Chapter 1: Visitor
Henry was not a happy engine. He hadn't been feeling well for days, and now even though he was feeling better, it seemed as if there was no work for him to do. Everyone seemed to have everything taken care of; so his driver suggested they visit the other stations and see if anyone needed assistance. But whenever he pulled into a station with the intention of helping, it always seemed to be "No thanks Henry!" or "Oh I already finished, why don't you ask Thomas?" Or James. Or Percy. Or Edward. It was evening by the time sir Topham Hatt found him sulking in the shed. Gordon and James were with him.
"How can I be a useful engine if there's nothing here for me to do?" He complained.
"Feh, as if you were to begin with- what engine can be useful when it keeps breaking down all the time." Gordon hissed, feeling a little snappy after having been the one to pick up the slack when Henry was ill.. But even still, he couldn't deny there was a little too much slack lately. Though he dismissed the thought in favour of getting some rest, pulling back further into the shed and getting comfortable. Meanwhile, Henry was cross- it wasn't his fault that he sometimes felt unwell. If he had the choice, he'd rather never be sick. He didn't have much time to think on it though, as this was about the moment that sir Topham Hatt approached them.
"I need someone to pick up a very special visitor tomorrow morning. She's come all the way from across the sea, and I want us to make a good first impression." He announced, straightening his coat and surveying the three who were present, as if already deciding who was going to receive the honor. Gordon wasn't sleepy anymore.
"Surely you want me to take this job- who better to make a good first impression than the finest engine on the island?" He smirked condescendingly as he pulled forward again just a bit, poking his nose just outside of the shed's doors.
"I'll tell you who; the /real/ finest engine on the island. Look at you, you're a disgrace. Dirt and soot everywhere. My shiny new coat of paint is clearly the winning selection." James interjected vainly and shot Gordon an arrogant glare.. To which Gordon's reply was a equally nasty glare. Henry, who was in the middle, felt even more uncomfortable and attempted to slink back into the shed so they could bicker without him being in the way. However he stopped when sir Topham Hatt spoke.
"With attitudes like that, I choose neither of you. Henry, be up early in the morning and get a good washdown, I think you will cut a fine figure to greet our visitor." He said. Henry beamed, glad to be useful at last! And this was an important job- surely if he did well this time, he would receive more important jobs in the future.
"Y-yes sir! Thank you sir!" He replied. After sir Topham Hatt had left, Henry gave both Gordon and James, who were feeling quite sour indeed, a triumphant smile and backed into the shed to get some rest.
The following morning, Henry was up and about, even before the sun had risen. He was very excited for his important job and hoped everything would go as well as possible. He'd just crept out of the sheds and was on his way to get washed when he was joined by Percy. Percy and Thomas ran the mail delivery service on Sodor and were often up early before anyone else was.
"Hullo Henry, where are you off to so early?" He asked pleasantly, puttering along beside the larger engine. Henry looked over at him.
"Sir Topham Hatt has chosen me to greet a very important visitor, I don't have much time to talk though, I need to get washed and pick up the coaches." And he hurried on. A nice washing first thing in the morning was just what he needed to be awake and alert, and, feeling quite fine indeed, he puffed along to the station where his passenger was supposed to be waiting. By that time the sun was peeking over the horizon and the cool morning mist had begun to dissipate. When they arrived at the station, the visitor didn't seem to be there yet, so Henry took a few minutes to relax and enjoy the sunrise. After scooting around in the frosty air, the sunlight felt wonderful, and made his shiny green coat look even more wonderful to boot.
He had just closed his eyes, basking quite luxuriously in the warmth when,
"Oh my, what a /lovely/ green engine. Oh doesn't he just look splendid." It was a woman's voice. Henry opened his eyes.
"Th-thank you ma'am!" He managed to stutter, looking over in surprise and briefly studying the woman who had made the exclamation. He was surprised by what he saw. She looked to be rather young, with pale skin and short blonde hair tucked under a small black hat, which was festooned with feathers and beads. It matched her equally black dress and shawl.. And despite the fact that she appeared for all the world to be wheelchair bound, this didn't seem to limit her, as her green eyes were quick and clever.. And right now, they were locked on Henry, in a nearly predatory fashion. But even as that stood, her expression itself was that of absolute delight.
"I take it you're the one to be my escort? I'm to be meeting with a Mr. Hatt this morning." She said, wheeling a bit closer. Her informal nature surprised him. He was so used to Sir Topham Hatt being addressed with reverent tones and an excessive amount of "Sir" this and "Sir" that. It was almost a bit comical to hear him being called 'Mr. Hatt'.
"Oh yes, of course." Henry replied eagerly. "I'll have you from here to there in no time at all." The woman smiled brightly and thanked the two porters who had brought her luggage aboard and were now coming over to help her into the coach that hd been spiffed up specifically for this occasion. When all seemed in order, Henry's driver gave him an appreciative pat.
"Alright Henry, let's show our guest who's the timliest engine on the island!" They then set off, chugging down the track at an excellent pace. Henry felt so fine, he was sure a morning had never been so splendid. He passed Gordon along his way, and let loose a cheerful whistle, to which Gordon whistled in return.
When they had reached their destination, Henry's passenger disembarked from the coach and wheeled up to talk to him again immediately.
"What a pleasant ride that was, Mr. Hatt is a very fortunate man to have such a wonderfully useful engine in his service. What's your name?" She asked. Henry positively beamed with pride- if there was one thing any engine could never get enough of, it was praise for a job well done.
"Henry, sir--er, ma'am!" He corrected himself immediately, flushing in embarrassment. The woman laughed aloud at his dismayed expression.
"Well it's a pleasure to meet you." She looked him over once more with her sharp gaze.. And Henry, despite how pleased he was, couldn't help but feel vaguely uncomfortable. He forced himself to keep smiling, but it was truth that no one studied engines that closely unless they were either inspecting them for the scrapyard, or looking to buy.. And he didn't much care for either of those possibilities. Luckily, a familiar booming voice interrupted their exchange.
"Excellent timing, I had just arrived. I hope your ride was an agreeable one." Sir Topham Hatt had been waiting to greet his visitor, and her attention was drawn away as he approached. They shook hands amiably.
"Indeed it was, perhaps soon I might see if I can't take another ride around the island- after we've discussed what business I'm here for, of course." And the two of them moved away, chatting politely. Henry watched them go, then looked to his driver who was getting ready to hop back in.
"Come along Henry, we have other things to do today." He said, and they chuffed away.
Chapter 2: Rumours
That evening, the sheds were abuzz with chatter. Thomas and Percy were eager to hear all about Henry's special job- though Gordon and James were still cross and refused to talk about it.. Or to eachother. Henry knew they must have quarreled about it and smirked to himself.
"Oh please tell us about the visitor." Thomas pleaded. "What were they like? What are they here for?" Percy immediately chimed in right after Thomas was finished.
"Yes, please tell us, I've been so curious ever since you told me where you were going this morning." Henry had to hold back a laugh at their almost too-eager expressions. He couldn't blame them, this was likely the most interesting thing that had happened in over a month. He took his time though, casting a glance over at Gordon and James, who looked away immediately, forcing themselves to frown again- truthfully they were /just/ as interested as Thomas and Percy, but were more hesitant to show it.
"Well, I went to greet her at the station, and we exchanged a word or two- she's really quite nice. Her name is Charlotte, and from what I've been told, she lives across the sea, and traveled a long way to get here." He said, but Thomas didn't seem satisfied with this answer.
"But why is she here?" He asked, a little impatiently. Percy seemed to share the sentiment.
"I don't know for sure.. She never said, and Sir Topham Hatt never told me." Henry replied, and Thomas wrinkled his nose a bit.
"That's strange." He mumbled, exchanging a suspicious glance with Percy.
"Sir Topham Hatt usually tells us who the visitors are.. Now that you mention it, he never did say anything about who it was." The little green engine added quietly. The shed was silent for a few moments before Gordon spoke up.
"I'm sure it means nothing. Perhaps he did say so and you just weren't paying attention." He hissed, still feeling a bit ill tempered about the whole business. "Gossiping about it is only going to keep us up when we have work to do tomorrow. So forget about it and go to sleep." With a huff, he closed his eyes. James glared at Gordon, irritated for the interruption. He really did enjoy some good gossip, and it would have been a nice diversion after a long day. Across the shed, Thomas and Percy had gone silent.. Except for a very quiet muttering of indeterminate origin, 'grumpy old sausage'. There was a short period of silence before suddenly,
"But.." It was Henry, and his voice was very quiet. "The way Charlotte looked at me.. I think she's here to purchase one of us."
Nobody seemed tired anymore.
"That can't be right, Sir Topham Hatt would never get rid of any of us. He only replaces engines that cause problems.. Or aren't useful." Percy squeaked, and Thomas made a small noise in agreement.
"Well we still don't know for sure. This is just sp.. Sp-peculation." Gordon managed to stutter.
"I guess we just have to wait and see..?" James muttered. Henry sighed a bit.
"Looks like that's going to be the case whether we like it or not." He added quietly. Thomas didn't like the sudden glum atmosphere in the shed and shifted his wheels- Percy did the same, then suddenly offered a cheerful,
"Well.. We might just be worrying about nothing; we all trust Sir Topham Hatt, right? He's never been unfair to anyone before." That seemed to lighten the mood just a bit, but even still, the subject was wholly avoided for the rest of the night.
However the gossip didn't halt for long. It was near noontime, and Percy was taking a short break from shunting freight cars when he heard Sir Topham Hatt speaking to someone. Curious, he dared to reverse just a bit in order to glance over and.. Oh no. It was that woman, whatever her name was- Charlotte! It appeared as if Sir Topham Hatt were giving her a tour.
Not wanting to be pointed out, he silently went back to work, trying to appear as busy as possible so they wouldn't bother him- besides, if he was a really useful engine, Sir Topham Hatt wouldn't sell him, to be sure. And he was right- the two of them only stayed for a few minutes, and paid Percy little mind as he went about his business. After they'd left, Percy finished up his work, then trundled off to visit Thomas. He found the small blue engine getting a drink just outside of a station.
"Thomas, I saw her!" He whispered loudly. "Sir Topham Hatt is giving her a tour." Thomas looked over in horror. Thomas's driver, who was inspecting his front buffers which he'd earlier complained of feeling 'wobbly', laughed at his expression.
"The way you two talk, one would assume she's some sort of witch." He said jokingly. Thomas and Percy were not soothed.
"Well of course she's not." Thomas puffed, in a very 'I knew that' sort of manner. Unruffled by the engine's sass, the driver climbed back in. "But last night Henry told us she might be here to take one of us away." Thomas finished, and Percy frowned.
"I like it here, I don't want to go." He nearly pouted, but both of their drivers exchanged a smile.
"What nonsense. You haven't even met her yet. Besides, why would Sir Topham Hatt sell such useful engines. The both of you are very important to Sodor." Percy's driver said, giving the little engine a reassuring pat. Thomas's driver did the same.
"Just don't let it bother you, we have work to do and I don't need you getting distracted." The man said. Thomas merely sniffed and glared straight ahead. He could see her on the platform and immediately as she turned her head in his direction, he seemed to find something on the ground much more interesting. However when he heard Sir Topham Hatt say,
"And this is Thomas--" Before he could get any further, Thomas and Percy simultaneously zoomed out of the station and went in opposite directions. Sir Topham Hatt was left with a somewhat astonished look on his face.
"Well that /was/ Thomas." Charlotte covered her mouth delicately with one gloved hand to stifle a giggle.
"Awfully fast little engines, the both of them. If I didn't know any better I would assume they're avoiding me."
Chapter 3: Truth
Meanwhile, on another part of the island, the rumor was spreading in a slow but steady fashion. It passed from Percy to the Brendam twins, and from there to Duck, and Duck brought it to the docks, where it passed to Salty.. And of course with his incredible knack for stories, anyone who caught whiff of it from Salty was alarmed.
The truth remained that most if not all of the engines residing on Sodor were very happy with their respective places and didn't quite fancy the idea of being carted off to heaven knows where. Only Edward seemed to remain unperturbed.. Even going out of his way to greet the visitor in question.
"You know what they say~" He chuckled to his driver as the man inspected Edward to be sure he was ready to set off. "A rumor is just news getting ahead of itself." And so Edward set off, pleased to be out and about. It was a fine day to be outside and he smiled widely as he glided along the tracks, smoothly even in his old age. It was almost a disappointment to come to a stop, but his curiosity about the blonde woman in a wheelchair beside Sir Topham Hatt outweighed it immediately. As he pulled into the station, white, healthy puffs of steam whooshed out of him and he let loose a cheerful but polite whistle. Sir Topham Hatt seemed pleased to see Edward, and lead his guest over to greet him.
"Good afternoon Edward, you seem to be feeling well today." He began. "I'd like you to meet Ms. Charlotte Greaves. She owns a railway of her own on an island far from here." The woman smiled as her gaze roamed over Edward's frame thoughtfully.
"An archaic model, well upkept.. You must have many stories to tell, grandfather." She said gently, and Edward smiled warmly in return.
"That I have, if you'd like to know." He offered, but added quickly afterward, "Though I have a question first, if you don't mind." Charlotte blinked once and tilted her head a bit, curiously.
"And what would that be?" Her voice, though soft, seemed to permeate the general noise of the station with ease.
"A few of the other engines around here have been worried that you're here to take them away. So far I've had no answer to ease their unrest, it would be nice if I might have the chance to know what's really going on." Edward ventured mildly, and both Sir Topham Hatt and Charlotte Greaves exchanged a glance; Edward felt vaguely concerned about this. Charlotte was the one who spoke first.
"Well.. I /am/ here to browse.. However I wouldn't just take the first one that strikes my fancy.. Any decision, if indeed there is one, won't be made lightly and the engine in question has the opportunity to offer some input we might not have considered." She said. There was a pause and Edward looked away for a moment or two, taking his time to digest that information. By the expression he was presenting it was clear he wasn't entirely sure what to think, and Charlotte stared up at him silently, the corners of her mouth twitching a bit as if she weren't sure whether to smile or frown yet.
"I just didn't expect it is all, I suppose. I mean I know it's a part of life for us, moving from place to place as the need arises, proving our worth doing the work that would be nigh impossible for people alone; but it's just that we've all been here on Sodor for so long now, getting to know eachother.. I doubt I could even start to imagine anything different." Edward said resignedly. Sir Topham Hatt smiled.
"Don't worry Edward, Ms. Greaves and I decided early on that there would be no decisions made without full knowledge made public. And she expressly requested that furthermore, no decisions would be made unless all parties were in agreement.. Meaning that if she makes a choice, the chosen in question has the opportunity to decline, just as I may, if I feel that it is an unreasonable trade." He explained. Edward found this odd; in most cases they hadn't a choice, it simply was or it wasn't. However he kept this to himself as Charlotte began to speak once again.
