Mortal Engines Wiki

Traction City is a short story written for World Book Day 2011. It details the actions of a policeman in the under tiers of London on the hunt for a stalker.  A young Anna Fang explores her early life.

This story would later be rewritten as the short story Traction City Blues in the Night Flights compilation of stories released in 2018.


Smiff is an orphan who lives on the lowest tier of London and scavenges for items which have fallen through the cracks from higher tiers. Whilst searching in London's womb for items he witnesses a murder where the attacker has removed the right hand. Whilst not a fan of the police, Smiff goes to the airdock green police station where a teenage Anna Fang has just been arrested by Corporal Nutter as an Anti-Tractionist saboteur for carrying an explosive device. Smiff explains about the murder to Sergeant Anders who alongside Nutter leaves to investigate the murder and come across the culprit which turns out to be a stalker. Meanwhile Constable Pym searches the records for similar incidents and find several reports about accidents which have occurred within a fortnight where the right hand has been removed and concludes that they weren't accidents but murders by the same killer. Anders and Nutter return to the police station where Anna Fang explains that she has been following the Stalker called The Collector, who she wants to recruit to the Anti-tractionist cause. 

When asked why she feels The Collector wouldn't just attack her she talks about Shrike, another stalker who is a bounty hunter who refuses to harm children (like her). Concluding that it is highly likely that this is true given the fact that Smiff survived his encounter with The Collector, he decides to use Anna as bait to give himself and Nutter enough time to strap the explosive device she was found with to the stalker. Along the way they find a dead apprentice engineer with a missing right hand who is younger than Anna Fang. They are surrounded by a group of Engineers who are a powerful guild in London. The Engineers explain that they brought The Collector on to London in order to see if they could use stalkers as soldiers but lost control of The Collector. Afterwards the head of the engineers orders the death of the two police officers and Anna but Smiff who had followed Anders throws a tin and shouts explosive scattering the engineers giving the group time to run and get find cover. The engineers who have regrouped and are charging towards the group are killed by The Collector who proceeds to chop of the right hands and see if they are a suitable replacement for its own missing hand. Concluding that the right hands aren't a match The Collector heads towards the group but Anders begins trying to talk to it hoping to sacrifice himself to give the other time to escape, but as he steps out he remembers Anna's explosive which they had bought along and talking to The Collector he manages to distract him long enough to strap the explosive to him and escape. Afterwards he allows Anna Fang to escape, telling her to travel to the Anti-Traction League and allowing Smiff to stay at the station.


  • The book has an aggregated rating of 4 stars on Goodreads [1]
  • "Traction City Blues" in the short story collection Night Flights is based upon this story.


  1. Template:Cite web
Mortal Engines Series
Fever CrumbA Web of AirScrivener's Moon
Traction CityThe Haunted SkyNight Flights
In the Bleak Midwinter
Mortal EnginesPredator's GoldInfernal DevicesA Darkling Plain
The Traction CodexThe Illustrated World of Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines (film)