Shortly after they set off to Knapford Station, Sir Topham looked across to his passenger and asked, "Feeling nervous, Jeanie?"
"I am a bit," she replied. "I don't want to make a fool of myself in front of everyone."
Sir Topham smiled before replying, "You don't have anything to worry about, Jeanie. It's me that should be nervous about being seen as a foolish old man."
"How's that, Sir Topham?"
"Well, all you've heard about from me yesterday was 'talking trains this' and 'talking trains that'. Now when you have the opportunity to experience it yourself with Edward, I don't want anything to go wrong."
"Oh," murmured Jeanie. "What could go wrong, then?"
"Nothing should go wrong, I would hope. Introductions to the engines are a normal thing when new employees start on the railways here, after all, you spoke with Lady yesterday, and you saw her."
"Yes, that's true, but I didn't see her face. It was just a bit of a shock at the time. What should I say to Edward when I see him?"
"Don't say anything at first, Jeanie. The way it works is that I have to formally introduce the engine to the new employee before the, er, magic connects between the employee and the engine. Once the introduction is over, you'll see the engine's face begin to form and then you are free to speak with him, in this case, Edward."
"I see. Um…Sir Topham?" said Jeanie nervously, "yesterday, everything was so new and confusing to me, but now, after sleeping on it, I've, er, got a few questions I'd like to ask you, if that's all right?"
"Ask away, Jeanie," said Sir Topham. "I can understand how you feel."
"Thank you, Sir Topham. Er, first of all, you said yesterday that they were like children. What did you mean by that?"
"Well, Jeanie, from what I was told by my father many years ago, when the engines are infused with their, er, sentience, call it, that is pretty much how they are. They have what you might call a child's curiosity about things. They also have the learning drive that children have, and it's easier like that to give them their, er, orders, so to speak."
"What sort of orders?"
"Their roles, Jeanie. They are told that they are railway engines and that they have to carry out the tasks that their controllers give them. You know, like how to pull express coaches and freight wagons and such. They are told that they must follow their instructions, but because of how big and strong they are when compared to humans, they must never harm humans in any way and to care for their passengers and look after the goods that they carry."
"Sort of like mechanical servants?" Jeanie asked.
"Yes," Sir Topham replied. "You could say that."
"But if they're not supposed to harm people, how did Diesel Ten hurt that guy who attacked Daisy?"
"I don't know, Jeanie, and that's one of the things I need to find out. It could be because he's no longer an engine and the order not to harm anyone has failed in some way. I just don't know, to be honest, and it worries me."
"I can imagine," said Jeanie. "His two friends were moving that queer-looking hand-pump wagon quite fast. Is it supposed to go that fast without an engine?"
"Not with just two people pumping it, no. To get anywhere near that speed, you would normally need four people working it. It would appear that Splatter and Dodge, the two former diesels you saw on it, are quite stronger than normal people, and the stamina they must have had to keep it going at that speed, well, I'm simply amazed at them."
"Do you think any of the others are stronger than normal people?"
"I believe they are, Jeanie. When I was talking on the phone with Lawrence yesterday, he also mentioned that it took nearly six men to carry Gordon to the first-aid room, he was that heavy."
"Blimey!" exclaimed Jeanie. "They don't look like they're heavier or stronger than real people, do they?"
"No, they don't," said Sir Topham. "That's one of the reasons why I decided to keep them isolated from the public. I shudder to think what could happen if one of them hurt someone by accident! "
"Where does their, er, sentience come from?" Jeanie then asked. "I mean, it can't be like anything we actual humans have, can it?"
Sir Topham looked thoughtful for a few moments before replying. "That's a difficult one to answer properly, Jeanie. I can only say that it has to come from somewhere, but no-one's found the answer to that one yet."
"Oh," said Jeanie. "I suppose it's a bit like in a science fiction film with intelligent robots that can understand humans and all that."
"Indeed," said Sir Topham. "It's a wonder no-one's thought to make a film with talking robot trains yet, what with everything else they've thought of, no?"
"People would think it was a ridiculous idea!" laughed Jeanie
"Wouldn't they just," chortled Sir Topham.
"Small kids would love it, though," said Jeanie. "The producers could arrange for toy train sets to be made and get someone to write story books of the characters. They'd make a fortune!"
"I'd imagine so," agreed Sir Topham. "However, the fact that there are such things as talking trains has to stay a secret from the public, which is why all railway employees have to sign that confidentiality form when they start work on the railways, and why they can never say anything about them when they retire. If I were to retire today, Jeanie, by the time I wake up tomorrow morning, the fact that trains can speak and understand what I say to them would seem just like I had a very weird dream. I'd still remember my life over the years with the railway, but the railway magic would filter out anything to do with what I knew of its magic."
"And would it be like that for me if I resigned my job?" asked Jeanie, looking to Sir Topham.
"Yes. You'd wake up the next morning feeling rather confused and seemingly forgetful. You'd be quite safe, I guarantee that, just that you'd not have the ability to talk to trains or to see their faces any more."
