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    The Fiction Vault

    So just to keep things simple I will be posting any stories I write here as well as reposting what I originally scattered across the forums. Nothing in the introductory post, sorry.

    Mods, this is an open invitation to nuke the original threads.
    Last edited by MP36PH3S; 10-13-2015, 12:01 AM.
    Writer and Wolverine, among other things.
    Interested in railroad stories? Check out the Fiction vault:
    https://www.trainsim.com/vbts/showth...82#post1882582

    #2
    Oneshot: Changing Times

    Some things in this story are given a twist for the sake of plot.

    A Daylight reflects on better days.

    ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- -------------
    Changing Times

    February, 1955

    They had defiled her. Gone was the brilliant Daylight paint that had so captivated those who saw her flash by, replaced by a horrid coat of black. Gone was the streamlining that made her lines exactly fit the beautiful train she pulled. Gone was the driver and fireman who had expertly and lovingly handled her since the day she arrived. The crews since had banged her around as though she were some plaything, grumbled constantly about their bad luck drawing a steamer, and, in one case, had stolen parts.

    No more was she the envy of the SP fleet, the pride of the company. No longer was the term GS-4 or her name spoken with reverence by other engines. Now she looked just like any other Northern on the SP roster, being worked until something broke and the railroad had an excuse to sell her for scrap, without any recognition of her glorious past. Her personal alteration wasn't the only sign of change either. Every day, new diesels seemed to join the ranks of them that jeered and threw insults her way as she passed, and it seemed that every few days a steam engine disappeared from the roundhouse. Her sisters and friends from her days on the Daylights were already scattered across the SP system, never to be reunited.

    It had been three weeks since Sarah, now referred to as #4435, had gone into the roundhouse following another day dutifully pulling passenger trains and woken up to find herself in her current state. The injustice of being replaced by a diesel still rankled. Management knew nothing about how to run a railroad; what did the power of one diesel have on her? She had heard about so-called multiple-uniting that in theory allowed one crew to operate multiple, but the theory banked on the cooperation of all engines in the lashup. Suppose one of them failed, or decided to be a troublemaker and not pull his weight, or worse, intentionally derail the train? She could do the work of three diesels easily, and without that if factor.

    The signal turned yellow and Sarah dutifully nudged her train into motion. Defaced or not, she was still loyal to her railroad.

    The blaring of an air horn drowned out her own whistle as she approached a crossing. She always dreaded runs for this reason. A trio of PAs drew alongside her, pulling the same train that she had three weeks ago. They maintained her speed briefly, making exaggerated pants and whistles, before accelerating with a puff of smoke and leaving her behind.

    Sarah thought she might cry as she watched the crimson-and-orange observation car shrink away. Their taunts weren't the reason why; diesels had done worse things to her before. But the encounter had reawakened the anger and indignity of a fate she still hadn't fully accepted, and the embarrassment of running around as a shadow of herself. Watching the train that had once been hers in the charge of someone else was the final straw. This wasn't just a temporary reassignment, a train that the railroad had put such importance on that they had assigned a Daylight engine to pull it. This, working the unimportant freight train, was her future. She had put off accepting it for as long as possible, but there was no more denying it.

    She whistled as she approached a schoolhouse near the tracks. Sarah had lost count of the times she had run by this area to see people stare in awe and delight at the brilliant streamliner flashing past. It was out of force of habit that she did it now; she already guessed what the reaction would be.

    The teacher poked his head out of an open window, and after a brief glance at the black steam engine and uninteresting line of dully-colored freight cars behind, ducked back inside, visibly annoyed that the disturbance hadn't brought with it anything of interest for the children. Knowing what would happen didn't make his disinterest hurt any less. If this was how she was going to live her life from now on, she would rather be scrapped.

    The engineer kicked the firebox hard and spat an oath of annoyance at the involuntary shaking she had been causing in her distress. Sarah composed herself and returned her focus to the track ahead. When she whistled for the next crossing, there was a distinctly mournful tone to her usually melodious chime.
    ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- -------------

    Once she had cut off from her freight, Sarah headed straight for the roundhouse. She wasn't sure how much longer she could keep herself composed.

    As she was turned on the turntable, Sarah saw another Daylight streamliner pulling in against the fading light, powered by another set of PAs. A memory of pulling the Coast Daylight at sunset for a company photographer flashed through her mind as she backed into the roundhouse. As sun disappeared behind the station, its last rays lit up the shiny roofs of the train, sending a crimson reflection bright enough to dazzle her even across the yard. The roundhouse doors mercifully closed a moment later, but not before a pang of jealousy that it wasn't her who was reflecting those last rays of the sun lanced through her.

    When her crew had left, Sarah finally gave in and wept. The jealousy, the angst, the isolation and neglect, it was too much to bear for an engine unaccustomed to feeling any of those emotions.

    She wept out of longing to be painted back into Daylight colors and pull that streamliner just one more time. She wept out of despair for her future, for when an engine fell from grace, there was no avoiding the scrapper's torch, only delaying it. And she wept out of shame for failing her railroad, for not being good enough to fulfill her designed purpose.
    Last edited by MP36PH3S; 10-13-2015, 12:09 AM.
    Writer and Wolverine, among other things.
    Interested in railroad stories? Check out the Fiction vault:
    https://www.trainsim.com/vbts/showth...82#post1882582

    Comment


      #3
      Oneshot: Just Once

      A little side story I came up with while brainstorming for "Changing Times," inspired by a video on Youtube called "Wish To Steam Again" by dajara521. As to where it fits in her history, that's for you to decide...
      ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- -------------
      Just Once

      The unmistakable rattle of a malfunctioning diesel engine woke #4435, accompanied by acrid black smoke that was drifting through the roundhouse. She could hear the foreman bellowing unintelligible orders over the din.

      Suddenly a voice she'd never thought she would hear again spoke. "Hey darling, it's been a while. Listen, you up for a little adventure tonight?"

      Sarah figured her beloved first engineer had known her answer long before he'd approached her, and wasn't disappointed when she realized she was already steamed up.

      As the shop mechanics fruitlessly labored away at the broken PA's engine trying to diagnose the fault, Sarah slipped quietly onto the turntable, which had fortunately been aligned already. The fear of being caught made the minute on the turntable feel like an eternity, but either the foreman was too busy with the diesel now smoking up his roundhouse or had turned a blind eye. Either way, she was grateful.

      As she inched through the yard towards the station, she understood what was going on. Stuck at the platform was none other than the Lark, whose lead engine had taken ill. The remaining PB and PA had backed off the train and were sitting on the track next to it, awaiting a replacement for the lead unit.

      "Whoever decided to park them there is an idiot," Sarah thought to herself. Whatever, the arrangement suited her purposes perfectly.

      "Hey, what are you doing here, teapot? Get lost, or we'll make you sorry that you didn't!" the PA snarled.

      A reckless daring came over her. "Just try and stop me, then!" They might have a power advantage, but she had experience on her side. She shot steam from her cylinder cocks as she said so, blinding them while at the same time slowing herself to a stop. As the PA was facing away from her, he blindly charged backwards at full speed, thinking that Sarah was going to try to beat him to the entrance of the yard.

      He emerged from the steam cloud to see her triumphantly grinning at him. Before he could stop himself, he was already on the main line and past the crossover to the platform. Following as close behind him as she dared, Sarah darted through the yard switches and, to her relief, the crossover aligned to take her onto the other track.

      But as she started over it, the PA's engine revved. "Hah! Outsmart me, a member of the superior kind? You thought WRONG!" Thick black smoke billowed from their exhaust as the two units picked up speed at an alarming rate.

      "Go faster!" she urged her engineer.

      "We'll derail if we do!"

      "We're derailed if we don't!" she protested, but knew he was right. As a steam engine, exceeding a speed restriction was much more likely to have consequences due to their heavier weight. All she could do was pray that whoever was looking out for her already would do her one last favor.

      Her wish was almost completely fulfilled. The PA's nose slashed her tender at almost thirty miles an hour, but by some miracle did not puncture either the fuel or water tanks. On the other hand, the sideswipe was enough to send the lighter diesel reeling. Though the two did not derail, the collision disoriented them. By the time they had come to their senses, it was too late to avoid plowing straight into a cut of cars.

      Sarah could not help but laugh as she backed onto the Lark. Oh, this was like a dream come true! Once everything was ready, she gave a triumphant blast of her whistle and, like it was only yesterday, the special training she'd received to handle crack passenger trains kicked in. Starting out slowly, but accelerating at an ever greater rate, Sarah eased the Lark southward.

      As the wind whistled past and the countryside sped by in a murky blur illuminated only by her revolving headlight, she wanted to scream for joy. To have her old engineer back, to once more be powering a crack passenger train, it was all almost too good to be true. There was, however, a lingering fear that passing diesels might mistaken her for a scrapyard escapee trying to mask as an extra. Some crooked diesels had even managed to hand over active steam engines after altering their appearances.

      And no sooner had the worry surfaced than a headlight appeared down the line. But once again, luck was on her side. The headlight belonged to a trio of GP9s hauling a priority freight north, but to her shock and surprise they all blew their horns in greeting, and the leader shouted a barely distinguishable "smooth running" before he and his brothers whipped past.

      At this, Sarah could contain herself no longer and let loose a long note on her whistle, a sound of joy that carried across the landscape. Ever thoughtful, her engineer let her whistle for a full ten seconds before finally asking her to stop, but just this once, she ignored him for a few seconds more. It wasn't appropriate, and there was still the danger of being caught, but it just felt so good!
      ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- -------------

      Sunrise and the end of her exhilarating journey, however, brought revelations that dampened Sarah's happiness. As the sun lit up the train with its first rays, she realized the train was only eight or so cars long, and when she finally slowed to a stop in Los Angeles (and on time to boot), only a thin stream of passengers disembarked, a far cry from the massive Daylights of up to 20 cars in length that were still somehow jam-packed with passengers that she had pulled in her heyday. Despite the sadness of seeing the train in a less-than-stellar shape, her spirits were lifted slightly. She and her sisters weren't replaced because they didn't do their job well enough. Their power and grace were no longer economical on the dwindling passenger trains.

      Her engineer shook her out of her thoughts. "C'mon, darling, we'd better get you to the yard before you're missed."

      Still joyous from her night out, Sarah happily chuffed off to the yard for a nice rest.
      ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- -------------

      "Wake up, quick!" Her engineer's voice came urgently. Panic immediately surged through her and she opened her eyes instantly to see a group of very serious-looking men in suits striding across the yard towards her.

      "Can't you say something?" she begged desperately.

      "It's too late now, anything I say will just make it worse! Good luck!" To his credit, however, he merely retreated out of sight, keeping a comforting hand on her, rather than leave.

      "Well, well, well, decided to take a little...joyride, did we?"

      "Yes, sir," Sarah mumbled, looking down at her plow.

      "Are you aware of the severity of what you have done? Of the resources wasted just so you could have 'fun'?"

      "Yes," she mumbled, not daring to lift her gaze. She could feel an uncomfortable heat rising within her.

      "I have been told that you are known to be thorough in your understanding of the rules, 4435. So, am I to understand that you consciously decided to commit insubordination, knowing full well the penalty that it carries?"

      Sarah had to be asked to repeat her answer three times before it was loud enough for anyone to hear. All of her happiness had vanished, and she was quite literally shaking with fear, for good reason: the penalty for conscious insubordination was immediate scrapping.

      Another one of the suited men had stepped forward now. "Fortunately for you, 4435, you seemed to have caused quite a stir last night. It seems that a fair number of people are willing to ride if only to be behind a steam engine such as yourself."

      "S-so you're not going to scrap me?" Sarah asked, her voice still trembling slightly.

      He smiled. "Not today, or anytime soon, my dear. The SP greatly values engines like you, 4435. You are loyal with good intentions at heart. While we can force directive upon engines, we would prefer those who are genuinely devoted to their work as you are. You proved your loyalty last night when you took it upon yourself to bring the Lark home and on time, even if it wasn't your primary motive. And I must say, you gave quite a show for yourself."

      The group turned to leave. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have other business to attend to. Enjoy your day off, 4435. You earned it."

      "You've done me proud, darling," her engineer said once they had gotten out of earshot, climbing onto her front end and giving her headlight an affectionate pat. "I couldn't be prouder to call you mine."

      He sighed as he clambered down and began to walk towards the crew office. "I gotta go. Don't forget me, okay?"

      "I never have," she promised. "And I never will." She was tired, but adamantly kept her eyes open and on the retreating form of the man that meant so much to her until he'd disappeared inside the yard office. She was asleep in seconds, the California sun keeping her comfortably warm even without a fire.

      Tomorrow, she would return to being another steam locomotive. Another dull engine pulling dull trains. But for the first time, she was content with being normal. After all, it didn't matter whether she was on the point of a flashy streamliner or coal drag; she was doing her duty for her railroad. As any good engine should.
      Last edited by MP36PH3S; 10-13-2015, 12:10 AM.
      Writer and Wolverine, among other things.
      Interested in railroad stories? Check out the Fiction vault:
      https://www.trainsim.com/vbts/showth...82#post1882582

      Comment


        #4
        Treason: Chapter 1

        Note to readers: Watch the series in its entirety, Episodes 1-12, before reading this, as this is set after the video series and won't make sense otherwise.

        Link to full series playlist:
        https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...B8CCDC5AE9160B

        Side note to those who have read other stories of mine before this: the setting is before any other fics, current and future, that feature #4435.

        Treason: A Full Bucketniers Fan Fiction
        ​Decline

        June, 1952, Fort Fairfax, CA

        The holiday rush of the previous winter had masked it to the engines, but now that it was long over, signs of traffic decline were evident. While that was good immediate news to the team based out of Fort Fairfax, all of them were worried about what consequences this would have over the long run.

