Battleshed Diaries

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Warehouse: part two

Captain Smyth tries to help defend Dakota





Captain William Smyth, late of the Grenadier Guards, had got the morbs. Shouldering his Martini–Henry rifle, he absently trudged towards the plank and batten doors barring the entrance to the dilapidated industrial warehouse.

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    He was completely baffled as to why his new civilian employer, Lord Curr, had selected someone of his calibre for such a menial mission. Surely that barely comprehensible Geordie...what was his name? Cartwright, and his equally coarse gin-swilling associates would have been perfectly capable for the task at hand? If the Peer wanted to make a show of force then he'd bloody succeeded in that endeavour at least! Turning up in an armoured omnibus and then debarking in poor order was hardly keeping a low profile. It was tactical incompetence by God! And that Indian strongman, with his enormously indiscreet weapon did not help matters. And then there was the ride in. Attempting casual discourse with the Lady Felicity, like any proper officer and gentleman, was like trying to talk to a particularly pernicious wildcat. One minute she’s all smiles and graces, the next eyes like daggers and a sharp tongue with it! And as for that soppy lad, Shaw… I despair, I really do.
    Icy droplets of rainwater seeped under his brigandine, concealed by his bright scarlet serge military tunic. The grey clouds roiled above as thunder threatened. He drew a handkerchief and blew dejectedly into its silky white folds. Now I’ve got a cold coming on. Wonderful. From what he understood, this was a simple retrieval mission. Pick up one of the Peer’s dusty old windbags that had got himself into some foolhardy pickle and ended up in this god awful abandoned blimp base at the arse end of England. Blast it! What was it Newel, that doctor fellow had quoted over drinks the other day? He was blithering on about that Frenchman chap, Verne, who'd been in all the papers, "A man of merit owes himself to the homage of the rest of mankind who recognise his worth". Something snotty like that. Well, one thing is sure, I’m worth more than running cheap errands for Lord Curr!  I’ll have to have it out with the man!
Captain Smyth sees Dakota chasing something
     Just then, a blur of movement sped past him, interrupting his melancholic musing. He recognised the Peer's hound, Dakota.
    "What the..." but his words were cut short as he then saw a strange figure appear around the warehouse corner. Almost instantly Dakota cautiously slowed his pace, breaking the calm with a cacophony of menacing throaty barks and snarls. The figure stopped dead, obviously taken unawares by the sudden sight of the fearsome animal. The figure pushed back a crimson cowl revealing a close-shaved man with a symbol emblazoned on his forehead like some sort of bizarre oriental Cultist. He quickly produced a brutal looking club from under his dark red cloak which he then wove in the air with dangerous intent towards Dakota.
    Undeterred, Dakota almost seemed to leer as the animal brazenly edged towards the Cultist only a two or three paces away. The wolfhounds' muscular neck distended, angled low from its sinewy bulk, muscles tensed under its wet fawny-white pelt. He shrewdly rocked his meaty head back and forth, his slathering tongue flicking between bared teeth. Then Dakota paused momentarily, muscles tensed, its piercing eyes fixed on the intruder.
    Dakota sprang silently, angling up over the Cultist's outstretched arm grasping the club. The Cultist instinctively struck protectively upward with the club but it barely contacted the wolfhound and was ripped from the his grasp as the weight of the solid animal fell upon him. He collapsed back, winded, the air forced from his lungs. Dakota's jaws snapped at the Cultist's exposed face spraying wet mucus on warm, moist breath. The Cultist shouted something unintelligible, risking a glance back as if appealing to someone unseen.
    Then, Dakota clamped his powerful jaws on the Cultist's arm wielding the club whilst the other was trying to protect his face. Dakota's muscular neck savagely twisted and turned whilst blunt claws groped for purchase on the thick folds of the Cultist's sodden cloak. But in one fluid movement, the Cultist managed to heave to his knees, agonisingly pulling Dakota closer to him and grabbing the hound's thick neck with his free hand. His fingers dug into the beast’s greasy wet fur with all his strength, forcing Dakota's head away from his face. The Cultist's face was taut with extreme effort as the wolfhound thrashed violently in his grasp. 
    Mesmerised by the unexpected eruption of violence, Captain Smyth was torn between coming to the animal's aid or simply staying out of its way. Then, another similarly attired, club-wielding figure rushed into view and immediately launched a vicious swipe at Dakota's exposed back. The club connected heavily, forcing Dakota to release the first Cultist's arm and lurch towards the hound’s new assailant in a howl of rage and pain. The first Cultist quickly scrambled away from the rabid beast, clasping his pale injured arm in a tatter of bloodied torn cloth whilst the other Cultist brandished his club to protect his wounded accomplice.
    Captain Smyth quickly drew a round from his pouch and with drilled precision loaded and aimed at the second Cultist. But just before he squeezed the trigger there was a low thrumming sound followed almost instantly by a loud, sharp report. The Cultist suddenly bucked and staggered, then collapsed to the ground. Lord Curr's expert shot had struck the Cultist square in the chest. Dakota continued to howl at the body, still twitching on the ground. However, instead of using the momentary distraction to escape, the other wounded Cultist recovered his club and with fanatical zeal scrambled to his feet. His left arm hung limply by his side and his face was a distortion of pain and rage as he once again advanced on Dakota.The Cultist raged at the beast, brutally aiming a blow at the hound's head, but Dakota easily dodged the club and leaps, bringing the Cultist down once more. The Cultist screamed and writhed on the ground with the ferocious hound at his throat. In moments, the Cultist is silenced as Dakota continues to rip and tear in a wild frenzy.
Mohan Singh, Burton Cartwright and Captain Smyth
    Burton Cartwright and Mohan Singh, with his cumbersome portable Gatling Gun, caught up with Captain Smyth. The apprentice, Murray Straw, seemed to be hanging back, unsure of what to do. The men exchanged astonished looks as they witnessed Lord Curr's wolfhound gruesomely finish off its victim. Then, off to the left across the street, Dr Newel hauls into view from the huge airship hanger. He appeared to be moving listlessly, almost stupefied - and swinging a carbide lamp in one hand and gripping a long knife in the other. Captain Smyth briefly wondered if the Dr had been secretly imbibing whilst he was in the hanger. But his thoughts were once again distracted by the sight of yet another raving Cultist, as if from nowhere, swiftly angling towards the ponderous doctor. Both Cartwright and Singh yell out in warning as they rush to intervene, but they are too late.
    The Dr halted and appeared to stare incomprehensibly at the dashing Cultist. Captain Smyth glanced quickly back towards Lord Curr, but the Peer was intent on watching his beloved wolfhound. The Captain raised his Martini–Henry rifle again to try and risk a shot at the Cultist bearing down on Newel but Cartwright and Singh inadvertently blocked his view. At the very last moment, just before the Cultist reached Newel, the Dr almost mechanically steps aside, half-turns, and powerfully swings the carbide lamp aimed at the back of the Cultists head. The sickening blow, combined with the Cultist’s momentum, brings the Cultist tumbling to the ground a few paces away.
    Dr Newel strides almost casually over to the dazed Cultist with a look of malign dispassion on his face. Without pause, he stabs down - one, two, three times - his long knife rising and falling, killing the Cultist with a brutal, pitiless efficiency. A peal of distant thunder booms as fat droplets of cold rain start to tumble from the tenebrous sky. The bottomless look on the Dr Newel’s face as he turns from the slain Cultist at the sound of approach from Cartwright and Singh checks their movement. Newel’s coal black hair is pasted flat and bedraggled across his head. His moustache hangs wet and limp, contrasting sharply with his pale, blood spattered visage contorted and split by a wide maniacal grin.