Burke and Blair, the two scrap merchants in Bigg City, were always on the lookout for old or useless boats to takeaway to their breakers yard up river. They had made me countless offers for OJ, but he was staying put for the time being. But I can clearly re-call a time when one of my tugs thought they were next on their list.
It was that time of year in the heat of summer that Burke and Blair had been around looking for easy prey. One morning, Ten Cents and Sunshine had been sent up river to the sawmills with OJ. Not only did we have a contract with the sawmill owners, but I wanted to keep OJ out of Burke and Blairs way while they were sniffing around. Well, thats the last barge loaded, said Ten Cents, as the planks of timber on his barge were firmly tied down. Phew, thanks lads, I couldnt have done it myself, said OJ gratefully. It was nothing OJ, said Sunshine, We had to anyway, Captain Starrs orders were that we had to help you with the timber. Help, more like protect, chuckled OJ. Well you know how much he doesnt trust Burke and Blair, said Ten Cents, Come to think of it, I wouldnt put it past them to slip a line on you and drag you off to their yard while you were dozing. Doesnt bear thinking about, said OJ grimly, Now, lets get this load down to the railway dock, you now how impatient Puffer can be. Alright, lets go, said Ten Cents. I would go too, but Captain Starr said he wanted to see me when the timber was loaded, said he had something important to say, said Sunshine proudly. Well Im sure well manage Sunshine, said OJ, Youd better go, otherwise he might sell you to the scrap merchants. Not me he wouldnt, chuckled Sunshine, and he steamed down the river towards Bigg City.
Burke and Blair had come to me about something that didnt even involve selling OJ, or anyone of my tugs! I was surprised at this, but I relented. They had the contract to scrap an offshore oil rig in the estuary, and wanted the loan of one of my tugs to carry away the pieces of scrap. Hercules had a contract up the coast. Warrior and Big Mac were busy towing barges for the steel company. Top Hatt was doing ferry trips around the port, and Ten Cents and OJ would be busy up river with the timber runs, so it would have to be Sunshine, even though he would have been needed up at the mills. Sunshine himself came close to the Star Dock just as we were finalising the details. He saw that we were talking, so anchored out a bit to wait until we were finished. What he heard from our conversation made him shiver from stack to stern. So, its settled then, we get Sunshine, you get a fair piece of income, and the deals a deal, said Burke. Alright ,alright, I said angrily, I really dont want to do this, hes one of my best tugs. Ah yes, but youll benefit well from it, dont forget Captain Starr, said Blair greasily. Well keep our word if you keep yours. We get Sunshine, you get a good contract, and well leave it at that. Sunshine couldnt bear to hear anymore. Lifting up his anchor, he turned and set off at full steam. Where, he didnt know, but he was heading to the far side of the port, to hide out for as long as he needed.
Ten Cents and OJ came steaming into the pier, having delivered the last of the timber. They had come back looking for new orders, as they were sure Burke and Blair were well away by now. Captain Starr sir, is there anything else we can do?, called Ten Cents. Not at the minute, but has anyone of you seen Sunshine, I asked, He was supposed to be here two hours ago, and its not like him to be late like this. I havent seen him since he left the sawmill, said Ten Cents thoughtfully. Hes probably run out of steam or something, said OJ, Me and Ten Cents will go and find him sir. Make sure you do, and get him back here soon, I said.
So OJ and Ten Cents steamed off to find Sunshine. They looked all over the harbour, but no sign of the little switcher. They met the other Star tugs while they were out looking, but they hadnt seen him either. In the end, all the tugs, apart from Hercules, who was still up the coast, came back to the Star Dock with the sad news. Right, we need to find Sunshine, and find him soon, I said to the tugs, Well form a search party. Big Mac and Warrior, go to the corners of the harbour, the warehouses, old docks, those kinds of places. Aye-aye sir, said the two harbour tugs. Top Hatt, go out into the estuary, look everywhere, all the places he could be, even as far out as Lillie. Oh I suppose I must go, drawled Top Hatt. Yes you must!, I snapped back, OJ, search around the waterways and canals of the harbour, and Ten Cents, see he gets there safely, then to around and ask others if theyd seen him, including the Z-Stacks, I said. Yes Captain Starr sir, said Ten Cents, and he and OJ set off for the canal.