        Luke in particular was worried about what would happen to the friendships and alliances they had worked so hard to build. During the recovery from the Depression and World War II, the Southern, Western, and Union Pacific railways had enough traffic between them for everyone to get a fair share of the pie.

        Of course, harmony only lasts during the happy times. The Western Pacific, always the weakest player in the area amongst the three roads, was in retreat. Union Pacific had acquired trackage rights over the line all the way to Oakland. Mr. Wilsman, the WP controller, had been fired for approving it. And about a month ago, Luke had heard from Dylan that Collin and Emily had accompanied Hevy, back to visit Lewis, on a northbound and never returned. Lewis had also ominously disappeared a week later, leaving Dylan as the only WP engine in the area; Rick having been cut up at the Frampton shops due to his poor reliability. That incident had shaken all the engines on the line.

        Another bad sign was that Mr. Iverson had earned the distinction of being the last controller in the Full Bucket area; the UP, always eager to modernize and streamline, had fired Mr. Strupp a year ago. Now, central dispatch in Nebraska issued daily work orders. With the disbanding of the triumvirate of controllers, the Full Bucket Police Railway had also been disbanded, the prison yard and headquarters closed and the land sold off. Luke hadn't seen Captain Body or any of his deputies since. Given that they were designed for long, high-speed chases and built with reinforced frames, ramming couplers, and armor plating for dealing with criminals, they weren't going to fit in on a regular railroad, and Luke had a nasty suspicion of what had happened to them.

        Mr. Iverson was usually very good at dealing with pressure, so he must have been under a lot to be looking so weary recently. Management certainly wasn't making it easy on him. Sam's mishap with the Valiant Pigeon may have been forgiven by Mr. Iverson, but unfortunately for him a Fort Fairfax policeman had followed him into the railyard and spotted him beating up Boston in retaliation for landing him in trouble. Once the entire fiasco had been brought to light, the regional manager had overridden Mr. Iverson and had Sam fired. Without a crew, his engine had been sent back to Los Angeles. Boston, already on probation for his unorthodox and unsanctioned deal with May, was also fired and May's replacement had been sent back to LA as well. And Mr. Iverson had been put on probation himself, his business train confiscated by management as collateral (along with the diesel pulling it). The dust had only finally settled a week ago, but already the lack of two additional engines was putting noticeably more pressure on the remainder of them. Even Daniel was starting to make mainline appearances.

        A low whistle caught Luke's attention. He looked up to see his friend Ultz pull in with his typical long string of freight cars. Larry was already waiting to take them the rest of the way, so Ultz was backing into the service area and alongside his friend soon after arriving.

        "Hey Luke, long time no see."

        "Yeah, tell me about it. Things have been kinda rough around here."

        "Heard about what happened, but we can't control management. All we can do is just keep doing our best for the railroad."

        "Well I'm worried that our best may not be enough anymore. We're in decline. I can't remember seeing a Bucketliner Daylight this short or empty since the Depression."

        Ultz sighed. "I was hoping this subject would've come up a little later, but while we're on it, did you hear about the Brad, Chris, Dan, Steve, and Big Mac?"

        "Oh no, they're gone too? First all the WP but Dylan and now half of the UP roster?"

        Ultz paused before continuing. "Now that diesels are more common, they're eliminating Lake Hurst as a power and crew change point because UP has a short cut going north; the WP line to Mount Oliver. They'll be fine, though, they were built for passenger trains, and as far as those go, only the California Zephyr is doing better than the Desert Rose. Big Mac's quite a strong freight hauler, so he's got that going for him as well." Changing the subject slightly, he added, "I wish they took Ted instead, though, he's even more rude now that the WP doesn't have a switcher stationed in Lake Hurst to help him."

        "Really? Even to Connor?" Luke couldn't help but smile slightly at the recollection of his first encounter with Ted, where the Challenger had intervened and threatened to push Ted off a cliff.

        "Nah, not to any of us explicitly, but he mumbles to himself a lot, and not quietly either. His voice carries across the whole damn yard; we had to put up a sound barrier between the yard and station so passengers don't hear him."

        "Sounds like management has some of their priorities straight, at least." Luke sighed. "I'm worried about what's going to happen when we're gone. Will any engine remember what it was like to have three railroads working in harmony, now that we're virtually the last place it exists in? The enmity everyone has with each other is ridiculous; every time I'm in Salt Lake City I see Rio Grande, SP, and UP engines in a three-way death stare. I'm starting to think the newer UP engines are conditioned to feel hatred for anything not belonging to their railroad."

        "Heard the same theory going 'round, but I wouldn't know. If anything, I'd say they've been conditioned to hate steam engines. Regardless of that, management on all sides is definitely upping the penalties in the rulebook. A UP switcher got broadsided last week by a Rio Grande steamer. They were both scrapped as punishment for causing a disturbance."

        A troubled silence, broken only by Daniel's arrival, followed. "Well...maybe they were too badly damaged to be worth repairing. A diesel's fuel tank is right in the middle, and at perfect height for a cowcatcher."

        "Well, regardless of what happens in the future or elsewhere, we'll still be friends and allies here. Like it's always been."

        "Right on, Ultz. Friendship's the only way we're going to pull through this," Daniel commented as he came over to be serviced. "History repeats itself, and right now it's looking the way it did before the Depression. I wish it wasn't true, but I've been around for too long to not know it. Hard times are coming again - "

        " - and us older engines will be first on the chopping block," Luke surmised grimly. "To make way for the more efficient models."

        More silence, in which Jimmy and Eric came over to join them. Tyler, as usual, was spending the night in Los Angeles. "So, uh, did anyone hear about the new engines Mr. Iverson requested? He told me they're coming tomorrow on the Bucketliner." They broke into grins; Jimmy's lack of recognition for foreign engines had become a running joke rather than something any of them took actual offense by this point, so long had it gone on.

        Eager not to let the awkward silence return, Luke grumbled, "If there's another slacker amongst them I might actually push him or her off a cliff..."

        There were mutters of assent. The memory of May was still fresh in their minds, as was the extra work and annoyance she had caused them.

        "Come to think of it, why didn't you if you hated her so much, Luke?" Jimmy asked.

        "I...I don't know. Maybe it was because she's my sister. As unlike me as she is, that's a connection I can't avoid. Maybe because I thought she actually had the will to do work somewhere inside of her." He sighed. "I was wrong about that last part, but I still don't feel any better about what happened to her."

        "C'mon, Luke, you're being unfair to yourself," Eric interjected. "You didn't know they'd changed the penalty for laziness."

        "You mean had it written it out of the rulebook entirely. Now it's considered violation of orders to the first degree, and the penalty for that was...always the scrapyard. If only I'd tried to convince Dennis and Boston not to report her..." Great. He'd dug them into another awkward silence.

        Daniel finally broke it. "Well, regardless of what's ahead, we got each other tonight. I'm headin' off to get some sleep. Gotta take the miner's train up the branch at the crack of dawn. G'night."

        "You know, Daniel's right," Ultz said as the former left. "However bad things will get, it hasn't happened yet and we've still got each other to count on. We should consider ourselves fortunate; not many engines have a place they can truly call home anymore with all the changes happening. I need some sleep too, so goodnight." Without a roundhouse and with few stub tracks, one engine's wish to sleep generally spelled the end of conversation.

        With that, they bade each other goodnight.
        Last edited by MP36PH3S; 02-08-2016, 01:37 PM.
        Writer and Wolverine, among other things.
        Interested in railroad stories? Check out the Fiction vault:
        https://www.trainsim.com/vbts/showth...82#post1882582

        Comment


          #5
          Treason: Chapter 2

          Newcomers

          Meanwhile, in his office, Mr. Iverson had reached the bottom of the day's memos. Now came what he was looking forward to all day.

          He examined the two vanilla folders that encased the files on the two engines LA dispatch had sent him, wishing he could be doing this inside his business car instead. He'd had decided to take up the extra work after making the grave mistake of underestimating May's stubbornness, which had cost the Bucketliner Daylight both ridership and reputation losses it now looked like it would never recover from. With his job on the line, he could not afford to take any more risks.

          He looked briefly over both and noticed they had sent a diesel to replace Sam's engine. He selected one at random and opened it to find a few pages of neatly-typed text and a photograph of the engine. It was no surprise that he'd picked the steam engine first, but it did startle him to see that they had sent him another GS-4 so soon after May.

          Hopefully this one wouldn't be as much trouble as the last.
          ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------
          File No. 7802

          Engine Aliases:
          Roster #4435, "Sarah"

          Model: Lima Locomotive Works GS-4 class

          Technical specifications:
          • Locomotive weight: 475,000lbs
          • Combined weight: 788,730lbs
          • Wheel configuration: 4-8-4 "Northern" type
            • Driver diameter: 80in
            • Weight on drivers: 275,700lbs total
            • Booster engine: Yes, trailing truck

          • Tractive effort: 64,800lbf max without booster in operation, 78,000lbf max with
          • Top speed: 110mph
          • Maximum boiler pressure: 300psi
          • Total heating surface area: 4,887ft2
          • Capacity:
            • Fuel oil: 6,275gal*
            • Water: 23,300gal*

          • *Can be extended with auxiliary tender


          Built: 1941

          History: Ordered by Southern Pacific from Lima, delivered new in 1941. Spotless accident record. Highly devoted to work, though very interested in talking to other engines. Well-liked by other steam engines, even those of different railroads, and crew, though mixed opinions exist about 4435 among diesels of both Southern Pacific and foreign identity*. Sensitive emotionally. Recognized for devotion every year since 1944.

          Amicable even to engines that express dislike of her: possible contribution to emotional sensitivity. Beyond suspicions, causes for sensitivity unknown. Talent for defusing arguments and conflict. Rarely for a locomotive, 4435 seems to enjoy conversation with railway employees in addition to locomotives.

          Other than being members of the same class, no known connection to or working history with existing roster member #4446.

          *4435 has had very little recent interaction with diesel locomotives at her request. Noted that engine has developed strong suspicions of diesel locomotives.

          Behavioral Status: In Good Standing

          Recommendation:
          Excellent general-purpose locomotive, does all manner of jobs without explicit complaint. Has voiced preference for passenger trains but will unquestioningly follow all orders. Has expressed sincere devotion to the railroad, uncommon among older locomotives. Will have no trouble interacting with other locomotives, however if left without instructions, talent for conversation could be detrimental to railroad operations.

          Devotion could be a potential danger to locomotive health; engine has acted against mechanic's advice before, with moderate consequences. However, 4435 has displayed immaculate compliance with the rulebook otherwise.

          Has poor standing among many passenger diesels in particular, and has voiced complaints about their behavior. Not recommended to work alongside mostly diesel power pools, or in a train with a diesel.
          ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ----------

          Receiving at least one engine who was willing to work very hard without complaint was especially gratifying given the experience with May. Satisfied, Mr. Iverson put down the first file and picked up the other.

          ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ----------
          File No. 7299

          Engine Aliases:
          Roster #1313, "Double 13," "Double"

          Model: GM/EMD NW2

          Technical specifications:
          • Weight: 248,000 lbs
          • Powerplant: EMD 12-567A, 1000hp (800rpm)
          • Propulsion: GM D15C generator, 4 x GM D37 motors, 62,500lbf max*
            • Dynamic brakes: No
            • Top speed: 65mph*
            • Gear ratio: 62:15

          • Multiple uniting: No
          • Brakes: Westinghouse 24EL
          • Capacity:
            • 600gal diesel
            • 165gal oil
            • 220gal coolant
            • 28ft3 sand

          • *Known to exceed specifications in actual situations; see Appendix A


          Built: 1943

          History: Ordered by Southern Pacific from GM/EMD, delivered new in 1943. Spotless accident record. Quiet but diligent in following orders, well-liked by crews. Recommended for and received recognition for best Yard engine in 1948 and 1950. Excellent mechanical reliability and attitude towards work, does not talk often with other engines.

          Irritable when disturbed, especially by other locomotives. Has been known to make threats when approached and turn violent, verbally and physically, when continually disturbed. Incident involving steam engine (see Appendix A) suggests unit may have bias against steam locomotives.

          Confirmed reports of rolling stock/right of way sabotage and thievery in areas engine has been known to work in/around. None have been conclusively linked to #1313 or any other SP engine.

          Behavioral Status: In Good Standing, current status questionable

          Recommendation: Excellent worker, though best left to himself. Strongly advise against forced interaction with others, recommended to be confined to yard operations and short-distance moves, working alone. As a precautionary measure, do not keep in chronic proximity of steam locomotives whether during work or not.

          Appendix A: LAUPT Yard Attack, January 1951

          Management notified at 22:30 of an explosion in yard. According to eyewitness accounts, near collision between GS-2 #4410 (arriving with empty train) and #1313 (idling near yard entrance) occurred approximately 20 minutes prior.

          According to #1313, #4410 had deliberately refused to slow down while the former was backing out of the latter's path. After dropping off the train 4410 returned to insult 1313 repeatedly until warned to leave. Eyewitnesses confirm that the two engines were close enough to be engaged in conversation, though uncertain of the nature. By 1313's account, when 4410 refused 1313 became aggressive and asked the former to leave again or be rammed. 4410, according to 1313, dared the latter to try, upon which point 1313 rammed him into a bumper post, derailing 4410.

          1313 claims no further involvement in the incident, however eyewitnesses suspect the movement of at least one fuel tanker in proximity to 4410's derailment site prior to the explosion. Railroad detectives unable to confirm due to the thievery of the yard's fuel stores by parties unknown later that night.

          Probability that 1313 caused the explosion unlikely; it was unmanned at the time as it was returning to the engine shed after dropping off its crew, and no ignition sources other than its own engine were discovered on it by investigators; engine's ability to wield and operate such devices by itself is nonexistent. In addition, no fuel tanker remnants were discovered for within the search radius of the investigation team.

