Allcroft and Mitton recoiled slightly. Sir Topham hadn't been that angry and hostile to them even when they had presented him with those photographs with...well, with what he was with. Now that they looked closer, his eyes appeared to be red and sore, as though he hadn't slept in ages. His normally impeccable dress sense had apparently deserted him, as his top button was missing and his top hat looked as though someone had punched it.
"We just Lost the Blue mountain Quarry and its surrounding lines and you want me you to...uh...get Vinnie out of the tunnel."
Sir Topham stared at them for a moment.
And then he began laughing hysterically.
He laughed and laughed until tears coursed down his eyes. He screamed with laughter and then suddenly let out a shriek of anger and speared Mitton through the door.
One of the guards stared as Topham pummeled Mitton, and immediately rushed to get the shots.
"YOU IDIOT! DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH BUILDING THAT WILL COST ME?! I'VE GOT ONE LESS ENGINE THAN I NEED! I COULD HAVE SCRAPPED HIM AND I WOULD HAVE LESS ARGUMENTS FROM YOU. AND THAT'S BASICALLY MURDER! NOW IVE LOST A SIGNIFICANT SUPPLIER OF COAL! YOU'VE RUINED MY LIFE AND NOW YOU COME IN HERE AND- LET GO OF ME YOU PIECES OF CRAP! I CAN HIRE AND FIRE YOU IN A INSTANT AND NO ONE WILL BE- oh."
Topham fell to the floor as the shots immediately took effect.
"Put him on one of the trains! Any of the trains!" called out his secretary. "He needs a good, long, relaxing train journey."
Allcroft picked Mitton up and both stared as the guards manhandled him into a nearby express coach.
"You think we made a mistake?"
"We need to talk with him when he's better." Allcroft tilted her head. "So that girth isn't just the result of eating too many cream cakes."
As James passed by pulling a line of trucks Gordon readied himself.
Gordon always pulls the big express. Aside from that one time Vinnie pulled it. Because that was just the way that Gordon's mind worked. If he didn't do it, then it wasn't worth acknowledging that it existed. He was proud enough to be the only engine strong enough to do so. Yes, he was a bit like the kid you told to feed the class goldfish. It's not really that big of a thing, but you big it up to make him feel better and the next thing you know he's got a cape and carrying a scepter around.
The express was full of important people. Like the Fat Controller, who was passed out and occasionally making airplane noises. Also, David Bowie was on there for some reason.
Anyway, Gordon was seeing how fast he could go. He wasn't sure yet if he was at the level where he could travel back in time, but he was getting there. Up started the brass band again.
"HURRY HURRY HURRY!" shouted Gordon, though to who it's not known, as he was the only engine. He had clearly not listened to his own opening spiel.
"Trickety Trock, trickety trock, trickety trock!" hummed the coaches. Coaches don't have anything better to hum. For whatever reason.
In a minute, Gordon would see the tunnel where Vinnie was bricked up and lonely.
Vinnie had suffered a bit since being locked in the tunnel. Mostly he was now feeling ill.
Oh dear, thought Vinnie, why did I worry about rain spoiling my lovely coat of paint?! WILL THE FAT CONTROLLER EVER FORGIVE ME AND LET ME OUT AGAIN!?
WELL?! WILL HE?!
That's what I thought.
Vinnie finished his demand for a Oscar or a BAFTA and turned to see Gordon rushing towards him.
"I'm going to poop poop at Vinnie" said Gordon. Smugly. Because he had not learnt about pride and the inevitable tripping and tumbling down a long fall.
He was almost there when WSSSSHT.
No, you haven't been sworn at, come back.
And then Gordon was going slower and slower, in a cloud of steam.
Gordon's driver, eating a sandwich, took the worrying sight of steam leaking into the cab as something not to be too worried about. It was when his lunchbox melted that he really started to panic. So he stopped the train.
"What has happened to me?!" said Gordon, angling for a BAFTA as well. "I feel so weak!"
"Shut up Shatner." said his fireman.
"You've burst your safety valve." said the driver. "You ain't pulling this train anymore."
"OH BALLS!" Gordon shouted. "We were going so nicely too! And look, there's the hippie laughing at me."
Vinnie's throat hurt to laugh. But he did so anyway.
Everyone came to see Gordon and take photographs to show to their friends. And over here mom, Vinnie imagined them saying, was this really fat blue engine who was fat and stopped because he was so fat.
When you've spent time in a tunnel for as long as Vinnie had, you lose touch with your sarcasm.
The Fat Controller, slurring his speech and stumbling about, walked up, smacked his head on the buffer beam and stood on one of the many large barrels that were just randomly left around. "HUH!" He declared louder than he needed to. "I NEVER LIKED BIG ENGINES! THEY ALWAYS GO WRONG."
"B-But sir, you've only got two big." Gordon protested.
"SENNNNNNNNNNND FOR ANOTHER ONE!" declared the Fat Controller in full on diva mode.
