The old docks in Bigg City port are a haven for the gangsters and smugglers who set up residence there. Often, their activity has effects on the work of my tugs, as well as other boats around the harbour. The Navy had come down hard on criminals in Bigg City, but recently, their kind had sprung up again. However, I was determined not to let them disrupt our work and I made it clear to the Star Tugs not to have anything to do with them.
One last thing before you go, I announced one morning after the Morning Briefing, A gang of smugglers has set up residence in Bigg City by the old docks, at the back of the harbour. Ive alerted the Navy about them, but I want you all to keep out of their way until the Navy gets here. Aye aye sir, responded the tugs as one.
Not more smugglers, groaned Top Hatt, I still havent recovered over the last ones we had. Ach, dont get yer stack in a twist, grunted Big Mac, Any problems and the Navy will sort em. If not, then me n Warrior will!.
Yeah, grinned Warrior, Sort em out good n proper like.
Dont bump them too hard Warrior, giggled Sunshine. Warrior frowned, but he knew Sunshine was only teasing.
The Z-Stacks however were going completely the opposite way about things. Captain Zero knew these gangsters well, and was eager to make any kind of business with them.
Right lads, he told his Z-Stacks the same morning, Some old friends of mine have come for a visit. I want you to help them make their time in Bigg City as comfortable as possible. That means you do whatever they wish, work out a reasonable price, and let them know at once as soon as the Navy or Coastguard starts sniffing around the old docks. You got me?.
Aye sir, replied the Z-Stacks at once.
But sir, what should we say if the Navy or Coastguard does come sniffing round?, asked Zip nervously.
You tell them to shove off Zip, like you mean it!, sneered Zug.
DONT YOU DARE!, yelled Captain Zero, As a matter of fact, the only one out of all of you to go around the old docks is Zorran. He has more
experience, in the matter, eh Zorran?. Indeed Captain Zero, sir, said Zorran maliciously.
Good, said Captain Zero, Now remember, the rest of you. Dont go around the old docks if you can help it, itll look suspicious. But if you see anyone not flying a Star flag or in Navy colours, tell them Zero sent ya, and youll be fine.
Will do sir, sneered Zorran, But what about the Star Fleet?.
Oh, dont worry about them, simpered Captain Zero, Captain Starr would have told them to keep their stacks out no doubt, so we shouldnt have any bother from the likes of them.
One of the tugs jobs that day was to bring in the naval tramper Calypso. Hercules usually took care of this work, and took care of it well, but hed been called in for an urgent job up the coast, so it was down to the rest of my fleet. Big Mac, Warrior and OJ brought her in to dock, and Ten Cents and Sunshine brought the barges of supplies from the munitions factory in Bigg City. The factory itself was closer to the old docks then I would have liked the two of them to go, but I was confident that the Navy would do everything in its power to help if things got nasty.
Ten Cents was coming back for the last load. Sunshine had gone back to the Star Dock for the night, and Ten Cents was eager to get this load to Calypso as soon as possible. As he came close to the factory, he saw a tug he had never seen before, loitering around the docks. As he approached, he noticed the tug had very dirty paint, and no flag or livery around his funnel.
Must be a smuggler, Ten Cents mused to himself. As he approached, the tug looked up suddenly, revealing an eye patch and a few scars as he leered at Ten Cents.
Clear off!, he growled evilly.
Why should I?, snapped Ten Cents in retaliation, Ive got the rights to be here, Im on contract. So, youre one of them little Star Tugs eh?, enquired the tug, focusing on Ten Cents star and his flag.
Yeah, I am, replied Ten Cent, Who wants to know?.
Just askin, sneered the tug in mock innocence, and he watched as Ten Cents sail over to his barge intently, his one visible eye shing greedily at the contents of the barge.
So, continued the tug, All these munitions. Is it all going for the Navy?
And what if it is?, asked Ten Cents irritably. Just wondering where an honest tug such as meself could acquire such good quality items, said the tug innocently.
None of your business, sneered Ten Cents, Besides, what would you need it for?.
Oh, I dunno, said the other tug innocently, Just in case a mate wanted to know, and I was able to tell him.
Yeah, well I know the sort of boats your mates are!, sneered Ten Cents, And we dont take kindly to your lot round here. The tug growled and looked furious, but Ten Cents didnt care, and with a toot of his whistle, he steamed off with his barge in tow. The tug looked malevolently after Ten Cents, and growled to himself. That little switcher obviously knew something, and sooner or later, it would mean trouble for him and his mates. Only one thing to do about that.
Ten Cents delivered the munitions to the naval base, and after waiting for a lengthy inspection by the on-duty naval tug, was finally able to get back to the Star Dock. All of the tugs had done well that day, and as no other jobs had come in, I decided to let them have an early night for a change. That night however, a dark vessel was sneaking around the harbour, avoiding coastguard patrols, light sources, and any other vessels. It sailed over to the Star Dock, where Ten Cents was sleeping a little further out than usual, as he was late back. The vessel came gently up behind Ten Cents, and very carefully removed the flag from Ten Cents pole. It then reversed and steamed away as fast as it could into the murky night.