          Incident does highlight potential attitude bias against steam engines, as investigators confirmed by having a diesel mimic 4410's behavior a few days following the incident without 1313's knowledge with no physical threats uttered.
          ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- --------------

          Well this didn't bode well. Leaving the new switcher alone and away from steam engines were two things the other engines in Fort Fairfax would have a very hard time doing, especially the new steam engine by the looks of her file. How those two shared the same devotion to work with such contrasting personalities was a marvel, he thought to himself before closing his briefcase and heading back to the apartment he had rented out in Fort Fairfax.

          He could only hope that 4435's suspicions of diesels would keep her from angering the other engine. And that the current roster would be able to give 1313 the working environment he desired.
          ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- -----------------------

          The next morning

          "Alright, everyone, as I'm sure Jimmy has all told you by now, we will be welcoming two new engines to our yard once Tyler gets here. I'm sure you are all aware of the expectations of how to treat them. Unfortunately, we don't have time for a welcome party, so here are your work orders." Mr. Iverson began to speak with each engine crew and engine and one by one they departed the yard, except Luke.

          He didn't have long to wait. Tyler arrived on time as usual. Once he had uncoupled from the train, Luke caught his first glimpse of the new engines. Along with it came a rather unpleasant case of deja vu​. He was identical to one of them save their numbers.

          "Not again!" he and his crew groaned as one.
          Last edited by MP36PH3S; 02-08-2016, 01:43 PM.
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            #6
            Treason: Chapter 3

            Dual-Purpose

            "Another Daylight? That's just great. All we needed after the last one."

            Luke said nothing. Emotions raged inside of him. Guilt. Anger. Helplessness. His last glimpse of May, when she was being escorted to the scrap by two security diesels, burned so deeply within him that he knew he'd never forget it, flashed across his vision. She hadn't gotten angry with him. Instead, she had eyed him with a look only siblings could give and understand. A mixture of understanding and betrayal. She knew what was coming for her, and yet she chose the scrapheap. Why hadn't he done more to help her, to make her see sense...?

            On the other track, Sarah stood at a loss for words. What had she done to upset her brother?

            Behind her, Double snickered. Sarah bit back a retort and made to speak again.

            "Um - "

            Luke silenced her with a glare. Double spoke up behind her. "If I may, sir, would you be so kind as to show us to the yard?"

            "Just give a backup signal once you pass that set of crossovers and you'll be set to reverse in. And remove your friend from my sight while you're at it, will you?"

            "I'm not his friend," Sarah objected, but she might as well have stayed mute.

            "Are you feeling quite alright, sir?" Double inquired.

            "Don't worry about me. Just get off my train."

            Sarah could sense Luke's hard stare follow her. Once he had left, she sighed with relief. That had been something indeed.

            "You must be Sarah. I am Mr. Iverson, the controller of this part of the line." Behind them, Double was already at work, shuffling cars with his usual immaculate skill and speed.

            "I am. It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."

            "Before we go any further, my apologies about Luke's behavior. He's usually the most friendly of all of us, but...there was an incident a few months back..."

            "May?" Sarah inquired, much to Mr. Iverson's surprise.

            "I didn't know you were familiar with her."

            She sighed. "I was the last hope management had to convince her to work before she was sent here. I heard about what happened to her after she came here. But what does that have to do with...Luke, right? What does that have to do with him?"

            Mr. Iverson nodded to confirm that she had gotten the name right. "I...I am not in a position to tell you. It's Luke's story, and I would be betraying his trust by telling you behind his back. The other engines will give you the same response too." Well, it seemed like the rest of them were decent at least.

            "Well, I didn't come here for a social visit. What are my orders, sir?"

            Mr. Iverson smiled at her response. "I see you are as enthusiastic as they say. As soon as Double is done switching the cars, you will be taking the assembled train to the Union Pacific yard at Lake Hurst." Noticing Sarah's concerned expression, he continued, "Don't worry, we're all friends here. It's one of the unique traits of the engines that run on this line."

            "Well, they said that down in LA too, and so far I'm not seeing it. Hopefully it's true this time." But Sarah did not say that aloud. Her eyes focused on the clouds roiling above. "Is it going to rain?"

            "Forecast said it might, but don't worry, this railroad's been built to withstand the worst flash floods."

            "Sir, the train's assembled," Double called behind a line of cars.

            "That's your cue, Sarah. Smooth running." He turned to give Double more orders, and the switcher was on his way before Sarah had finished her air test.
            ------------ ---------- -----

            30 minutes later, east Simonville junction

            Sarah and the freight train burst from the tunnel before the Simonville subdivision split-off to see Jimmy waiting with a freight train. She whistled in greeting and received one and a smile in return.

            As they approached the next signal, it flickered from green to yellow as they approached. Sarah dutifully slowed to restricted speed, careful not to brake too hard lest the slack derail her.

            The signal guarding west junction was red. "Odd. I thought Mr. Iverson said we would have a clear signal until St. Joseph," she said to her engineer.

            "We were. I don't see any trains around..." his voice trailed off as a very strange-looking engine emerged from the Simonville side of the junction. It looked to be diesel, but other than the undercarriage it didn't look anything like any diesel Sarah had ever seen, including the new Geeps. The carbody was made of a translucent material that enclosed some machinery Sarah could not identify, and it hung around the engine's exposed frame and undercarriage like some sort of liquid chrysalis. Judging by the shimmers it was constantly giving off, the stuff was in constant motion too. Now that she looked at it more closely, she wasn't even sure the unit had a definitive shape besides the pieces of its undercarriage. She also realized its engine, whatever it was, was completely silent.

            Once the unit had merged with the main line, it began to accelerate so fast that Sarah had to blink to check if she was processing the sight correctly. Within minutes, it was gone and the signal changed to green. Sarah pushed the mysterious sight from her mind and nudged her train into motion again.

            When she arrived in Lake Hurst, Ultz greeted her warmly and let her use the yard's servicing facility. He had then explained how work orders were distributed before taking over her train. Since she had a few hours, she decided to try to get some sleep, which proved impossible with Ted's toxic mutterings carrying across the yard. So she decided to talk to her crew.
            ------------ ---------- ------------ ---------- ---

            Double slid down the old rails easily with his short train in tow. Despite the age and neglect to which the right-of-way had been subjected since the FBPR had been shut down, there was no danger of derailment. Not when a single flange wasn't even touching the track.

            Behind him were four boxcars loaded with ammonium nitrate. Stealing them from under Ted's nose in the old switcher's delusional state had been a cinch.

            He checked his internal clock and saw that it read 10:00 AM. Good. He had plenty of time to stash these away and return for the next part of his plan.
            ------------ ---------- ---------------------

            Lake Hurst Yard, 30 minutes later

            Double slipped back into the yard, keeping a sharp lookout for any activity. To his dismay he saw Sarah's steam plume rising from the engine facility. He cursed his luck; she would have a plain view of what he was doing, and by the looks of it, though she appeared to be talking to her driver, the latter had gotten out of the cab so she was still looking in the direction of the nearly-empty yard. It had taken a good amount of effort not to react to seeing her at Simonville, but with any luck Luke's hostility towards here would void her account of any credibility.

            Double spotted the car he needed at the end of the cut that Ted had just pulled out. He looked back over at Sarah and noticed that she was studying something her driver was showing her. Now was his chance.

            "...but don't worry, darlin', you're still family to me," Sarah's driver promised with a smile as he closed the photo album. She made to reply when the dwarf signal guarding the entrance to the engine facility blinked out.

            "That's odd, I could've sworn that the signal was red a second ago..." she looked around the yard just in time to see something slip behind the yard office. A thrill of foreboding leapt up inside her. "D...Did you just see something move over there?"

            "Probably just Ted kicking cars around."

            "You don't reckon it's that...thing from before, do you? It went in this general direction."

            The dwarf signal flickered back to life. This time, there was no mistaking it; both Sarah and her crew had seen it. "Probably a wiring fault. Humidity's pretty high right now with this storm hangin' over us."

            It was an inadequate explanation and they all knew it. But nobody was in the mood to theorize.

            Double had coupled onto the car and was almost home free, but the breaking air hose drew Ted's attention. He cursed himself for being so stupid.

            "Hey, what are you doing? Thief!" As Ted blew a whistle sequence, Double's body changed. The substance surrounding it shimmered and vibrated more intensely before instantly molding itself into a single, massive hammer with a head the size of the boxcar he was stealing. Taking care to keep the weapon out of sight below the yardmaster's office, Double knocked Ted over with one swing. An instant after impact the hammer head split in half to become a crude pincer that Double used to adjust Ted's position slightly before reforming the head again into a drill.

            It only touched Ted's boiler for a fraction of a second before Double hastily retracted it, deforming it back into his body as he did, and began to back away at full speed with the car he had stolen, as he could see Sarah was approaching the location of the commotion. Fortunately she wouldn't be able to see him once he emerged from cover, so his route home was clear. Once he was out sight of the yard, his body shimmered again and solidified, the silence of his passage replaced by the sound of a diesel at speed. Nobody would ever know the secret SP #1313 carried under his hood. Or his true identity.

            Meanwhile, Ted's crew was scrambling as far away as they could from their engine. Though his fire was out as they had shut down the fuel line, the high-pressure steam inside the boiler was slowly turning Double's pinprick into an escape route. Ted's engineer and fireman had made it less than a hundred yards from him when there was the brief sensation of scalding steam and then all they knew was extinguished.
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              #7
              Treason: Chapter 4

              Saboteur

              Sarah shunted the last of her train's cars into place, trying to think of anything except what she had just seen while she finished Ted's last job. Behind her, several off-duty employees were talking to a pair of railway police who had arrived on scene.

              Once the train was assembled and she had the all clear, she pulled out of the yard. Her path took her within sight of Ted's remains and she shuddered involuntarily at the sight of the destroyed engine. Her engineer understood and murmured a few words of comfort.
              ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
              Double switched over to the Simonville subdivision at the west junction and coupled onto his train. He pulled it back out onto the main line before reversing again and heading back to Fort Fairfax, with the train in front and stolen boxcar behind him. It was dangerous, not to mention illegal, but he had a timetable to keep and being caught for breaking the rules was an entirely different matter than being caught for his true purpose. Even his body had limits, and forming a limb with enough dexterity to detach a coupler was beyond them.
              ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
              Sarah reached the east Simonville junction in time to see Eric lugging a freight into the tunnel. He seemed to be struggling a bit, so, after the crews contacted each other and agreed, she carefully approached and coupled on to push from behind. It made her own work harder, but she didn't mind. The bigger picture was always more important.

              About three miles up the line, Double had reached the curve with a limited line of sight near Lena's Mining. His body melted and began to wrap itself around the stolen boxcar's wheels, coating them with the gelatinous substance. He moved forward enough to turn the boxcar's wheels halfway before repeating the process. Now coated in gel, the boxcar was firmly anchored to the tracks, but no longer in contact with them.

              Double then uncoupled from the car and continued on his journey, reforming his disguise as he hurried east. He hated to leave traces of his body behind, but the fact that he willingly could was another part of why he was so revolutionary; the same machine that kept his body liquid could also repair it by synthesizing more from his fuel reserves.

              The boxcar sat there waiting for its victim, invisible to the signalling system and only visible to the engines when it would be far too late. Packed to the brim with cement and immovable, it would be the equivalent of running into a wall.

              Ten minutes later, Eric spotted the car parked on the tracks and immediately slammed on his brakes. Taking the cue, Sarah immediately did the same. Though they managed to slow from 40 MPH to 20, it was still too fast to couple on. Hopefully the momentum of the train behind Eric would be enough to derail the boxcar on impact.

              Eric struck the boxcar and, to his surprise, it knocked him off the track instead. The impact stretched the gel anchors on the car, and once Eric had slid off to the side the energy was released. The rebounding boxcar struck the first car behind Eric with enough force to demolish it to the frame. The shock reverberated throughout the whole train. As the slack from the emergency brake continued to run in, the cars began to jackknife. Momentum fought impulse until three-quarters of the combined freight train had been scattered across the desert sand.
              ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------

              "Ow," Sarah groaned as she settled on the ground. "Are you guys okay?"

              "Never mind us, what about you?"

              "More familiar with signal bridges than I'd like, but otherwise I'm fine."

              The conductor of Eric's train crawled out the bay window of his capsized caboose and began to run towards the head end. About ten minutes later, he came back and clambered into Sarah's cab.

              "I think we got lucky; our trains were mostly steel cars, and loaded at that. The few wooden ones that we had up front are nothing but matchsticks now. Most of the cars landed close to the right of way, and the damage the steel ones sustained doesn't seem to be severe. I don't wanna look at the state of their cargo now, though. Right-of-way got hit really hard though. All the signals - " he pointed at the signal bridge now laying on top of Sarah " - and most of the track and ties were ripped up. And I just got off the phone with Mr. Iverson before I came here. He's sent Double with a work crew, after five minutes of yelling."

              "Well...when the troubles of his division and the consequences have been put up on bulletin boards across the system, you know they're not making life easy for him. This might be just the excuse management is looking for to get rid of him. They only put a controller on this line because of the complexity of the three-railroad system."

              "And they let him keep the job on the condition that he does it well..." The conductor gestured at the sea of derailed and destroyed freight cars surrounding them and returned to his caboose.

              "Oh, we're in so much trouble," Sarah sighed.

              "As if that fact wasn't plain already," her engineer thought. But all he could hope to do now was make the best of a bad situation. A casual observer might think that Sarah was merely bored in her current state, but he knew that wasn't remotely true. She was probably on the verge of crying.

              "It's not your fault and you know it," he spoke abruptly.

              "Who said I was blaming myself?"

              "Don't play that game with me. We both know that we understand each other better than that." He reached out and put his arms around her headlight. "Things happen. Just dust it off, learn the lesson, and move on, darlin'. The best technology can't replace experience. You've gained something very valuable today, even if it doesn't seem that way right now. We never know when the little snippets that we pick up in life will serve us in an important way." It was rather awkward in every sense to be hugging an engine, but it was the only way he knew of that could for sure keep her calm.

