The day before his team’s departure, Richard decided to speak with Thundercracker. He arrived at his Transformer-sized house and pressed the doorbell. The door opened and Thundercracker looked down to see Richard. “…Mr. Saunders,” he greeted.
“Thundercracker, we need to get some things clear,” said Richard. “I know Optimus and the other Autobots vouch for you and your colleagues, but your old boss used my wife as a bargaining chip and there are too many universes where the Decepticons are a treacherous bunch. I want to be proven wrong about your colleagues.”
“Then you will be. I trust you will make no decisions based on the generalizations of Decepticons?”
“I will at least try not to.”
“…I suppose I can’t ask for more than that. In that case, I will see you tomorrow.”
“See you then.” Thundercracker closed the door and Richard left.
The day finally came. Amy, Azuliterii, Blackarachnia, Brittney, Daniel, Emma, Endram, Falnii, Flora, Glanthel, Goldbug, Hanako, Hejema, Irina, Kaitlyn, Kong, Richard, Sira, Swalmu, Teletraan, Thundercracker, Wilson, and Yufantel at After Academy’s main square and were given their goodbyes. Their friends and families had gathered to wish them well. “Come back safe!” called Megumi.
“And keep out of trouble!” called Kaede to Kaitlyn. “We don’t need a repeat of the Els Weir incident
“Don’t remind me!” grunted Kaitlyn.
“Teletraan, Glanthel, do you two have a means of concealing your ship forms?” Richard asked the two. “The people there aren’t used to talking machines your size.”
“I’ve got a body I can pilot,” replied Teletraan over the comms as the Ark and Glanthelantir hovered overhead. “Its maximum range is 124 miles. I should be good.”
“And I don’t need to stay near the ship for it to function,” assured Glanthel.
“Then I have one more question for everyone,” said Richard as he turned to his team. “What’s blue, green, red, and goes ‘Peep Peep!’?”
“A parrot,” replied Amy. “And you mean ‘Chirp Chirp’.”
“No, I don’t,” corrected Richard. “Let’s board our ships and you’ll see what I mean.” Everyone was beamed into the two ships and a ship-sized rift opened. The ships then flew into the rift, and it shut behind them.
The ships arrived over a landmass. Teletraan got Glanthel on the line. “Current geographic markers indicate we’re somewhere in the Irish sea between the Isle of Man and the English Mainland’s southern shores,” he said.
“I’m not exactly familiar with those land markers,” replied Glanthel.
“…Ah, here we are. Basically, the people in these parts sound like Elves from your world.”
“What’s the landmass below us?” Teletraan’s eyes widened.
“…A landmass that hosts many a railfan’s childhood hero! We better find a good, camouflaged spot to land!” The two ships then found an area on the landmass’s northeastern part.
A tank engine was completing his morning passenger run at the station of Ffarquhar at the end of his line. and was ready to turn around for the return journey. He was painted blue, had a number one on his side tanks, had six small wheels, a short stumpy boiler, a short stumpy funnel, and a short stumpy dome. There was also something he had, something most vehicles on his island had, a face on the front. Right now, his face was one of contentment. “Another successful run, in my opinion,” he said to his two coaches.
“You’re quite sure?” asked the coach directly behind him. She had her name, Annie, painted near her wheels.
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic!” said her sister coach, her name reading Clarabel. “It was the usual passenger run for Thomas. No accidents and no races with Bertie.”
“A pity,” mused the tank engine, the famous Thomas the Tank Engine, “I would have enjoyed a race with him.”
“You know what the Fat Controller’s grandfather said about going at high speeds like that,” remarked Annie. “I’m quite sure the current one will say the same thing.”
“She’s quite right, Thomas,” boomed a voice. A stout, well-dressed gentleman in a top hat then approached the platform. This was the manager of Thomas’ railway, Sir Stephen Topham Hatt, the third Fat Controller. “Still, it’s nice to know that your run was uneventful. Heaven knows we could do with uneventfulness these days.”
“You’re not wrong there, Sir,” agreed Thomas. “The trucks have been acting up more than usual, tools and baggage have gone missing, trains have been delayed on all the island’s railways. If I might be a bit paranoid, I’d call it sabotage.”
“Unfortunately, the other Controllers think so too. Has anything happened to you specifically?”
“No, Sir, but I’m waiting for the firebars to drop.”
“As are the others, I’m afraid. Well, keep a lookout for any unusual activity.”
“Excuse me!” Clarabel called to a group of people approaching her. “You’re not allowed on railway property!”
“And there it is,” groaned Thomas.
“I’ll handle this,” assured the Fat Controller. He got off the platform and onto the tracks behind the train. “And what, pray tell, is your…oh no.” He saw that the group consisted of Richard, Irina, Amy, Azuliterii, Hanako, Thundercracker’s holo-form, and Hejema. He recognized Richard right off the bat.
“Sir Topham Hatt!” cheered Richard. “I’m glad we caught you! How’s the railway?”
“We’re doing well,” replied the Fat Controller in a short manner. “Might I ask what you think you’re doing here?”