When Ten Cents and OJ arrived at the canal, they departed, OJ went to look around the canal, Ten Cents went to ask around. He asked Scuttlebutt Pete and Mighty Mo, who were working on an old building, but they hadnt seen him. He asked Grampus the Submarine. He hadnt seen Sunshine either, but said that hed help look. Ten Cents looked around, and saw some of the Z-Stacks at Luckys Yard, so he decided to ask them.
Zorran, Zip and Zug were busy filling barges with old machinery parts. Right you two, get these barges loaded and taken away, the sooner we get out of here, the better, barked Zorran. Yes sir, said Zip and Zug together, and went about their work. But as Zug made to move his barge under the crane, Zip cut across him,. The two barges collided and rocked violently, spilling some machine parts into the water. You idiots!, snarled Zorran, Well loose the contract now. Captain Zeros gonna have your boilers for this! Then he spotted Ten Cents coming towards them. Just what I need, thought Zorran, Two switchers who cant do anything without breaking something and another switcher who doesnt know when to keep out of my business. What do you want?, he demanded as Ten Cents drew up alongside. Im looking for Sunshine, said Ten Cents, Hes gone missing, you havent seen him have you?. No I havent, sneered Zorran, And anyway, I havent got time to waste by looking for other switchers, were working under contract. Oh yeah, replied Ten Cents, Sure you havent jammed a fire barge across his path like you did when Vienna was here?. Like wed do something like that, replied Zug angrily. Yeah well it wouldnt surprise me, snapped Ten Cents. Now thats not fair, began Zip, but Zorran had had enough. Will you just shut it!, he shouted at Zip and Zug, You two, get on with loading those machine parts. And as for you, he said menacingly, turning to Ten Cents, Clear off and let us get on with our work. If you want my advice, look around Luckys Yard, maybe hes been used for spare parts. Zip and Zug both sniggered, but at a furious glance from Zorran, they both continued with their work. Ten Cents steamed off angrily, but followed Zorrans advice and had a look around the repair yard. He heard the sound of an engine close by. He turned, and saw Sally the Seaplane .He whistled, and she smiled as he sailed over. Hello Ten Cents, she smiled, Whats up? Its Sunshine, said Ten Cents glumly, Hes gone missing somewhere and all the Stars are looking for him. Can I help?, asked Sally eagerly, Ive just had a new pair of engines fitted, and Id love to give them a try. Ten Cents was hit by a sudden realisation. Of course! Sally was faster than the tugs, and could see things from a greater distance. She would be essential for helping to find Sunshine. Of course you can, grinned Ten Cents, But be careful wont you?. Dont worry about me Ten Cents, giggled Sally, Ive flown across the Atlantic before, I think I can handle it. With that, she revved her engines, undid her moorings, and took off gracefully. Ten Cents watched her, and then steamed off to ask the Fire Tug if hed seen Sunshine.