"Oh," said Jeanie. "I'd hate to wake up one morning and not be able to remember anything of my past."
"You'd still remember your past, Jeanie, just not anything about the railway magic. You'd still remember me and Peregrine and the others, even the fact that the engines all have names, just not the fact that those engines are sentient."
"Is that the reason why all ships and boats have names?"
"In a sense, yes," said Sir Topham, "though in the early days of sailing and the development of language, it was to do with grammatical gender, the fact that 'boat' or 'ship' was a feminine noun. Nowadays, it's any woman or female that's important to the manufacturer or captain, and also the fact that when a boat or ship is blessed with sentience, it gives them a sense of identity."
"Why are there male and female engines when all the coaches are female and the trucks are males, and mostly young boys?"
"Ah, that's simple," said Sir Topham. "According to my father's research, when all this started with the discovery of the ritual that could give sentience to inanimate mechanisms, no-one knew how to guarantee a specific gender. His notes say that there was a lot of experimentation at first before…before the gender of the new 'life', call it, could be specified. Eventually, when they found out the method, the coaches were given the, er, sentience of females because of their maternal nature, and the coaches that of males because of the male's willingness to carry out work tasks."
"I suppose that makes sense," said Jeanie thoughtfully, "but where do their different accents come from? I mean, Emily sounds Scottish, and Thomas sounds like a Londoner."
"That's another easy one. Although Emily was built in Doncaster, in Yorkshire, she has her accent as a tribute to her designer, Patrick Stirling. He was the Locomotive Superintendent of the Glasgow and South Western Railway from 1853 to 1866, you know. When he moved to the GNR in 1866, he built several locomotive types, including Emily. She's a 4-2-2 Stirling single, referred to sometimes as an 'eight-footer' because of her eight-foot diameter driving wheels. She was very fast in her day, mind, reaching up to more than sixty miles an hour, which was quite fast for 1895!
"Thomas, however, although he was built in the Brighton Railway Works, I think he picked up his accent from working on the docks in London, like how an Englishman's accent can sometimes alter slightly if he went to live for a long time in, say, Australia. Does that answer your question?"
"Yes, Sir Topham, it does. Er…yesterday, when you were talking about the engines being sent to the scrap yards, do they know they're going to die one day?"
Jeanie thought she'd somehow upset Sir Topham when he didn't say anything for a few minutes, merely staring ahead of himself as he drove through the outskirts of Knapford.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I shouldn't have asked that."
"No," said Sir Topham, looking over to her. "It's something you wanted to know. The best I can come up with is to say that I don't think they tend to think of that. I think that we transfer a lot of our emotions onto them, much like what we do with pets. To be honest, Jeanie, I don't know. Having known the engines as engines since I was a child, and suddenly meeting them now as people, child-like people, that is, I suppose it's because I don't like the idea of children having to think about dying."
Jeanie thought about Sir Topham words. "I think you're right, Sir Topham. It's not a nice thing to think about at all, is it?"
They both remained silent as Sir Topham drove through Knapford, arriving finally at the station's car park. Jeanie decided that she wouldn't ask him about what Thomas had told her yesterday of the short people in Arlesburgh. To her, they sounded just like what she knew midgets looked like, and the reason why the miniature engines would have been transformed into midgets instead of adult humans was something that a voice in the back of her mind was telling her it was something she wouldn't like at all.
Henry, after allowing the early morning sunlight to filter into the engine shed, decided that the others had slept for long enough. He gently shook awake the young boy next to him and then proceeded to wake up the rest of his friends.
"Ooh, where am I?" moaned James. "I've just had the worst weird ever!"
"Urgh, my legs are stiff," complained Thomas.
"Please let me go back to sleep," whined Percy.
"In case you've all forgotten," said Henry, "but Edward's coming back this morning."
"That's right," said Thomas. "We'd better get over to Knapford as soon as we can."
"I don't know about you lot, but I feel a bit strange this morning," said Henry.
"What do you mean?" asked James.
"It's like I'm a bit…looser," he replied. "Hang on while I check something…"
Henry then fumbled for a moment with the buttons of his green coat and then cried out, "Look! I've undone my buttons!"
"Let me try!" said James, and, after a few seconds of fumbling, he, too, managed to un-button his coat. Thomas managed to undo his as well whilst Percy looked on with horror.
"What does this mean?" Thomas asked. "Are we dismantling ourselves now?"
"I don't like this," said Percy. "I said yesterday we might all end up in bits on the floor. I'm not un-doing my coat, no way!" and wrapped his arms tightly around his chest.
"Aaaargh!" cried James. "Look at my hand!"
The others quickly looked over to James and, amidst a collection of 'Oohs' and 'Aahs' followed by a 'I told you so!' from Percy, they saw their red-coated friend with the most bizarre look on his face as he waved about his bare left hand in front of him, while holding his empty black glove in his right.
"YOU'RE BREAKING UP!" wailed Percy. "I don't want you to be in bits, James!" he cried to his friend. "Someone fetch Sir Topham, quick!"