"For what it's worth, I /can/ always have my pick of new engines that have no home yet if I find no volunteers; but that just isn't as desirable to me. I prefer those who have some.. Er.. Life experience, so to speak. And speaking of life experience.." She glanced to the clock on the station wall. "I have twenty minutes until I have to go elsewhere. Might I be able to convince you to tell me a story or two before I leave?" She asked, and Sir Topham Hatt nodded to Edward encouragingly.
"Yes please, Edward. It would be a wonderful way to pass the time." And so Edward, having settled with what he'd discovered, went on to recount some of the most exciting events of his early days when the world was a different place and the railways on Sodor were only beginning; but he paused when James pulled in with a few coaches full of passengers close behind. Charlotte's attention was immediately drawn to the bright red engine and she grinned.
"Beautiful choice of colour. He reminds me of Russell."
"Russell?" Sir Topham Hatt asked quizzically.
"Yes, Russell is one of mine. Dutiful but a bit too audacious." She replied, crossing her arms and looking back to Edward.
"Pardon me grandfather, I have many other engines to meet in a short time- you're an excellent storyteller. Definitely an afternoon well spent, if you ask me." She waved to him and he offered another cheerful 'toot!' in return before setting off back to his shed. 'Ms. Charlotte isn't bad at all,' He thought. 'she seemed perfectly reasonable. I think we could stand to give her a chance, at least.'
But that evening in the sheds, though they didn't know it, they wouldn't have a choice. As that stood, the evening went on quite regularly as they all slunk home one by one. James appeared most pleased with himself.
"I like her- at least she's not so blind as to not appreciate how stunning I am." He purred vainly as he got settled in between Thomas and Henry. "She called me splendorously crimson, a treat for the eyes." He went on, and the others shared a moment to mutually puff or roll their eyes knowingly. They weren't going to hear the end of this until someone or something knocked James down a peg.
"But not a treat for the ears," Gordon complained, receiving a murmur of agreement. "I'd rather listen to Henry's incessant whistling." At this, Henry's eyes went half lidded and he gave Gordon a sidelong glance that suggested he was about to say something mean.
"Funny you should say that, Gordon. Because surely you would know; 'It isn't wrong, but we just don't do it'." He said impishly, and smirked when Gordon flushed brightly and grumbled something about 'not bringing that up again'... Though Thomas grinned anyway and whispered something to Percy, who snickered in return. But after they were finished bantering, when the sun had gone down and the lamps were lit, the idle eveningtime conversation took a turn for the more serious.
"I spoke to Edward this afternoon. He told me he'd been talking with this visitor. A Ms. Charlotte Greaves." Gordon huffed.
"Leave it to Edward to go poking his funnel into everybody's business." James muttered. "He has nothing better to do so he goes around sticking himself in where he doesn't belong." He didn't mean anything by it at all- he and Edward were often on quite good terms, but he was feeling a bit tart after Gordon's little quip and wanted to complain about something. Gordon ignored him and continued.
"He also told me that the assumption we made is partly correct. It seems that she's here to buy an engine. One who's willing to leave, that is."
"Well I'm not going." Thomas added promptly.
"Neither am I." Percy agreed.
"No." James muttered quietly, but it was nearly drowned out by Gordon,
"Absolutely not. I am perfectly satisfied with my line of work."
It took them a moment to realize that Henry hadn't agreed. In fact, he hadn't said anything for a while. All attention went to the green engine shortly and he glanced at them absentmindedly before blinking and stammering,
"O-oh, right, yes.. Uh, no." He blushed a bit. "I'm sorry, I just thought I heard a car." Which was an odd phenomenon indeed, seeing as most if not all of the men who had been around earlier had long since left. But nevertheless it proved to be true, as hardly a few moments later, an unfamiliar car pulled up near the shed. He was long and sleek and black, blending in with the night, and he purred smoothly as he came to a gentle stop. He cast the engines a seedy grin, to which he received a reply of suspicious glares. The glaring only intensified as he spoke.
"Good evening~." He sounded a little too much like a certain diesel engine who had been deported from the island on account of bad behaviour. Percy was about to say so but he shut his mouth immediately as the driver stepped out and went round to open the door in the back. Out stepped Sir Topham Hatt, and, after the driver retrieved a curious folding wheelchair from the trunk and set it up just outside the door, was followed by Ms. Charlotte Greaves. She patted the car and said something to it in a low tone as Sir Topham Hatt greeted his engines.
"I'm sure by now you all know of Ms. Greaves. She wanted to have the chance to meet you without disrupting your work." He tipped his hat politely to Charlotte as her attendant pushed her wheelchair over. Her smile was kind, but decisive, and as she spoke to the engines, the initial fear of her intentions began to dissipate.
But her car merely continued to smile. Because he knew better.
Chapter 4: Me?
The next few days went rather uneventfully. Charlotte had decided she was going to observe each of them at work before making any sort of decision; this, of course, caused some confusion.
The problem arose that most just weren't sure whether to deliberately do their jobs incorrectly so she wouldn't want them, or do their absolute best so Sir Topham Hatt would want to keep them.. Thus leading to some interesting encounters. When Sir Topham Hatt was present, Percy puttered dutifully about, collecting cars and being polite about it. When Charlotte happened to be present, his demeanor took a flip right into downright unpleasant and generally clumsy. Purposely picking fights with the cars, he ended up bonking one right into a ditch and was reprimanded immediately by Sir Topham Hatt.
Thomas's behaviour didn't change, but he purposely avoided anywhere Charlotte was.. Leading him to take long routes to keep a wide berth between her and himself, which only made him late.
Gordon remained wholly unchanged, though Henry seemed nervous. Early in the day he'd begun feeling unwell- it was a wonder he'd even gotten out of the shed, but despite this he pushed himself as hard as he could to keep up with everyone else. And suffered for it. By the time he'd reached his third stop, he wasn't looking so hot. James was about to tease him for being so slow, but the words caught in his mouth when he saw the look on Henry's face.
"Are you alright?" He asked. Henry groaned in reply.
"I.. I don't know.. Something hurts." He muttered quietly. His driver exited the cab and walked round front, climbing up on the running board and patting Henry's side comfortingly.
"What's wrong old boy? You were doing fine just a minute ago." He waited for a reply but Henry only coughed, black smoke puffing from his mouth and funnel.. And continuing to pour out as he kept on coughing. After a moment or two, sooty water splurted from his mouth and nose, dripping down his front and he stopped coughing in favour of shutting his mouth tightly and going silent. James appeared extremely concerned by this, gasping a bit. He recovered himself quickly and swallowed hard.
"Should someone get Sir Topham Hatt..?" He asked, making a bit of a face. Henry's driver, who had leaned back so he wasn't splashed on by the black, watery discharge, pulled a rag from his pocket and began wiping down Henry's front hastily.
"Let me worry about that- you take Henry's cars." After the disturbance in the work schedule had been settled, Gordon was brought to tow Henry back to the shed where he could rest and get looked over. By that time he was feeling better, but to his dismay, he was joined by a familiar black car. Which among the engines, had, of course, become synonymous with,
"Afternoon Miss Greaves. What can I do for you?" One of the men inspecting Henry turned to greet her as she leaned over to peer out of the window of the car, smiling sweetly.
"Good afternoon. I've just finished speaking with Sir Topham Hatt. Henry, how would you like to come work for me?" Henry's driver, who was currently inspecting the firebox, paused, but said nothing, listening carefully. Henry too was quite suddenly all ears. "See, it just makes good sense, as I have the means and funding to get you what you need to run correctly, as a proper engine should. And I'm in need of a tender engine." She paused for a minute, then leaned back in the car, folding her hands in her lap. Henry wasn't sure if he was more frightened or confused. Maybe equal parts of both.
"What do you think..?" Charlotte's voice drew his attention from thought, but before he could say anything -/if/ he could have said anything- his driver poked his head out of Henry's cab.
"Excuse me Miss, but it's been a long morning and I don't think anyone is in a position to be making any big decisions right now.. We'll talk about it, and let you know." He tipped his hat to her respectfully, and Charlotte smiled pleasantly.
"Very well. Think on it. It would disappoint me to see such potential gone to waste." She turned to motion for her attendant to drive, and they left immediately, the black car kicking up dust as it puttered off. Henry's driver paused to watch them go before he crossed the running board to the front, crouching there quietly for a minute before wiping a bit of soot from Henry's cheek delicately.
"Let's just focus on getting you patched up for now, hm?" He said, smiling, and Henry gave him a slight glance before venturing a crooked smile of his own and murmuring,
That evening the sheds were quiet, save for the sound of crickets chirping in the grass closeby. Thomas and Percy were bunking at the docks for the night- Edward and Duck had taken their places, and were settled in quite comfortably. There was always something very innately appealing about merely having a quiet moment to be with your friends; just sharing the silence was a wonderful way to wind down from the day. And that's exactly what they were doing.. Until Henry broke the silence.
"Charlotte chose me."
Chapter 5: Confession
The reaction to the news was a little underwhelming. No one seemed to have much to say about it, so Henry figured they were likely taking time to process the information and figure out /how/ to react to it; which was something he hadn't a problem with, because he was doing the exact same thing. Over the next few days, things continued on as they normally would have.. Almost. After receiving the news, Gordon seemed to want Henry's company more than ever. If Henry went somewhere, chances were Gordon was going there too- if he stopped to get a drink, Gordon needed one as well. They sat together in the shed at morning and at night, and at Knapford station in the afternoon. Henry wasn't sure why, but he was glad for it- the gesture itself didn't need any explaining. His friends would be there for him no matter what, and that gave him great comfort. After a little while James joined in on the act. It got to the point that they very nearly seemed to travel in a pack, side by side or single file along the same track as often as it was possible... Which was absolutely ridiculous and after numerous complaints, warranted Sir Topham Hatt's attention.
"This nonsense has to stop." He scolded, that evening at the sheds. "You're not joined at the buffers, you all have work to do separate times and separate places, and causing confusion and delay simply for the sake of being five feet from eachother at all times is unacceptable. Irregardless of the situation, I expect you all to work to the best of your ability. Tomorrow, I expect you three to do as you are supposed to."
The big engines were embarrassed and a little indignant at being called out on their behaviour, but agreed to stop. When Sir Topham Hatt was gone, James glared over at Thomas, who was smiling, almost a bit wistfully.
"What are you so happy about?" He grumbled ill temperedly. Thomas merely looked up in surprise, as did Percy, who was beside him and appeared to have been deep in thought.
"Huh? Oh, I wasn't happy that you were in trouble, it's just that I was talking with Skarloey today." He said mildly. Percy hummed a bit in agreement. James raised a brow, curious now; the little engines were acting strangely. Gordon and Henry noticed it too and pulled forward a bit to look over at them.
"About what?" James finally asked, and both Percy and Thomas exchanged a glance.
"Well.." Percy mumbled. "Skarloey is old. And he knows more than we do about a lot of things. We told him about Miss Greaves and he said we shouldn't be uh.. Too quick to judge the opportunity Henry's been given." Thomas continued for him.
"He said that when a friend is taken away, we're prone to getting so wound up on the fact that they're leaving that we forget to be happy for them. And he was right, I have been selfish by wanting Henry to stay without even thinking about what he wants.." Thomas paused, looking down, then up at Henry.
"So.. What /do/ you want..?" Suddenly all eyes were on Henry again and he winced a bit. He had to tell them sometime.
"I want to stay here on Sodor with you." He said softly, but there was a long pause after he said it. Everyone knew it was coming.
"But.. I just can't keep doing this. Staying here in the shed day after day, watching all of you go off and do things and get into trouble and have fun while I'm just.. Trapped." He offered feebly, but was met with none of the resistance he'd been expecting. No one could reproach him for wanting to be useful.
Gordon in particular felt a twinge of shame as the comment he'd made a few days ago flew back into his funnel. 'As if you were useful to begin with- what engine can be useful when it keeps breaking down all the time.'
"This is my chance to be more and be better than I can here. Charlotte told me I could work a prestigious line, pulling specials that would go to people all over the world." The other engines were very impressed.
"I don't want you to miss out on this opportunity." James said softly.
"Yes, I'd rather you go be happy somewhere else than stay here and be unhappy just so we can have you around." Thomas agreed, and Percy smiled. Henry smiled a bit as well, then looked over to Gordon, who hadn't spoken in a while. The blue engine looked back over to Henry in return and sighed before managing a smile too.
"Then I suppose tomorrow I'll tell her." Henry murmured, and the rest of the evening was spent in quiet conversation.
However when everyone else had gone to sleep, Gordon sat awake. Looking over to the green engine beside him, he paused a moment before whispering,
"Henry.. Henry..!" The green engine opened a sleepy eye.
"Mnhm.. Gordon? What is it..?" He asked, becoming slightly more alert at the nervous look on Gordon's face.
"I just- I wanted to apologize for being rude to you. I should have never said you weren't useful, it was wrong of me and--" He went quiet when Henry chuckled.
"Oh Gordon I'd forgotten all about that. But I forgive you." Gordon smiled softly.
"Thank you. Goodnight Henry."
Chapter 6: Departure
Charlotte was delighted to hear of Henry's decision when he told her the next day. She and Sir Topham Hatt immediately began making arrangements for transportation, payments, a lot of big words and phrases that Henry couldn't understand even if he tried. It was a bit intimidating, but exciting.. And though his crew was less pleased about the whole ordeal actually coming to fruition, they kept that piece of information to themselves so as not to sway Henry's decision for anyone's sake but his own.
The other engines of course did their best to be happy for him, and more time was spent enjoying each others company than bickering and bantering about silly things as they were most commonly prone to..
Working with Gordon, getting washed down with James, joking around with Thomas and Percy, and basking under the tepid glow of the sun with Edward. Long hours and lazy summer days marked the end of his time on Sodor, the last warm days of the year seeming to offer the best of their nostalgic flavour to see him off well. The time he spent with his friends became precious as the day of departure grew near and he began to spend many hours at the end of each day in the shed, talking with his crew and his friends.
And then the day came. The docks were crowded with engines and people who wanted to bid Sodor's big green engine a fond farewell. From early morning to afternoon, the docks were busy and while Henry was sad to be leaving the island he'd come to regard as home, he was very excited for the journey ahead. He was visited successively by a great many friends. At last arrived Percy, Thomas and James, all whistling hello in a deceptively cheerful manner. Gordon was soon to follow, after he'd finished his morning jobs. The five of them sat together quietly for a while amidst the hollering workmen; there wasn't much to be said, but James ventured to try.
"I can't believe you're really leaving.." He murmured, pulling closer. Henry looked up at him and smiled weakly.
