a woman along ahead of him. They were talking in hushed tones but Senta could clearly make out the words “Drache Girl.” A few others popped out of their beds along with her, but they all made a quick exit from the car, with the single exception of a man who decided upon seeing her to just go back to bed.
She magiced herself clean, which wasn’t nearly as satisfying as a long hot bath. Then she magiced herself out of her nightclothes and into a new dress. The day before, she had worn her “Zurfina clothes,” but on this day chose a nice grey skirt with a large bustle, a white blouse that covered her from wrist to neck, and a white boater with a single flower stuck in the hatband.
“I’m just famished,” she said to herself.
Two compartments to the rear was the dining car. Tables lined each of the walls, covered with white linen tablecloths and fine ceramic dishes, making the train carriage look like a fine restaurant. Windows, larger than those on other cars, made the room bright and sunny. It also enhancing the sense of speed caused by the passing landscape. The only patrons in the dining car when she arrived were a couple that sat at a table in the far end, oblivious to anyone else. Senta sat down and a few moments later, a human waiter arrived.
“Good morning, Miss. How may I be of service?”
“Bring me a lovely full breakfast please.”
A pair of diners entered from the opposite door, took one look at Senta sitting there, and turning around, left. The man and woman near the door continued talking, still not noticing anything but each other. Senta looked out the window until the waiter returned and placed a large plate in front of her. It was filled to overflowing with fried eggs, sausages, black pudding, bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, and hash browned potatoes.
“No soldiers?” asked Senta.
“Right away, Miss. Anything else?”
It was less than three minutes until he returned with Senta’s toast and tea.
“No lizzie waiters?” wondered the young sorceress.
“No, Miss. No lizzies work on the train, though they are employed in the depot.”
“What time do we reach St. Ulixes?”
“Not until tomorrow night.”
“Tomorrow night? Kafira in a handbasket!”