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 Post subject: That Olde Blacke Magick
PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 8:25 pm 
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Okay, I am bored, no gaming group, no company except for a five year old for the most part. So I have taken to writing a bit of a tale about, well, Etherscope, in between my other writing tasks I have set myself.

Tell me what you blokes think of it thus far.

You can find it here: http://icharbezol.deviantart.com/

or here: http://blog.myspace.com/perfectweboflies

Hope you enjoy:)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 2:53 am 
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I can't seem to find an etherscope story on teh deviantart page and the blog link is broken. I'm very interested to see your story, so please give me a new link so that I can read it, or post it here (I'm pretty sure that will be okay)

Ben


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 3:50 pm 
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malladin_ben wrote:
I can't seem to find an etherscope story on teh deviantart page and the blog link is broken. I'm very interested to see your story, so please give me a new link so that I can read it, or post it here (I'm pretty sure that will be okay)

Ben


Well, it's rather graphic as well as fairly adult material...dunno if that's good here, but I will post the first chapter, how's that? It gets worse from there on out though, so check my sites to keep up :)

The blog link should not be broken, I just used it myself a few minutes ago to post a new section of the tale.

http://www.myspace.com/perfectweboflies is the url for the mySpace page, try that if you like, the url above is the blog link.

The keyword for the story on deviantArt is "Etherpunk", and it's probably easier to read there (or at least I find it so), plus I like devArt better than my Space anyway

http://icharbezol.deviantart.com/ seems to take me straight to my page, hrm...dunno...

I will change the keyword for search to "Etherscope" on devArt; it was "Etherpunk", but when I try it it doesn't bring anything up.

A moment or two and I will post the first chapter...


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 Post subject: Chapter One: Under Foot
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 3:54 pm 
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At Ben's request...
_____________________________________
I handed my calling card to the doorman, who scowled sternly at me whilst he read it. In my plain business suit and charcoal grey woolen overcoat, I certainly did not appear to belong standing outside of the Golden Gargoyle. A gentleman’s club which was attuned to the wealthy and fashionable of Castlefield, the Golden Gargoyle was situated between several high-fashion clothier’s shops and a very popular haberdashery. It was obvious by the doorman’s look at my mode of dress that he was thinking I should avail myself of such services.

I let my left hand fall into his view, clutching my Gladstone bag, and the doorman’s eyes widened. His Austrian accent did nothing to endear him to me as he spoke. The scar, still fresh on my shoulder and running down my right arm, throbbed with memory.

“Ah, Herr Doctor, His Lordship has been awaiting you. Please, come this way.”

He handed my calling card back to me, and my eyes glanced over it briefly. Dr. Edward J. Halloran, M.D., Esq., it read in the fanciest lettering that I could afford for such luxuries. A country doctor, and an Irishman at that, could scarce afford much better, but I had been fortunate. Fortunate, indeed.

He stooped below the club’s signage, a garishly decorated gargoyle, and led me around to the side entrance. The servant’s entrance. I grinned wryly; of course, they wouldn’t want me to go through the front and disturb their fancy ladies entertaining, in my coarse garb.

It was Lord Alfred Wellesley III that awaited me inside the Gargoyle. He was a ranking member of the country gentry residing in Valleys with great influence in Parliament, a voting member of the Corporation of the Great Metropolitan Estate and a card-carrying member of the Eugenics League. There is one other very important thing about Lord Wellesley that he and I shared, something no one else knew about but the two of us. Lord Wellesley is my father.

It is a shameful secret, and one Lord Wellesley would do nearly anything to keep from discovery. It was his marriage that had brought him to his heights, and a fling with a fancy Irish jenny which begat him a son outside of that marriage would do him ill were it discovered. He had no fear of me telling the tale, for certain, because it would do me little in the way of good either. But that secret gave us a sort of bond, and a power over one another.

