Operation Signalbox

The sun rose slowly over Sodor, casting the dark Island into bright, radiant light that helped light it up and get everything in motion for the day. The railways that were the main transport on the Island were already full of busy engines bustling about with early morning commuters and deliveries. On one particular branch line is a large yard where a variety of construction vehicles live. It is the Sodor Construction Company, run by Miss Jenny Packard. There were several different sheds where the vehicles slept and most of them were still snoozing.
"Come on Alfie, wake up."
However, two weren't.
"What is it Jack?" Alfie huffed.
"We need to wake up!" Jack said huffily, nudging Alfie with his scoop.
"Why, we don't need to be at the signalbox site for ages." The little excavator groaned. Jack sighed.
"It's boring waiting till we have to work. I just want to go ahead and starting digging!"
"Your messed up in the engine." Alfie chuckled.
"Will you two shut up!" Kelly snapped from the next shed.
"Sorry." The two said together and started giggling. It was always funny whenever Kelly got mad as his face went red and a cloud came out of his exhaust. A quarter of an hour later, Alfie gave up trying to sleep with Jack whispering in his ear and the night guard allowed them out of yard to go out.
"First one to the level crossing is the winner!" Jack chuckled and he raced ahead. Alfie groaned and trundled after, but he wasn't as fast as Jack and the front loader was soon out of sight. Jack was having a lot of fun. He wasn't going as fast as the cars that passed him, but he was still enjoying having a bit of a race. He soon came to the level crossing and was surprised. Rosie had derailed at the crossing while taking the milk van. She was blocking both traffic lanes and several cars were honking loudly at her.
"Oh dear Rosie, what happened?" Jack gasped.
"Thomas forgot to take the milk with him today and I had to rush it to him but I hit something and ended up derailing." Rosie sobbed. She didn't like having the cars honking at her. "My crew just went for help."
"I'll get the job done for you." Jack said, smiling.
"How?"
"I'll use my scoop and lift you up." He beamed. Just then, Alfie trundled up.
"Oh my, what has happened here?" The excavator asked, surprised.
"Doesn't matter what happened, just help me get her back on the tracks." Jack snapped. He moved his scoop under Rosie's first two wheels. He then lifted her a few centimetres above the ground.
"Wow, your much more heavier than dirt." Jack wheeshed. Alfie raced around and used his scoop and arm to nudge Rosie around so her wheel's were aligned with the track. Jack then lowered her back onto the rails and than the two vehicles used their scoops to push Rosie out of the way. They then quickly moved themselves as they let the cars speed on by.
"Thanks guys." Rosie beamed. "I don't see why they don't just give you guys the contract now." Jack and Alfie exchanged looks.
"What contract?" Jack asked. Rosie looked just as stunned as them.
"Haven't you heard? I would say, but I imagine Miss Jenny will be telling you guys later on." She said. Jack and Alfie exchanged another look and sped off, covering Rosie with smoke.
"Nice to see you." She spluttered.

When Jack and Alfie skidded back into the yard, all of the other vehicles were awake and were in a semi-circle around Miss Jenny and the Foreman.
"Now that we are all here," Miss Jenny began, eyeing Jack and Alfie. "I have an announcement to make. Cedric Berrob is the wealthiest man in Sodor. He has made a lot of money before the recession and has managed to hold on to a lot of it. Cedric makes most of his money off of tourists and has built the majority of the hotels and motels around Sodor, built the Sodor Airport a few years ago, arranges the carnivals and has a company that deals with bus tours, helicopter rides, hikes and boat trips. Now, he has plans to build a new luxurious hotel, with a large swimming pool, golf course, helipad, miniature theme park and a river will be used for kayaking." Two men in suits then came out of the shadows. They wore sunglasses and their jackets looked rather bulky.
"Maybe there's a gun under there." Isabella whispered to Oliver.
"Don't be daft." Oliver scolded. Isabella giggled and the men stared at here. They had an easel which they set up and place some artwork on it. They were sketches of the hotel. The machines all ooohed and aaahed, gazing at the picture as if it were the real thing. The hotel was ten storeys high and was a creamy colour and had a huge sign over the glass front doors. More pictures unveiled the swimming pool, people going for walks through a forest, a golf course, the miniature theme park which had bumper cars, a small rollercoaster, a water slide and an arcade, and finally, people kayaking through a river.
"Thank you." Miss Jenny said to the men, who nodded and took the artwork away. Jack and Alfie watched as they got into a black Chrysler 300C and sped away.
"So that is what we'll be helping to build." Miss Jenny continued. "If we do well with the signalbox job. Some inspectors will watch us as we finish the job, compare us to the other teams they are assessing and the best one gets the contract." The Pack cheered loudly with joy.
"Ok, Nelson will take Jack and Alfie. Thomas will be coming by soon to collect Oliver, Ned, Kelly and Monty. Isabella, please go to Elsbridge and collect some supplies before Percy will take you to the site later on." Jack and Alfie grinned at each other. They loved to ride on Nelson as they got to go past nicer scenery. The transporter rolled up to and braked while some workman unhooked the ramps on the back of his flatbed and flipped them over for Jack and Alfie to roll up on.
"Come on boys, let's get rolling!"