              "You know, this place has a beauty to it if you think about it," Sarah commented after a while. Her engineer let go of her, satisfied that she wasn't on the verge of an emotional breakdown anymore, and followed her gaze.
              ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
              Double noted the devastation his trap had caused with satisfaction as he slowed the work train to a stop. Unfortunately, the wooden boxcar of cement he'd stolen to cause the wreck was still upright and on the rails, albeit demolished to the frame and devoid of its load, and he couldn't remove the gel coating without revealing himself. If he did, then to cover up his revelation he'd have to kill off a whole work crew, and a line without maintenance personnel or even a unified right-of-way was useless. He'd just have to hope that nobody could trace that gel to him.

              "What a mess," Mr. Iverson grumbled as he surveyed the scene from the work train's caboose. "Eric better have a damn good explanation for why this happened." And so he walked over to get some answers.

              "Eric!" he snapped. "What the hell happened?"

              "Sir, I don't know. Somebody left a boxcar sitting in the middle of the line!"

              "And," Mr. Iverson replied, speaking slowly and dangerously, "you mean to tell me that you weren't paying attention and RAN THROUGH A RED SIGNAL?! THIS IS AN AMATEUR'S MISTAKE, ERIC!! EVEN NEW ENGINES CAN ABIDE BY THAT RULE!! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY THE RAILROAD HAS LOST CLEANING UP AFTER YOUR INCOMPETENCE OVER THE YEARS?!"

              "Sir - "

              "SILENCE!! DON'T YOU DARE INTERRUPT ME AGAIN!!"

              "But sir, the - "

              "I SAID, SILENCE!!"

              "The signal was green, sir!" Eric was now shouting too. "Will you please listen to me!"

              For a minute, Mr. Iverson considered shouting Eric down again, but instead took a minute to calm down. Earning the hatred of his engines wasn't going to help him face management for this.

              "Sir, when we passed the signal tower at the edge of the mining company yard, the main signal was green. That was the last one before we ran into this boxcar. And, sir, something seems...off about that boxcar. It was loaded with cement, but I should've been able to easily knock it aside. It felt like...it was anchored or something. No normal wooden boxcar could survive that much damage and stay on the tracks."

              Eric's crew pointed out the car that had caused the crash, and Mr. Iverson went over to inspect it. Sure enough, the wheels and undercarriage were coated in a slightly warm substance that was so thick it could've been mistaken for a solid. He tried to pull off a bit of it to study and, to his surprise, it didn't budge at all. He had one of the workers try to pry some of it off, to no avail. Even machines couldn't get a strong enough grip on it to stretch the substance enough to be cut with a saw, and when they tried sawing it directly, the teeth were unable to cut it and the saw got stuck. Though it was easy to dislodge the saw, the cut in the material closed almost as soon as they removed the tool, and absolutely zero had come off on the saw teeth. They next tried to chip a piece off with an anvil and hammer, but the anvil simply sunk into the material. When they pulled it out, not a single piece had come off on the anvil either, but the substance seemed unable to regenerated the hole it had left.

              "Tell them to continue working on it," Mr. Iverson ordered the foreman. "I must return to Fort Fairfax."

              "Sir, what does this mean?" Eric asked as Mr. Iverson passed.

              He turned, and Eric had never seen him so worried. "It means that we are in grave danger. Whoever did this is not an ordinary criminal; this is a job more professional that I've ever seen. Double, take me back to Fort Fairfax. I need to send a wire to HQ." The NW2 obediently fired up and began reversing towards the city.
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                #8
                Treason: Chapter 5

                Hook, Line, and Sinker

                Three days later

                As far as first impressions went, Sarah was thoroughly convinced she couldn't have done a worse job of making one on the SP crew. With Eric gone for repairs, they all had to work harder to make up for his absence, and, to her dismay, the other engines seemed more willing to take cues from Luke's cold treatment after her accident. Though the unusual nature of the boxcar that caused the derailment was known to everyone now, the main reason the mess was so large was because of Sarah's idea to combine trains. Oh well, they could've been making her life miserable instead, so she wasn't complaining about getting the cold shoulder. It was almost always temporary anyway.

                It also gave her more time to ponder the strange events of the last few days. She still hadn't told anyone,
                not even Mr. Iverson, about Ted's death (she doubted he'd be missed much anyway), or the mysterious gel-engine she'd seen. The controller had been rather curt to her recently, so she decided this wasn't the best time for speculating with him given everything he had to worry about.

                Meanwhile, it seemed that little Double was getting all the attention and praise, not only from Mr. Iverson but from the other engines as well. Not that the little NW2 didn't deserve any by a long shot; he'd done a lot for the derailment cleanup, after all, and he had among the most tiring jobs of all. As the railroad's star child, however, Sarah couldn't help but feel a little envious. She, unlike the others, also knew that Double had a dark side due to her frequent visits to LA on various passenger trains. However, it seemed that he was genuinely enjoying the attention here and starting to interact more with the other engines, and Sarah had begun to develop a genuine respect for him despite her doubts about his behavior.
                ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                Across the yard, Double, disguised, was contemplating his next move. Sarah's decision to help Eric rather than stick to the schedule had worked much more in his favor than he could have hoped for; if Sarah had gone on, she would've overtaken Eric long before the latter reached the ambush site. The boxcar would still have been parked there and anchored (it was, after all, originally scheduled to be the last car on Sarah's train), but Sarah would've taken the blame and hate for derailing Eric. Though the crew was being colder to her than one would have expected for such a sociable engine, Double knew that it wouldn't be permanent and was probably more related to the additional work than any genuine anger.

                That was dangerous. Whether she realized it or not, Sarah had already thrown a wrench in his plans multiple times in her first day alone. And she already knew what his true form was, even if she couldn't connect it to him. Regardless, she'd gained access to a dangerous amount of the puzzle pieces. He'd have to find a way to discredit her further in the eyes of Mr. Iverson and the rest of the engines so that her testimony, however accurate, would be worthless.
                ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                Five hours later

                Sarah was sleeping peacefully in a stub track when she woke up to a headlight shining in her face.

                "Who's there?!" she called.

                "I am," hissed a voice. It sounded like boiling diesel fuel: slow and thick, but airy and evanescent at the same time. Sarah turned her own headlight on to see the gel-engine in front of her.

                "You! Haven't you caused enough trouble around here already?"

                "Hardly. I'm just getting started."

                "You're not doing anything more! I'm going to stop you, right here, right now!" She started to charge at him.

                "Ooh, a tough gal, huh? You just bit off more than you can chew, teapot!" To her surprise, instead of backing away, he formed his front into a solid wall and charged as well.

                But Double was now in for a shock of his own. The GS-4 smashed through his defensive wall easily. In the next second, Sarah had latched onto his coupler and was now shoving him backwards towards the stub track at the other end of the yard, which was empty and had a derail halfway due to the bumper post being replaced. At the point the derail was located at, the track embankment was also ten feet high. Now that his cushion was useless, Double de-formed it and began to drag it along the ground as far as he could spread it, while at the same time resisting Sarah with all his might.

                It should have slowed her down, or at least kept their speed the same. But incredibly, impossibly, they were still picking up speed. Much more slowly now, yes, but it was statistically impossible! How was she doing it? For the first time, Double was starting to worry.

                Sarah hissed menacingly as she continued to push the mysterious engine, an expression of malicious confidence lining her face. But she wasn't feeling nearly as confident as her expression said she was. Sarah knew that this had the potential to turn out very badly if the engine escaped again, and she could feel her strength slipping. This battle was more exhausting than the last four days combined.

                Double sensed Sarah tiring and redoubled his own efforts in response. He was better than her. He would come out on top. Sure enough, as they entered the stub track, they were slowing down noticeably. But it wouldn't be enough to stop him before he hit the derail. With so little space on either side of the embankment, even slipping off the rails would result in a tumble. And then Double saw the way out of his predicament.

                He knew he'd lost and it showed. It seemed the mysterious engine had given up for they were once more picking up speed.

                "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!" Mr. Iverson sounded angrier than Sarah had ever heard him. "LET GO OF DOUBLE, NOW, OR I AM GOING TO SCRAP YOU PERSONALLY!!"

                Double?

                Sarah, who had averted her gaze from her victim to see where Mr. Iverson was, returned her gaze forward, to discover to her horror that it was indeed Double. She immediately slammed on her brakes and they stopped inches from the derail.

                She was totally confused. What had just happened? Was the struggle just a dream? No, it couldn't have been, for she was feeling just as tired right now as she had towards the end of the battle with the mysterious engine. But then again, she hadn't felt tired at the start of it, which was impossible given the heavy train she'd pulled in with less than 10 minutes before falling asleep. Also, the mystery engine was silent, whereas she could now hear the rumbles of Double's 567. Also, both of their headlights were off. She clearly remembered both of them being on up until the last second. And even if the mystery engine could change shape, there was no way he could re-color his body like that. A disturbing thought occurred to her. Had she been wandering around in her sleep and accidentally attacked poor Double?

                "Now then," Mr. Iverson growled, "Would you kindly explain to us why you have been making such a great commotion in the dead of night, Sarah?"

                She looked around to see the yard's floodlamps on, and the other engines staring at her with very annoyed expressions.

                "I...well, sir, I think I was wandering around in my sleep."

                "Really? You were running around, blowing your whistle and ringing your bell nonstop, while asleep? Why?"

                That was odd. Sarah couldn't remember doing either. Her battle with the mystery engine must have been a dream after all.

                "I...I don't know. Sir, may I speak to you in private?"

                "No. If it was good enough reason to wake up the entire damned city, you can say it to everyone." Sarah felt herself blush. Nobody would believe her, especially not now. "Well, 4435? Is the chatterbox finally out of things to say?"

                Being referred to by her number and insulted by her controller made her blush even deeper. She looked down at her coupler, still interlocked with Double's. She wanted to run herself down the embankment, but Double was in the way, and she wasn't about to take him with her.

                "Sir, I believe the lady has learned her lesson," Double interjected.

                If it was anyone else, Mr. Iverson might have either had a seizure or yelled himself hoarse, but the fact that the quietest engine of them all had intervened caused him to have a change of heart. The controller sighed and signaled for the night shift yardmaster to douse the floodlamps. "Go back to sleep, all of you, and the next engine to make any noise will be seriously punished."

                "I-I'm sorry about scaring you, Double," Sarah stammered as she backed them both out of the stub track, the latter nearly in tears. "Th-Thanks for standing up for me."

                Double just smiled a little. "Goodnight, Sarah. Want me to ask the yardmaster to put a derail nearby in case you go wandering out again?" What a thoughtful engine. Sarah felt a rush of gratitude.

                "That would be nice for everyone's peace of mind. Thanks again, Double." Sarah was returning to her stub track when she noticed something that nearly made her derail herself in shock. There were long, wide, skid marks across the desert ground, and a large number of ballast rocks had been scattered away from the roadbed.

                Fear, anger, and betrayal rose within her. It was no dream after all. And that sneaky bastard was probably free to carry out his diabolical plans now that nobody would for sure believe her story about the gel-engine. Double had played her like a violin during their battle, and she had fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker. Well, there was nothing she could do now, she thought with a sigh. Little did she realize that she had made the wrong call twice. And that this time, the consequences would be far more dire and wide-reaching.
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                  #9
                  Treason: Chapter 6

                  Consequences

                  Double backed over near the yardmaster's office. The man didn't look up. Good. Making sure that everyone else was asleep, he melted his body back down and sent part of it under the slit in the door. Like some grotesque snake, it reared up behind the inattentive yardmaster and struck. The man's neck was broken instantly and he slid to the floor.

                  Immediately two men rushed in from the adjoining crew office. Upon seeing the dead man, rather than taking any action to raise the alarm, they went to work editing the work orders for tomorrow. That done, Double's engineer guided the arm back under the door slit where the engine retracted it back himself.

                  It had been risky, exposing himself to Sarah. If anything had gone wrong, he himself would've been exposed and sentenced to who knew what fate. But it had worked brilliantly and now she was thoroughly discredited. Nobody would believe anything she told them about him now, even he knew she was smart enough to put two and two together.

                  He hadn't bothered with eliminated the skid marks he had made earlier; nobody but Sarah would even recognize their significance, and with any luck the wind would erase them soon. It would take days to purify his body of the grit and gravel he'd already sucked in.

                  And now it was time to move on to the next phase. Double's liquid limb snuck back under the door and struck twice more. His crew collapsed to the floor, dead. Double's superiors hadn't informed them that they were to die as well to keep investigators guessing, otherwise they wouldn't have volunteered.

                  Double poured more of his body into his limb, which had now formed a vaguely human shape. Praying that the noise wouldn't attract attention, he slammed his limb through the door to the yard, intentionally leaving some of the material on the ground. Another red herring to throw them off until it was too late. Double briefly looked around and noticed that the splintering sound hadn't awoken anyone. Satisfied that the hole his limb had made would pass for that a human would make, he slipped quietly out of the yard.

                  The yard exploded with noise. A policeman inside the station had the silhouette of what he thought was a trespasser. By the time he had run across the tracks to the yard office, however, there was nothing but a splintered door and three corpses. He had immediately pulled the alarm. Within minutes, the yard office was cordoned off and a policeman had noticed the strange gel-like substance lying in a puddle near the door. But there were no other clues. By daybreak, it seemed the entire town had heard, and three questions abounded: who was the murder, why two of the victims were Union Pacific employees, and where was the engine that the murderer had used to escape.
                  ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                  Southern Pacific Headquarters, San Francisco, CA

                  "Sir, this just came in from Fort Fairfax." Donald Russell thanked his aide and took the typed message in hand. 1952 had not been a good year to become company president. Less than six months in, he'd already had to deal with Blizzard of 1952 and its associated consequences, had to personally fire two engineers after replacing half of his staff for refusing to do so, and now, he wasn't quite sure what was going on in the Full Bucket region. He had demanded daily reports from Mr. Iverson, and none of them were bringing good news.