"It's alright James." He paused before chuckling softly. "Whenever I see a red engine I'll think of you." James smiled softly but Percy looked slightly distressed.
"Will you think of me too, Henry?" He asked in a squeaky tone. Henry only smiled more, wishing he could pat the little green engine as he offered reassuringly,
"Yes of course I will. I'll think of all of you. And when I get to miss Greaves' railway, I'll talk to my new driver and see if he will send you letters every now and then for me." All the engines agreed this sounded like an excellent idea. It would take some of the harshness out of the loss.
"I'll be anticipating your first letter, I can't wait to hear all about your new home." Thomas said with a smile while Gordon came forward a bit so his and Henry's buffers touched lightly. Henry looked up quizzically.
"You'd better not forget about me, old squarewheels." Gordon offered with a vaguely impish grin and Henry chuckled.
"You don't need to worry about that, I never shall... Galloping sausage." He retorted and the five of them snickered quietly. Suddenly Edward pulled up right behind Percy and Thomas with a loud hiss, a cloud of steam enveloping him for a moment.
"Oh good I'm not too late. I was worried I would be." His cheeks were flushed brightly and Henry could only assume he'd been in a big hurry- definitely a bigger hurry than he should have been, considering his age. "I woke up far too early this morning so I took a nap; next thing I knew it was nine o'clock." He smiled in obvious relief and Henry laughed softly.
"I'm glad you're here Edward." The green tender engine sighed gently before they had a somber moment of mutual silence. When Edward finally spoke, he sounded tired.. Old. Not in the usual, subtle fashion. The look about him went deeper than that. Every gentle line, every little wrinkle seemed to say that Edward had seen better days, and that it was starting to catch up with him. He sighed as well, long and heavy.
"Oh Henry.. I remember when you first arrived on Sodor." He began, and Henry grinned knowingly.
"We've been together for so many years and we've come to know each other better than most. I know how much you've suffered.. It makes me more happy than I could ever express, knowing you have such a wonderful chance to make the most of your life. It's going to be lonely here without you.. But don't worry about us- we'll manage, to be sure." He paused for a moment and drew a bit closer. "You have a beautiful spirit Henry, and I know you'll make many friends, wherever life takes you. Even if we can't follow."
Henry smiled weakly but genuinely in return, but he didn't shed a tear until he was carefully loaded onto the ship and Thomas shouted from below,
"We love you Henry!" And after a series of calls from his friends and a none too graceful 'take care' from Cranky, Henry was secured on the ship..
And then he was gone.
Chapter 7: Kollsvik
The distant rumble of thunder, pounding on the periphery of his consciousness was what awoke Henry. His eyes flicked open and he tiredly surveyed the area directly in front of him, taking stock of his surroundings. He wasn't sure how long he'd been asleep, but it had to have been a while..
He was greeted back to the world by the soaked deck of a ship that had recently been sloshed with rain, the heavy footsteps of men scurrying to and fro, and the darkness of an early morning sky weighted down heavily with clouds, which he could just barely see from beneath the rippling hem of the dark green tarp that had been tied over him. Then he paused, focusing on a discernible blotch on the horizon. A landmass, it seemed; a landmass from which clouds of black smoke and strange blinking lights emanated. A landmass they were headed toward. It surely didn't look like a place on which a prestigious railway would be. It didn't really look like a place a railway of any respect would be. He mused that perhaps this wasn't his stop, and they were only going to pick something up- perhaps another engine?
Feeling a hint of trepidation, but wholly satisfied with his own explanation, he closed his eyes again and tried to relax. He didn't get to relax long though as a few minutes later, when the ship had docked, the tarp covering him was torn off and he was exposed to the heavy downpour of rain that had started up again. It was darker now, the sky nearly black with the combination of smog and clouds blocking out what feeble gray light the morning may have had to offer. Confused, he cast a quick, dazed glance around at what appeared to be an industrial docking area for cargo ships. It was easily five times the size of Sodor's Brendam docks. Down below both men and little tank engines alike scuttled around about their business in a chaotic fashion.. Yet even in the short time Henry was able to observe, despite many near-misses and almost-collisions, there was never an accident. He was interrupted from his thoughts by a bright light shining directly in his face, the white beam illuminating the drops of rain between the green engine and.. A crane. Henry squinted and groaned a bit as the crane, who was only a silhouette to him at the moment, cackled and turned away. Now that Henry wasn't being blinded he caught a glimpse of the dockyard crane's face, which fostered ridiculous grin, exposing the goofy gap between its front teeth.
Surprised to see what he had previously thought of as a universally bad tempered creature looking so uncharacteristically cheerful, Henry didn't notice that there was more than one until another bright light roved over the busy docks to meet him, pointing him out directly with a spotlight. He blinked, trying to get the dark spots out of his eyes from all the sudden flashing of headlamps. The two of them, twins it seemed, were positioned directly across from eachother, just far enough so that their hooks wouldn't tangle if they happened to be careless.. And with the playful look about them that promised mischievousness, he was sure that would have been a possibility.
Henry, who had only ever met one crane and hadn't imagined any others, could hardly believe what he saw.
"Oh--! Oh, Bartolf! Look at this." The one closest to Henry called over the general noise, his voice veiled with a thick accent of Russian origin. The twin called back from across the docks, but Henry couldn't hear him well. He caught something about a 'greenbean' and wrinkled his nose indignantly as the one nearest to him cackled again. They were obviously talking about him, and he wasn't sure he liked what they had to say.
"Da! Is jolly green giant!" Henry was about to say something is his own defense when he suddenly became aware that the workmen were preparing to unload him from the ship. Concerned, he attempted to capture their attention.
"W-wait.. Excuse me-- I-.. W-wai--.." His feeble attempts at getting them to take notice of him went entirely unheard in the commotion and before he could protest, he was deftly unchained from the deck and placed onto an empty area on the rails below. A spotlight followed him and he winced again, temporarily blinded; but he didn't need to see to know it was one of those two pesky cranes, who apparently couldn't just mind their own business. It wasn't long before he felt his wheels make contact with the rails with a resounding clack that echoed in his boiler and almost made his teeth hurt.
"Gently now.." He muttered, settling down a bit; his perspective from down below on the dock was much different than it had been from the ship. Wet and gloomy, the place was rather intimidating, what with towering structures topped with flashing lights to warn ships coming in through the foggy weather, men shouting harshly over the thunder and clatter of rain upon engines and roofing alike, and ill tempered looking cars filled with cargo covered carefully with a tarp. Whatever it was appeared to be getting exported; and Henry was more confused than ever. Charlotte had never said anything about any sort of freight. She'd been adamant about a city and a busy schedule pulling passengers to and fro.
One would have thought that once his wheels were placed firmly on a pair of reliable rails, he would feel more comfortable. Perhaps even better equipped to handle whatever situation he seemed to have landed in.. But the situation proved itself otherwise quite promptly. As soon as he'd been set down, Henry garnered a good deal of attention that both unnerved and distracted him.
The little engines that were bunking together in a shed nearby watched him through the heavy rain with a weary but wide eyed gaze, their eyes catching the light that came from a lamppost directly beside the little shanty. Even when Henry met their gaze directly, it didn't falter- they didn't say hello, they didn't look away, and they didn't smile. They merely watched, and Henry suddenly longed for the company of the silly cranes again.
But the twin cranes were far too busy talking with one another and continued to chatter over his head as he began to worry deeply. Where was Charlotte? This definitely couldn't be right, there was no way this was where he was meant to end up--
"A-ahh!" He suddenly screeched in something halfway between horror and surprise, red flags going up in his head as the touch of unfamiliar, rough, human hands registered to him from inside his cab. Alarm consumed him. Not only was it unsafe for anyone not familiar with an engine to mess around with the controls, it was considered an extreme disrespect to do so without said engine's permission. The bond between an engine and the humans who handled them was an unspoken but important part of both of their lives, and Henry, who had only been handled by a select few who knew how he suffered and knew how to help, suddenly felt extremely violated in that regard.
"W-who's there!?" He asked tersely, his voice high pitched and squeaky. However he was cut off by a workman who shouted,
"Hey! Quiet down over there." Quite crossly. Unsure what he'd done to receive such a reprimand, Henry merely blinked.. Perhaps the workman hadn't actually been talking to him?
"What..?" He ventured to ask, only for the man to shoot him a terribly icy glare.
"I said shut up. You deaf or somethin'?" The man hissed before he turned away to go about his business. Somewhat startled, Henry blinked again and fell silent, biting his lip and feeling quite chastised indeed..
Too afraid to try speaking again, he did his best to ignore the complete strangers in his cab, as their callous hands went about starting his fire and checking the controls. His gaze drifted, stopping when he met the gaze of another engine who had pulled up near him to get coupled up to some empty cars. It was a little gray tank engine with a round nose and a stumpy little funnel.. He looked a bit like Percy. Henry forced a tiny little smile, but the tank engine's eyes merely widened and he looked away, puttering off as quickly as he could, apparently pretending he hadn't noticed. Henry was rather put off by this behaviour, but he didn't have much time to muse on it, for by this time his fire was going nicely and he was ready to go. However that didn't mean he wanted to and he offered a bit of resistance as he was forced forward. A sudden rough smack to the side of his cab, coupled by a firm shout from one of the men inside was enough to startle him into submission and he jerked forward, bumping into a line of cars that had presumably been lined up for him. The freight cars groaned and hissed at him angrily- the rain made them cranky enough, it was merely icing on the cake of annoyance to have some clueless new engine bumping them around. However Henry was quickly coupled up to them with little fuss; and without even so much as a cursory 'welcome to the railway', they were off to work for the day, the crane twins calling goodbye to the 'jolly green giant' as he puffed away from the ship that had brought him here, away from everything he knew, and toward a place he'd never imagined he'd end up. As he reached the end of the docks where it met the land and the tracks branched off in many directions, he looked up at a huge sign, lit brightly so that it stood out in stark contrast to the dim light of the cloudy morning sky.
It read, "EAST KOLLSVIK DOCKS".
And as he passed under that sign and started out over a cold, bleak landscape drenched with rain, deep in his boiler, Henry had the feeling that something was very, very wrong.
Chapter 8: Russell
By the end of that miserable day, Henry was dirty, hot, tired, and aching from dome to coupling rods. Feeling quite sorry for himself indeed, it was merely insult to injury when he was ever so suddenly sprayed down with smelly water in an unceremonious fashion by a railway worker. The man took no mind of Henry's spluttering and feeble attempts to protest. He merely finished his work and left without even so much as cursory hello or goodbye.. He didn't even take enough care to dry him off! Letting out an exhausted and ultimately defeated puff of steam, he sank onto the rails, which felt harder than ever on his tired wheels. He was broken from his reverie when a small, gentle voice gingerly addressed him.
"It's not all bad.." Henry opened his eyes and looked over to see a small, stout little red engine pull up beside him. The red engine's driver hopped out to go get a bucket or two of water for his tank. It seemed that unlike Henry, whose work was finished for the day, this little engine had more to do.. He pulled a line of cars behind him.. More than he ought to for an engine of his diminutive size. But even despite the dirty, tired and used look about him, he was anything but defeated. The spry, cheerful look in his eyes, coupled with his tentative smile was more than enough to let anyone know he still had some spunk left in him.
Henry was confused. How could this little red engine find joy in anything here? Henry thought him mighty silly for it. All there was here were cranky cars, dirty cargo, sooty, tired engines and a smoggy sky. He hadn't seen a single glimpse of the sky since he had arrived. In fact, so put off by the little engine's statement, he could hardly think of anything to say in return. He merely glared over at him sourly. This didn't seem to deter the red engine at all and he only looked down, still smiling a bit.
"The first day is hardest for everyone. It was for me too, but it's not always so bad, really. In fact, you almost get used to it after a while." Henry was about to ask him what in the world he was talking about, but he paused when the red engine's driver shouted at him from across the station to 'Pipe down over there!'
Henry cast a subtle glance in the driver's direction, then looked back over to the red engine.. A little less crossly than before. This little red engine seemed to know something.. But most of all he understood how Henry felt. He smiled reassuringly and whispered lowly,
"We can talk later.." before his driver returned, dumped a couple buckets of water into his tank and they puttered away, his little wheels straining to pull the weight of the many many cars lined up behind him.
Henry watched him leave, then slunk back to the large warehouse where the engines rested for the night. They had little privacy, cramped together with barely four feet of space between each of them, but luckily most of them were so tired by the time they returned to the warehouse that they fell asleep almost immediately. And while being surrounded by sleeping engines was comparatively lonely and only served to remind Henry of all those peaceful nights in the shed with his friends, it didn't seem quite as crowded as it would have if they were awake. Though he still had the thought that he was merely here by mistake and that the administrator would be along to rescue him as soon as she found out her new engine was misplaced. Using this idea as a security blanket, he waited quietly.
He didn't suffer the silence long though, as a familiar red engine pulled up to the turntable sluggishly, waiting as he was directed to the track that led into the spot right next to Henry. After slowly backing in, his driver left, presumably to go home. Alone at last, the red engine smiled up at Henry. He looked even dirtier than ever.. Henry started to wonder if any of these engines ever received a real washdown- he was hardly willing to count that crude soaking he'd gotten as a bath. The little engine sighed heavily.
"Finally some peace and quiet, it'll be easier to talk he--" His comment was negated almost immediately at the sound of a loud thud in the distance, the hissing of steam and loud shouting. The little engine blushed a bit but paused only briefly before continuing where he'd left off.
"Here.. My name's Russell- what's yours?" He asked. Henry looked down at him.
"Henry.. I.. I don't know what's going on, I was told that I was to be pulling coaches on a track in the city.." Were he not so tired, he might not have been able to keep his voice from quivering. "There must be some mistake, I'm n.. Not supposed to be here.." He trailed off as Russell gave him a sympathetic glance.. And Henry immediately felt uncomfortable- something wasn't right; this was immediately affirmed by Russell.
"Yes, that's how she lures them in.. Them being us. Most of the engines here are the rejects of railways worldwide. They're brought here, most of them on their last wheel, so to speak- the administrator has them repaired as cheaply as possible and they work until they can't work anymore." His voice grew quiet; he'd clearly seen this cycle happen in its brutal entirety many many times. "But, then there are a few.. A few perfectly useful engines who are promised the job of their dreams by a wealthy, charismatic stranger. Most of them know nothing about the treachery of the world outside their own railways and fall easily into the trap." Henry felt cold, even though the air was musty and warm.
".. Oh no- how could--.. Oh, I'm so stupid.." He felt as if he were atop a pool of mud that was slowly swallowing him, as opposed to secure train tracks, and forlornly wished he had never left Sodor. He wished he'd never let that horrible woman entice him the way she had. He wished he'd have seen how lucky he was to have such a benevolent owner. He wished he was back home in his cozy shed with his friends. This was just horrid.
