The Railcard Incident is a series of early strips which laid the groundwork for much of Megatokyo's plot. In it, Piro gives a flustered Kimiko his railcard, at great discomfort to himself; Kimiko obsesses over the mysterious man and his random act of kindness; she meets Piro again and leaves believing he is less than honorable; and finally Kimiko insists he take the card back.
After a long night in Tokyo, Piro buys a railcard with the last of his money. While he is buying it, he overhears Kimiko talking to herself. She has left both her railcard and her purse at home, and is running late for an audition. Piro gives her his card and walks off before she can say "no", leaving himself with a long walk back to Tsubasa's apartment.
For Piro, the story is over. There was a damsel in distress, he did his rescue, and moved on. Dragon slain, time to move forward.
For Kimiko, the issue has just begun. During her audition, she describes the scene, not knowing that she was being observed, and the way she told the story got her the job as the voice of Kotone, main character in a ren'ai game called "Sight". Kimiko can't stop wondering why Piro would give her the card. She wonders constantly about it, and begins to drive Erika nuts with her obsessing.
In the interim, Piro gets a job at Megagamers where Erika works. That evening Kimiko goes to visit Erika and meets Piro. While Kimiko talks to Erika, Piro asks the boss for an advance on salary so he can buy a railcard, which causes Kimiko to notice her roommate's co-worker. After arriving back at their apartment, Kimiko asks Erika about him, and learns that Piro and Largo are just recovering from some tough times, including being homeless.
The next day, after Kimiko finishes her work, she brings a gift of food for Piro to his new apartment over the store. Ping, Piro's Emotional Doll System accessory, answers the door dressed only in one of Largo's t-shirts. Kimiko adds two and two together to make five—common behavior for her—and beats a hasty retreat, offering the dinner as a gift from Erika.
The next night Kimiko again goes to the store to meet Erika after work. Erika invites Kimiko, Largo and Piro out for drinks. While at the Sea of Illumination, Kimiko drinks too much and accuses Piro of being a sexual predator, angrily returning the railcard to him.
Gifts in Gallagher's other work
This story arc visits a theme that Fred Gallagher returns to often in his writing: a gift as a means of connection. In Envelope, the gift is a misdirected letter. In Warmth, the gift is a can of hot coffee that had negative value to the giver (he wanted to get rid of it because he dosn't like canned coffee) and immense value to the recipient. With the rail card, the card itself does not have much value. It is, however, the last of Piro's money, making it quite valuable to him—and for the recipient it has even more value, as she is late for an important appointment, and later events in her life are inflenced by the gift.
Gifts in Megatokyo
Giving is a major theme in Megatokyo, both in terms of events and in terms of relations. Piro and Kimiko exchange items often. Miho and Erika give often, but no one offers to give to Miho, and Erika would not take anything from anyone. Miho treats gifts as levers, while Erika rejects the concept of reciprocal obligation.