But before anyone could say or do anything in response, Henry suddenly let out a soft moan, and said, "Ooh, I can feel a pressure building up inside me."
"What sort of pressure?" asked Thomas.
"If I was still an engine," said Henry, "I'd be needing to vent some steam."
"But you haven't got any steam release valves, have you?" said James. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," said Henry, "but if I can't release this pressure, something might blow inside me and then what'll happen?"
"Wait a minute, Henry," said Thomas. "I think I know what you can do. I saw my driver do something once when he complained of something about to burst inside him. Now your coat is open, you see that linked strip of metal down by there?"
Thomas pointed to the top of Henry's legs.
"Yes," said Henry.
"Well, open that up and you'll see there's a short tube you can pour water out of. I saw my driver do it next to a signal post once when we were waiting to cross over onto the mail line by Wellsworth. He was smiling when he climbed back into my cab so it must have worked. Yes, I remember him saying 'Ah, I needed that!'."
"But what if I need that water again later on?" Henry asked Thomas with a concerned look on his face.
"Well, look around for an empty bucket or something. You can always tell one of the fitters where it is in case you need it again."
"That's good thinking, Thomas," said Henry. "Well done!"
"There's a bucket over there," said the young boy, pointing over to the inside wall of the shed.
"Oh, good," said Henry. "I'd better be quick in case something blows, and then where will I be?"
Henry quickly went over to where the bucket was with Percy following him to make sure that nothing fell off his taller friend.
"No sense in taking any chances," said James. "Percy may be right in what he says."
Thomas turned to look at his James and saw that he'd managed to get his glove back on.
"Yes," said Thomas, "you're right. We'll have to ask Sir Topham or Jeanie what this all means for us when we get to Knapford."
"Well, Thomas," said Henry a minute later as he re-joined his friends, "that certainly does make me feel a lot better. I think I needed that!"
"And his tube didn't fall off," said Percy.
"SPLODGE! WAKE UP!" bellowed Diesel 10.
"Uh, what's wrong, boss?" asked Splatter sleepily.
"What's happening?" asked Dodge, panicking that something else had happened during the night.
"YOU'RE TAKING ME TO BRENDAM DOCKS, THAT'S WHAT'S HAPPENING! NOW, GET YOUR LAZY SELVES UP AND TAKE ME TO KNAPFORD. I'M HUNGRY!"
"I had a wonderful dream just now," said Splatter to Dodge as he struggled to get out of his sleeping bag. "I dreamt I was living in a big building with lots of other people, and we all had little rooms of our own. The people who were looking after us seemed to think that someone was going to come to our rooms during the night when we were all asleep, so they made sure that all the doors were locked. They were funny-looking doors, not like normal doors. They were made out of metal bars."
"That's strange," said Dodge. "I dreamt I lived in a building like that as well. I wonder where it was."
"Did the man come to take you away as well?" Splatter asked his friend.
"Was he wearing a white coat like the one that took me away from my building?" Dodge asked him.
"Yeah, that was him. He made me lie down on a bed and stuck a needle in my hand. I asked him what was he doing that for and he said that I was going to be useful for a change. I can't remember what happened after that because HE woke me up!"
"All I remember after he stuck the needle in my arm is waking up outside a big factory with some empty trucks behind me. If you ask me, I think being like people is affecting our minds. I never had dreams like that when I was still an engine. I can't wait till Sir Topham sorts all this out."
"Yeah, and me!"
"GET A MOVE ON, YOU TWO!"
"Yes, Boss," said Dodge.
"Coming, Boss," said Splatter.
"What's that tune you're making, Daisy?" asked Dodge, looking at the former railcar sitting on the ground, rocking back and fro as she hummed a tune to herself.
"I don't know," she said. "I woke up just now when Diesel Ten was shouting at you two and it was still in my head after my dream."
"I like it," said Splatter.
"Yeah," agreed Dodge. "It's quite catchy. Will you teach it to me?"
"PINCHY WILL BE TEACHING YOU SOMETHING IF YOU DON'T GET YOURSELVES OVER TO THIS PUMP TROLLEY!" roared Diesel 10.
"My inside just rumbled!" moaned Splatter. "It feels all empty!"
"You coming with us, Daisy?" Dodge asked. "We're going to Brendam Docks," he added.
"Yes please," she replied. "But I'm feeling hungry, so you'll have to get me to the café before those steamies eat all the food!"
As his two minions powered the trolley along to Knapford Station, Diesel 10 pondered over what he'd heard them talking about inside the diesel shed. He, too, remembered a man sticking a needle in his arm, but it was an arm that he had instead of Pinchy. Yes, he definitely remembered having two arms in the beginning of his dream, but there were a lot of other people running about and shouting loudly all around him, and there were lots of explosions going off as well at the same time. He remembered a loud explosion close behind him before everything went all black before he woke up in a room with lots of shining lights and other people in white coats rushing about. He also remembered people dressed in dark robes as well, chanting strange words there was more fire. Yes, he certainly remembered the fire, after all, afterwards, he'd realised that it had made him much bigger and stronger than what he was before.