"Oh, we are both, so stupid." Russell replied sullenly, giving Henry a melancholy smile. Henry looked up at him, realizing very suddenly that Russell had met the same exact fate- while Russell was dirty, worn and tired, there was no denying the gleam of his red paint that had, not /too/ long ago been lovingly restored by caring hands the likes of which were not to be found here.
"I'm sorry.." Henry offered quietly, but Russell shrugged it off with a slight eye roll.
"Don't be, it was my own foolishness that got me here. And I've learned that sulking about it isn't gonna help anything. Just gotta make the best of it. There are some really amazing engines in this place, if you ever get the chance to meet them. It's the bad situations that bring out the best in us." He smiled in a cheerful manner that Henry almost envied. Where did he get all of that baseless hope? "I can help you learn the tricks of the trade, so to speak-" He went silent immediately as a man suddenly came into the warehouse yard, shouting loudly to someone across the station.
"This shed's full, I'm shuttin' it up for the night!" There was a shouted reply, but neither Henry nor Russell could understand it. They both remained still and silent, pretending to be asleep as the man walked along in front of the huge structure in which the engines were resting. As he passed by each individual door he slammed it shut and locked it deftly, shutting them in for the night. Inside the closed warehouse it was almost completely black, with only a few streams of dusty light from the dim, flickering lampposts outside filtering in through the cracks in the walls. Henry was afraid- it reminded him too much of the tunnel he'd been trapped in for being selfish.
"Russell..?" He whispered.
"... I'm here." Came the smaller engine's soft reply. Henry was relieved to hear his voice. "I guess this is lesson number one.. That being, they don't like us to talk.. The administrator doesn't even trust us as far as she could throw us.. Which is not at all; she always thinks that whenever we talk, we're plotting something, so keep your voice down around the workers and never, /ever/ speak to the administrator directly.. Only if she specifically asks you a question. Be blunt but polite, and if you want to be on her good side, keep what you say down to five words at most when you can. And always call her ma'am, nothing else."
Henry was thankful for the advice.
"Alright.. But.." He wasn't sure if he should ask such a question, but it popped out anyway. "Why does she hate us so much?" Henry thought briefly of the administrator- when he'd first met her at the station in Sodor she simply seemed like a lovely woman with a fascination for locomotives.. Was that all merely a facade? Had she really successfully duped them all into thinking she was trustworthy and kind, when her true colours were dark and cruel?
"Some say it's because she was run over by a train, and was robbed of her ability to walk." Russell replied. "And she was so bitter about it that she wants to take it out on us.. But that's just a rumor. The only thing we really know is that she makes a lot of money off of her business, and uses it to buy more junkers ready for scrap.. And, of course, unsuspecting engines like us." Russell's confidence seemed to falter at this, and Henry could understand why. The administrator had money at her disposal, readily used it to carry on this awful business, and there was absolutely nothing they could do to stop her.
"It's more expensive to be sure; I think she does it because she knows it's hitting us where it hurts. But, of course, she also needs reliable, well-working engines to keep the railway running smoothly.." He paused to yawn, unable to hold it in. "Irregardless.. We'd better get some rest before tomorrow.. We get one day off for scheduled maintenance every two weeks, and only if we do our work as efficiently as possible." Russell said quietly. A moment or two later he added, "Goodnight, Henry."
Henry felt something akin to comfort; It was good to have a friend in such a dark place.. But Russell could not have said goodnight at a better time, for already Henry's eyes were closing; as wonderful as it was to have someone to talk to, he just couldn't stay awake any longer. He managed a slurred, "Goodnight, Russell." before he fell asleep.
Chapter 9: Grey
The next morning Henry awoke with a start at the sound of clanging metal. This was closely followed by bright light that suddenly flooded into the shed through the doors that were being pounded on with a wrench and thrown open in succession. It was a different man today, and though he did his work with unfeeling efficiency, he didn't seem as cranky as the others did. He cast Henry a glance as he walked past after throwing the door open, clearly taking notice that he was new, but moving on quickly to finish his job.
There was a general discontented grumbling from the sleepy, disgruntled engines as they were forced to wake up and get going. One by one they cleared the shed until it was just Russell, Henry, and three others who had yet to be attended by their respective crews. When no one was paying attention, Henry looked over to Russell and sighed softly.
"I don't suppose it would be too awfully fitting to say 'good morning'." They exchanged a glance and both smirked wryly.
"Just 'morning', then." Russell replied simply. They sat in silence for a while as the drivers of two of the others arrived, and started going about their business. Henry watched them absently for a little while before looking back over to Russell.
"Russell, I'm curious.." He started quietly. The smaller engine looked up at him quizzically, and Henry took this as an invitation to continue. "Why are so many of the engines here painted gray?" It was true. He'd noticed it but it just hadn't occurred to him until now that it wasn't exactly normal. There was hardly any colour anywhere- a few such as himself and Russell retained their original paintjobs, but the majority seemed to be smeared with an ugly, colourless dark gray, with numbers painted in black. It was hard to tell them apart in a group.
Russell looked solemn, glancing at Henry then down at the ground.
"It's a punishment." He said quietly, keeping his voice low as a man walked by a couple yards away. "I can't think of a single engine I've ever known who wasn't proud of their colours. Can you?"
"Exactly. The Administrator is relentless. If it isn't a physical burden, it's a psyc-psychosp-sp.. M-mental one. That's how she breaks you. Have you ever looked around at these engines? Look in their eyes, you can see it- lifeless, broken. Some of them couldn't even pick them/selves/ out of a crowd, let alone anyone else." Russell murmured lowly. Henry felt a bit weak but said nothing. "If you make a mistake she feels is inappropriate, she takes away your colour. Inappropriate mistakes are the ones that include anything to do with your individuality. Talking when you oughtn't, messing up without the fault expressly being your driver's; even making expressions she feels are inappropriate will be your own undoing." He finished. Henry was appalled, but said nothing, keeping his mouth shut even tighter now as a man passed by to go tend to one of the engines that was still in the shed with them. Henry looked closely at the engine as the man walked about, getting it ready for the day.
It was silent.
It was gray.
And its eyes were lifeless.
Chapter 10: Elbmá
It was later in the day that Henry and Russell met up again, both covered in soot from dome to coupling rods, and to make matters worse, Henry had taken to coughing. Every now and then he'd hack up a cloud of black smoke that stained his front in unattractive streams and left a dark colour on his lips and down his chin. It was terribly unsightly and he was beginning to hope for another crude washdown, even though it would be cold and smelly and unpleasant. Better than looking ready for the scrap heap.. Which could be potentially dangerous in this place, given the fact that most of the freight getting carted around was scrap metal.
When Russell pulled up next to him near the water tower, they exchanged looks. Russell gave Henry a little encouraging smile, but that did nothing to lighten the larger engine's terrible mood. As soon as the nearest workmen were far enough away for them to talk safely, Henry promptly hissed,
"I can't take this anymore, that hhhorrid horrid man is just.. I just.. Ugh!" Utterly disgusted, he only wound up working himself into a small bout of coughing. Russell reversed just a bit to dodge the smoky discharge and sighed.
"I know. Some of the men and women working here are just as horrible as the Administrator is. You just have to learn how to work with them.. Just like they learn how to work with you." Russell offered quietly, but Henry didn't seem fully placated.
"I can't stand it, that he's in there all day just, handling me like that. I don't like him and I don't trust him and if he points another finger at me all accusingly as he does when I can't get going in the morning, I'll bite it, I'll bite it off." Henry grumbled, and was surprised to see Russell giggle silently.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, it's just that I know exactly how you feel. It's not funny but it helps to laugh anyway." He said apologetically, and after a few moments of stunned silence, Henry was fighting back a wry sort of grin as well.. He was surprised to find that it felt exceedingly strange to smile. The short time he'd spent on Kollsvik had already pounded it into his head that to smile was not normal. To laugh was vulgar. Joy was.. Odd. Foreign. And that truth was more frightening than anything else Kollsvik had to offer.
More than ever he wanted to be near Russell- the little red engine had an undefeatable happiness in him, a candle in the dark and Henry needed its feeble light. He was dismayed to see Russell's driver coming back over. Russell read his gaze and sighed softly.
"Just hang in there.. We can talk more tonight." They then parted ways, Russell heading off toward the docks. It was about four hours' worth of a journey from the sheds, so Henry knew Russell wouldn't be back until late. As he watched the little red engine putter away, he sighed heavily.
"Well at least it can't get any worse." But Henry was wrong; it could get worse. And it did.
So far, he'd only seen the island working at its very best, and while Russell had told him of the brutal conclusion they would all eventually face, he found that he had never truly understood it until he saw it happen.. It was later on that same day, and he was waiting at the large covered station known as "Elbmá". The clouds that had been gathering overnight now formed a dark blanket that cast the island in shadow. The occasional clap of distant thunder was a foreboding promise of rain to come, and Henry was glad for the shelter the station provided.
As he waited silently for a small blue tank engine to shunt a train of empty freight cars together for him, his fireman tried to build the flame in his firebox up to a more satisfactory size. Henry, despite hearing the man's cursing and general hatred of his decidedly unsatisfactory firebox, knew better than to provide any commentary, however helpful it might prove to be. The blue engine gave him a sympathetic glance as she passed with a few sleepy cars, wincing when Henry flinched at a loud clang which sounded a lot like a leather boot against metal. It grew quiet for a while after that.
And that was when a commotion a few rails over drew his attention. An orange engine, so covered in soot and grime that he appeared almost brown, was struggling with a line of heavy cars. His wheels scraped and skidded on the tracks as he tried his hardest to move forward; but as soon as he started moving, there was a loud grinding snap and the engine shrieked in pain. Henry gasped, dying to go over and make sure he was alright- but he knew better.
Biting his lip and cringing inwardly, he merely observed as the engine's crew stepped out to inspect the damage and determine whether or not it was a quick, easy fix.. But their grim expressions as they spoke quietly with eachother let Henry know it wasn't. It was only a minute or so before they were joined by the Administrator and two of her aides... She did not look pleased.
The engine blinked away tears, assuming as calm and blank of an expression as possible as the woman spoke sternly to him.
"Useful engines are the only ones who belong on my railway. Now move." She looked on relentlessly as the poor creature struggled, tears streaming down his face and leaving stripes where they'd washed away the soot. Smoke poured from him as his wheels turned worthlessly against the rails to no avail, and bystanding workers coughed; but Charlotte merely observed in unperturbed silence as there was another snap and the engine let out a cry.. He knew this was the end.
Tears gathered in Henry's eyes as he helplessly watched, unable to do anything to stop the orange engine's torture. Finally the engine stopped struggling, sinking onto his wheels in utter defeat.
"I can't..." He said, sobbing silently. There was hardly a moment's worth of silence before the administrator spoke.
"Scrap." She said coldly. The engine sobbed again, audibly this time, and Henry's insides felt icier than winter even in spite of his now blazing firebox. That night he slunk back to the sheds, feeling more old, tired and downright exhausted, inside and out, than he could ever remember being close to feeling. Russell joined him later, pulling in solemnly and sitting there quietly for a minute as his crew left him. When they had gone, he looked down at the ground before murmuring,
"I heard. I was still at the docks when it happened.." He knew Henry would know what he was talking about. Despite the ban on public speaking, news traveled fast when the administrator's far seeing gaze was focused elsewhere.
"I knew Rene was struggling.. I just didn't know he was so far along." Russell's voice quivered and Henry looked over at him in surprise. A few tears had made their way down the little engine's dirty face, leaving small streaks.
"You.. You knew him?" Henry asked. Russell looked up, his expression speaking more volumes than his words ever could, and Henry's heart broke.
"Rene was my first friend here.. We arrived at the same time and met at the docks. I always hoped that somehow, we would be able to make it together, against the odds but.." At this point Russell's voice cracked and he shut his eyes tightly. The rest of the night was spent in silence, but Henry could hear him in the dark.
Chapter 11: Adolf
It was later in the night that Henry awoke, blinking a few times and tiredly glancing around. It was very dark in the shed save for a few silvery threads of light from the lampposts outside filtering in through the cracks in the walls.. And relatively quiet outside, so he knew it wasn't quite time to wake up just yet. As that was, he had every intention of going right back to sleep, and settled down sleepily.
But a sudden noise from outside made his eyes snap right back open again. A long, eerie whistle in the distance sent a tremor through him. Like the keening wail of a ghost it split the cold night air and rose to its quavering peak, declining steadily only to be replaced by the thundering sound of a big engine working its hardest. Henry, while intimidated, was curious about this- all of the engines he'd seen so far were only little ones; generally tank engines and small tender engines that would only just barely measure up to Edward or James. But the noise this engine made as it passed by outside was unlike anything Henry had ever heard. Looking over to Russell, he wished the little engine were awake to provide some sort of commentary or insight.. But it didn't seem that the noise had perturbed him, or any other engine for that matter. Everyone else seemed to remain sound asleep.. And once the noise had subsided and his thoughts had settled, Henry was too.
The next day, it rained. Hard. The droplets pounded down on the roof of the shed but not a single engine sleeping inside could be bothered to care; or notice. Russell was still dozing quietly beside Henry when the big engine's driver roused him by tossing a rag in his face.
"Up, we're out early today. You've got a special to pull." Henry, spluttering and wriggling his nose to get the sticky, blackened rag off, couldn't help but wonder what sort of 'special' there could possibly be on Kollsvik. Nothing was special here, so to him it almost seemed kind of mocking. Nevertheless, he had no say in the matter and it wasn't long before they were off to Elbmá where his 'special' was waiting. He was aghast at what it was.
Rene. Chained down to a truck and covered over with a shoddy gray tarp, the poor broken engine waited to be carted off to his untimely demise. By Henry. Much to his horror, the green tender engine was pulled up to the truck and coupled to it by the front so he and Rene were face to face.. He could see the defeated look of acceptance in Rene's eyes and it struck him deeply. This wasn't right; there was absolutely no justice, no fairness, or even /decency/ in this. What Charlotte expected him to do to another engine, Russell's friend no less- it was more than disgraceful, disgusting, or despicable. And hardly ten feet out of the station he let everyone know exactly what he thought as he locked up stubbornly and refused to move. Rene looked around with surprise, half expecting to see the administrator around somewhere. Why else would they come to an unannounced halt? Unless..
"No." Henry stated, letting off an angry jet of steam as his crew came around front to see what the problem was. Rene looked up to Henry in something of a mix between admiration and dismay. He was sure the tender engine must have been out of his mind to do something so bold.
