Police Constable Williams surveyed the scene then slightly lifted his heavy black helmet to scratch his thinning brown hair. He had worked this beat for so long, he knew it like the contents of his house. All the people were like old friends and he had a good thing going with all the factory owners.
This though….This was just something Williams didn’t know what to do about. He wrapped his fingers around the handle of his cool wooden police baton, feeling comforted by the familiarity of the weapon. Then, he looked again, trying hard to understand what his eyes were seeing.
In the middle of the busy cobblestone main street was the wreckage of an iron steam engine train. The front was wedged into the upturned pavement, the body angled up to the building above and the coal truck behind flatted against the wall. The start of the first carriage could be above, balanced on the edge but trapped in place by the coal truck. The wheels and pistons were still moving, though the train was clearly going no where.
Bricks and wood planks of the ruined factory which the train had fallen out of, lay scattered everywhere. Grey steam curled for the train’s funnel and there was the smell of burning coal and fire. People were gathered in the protection of the other buildings, looking in horror and shock. Shouts and screams echoed the Wiliams’ ears.
The sound of a police whistle brought the Williams back and he moved carefully closer to the wreckage looking to see if anyone needed assistance. He could not see much due to the raising dust and steam. The noise of the train’s wheels and pistons were loud and blocked out anybody’s cries for help.
‘Constable!’ a voice called.
Williams turned as a young man dressed in a black police uniform hurried over then stopped as he saw the unreal scene.
‘I don’t know what happened,’ Williams answered the unasked question, ‘just fetch some more help will you!’
The young constable nodded and turned away.
Running footsteps from the opposite direction caused Williams to try and appear around the steam train. Out of the mess came a group of men dressed in simple working factory clothes; dirty white shirts, black trousers, leather waist coats, gloves, flat caps and goggles.
‘It was an accident!’ one of the man cried.
Williams recognised him as Thomas Smith, the oldest son of the factory’s owner.
‘A likely story,’ Williams muttered.
‘She just shot forward and there was nothing we could do,’ Thomas explained with some wild hand gestures.
‘And what exactly where you doing?’ Williams demanded.
‘Well, we were-‘
A short man, Williams thought was called Henry Pitcher, nudged Thomas in the ribs, making him stubble over his words and go silent.
‘It’s top secret, sir!’ Henry declared loudly.
‘Well, it’s not very secret now is it,’ Williams said, pointing at the train, ‘answer me, what in the devil’s name is going on!’
‘We just experimenting…’ Thomas came back in, ‘we have all the correct permissions. I can show you.’
Williams cocked an eyebrow, not sure he truly believed that. He had had issues with this group of men before and there ‘experiments.’ It had only been little disturbances before though but they had really landed themselves in trouble.
‘That’ll be proven,’ Williams muttered, ‘can you turn that thing off?’ he asked.
The men looked up at the stream train, the wheels and pistons were still going, steam was still blowing and the sound of the gears was growing deafening.
‘Not sure,’ Henry shouted, ‘we’d have to get up there and try turning things off but the coal will have to burn out before we can really do anything.’
‘It might be too dangerous,’ another man spoke out.
Williams would just have to take his word for it, he didn’t know anything about this new metal monsters, just that he was keen on them.
‘Well, I guess we’ll have to try and get it down,’ Williams mused.
‘Leave it to us, sir,’ Thomas said and the men started to scatter around the steam train.
Soon enough, other police arrived and the crowd had grown larger. Some plan was put in place and with the strength of many men and horses, the train pistons were stopped and whole thing was lowered on to it’s side in the street. The coal truck was also lowered but it was too crushed to be saved.
The night was arriving and with the loss of light they had to stop. Williams lent against the wall of the building next door. It had been along day and he was ready for bed. He looked up and spotted an airship flying low above the roof tops of London, parting through the clouds.
Williams started walking home, thinking; I do not know this world anymore, everything is changing too fast. I guess I had better change with it then.
(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/tale-weaver-176-june-21st-trains/ with thanks).