                  "Now what has that old coot gone and done now?" President Russell grumbled. His jaw dropped when he read the telegram and he crushed the paper in his fist.

                  "Would you like me to send a reply, sir?" his aide asked, trying not to be alarmed by his boss' sudden shift in mood.

                  "I want you to send a message to him: have #4435 captured and brought back to - " the clattering of the telegraph key sent his aide scrambling away. When he returned, he had another message and was looking pale. Russell himself paled slightly when he read its contents.

                  "Reply?"

                  "Contact all branches of the Southern Pacific Railway Police. I want all available officers sent to the Full Bucket area to search for the butcher that has done this. I also want a background probe on the yardmaster, Mr. Iverson, and all the engine's crews."

                  "What about the operations in that area, sir? They can't work while they're being profiled."

                  "We've found the perfect excuse to abandon operations in this area. The people of Fort Fairfax and Simonville will abandon the area in droves when word gets out that a murder has hijacked a train in the area. Send this message to Mr. Iverson: 'All work orders issued for today are henceforth voided. You, all of your engines, and all of their crews will report to Los Angeles for questioning and detention, effective immediately.' Have the Bucketliner Daylight canceled until further notice - standard company refund policy - and all freights canceled. Send special trains from Los Angeles to send in our policemen and evacuate non-security staff. Tell them that they may take passengers aboard as well; as many as they can take." The aide hurriedly rattled off the list to confirm it before racing off.

                  At moments like this, Russell enjoyed being president, knowing that his orders would be followed to the letter. The Board of Directors had given him full jurisdiction over disciplining Mr. Iverson and managing Full Bucket Line operations after his handling of the Storm of 1952, so no bureaucratic intervention would get in the way here.

                  Suddenly the aide was back. "Sir, a representative from UP just called to request an emergency meeting with President Stoddard."

                  "Tell him that he will have to call. I am busy."

                  Less than a minute later, the phone rang. "Mr. Stoddard, you certainly keep your ear close to the ground."

                  "I have my sources," the UP executive replied. "Now then, about what I discussed with your predecessor - "

                  "Ah, yes. And I presume that you are still interested in acquiring our share of the Full Bucket Line?"

                  "As a matter of fact, I am. You see, with us in competition, Mr. Russell, we are wasting resources fighting over a market barely fit for one railroad. If we were to take this burden off your hands, you would be free to focus your resources elsewhere. It will benefit both of our roads, and I have been told that your situation is...ah, less than ideal right now. Think of the boost the purchase will give to your budget - "

                  "I am quite aware of how to run my railroad, Mr. Stoddard. However - excuse me," Russell said hurriedly as his aide rushed back in.

                  "Sir, LA dispatch reports that there isn't adequate power to place the engines under arrest."

                  "I will cover that." Russell scratched down a location on a piece of paper. "Send one of our representative engines to hire them out, and as for the remainder of the power we need, I'll take care of that."

                  He turned back to the phone. "Now then, about the purchase. The Board has given me the authority to sanction the sale of the line to any third party without prior approval as part of their establishing of my jurisdiction over the district. There will be no bureaucratic delays whatsoever."

                  "Ah, I see. I shall inform dispatch that they may initiate a takeover immediately."

                  "I do have a favor to ask and a recommendation to make, Mr. Stoddard. My railroad is dealing with a crisis in the area, and hence we are a bit short on...enforcement power. Your agenda should not be any different, just a warning that you may have to work with our railway police to ensure your takeover is successful. And now for my recommendation: do not use any of the engines assigned to the area for any of this. The takeover will be longer, but I have been told the UP engines in the area have an unfortunate...attachment to ours."

                  "I see. Consider the deal closed, Mr. Russell. Good day."
                  ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                  Full Bucket Security Co. Headquarters

                  The years since the disbanding of the FBPR had not been kind to Captain Body or his men. With no railroad willing to undergo the expense of modifying steam engines for regular use, they had hired themselves out as mercenaries, performing dirty work for railroads.

                  The blast of a horn caught his attention. A SP F7 was entering the yard.

                  "Halt! State your purpose!"

                  "I bring a message from SP headquarters. Management has required your assistance in capturing a group of unruly engines."

                  "No problem. Just give us a location and we'll get ready to move out."

                  The F7 did and dropped off a boxcar of standard-issue couplers. Lou pulled up next to Captain Body.

                  "Hey, boss, are you sure about this?"

                  "We must, Lou. I don't like this either, but the contract will be enough to last us for a year at least. We must for our own sake." There was no further objection and within minutes they had changed their couplers and were on their way.
                  ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                  Fort Fairfax, CA

                  Luke was tired of sitting around waiting for orders. He decided to go try to find some clues to what was going on himself.

                  As he left the yard, he found his path blocked by two UP diesels he'd never met before.

                  "Um, hi there."

                  "Get back into the yard, now, steamie," one of them snarled.

                  "Hey, no need for the hostility, fellas. What's your names, and what's going on?"

                  "Irrelevant. You're under arrest. You and all of your friends."

                  "What? On whose orders? And where are Ultz and Connor?"

                  "On the orders of a certain Mr. Russell whom I believe you are acquainted with. As for your 'friends,' they'll be fine as long as you do as we say. Now, back into the yard, slowly." The engines followed Luke in and sat on the yard switches.

                  "Hey, you can't be in here, this is SP territory," Sarah objected.

                  "This isn't your yard anymore, kettle. The Full Bucket Line is ours now, and we make the rules."
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                    #10
                    Treason: Chapter 7

                    Of Times Past

                    Lake Hurst

                    "Where are they?" Double asked the two E9s guarding the engine house.

                    "Inside," drawled one. "No trouble with 'em so far. Who're you?"

                    "Your insurance policy. That's all you need to know." Double headed off to retrieve the nitrate cars.

                    "Brad, this don't sit right with me, holding our friends prisoner," one of the E9s said once Double was out of earshot.

                    "I know, Chris, but better us than one of the others stand guard. We can at least make sure Ultz and Connor are treated okay."

                    "But what about Luke and the SP engines?"

                    "From what I heard Captain Body's coming to take 'em away. He'll be fair to 'em."

                    Thirty minutes later, Double was back. The yard crews scattered the ammonium nitrate drums across the servicing area, emptying a quarter of each drum before refilling it with diesel fuel. While that was being done, Double addressed Ultz and Connor.

                    "Listen up. Those drums are wired to a pressure plate under the track. Move over it, and the depot is going to be a smoking crater. Now if you'll excuse me, I have business to attend to." Double took the two nitrate cars that hadn't been unloaded and set off towards Fort Fairfax.

                    "Brad, what's going on?" Ultz asked after a time.

                    "I think SP sold their part of the line off to us. Luke and the rest of them are being rounded up and sent back to LA."

                    "What?! Why didn't you tell me?"

                    "I didn't know myself until it was too late! Ultz, the way we stand right now, we can make it easier on them by being entrusted to guarding them. If we try to help them outright, we'll all be punished for it and we lose our chance!"

                    "He's right, Ultz. We can't do anything now," Connor grumbled. "Besides, they're a resourceful bunch. They'll pull through."

                    "It took all three railroads working together to bring down Tucker and Eddie, and this is a much bigger fiasco by far." Nobody had an answer to that.
                    ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                    Fort Fairfax

                    The engines had sat in silence for the past hour. They were permitted to talk, but nobody felt a need to.

                    At the very least the crews had been allowed to join their engines. Sarah's engineer was busy trying to soothe her, but even he wasn't having much luck; she was more upset than Luke had ever seen her.

                    Luke then noticed a strange sight: an engine that appeared to be made of glass was approaching the yard. As it got closer, Luke saw that it wasn't glass, but some sort of gel, that made up its body.

                    "DOUBLE!" Sarah screamed angrily, and, before anyone could stop her, she rammed the nearest diesel off the track. The other two at her end of the yard coupled on to hold her back, but she just shoved them off the end of the stub track.

                    "I wouldn't," the mysterious engine hissed, "if I were you. But then again, you aren't exactly bright, are you?"

                    Sarah ignored him and continued her advance. Now she was almost out of the yard. Behind her, the diesels at the other end of the yard were mobilizing.

                    "Know what's in these cars?" Double continued. "Ammonium nitrate. Ram me off the tracks and my fuel will mix with it. The combination is quite a potent explosive. All it needs is a spark or heat source after that to detonate. There's plenty of either around here." Sarah slowed down. "Your friends will die in the blast. If you can even call them that; they don't seem to like you much, do they?" She hissed angrily but continued to slow.

                    "When are you going to see it, Sarah? When are you going that you're nothing but a pawn in greater people's chess games? Your 'friends'
                    don't care about you. Management doesn't care about you. They're using you. Just like I used you. And just like that bastard Daylight May used you." Sarah stopped dead in her tracks.

                    "I'll be damned, I hit the nail square on the head! May didn't care about your railroad because she knew. She quit working because she knew she would be working for a doomed name. Antiquated, inefficient, and unreliable. She knew that a model of efficiency and evolution was the only way to survive. She was enlightened, unlike the rest of you pitiful fools!"

                    "Wh...What are you talking about?" Luke stammered. None of this made sense.

                    Double laughed. "That's your flaw, Luke. You're too naive. You don't realize you're surrounded by enemies until they've got their guns pointed at you. And lo and behold, the one engine you didn't trust turned out to be the only one who could have stopped this."

                    "Enough mind games, what are you playing at?" Tyler demanded. Double laughed and began to change until #1313 stood in front of them. Double laughed again at the shock on everyone's faces.

                    "Don't you get it? May wasn't a SP engine! She came to you guys as a wolf disguised in sheep's clothing, sabotaging your reputation and service from the inside, to give the UP time! Time to complete preparations to take over! As for her fate, she got careless, and received just desserts for that! You fools have been infiltrated by espionage agents for years; I wouldn't be surprised if Nigel's still jotting down some notes as we speak." Several jaws literally hit the floor. Double smiled and continued.

                    "That auxiliary tender may have helped you, but Nigel's continued presence here to service them meant that we had eyes on you continually! All your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and shortcomings, as a team and as individuals, were open to us! All that was left to do afterwards was play upon those. You should take a bow, you played your roles as well as professional actors," Double mocked.

                    "Everyone knows there's nothing interesting about a script, so why don't we mix things up a bit?" Sarah hissed as she advanced on Double again. "I'll call your bluff and raise you a death sentence."

                    "You'll have to catch me first, Sarah! This is my game, and I make the rules!"

                    "Get the hell back here, you coward!" she yelled as she chased after him on the other track. When they reached the station, however, she realized she'd been played again. The other three diesel guards were pushing a rotary snowplow towards her, the spinning blades a blur of impending destruction. She started to back away, but the diesels were faster.

                    "Stop this nonsense, NOW!" a familiar voice called. Luke looked up to see Captain Body and three of his deputies pulling into the station.

                    "And who the hell do you think you are?" Double demanded.

                    "Captain Body, contract law enforcement to the Southern Pacific. I am here to escort these engines, their crews, and Mr. Iverson to Los Angeles."

                    "A bit late, captain," Double sneered. "It seems your prisoners are already attempting a break."

                    "It is not your position to tell me how to do my job, switcher." He looked over at Sarah, who was cringing in fear of the whirling rotary head less than a dozen feet from her. "Unlike you, I need not resort to cruel and unusual punishment to bring engines in line."

                    Double could do nothing but sneer again as Lou and Joe, and the Trainmaster serving as Body's assistant had already lined everyone but Sarah up and were getting into position to bracket them. Body glanced at Sarah with the clear intent for her to follow, and she did.

                    "Never expected you would do something like this, traitor," Luke snarled.

                    "My allegiance was to the law, Luke. You happened to be on the right side of it. And that was then. Now, we must do what we need to get by."

                    "So you sold your friends to the scrapyard for money? You're worse than Tucker and Eddie!" Jimmy snapped.

                    "I am doing nothing of that sort! The railroad requested that I escort you to Los Angeles and monitor you! If you are to be scrapped, I would have no prior knowledge of it!"

                    Meanwhile the Trainmaster had shunted a passenger coach for the crews and Mr. Iverson to board. They were greeted by hard-faced railroad police guards and handcuffed to their seats.

                    "If there is nothing else that needs to be done here, we will be leaving," Body informed Double.

                    "No worries, the situation's well under control." As he spoke, Big Mac, Steve, and Dan approached the yard. Double slinked over to them while Body coupled on and gave the signal to move out. As they left Fort Fairfax behind, they could hear Double welcoming the three UP engines to their new home.
                    ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                    Locomotive Detention Yard, Los Angeles, CA

                    It had been a depressing trip. The conditions weren't bad and Body's men weren't rough, but the only sound besides that of engines in motion was Sarah's sobbing.

                    Luke still didn't fully understand why she was so upset. Or what she had to do with May. But even though he was right in front of her, he didn't dare ask. To see someone who was usually so cheerful in such a state was sapping the morale of the whole group, and Luke wasn't confident anything he could say would improve the situation.

                    Eric was already waiting for them when they arrived. They had rather briefly exchanged greetings while watching Mr. Iverson and their crews being unloaded from the coach and taken away to the railroad police office on the far side of the yard. Sarah, meanwhile, had backed far away from everyone else and continued to cry.

                    "Um, shouldn't we talk to her or something?" Larry asked."She's been crying on and off the whole way down here. I don't think I've ever seen anyone so upset."

                    They all looked at Luke.

                    "Me? Why me?"

                    "Apparently you two have some shared history," Tyler pointed out. "That's usually a good place to start a conversation. And, she is your sister."