"What did you just sa--" He started in a soft, timid voice, but was cut off when Henry's driver came around front and shouted,
"What's the big idea? Get your ass moving now or we're all going to lose our jobs." But the green engine stayed silent and resolute, unwilling to budge a single inch. His crew attempted to berate him for his behaviour, and when that failed they attempted to reason with him, but his stony resolve outmatched their fury and persuasion. Finally another engine was brought to try and push him but it was no use- Henry clung firmly to his spot on the rails. It was clear the workmen had never been in such a situation before, and they began speaking together in hushed tones. A few minutes later the little engine that was brought to push Henry scurried away, soon replaced by Jimmy, who had a dark, knowing grin on his face. His grin only widened as Charlotte was helped from the car by one of her aides and pushed over as close as her wheelchair could get to Henry. She looked displeased.
"Why have you stopped." She asked simply, folding her hands in her lap and looking up at Henry with her sharp green gaze. He looked down in return at the wheelchair bound woman; though she was diminutive in stature, it merely belied her true persona.. Vindictive, hateful, the none-too-benevolent goddess of her little world. She looked up at him, pried him apart under her gaze, saw through his resolve and knew. She /knew/ that she owned him. And upon realizing this, Henry faltered, because he knew it too.
"I.. I-I'm not going to do this." He choked out, but it was too forced to possibly be the product of true defiance and he could tell it was painfully obvious to Charlotte, who narrowed her eyes.
"Yes you are. This is your job, you do it." She said, and though her expression didn't change, her voice grew stiff and her hands tightened on the blanket that covered her lap. Rene was terrified, letting out a hushed whimper before whispering almost silently,
"Just do what she says. Please.." He glanced from Henry to Charlotte, then winced as the woman hissed,
"Move." Henry felt a twinge of urgency in his boiler- he felt compelled to do what she said but he remained frozen. Why, he wasn't sure. Not anymore.. Yet he stayed absolutely put, and though Charlotte waited for a minute, tense and angry, she finally leaned back, her grip going lax and eyes half lidded. "Very well." She motioned for her aide to take her back to her car, and they were off. Henry was still on edge, confused by this turn of events- but Rene knew that the only things to come of this would be exceedingly bad. Desperately he appealed to Henry.
"Please do what they want.. Don't throw yourself away, think about Russell..! I know you're his new friend, don't do this to him he can't lose us both.." A tear slid down Rene's cheek but was lost in the rain. "He needs you; if not for anything else, surrender for him.. Please." The green tender engine looked at Rene, then shut his eyes tightly.
"I-.. I'll go--" He was immediately cut off by a long, eerie whistle from somewhere far behind him and again, a tremor went through him. He immediately opened his eyes to see Rene trembling.
"What..?" He asked, a bit alarmed. Rene whimpered again and whispered,
"Adolf.." Even as he said it Henry could hear the heavy pounding of machinery on the rails as something raced toward him through the rain. A bright spotlight was cast upon him from behind and he began to feel the vibration given off by the approaching locomotive, which by what he could hear was giving no signs of slowing. The workmen all fled the scene quickly, scattering like startled rabbits and Henry only just had time to stammer,
"I'll do it, I'll go, just-- no--!!" Before he found his pleas morphing into a short cry of pain and fear as the huge engine plowed into him from behind with a horrific crash, knocking him up against the truck and forcing him forward violently. The wheels of his tender left the rails briefly before clanging back down, and for a split second Henry couldn't breathe; Rene's shriek of fear only barely registered to him. He fought to regain the breath he'd lost as the behemoth behind him continued pushing him forward with merciless brute force, slowing only for a moment to let Henry and his truck roll forward a bit.. But the huge black engine was far from done with him.
"Please, no, d-don't.." Henry sobbed, but the powerful sound of the black engine's wheels turning against the rails as it came for him again drowned him out, his sobs turning to cries of pain once more as he was charged into a second time with a loud crash. However the black engine didn't stop this time, merely continuing to shove Henry and his cargo along the track toward his intended destination- the scrapyards.
Chapter 12: Replacement
Back at the sheds, despite the heavy rain thundering on the roof and the general clatter of Kollsvik steadily rumbling outside, Russell was still sound asleep.. But not for long.
"Rise and shine~ Rise and shine~ If I have to say it again, I'll put my foot in your behind~" He awoke with a start, opening his eyes to see a man clanging two wrenches together and singing a crude wake up song to the tune of Frère Jacques. A tune Russell was quite familiar with, but hadn't expected to hear on Kollsvik.
"Come on, really, get the hell up it's time to go, go, go." The man said as he tossed the wrenches off to the side with a clatter and drummed on Russell's boiler to wake him up faster. Russell blinked, looking around with wide eyes. This wasn't his normal driver, who would often merely go about his business without even consulting him first.
It wasn't as if he was not accustomed to sudden changes in things, but usually he had the privilege of knowing why. Curious but cautious, the little red tank engine watched the stranger until he disappeared around back, circling the engine and studying him up and down. Russell knew better than to trust him immediately, even if he was more sociable than most of the people working on Kollsvik; a good deal of those who worked with the engines were pushing the furthest borderline of abusive, if not cold and uncaring.
"What.. What happened to my old driver?" He asked, keeping his voice quiet and non-intrusive. The very last thing he wanted to do was come off as entitled or arrogant in any way, especially considering this was a person whom he didn't know. The man came around front briefly to re-open the shed door which had gone halfway closed again, shoving against it and making sure it stayed this time. This gave Russell a chance to look at him more closely- he wore the standard uniform of Kollsvik's railway; a black peacoat with gray lining. He had short black hair that seemed to be thinning a bit and a thin moustache- coupled with his long, pointy nose and sharp features, he was a bit imposing.
"He's not coming back, not for a while. Down at the docks last night he was joshin' around with some friends of his; poor bloke went and got himself knocked right off the edge and into the water." He said, about as casually as one might mention the weather. Russell, however, was considerably more perturbed by this news.
"Oh no.. Did.. Did they get him out?" He asked, a bit more tentatively this time.. Now that he was more awake, it had dawned on him that this man hadn't yet told him to be quiet.. He wasn't quite sure why he was even talking to him and suddenly felt strangely shy.
"Yeah they fished him out 'fore he drowned, but he came down with a cold somethin' terrible. Pneumonia or sommat like it." Russell wasn't sure how to feel about this news. Sure, he'd never really liked the guy but it really was an unfortunate turn of events.
"So you're--" He was promptly interrupted.
"The replacement, yes. Vernon's the name." The man said as he climbed into the cab. Russell swallowed lightly before offering a timid,
"I'm Russell.. It's nice to meet you." Vernon snorted a bit, offering a quick "Yeah yeah." in reply.. But never once did he tell Russell not to speak, and for the first time in what seemed like a long time, the world seemed like a slightly warmer place.
Chapter 13: Scrapyards
The rain pounded on Henry as he was pushed toward the scrapyards by Adolf. As they neared their destination the air grew smoggier and Henry could just make out the mutilated shapes of old rusty parts littering the ground around the tracks and roads. He couldn't see much else through the rain, and if the scrapyard was where they were going, he wasn't sure he wanted to. Eventually he shut his eyes tightly to keep water out of them. It was only when they'd come to a stop that he even thought of opening them, and he gasped immediately.
The scrapyards were nothing short of a horror. If Henry had been back on Sodor and someone had told him what it was like, he likely wouldn't have believed them. It was common knowledge that old, broken down, and generally un-useful engines, automobiles and tractors were typically shipped off to a smelting facility to be repurposed.. However most of those residing on Sodor had never come into firsthand contact with that truth, and those who had, didn't like to talk about it. But it had never truly been a threat.
On Kollsvik, being scrapped hung over everyone like a dark cloud- a hungry beast that rumbled with a constant desire to consume them, and was never fully satiated. And now Henry understood it as Russell did. He understood it as Rene did, and he felt more than ever as if he were sinking.
Amidst the general rusty old frames and piles of scrap metal waiting to be melted down that one would expect, Henry noticed the dark shapes of some engines who were still intact.. Or mostly intact. A good few were missing parts and appeared as if it would take a complete overhaul for them to even be considered slightly suitable for running. But it wasn't their condition that shocked Henry, it was the fact that they were just sitting there, rusting away- still alive, and waiting for nothing but to die. One of them looked up at Henry with a vacant sort of interest, but his gaze didn't linger long, slowly drifting back down. The others didn't even bother; vapid and hopeless, they didn't need or care to look up. They knew exactly who it was and what was happening, and though sometimes the means varied, the end was the same. Some went straight to the smelting facility, some laid abandoned in the scrap piles and picked at until there was hardly anything left.
Henry was still in shock, too frightened to cry- he looked to Rene helplessly and was surprised to see the little engine smile at him faintly.
"Please don't worry for me. If you want to help, just tell Russell that I love him.. And keep eachother safe." He said softly, and Henry made a small noise of acknowledgement. Rene sighed heavily and closed his eyes.
"May God watch over you both." He murmured. Henry closed his eyes as well, and the two of them were silent and still for a few brief moments. Despite the horror going on around them, there was something profoundly peaceful about the moment that they shared. Something that quietly offered the notion that somehow things would turn out alright, in spite of everything that said they wouldn't. So wrapped up in it, relishing the seconds as they slipped by, Henry didn't notice a workman uncouple him from the truck Rene was on. He gasped, eyes snapping open as the huge black engine behind him let off a cloud of steam and began pulling him backward, away from the little engine and out of the scrapyards. Rene watched quietly as Henry was dragged away before closing his eyes again. That was the last time Henry saw him.
Adolf took no pity on them and coldly pulled the smaller green engine onto a siding where he was uncoupled from him. There was a short pause as he waited for the correct switch to be set, and backed out of the siding before coming up alongside Henry; and for the first time Henry got a glimpse of him. Adolf was truly deserving of the fear he appeared to invoke amongst the engines of Kollsvik. Cold and dark, he glared mercilessly down at the green engine, eyes narrowed as he let off another hissing puff of steam. A solid beam of light emanated from his eyes, penetrating the rain and spotlighting Henry brightly. There was a short, tense silence as the huge engine scrutinized Henry critically.
"You vould do vell to /listen/, zhe next time you are told to do something." His deep, heavily accented voice was surprisingly soft, but in such a way that it seemed dangerously so. There was a biting quality about it that made Henry flinch.
He wanted to come to his own defense, but all opposition he could have offered was drowned in fear.. Additionally he had the feeling that any attempt to reproach the black engine would be ill received. Silently he looked down, saying nothing; Adolf merely snorted in distaste and let off another long, mournful whistle as he moved away, disappearing into the rain.
Henry felt terrible; like every dutiful engine he always felt the pull to be useful, to do his job and do it right. But this was something he just could not do. Bitterly he thought that if Charlotte hadn't lied to him he wouldn't have had to do it in the first place. But at the same time she had bought him and he was obligated to do what he was told, irregardless. Bit what she was telling him to do was wrong.. More dismayed and confused than he could ever remember being, he didn't notice his disgruntled crew coming along to join him. They'd vacated the cab when they'd heard Adolf coming.. And weren't too happy about the whole ordeal.
When he heard their familiar voices, in that familiar vexed tone, he groaned and screwed his eyes shut tightly, waiting to be berated again. But that didn't happen. Instead, they walked right past him, arguing about something. To Henry who was only close enough to hear for a moment or two, their words were lost in the hiss of rain, so he hadn't any idea what was going on. He got a better idea when Charlotte's car, who also appeared to be a bit annoyed by the downpour he had to drive through, pulled up and the window was lowered. Henry could hear Charlotte's low, smooth tone punctuating the voices of his crew, and finally the two men walked away.. But not without the both of them casting Henry a venomous glare apiece. A few moments later, the black car reversed, coming up next to the siding Henry was on. Charlotte gazed out of the window, cool and deceptively patient.
"I hope you have learned your lesson well, Henry." She said, just loud enough for her voice to permeate the sound of rain. Henry avoided her gaze, coughing a bit; Russell's warning about speaking to Charlotte seemed like a good set of guidelines to follow now.
"Y-yes ma'am." It was almost physically painful to call her a title that implied respect, but he forced it anyhow. Charlotte stared him down for a few moments more, then leaned back.
"Good. If this happens again, it will be you that goes into that facility, am I clear?" Her voice was cold as ice and Henry felt a sharp stab of fear. He knew she wasn't just trying to intimidate him; if she said it would happen, it would happen. He knew very well that human society was male dominated, he'd seen it clearly.. And Charlotte surely didn't get where she was by not meaning what she said. Swallowing hard, he managed to offer a timid,
"Yes ma'am." Rene had been right; Henry was probably lucky Charlotte spared him at all for outright refusing her orders.
"... I believe a night in the rain will manage to put a bit of extra sense into you while I find you a replacement crew."
"Replacement?" Henry couldn't help himself. Charlotte glared at him sharply, which silenced him effectively.
"Yes, replacement. The last one just quit." She answered his question anyway.. Henry felt no particular loss, really; he didn't like them anyway. It was almost a bit of a relief, though he worried about who might be taking over.. What would they be like?
Charlotte left him to ponder this alone, her black car snickering as he pulled away. Henry wrinkled his nose at this; he didn't like that car either. He sat alone in the rain for a while, absently watching the little engines scurry about their business, hauling freight cars filled with incoming and outgoing cargo. A considerable amount of time had passed, and Henry's mood became more and more sour as he got more and more soaked. Then finally, Henry looked up to see a little gray tank engine come onto the siding he was parked on, pushing a line of empty freight cars. The tank engine was uncoupled from the freight cars and pulled away, puttering past Henry on the main track toward the scrapyards- presumably to pick up some cargo that needed to go to the docks. Henry's interest lingered only briefly on the engine, turning quickly to the freight cars in front of him that seemed to be extremely amused. They twittered and snickered lowly, but paused when Henry looked over at them.. Only to start in again a few seconds later with a chorus of 'p-pfft's, unable to contain their mirth.
The one closest to him was a dark, old wooden cart with a metal frame- it was clear at some point in time he'd been painted gray, but the paint was scratched and faded. 'Kollsvik Smelting & Shipping' was printed on his side in bold black letters. Cackling when Henry glared at him, he raised an eyebrow and smirked; the faint glimmer of a gold tooth in his smile caught the feeble light from a lamppost near the scrapyard gates.
"Boy do you have a pair on you or what!" He hissed gleefully, apparently very amused. Thus far, Henry had only seen grouchy, cranky looking cars. He wasn't sure whether it was good or bad if these ones were smiling. At any rate it was something at least vaguely familiar and boosted his courage.. If only by a minuscule amount.
"Excuse me?" He asked, with as much boldness as he could manage. It came out somewhat more feeble than he'd wanted, but he chose to ignore it, pretending he felt more confident than he sounded. The freight car cackled yet again, and a chorus of giggles followed him.
