Short Story: How to Stop Trains (A Guide for Superheroes)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any short fiction on my blog, so here’s a little something from The White Knight & Black Valentine Series. Enjoy!

How to Stop Trains (A Guide for Superheroes)

Railway Symbol

An excerpt from White Knight’s lecture at the Academy on April 15, 2002.

Remember the acronym TAD: Time and Distance. You may be strong enough to stop a runaway train in a split second, but if you bring a train moving a hundred miles per hour to a sudden stop, the passengers are going to keep moving forward at a hundred miles per hour. They’d have a better chance of survival if you threw them headfirst into a brick wall.

Take your time. Your instinct will be to stop it as soon as you can—and I get it, believe me—but if there are people on board, you’ll be doing more harm than good. And for the record, this goes for any moving objects: cars, elevators—you name it. Physics might not have seemed that important when you were studying it in high school, but get it wrong in the real world, and it’s going to result in some very messy deaths.

Your average train is moving at around sixty miles per hour, but if we’re needed to stop one, chances are it’s moving faster. The more time and distance you take to bring it to a halt, the safer it gets for the passengers. Ideally, you’ll want a minute or longer to gradually slow it down, but in reality, you won’t always have that much time. The key here is to use whatever time and distance you do have to its fullest.

But all the time and distance in the world won’t help you if you don’t brace yourself. Dig your heels in. Let me say that again, because I really can’t emphasize it enough: dig your heels in. Otherwise, you’ll end up carried away by the train like a piece of paper on a windshield. If your feet aren’t carving a six-inch-deep gash in the earth as the train pushes you forward, you’re doing it wrong.

Which reminds me—don’t wear shoes you like. I guarantee they’ll be torn away to nothing by the end.

So dig your heels in, and make sure you get a good grip. Resist the urge to hold out your hands in front of you, since all you’ll do is smash two hand-sized holes in the engine. To do the least amount of damage possible, it should look like you’re hugging the train. You want to spread the force of impact over as much area as possible.

It’s going to hurt. You probably don’t need me to tell you that, but I feel obligated to say it anyway.

Even if you do it properly and stop the train with your whole body rather than just your hands, don’t be surprised if the metal cracks and crumples. But if you’re stopping it slowly, that should be the extent of the damage. What you want to avoid is derailing the whole thing in a lethal pileup.

So, to recap: TAD (Time and Distance); dig in your heels, and hug the engine. That’s how to slowly and safely stop a train.

Of course, this is just talking about passenger trains. If you’re dealing with a freight train or an empty one a supervillain put a bomb on, ignore everything I just said and wreck the thing.

Published by Brandedkristen

If Kristen Brand could have any superpower, she'd want telekinesis so she wouldn't have to move from her computer to pour a new cup of tea. She spends far too much time on the internet, and when she's not writing, she's usually reading novels or comic books. Icon by @heckosart.

2 thoughts on “Short Story: How to Stop Trains (A Guide for Superheroes)

  1. Why worry about physics when some Handwavium armor will do the trick? This was a great snippet into your universe. When a writer appreciates real world physics, it always bumps up story quality in my eyes. I actually covered this same subject not to long ago in my own superhero serial; only in newbie superhero Marble Maiden’s case it was a getaway car driven by gangbangers. She didn’t know about TAD. Now she does.

    Liked by 1 person

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