Meanwhile, Sunshine had gone up river to hide. He had decided to moor up beside a dock next the railway line. He would hide there until it got dark, then head out back through Bigg City, into the open sea. He could probably find work towing fishing boats, or even work for the Navy if he could meet up one of their convoys. But he would miss Bigg City, all the friends hed made. Wise old OJ, gruff yet reliable Big Mac, clumsy yet lovable Warrior, haughty Top Hatt, strong and mysterious Hercules. But most of all Ten Cents. He would miss Ten Cents happy-go-lucky attitude, his friendly smile that kept them all going. He would miss Ten Cents dearly. Just then, he heard the sound of a whistle next to him. It was Puffer the steam train. Hed just come in with a rake of goods wagons, and was very surprised to see Sunshine there without even a barge of goods to be loaded into his trucks. Hello Sunshine, said Puffer, Whats up?. Id rather not say, said Sunshine sadly. I see, said Puffer understandingly, Bad thing was it? Aye, replied Sunshine. What happened?, repeated Puffer. Sunshine sighed. I expect youll find out soon enough, he said sadly. And he told Puffer about Captain Starrs supposed decision to scrap him. When he had finished, Puffer didnt say anything for a while. Are you sure you heard correctly, he asked. I dunno, said Sunshine, But one things for sure, Im not going back there again. So where will you go?, asked Puffer. I though Id try my luck in the Navy, said Sunshine, Or make a living towing fishing boats. A single tear trickled down his face onto his deck. Puffer felt sorry for the little tugboat, but then his trucks were loaded and he had to go. Goodbye Sunshine, he whistled as he left the station, Take care of yourself. And you, replied Sunshine, and he watched as the little train steamed noisily out of the station.
Sally was getting worried. She had been looking for nearly two hours by now, and still no sign of the little star switcher. She felt tired, and decided to land in a small lake by Mittsville, where she could rest, maybe take on some more fuel, and then set off again. As she touched down, she saw Puffer arrive with his goods train. She revved her engines to let him know she was there, and Puffer whistled in reply. Hello Puffer, said Sally as she taxied over to the jetty where Puffers trucks were being unloaded by a crane, How are you?. Fine thank you Sally, replied Puffer, And how are you? Dont see you down here very much. Well Ten Cents asked me to help find Sunshine, hes gone missing you see, said Sally. Its funny you say that, because Ive just been talking with Sunshine, said Puffer thoughtfully. What?, said Sally in surprise. Yeah, he said he was running away because Captain Starr was going to scrap him, said Puffer. Well I dont know why Sunshine would think that, said Sally, But we must let the other Star Tugs know where he is. Where did you see him Puffer? About half an hour ago at the last station, said Puffer. Right, well Ill get some more fuel, and then Ill go and find him, said Sally briskly, Puffer, can you do me a favour?. Of course I can Sally, anything, replied the little steam engine. Get to Bigg City port as fast as your wheels let you, and tell as many Star Tugs as possible that weve may have found him. Yes, right, Im on my way Sally, said puffer as he back out of the station, Ill get there in the nick of time or burst a safety valve trying!. And with much loud, urgent whistling, Puffer shot out of the station like a rocket. Sally herself taxied over to the fuel pumps, helping herself to some petrol, before taking off again.
OJ was by the coal merchants along the harbour canal, still looking for Sunshine, when he heard an urgent whistle as Puffer came shrieking into the station. Whats up with you Puffer, you sound like a runaway train, reproved OJ. I-I-Ive found Sunshine, panted puffer. What? Where? How did you know he was missing?, asked OJ. Sally Seaplane told me hed gone missing, said Puffer. Ten Cents had heard Puffers whistling, and had come over to see what was wrong. Everything ok?, he asked as he sailed over. They are now thanks to Puffer and Sally, said OJ delightedly, Sunshines been found up river. He cant be, we were working up there, we would have seen him, said Ten Cents, Well, from what he told me, I dont think you would have seen him if you didnt want you too, said Puffer, From what he told me, Captain Starr wants him scrapped. Scrapped?, exclaimed Ten Cents, That cant be right, Captain Starr would never scrap Sunshine!. Look, it doesnt matter why he ran away, whats important is that we find him, said OJ, Ten Cents, go up river with Puffer, hell show you where he last saw Sunshine. With a bit of luck, Sally would have found him by now. Ill go and tell Captain Starr. Now go. Right OJ, said Ten Cents, and using all of their steam, he and Puffer set off as fast as they could back up river.