"Saying 'NO' to the Administrator!? Either you're really brave or really stupid." He was again followed by the sound of the cars behind him twittering amongst eachother. Someone near the back of the line chimed in, "Maybe he's both!" And then the lot of them were all to pieces yet again. Henry wasn't amused, furrowing his brow into a straight line and waiting for them to stop laughing; despite himself, he could feel his face heat up with an involuntary blush. This was probably the most amusement the freight cars had had in a long time. Henry wasn't glad to be the object of their teasing, but embarrassment was still a better feeling than total despair.
"Well I'm glad someone found the most horrendous moment of my life to be funny." Henry spat ill temperedly. The freight car with the gold tooth laughed in a slightly more amiable manner.
"Oh come along now pouty pistons. See here, for putting me and my friends in /such/ a good mood, I'm going to help make your life a little easier~. Aren't I terribly generous?" He received a small round of giggles, and a very suspicious glare from Henry.
"Easier how." Henry's question borderlined a statement, as if he didn't quite believe a word of what this freight car was saying. This didn't seem to deter the freight car.
"Don't get too enthusiastic now." He replied, his voice dripping with a weary sort of sarcasm. "I've got some engine friends of my own, and with that crazy stunt you pulled today, you're well on your way to becoming one of them. I like guys like you. What's your name?" Henry wasn't sure how to react to this. Pausing for a moment to glance off to the side before looking back at the patiently waiting freight car, he murmured,
"Alright Henry. Here's the deal; I'll make sure you don't have any trouble with the freight cars here on Kollsvik, and you just keep being the gutsy little snot you are. Capicé?" Henry could hardly believe what he was hearing.
"Okay but how--" He muttered numbly, still frowning in vague suspicion before he was interrupted. He hadn't noticed that another little engine had come to pick up the empty cars until they started moving away from him. The one with the gold tooth called to him as they were pulled away.
"Any of 'em gives you trouble, tell 'em Giggles and Chuckles are with you. They'll get it." And then they were gone. Henry wrinkled his nose, licking some rainwater off of his upper lip as he attempted to digest that information. It was a lot to sit on; and he was relieved when a little engine finally dropped off his replacement crew, who immediately set to work getting him ready to go back to the sheds. He didn't even mind that they just went straight to manhandling his controls, it was just a blessing to finally get going back 'home'.
Thoroughly exhausted and terribly sore, he practically melted into his spot beside Russell.. Who appeared just as concerned as Henry was tired and wet. The replacement crew didn't speak, nor did they seem interested in hanging around any longer than they had to; which was good timing, as by the time they'd left, Henry was already half asleep.
"I heard all about it Henry.." Russell whispered in quiet horror. The larger green engine opened one sleepy eye, giving his friend a sidelong glance. There was a short pause before Russell murmured, "It's.. It's happened to me too." He didn't seem to have a whole lot to say beyond that, but nor did he try push conversation. He knew Henry had had a long day, and would need all the rest he could get in order to recover for the swiftly approaching morning.
So with a quiet, somber exchange of 'goodnight's, the both of them fell quickly asleep to the sound of rain thrumming on the roof.. And the faint, eerie sound of a whistle in the distance as Kollsvik's dark guardian made his rounds.
Chapter 14: Prayer
Russell awoke the next morning to the considerably more gentle hiss of slushy rain on the roof and the clack of the first few shed doors being opened. Catching a glimpse of the world outside through an open door close to him, he was greeted by the bright white of fresh snow that must have fallen while they were sleeping. The frosty rain had turned the thin snow to ice which covered everything in a transparent, glittering blanket, punctuated only by the dark, mud sloshed shapes of footprints where the workmen had trodden. The slick cover of ice, Russell knew, only made travel slippery and dangerous for the reckless or unprepared.. And he wasn't looking forward to going out there.
Just the thought of it made him shiver, feeling the thin coat of frost that had crept over him during the night crack and slide down his boiler and funnel to drip onto his running board. He longed for his fire to be lit so as to combat the dreaded freeze he was inevitably going to face during the day, as well as in the long months ahead. Winter was well on its way and he knew this was only the beginning- it was worse than the rain by far.
But judging by the dim light outside, Vernon and his fireman, Edwin -God bless him, Russell thought, even if he is rude- weren't due to arrive for another twenty minutes at least.
Sighing, he cast a gentle, concerned glance over at his sleeping companion. Inwardly, he worried for Henry- it hadn't taken him long to pick up on the reality that the green engine was subject to illness. He could see it just by looking at him, how he coughed and struggled to get going in the morning. Even the way he was built singularly suggested that while his shining moments might be quite grand, he was too highly strung and prone to ailment to claim a place as a really useful engine on a railway. A railway other than Kollsvik, anyhow, which had since its founding become something of a dumping ground for rejects of railways worldwide.
Silently watching Henry sleep for a minute, Russell finally sighed a second time and resigned to getting a few extra minutes of sleep. He was definitely going to need it for today.
Henry, however, awoke a few minutes later to a deep pain in his back end and a tickle in his nose. Oh dear, he thought. He knew exactly what that was. He squirmed and scrunched up his nose, trying his best to hold it in but hardly a moment passed before;
"A--ptchoo-!!" Soot flew everywhere, out of his funnel, out of his mouth, and dusted the ground around him as well as the top of his and Russell's boilers. A few of the engines nearby were startled awake, including Russell, and a few let out a squeaky cry of fear- as if they expected the roof to be falling in or some such disaster. Despite how terrible he felt, Henry couldn't help but blush darkly at this. Quietly he snuffled, but no amount of sniffling and snuffling would hold in the watery discharge that seemed to want nothing more than to run down his face in a terribly unsightly manner.
Glancing quietly over at Russell, he was greeted by the little red engine's horrified expression. He met it with a grim one of his own. They both knew that Henry was in no condition to do any working today. Russell tried to think of something to say, but before he could put his thoughts into words, he was interrupted by the shed door directly in front of him being flung open. In walked four men- two Russell recognized as his driver and fireman, and the other two were Henry's new driver and fireman. The four of them seemed to be chatting about something, and the two engines caught the tail end of their conversation as they came in.
"When the day came 'round, it turned out she already got three other copies exactly like it; so I had to go all the way back down to Blaenavon to exchange it for my first choice, all the while keeping it hidden and pretending that my emergency trip was to get sugar for the sweet rolls. Of course it didn't stay a secret long because when I got back with the replacement and the sugar, she was standing in the kitchen holding a full jar and asked me what the blazes I needed more sugar for."
"Ha, it's just getting harder and harder to get the right gift these days. All this mass produced nonsense, I'd rather just go back to getting lauded as a hero for bringing home some flowers." The lot of them snorted in agreement as they separated to their respective engines. Even still they continued to chat across the gap between the rails Russell and Henry were on. The green engine made a face when his fire was lit.. Or almost lit. His firebox felt damp and stuffy- and the coal on Kollsvik was hardly of any level of decent quality. Neither of these circumstances served to help his condition at all, and after a few failed attempts to get him steaming, his crew climbed out of the cab and started looking him over with a sudden trepidation that quickly made him uncomfortable. They began to speak to one another quietly, assuming thoughtful positions and occasionally pointing at something or other.
"He was working fine yesterday.. Maybe it's the cold weather.." The bespectacled driver mused, and the fireman shook his head.
"Well if this is going to continue being a problem.." Russell recognized that tone and he looked up quickly. If they couldn't find a way to make Henry work in the next few minutes, they would have to contact the administration to let them know one of the engines was out of commission; which meant Charlotte's attention would be focused on his ailing friend.. Which also meant trouble, if they didn't play their cards just right. He looked over to Vernon, who had taken notice of the other crew's difficulties and was observing Henry now as well. Russell watched him quietly, looking away only when Vernon cast him a sidelong glance. There was a silence as the man stared at Russell; as if he could see right through him. It certainly felt that way.
"Mm.. I know that look. He's your friend, isn't he." The question sounded more like a statement, and Russell looked back up at his driver; his worry was clear.
"Please help him.." He quietly pleaded. Vernon stared at Russell for a moment or so before sighing heavily and turning to walk back to the cab. He and Edwin then exchanged a brief, somewhat terse coversation.
Shortly afterward, the four of them were all pitching in to get Henry working; cleaning him out, drying off all they could reach, choosily selecting what coal with which to try and start his fire, tightening what was too loose and loosening what was too tight. Henry cast a thankful glance at Russell as the men went about fixing him up, and the little engine smiled weakly in return. But even in spite of their best efforts to do all they could with the time they had, it was all to no avail; and though Henry felt a bit better for it he still couldn't manage to get going. Once they had done all they could do and Henry still wasn't responding as positively as they needed him to, Vernon and Edwin returned to Russell, going back to their own business. Henry sank onto his wheels, sniffling and wishing now more than ever that he was home on Sodor.
Glumly the two engines sat in silence. It was hard to think of what to say in such a situation, knowing there was an excellent possibility that very soon, you or your only friend might be carted off to the smelting facility with hardly a chance to even say goodbye..
The sound of tires crunching over ice made the both of them look up at the same time, and Jimmy, Charlotte's car, gave them a sleazy grin.
"Good morning~." He purred, though he obviously knew it wasn't a good morning at all. Henry wrinkled his nose, casting Jimmy a nasty glare.
"Now, now, that's no way to look at your superiors, see? You'd better wise up and look sharp, the Lady has business with you and she won't put up with your sass." The car sniffed haughtily and glanced somewhat loftily at Charlotte as she was pushed around front in her wheelchair, facing Henry with her back turned to Jimmy. Normally, Jimmy wouldn't express much in front of her either simply because she didn't approve of it and he knew it was best to be on her good side. But since she couldn't see him, he merely continued to grin smugly as she spoke.
"I ought to have known it would be one of these two.." Charlotte drawled in a monotone voice. Motioning vaguely to one of her attendants, she waited for him to come over and bend down slightly to be level with her.
"Remind me to have their respective places in the shed separated sometime. Thank you." She then dismissed him and returned her attention to Henry and his crew. The two men stood tall and still in front of their engine, and Charlotte surveyed them silently. Truthfully, she didn't care for the cold, and though her thick fur coat blocked a majority of it, she would rather be back home at her desk near the fireplace. Perhaps with a cup of tea.
The thought of that made her a little more eager to have this over and done with, and she folded her hands, making a decision.
"When I bought this locomotive, I told its previous owner that I had the means and funding to have it fixed and keep it running." She looked up at Henry, her gaze sharp, but not as cold as he'd seen it. He wasn't sure whether this was a good or bad thing.
"I did not lie." She finally finished. "I do have the means, the funding, and at this moment, the time to make it so. And so, as I have spent a sizable amount of money on this particular locomotive, I believe it would be most beneficial to call a maintenance day." Henry and Russell both released a breath they hadn't realized they'd been holding. And Vernon, leaning against Russell's running board, also felt a strange sense of relief. He wasn't sure why, Henry wasn't his engine, nor did he feel any attachment to him. Shaking his head and adjusting his hat deftly, he went around back to climb into Russell's cab.
"You two" Charlotte demanded, pointing to Henry's driver and fireman. "Start right away, I will have a maintenance crew along to join you soon. If there's something you need, take note of it and let me know, I will make the rest of the arrangements." She was quick to leave once everything was in order, and Jimmy cast the two engines a sour glare as he turned to leave.
"Too bad. But I expect we'll be meeting again soon. Good day." He snorted away, kicking up slush in Henry's direction. Henry didn't even care anymore, he was so incredibly overwhelmed with relief that he couldn't find any way to take offense to Jimmy's teasing. Russell too was unable to find any words; he had fully expected to lose another friend.
The both of them looked at eachother; they didn't smile, they didn't speak, but they didn't need to. The silence said enough by itself that words would only get in the way.
After Russell had left and the maintenance crew arrived to start working on Henry, he had time to think on what had happened. Briefly he remembered his last moments with Rene and those poignant words that had been offered.
'May God watch over you both.'
Henry then cast his gaze upward to the sky, and sent up a silent prayer of thanks.
Chapter 15: Married?
Henry was dozing in the shed that night when Russell arrived. Having been so overworked for the past few days, the maintenance day was an excellent time to catch up on sleep, and he'd been taking a nap for most of the evening. The men who had been working on him didn't seem to mind that, as there would be less complaining and if something was wrong he would wake up anyhow.
However the evening had gone very peacefully and, feeling considerably better than he had that morning, Henry woke up to the sound of Russell pulling in beside him. The little red engine was glad to see his friend, and they exchanged subtle smiles. It pleased Russell very much to see Henry looking so much better; to see him well again made Russell feel as if some enormous weight had been lifted from him.
After being settled into his berth, his crew left and the two were free to talk.. A pastime they now valued highly since Charlotte had mentioned she planned to have them separated. Whether the comment held any weight in the present and when it would happen, if she didn't change her mind, was debatable; but the two engines took everything she said with the utmost seriousness and did their best to act accordingly. Thus, Russell's lessons had begun again. If they could no longer speak at night, there were many more things Henry would need to know in order to survive on his own.
After a quiet, almost content set of greetings, Henry was the one to initiate conversation. He'd been chewing on this bit of information for a while, rolling it around in his head and trying to make any sense of it. But he was still very much a neophyte in the strange little world of Kollsvik and needed some input from someone who knew more than he did.
"Russell.." He started quietly. "...Who are Giggles and Chuckles?" He was surprised by Russell's reaction. Upon hearing the names, the little engine scrunched up his face in a frown that reminded Henry of an expression one might make if they smelled something terrible.
"Where did you hear about them?" Russell asked in return. The green engine glanced off to the side in the manner of a child that had been chastised for fraternizing with delinquents.
"I was stopped upon a siding near the scrapyard, and some freight cars were placed in front of me. I suppose they must have taken a liking to me, or something to the tune of it, and one with a gold tooth told me that he would make sure I didn't have a problem with the freight cars on Kollsvik. He told me that if I ever did have a problem, to let them know I was with Giggles and Chuckles." Henry watched Russell's expression go from stink-face to suspicious as he recounted his story.
"You're probably better off not knowing, to be honest. There are only two things those freight cars are good at; carrying cargo, and starting trouble, and when they're not carrying cargo, you can be sure they're stirring up trouble. I guess it was only a matter of time before you got up close enough to talk to them, but next time just try not to humor them with a response. They're mean spirited, reckless, unpredictable and just waiting for some poor engine to come along and be their next source of entertainment. Their only saving grace is that they're not on anybody's side, so they won't help Charlotte with her devices or give away ours should we have any.. Unless it benefits them somehow; and nothing Charlotte does ever benefits them." Russell stopped as the workman who'd taken to shutting their shed doors at night came along, closing each door and locking it with methodical rhythm. However he stopped when he came to Russell and Henry, his gaze falling on Henry though he nodded his head to Russell.