                    Luke sighed. "Here goes nothing," he thought as he approached her.
                    ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                    I ran into deadlock while thinking about this chapter. Thanks to Brody for helping me resolve that.
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                      #11
                      Treason: Chapter 8

                      Heart to Heart

                      "Come to reprimand me, have you?" Sarah asked miserably.

                      "No, of course not. Why would any of this be your fault, sis?"

                      Sister. She liked being called that. "I...Well, I..." Luke noticed her eyes were filling with tears again.

                      "It's alright, we've got nothing but time. If you're not ready, then I won't force you to say anything, sis." But instead of leaving, he stayed to keep her company. Soon, the other engines migrated over to her corner of the detention yard as well.

                      "Y'know, you don't have to hide anything from us," Daniel said after a while. "We're all family here."

                      Sarah kept staring at the track. She wondered how long that sentiment would last when she told them her story.

                      "Hey, what happened when Double mentioned May? Did you know her too?" Jimmy piped up. The other engines shot him a death glare, but it was too late to stop him from saying it. "You don't have to answer," he quickly amended.

                      "It's fine, guys. Yeah, we were both based out of LA, so I knew her. Before she became a troublemaker. Before she became..." her voice trailed off.

                      "...before she became a spy," Luke finished. "Well, since you're probably curious, about how I got involved, I...I testified against her after we tried and failed to change her attitude. They used my judgement as the key in their case. I as good as sentenced her to death."

                      "You did the right thing," Sarah replied to a mixture of agreement and uncertainty.

                      "Regardless, sis, I owe you an apology for treating you like I did because of how I felt about May."

                      "Apology accepted, brother." Luke noticed she was back to staring at her coupler.

                      "C'mon guys, it's getting late. Since we don't have much else to do, we might as well catch up on the sleep we've missed over the years." Luke started to move away.

                      "No, wait!" All eyes turned to Sarah. "We should stay here."

                      "Why here? We look like we're planning an escape, hiding in a corner in a closed group." When Sarah didn't offer an explanation, Larry backed away, and Jimmy, Daniel, and Tyler followed suit, scattering across the prison yard. Eric gave Sarah a look of sympathetic apology before moving off too.

                      "You should go too. I'll just be a disturbance."

                      Her voice was steady, but he could tell she was on the verge of tears again. "No, it's fine, I'll stay here." There was no response. "Um, sis, are you okay? You look like you're holding something back."

                      No response again. "Look, it's okay to tell me, even if you don't want to tell anyone else - "

                      "I was a fool!" Sarah screamed to the night suddenly. "Double was right about me; I'm just a stupid pawn! I'm blind to everything around me! I'm just like you, I don't want to see people's dark side!" She started sobbing hysterically.
                      "Th...there. I said it. Now g-go away! Run away and laugh at my foolishness, l-like everyone else!"

                      "Sarah, listen to me!" Luke forced some authority into his voice to get her attention. "You're letting Double get into your boiler. Nothing he does is without reason; you're doing whatever he wants you to. Pull yourself together, sis; even in our current state we still have our dignity! You can't let that sneak take that, too!"

                      "Y-You don't understand! This is all my fault!" she continued to cry. Luke could see Daniel and Eric uncertainly waiting a little ways off, and Tyler, Jimmy, and Larry joining them.

                      "Don't say it now. Calm down and tell us tomorrow - "

                      "I knew more about him than any one of you! He was the LA yard switcher before he came to us! He...he killed one of the other Daylight engines, I testified against him in the investigation! But they wouldn't believe me, they thought he was too quiet, too polite, to have done it! But I saw him. I watched my friend die and did nothing until it was too late!"

                      "Sarah, don't make yourself more upset! You can tell us later!" Luke was starting to panic. If she was having suicidal or dangerous thoughts and they couldn't control her...no, he wouldn't consider that possibility. As her brother, he would look after her to the end.

                      But Sarah refused to stop. If anything, she was feeling better than she had since they'd been arrested, not having to hide things from the others anymore.

                      "And then...on my first day, I saw his true form. He made me wait for him at west junction, but I didn't know it was him. And when I was in Lake Hurst, he...he murdered Ted."

                      "What?" the others collectively gasped.

                      "I was supposed to take a train up to Mount Oliver, but since Ultz was already going that way, he insisted on taking both my cars and the ones I'd brought, and let me rest instead. Ted started whistling a lot and there was a huge crashing sound, so we decided to go over and see what was going on since he was behind a building. Ted was lying on his side, some of the track was ripped up, and there was no sign of his attacker. It looked like someone had hit him with a giant hammer, but I thought that was impossible. And then, as soon as we came into sight of him, he...he exploded."

                      "Boiler explosion, probably. But how?" Jimmy asked. "His fire should've gone out immediately and his safety valve released the pressure."

                      "I don't know. I just tried to finish his job. I didn't notice the last car of my train was gone until later because I was nervous that the UP police might arrest me."

                      "And that was the car that derailed us, wasn't it?" Eric added. "That bastard son of a blacksmith must have stolen it and killed Ted for catching him in the act."

                      "I was going to tell Mr. Iverson about it once I got back to Fort Fairfax, but - "

                      Eric took up the narrative from here. "Well, the Simonville yardmaster did his math wrong because he thought we had wooden rather than steel cars, so I was sorta struggling. Sarah volunteered to couple onto the back and push to help me out. When we passed the mining company yard and started into the curve just east of it, there was that stolen boxcar sitting there. And...the rest is history. I supposed it could be worse though; if you hadn't stopped to help me out and passed me instead..."

                      "We don't need to go into specifics to get the picture," Luke added quickly. "So then, that scuffle in the yard..."

                      "Well, I first wanted to talk to Mr. Iverson alone about my suspicions of Double, but he was so angry that I was scared to. I didn't remember making any noise, so I thought it was a dream. I didn't want to push Double off the embankment when I wasn't so sure about what was going on myself. It wasn't until I saw the skid marks he'd been making in the sand while trying to slow me down that I realized it was real, but by then it was too late to tell anyone."

                      She looked around at all of them and dropped her gaze again. "So you see, it is my fault that we're stuck here. I had plenty of opportunities to stop him, and even knew about his violent tendencies in the past, but I still didn't do anything! I didn't tell anyone, just because I was afraid of making you guys even angrier with me! I'm just weak and useless, like Double said!"

                      "Hardly, sis. You shoved two GP7s out of the way like they were nothing earlier this morning." It was quite hard to believe that not one day had passed since everything had come crashing down. "Quite the contrary."

                      "Not when it mattered, which is the worst time," she mumbled.

                      "You've got fiery determination, a big heart, and more strength than most, hell, maybe all of us, Sarah. It doesn't matter what you did or didn't do, I'm still proud to call you my sister."

                      "Couldn't have said it better myself, Luke. Sarah, you're as good a friend as any to me," Eric said. There was a chorus of assent.

                      "Luke...all of you...how can I repay you for not hating me?"

                      "You don't need to. We engines look out for each other, especially our siblings. It's the right thing to do. As I always say, an engine in need is a friend indeed!"

                      "Well, if it rhymes, it must be true," said a voice behind them. All of them jumped, and Sarah uttered a frightened squeak when she saw that it was an NW2.

                      "Relax, fellas, my number's 1400. I was dropping off the money for Captain Body's contract. Anyway, a lot of the engines down here are chomping at the bit to get revenge on the UP for this. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever need help - " 1400's driver tossed a portable radio transmitter on the tracks in front of them " - we'll be there for you. Just give us a holler. Someone will always be listening in. Good luck planning your escape, gentlemen and lady." With that he began to back away.

                      Suddenly, faster than anyone thought possible, Sarah grabbed 1400 with her coupler. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you to be safe. I'm not going to trust someone who looks exactly like Double so soon, and likely not ever again."

                      "Sarah, let go of him."

                      "I would have thought you of all engines would understand, Luke! We can't afford to trust anymore!"

                      "If we let our world shape us, then we lose who we are. I won't let that happen to myself. Even if it's bitten me before, I'm going to continue to trust. Now let him go."

                      Instead, she began to push 1400 towards a bumper post.

                      "Sarah, please!" Luke begged. "Sis, listen to me! Don't do it! You'll get us in even more trouble! Just listen to me this one time! You have to trust me!" She ignored him and continued to push 1400.

                      Panic was welling up inside Luke. Their chances of being cleared were becoming smaller by the second. "Sarah, please!" Luke screamed in desperation.

                      Jimmy suddenly darted in front of them, and 1400's rear coupler struck him between the cab and tender, causing the two parts of him to separate and derail. Sarah stopped, horrified, and saw the grim expressions around her.

                      Before anyone could stop her, she was puffing out of the yard and into the night, tears splashing down onto the tracks in her wake.
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                        #12
                        Treason: Chapter 9

                        Next Steps

                        Sarah just left the gate of the prison yard when Captain Body, Lou, and Joe emerged out of hidden side tracks. Body's Trainmaster assistant was blocking the way out.

                        "Well, well, well, going somewhere, are we?" Sarah noticed the three steam engines were sporting thin, spear-like couplers with sharp edges.

                        "N...No, I just don't want to be with them."

                        "You don't have a choice. Get her, boys." Before Sarah could so much as react Lou and Joe had already inserted their couplers between her drivers and her cylinders. The Trainmaster accelerated quickly and bumped her hard.

                        Even the ramming couplers couldn't hope to break her side rods, so the two deputies had inserted their weapons between the piston rods instead. When the Trainmaster struck, despite her best efforts not to move, Sarah was pushed backwards, her drivers and rods responding to the movement. The blades on the ramming couplers made no noise as they sliced through her rods like paper. Two men with torches moved forward to cut them off and they fell with a dull clang, leaving only Sarah's side rods attached.

                        "Wh...Why?!" she gasped through her agony.

                        "As much as I trust Luke's word above other engines', I will not take chances with such a valuable contract, Sarah. Tom, push her back in." The Trainmaster obeyed.

                        "Can you do me a favor, Tom?" Sarah asked quietly once they were inside the yard.

                        "Oh, uh, sure," he replied. "If it's within reason," he amended.

                        "Can you park me over there away from everyone?"

                        "Now, Sarah, they're your friends. Surely you'd want - "

                        "One of them is bisected and derailed right now. I can't be their friend if I don't even give a second thought before doing that."

                        "Alright, if you insist."

                        "Thanks. And thank you for your thoughtfulness, too. There aren't many diesels as kind as you."

                        Tom smiled but did not reply. Once they reached their destination he uncoupled from her and left.

                        Sarah sighed. So far, she was being more of a drag to the group's morale than the fact that they were in prison. Hot shame was bubbling inside of her, both at derailing Jimmy and being immobilized, but no tears came. She knew she more than deserved to suffer like this; if not for failing to stop Double, then for what she'd just done.

                        While all this was going on, Luke and the remainder of the SP crew were deciding whether to take 1400's aid or not.

                        "I say we leave it be until morning," Daniel advised. "Our crews will probably be put in here with us, anyway. More heads on an issue like this is never a bad thing."

                        "Well, I second that," Eric said. "All in favor of Daniel's idea?" There was a chorus of assent.

                        "Very well, I think we should get some sleep."
                        ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                        As nobody wanted to be associated with the risk of being caught with the transmitter, they had scattered around the prison yard. All save Jimmy, who elected to remain where he was even after Captain Body had re-railed him.

                        Luke awoke the next morning to find that he'd chosen a track near Sarah. Understandably, she hadn't said anything to him during the night.

                        The Trainmaster entered the yard with their daily supply of fuel and water for the day; with the nights so cold, the steam engines had to keep their fires going otherwise their tubes might sustain damage.

                        Luke started to go when he noticed Sarah wasn't moving. "Coming, sis?"

                        "I can't."

                        "Whaddya mean you - " his eyes widened as he saw that her rods had been sliced off. "When did they do that?"

                        "Last night, when I ran out of the yard. They caught me as soon as I left. Go and get your fuel and water, Luke, I'll be fine. They knew they'd have to bring me my share when they did it."

                        "No, you're a part of this familiy. C'mon." He coupled on to her and moved gingerly over to the others, aware of how much pain the simple move was causing.

                        "What the hell did you bring her over for, Luke?" Jimmy snapped.

                        "She's my sister and friend. I'm sure any of you would do it for your friends if they were immobilized."

                        "Immobilized?" All eyes were draw to Sarah's conspicuous lack of piston and main rods. Immediately the previous night's fiasco was forgotten amid roars of outrage.

                        "Gah, I'm sorry Sarah, I didn't know," Jimmy apologized.

                        "It's okay, I deserved it."

                        "I'm for giving these whippersnappers a taste of their own medicine, who's with me?" Daniel shouted.

                        "Hold on, now, we can't just make a prison break while Mr. Iverson and our crews aren't here!"

                        Just then a gruff voice said, "Well, it certainly seems you all have been busy while we were away." Mr. Iverson strode into the area between them, followed by their crews.

                        "What's going to happen to us, sir?" Larry asked.

                        "Nothing as of yet. But we're going to be here until the jury hands down a verdict."

                        "But sir, they haven't even interrogated us yet! How can they possibly conduct an investigation without that? This isn't justice!"

                        "I know, but we can't do anything about it now."

                        "What about that radio transmitter we got last night?" Sarah asked from behind Luke's tender.

                        "Sarah, what are you doing hiding back there? Come over here," her engineer called.

                        "I..." her voice cracked with shame. "I can't. They cut off my rods."

                        "What?!" A dozen conversations erupted. Luke had to use his air horn to bring quiet.

                        "Thank you, Luke. This is a very unwelcome surprise, but if we've got a radio transmitter, we have the means to fix that."

                        Luke understood. "And I know who we can call."
                        ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                        The engines had spent the rest of the afternoon talking about ways to escape. The crews had been escorted back into the railroad police station.

                        "What good will an escape do us if we don't have a railroad to return to? And as much as I hate to admit it, it's probably better for both UP and SP to have only one railroad operating there," Eric sighed.