While the guard limped back to find one on foot, they uncoupled Gordon who had enough puff to slink onto a siding.
"You know I'll say this for you Gordon." spoke Vinnie thoughtfully. "No one slinks like you do."
"Oh shut up." said Gordon as he backed up onto the siding facing Vinnie.
Edward was the only engine there. Thomas was...sulking, mostly.
"I'll come and try!" he said to the out of breath guard. He let him climb on and puffed off.
"Huh." said Gordon. "That's no use! Edward can't push the train!"
"How are you on hills Gordon?" Edward asked sweetly as he backed up. He puffed and pushed and pushed and puffed, but the train wouldn't budge. "Wow, what do you have in here? Anvils?"
"Would not surprise me." Topham said, regaining some of his sanity. He turned to Gordon, feeling the deep, deep sense of everything in his life going wrong.
"I told you so." said Gordon with a voice like a smug voice. "Why not let Vinnie give it a try?"
Sir Topham Hatt stared.
And then his eyes widened and he felt everything return to normal. He felt as though a great weight had been lifted off his chest.
For he knew now one thing that had not been known to him for a long time.
This was his bloody railway and he was going to do whatever he bloody wanted.
"Yes." said the Fat Controller. "I will."
"Will you help pull this train, Vinnie?" he asked as he turned on his heel.
Vinnie's eyes ran around and a genuine honest to goodness smile raced up his face so fast you'd swear it was a rabbit. "Oh YES." he said.
Kat was recalled from the pub and rushed down the hill as fast as she could, the fireman running after her in a vain effort to keep up. They jumped into the cab, pulled out coal and started stoking the fire up.
When Vinnie had got up steam, he puffed back out of the tunnel. He let out a loose laugh and stared in wonder at the world. He was dirty and covered with cobwebs, and a family of wasps had taken up residence in his funnel. "OH I'M STIFF I'M STIFF." He groaned, making everyone look very oddly at him and wonder if he needed to take something for that.
"Have a run to ease your joints, and find a turntable." suggested the Fat Controller. "AND THEN TAKE A SHOWER! YOU SMELL LIKE DONKEY DUNG!" He shouted back after.
When Vinnie came back he was feeling much better. He coupled up to the train, and as everyone got back in, Hatt walked up. "Shall we let bygones be bygones? We both made mistakes."
"Yes sir!" said Vinnie enthusiastically.
Once everyone was onboard, both engines waited.
"Peep peep, I'm ready!" called Edward.
"Peep peep peep, so am I!" chortled Vinnie.
And they started.
"Pull hard, we'll do it! Pull hard, we'll do it!" They puffed in unison, having discovered that they had a secret telepathic connection somehow. As they puffed away, Gordon stared in confusion.
"So, what am I doing again?" he asked.
"BYE!" cheerily whistled both engines as they abandoned him.
The brass band started up, playing a tune for Vinnie this time. "WE'VE DONE IT TOGETHER, WE'VE DONE IT TOGETHER!" chanted both engines.
"You've done it, hooray, you've done it hooray." droned the passengers, who were all very tired and needing actual food. The Fat Controller forgot all rules about safety and leaned out the window to wave at the engines. But the train was going so fast that his hat fell off into a field.
A goat found the hat and decided that he had found his new wife.
They never stopped til they came to the station at the end of the line. The passengers, those who could speak said thank you, and the Fat Controller promised Vinnie a new coat of paint.
And then realized that he could have done that at the start and avoided a lot of trouble. Hindsight's a cow, isn't it.
On their way home, Edward and Vinnie helped Gordon to e steamworks. They spent the entire journey mocking him, but Gordon took it in good stead.
All three are now good friends, though they'd kill you if you said it. Vinnie doesn't mind the rain now. He knows that the best way to keep his paint nice is not to run into tunnels, but to ask his driver to rub him down when the days work is over.
When he's stiff.
No, you're not the only one who sees it.
Jessikah Noire looked at Allcroft and Mitton. She casually placed a new hat on she head and turned.
"I am currently-" She announced. "-going through the building of my railway." She sat down and looked at both of them the way a defiant mouse would stare at the lion. "Unfortunately for you, I am determined to rip every little bit of money out of the NWR so delaying the proceedings will do nothing. One of the conditions was that I was not to start competing against The Skarloey railway for at least a month...that before the ink was on the dotted line." Jessikah sighed. "Obviously that failed. I see Sir Topham is on a downward spiral and now I'm in a terrible position."
Sne got up and stared out the window. "I've been thinking while trying to work out if I can. I've decided that I don't care. But know this-" She turned around and for the first time the figure of fun seemed replaced by a much more confident one. "-you won't get another person like me to work with you. You'll have to deal with more bureaucrats and nitpickers than you can shake a stick at." She sighed. "But I don't care anymore. Do what you want?"
There was silence. All three looked at each other, and then Jessikah pulled two chairs forward. "Yes." She said simply.
She smiled. "Let's have a proper discussion. Where do we go next?"