Nelson liked to move as fast as allowed in order to keep to schedule. Jack and Alfie quickly rolled onto the flatbed and were fastened down before the transporter headed off with a group of workmen in his tray. After a quick trip where they whizzed past houses and railway tracks and sped over a level crossing before the gates were put in front, they managed to reach the signalbox in twenty minutes.
Two weeks ago Oliver and Byron had come to the site and had knocked down the old signalbox that had been falling apart and the electronics were failing and had led to several delays in recent months. After new wires and power lines had been put in, Buster and Patrick had done a foundation a week ago. Isabella had been dropping off supplies over the last few days and some work had been done and today everything was being finished. Jack, Alfie and Ned were clearing away the debris into Monty and helping to unload the supplies. Oliver and Kelly were lifting up bricks and sheets of corrugated iron for the roof. Once everyone arrived, the work quickly began. All of the machines were keen to impress and worked as fast as they could without causing problems. However, there appeared to be no one watching them.
"This is rather dodgy." Alfie commented shortly before the lunch break.
"What is?" Jack asked, as he scooped up some of the last rubble.
"How there aren't any of those hotel people watching us." The excavator replied as he collected his load.
"Maybe they are coming after lunch." Jack suggested.
"The signalbox is nearly finished though." Alfie commented and Jack looked at the structure. All four walls had been completed and the men were now working on the staircase and deck. Ned and Oliver were already resting on the other side of the level crossing.
"Well, I'd admit it is strange, but I don't think there is anything to worry about." Jack said encouragingly as he raced past the signalbox and came up to Monty.
"Make it snappy midgets." The dump truck growled.
"There's not much of the rubble left." Jack snapped back. Both the front loader and Alfie didn't like being mocked about their size.
"Just bring it here fast, I want to get rid of this load and be back for my break." Monty grumbled. Jack and Alfie dropped their loads into Monty's bucket and hurried back to collect the last of the rubble. They waited while some of the workmen crossed the road after collecting some glass. Monty grew impatient as he watched them going too slowly for his liking. Angrily, he turned and went across the level crossing towards them. Kelly, however, had lowered his crane and was turning around to go for his break. His crane arm whacked into the speeding dump truck and knocked Monty up into the air and he toppled over, the rubble spreading all over the tracks.
"Monty!" Kelly gasped.
"Stupid crane, look what you've done!" Monty groaned in pain. The foreman quickly rushed over.
"Oh dear, this is very bad." He sighed. "Jack, Alfie, Ned, come and clear up the rubble. Kelly, you try and lift Monty so he's right way up." As the machines went to do their jobs, the level crossing gates suddenly started to move. Kelly quickly reversed away as the gates swung around and blocked the machines from getting to Monty.

While the signalbox was being repaired, a signalbox at Dryaw was running the level crossing gates. The foreman called the stationmaster moments after the gates closed.
"One of my dump trucks is lying on it's side with all of the rubble it was carrying spread over the tracks and the level crossing gates and a stone fence are blocking my team from getting to his aid." He bellowed into his cell phone.
"A 30-truck train of Toby's has broken loose and is on a runaway." The stationmaster replied grouchily. "We are trying to clear the tracks to give the trucks a clear run and slow them down so Percy can halt them at the harbour."
"Well what do you expect me to do about my dump truck?" The foreman snapped.
"Not my problem. You have a crane, surely it's arm can reach over the gate." The stationmaster smirked. The foreman let out a cry of anger and snapped his phone shut.
"There is a runaway coming and all the gates have been changed to allow the trucks to pass and slow down." The foreman announced to everyone. Monty let out a gasp and look horrified.
"I doubt Miss Jenny would want to have to pay for new crossing gates and I think it'll be easy enough for Kelly to lift Monty up over the gate." The foreman explained.
"I am sure I'll be able to sir." Kelly said, smiling encouragingly at Monty.
"Great. Oliver, Ned, I need you two to try and lift the rubble up." The foreman called across the crossing.
"We'll do our best sir." Oliver beamed.
"But Mr Bowlersir, what if the trucks come here before we're finished?" Ned asked.
"Everything will be fine Ned." Oliver smiled. As the three machines rushed to start work, Jack and Alfie rolled up to the foreman.
"What can we do to help sir?" Jack asked enthusiastically.
"Um… just enjoy your break." The foreman replied and hurried away to watch the work. Jack was upset about not being needed and turned around and trundled down the road. Alfie saw him and followed.
"Do you want another race?" Alfie smiled.
"No, I just want to be needed instead of us always being seen as too small." Jack moaned. Alfie let out a sigh and followed alongside his friend. They travelled for a few minutes when they heard giggling and laughing.
"What is that?" Jack exclaimed.
"It sounds like it's coming from the railway." Alfie said. The two raced to near the tracks and gasped. The runaway train was speeding down the line and the trucks were laughing loudly.
"We're finally free, we're finally free!" They yelled as they zoomed past.
"We must get back to the level crossing!" Jack yelled and he quickly turned around and sped as fast as allowed back towards the level crossing with Alfie following. They kept close to the railway lines and were able to catch up to the front of the trucks.
"We will never be able to outrun them." Alfie panted from behind Jack.
"I have to try." Jack replied. Up ahead, they could see the construction site.
"RUN!" Jack yelled. Everyone heard his distant cry and saw the trucks.
"Someone save me." Monty moaned.
"I am trying to." Kelly snapped.
"The trucks are going to hit him." Ned said. Oliver ignored the comment and tried to extend his arm out to help Kelly with lifting Monty up. Jack could see that the crash was unavoidable, unless….
"Watch out Alfie." Jack cried and suddenly veered away from the wall. Alfie was puzzled, then gasped in shock as Jack turned back and rammed straight into the stone wall. Everyone at the site looked and gasped as Jack drove onto the railway lines and then charged straight into the middle of the train. Around eight trucks smashed into Jack, pushing him down the line and covering most him, the tracks, trees and Alfie with dust before piling up and burying him. The front fourteen trucks were shocked by the crash and managed to slow down but the first three still smashed into Monty and everyone was covered in dust and rushed to avoid falling rocks. Alfie rolled onto the lines.
"You are such an idiot." He laughed as he started to clear the smashed trucks and rocks off his friend. Suddenly, a car door slammed. Alfie looked around and saw a black Chrysler speeding away from the site.
"Mwat mis mit?" Jack asked from beneath the rubble.
"What?" Alfie said, his mind reeling. "Oh nothing, nothing."