“Sir, you can’t be holding a grudge, can you?”
“Your American style of partying resulted in my office being destroyed!”
“We had a good laugh about it, didn’t we?”
“I recall that you were the only one laughing in your drunken stupor, Mr. Saunders. Your wife looked horribly embarrassed, and rightfully so. I trust the F.N.S’ absence from this island has made you see sense?”
“Don’t worry, Sir,” assured Azuliterii, “there won’t be any incidents like that again.”
“Ah, Lady Azuliterii! Good to see you!” The Fat Controller’s demeanor was more friendly. “I must admit, after Edward won the Light of Zalmath, I didn’t think we’d see a Chizaran again.”
“How is the Light, if I might ask?”
“It’s currently under Lady Bounty’s care.”
“So, you DO know where she is?” asked Richard.
“…I see, your business lies with her,” realized the Fat Controller.
“There’s an enemy of ours that’s making a grab for Bounty and her sisters, specifically, their Sources. We need Bounty to come with us.”
“And how would that protect her from this enemy?”
“She’d have friends that knows how her potential kidnapper thinks.”
“I see. Well, there IS a slight problem with her ability to come.”
“She has become a valuable member of my staff.”
“If you want to know the specifics of where she lives and what job she has, you and your friends will have to prove yourselves.”
“By working for the various railways on this island. There are plenty of job openings.”
“That might be an issue with members of my team like Thundercracker over there.” Richard gestured to the Decepticon.
“Why, pray tell?” asked the Fat Controller.
“…I’d rather demonstrate why without prying eyes,” replied Richard. “Would you come with us to our landing site?”
“…Very well. In the meantime, Thomas, did I miss hearing your-?” The Guard’s whistle then blew as Thomas and his coaches were turned around for the return journey.
“No, Sir, you didn’t,” replied as he whistled his intentions to get underway. “Must be off, Sir! Bye!”
“Good running, Thomas!” wished the Fat Controller. He then turned to Richard and his group. “Now, shall we?”
“This way, Sir,” directed Richard as he led the way.
They all arrived in a clearing where the Ark and Glanthelantir were resting. Everyone else had already disembarked. “Sir Topham Hatt, meet my team,” introduced Richard.
“…There is a giant gorilla among this lot,” remarked the Fat Controller.
“And he talks,” replied Richard.
“…Does he?” The Fat Controller was questioning Richard’s sanity.
“I do, Sir,” replied Kong. Now the Fat Controller was questioning his own sanity.
“You’re all right, I promise,” assured Richard. “Now, Blackarachnia, Goldbug, Kong Primal, and Thundercracker, transform, please.”
“Goldbug Magnus, TRANSFORM!”
“Kong Primal, MAXIMIZE!”
“Thundercracker, TRANSFORM!” The four bots then changed into robot mode, startling the Fat Controller.
“That’s the issue I was talking about,” explained Richard. “I don’t think there’s any employment options for them and their vehicle modes aren’t exactly ones that would fit in with modern Sudrian vehicles. Glanthel and Teletraan can certainly work for the island, but-”
“Then your robotic friends can stay near the ships,” replied the Fat Controller once he recovered. “The rest of you will meet myself and the other Railway Controllers for your duties. I expect you at Knapford at 7AM SHARP. We all need workers who are punctual. Good day, ladies and gentlemen.” The Fat Controller turned and walked back to Ffarquhar, where his car was parked.
“…Richard, what was that about?” asked Flora.
“Bounty’s working for Sir Topham Hatt’s railway,” explained Richard. “If we want her to come with us, we need to prove we’re…Really Useful, as many a Controller on this island would say. To do that, we have to work for the railways. Now, there aren’t any job openings for the Transformers, so they need to stay by the ships and be on the lookout for enemy activity. The rest of us will divide into teams and keep watch while we work on the railways. Teletraan, do you have the telemetry data on the island?”
“Got the geography and the railways marked up,” replied Teletraan as a holographic map appeared. Four sets of lines appeared, outlining the railways’ locations.
“All right, we’ll divide into five teams. Team Watchdog will consist of Thundercracker, Kong, Blackarachnia, and Goldbug. As mentioned, they’ll be on monitor duty in the ships. Goldbug, you’re in charge. Team NWR will consist of Amy, Azuliterii, Kaitlyn, myself, and Teletraan. We’ll be working under Sir Topham Hatt, the Fat Controller. Brittney, Daniel, Flora, Hanako, and Swalmu will be Team SKR and will work on the Skarloey Narrow Gauge Railway under Mr. Percival, the Thin Controller. Emma, Falnii, Hejema, and Wilson will be the members of Team AMR. They’ll work on the Arlesdale Railway under the management of Mr. Fergus Duncan, the Small Controller. That leaves Endram, Glanthel, Irina, Sira, and Yufantel as Team CFR. You five will be working on the Culdee Fell Railway under Mr. Walter Richards, the Manager. Be on the lookout for any suspicious characters. We can’t afford to screw this up. We NEED to be Really Useful.”