The rail-replacement service buses were picking up passengers from outside the station to take them around Sodor or to Barrow where those that needed to travel further again could catch the trains that were still operating normally on the mainland. Sir Topham and Jeanie walked round to the traffic office entrance on the main platform and went in to be met by a smiling Debra, who told Sir Topham that Edward and Toad had just been seen by the stationmaster at Kellsthorpe Road, and both of them appeared to be just fine. They should be arriving at Knapford in about an hour and a half, all being well.
"That's marvellous news, Debra. Thank you," said a smiling Sir Topham.
Jeanie felt her stomach turn over with nervous anticipation. Oh God, she thought. It's really happening. I'm going to be talking with a steam engine!
"Not long now, Jeanie," said Sir Topham.
"I know," she gulped. "I'm…I don't know if I'm nervous or excited by it."
"Look to it with eager anticipation," said Sir Topham. "That's the best way to deal with it."
"I'll try, Sir Topham. If Debra can log me onto her computer, I can search for that information we need to take my mind off it."
"Yes, we need to make a start with that business as soon as possible. Debra, if you'd be so kind as to let Jeanie have access to the computer, she's going to be quite busy this morning researching some stuff for me."
"Of course, Sir Topham," said Debra. "With no trains running on Sodor, I don't need to use it much today. Jeanie, if you'd care to sit by here next to me, pull over that chair by there; I'll get you logged-in and then you can do whatever you want."
"Thank you, Debra," said Jeanie, taking her jacket off and placing it on a hook on the wall behind the entrance door.
"I'll be in my office checking with the camp sites and Crovan's Gate if you need me," said Sir Topham as he unlocked the door to his own office. "Oh, Debra…"
"Yes, Sir Topham?"
"If I can have a cup of tea in ten minutes, please?"
"Of course, Sir Topham," she replied. "Jeanie, tea for you as well?"
"Oh, yes please. Thank you, Debra," said Jeanie, smiling back at her.
Sir Topham entered his office and sat down at his desk. He decided that he had better call St Tibba's Hospital first to check on how Burnett Stone was doing before he did anything else. The sooner he could arrange to have a proper chat with him, the better.
For the next hour or so, Jeanie kept herself busy scouring the Internet for information on the healing waters at Glastonbury. She was just printing off some interesting notes on Glastonbury Tor and the nearby spring for Sir Topham to have a look at when Debra took his cup of tea in for him, returning a minute later carrying a brown folder. On the front of the folder in large black letters was written 'EDWARD'. She handed it to Jeanie and said, "Sir Topham says that you may want to see this."
"Oh, thank you," said Jeanie, opening the folder and seeing a photograph of a normal blue steam engine.
Reading the typed notes on one of the many sheets of paper underneath the photo, she learnt that Edward was a blue 4-4-0 tender engine, and was a rebuild of a Sharp Stewart "Larger Seagull" loco supplied to the Furness Railway in 1896 before coming to work on Sodor. He's quite old, according to this, she thought to herself. If the other steam engines are as old as him, I'm surprised they don' t look like old men after they changed. I wonder why they don't.
The rest of the notes were either details of repair work that had been carried out on him over the years or copies of invoices for spare parts that he'd required, and after flicking through them all, she closed the folder and placed it to one side. She then re-arranged the notes that she'd printed off and returned to the computer to start searching for information on the Red Scarab beetle.
This, though, turned out to be not as easy as she thought it would be. The only references to a red scarab beetle she could find were for creatures either used in computer games, characters in super-hero comics, or red-legged scarab beetles that had shells of an entirely different colour. The encyclopaedia web sites weren't very helpful either, if at all. Sighing, Jeanie looked up at the wall clock to check the time and saw that it had just turned a quarter to ten. Edward should be arriving soon, she thought to herself. As long as he hadn't fallen ill or broken down, she mused, or whatever it is that sentient steam engines do when they go bad.
Maybe I'll search for a different type of animal with a 'coat of blood' instead, she decided, but the only things she could find with any connection, even when using the word 'beast' in her searches were links to some fictional stories that people had written and then uploaded onto various creative writing web sites. She noticed that the one thing all the stories had in common, though, was a wolf character whose fur was regularly described as being like 'a coat of blood'. No wonder the search found all these sites, she thought to herself, they're all vampire stories!
Switching the search words around led her to one site that advertised a specially designed coat that some rock singer wore when he was on stage, and, impressed by the style of the coat and the look of it, she made a note of the site's web address to order one for herself when her first pay cheque cleared. Many of the other links, though, did have all the search words, but they weren't connected in any way, but there was one link she saw that was referencing 'beast', 'coat of blood', and the biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colours. Out of curiosity, she clicked on the link and started to read. She'd just reached the part when a wolf that had been captured by Joseph's brothers was talking to their father when, just a few minutes after ten o'clock, an ear-piercing whistle and a series of loud 'Peep-peeps' outside the traffic office made both her and Debra almost jump out of their skin. It was Edward and Toad finally arriving back at Knapford Station.