It took several hours to clear up the damages. Thomas and Percy brought trucks and Oliver, Alfie and Ned loaded them up with the rubble. Nelson came and took Jack to the works as his right side and roof were severely damaged. Harvey then arrived and was able to get Monty up the right way and helped Kelly lift him onto a flatbed and was taken away by Thomas. The workmen worked hard through this and soon the roof was on and the signalbox was mostly complete. Thomas and Nelson than came back and took everyone home.
"So, you guys must have had a fun day." Nelson chuckled and his took Alfie and the workmen home.
"Yeah, it was very fun." Alfie said and laughed as well. "I bet Jack was moaning all the way to the works." Nelson then boomed with laughter.
"Not really. He moaned at first, but we had to stop by the yard first and Miss Jenny tore into him. I had to move away she was yelling so loud." Alfie chuckled at this. He looked overhead and saw a jet black helicopter flying in the opposite direction.
"I wonder where that's going." Nelson stated, looking up at the sky as well.
"I have never seen any black helicopters around these parts before." Alfie said curiously.
"Maybe Dryaw brought a new one." The transporter suggested. Alfie changed the subject to discuss a different project, but his mind still remained on the Chrysler, the helicopter and the men with the bulky jackets. Eventually they arrived back at the yard. Buster, Patrick and Max were playing soccer with a Swiss ball and trying to score goals between rubbish bins while Byron guarded.
"Did you guys hear about the contract?" Nelson asked.
"We got it!" Buster cried exuberantly.
"Really?" Alfie gasped.
"Yes, a representative came by about ten minutes ago and said that Mr Berrob thought we worked well under pressure and managed to avoid a much nastier accident with the trucks, and the workmen did wonders with the signalbox." Byron explained.
"Here comes Mad Max!" Max yelled as he reeved up and hit the Swiss ball, which hit Byron's blade and rebounded off and hit Alfie as he rolled off Nelson. Alfie laughed with the others, but rushed away to think. Something was up with the contract, and he knew that he had to find out.

***

Due to a slight time difference, it was dark by the time the helicopter reached London. It flew over skyscrapers and bright lights before landing on the roof of a rather swanky hotel near Trafalgar Square. A man was waiting for them. He was around six feet tall with neatly combed black hair and pale skin, and was wearing a very tidy black suit with a white shirt and grey tie underneath. His black shoes were shining and the moon reflected off them. The same two men who had been in the Pack's yard that morning got out of the helicopter and walked towards him.
"Mr Berrob sir, Miss Packard has accepted your offer and will be flying to London tomorrow morning to sign the contracts." One of them said.
"Here is your artwork." The second said, placing a large art folder on white sheet at Cedric's feet. "We emailed you the news video of the crash."
"You will easily see how dopey the machines are." The first man chuckled. Cedric cracked a smile and reached down and grabbed the folder with a handkerchief.
"That is very good to hear. The clumsier they are, the easier they stumble across something." He laughed and walked back to the staircase, opening the door with a different handkerchief. The men climbed back into the helicopter and headed back to Sodor. Neither of them knew what Cedric's full plans were, but the Pack was the most important piece of the puzzle.