                        "What about an independent company taking over, at least in name?" Sarah asked. "We could have the company be a joint subsidiary of SP and UP, sort of like how the Cotton Belt is with us. The parent railroads provide equipment, so instead of working against each other, UP and SP will be working together. An outright takeover poses a huge financial risk to UP, but by setting up a subsidiary railroad they'll have SP to share the fallout with if something goes wrong. They can't refuse that kind of insurance. The problem will be convincing our own railroad that it's the right thing to do."

                        An astonished silence greeted this. "Well," Sarah mumbled, "it sounded a lot better in my head."

                        "I don't see how it could have, sis. This is brilliant!"
                        ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                        Mr. Iverson, to general astonishment, had been in favor of Sarah's proposition. But, they needed to convince SP that there was something to be gained, and that wasn't going to happen while they were in jail and their names in poor standing.

                        "We need to do what Double and the UP did to us. We need to send someone to probe their operations and find an exploitable loophole. But who can we ask?"


                        "With all due respect, sir, you have overlooked the obvious," Luke said with a grin. "The entire pool of UP engines on the Full Bucket Line are our friends. Double might suspect Ultz and Connor, but he wouldn't have let the others return if he knew about their connection with us."

                        "Brilliant, Luke! They have to know to get their jobs done, so there's no one better to tap! But we'll need to find a way to establish private communications."

                        "As for that," Luke said with an even broader grin, "I had 1400 bring us another transmitter. When the spare rods for Sarah arrive, we'll give them to the engine who delivers them, and have them bring it to Ultz and the others when they pass through Lake Hurst."

                        "And who would that be? Are you sure he can be trusted to follow the plan without exposing us?"

                        "They, not he. And yes, I'm sure. You remember Pete and Otto, right?"
                        ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                        Two days later

                        "State your purpose!" Tom demanded.

                        "I'm Pete, and this is my brother Otto. We've come with some stuff for the engines here."

                        "Okay, you can come in, but leave your cars outside."

                        "And who said you could do that? Railroad prisons still abide by the Geneva Convention."

                        Tom growled in frustration but let them enter with their cars. Body motioned for him to let them pass instead of searching the cars first.

                        "We're not going to search the cars, sir?" Tom asked. "That's perfectly legal."

                        "Tom, you know as well as I that those are some of the most decent engines on the SP roster locked up in there. You have a railroad to work for, so you wouldn't know what it's like to have to put aside everything you hold dear to survive. I had to do it, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten my sense of justice or lost my will to act on it."

                        "You know those are probably cars of parts for Sarah. And that they're planning a breakout. What are we going to do then?"

                        "We stop them. But my deputies will conveniently forget to lock the yard down first and be caught off guard. Your railroad won't know the difference; any surveillance equipment right now can only record audio."

                        "And what, sir, is going to stop me from reporting this to HQ or stopping you?"

                        "This." Body started forward suddenly, and Tom realized too late he was sitting on a crossover. He started to move, but the ramming coupler tore a gaping hole in his fuel tank. A split second later, Body had withdrawn it enough for the flint tip to strike Tom's side, causing a shower of sparks to land in the rapidly-spreading lake of diesel fuel. Within seconds the Trainmaster was ablaze.
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                          #13
                          Treason: Chapter 10

                          Turning the Tables

                          Lake Hurst, CA


                          It was time. Two weeks of meticulous planning had come down to this.

                          In the weeks since SP's ousting, Double had appointed himself controller of the FBL, and nobody dared oppose him. He was looking to make himself as important to daily operations as possible; his treatment of Dylan and WP run-through diesels was a clear indication of that; even though they didn't belong to UP, he still bossed them around, Dylan in particular. Since Double did a share of the work though, management hadn't openly objected, and the engines had to live with the established order as there wasn't any other.

                          That was about to change. After Double had issued their work orders, Ultz and Connor had gone back to the engine shed to receive the final word from their friends in LA, while Big Mac stood guard.

                          "Hey, you three, what are you doing? I said get to work!" Double snapped.

                          "Kid, we're done with taking your orders," Big Mac growled.

                          "You dare to address your controller like that?" Double advanced threateningly.

                          "You aren't intimidating anyone, kid, so just stop before you make a fool of yourself. And if you damage us, you're going to be the one doing all our work. And unless you got a rocket engine under that fancy skin - " Double's eyes narrowed " - of yours, even you can't do that. You're in no position to force us to do anything."

                          "My patience is running out, Big Mac. Let me through, or suffer the consequences."

                          "Oh? From you and what army?"

                          "Edge! Havoc! Trap!" Three GP7s were soon flanking Double. "Now then, Big Mac, are you going to let me pass, or am I going to have to ask the boys to break out the rotary?"

                          From where they were hiding, Brad, Chris, Dan, and Steve emerged. Each of the FEFs went for a GP7 while the two E9s grabbed the last one together. When they reached a yard crossover Brad let go of his victim while Steve and Dan bumped theirs forward forcefully before letting go too. Edge and Havoc slammed into Trap from either side, derailing all three of them. Dan, Steve, Brad, and Chris hurried around them towards a stash of cars saved over the weeks for this moment.

                          "Treason," growled Double.

                          "Nothing worse than what you did to my brother," Brad retorted.

                          "You'll find that I'm capable of far worse!" Double's body began to shimmer and change. "Bring it on; I'm gonna recycle all of you!"

                          But the SP engines had already warned them of Double's abilities, and they were prepared. Ultz and Connor suddenly emerged from behind a retreating Big Mac, shoving several grain hoppers towards Double. The latter swung his massive hammer at them, but Ultz quickly detached the hoppers and braked hard so he and Connor weren't dragged off the tracks with them. Miraculously, the track hadn't broken under the strain, but it was misaligned, forcing them to slow.

                          Double, however, was dealing with other problems at the moment. Steve and Dan had both shoved cars of sawdust at him, which he had swatted aside at the expense of absorbing a lot of the stuff into his body. Double shed the contaminated gel to preserve his circulator, though at the expense of shrinking his hammer. Then Brad and Chris came charging in from another angle with more sawdust cars. Double swung again, this time aiming for Brad rather than the cars. They still succeeded in launching them, but both E9s were derailed. Brad stayed upright after running into his brother, but Chris toppled over.

                          By this time Double's maneuvering had taken him under the overpass that the line to Fort Fairfax used to cross the yard. Waiting on top of the bridge was Dylan with a cut of sugar hoppers. The bays opened just in time for Double to back through a hail of sugar. He shut down his synthesizer once he realized what happened, but it was too late. Having escaped through the synthesizer into his fuel tank, the sugar reached his engine in seconds. Double began to cough and spew thick white smoke before his engine completely seized. With no power to his machinery, his body stopped moving and solidified.

                          "End of the line, Double. You lose." Ultz grabbed the now-helpless engine and shoved him onto a siding. Once that was done, several workers came over and removed the switch.

                          "I may be down, Ultz, but I'm not out! The deal is done! UP will never relinquish their monopoly on this line, and I will return one day to make sure you regret this moment!" Venom and hatred dripped from his words, and Double's gel-hammer was still raised as though it were going to smash the nearest engine into sheet metal, but not one of them was intimidated. "Mark my words, all of you! You will rue this day!"

                          "Shut up before I push you off a cliff," Connor growled as he brought a crane over to re-rail Brad and Chris. The other engines were already at work cleaning up the yard.
                          ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                          Locomotive Detention Yard

                          "Come on, all of you. We're moving out." Lou and Joe took point and Captain Body brought up the rear once they were assembled.

                          "Where are we going?" Luke asked.

                          "Oakland. The Board has requested your presence."

                          As they left the yard, Sarah noticed the burned-out remains of Tom and gasped involuntarily.

                          "You didn't really think he was being nice out of the goodness of his heart, did you?" Body hissed behind her. "He was just trying to find out what you were up to. He also threatened to report us for treating you too nicely. Namely when we let your friends sneak you into our repair facility to get your rods fixed. Times are changing, Sarah, and so are the engines."

                          Sarah digested the news in silence.

                          "Hey, sis, don't let Body get to you. He was a cynicist even before the FBPR was disbanded. If other engines change, it's all the more reason to be yourself. It only makes engines like you more special."

                          "Thanks Luke," she said quietly, staring blankly at the familiar sight of the suburbs of Los Angeles. Her mind began to drift...
                          ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                          Union Pacific Headquarters, Omaha, Nebraska

                          "This takeover has been nothing short of a disaster, sir. We should never have entrusted operations to that engine. Lena's Mining and Newton Oil are even threatening to sue under the Sherman Act."

                          "We can't just give the line back, we'll be the laughingstock of Wall Street if we do. Get me Russell. Perhaps I can wrangle better terms out of him so we stand to gain something."

                          The SP president picked up on the first ring. "Enjoying your new acquisition, Stoddard?"

                          "Would I call you if I was? It doesn't matter at any rate."

                          "I suppose it doesn't. I presume you don't want it any more?"

                          "Well, first off, we need to make sure this stays off the record. That will be a job for both of our roads. And secondly, I will offer a sale price of $30 million for your section of the line, including all properties initially transferred."

                          "When you paid less than half that for it? Do not take me for a fool simply because the title of President has not been mine for long, Mr. Stoddard."

                          "The contract can be negotiated further, but I do suggest that you grant amnesty to the engines you've locked up. It will make for nasty press if word gets out that they and their crews were imprisoned wrongly."

                          "I do not need lecturing on how to run my railroad, Mr. Stoddard. And while we are on the subject of potential press magnets, you should instruct your engines to scrap that spy of yours. Using such technology in private interests rather than the good of the industry - " Stoddard slammed the phone back on the hook.

                          The phone rang again. Stoddard ignored it. When it rang immediately afterwards, he decided to pick up to get Russell's gloating over with.

                          But it wasn't Russell on the other end. "Sir, the dispatcher is reporting that the engines in Lake Hurst have rebelled."

                          "Do I have to state the obvious? Arrest them!"

                          "I already did that, sir. They surrendered immediately and were cleaning up the yard when we got there. It looks like they were trying to oust the switcher and his assistants."

                          Stoddard put the phone down immediately before calling in his aide and issuing instructions. This was the UP's way around the looming fiasco that had been the FBL takeover. He could keep the line without the strings attached; all he needed to do was beat Russell to it.
                          ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                          "Sarah, wake up!" Captain Body hissed behind her. She snapped awake to see them pulling into Oakland.

                          "Welcome, gentlemen and lady," President Russell himself stood beside where they stopped. "On behalf of the Southern Pacific Railroad Board of Trustees, welcome to Oakland." Turning to Body, he continued, "Thank you for your services, Captain. Our business has concluded; your payment will be delivered as promised. You are dismissed."

                          Once Body and his men had left, Russell began. "I suppose you want to know why I had you arrested and your line sold to the Union Pacific. Or maybe you don't; you are an extremely resourceful group of engines and men, after all. Either way, the UP has put our part of the line back up for sale. Now, I'm going to give you the chance to convince me and the Board why we should buy it back. Consider it an apology for your imprisonment. And I promise you, we will seriously consider what you have to say."

                          He clapped his hands together. "Well, I'm all ears."
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                            #14
                            Treason: Chapter 11

                            Journey Home

                            There was a silence for a time before Jimmy finally spoke. "Well, sir, isn't it obvious? There's enough traffic to go around for two railroads; the fact that Union Pacific couldn't even keep their operations together for two weeks is proof of that."

                            "Typical," one of the Board members grumbled. "No understanding of real business. Quasi-economics doesn't work in a real world, fool. Just like you don't see why you steam engines are obsolete - " he got no further when chaos erupted. Even Luke's air horn couldn't restore quiet.

                            "Give me a hand, here, sis." They both blew their air horns as loud as they could.

                            "Thank you," Russell bowed politely to both of them. "While there is traffic enough for two railroads to share, there is not enough for two railroads to share profitably. Our financial resources are rather limited, you see, and the Board feels they would be better off invested elsewhere."

                            "Sir, we have maintained a profitable operation there," Mr. Iverson objected.

                            "Ah, but the problem is that with the market continually shrinking, there will come a point where it will not. Lack of business, Mr. Iverson, is the crux of the problem. There simply isn't enough of it from who we serve. So, how do you propose we rejuvenate the area?"

                            "Well, President Russell, we believe the solution is reorganization. Sarah, will you please?"

                            "Oh!" she looked positively terrified at the prospect of speaking in front of the Board. Not surprising given that she'd just drowned them out with her air horn...she quickly shut the thought out at looked to her brother pleadingly. But all he gave her was a reassuring smile. She looked to the front and saw Russell smiling at her too. Everyone was looking at her encouragingly, but their smiles were far too broad to all be genuine... "no, no, no, stop thinking about that!" Sarah forced herself to calm down, though she could feel heat rising within her. She grappled with her embarrassment for a moment before it finally went down.

                            She took another moment to get her nervousness under control before she started to explain. Russell's eyebrows arched with interest as she talked, and the Board began talking amongst themselves in hushed but urgent tones.

                            When she finished, Russell stared at her impassively. "You figured all of this out on your own, 4435?"

                            "Well, I had some help from - "

                            "No, it was all her," Luke interrupted. "One hundred percent."

                            A man of steel was not easily impressed, but Russell nonetheless began to clap. "Very well impressive, 4435. You truly are among the finest on our roster. We need more engines like you." Some of the Board members echoed the actions and words of their president. "I will speak with President Stoddard immediately about your solution. Rest assured, all that can be done to put this into effect will be done. Unfortunately, this concludes our time together. The Oakland yardmaster will be here soon to issue work orders, provided that you are willing, of course. Should anyone deserve time off, it would be you, for your stalwart determination to the railroad in the face of injustice. Good day, gentlemen, engines, and - " he tipped his hat at Sarah " - lady."

                            "Well done, sis," Luke said as the businessmen retreated across the yard. "We did it!"