Sir Topham almost ran out of his office in his wish to see Sodor's one remaining steam engine. Jeanie and Debra grinned at each other and followed him out onto the platform just in time to see the blue engine screech to a halt in front of them. As the engine's driver jumped down onto the platform to talk with Sir Topham, a barrage of loud greetings and questions caused Jeanie to look about in surprise as the group of former engines that had been waiting in the station café burst out onto the platform and started calling out to the engine.
"Look at US! We're like people now!"
"HOW ARE YOU?"
"EDWARD, IT'S US! Your friends! We've changed into people!"
Jeanie looked back at the blue steam engine and took in the beauty of this vintage piece of machinery. Its blue paintwork shone in the morning sunshine and jets of steam hissed out from its valves near the ground as a soft "Chuff-chuff" competed against the loud salutations and queries. She saw Sir Topham talking to the driver and then the fireman as he leant out from the cab. Thomas, Henry, James and Percy had all gone over to stand in front of the engine and were carrying on with their interrogation. The gentle whooshing from the engine in front of her, the just-barely heard conversation between Sir Topham and the two men that had returned with Edward on her left, the loud questions from the former engines on her right, and she was standing there silently with Debra at her side, not knowing what to say or do or expect next. All of a sudden, she felt so alone and lost, and as she watched Thomas and his friends talking to the blue engine, she noticed that, although a two or even three or four-way conversation was going on amongst them, she couldn't actually hear the engine when he seemingly replied to them. Then she jumped in alarm as Sir Topham gently took hold of her left arm and asked her, "Are you ready?"
"Er…no, um, YES! Yes, I am ready, I think!"
"Come to the front with me, please, Jeanie, and I'll introduce you to Edward."
Her heart thudding in her chest, Jeanie allowed Sir Topham to lead her along the platform until they were standing next to Thomas and the others.
"Gentlemen," said Sir Topham, "please, quieten down for a moment. I have something very important to do right now."
Thomas, James, Henry and Percy all fell silent and stepped back to give Sir Topham and Jeanie some room. Jeanie looked over at them and smiled as they all grinned back at her, knowing what was going to happen next. Thomas was nodding his head as if to say how pleased he was for her to meet another of his friends and James and Percy were whispering something to each other, then she heard Sir Topham say, "Edward, I would like to introduce you to our newest and most recent employee, Miss Jeanie Watkins."
She turned her head to look at the round front of the engine's black smokebox door, not daring to breath as she waited for to see what Edward's face looked like.
"Jeanie," she then heard Sir Topham. "This is Edward!"
She continued to stare at the smokebox door, wondering how long it would take for Edwards face to appear. She wondered what his voice would sound like when the engine spoke to her. Would she hear it out loud with her ears, she thought, or would she hear it in her mind like when Lady had spoken to her only the day before. She waited and looked, listening very carefully, but nothing happened.
"Is everything all right, Jeanie?" Sir Topham asked her.
"Er…I…I can't see his face, Sir Topham," she replied quietly. "I can't hear him say anything, either."
Sir Topham looked back to see Edward looking rather puzzled at both of them.
"Oh dear," said Sir Topham.
Sudden movement caught his eye and he turned his head to see that Thomas had suddenly gone over to the disappointed Jeanie and had wrapped his arms around her shoulders, whispering something into her ear as she wiped away at a tear running down her cheek.
At that same moment at Brendam Docks, Diesel 10 was re-reading the letter someone had slipped into his pocket the previous day. If someone's playing a trick on me, he thought to himself, they'd going to find out just how funny my new 'Pinchy' thinks it is.
He walked along the roadway into the dock and headed over towards the container compounds. As he passed compound number two and approached the wire fence that sectioned off compound three, a man leaning against the fence below the sign with a big '3' on it stepped towards him, and said, "I see you got my note, Diesel Ten."
Hearing the lilting tones of the stranger's voice, Diesel 10 wondered where he'd heard that particular accent before, for it certainly wasn't English. He'd heard that accent many times on his travels on the mainland before coming to work on Sodor, and then he nodded to himself. Yes, he thought, I've heard that accent in South Wales.
The stranger appeared to be rather well-built despite the knee-length, brown overcoat he was wearing with a hood over his head and a scarf around his lower face hiding his features.
"Who are you?" Diesel 10 growled at the man.
"Telling you to wash the coal for that magic engine with the river water was a rather good suggestion of mine, don't you think?" the stranger replied cheekily, as if he hadn't heard the former diesel's angry demand.
It was then that Diesel 10 realised that he'd met this man before. "YOU!" he shouted.
The man then lowered his hood and took off his scarf to reveal the face of a man in his late fifties with sharp, piercing blue eyes that constantly looked about as though their owner didn't trust anything that was going on around him. He had long, grey hair that reached down to his shoulders and a well-kept dark grey beard that matched his eyebrows and hair.
Diesel 10 stepped up close to the smirking man and waved Pinchy in front of his face. "I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS!" he snarled. "IT WASN'T PART OF THE PLAN!"
