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    "If you're sure you're not too tired." Sophronia really was worried about him. He looked so exhausted.

    "I'd rathe...olid block of sleep later."

    Sophronia said, "Very well, then, I'll take second."

    Sidheag agreed to third and Dimity fourth. Dusty said he'd take fifth, unfamiliar with the division of two-hour watches.

    Sidheag said kindly, "There is no fifth, but you've been doing all the stoking and aren't even part of our operation. You should sleep the full night."

    "We're most grateful for all your help, by the way, Mr. Dusty," added Sophronia.

    "And I'll make it worth your while once we get to Scotland," said Sidheag.

    Dusty look embarrassed as everyone turned appreciative attention upon him.

    "What would you like?" continued Sidheag. "Position at the castle?"

    Dusty said, blushing, "Oh, now, Mr. Sid, I'm quite happy a...toker."

    "Very well, then, we will try to arrange matters so our making off with this train doesn't affect your stoking career in any detrimental manner," said Sophronia.

    Dusty looked confused by the long words but disposed to be amenable.

    Monique said, from the doorway where she sat hunkered under Dimity's watchful gaze, "You won't be working fo...ampire-run operation ever again, that's for certain."

    Dusty looked ashamed.

    "Don't you worry," said Sidheag, turning her nose up at Monique, "I'll make certain the werewolves look after you."

    Dusty said, "Never knew I'd end up mixed up with the supernatural simply becaus...ot to stoking the wrong train at the wrong time."

    "Good stokers are hard to come by," said Soap, "valuable asset and don't you forget it."

    Sidheag agreed with him, slapping Dusty on the shoulder, causin...uff of black dust to rise into the air.

    "Thanks, lads," said Dusty, dipping his head to hide his pleasure.

    After that, they let themselves down and trailed off to various coaches. Now that they had all six carriages to themselves, they considered each occupyin...eparate coach i...ind of private hotel scenario. But in the end, they decided it was better to stick together. While Soap sat first watch, Monique safely trussed up in the cab, Dusty and Sidheag slept in one coach with Dimity and Sophronia in the next one down. They chose the carriage closest to the locomotive so that they could hear Soap shout if anything untoward occurred. Bumbersnoot stayed in the cab, where Soap could keep an eye on him and his overindulgence.

    Dimity might have protested that Sidheag should not be alone with Dusty, even if it wa...irst-class conveyance, but as far as they could tell, Dusty still had no idea they were girls. Should anyone hear any details of this escapade, Sidheag's reputation would be ruined, if being alone with Captain Niall hadn't already done the trick. Sophronia was eager fo...oment alone with Sidheag to learn more on that particular situation, as Sidheag and the good captain seemed to have gotten close. Unfortunately, Sophronia suspected even she didn't have the necessary competence to extract information on Sidheag's finer feelings from Sidheag. The girl could be remarkably tight-lipped. Frustrating, as other people's finer feelings were fun to talk about.

    After such an exciting day, Sophronia thought she would fall asleep easily, but her mind whirred lik...echanical. She stared up at the ceiling of the coach, thinking about the vampires, and Picklemen, and Felix, and Soap.

    She thought Dimity was asleep already until her friend spoke into the silence. "Will Felix come back to you, do you think?"

    "Oh, Dimity, he won't do, not for me...ried to make him over but he'...ress in the wrong size no matter wha...o."

    "But Sophronia, he'...uke's son."

    "He'...ickleman's son." An...egret letting him get close. Why wa...o taken by those blue eyes...onder if, all along, it was Felix who thought he could change me.

    "Not one for the Picklemen, then?"

    "I simply feel that world domination is not my cup of tea. Is that shortsighted?"

    "No...hought you might decide against them."

    "You did, why?"

    "They don't feel Sophronia-ish. Something about those green-banded top hats...ean, how silly would you look i...reen-banded top hat?"

    "No one sai...ould have to wear one. They shouldn't have started with me right from the beginning, if they hadn't tried for the prototype..."

    "So are we going to work with the vampires in this? Join up with Monique?"

    Sophronia shuddered. "What an unpleasant thought."

    "You're not the one they kidnapped."

    "Exactly! It feels equally wrong to help them."

    "But we can't go up against everyone, either. We haven't even finished properly yet." Dimity sounded small and pathetic.

    "No, but we can manipulate them to annihilate one another. I'm not sure how quite yet, but I'll think on it. There's always my vampire friend."

    "Felix won't like it if you annihilate his father."

    "I told you it wasn't going to work. Can't bas...arriage on annihilation, not even when one is an intelligencer and the othe...ickleman."

    "No"-Dimity was philosophical-"I suppose you can't. It's too bad...hought you rather liked him."

    ...
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