oh dear. I’m sorry…

I do apologise for the story below, all I can say in mitigation is that Chuck made me do it. This took about an hour to write and you can probably tell right?

This story is basically Thomas the Tank Engine meets Die Hard

“Why me?” It was the perennial question Bruce Topham would ask himself as he found himself charged with another impossible job to save the world, or at least a medium sized city from yet another lone terrorist madman with a dodgy accent.

He sighed and banked the electric hang-glider following the curve of the railway a few hundred feet below.

“Did I just hear you sigh?” Asked Wanda over his earpiece.

“How could you hear a sigh over the rushing wind and the screaming train below?”

“Hmm, fair point. What’s your ETA with Percy?”

“I’m going to hit the target carriage in about 25 seconds, maintain radio silence until then.”

Wanda didn’t reply, Maintaining radio silence. She was a good girl really Bruce thought as he swung his legs out of the sling and pulled up his knees ready to release his shoulder straps and drop onto the roof of the third carriage from the front.

He was down, hitting the carriage with a thud and dropping to a crouch, boots absorbing much of the impact as the now pilot less hang-glider spiralled away and off to the West.

The government had introduced driverless trains in ’23 to undermine and eventually smash the driver’s union. By ’32 the trains had formed their own union and after a political campaign achieved citizenship for themselves by ’35.

Bruce Topham was the rail companies foremost trouble shooter, which mainly consisted of negotiating with the trains over new routes and shift changes when local managers had stirred things up and caused upset among the rolling stock.

Sometimes though he had to put his twenty years in the Marines into practice.

All this exposition ran through his mind as he clambered down the ladder at the end of the carriage and into the open window at the back of the second carriage.

“Bruce, is that you Bruce?” Percy’s voice echoed over the PA.

“Sssh, Bruce waved at the nearest CCTV camera, hushing Percy.”

“Bruce, I’m really scared, please help me Bruce.”

Bruce hissed into his throat mic to get Wanda’s attention, “can you radio Percy and tell him to shut up and stop looking at me?” He had a feeling Percy’s systems had been hacked.

Wanda didn’t reply, but she didn’t need to. Bruce knew she would do as she was asked. He would have to remember to buy her some flowers after this, it had been a while and women needed these things now and again to keep them sweet .

Bruce ran through the carriage, looking down the foot wells between the empty seats just in case but there was nothing, the carriage was empty.

The VT from Percy had shown an empty train. Which is what suggested to Bruce that the train’s systems had been compromised.

He peered through the window in the connecting door between carriages. Sure enough there was a tall muscular blond man clad in black combat gear and webbing on the other side of the door peering back at him with a Teutonic frown. There always was.

Bruce raised his pistol and shot point blank through the glass the bullet punched through two layers of safety glass and thudded into the thug’s forehead before he could bring his own massive rifle to bear on the problem.

Bruce shoved the door open and stepped through tramping over the fresh corpse.

“Stop, don’t move one step further, or I’ll blow us all to kingdom come.” Shouted a familiar, harsh catarrh drenched accent.

“Ringo Starkey.” Bruce mumbled through clenched lips.

The man at the end of the carriage, also clad in black combat gear, with a beard, pony-tail and receding hairline grinned at Bruce. His torso was wrapped in what looked like futuristic sticks of dynamite and there was a timer visible on his chest. He had an Uzi in one hand and a remote control in the other.

“If you come near me,” shouted the former head of the train drivers union. “I will release the deadman’s switch and we will all go up, thanks to this experimental nuclear device I’ve strapped to my body.”

“Why are you doing this Ringo? Didn’t you retire with a nice pension?”

“Ha. Do you know what it’s like being a skilled worker who has his livelihood, his status in society, taken by a glorified pocket calculator sellotaped to the very thing you used to drive?”

“Bruce, Bruce. Can you hear me?” Percy’s voice whispered over his earpiece.

Bruce nodded very slightly.

“OK Bruce, I’ve bypassed the trojans Starkey injected into my system. They’re now watching a recording of him and his henchman waiting for you.”

Wanda’s voice now broke in over the earpiece. “Bruce, we need you to distract Starkey while we line him up then you’re…” Bruce let her words sink in while he tuned back in to what the Scouse with a score to settle was droning on about.

“So you see Bruce, I’ve decided to start a war. A war with the Artificial Intelligences that are slowly replacing us, making us defunct. You know that eventually with a little help from his friends Percy will be wiping us out and inheriting the Earth.”

“No I won’t” whispered Percy furiously.

“No you won’t.” Starkey grinned. “You bright green idiot, I’ve been monitoring your conversation since the beginning. Our sacrifice today will be the first salvo in the war of human liberation. Choo, choo choo choo” He released the switch.

The few bits of Bruce Topham that could be found were buried with full military honours at the railway company cemetery outside Anaheim.

Percy was was recycled into a number of brainless muscle cars.

The Poor Percy incident as it later became known was the excuse the government needed to introduce more restrictions on inter-city travel.