"Yes, so I see," the man replied calmly, ignoring Pinchy. "It was a…rather unexpected complication, that. No need to worry, though, I've got a back-up plan that'll take care of things should all else fail. Come, I'll introduce you to him."
The man led Diesel 10 to one of the larger containers in the compound and un-locked the container's double-doors at one end. Metal creaked as the man swung the doors open to reveal a very large something hidden under an equally large tarpaulin sheet. Whatever the thing under the sheet was, it was standing on two iron rail tracks that had been bolted onto the floor of the container. Diesel 10 stepped into the container and, after scanning his eyes over whatever it was that was filling the container, turned back to glare at the one-time driver of Horrid Lorry Number 2, and demanded, "What's this?"
"Before you find out what's under this sheet," the man replied, taking an envelope out from inside his coat, "I need to explain something to you, first."
Edward had had a very strange welcome when he'd arrived at Knapford Station. He'd given one mighty blast and a couple of short peeps on his whistle before pulling up to a stop outside the traffic office, just as Sir Topham, his secretary and a young woman he didn't recognise had come out onto the platform to meet him. Some other men in long, coloured coats had run out of the station café, shouting all sorts of things at him. The colours of their coats had reminded him of his friends, Thomas, Henry, James and Percy, which was a strange thing to see, he'd thought, but what had been even stranger was that they'd sounded just like his friends. His driver had told him when he was still at Barrow that something really strange had happened on Sodor and that all the engines and wagons had changed, but he hadn't said just how they'd changed. What did that man in the red coat mean when he said they'd changed into people?
~James, is that really you? Henry? Thomas? Percy? What's happened to all of you?~
His driver jumped down to speak with Sir Topham whilst his fireman stayed in his cab to tend to his firebox.
"HOW ARE YOU?" Thomas called to him.
~I'm feeling really tired. I was so scared that I might feel ill when I started my journey back here. Is it really true that all the others have disappeared?~
"No," said Henry, "but they've changed like we have. We've all become like real people. Thomas said that it's because Lady has lost all of her magic. She's really ill and no-one knows what's wrong with her."
"We were really sad yest-" Thomas started, but he was cut off by Sir Topham saying that he had something important to do.
"Edward," he heard Sir Topham say to him, "I would like to introduce you to our newest and most recent employee, Miss Jeanie Watkins. Jeanie, this is Edward."
Edward was pleased when he heard that. It wasn't often that he met new human colleagues, and he felt the subtle change within him that those particular words from Sir Topham caused to happen. A slight tingle somewhere inside his smokebox told him that his face was now visible to her and that she would be able to hear him.
~Hello, Jeanie Watkins. It's a pleasure to meet you.~
But something was wrong, Edward noticed, for instead of smiling or looking surprised like all the other people he'd been introduced to, she looked rather puzzled, as though she was expecting something to occur only to be disappointed when nothing at all happened.
~Miss Watkins, can you hear me? Can you see me?~
Again, there was no sign of acknowledgement from the young woman.
~Why hasn't it worked, Sir Topham? What's wrong?~
"Oh dear," replied Sir Topham. "Lady spoke to her yesterday, Edward, so I'm rather surprised she can't see or speak with you. I think it must be due to the weakness of the railway magic."
Edward was sad to hear that, and when he saw the sad look on the young woman's face, he so much wanted to help her, but how? Then he had an idea.
~Thomas,~ he said. ~Tell her that I am really pleased to meet her, but the reason she can't see or hear me yet must be because of what's happened to the magic here on Sodor. Tell Jeanie, when all this is sorted out, she will be that first person I will talk to!~
Edward then saw Thomas go over to Jeanie and hug her, passing the message on to her before leading her away towards the station café.
"Edward," said Sir Topham. "That was very good of you. Go and stock up with coal and water and then go and have a nice wash down. You must be worn out after your journey home."
~Yes, Sir Topham,~ replied Edward. I'll go and do that right away.~
"Please can we go with him, Sir Topham?" asked Percy. "We can tell him all about Lady!"
"Please, Sir Topham, can we?" begged James. "I want Edward to see my shiny new red coat!"
"And I need to warn him about the diesels," added Henry.
"Very well, then," said Sir Topham. "You can all go with him, but if he needs to sleep, you must leave him in peace!"
And so, Edward set off, taking Toad and three of his friends with him over to the marshalling yards at Tidmouth for a long-awaited wash down and rest.
Thomas sat Jeanie down at one of the tables in the café and went over to the counter to get a cup of tea for her. Placing it on the table, she mumbled a quiet, "Thank you," as she wrapped her hands around the warm cup.
"I…I was so looking f-f-forward to my first real t-t-talking train," she stuttered to him. "I-I spoke with Lady yesterday, and that was real, I know, b-b-but just now, n-nothing at all happened. W-w-what's wrong with me?"
"There's nothing wrong with you, Jeanie," said Thomas softly to her. "Like us trains, all of a sudden, your world has been turned upside-down and you don't know what to do about it. Wait, you spoke with Lady? That's marvellous! What did she say to you? She spoke to me yesterday as well!"