The tug made its way towards the naval dock, where the hulk of Calypso was moored. Close by were barges full of munitions that hadnt been unloaded yet. The tug untied these and towed them out a little way, leaving Ten Cents flag on the quayside close to where the barges had been. With a sneer, he looked back at his handiwork, then checked for other boats. The coast was clear. With a powerful throbbing noise, the tugs engines worked at full blast and the tugs towed the barges away from the naval dock, towards the old docks on the other side of the harbour, as fast as it could.
The next morning, I had just finished giving the tugs orders, when the Coastguard Launch motored up to our pier, with 4 vicious looking naval tugs in tow. I recognised one of them instantly as Bluenose, who scanned the pier fiercely, scrutinising each tug as he did so.
Attention! ATTENTION!, he snapped, shoving past Top Hat and O.J.
I say now, whats going on!, I called down to our visitors.
My apologies sir, replied the Coastguard, But were here on official business, in regards to the theft of naval supplies from Naval Tramper Calypso.
I see, well whats that got to do with my tugs?, I replied, fearing the worst.
We strongly suspect that one of your vessels may have been involved, replied the Coastguard coolly. There was an outcry of angry shouts and whistles at this. I ordered silence, then turned back to the Coastguard
There must be some mistake!, I protested, My tugs would never go about stealing, from anyone. If its thieves youre looked for, Id suggest you pay Captain Zero a vis
There he is sir!, boomed Bluenose triumphantly, He without a star flag on his pole sir. Ten Cents he is sir!.
I see him Bluenose, please fall back, said the Coastguard calmly. He looked hard at Ten Cents.
Ten Cents, he said seriously, I need you to come with us please.
no, it wasnt me!, protested Ten Cents, I dropped off the last barge last night and that was the last time I was at the Naval Dock.
Ah, be that as it may, replied Bluenose coolly, We have in our possession, evidence to suggest otherwise. This flag for instance. He moved slightly starboard, and there, tied to his bow, was a red Star Fleet flag, lying limply on his deck.
And as you are the only Star Tug without a flag, continued Bluenose, The evidence for the crime all points to you!. Sunshine peered at the flag. It looked like Ten Cents, with the extra patches from where it had been burnt in the munitions explosion months ago, the same worn out look that still carried some degree of pride despite its appearance. Bluenose was right, the evidence he had did name Ten Cents and the thief. But Ten Cents had been accused of theft before, and had been proved innocent then as well, much to the embarrassment of the Z-Stacks. And Sunshine simply refused to believe that his best friend in the world would have stolen naval goods, not matter how much evidence the Navy brought forward.
But sir, he said to Bluenose, the huge naval tug glowering down at him fiercely.
Sir, theres no way Ten Cents would have stolen anything. I know him. Hed never take anything that wasnt his, never sir.
This is official naval business sonny, growled Bluenose, We dont have time listen to stories. What we have is a serious case of theft of our property. Simple as that.
Easy now Bluenose, said the Coastguard soothingly. He turned to Sunshine.
If you want to appear as a character witness Sunshine, then by all means do, he said, almost kindly, But until then, Ten Cents remains with us. I trust Captain Starr agrees with this.
I would, I replied, If you were dealing with a real thief. And when you discover youve got the wrong tug, Ill expect a full apology and compensation for loss of revenue, and if you dare lay a finger on Ten Cents
No sentence until proven guilty Captain, replied the Coastguard curtly, Mister Bluenose, if you will.
Aye aye sir, replied Bluenose gleefully. He began to sail towards Ten Cents, but before he got close enough to lay a line on him, Warrior and Big Mac veered in front, blocking his way, both revving their engines and blowing their whistles defiantly.
Just try it Bluenose, growled Big Mac menacingly, You so much as come an inch closer, and Ill
Youll what?, sneered Bluenose, Tis a punishable offense, striking a Navy tug. As is impeding one in his line of duty.
Yeah, well Ten Cents is one of ours, replied Warrior firmly, And if you want him, you have to go through us.
Now come on you two, said the Coastguard, If you dont move Ill have to arrest you too. Warrior and Big Mac still didnt move, but then they looked as Ten Cents spoke out.
Its ok Warrior. Big Mac, leave him, he said quietly. Warrior looked from Big Mac to Ten Cents,confused, and then steamed back in defeat. Big Mac however, was defiant.
Ten Cents, you canne let him take ye, he said urgently, These Navy boys dont listen to reason, theyll cart ye off ter some place where theyll use ye fer gunnery practise! Thats what they were goin tae do ter Grampus, remember?.
How could I forget?, replied Ten Cents, with a vague hint of a smile, Dont worry Big Mac, Ill be fine. Just carry on and dont worry about me. Big Mac looked hard at the little switcher, and then backed off. Bluenose started again, but then he stopped. This time, it was Sunshine who was in the way. He stood, glaring at Bluenose darkly, not moving.
Move now, said Bluenose curtly, but Sunshine continued to glare.
I said move!, barked Bluenose, giving a blast on his whistle to add to the effect, but still Sunshine did not move.
Sunshine, I called, Get out of the way, now. Youll be in trouble also, now come on. Still, Sunshine stayed where he was, staring defiantly up at the officious tugboat.