"Smart engine. Never trust freight cars. Especially not here." He then held up his hand, and the two engines both gasped upon realizing he was missing two fingers.
They were silent after that, sitting quietly together as they fell asleep.. Though they were awoken hardly half an hour later by the sound of loud, disruptive human voices and footsteps coming in through one of the access doors on the side of the shed. A few of the other engines awoke as well, and Henry could see their wide, confused eyes in the dim light. It wasn't morning yet by a long shot, there was no reason for people to be coming in and making noise at this hour. Not so loudly, anyhow.
Henry looked over to Russell and the little red engine looked back at Henry quietly. Neither of them were sure if it was safe to talk and neither of them wanted to try it. So they quietly waited to see what would happen. There was some laughter before the both of them heard a soft thump.. Though only Henry felt it in the rearmost of his tender. It didn't hurt, but he winced anyway, frowning a bit. Someone had walked straight into him.
"Ach! Pick a fight with me would ye now?" A voice from behind him called, joined by a chorus of laughing before he felt another few thumps, as if someone was smacking him with both hands.
"Oy Monty, that there is the wrong side, go on round front there.. Aye, ehehe." Shortly afterward, three unfamiliar workmen, came into view. Immediately one of them made a beeline for Henry, walking in a very straightforward manner. The green engine shrank back a bit as the man climbed up onto his running board and started smacking his nose instead.
"O-ow.. Uh.." It still didn't hurt but he certainly didn't appreciate the invasion of personal space. Glancing over to Russell, he quickly realized that the tank engine had problems of his own. One of the other workmen had, at some point, climbed up to sit upon Russell's running board.. And fallen asleep. This definitely wasn't normal behaviour.
Quite suddenly, the man on Henry's running board stumbled and fell. His third companion, still on the ground between the two engines, managed to catch him and they both fell to the ground with a thud. Henry made a small noise, but his concern that someone might have gotten hurt subsided when he realized the both of them were laughing.
The ruckus awoke the sleeping man and he sat up, disheveled and surprised.
"I now pronounce you man and wife." He said in the drawl of a person who isn't really awake. Russell made a face.
"Uh-" He was immediately interrupted.
"You may kiss the bride!" The half-asleep man all but shouted, whirling to glare at Russell as if it were some sort of threat. Both Henry and Russell weren't sure how to handle this, and were extremely relieved when the familiar jangle of keys outside announced the arrival of the night guard. He was /very/ cross.
"What the- what-what, no, what is this?" He stammered as he flounced over to round up the offending workmen. "Go /home/! And stop drinking, it'll get you fired." This of course meant nothing to the still-giggling workmen, but they still obeyed. When they had left, the night guard put his hands on his hips and sighed heavily, glaring downward for a moment before turning to look at Russell and Henry.
"They didn't hurt you or anything, right?" He finally asked, almost a bit apologetically. The engines exchanged a glance, and Henry let Russell do the talking.
"N-no..." He paused, and the night guard nodded, turning to leave. "But.." He murmured drawing the guard's attention again.
"I think I just got married." Henry was tempted to laugh, but held it in, biting his lip. The guard narrowed his eyes a bit, as if he wasn't quite sure what to make of that, and then he left, closing and locking the door behind him.
Chapter 16: Disaster
The blinding light of a cutting torch, backed by the deep hiss and rumble of the smelting facility. A cut- a deep wound that augmented his shape.
Hands, rough and dirty, grimy and gloved, tore at him; stole what was his and took away all which made him useful.
/Wait.. What are you doing to me-!/
A red glow, unbearable heat.
Henry awoke with a start, gasping for breath. A quick, frightened glance around reaffirmed reality and brought the wonderful relief that it hadn't been real.
"O-oh what a.. A terrible nightmare.." He whispered, trembling a bit and feeling weak; Either from relief that it had only been a dream, or fear that it may at some point become a reality. But judging by the light outside (or rather, the lack thereof), it was still night and he might be able to catch an hour or so's worth more of sleep before the wakeup call.. Sighing, Henry glanced over to Russell, taking great peace in his quietly sleeping friend. As he went back to sleep, he continued to think of Russell. Always there for him, always watching out for him, always giving him something to hope for, even in a place where all seemed hopeless. Russell was his lifeline, and despite the fact that they hadn't known eachother very long, Henry felt overwhelming devotion to him.
Comforted, he managed to fall asleep quickly, to considerably more pleasant dreams... If not a bit strange.
Running along the rails of Kollsvik's countryside, he suddenly took notice of another engine pulling up on the second set of rails alongside him. It was Edward. Henry wanted to say something to him, to ask for help, but he couldn't even open his mouth. Edward merely looked at him silently, smiled a bit and disappeared.
And then Henry woke up, oddly exhilerated. A cold breeze carried a few flakes of snow through the open shed doors, beyond which was the bright, icy landscape that Kollsvik had transformed into with the coming of winter weather. Henry, however, was much more enthralled with the memory of the last words he'd exchanged with Edward, which hung lightly in his mind- an afterthought to his dream.
"... I'll make many friends, wherever life takes me... Even if they can't follow." He smiled a bit, not minding the temporary blindness the brightness outside had hit him with. Thinking immediately of Russell, he looked over to the spot which his friend normally occupied, ready to tell him all about it..
But Russell was already gone. Undoubtedly he'd been chosen to pull an early train and hadn't wanted to wake Henry. The green engine settled down heavily upon the firm rails below him and patiently waited as his crew came and readied him for the day, carefully starting his fire and checking him over to be sure there wouldn't be any more flubs, especially after they'd gotten going. One line blocked, even for only a small amount of time, was liable to be a complete disaster.. Which, on Kollsvik, was an offense punishable to an extreme.
When the two were satisfied, they propped the shed door open, climbed in the cab and Henry was off to work. The day passed uneventfully, with Henry schlepping loads of scrap metal between docks and stations and finally to the scrapyards. The general central area of Kollsvik was smattered with them, some for specific purposes and some just for the odd anything that might happen to come in. With scrap dealing and metal repurposing being Kollsvik's central method of income, smelting facilities and scrapyards were as common on Kollsvik as sidings and freight cars had been on Sodor.
And Henry /hated/ them. But even as that stood, the outlying facilities seemed devoid of half-dead engines.. And though he still felt nothing but a deep seated disdain for them, it was considerably easier to manage. Halfway through the day it began to snow again, and before he knew it, Henry was pushing his way back to the docks through a blizzard the likes of which he'd never seen on Sodor. Freezing white flakes of snow drove down hard, coating everything in a thick white blanket. Henry wondered if any if them were to be fitted with snowplows; the going was getting difficult and even dangerous with the snow piling up on the tracks. He was relieved when they reached the docks to pull their final train of the evening to Elbma and head home. The twin cranes were pleased to see him again.
Bartolf and Orlov loved teasing engines; it was their main form of entertainment, and though to the suffering engines it sometimes came off as abrasive and insensitive, there was no malicious intent to it. It was just their way. Henry had come to realize this and decided to let them do as they wanted without protest. In any case, they were funny, and it was nice to hear their silly chatter over his funnel as he waited for his train to be loaded. A more friendly sound than the shouting of workmen and the general clatter of a busy industrial area, to be sure.
"Jolly green giant!" Called Bartolf from high above as Henry pulled in, cracking a preposterous grin as he turned to greet the green engine. Orlov was unloading some cargo from a ship, likely for Henry's last train, but he too turned to greet Henry with a smile.
"There is our greenbean!" He called down as well, in the manner of one who hasn't seen a good friend in a long time. Henry, though he was feeling rather worn and tired, decided to humor them a bit. Maybe some of their jolly attitude would rub off on him. He managed to offer a timid smile, to which he received a reply of childish gasps and snickers. It had to have been a while since anyone had been interested in 'playing' with them.
Orlov turned to be hooked up to another load of cargo that needed to go in the empty cars Henry would be taking, but all the while he continued to talk.
"So from which place does greenbean come? Land of Irish, Scotland, oh! Russia da? One of us?" Bartolf cut in immediately with a 'p-p-pfffpfft' sound, sending a visible shower of misty rainwater from his lips as he did so. Henry tried not to laugh.
"Nyenyenyenyet. He is not one of us." Bartolf snorted, quite self-assuredly. Orlov pursed his lips for a moment, narrowing his eyes.
"Well how do you know if you haven't asked." He snorted right back and there was a strangely tense moment of silence before they both burst into laughter.
"Ah but really, where." Orlov continued, carefully setting a crate down. Henry cautiously glanced at the nearest workmen. They didn't seem to take offense to the cranes talking to him. It wouldn't hurt to take the chance..
"Sodor, I'm from Sodor." He offered a bit haltingly, but he received no reprimand. A bit surprised by this, he decided that maybe it was just too hard to keep the twins from chattering and the workmen had given up on chastising them. Charlotte was rarely at the docks anyhow.
And then Henry realized that the twins had gone silent. Looking up, he could tell that 'Sodor' hadn't rung any bells. Swallowing lightly, he tried again.
"England?" This was taken with warm reception.
"Oh, cheerio old chap, teatime and all that rot~!" Orlov smirked, and Henry rolled his eyes halfway.
"Don't be daft, engines do not drink tea." He replied quite matter of factly, only to be met with a chorus of giggling, which he automatically ignored, fixing his gaze forward. This was when he noticed a small group of workmen gathered near the edge of the dock, looking out over the water, pointing and muttering. Henry followed their gaze, at first seeing nothing but thick, dark fog. The sun had begun to set over fifteen minutes ago and the sky was growing dark- it was hard to see much of anything, but soon enough Henry caught sight of what they had. A light in the distance. A light from a ship, most likely, but at a place and an angle from which Henry had never seen a ship come to dock. Having taken notice of Henry's silence, the crane twins also looked in the direction of the light, curious about what could have grabbed his interest so thoroughly.
Henry carefully listened in on the workmen's conversation. Obviously something was out of the ordinary here, judging by the trepidation lacing their hushed voices. Talk stopped when the fog grew too dense for the ship's light to permeate, and the men watched for a while longer before going back to work. Henry frowned, continuing to watch the horizon despite the blinding fog and snow. It was hardly three minutes later that a loud noise made everyone stop. The light re-appeared through the dense weather, but this time it was much closer. It was a ship, coming in much too fast, and at the wrong angle. Henry had about six seconds to process what was happening before utter chaos broke out over the docks.
Blinding panic overtook everyone, people scattering, engines frantically calling for their drivers, freight cars shrieking, and then a terrible crash. The boat plowed into the dock, its hull tearing through a line of freight cars directly in front of Henry and smashing through Bartolf's foundation, sending the terrified dockyard crane swaying out dangerously over the dark, angry water.
"A-ahh! No, no noNONONO!!" He shrieked, and Orlov cried out as well, tears springing to his eyes as his twin came face to face with death. Henry wanted to scream, to cry, to run away but again he was frozen in horror- the noise, the shouts and screams around him almost seemed faint. The entire pier rocked dangerously, wood splintering and cracking loudly as the huge boat carved a wide gap out of its' side before coming to a slow stop, hull moaning deeply as it lodged in the shallows. The sway pulled Bartolf away from the water, and with loud snap, the weakened base of his tower broke. He toppled over to land across the width of the dock in front of the green engine, headlamp shattering and going dark. The loud chaos had stopped but it had been replaced with a new, quiet one. The heavy sound of desperate calls from people in the dark, names belonging to people Henry didn't know, the sound of someone sobbing loudly, muddled cries of pain, and a feminine voice shouting, 'why!?'.
That was a good question.
"Why..?" Henry repeated, his voice cracking; his driver and fireman, who had been safe in Henry's cab at the time of the crash, had now run out, toward the wreckage to help. From his spot near the shellshocked twins, he could see the immense damage- the dock had caved in partially near where the ship had come to rest, leaving wide gaps where only the rails stretched across. A little tank engine was wedged between one of these gaps, nearly on his side with nothing but the rails and a few flimsy pieces of wood to support him from falling into the water. Freight cars lay damaged and broken, some even smashed entirely to pieces; some tank engines had been derailed and knocked over. People, too, lay among the rubble on the docks, injured or stunned.. Henry didn't want to think of anything else they might be.
Feeling ill, he took a deep breath and gathered himself, forcing his thoughts to settle a bit. Looking toward Bartolf, who was now sobbing, he pulled forward a foot or so very carefully, in order to be closer to him. As he did this he realized that Orlov was crying as well; it dawned upon Henry that in spite of the nature of Kollsvik, the two really cared about each other.. And that to Orlov, his twin's brush with death was just as bad as it would have been to Henry if it had been Russell in the same position. A gentle touch of empathy pushed out his words where he would have otherwise been unable to speak.
"A-.. Are you okay?" He managed to ask shakily. Bartolf coughed and sniffled, trying to keep from crying long enough to answer.
"N-nn-h.. D-.. Da." But it was clear he was still very shaken. Henry couldn't blame him, he too was still in shock. Unsure what else to do, he began to talk; if for nothing else than to distract himself, and the twins.
"B-back on Sodor, we had a dockyard crane too.." He started off a bit weakly, but soon his words flowed steadily. He talked about Cranky, and how he lived up to his title; he told them all about the time Cranky was knocked over as well, and how Henry and his friends had been trapped underneath a fallen shed roof until Thomas and Percy came to help. As he talked, the twins slowly calmed, soon listening quietly to Henry's story under the light from Orlov's lamp. They even smiled a bit at the humorous ending.
When Henry was finished talking, it seemed some semblance of normalcy had established itself, and the chaos had died down. Now that the injured had been cleared from the wreckage, the remaining workmen carefully began taking stock of the damage, and conversations were being called to the people up on the deck of the crashed boat.
Henry was attempting to listen in and find out what had really happened when suddenly Bartolf murmured,
"Green engine. I.. I don't think I ever asked for your name." He looked up to Henry quietly, who smiled a bit, almost wistfully.
"Henry- my name is Henry." Bartolf and Orlov smiled in return, though this time it was Orlov who spoke.
"Is nice to meet you, Henry."
Chapter 17: Misfortune
Further inland, darkness had fallen. Russell was heading as quickly as he could toward home, but the thick snow that was continuously piling upon the tracks made the going tough, and progressively tougher. As the sky grew dark and the lights of Kollsvik's facilities and lodging areas began emerging from the darkness in the distance, Russell began to panic.
"Vernon?" He called shakily, bracing a bit as he managed to plow through a snowdrift. He could feel a reassuring rub to the inner side of his cab.