Although he was over the moon to see his old friend, Edward, safely back at Knapford, and wanted to chat with him about everything he'd experienced since waking up yesterday morning as a person, he'd seen how upset this young woman had been when the link between her and Edward had failed to materialise, and she'd been so kind yesterday when talking with all the other former engines and coaches, even the former trucks, helping them to understand things from a human perspective, that he felt he had to return the favour somehow. Besides, he'd see Edward later, no doubt.
Jeanie took a small sip of her tea before speaking, shuddering as she realised that Thomas hadn't put any sugar in it. Never mind, she thought, I'll drink it without.
"She…she said that I mustn't doubt the truth I already know, and she showed me what she looked like as a real engine. Then, when Sir Topham gave me some photos to look at, I recognised a picture of Lady, just as she appeared to me in my mind, but the engine in the picture didn't have a face, either, and…and last night at Hatt Hall, I saw a picture of her when she was created and…and I saw her face!"
"You…you saw when she was created? How? How was she created?"
"I-I can't talk about that. It's something that Sir Topham said mustn't get out. He called it 'Company Business'."
"Oh," said Thomas, frowning slightly with disappointment. "I understand. He says that about a lot of things we're not meant to know."
"Yesterday," continued Jeanie, "I was suddenly introduced to all this 'magical railway' business and it took a while before I started to believe it was all true, even after the way I was whisked to Hatt Hall, and when I was amongst all of you former engines, I felt…I felt separate from it because I still hadn't talked to a real engine. I felt like an imposter of some sort, as if I didn't deserve to be here."
"But look at it this way, Jeanie," said Thomas, his face livening up with excitement, "for Lady to speak with you yesterday, she must have felt you were important enough to do it while she was so weak. I think that you have a part to play in what's happening to us and somehow, you can help us be trains again."
"You-you really think so?" Jeanie asked, her voice trembling.
"Yes, I do," said Thomas, "and I'll tell that to Sir Topham as well."
"Th-thank you, Thomas," said Jeanie, leaning over and hugging him. "Thank you. You've made me feel so much better now," she then said, kissing his cheek before she returned to her seat.
Smiling at the former engine as she picked up her cup of tea, she chuckled and said, "For someone with grey skin like yours, Thomas, you can't half blush!"
The grey-haired driver of Horrid Lorry Number 2 opened the envelope and carefully pulled out a sheet of paper. "This is my birth certificate," he said, waving it gently in front of him. "My name is Tiberius Hatt, and I'm Sir Topham's half-brother."
"Well, hello to you," said Diesel 10, "though why you've caused him all this worry I don't know, after all, it's not a very brotherly thing to do, is it?"
"Let me explain. Many years ago, his, sorry, our father, when he was going to the scrap yards in Barry all those times to save the condemned steam engines, he got 'very friendly' with a woman that worked in the offices there. Well, being so far from home, you can guess what happened next, or maybe not, seeing as you've been a diesel engine all your life. Well, anyway, they had an affair and she got pregnant. To avoid any embarrassment and shame from dirtying the 'well-respected' Topham name, he paid the woman some money to have a back-street abortion and to promise not to tell anyone about the affair.
"Upset, she left her job and went back to live with her parents, but she didn't want to have the shame of an abortion ruining her own good name, and so, several months later, I was born. I never knew who my father was until I was twenty-one, when my mother told me the truth before she died. It was hard going back in those days, especially when you've got a growing boy to feed and clothe and you've got no work because your parents insisted that you bring up the kid by yourself. Anyway, my father never found out about me, and so, when he died, I wasn't left anything in his will. It all went to my brother, well, half-brother, Stephen Topham Hatt. The big house, all the money, and the Sodor railways all went to him, and now I want my share!"
"Does Sir Topham know about you?" Diesel 10 asked.
"No, he doesn't, not yet."
"Are you going to tell him?"
"Oh yes, I'll be telling him, boyo, and I can't wait to see his face when I do, especially when I tell him that it's thanks to me he hasn't got any trains to play with!"
"Well," said Diesel 10, "I don't know what he'll say or do about the house or the money, but thanks to you, you won't have any trains to play with, either. We've all changed into people now, or have you forgotten that?"
"Ah, but here's the cunning part of my plan. You see, my devious diesel, I can tell him how he can get his trains back again, and if he doesn't split his inheritance with me, I stay silent and he won't get his trains back . "
"You think that'll work? He's already lost two engines for good already, and Gordon's not doing so well, either. I know how much that blue boaster means to Lady Hatt, and if he dies as well, Sir Topham will really hate you for it, half-brother or no half-brother!"
"The amount of money he's got tied up in the Sodor railways, he's got no option but to share everything with me, or else he'll be ruined. He can't report me to the police, after all, would they believe his wild tales of talking trains being turned into people? I don't think so!"
"What about us engines?" Diesel 10 asked the man. "You think we'll all be happy to stay like this? I don't think so! You'll have us to worry about!"