Sunshine, said Ten Cents softly.
Yes, said Sunshine quickly, whipping around. Ten Cents was smiling benignly, looking down at Sunshine in a brotherly way.
Dont worry Sunshine, he said softly, Ill be back. You can bet on it.
Ten Cents?, said Sunshine thickly, holding back tears.
Come on lad, said a soft voice that belonged to O.J., Ten Cents knows that hes doing. Come on now. Slowly, reluctantly, Sunshine came away. He looked back at Ten Cents, imploring him not to go, but he knew it was futile, the Navy was too strong.
If you lay a finger on Ten Cents
, I said again.
Well make sure hes well treated Captain, rest assured, said the Coastguard, As you were Mister Bluenose!.
Thank you sir, replied Bluenose, who had dragged Ten Cents back to the rest of the Navy Tugs, Prisoner and Escort
FALL IN!. The tugs moved in so that they surrounded Ten Cents, who was stuck in the middle, but looked fixedly forwards.
Ten Cents!, I called after him, Dont say anything until I get over to Naval HQ with a lawyer lad, understand?.
Aye aye Captain, replied Ten Cents, almost cheerily, although it was impossible to be cheerful, the situation he was in. If he was found guilty of the charges the Navy had presented, he would be in trouble, more trouble than even his fellow tugs could help him out of. As though to reassure the other Star Tugs, he gave a blast on his whistle as he was led away. This was responded by a chorus of whistles and hooters from the rest of my fleet, each note a call of encouragement for the little switcher. However Sunshine, I noticed, remained silent throughout. Staring down at his deck in a state of utter misery. Suddenly, as Ten Cents was a fair distance away, Sunshine sped out from our pier, and blasted his whistle, loudly and clearly, so that it echoed all over the harbour.
TEN CENTS!, he yelled, tears splashing down his face, onto his deck. Ten Cents looked back, and responded with an equally long sound on his whistle. Sunshine stopped, crying hard, in the middle of the harbour, with his best friend being dragged away by thugs, to who knew what fate.
In the next few minutes that followed Ten Cents arrest, the whole of the Star Fleet was in uproar. Work was forgotten, competition for contracts was shoved aside as the fleet expressed their utter outrage at Ten Cents arrest. I promised them Id get to the bottom of it as soon as I could, but even so, the Star Tugs were enraged at the Navys behaviour.
Bluenose has really done it this time, growled O.J., Fancy accusing Ten Cents of theft. Of all the things the Navys done over the years
I bet Zorran had something to do with it, said Big Mac fiercely, Itd be just like him as well.
Poor little Ten Cents, said Warrior glumly, Being taken off like that. Poor little guy. Everyone began voice their opinions, apart from two of the tugs. Sunshine, understandably, was silent as he sat between O.J. and the side of the dock. But Top Hatt, I noticed, was staying silent, a thoughtful expression on his face.
Whats with you, asked Big Mac suspiciously.
Well, its just, this isnt the first time Ten Cents has been accused of a crime, said Top Hatt slowly.
Yer point?, growled Big Mac. Knowing Top Hatt, it couldnt be anything that would go down too well with his shipmates.
Well, like I said, hes been accused of this thing before, said Top Hatt airily, not making eye contact with the furious glares from Warrior and Big Mac, And I was thinking, what if this time, it actually is him?. The response from the rest of the tugs was just as predicted. It was as though someone was playing a recording of the noise that had come when Ten Cents was taken.
You take that back right now Top Hatt, or I swear Ill ram you against that pier until you turn to matchsticks!, snarled Big Mac, revving his engines furiously, causing wakes that made the other tugs sway and bob about like corks.
I say, its just my opinion, said Top Hatt defensively, Unless it was you who stole the barges Big Mac, and are sticking up for Ten Cents to cover your own tracks. Big Mac whistled in fury, and started towards Top Hatt, a look of pure fury in his eyes. But before he could get any closer, Sunshine darted in front, and whistled defiantly at him. Sunshine, move!, said Big Mac, Im gonna send him to the bottom of the harbour like an anchor unless he takes that back!.
Yeah, and you and I both know that thats never gonna happen Big Mac, said Sunshine quietly, Now come on, we must stick together if were going to pull through this. Its what Ten Cents would want, he finished softly. Big Mac looked intently at Sunshine, and cut his engine.
Youre right Sunshine, he said gruffly, Sorry.
Sunshines right, put in O.J., Its important that we carry on as usual. Thats the best way we can help Captain Starr, for now anyway. They all agreed instantly, and all disputes were forgotten in that short space of time.
Right, wed best get off to work then, suggested Warrior, Lord Stinker will be waitin. He steamed off. One by one, the other tugs set off as well. Top Hatt left to collect Frank and Eddie from the station. Big Mac went to collect a new set of girders from the steel works, and O.J., after making sure Sunshine was ok, left himself to run errands for the Bigg City Fire Department with Fire Tug. Sunshine was left to collect barges of mud from Scuttlebutt Pete, but his mind was racing. Who had accused Ten Cents of theft. And more importantly, why?