We’d both only discovered the true nature of our relationship recently, with the events that had unfolded a scant few months ago that the dailies of the Great Metropolis had dubbed “The Rise and Fall of the Blood-Cult of Berlin”. The Reichlanders in question had sought to establish a reign of terror in the Great Metropolis by using a religious faction which had been until then little-known. They had also threatened the lives of several of the voting members of the Corporation in the process. I had been just bloody lucky enough to have been inadvertently dragged into the situation and, with the aid of several friends, had put an end to their mad plot.

This, of course, had ingratiated me somewhat with the Board and Lord Wellesley. I had become known as a man of action among them, and it was I, Dr. Edward J. Halloran M.D., Esq., who they now sought to bring into their new troubles, whatever they might be, in hopes that I would find the solution. The Golden Gargoyle was their playground, and the only place they could associate in privacy. Not to mention, it was the only place that I, as a simple country doctor, could be granted access to their august personages easily.

As I followed the club’s man, the pictures and photographs lining the hallway seemed to follow me with their eyes. He lead me to a curtained doorway, and swept it open to reveal a group of ladies of ill repute gathered in a foyer, dressing themselves and obviously in a state of exertion. They being ladies and all, I tipped my hat to them; in this day and age, a lady must do what they can to survive. It’s a little-known medical fact, but in 1984, they do outnumber the menfolk by at least 3 or 4 to one. I have my own theories and thoughts on that subject, but the way the ladies smiled at my simple gallantry made them flitter away. The club’s man had to grip my arm to gather my attentions from them and again route them to where we were headed this night.

The large brass-fitted oaken door before the two of us seemed a kilometer away at least when my eyes turned to it. But the club’s man stepped up, right lively, to the door and pulled effortlessly at it. When it yawned wide, a step took me from the kilometer to the very door jamb.

“Well, hello there, Doctor Halloran! Quite lovely to see you, quite lovely indeed!” came the deep bass of the voice of Harvey Tallhorn…the one man I did not want to see here.

Tallhorn was a field operative of MI5. Wherever he stepped, there was bound to be trouble underfoot. And it usually smelled like something that was unpleasant.


Last edited by maded on Sun Oct 29, 2006 12:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: I guess I will keep going, actually
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 10:20 pm 
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There's some parts that's probably too racy for here, will leave those bits out, but otherwise post the rest...you know where to look for the juicy stuff :)


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 Post subject: Chapter Two: The Job
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 10:21 pm 
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There were four of them in the room; Wellesley, Tallhorn, an older woman whom I did not know, and a young man who looked familiar. I say that he looked familiar, because he bore the refined features of the eugenics-perfected Wellesley line. Much like my own. His, however, were much more striking than my own, as they were obviously meant to be; it seemed my brother did not share the dollop of Beta blood that I had coursing through my veins.

His clothes, although certainly the very height of modern fashion, made from expensive silks and cloth, were rumpled as though he had slept in them, and the bib collar her wore was hanging loosely and stained with wine. He wore a superior smirk, which surely could turn quite charming when he wanted. His longish blond hair was pulled back tightly into a small ponytail, held in place by some type of pomade. I could see by his nails that he kept himself well despite his disheveled appearance; he hadn’t missed a bit of dirt with the small knife he’d been paring them with before I came in the room that he was now slipping into his waistcoat pocket

His smirk turned into a smile that likely could charm the knickers from any woman that he chose as he saw me enter. With his eyes upon mine, I could see that they were darkened and hollow, as though he’d been without sleep for some time. He reached across his father to the wine glass upon the table before Lord Wellesley, who promptly slapped his hand away and gave him a disgusted look. Obviously not pleased with his son, was Lord Wellesley.

The woman was older, and her gaze upon me was cold and imperious. Her hawkish nose was turned up at me. I could read Society upon her, even though she had obviously dressed to conceal her status. Women generally aren’t invited to gentleman’s clubs, so I knew she had to have some kind of pull among these men. Her iron-grey hair was pulled back severely, the lines easily readable upon her face. One of the first things I noticed about those lines was that they seemed to deepen when she looked at me. Stress was worn plainly in those lines, and I somehow was making that stress worsen.