Diesel 10 flexed the prongs of his metal hand. If this "Tiberius Hatt" was going to mess up all the engines' futures, well, he was going to mess up Tiberius' face! To emphasis his point, Diesel 10 repeatedly clanged Pinchy's metal prongs together in front of the man's face.
Tiberius just smiled at Diesel 10, ignoring the implied threat of violence against him.
"Ah, but this is the beauty of my plan, you see. If he won't share any of his inheritance with me, I'll just go for the end option."
"When I was born, there was no such thing as DNA fingerprinting, and so there was no way my mother could prove who my father was. Now th-"
"What's this dee-en-eh fingerprinting thing you talk of?"
"Ah, yes. You wouldn't know about that, sorry. DNA fingerprinting is examining the teeny-weeny bits that make up a human being and comparing them to the teeny-weeny bits of someone else to see if they're related by blood. Think of it as though your mechanics were examining your dirty oil and grease to compare it against some dirty oil they'd found on the tracks one day to see if it was you that had an oil spill or something. It's all clever stuff that can prove that I'm related to Stephen Hatt."
"Well, if that's the case, then why don't you do that to claim your share of everything?"
"WHAT, AFTER THE WAY MY FATHER TREATED MY MOTHER? IT'S HIS FAULT SHE DIED YOUNG, AND HE WANTED ME DEAD AS WELL! NO BLOODY CHANCE!"
"What are you going to do, then?" he demanded. "What's this 'end option' of yours?"
"If my 'brother' won't play with me, then I'll stop his 'game' for good. That's why I've brought my friend under here along!" Tiberius patted the tarpaulin affectionately.
"And who exactly is 'your friend'?"
"Can you guess who it is yet?" Tiberius asked, slowly pulling down the large tarpaulin sheet to reveal a Billington E2-Class 0-6-0T locomotive.
Diesel 10 gaped. It was that blasted steamy, Thomas! Wait a minute, he thought to himself. Where's his face? This was definitely a joke being played on him, he decided, especially as he'd already seen Thomas that morning walking with his puffball friends to Knapford.
Tiberius took out of his coat pocket a small torch and switched it on. He then walked down the inside of the container and shone it on the side of the engine's cab to reveal its number. Diesel 10 followed him and saw a yellow number one that had been hand-painted onto the side of the engine's water tank. The man obviously had a plot to implicate Thomas in something. There was even a streak of yellow paint that had run down the side of the tank before it had had a chance to dry properly.
"What's the meaning of this, then?" Diesel 10 asked him.
"This is my game-changer," Tiberius sniggered, before squeezing past the former diesel and walking back to stand in front of the fake Thomas.
"Come here and learn something about yourself," he said to Diesel 10.
Diesel 10 walked over to the opened end of the container and watched Tiberius opening a small metal trunk that was resting on top of the engine's front buffer beam. Tiberius then lifted out a small rock and placed it lovingly into an outer pocket of his coat. He then climbed up onto the engine's buffer beam and unscrewed the locking handles of the engine's smokebox door, carefully swinging the round door fully open. "Watch this," whispered Tiberius.
Tiberius shone his torch at the upper back wall of the smokebox and reached in with his hand and slid open a bolt, causing a metal flap to fall down and reveal a small compartment. He then took out the small rock from his coat pocket and held it in the beam of his torch. Diesel 10 could see now that the rock had a great many flat sides to it, and what really surprised to him was that the white beam of light, when it come out the other side of the rock, was split into several colours, just like a rainbow in the sky after it had rained.
"What's that?" he asked.
"This, my dear diesel friend, is what allows you engines to feel alive. It's what let's you think, to see, to hear, and to talk to each other and to all the railway staff. It's your brain, well, not YOUR brain, Diesel Ten, but this fellow's brain. Watch!"
Tiberius carefully placed the faceted piece of rock securely into a depression inside the small compartment and closed the metal flap, sliding the bolt back across to lock it shut. Then he closed the engine's smokebox door and climbed back down to stand in front of the dormant engine.
"Any moment now," he again whispered.
Diesel 10 watched and waited for several seconds, then, the black metalwork of the smokebox door started to morph into a face that he expected, well, he wasn't sure what he expected, but he certainly didn't expect to see a grey face with so much, is that grease on it? It looks more like what my driver has on his face when he says he didn't have to shave before coming to work that morning! He doesn't look like Thomas at all!
"Who is he?" he asked Tiberius, but the man remained silent, simply pointing up at the engine's face with his finger.
Diesel 10 returned his gaze to the engine's face and saw its eyes flicker open and swivel around for a few moments before finally staring back down at him.
~Who are YOU?~ the engine snarled at him.
"I'm Diesel 10," he sneered back. "Who are YOU?"
~So you're the big bad diesel that Tiberius has told me so much about, eh? Well, you don't look like much,~ the engine remarked snidely, then, still glaring at the former diesel, he added, ~For your information, my name is Tyrone, and I'm going to kill Sir Topham Hatt! ~