"Steady boy, it gets dark earlier now, we'll make it just fine." Vernon called back, and they trudged along in silence for a little while longer. However Russell was still nervous. He'd been caught out late on the rails past curfew before and he'd never forget it.. Neither would the driver he had had at the time, who'd received a broken wrist out of the whole ordeal.
Adolf ran on a clockwork basis- being the only large engine on the island he had an important job and he did it as efficiently and without complaint as one would naturally expect of Charlotte's personal favourite. Every night, right on time, he would take an evening train from the docks to the smelting facility- and from the smelting facility to the docks. After that, he made a loop round the island to be sure all was in order before returning to his shed.
That fact wasn't what made Russell feel nervous- it was the fact that Adolf had specific orders from Charlotte, orders that were unique to Kollsvik and a danger to anyone who dared creep from their shed at night. Adolf was not a fast engine- when hauling his heavy train, he could hardly cap 35 miles per hour.. As such he needed to keep his schedule going as perfectly as possible in order to finish his duties on time; because of this, he had been given the permission to force anyone who was in his way, /out/ of his way.
The workmen were very familiar with the danger as well, but when they came to work on Kollsvik they knew that the risk was on their shoulders.
Then, the distant sound of a familiar whistle shot through the freezing air, snapping Russell out of his thoughts with a jolt of icy cold fright. His eyes darted back and forth as a white light began to envelop him from behind.
"Vernon!" He cried, clouds of black smoke issuing from his funnel as he worked hard. Now not only to get through the snow, but also to escape the terror of the railway.. Who was slowly but steadily creeping up behind him. The snow piled on the tracks was already difficult for Russell to push through- to go fast was all but impossible and with the tracks pre-cleared for him, Adolf was at his fastest. Fortune was not on the tank engine's side.
The powerful sound of twelve driving wheels pounding against the rails grew louder as Adolf approached from behind. He narrowed his eyes.. This one again.
Russell, up ahead, knew that it wasn't a matter of if, rather than when he would be stricken, and desperately pleaded with his crew.
"Bail out! Bail out now!" He shrieked, but Vernon stayed stubbornly put in Russell's cab, as did Edwin.. Though, if not for Vernon, Edwin had nearly been ready to take the engine's advice. A long, loud, ghostly whistle cut through the air directly behind them as the noise of the huge German tender engine approaching grew louder. Despite the cold, Russell's face flushed red; he was getting tired, and one of his wheels was beginning to ache; for the past week it had felt a bit tender for some reason -information he'd decided not to confide to Henry. But working so hard now in the freezing cold, the tenderness had grown to a full blown pain. He couldn't go on like this for long.
It was an enormous relief when the blanket of snow thinned enough for him to more easily pick up speed, and he began to leave Adolf behind. For a moment his hope soared higher than it rightfully should have. Maybe this time, he /would/ get away.. Maybe Vernon /had/ known better than him. He looked up, feeling somewhat exhilarated.
And then he saw something ahead that made him gasp and his boiler feel cold. The colour drained from his face. There was no way he could plow through that huge snowdrift; simply no way.
Vernon knew it too, and in one quick motion, both he and Edwin evacuated, leaping out of Russell's heated cab into the freezing air. Nothing short of a leap of faith, Vernon had no idea where he was until he thankfully fell into the snow, and Edwin likewise on the other side of the tracks. Vernon managed to scramble out of the hole he'd made in the snow just in time to see Russell plunge into the drift with a cry and lodge there, stuck still.
The tank engine had little time to recover from the relatively mild crash, as it was hardly a few moments later that Adolf charged into him, hard, initiating a new one that was altogether much worse. Adolf's top speed might not be impressive but with the weight of a heavy train behind him, the slick, icy rails, and Russell at a complete stop, it was disastrous. Russell was shoved forward with a terrific crash, right through the snowdrift and down the track. On impact, his back wheels left the rails momentarily before coming back down with a loud clang, effectively derailing him. Russell screamed in a mixture of fear and pain as there was a loud snap and something red flew off of him, thudding off of Adolf's running board and ricocheting into the snow. The damaged wheel had taken enough abuse to break off completely. Hanging dangerously from the rails as he was pushed forward, Russell finally slipped completely to the right, falling sideways into the snow with a muffled thud and upsetting his firebox. His world spun wildly and smoke poured from him as he lay on his side, one of his frontmost wheels still turning absently.
Adolf came to a stop a good ways down the track, and his crew looked out to survey the damage. Vernon was running as best he could through the deep snow, shouting angrily at Adolf's crew, but instead of going to them he went straight to Russell.
"Oh /damn/ it- Russell! Russell can you hear me?" He asked, crouching near the fallen tank engine. His voice sounded so distant- the touch of Vernon's hand on his cheek registered vaguely to him, but he couldn't understand what it was that Vernon was saying now. He fought to keep his eyes open, but the battle proved to be a wasted effort. Holding Vernon's worried gaze, Russell finally closed his eyes, and his world went dark.
Chapter 18: Snowploughs
Recovery from the accident at the docks had proved to be quite the ordeal. In the small hours of the morning, even before the sun had attempted to tentatively peek over the horizon, the docks were filled to the brim with action. There was much that needed to be done before day came and the Administrator surveyed the damage. She was going to be horribly upset, and no one was looking forward to explaining the accident to her.
Henry and the twins had spent the rest of the hour talking while the bulk of the mess was cleared. Then they spectated in silence. The boat was towed back out to anchor in the water where it should have, and thick boards were laid across the gap for people to cross more safely. The overturned engines were righted once more and freight cars were fished out of the water. The work went on and on until morning came; the workmen had just begun dismantling Bartolf, who would need to be put aside until the docks were fully repaired, when Jimmy pulled in, just under the sign where they met the land. His front lights shone brightly in the dim gray morning, and for a moment he looked surprised to see Henry. He then narrowed his eyes and muttered something that the engine couldn't hear. And Henry was a little glad for it.
Charlotte exited her vehicle with the help of her aides. She looked a bit different that morning with her hair undone, wearing a hooded black fur coat to keep the impending rain off should it start while she was out. She was very displeased. Normally her voice was quiet, but today it seemed loud and /commanded/ rapt attention.
"What is this? I wake up to be informed that my docks are out of commission- an inexcusable folly." Her hands moved as she spoke, making a violent gesture. The captain of the ship, who had come on land with a good few of his own men to help with the damage, attempted to defend himself but he couldn't find words. Upon hearing Kollsvik was run by a woman, he hadn't been expecting much. Underestimating Charlotte was his biggest mistake.
"My imports and exports, lost, my facility, in shambles, my engines, damaged. /How/ does this happen!?" She hissed, her voice sharp as a knife. She obviously didn't expect a reply, nor did she give one time to be offered. "Irregardless.." She leaned back, turning up her nose to the men, giving them a sweeping glance, as if to pick out the culprits for whatever punishment she deemed appropriate. The none too benevolent goddess, looking for an individual upon which to release her wrath. "This is not finished- not legally. You may /expect/ to hear from me again, and also expect to pay recompense for this. Accident or not, look around... What do you see? Rubble- but it won't be for long. My pocketbook isn't going to suffer much, though I can't say the same for yours." She finished, crossing her arms- as she spoke, the surrounding workmen cleared the area or shrank back. The way Charlotte spoke was equivalent to how bad you might expect her action to be.. And if she remained calm and cool whilst ordering a death sentence for an engine or calling Adolf to beat one into submission, there was definitely going to be trouble for how angry she was now. After a quick survey of the docks, Charlotte paused to write in a notebook, and then she was gone.. Likely back to her office in order to make plans for whatever was to come.
Henry, feeling a bit intimidated, didn't know what to think- but he assumed that it was rather clear the docks wouldn't be out of commission for long. Bartolf, dismantled and sitting off to the side now on a flatbed, glanced up at his twin and smirked.
"I like to think she was so angry for our sake." Orlov looked down and chuckled.
"For our sake? That would really be something." He replied, and Henry agreed quietly- he might have said it jokingly but it couldn't be more true. Charlotte was probably more upset about the halt in workflow.
He didn't have a lot of time to stew on it though, for the track in front of him, which hadn't been too damaged by the crash, had been repaired to a good enough working order for him to cross. A minute or so later, he could see his driver and fireman, who had disappeared for a while. They came back over from the other half of the docks- his driver began climbing around and checking for any damage, but his fireman stayed around front, leaning on Henry's running board in the manner of one who is thoroughly exhausted.
"A'right old boy. We're headed home. The lady gave us the day off so that means you're going to have some time to rest in the shed.." He muttered, taking off his cap and running his hand through a short mop of blonde hair. Henry was a bit surprised that the man was talking to him, so far they had exchanged very minimal words.
"That will be nice." He replied, equally as tiredly. They sat together in silence until it was time to go, and carefully Henry set off over the damaged dock and onto land, which he was /very/ glad for. He never imagined he'd be so happy to be plowing through snow.
When he reached the shed, it was mostly empty- he had hoped he'd make it back before Russell was taken out, just so the little engine would know he was alright.. But no such luck, it seemed.. Little did Henry know, that as he crept back into the shed that morning, Russell would not be joining him again.
Henry used his day off to catch up on some much needed sleep. It felt so nice not to do anything for once, and just have a moment to rest and relax.. Like most engines, Henry did love to do his work, even if he sometimes complained- it was his lot in life, he knew it and he enjoyed it. But Kollsvik seemed to have the uncanny ability to just take everything good and shake it by the neck, the result being the ultimate opposite of what it had once been. This wasn't work, it was /toil/, not the kind you just gritted your teeth and bore anyway, the kind that truly made you want to quit.
But he couldn't quit- not now, not ever. Though faint, he still had hope of finding a way back home and he tried to keep it as safe as he could, for himself and for Russell.
Dimming his turbulent thoughts, he managed to fall asleep despite the noise outside, and slept almost entirely through the day to the evening. When he woke, the sky was dusky and the snow had started up again. Quietly he watched it fall, but his attention was taken elsewhere as the little gray engines of Kollsvik began steadily re-arriving at the sheds for the night, filing into their respective berths without a word. Henry felt sorry about this. Anywhere else he would have expected to hear happy, excited chatter about the day, some goodnight's, maybe even a bit of grumbling if someone's day hadn't been the most spectacular.
But on Kollsvik it was silent as the snow falling just outside the shed as it was steadily filled again. The thought of what Tidmouth sheds must have sounded like that night made Henry's heart ache for home. Until now he hadn't had much time to think of it, but now that he had, he wished that he hadn't. He was terribly homesick.
He tried to quell it by reminding himself that Russell would be coming back soon, and busied himself watching for the red coat of paint he'd come to know so well. At first it was like a game, but as the sheds filled up and the steady influx subsided, it became more of a concerned vigil. The last stragglers stumbled tiredly into the shed and Russell didn't come. The sky turned black, and Russell didn't come. The shed doors were closed, and still Russell didn't come.
Henry was worried. Russell had been with him every night up until the night he'd spent at the docks. Where was he now? A million different horrid fantasies made themselves quite comfortable dancing around in his funnel, and he began to panic. Where was Russell!?
And then he steeled his nerves. 'Get a grip.' He thought to himself. 'Maybe he just stayed at another shed, or is stopped somewhere else because of a line blockage, just like I was last night.' He forced himself to focus on these thoughts instead, though a deep-seated worry continued to dwell in the pit of his boiler. The hours passed slowly, quietly, until they were punctuated by a familiar, intense noise. The sound of a big engine working hard became audible from far in the distance, drawing closer. At its peak, a high whistle broke through the cold air, startling a little tank engine near Henry. Her eyes flew open fearfully, as if she expected something to be coming after her, and sighed heavily when it was clear nothing was. She then felt as if someone was watching her and glanced over in Henry's direction. Their eyes met for a brief moment, but neither of them held the glance. Henry found himself wanting to try conversation with her just about as much as she seemed to want him to try- which was not at all. They both sat in silence, looking down a bit awkwardly until the noise had passed and faded into the distance. It wasn't much longer until the tank engine had fallen back asleep, and Henry decided to follow suit. Sitting awake and worrying wasn't going to help, and he knew that by tomorrow afternoon he'd be wishing he'd have slept more anyway.
He managed to fall into a fitful sleep, and later awoke to yet another day on Kollsvik; another long, tiring day of pushing and pulling, heaving and hauling, a truly endless, thankless task. The doors to the shed were open, their dark frame ensconcing the pure white world outside. The sky was heavy with the promise of snow to come, and the ground was coated in a blanket that told of its' visit the previous night. Henry was somewhat dazzled by the brightness at first, but when his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw something that surprised him.
The little engines were being fitted with snowploughs. And a good thing it was too, he wasn't sure how work was supposed to continue on Kollsvik if the snow just kept piling up on the tracks without being cleared... Not that he'd mind if work came to a halt. He wondered what had brought this sudden change- there had been no forewarning of it that he was aware of, and he'd borne witness to a lot of evening chatter amongst the men bringing their engines in for the night.
He slowly rolled forward just a hair, poking his nose out of the dark shed to get a better view of the commotion. A lot of equipment had been hauled in sometime during the night while he was asleep, and was now being put to good use.
"Wh-.. Where did all this come from..? Why-..?" He muttered gently, looking around with visible surprise. The man with the missing fingers was walking by, but stopped to glance at Henry when the green engine's thoughts became words.
"They got snow where you come from?" He asked as he sidled over to lean quite casually on one of Henry's buffers. Henry swallowed thickly.
"W-well yes.." He started, but didn't get to finish before the man cut in.
"Alright- now throw away your old idea of snow, everything you know about it. You think you've seen winter? Think again- you haven't spent a winter on Kollsvik. This here is hardly the beginning, trust me." He looked out over the general hustle and bustle, pausing for a moment before adding, "'Cause of the weather, you know, being so cloudy all the time.. It's hard to tell when exactly is a good time to start doing this until it's already hit. But this year, looks like we got a pretty good heads up.."
Henry frowned a bit before muttering softly, "How is that?" The man looked over his shoulder, almost a bit surprised.
"Oh, so you haven't heard. There was an accident the night before last on the main line. A tank engine got stuck in the snow and Adolf plowed right through it when he was taking scrap to the smelter." He said it casually, but Henry gasped.
"Oh no--!.. That's.. That's terrible.." He whispered in horror. "... What happened to the engine? And its crew?" He asked tentatively, afraid to hear what might have happened to them. The man glanced at him.
"It was the crew's fault for not keeping time, or staying where they were for the night and off of the main line. So the crew got fired. The engine is getting repairs, probably be working again in a week or so." There was silence between them for a moment as Henry digested this new information. Then he bit his lip; he hardly dared to ask the next question he had buzzing around in his funnel like a horde of angry bees.
".. Who was it?" It came out anyway, his voice tight. The man didn't turn his head, casting Henry a solemn sidelong glance. His silence was answer enough.