Sunshine had since left the dock where he had moored. He was heading for the lake where he had once been trapped in a logjam. He remembered it well, and more tears splashed onto his deck. He sailed round the lake a few times, remembering other good times with the rest of the Star Fleet. Suddenly, Sunshine heard the sound of an aeroplane approaching. He looked up to see Sally the Seaplane touch down, splashing water everywhere as she came towards him. Sally, whats she doing here?, thought Sunshine to himself. Sunshine, said Sally delightedly as she taxied over to where the bewildered little switcher was, Im so glad I found you. Everyones been looking for you, theyre all really worried. Oh Sunshine, Im sure Captain Starr would never want you scrapped. I heard him with my own ears Sally, said Sunshine miserably, Hes selling me to Burke and Blair, the two scrap tugs. He never would, replied Sally, Captain Starr loves you. Im sure the only member of his fleet he would even consider scrapping would be Top Hatt, and even then it would only be a longing though. Sunshine chuckled at this, but just then, they heard an urgent whistle as Puffer raced into the station by the jetty. Su-Su-Sunshine, he panted, Ten Cents is coming up behind me, hes gonna take you back to Bigg City!. Oh no, no, no!, wailed Sunshine, Im not going back there, not where Im gonna get scrapped!. But Captain Starr wont scrap you, said Puffer comfortingly, He never would. Well, Im not gonna wait to find out, said Sunshine, and he gave a small whistled, and steamed of in the direction of the river mouth. Ten Cents appeared as if from nowhere, and used every once of steam to catch up to Sunshine. He fastened a rope on Sunshine, and held firm, holding the struggling switcher until he struggled no more. Sunshine, said Ten Cents urgently, still holding firm, Come back to Bigg City, and well talk things over with Captain Starr. He wouldnt scrap you, Im sure. You must have heard him wrong. Now please, for me, come back. Sunshine looked at Ten Cents. He could detect no sign of trickery or deception. Slowly, reluctantly, he stopped straining. I trust you Ten Cents, he said, But please dont let him scrap me. Please, he pleaded. Dont worry, smiled Ten Cents, I wont let him set Burke and Blair on you. And with that, they headed back toward Sally and Puffer. Were going back to Bigg City, announced Ten Cents, You tow coming?. Im afraid I cant, apologised Puffer, Ive gotta get back to my shed for the night. And with that, Puffer whistled a farewell, and steamed away. Ill come, said Sally, But I wont fly, itll be getting dark soon, and itd be dangerous to land in a busy harbour in the dark. So Sally started her engines and taxied along beside the two Star switcher.
Ten Cents and Sunshine soon arrived back at the Star Dock. Sally had long ago retired to her hangar for the night. All the tugs apart from Hercules were there. I was relived that Sunshine had been returned safe and sound but I was still cross with him for having ran away like that. So Sunshine, after having lead us all on a wild boat chase all over the place, what have you got to say for yourself, I asked. I heard you wanted me scrapped sir, said Sunshine bravely, although I could tell he was nervous. What gave you that idea?, I asked him. I heard you talking with Burke and Blair, something about you giving me to them for a fair piece of income, said Sunshine. Thats true, I said, But instead of selling you to them for scrap, I was thinking more of lending you to them to help towing barges of pieces from the offshore oil rig in the estuary, I said sternly. What?, asked Sunshine in surprise. The fair piece of income is what they would have paid me for letting them hire you for a few days work, I said exasperatedly, If were lucky, I may still be able to keep the contract with them. Sunshine was so relieved that he whistled out of pure joy. Thats quite enough of that, I said reprovingly, Next time I may very well scrap you, if you ever pull a stunt like this again. Now, theres a few hours of daylight left, you can take a new fuel barge to Luckys, its waiting in the canal. And just be grateful I dont put you on dredger detail for the next month. Sunshine shuddered at the thought, and scurried away to collect the fuel barge. Oh and Sunshine, I called after him. Yes sir?, said Sunshine. Im glad youre back safely. Sunshine whistled in reply, and went to fetch the fuel barge.
In the end I was still able to sign the contract with Burke and Blair. Sunshine went to work for them for a few days, and did the job very well. We all learned a valuable lesson from the experience. As for Sunshine, he learnt to listen to the whole story before making conclusions.