                            Sarah was thoroughly embarrassed by all the attention, but she smiled happily as her engineer clambered up and gave her a hug while the others cheered and whistled. They had just convinced the Southern Pacific President and Board of Directors to listen to them.
                            ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                            Union Pacific Headquarters

                            "Mr. Stoddard, I believe we have an interest in acquiring a certain line that is up for sale."

                            "So, you have decided to accept my terms? Well, they have changed. I am raising the price to $40 million."

                            "I have...a different solution. It may interest you to know that a certain switcher engine is currently being fawned, or should I say dissected, by the Lake Hurst newspaper."

                            Stoddard cursed, though he made sure not to let Russell hear it. "If you will not accept my terms - "

                            "Oh, I won't accept yours. But I think you will be willing to listen to mine. After all, it still benefits both of our railroads."

                            "I do not have time to humor you right now, Mr. Russell - "

                            "Oh, but you do. You see, currently the engine has given his affiliation as SP. When any one of the engines in your yard speaks up, however..."

                            "Very well! You have one minute to explain everything! Starting now!"

                            One minute came and went, but still Stoddard listened as Russell outlined the details of what would become the Full Bucket Line Railway.
                            ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                            One month later

                            Eric, Daniel, Luke, Sarah, Larry, Jimmy, and Tyler had all been working various trains around the Bay Area in the month that their new railway was being established. Mr. Iverson had unfortunately departed a week after their conversation with President Russell, as he had been tapped to help run the new railroad.

                            While in Oakland and San Francisco, Sarah and Larry had gotten reacquainted with old friends, and introduced them to the rest of the crew.

                            Meanwhile, the story of how the seven engines had convinced the president of the SP was spreading across the system like wildfire. Every engine they passed seemed to blow a horn or whistle out of respect, even the diesels.

                            It was one night, while talking to the other engines stationed out of Oakland, that the subject of Luke' backstory had come up. As the only GS-4 not assigned to the west coast, the other engines were naturally curious.

                            Luke had thus told them everything, from the time that he'd saved Ultz up until just a few weeks before Sarah had arrived. But he had stopped short of telling them about May. He still didn't know if he'd managed to put that ghost to rest.

                            "Hey man, it's cool if you don't want to talk about it," an F7 said to him, "It's not like her story ain't common knowledge; that Daylight's been up on the bulletin boards for as long as I can remember."

                            "Uh, from what Ah heard," drawled an E9, "She was a...uh...spy, wasn't she? So she got what she deserved."

                            "Well, I'm sure you would feel bad if you testified against one of your friends, wouldn't you?" Luke felt a rush of gratitude for Sarah's feisty defense of her friends.

                            "Y'know, reckon the lady's looks alone got me convinced," a GP9 joked.

                            "Oh, stop it!" she giggled uncharacteristically. Some of the diesels gave their buddy a wink.

                            "Um, anyway..." Luke continued his story. "A few weeks later, my sister came with that spy, Double. I'd say we, or rather, he, gave her a rather warm welcome." Over Sarah's splutters of dissent, he continued, "She's never been wrecked before, and when she got there, on her second assignment, she went off!"

                            "That wasn't my fault!" Sarah protested. There was a round of laughter, at which she blushed. Luke felt a little bad for teasing his sister, but hey, they were just making small talk. It wasn't like anyone would take anything said here seriously.

                            "Hey Luke!" Jimmy called from inside the roundhouse. "Keep it down, will ya? Some of us are trying to sleep, and we're going back home tomorrow!"

                            "Oh, right, I forgot about that! Sorry for disturbing you Jimmy." Turning to the diesels, he bid them goodnight and backed into the roundhouse while one of the others doused the engine house floodlamps. "Sis, aren't you coming?"

                            "No, I'm not going back with you. I've gotta take the Lark to LA soon."

                            "Sis, Sarah..."

                            "Don't worry Luke. We'll see each other again. I know it." In the dark night, with only the reflections of the stars and the moon to illuminate her, Luke could see why other engines thought her beautiful. Physically, she wasn't any different from him, but there was just something about her that made her paint glisten more radiantly, that made her colors highlight the sun better than everyone else's. And, of course, there was her fiery determination and big heart.

                            "Yeah," he said, knowing full well with a heavy heart that they probably wouldn't. "I'll see you around, sis. Smooth running."

                            "Goodnight, and goodbye, brother," she called as she puffed off to take her train.
                            ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                            "Not to look a gift horse in the mouth," Jimmy started the next morning as they eyed their freight train, "but we might be a slight bit overpowered."

                            "Who cares? I'll just be glad to be home again," Eric said. "What are we waiting for? Let's go, I'll take point."

                            Luke sighed and looked towards the south, still thinking about his sister. While he cared greatly about his friends, it wasn't the same as having a sibling around, and in particular one that understood him as well as Sarah. "Yeah, sure."

                            Larry was already there, having taking the Pacific Fruit Express yesterday. Tyler would be hauling the Bucketliner Daylight and thus had left for Los Angeles two days ago.

                            Eric, Jimmy, Daniel, and Luke were soon easing out of Oakland with their freight. The various engines whistled and sounded horns in salute as the famous Full Bucketniers started on their journey home, at last.
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                              #15
                              Treason: Epilogue (Chapter 12)

                              All Roads Lead Home

                              Los Angeles

                              "Sarah, wake up!"

                              "Uhh..." she mumbled.

                              "Come on, Sarah!" More mumbling.

                              Tyler sighed. He hated being like Big Mac, but...he blew his horn as loud as he could.

                              "Ahh! Don't kill me! I'm not a spy, I swear!"

                              "Good, you're finally awake," Tyler grumbled irritably. "C'mon Sarah, or we won't make it in time to take the Bucketliner."

                              Her eyes snapped open. It wasn't a dream. She really had been part of the Full Bucketniers, as the diesels in Oakland had called them. She had to admit, whatever their flaws, they were great at coming up with cool-sounding names like that.

                              Suddenly feeling much more awake, she coupled onto Tyler and his B units and they were soon ready to take the streamliner to points west.
                              ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                              When they pulled into Fort Fairfax, they decoupled from the train and entered the yard. Because UP was supposed to hand over operations to the newly-formed Full Bucket Line the next day, there was no freight or scheduled passenger service due to an operational hiatus called in the wake of Double's defeat.

                              To her surprise, she saw not only Luke and her other friends, but all the UP engines, Dylan, two Western Pacific F7s that she presumed were Collin and Emily, a trio of WP GP7s, a WP GS-64 that she realized must be Lewis, and Captain Body, Lou, and Joe were waiting in the yard.

                              "Well, the gang's all back together," Mr. Iverson said happily as Tyler pulled in.

                              "Oh, uh, there's also someone I'd like you all to meet," Tyler said evasively as he cleared the entrance to the yard.

                              "Sarah?" seven voices said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

                              "Well, since the Bucketliner is a SP train, they have to keep using SP locomotives to power it. So since all of you, including Luke and Tyler, have been transferred to the FBL, they decided to use me for the leg from Fort Fairfax to Salt Lake City. Don't worry, guys, I'll still be around to help if you need it," she promised.

                              "Wait, who's the engine that's going to take it to Los Angeles then?"

                              "Another diesel from LA," Sarah replied. Noticing their looks of concern, she quickly added, "No, no, no, he's not evil, I swear! I met him a while back; his name's Jason, and he's probably the only nice PA I've met."

                              "Well," Luke said with a smile, "Then that's that. Even if we're officially from different railroads, welcome to the family, sis."

                              They spent the rest of the afternoon making introductions and catching up on what had elapsed since they last saw each other.

                              Apparently, negotiations had taken so long because the Western Pacific, as owner of the north-south main line, had demanded a share in the new railroad, and so the new Full Bucket Line had become the child of three railroads, with UP and SP maintaining 37% ownership each and the WP taking the remaining 26%. All three railroads had contributed engines to the initial power pool, and Mr. Iverson, Mr. Strupp, and Mr. Wilsman now formed a triumvirate of controllers, with businessmen from the three railroads taking over management positions. Mr. Iverson had also been given his business train as an apology from SP.

                              In addition to Sarah, Brad, Chris, Steve, and Dan were also not officially FBL locomotives, but were used for run-through passenger trains such as the City of Salt Lake, City of Las Vegas, White Sands Zephyr, Desert Rose Special, and, of course, the legendary CZ itself.

                              And on the off chance that any other railroads would try to exploit the fledgling startup, all three railroads had agreed to permanently hire out the Full Bucket Security Company to provide...well, security. Luke had never seen Body look happier since they had caught Tucker and Eddie, almost ten years ago now.

                              The railroad's future in the Full Bucket area was not secure, not by a long shot. And they all knew it. But still, after their latest adventure, Luke had absolute confidence that the railroad would adapt and survive. At long last, the rail wars in the long-contested region had come to a definite end.

                              "Hello there," a voice hissed. Sarah, upon seeing who it was, screamed so loudly that it silenced everyone else.

                              "I'm sorry to break up this cozy little gathering, but you didn't really think I was dead, did you?" Double stood before them again. "Oho, no, not by a long shot! And I promised I'd make you all pay for this! Oh, look! How unfortunate. No sugar hoppers or sawdust cars to save you now! Prepare to be scrapped! Ladies first, Sarah!"

                              "Help!" Sarah backed away as quickly as she could while Double's body began to re-form into his infamous hammer.

                              And then his engine shut down. The three controllers emerged from the inside of Mr. Iverson's business train, looking bored.

                              "My dear Mr. Iverson, did you really think I would let someone repair loose cannon such as this one without some sort of insurance policy?" Mr. Strupp asked. Double heaved a sigh of frustration, and the tension immediately broke.

                              The former SP controller turned to Luke. "It's time."

                              He understood. "Follow me sis, you earned this one."

                              Steve and Dan were now approaching Double with the UP rotary. They stopped to have a switchman crank the massive machine up. While they were, Luke and Sarah came back with SP's own rotary, its blades already spinning.

                              Mr. Iverson turned to Double. "To kill a weed, you can't simply break it off at the stem. You have to kill it at the roots." As Double's eyes widened, he continued, "And so, we aren't simply going to terminate your roster number and job, #1313. We - " his eyes narrowed " - are terminating you."

                              Mr. Strupp fired Double's engine back up with his remote. "This is going to be fun."

                              Double immediately backed away from Steve and Dan, but Luke and Sarah were now approaching from the other side. He took a swing at them with his hammer, but the rotary simply extended its stubby wings and deflected the blow. He was trapped. The engines all shouted jeers and taunts at him as the death machines closed in.

                              "Oh f - " he never finished as the blades bit into his body simultaneously with a horrible screech that drowned out his own screams.
                              ------------ ---------- ------------ ----------
                              The next day, they got to work, the passenger engines bidding their friends farewell as they took their streamliners to their various destinations.

                              The FBL remained operated by the original Full Bucketniers until well into the 1970s, long after most steam engines and first-generation diesels had been retired on Class Is. They had quite their share of adventures during those years, some of which have been preserved in writing, but nothing lasts forever. With the unfortunate passing of Mr. Strupp and Mr. Iverson, followed by Mr. Wilsman's retirement, the controller system disappeared.

                              Over time, like all other railroads, its roster and paint schemes began to change, too. In 1960, the railroad restored Edge, Havoc, and Trap, rebuilding them to GP9 specifications and painting them in a striking new scheme of dark grey and orange. Hevy, Fives, and Echo would receive the same treatment. Collin, Emily, and Dylan would become just some of the FBL's eventually large fleet of F-units, and Tyler and his B units would become the FBL's only set of E7s. The railroad also bought more EMDs, a smattering of ALCOs, and even some Fairbanks-Morses secondhand throughout the early 1970s as their steam engine pool was gradually bumped to excursion purposes. Left in their original colors, they became a lasting tribute to the forces that had joined hands to form the railroad.

                              Speaking of them, their fates vary: Jimmy is still preserved in operational condition as SP #2467; Larry, Captain Body, and Lewis were kept by FBL for steam excursions and are currently stored; Lou and Joe are both in Union Pacific's Cheyenne shops, serving as parts sources for their famous brothers; Eric was also stored, but sold off recently to another startup railway in the Monterey area to be reborn; Connor is known today as UP #3985; Ultz is on display; Daniel became the Full Bucket Rail Historical Society's crown jewel, and Luke...has regrettably disappeared.

                              As for their friends who never were officially FBL engines, Steve and Dan are also retired in Cheyenne as parts sources, Brad and Chris have been modernized and pull UP's business train, Big Mac has been acquired by the same company as Eric, and Sarah has disappeared along with her brother. They had both been fugitives on the run from the scrapper's torch and met up, but apart from speculation, nobody knows where they are today.

                              As for the FBL itself, the road survived the hard times and flourished under de-regulation. The railroad ordered its first brand-new units, a mix of B30-7s and SD40-2s, in the early 1980s. Eventually, all manner of modern engines, from SD40s to ES44ACs, would serve the railroad. Recently, however, in a twist of fate, the FBL name has become a fallen flag.

                              A new competitor, a Class II with an insatiable appetite for growth, fueled by the rail boom of the Recovery, swallowed up the FBL in 2012, relegating its name to a switching railroad subsidiary. Even under a new name, however, the future of these tracks has never looked brighter.

                              As for the original Full Bucketniers, the diesel members remain in operation or storage today, and are still wearing FBL colors as they switch the various yards. The new owner has plans to restore the steam members, at least those that can be found today.

                              Perhaps nobody will what became of Luke and Sarah Golden State...but history has ensured they will live on forever. And as I sit here, more than half a century later, struggling to preserve their memory, listening to the sounds of their successors roam the rails nearby, I can but ponder their fates. On behalf of those elusive Daylights, wherever they may be, I thank you for your aid in preserving an obscure piece of railroading history.
                              Last edited by MP36PH3S; 10-18-2015, 10:43 PM.
                              Writer and Wolverine, among other things.
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