Lord Wellesley and Tallhorn’s eyes were upon me as well; it seemed that I was the one they had all been waiting for. I made them wait a moment longer as I dragged through the doorway, and opened up my smoking tin.

“Cigarette, anyone?” I asked casually.

As I expected, the younger Wellesley stepped forward unhesitatingly with a grin. So I had found my way to his good graces, through his vices. The older woman, however, wrinkled her nose in distaste. I suspected that I should try to get in her good graces as well, but something about her seemed to make me not mind being outside of that state.

I lit young Wellesley’s cigarette with the old trench lighter that my mother had given me; it was her father’s, and I had never met the man as he died before I was born.

“Thanks,” he said hoarsely, the smell of alcohol upon his breath.

“I think it is high time I made the introductions here, Dr. Halloran,” Lord Wellesley stated as he stood and proffered his hand to me.

I gave his hand two quick pumps and released; I didn’t want anyone to think I was any closer to Lord Wellesley than I was, and his younger son obviously didn’t seem to recognize my appearance.

“Greetings, Lord Wellesley. How are you this evening?”

“I should say rather put out, and that is precisely why we have summoned you, my dear Doctor,” Tallhorn spoke out for Wellesley.

The older woman glared at Tallhorn, who seemed to take glee in what should normally be causing discomfort. Tallhorn had that smarmy way about him. He reveled in his position, which was one which often placed him even above lords and ladies in the right occasion. The woman stood, held her hand out to me, and eyed me. I knew what her gaze was commanding, and so I kissed her hand. But I did not kiss the ring upon that hand. When I looked up, her expression seemed to have softened a bit, and perhaps even flush a little, but her eyebrow was raised at my impertinence.

So here I had the lady on my side as well. This was always an important thing when dealing with lords and such. I smiled, and my country doctor charm took over.

“Milady, such a pleasure to meet you although I don’t believe I have had the even more exquisite pleasure of your name.”

“I am Mademoiselle Genevieve Croix, Doctor. I have come a way to hear this proposal, and to see to your involvement in it. Lord Wellesley says so many good things about you,” she replied, softened perhaps a touch more.

My mother always said I was a charmer. And young Wellesley seemed a bit perturbed that I had drawn the possibility of her attentions from him now; he was fidgeting and glancing at her. So perhaps this was some sort of triangle?

“And this,” Lord Wellesley said firmly, interrupting Mademoiselle Creaux’s exchange with me, “is David Arthur Wellesley, my eldest son.”

“So, with us all introduced, perhaps we should get straight down to the business we find at hand, eh?” Tallhorn said merrily.

I noted that both Mme. Croix and Lord Wellesley seemed a bit perturbed at his taking charge of the gathering, but that neither one made any effort to stop him. There was something going on here and I wasn’t certain I would like it. But I was becoming certain that it was unavoidable now.

“There have been some…international interests…that have been compromised recently. Several foreign dignitaries were murdered very recently while attending to their business within Metropolis,” Tallhorn began as he shoved a large manila packet across the table at me.

“Please, sit,” he interrupted himself, gesturing towards the chair before me.

“I prefer to stand, thank you kindly, Mr. Tallhorn. I remember quite well what happened the last time I sat at one of your tables.”

He grinned, knowing precisely of what I spoke. The interrogation by MI6 had been…unpleasant. They had wanted the full story of what had happened upon the conclusion of the last incident I had been involved in, and the knowledge of the whereabouts of a certain young Lady who had disappeared at the end of things. I hadn’t broken, and Lord Wellesley had come to my rescue before things had gotten a damn sight more unpleasant.

“As you wish. Now, as I was saying…these murders represent an unknown bid for resources within our fair nation, by an unknown party and for unknown reasons-”

“What, and you can’t spare any extras on your end, Gov?” David said disdainfully, interrupting Tallhorn, “You’ve got to get some daft country doctor to do your job of protecting British interests for you?”

“Begging your pardon, Doctor Halloran, of course,” David said to me with a sarcastic grin.

“Shut up, and I will only tell you this once, David Wellesley,” Tallhorn said with an icy look in his eyes.

I’d seen that look once before, when Tallhorn had shot a New Reich intelligence agent who’d held a gun to my head while making a bid for his escape straight between the eyes with frightful accuracy. I quieted myself, keeping my laughter at young David’s fearless cheekiness within.

“So why me?” I asked, breaking the silence that had fallen over the gathering.

“You are a man to be trusted, a man of action, a man of daring, and a man who knows what his limitations are and how he can transcend them,” Lord Wellesley answered for Tallhorn, who nodded.

“He’s right, you know. That last fiasco was something that would have struck fear into the hearts of some of my hardest operatives, and might have sent many crying home to their mums. You, Doctor Halloran, you persevered despite all odds. Shall we say that endeared you to a few august personages?” Tallhorn added.

“So someone’s been keeping tabs on me, eh? Why not just ask me over for tea if so interested?”

I was already growing weary of this, but I knew that they would give me no opportunity to refuse this task.

“Look, Doctor, you have a knack for sniffing out things, and we are in dire need of that knack at this time. All it took was a grazing bullet wound to start you on your path last time, a path you took all on your own, I might add. We’re certain there are more than enough clues for you to analyze in this,” Tallhorn said, indicating the packet then, “And there are those with their eyes on things. Those who would see you rewarded for your success in this.”

“And if I fail?” I asked dismally, knowing the answer already.

“If you fail, good Doctor, then there’s little more in it for you than an unmarked grave, which is what you’d get anyway.”

I nodded grimly, reaching for the packet. David snatched it up, and gripped my arm with his free hand.

“Come on Doc, I think it’s time we departed these sorry old birds. You and I have a lot of work to do.”

I looked to Lord Wellesley as his son dragged me from the chair with some effort.

“That’s right, David will be going with you. He has…connections,” Lord Wellesley replied, and I could sense his distaste in the word ‘connections’, “that will assist you in these endeavours. Good luck to you, Doctor.”

“Report back to us here at once should you find out anything at all useful,” Tallhorn added as I was dragged further to the door.

“Check in with Jacques Giancarlo at the Cage, and he will have aid for you,” Mme. Croix added, just before David Wellesley shut the heavy door on them.

“Now,” David said to me with a sigh of relief, “Got another fag?”

I opened my tin, suddenly becoming rather amused at the younger Wellesley. He took the cigarette gracefully from my fingers, and snagged the lighter from my grasp. Pushing back a stray lock of blond hair, he lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply.

“Here y’go, Gov,” he said, handing me back the trench lighter, “Now we go to meet a friend, first. I have the feeling this is going to turn more than a passing bit ugly. It would be good to have a gun on our side.”

I reached into my Gladstone, pulling out the large old service revolver that I’d had since my days in the Navy. He dragged on his ciggie, eyes widening.

“Put that away, no one in their right mind would be seen pulling one of those things around here at this time of day.”

He looked around quickly, as though to make sure no one had seen me.

“First we go see Quick, and then I need to pick up some tabs. Then we can start on the rest of it,” he said.

“Oh, and call me D.A., Doctor. I hate being called David, or Arthur, or Wellesley,” he added with a bit of a nervous smile.

His eyes were doing the dance of someone in need, something I had seen before. Lord God above help me, my “employers” had enlisted the aid of a tab-jamming Scope junkie in my new mission.


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 Post subject: Chapter Three: To the Quick
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 10:22 pm 
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I wasn’t expecting the Great Docklands, nor was I expecting the festering hole that we were to enter in search of D.A.’s acquaintance. Though a country doctor, I wasn’t accustomed to such squalor. Everything was so…filthy.

We’d traveled from Castlefield by dint of D.A.’s zepcar, leaving a wake of honking horns, screaming drivers and fearful pedestrians. I myself had grown fearful of my life during that ride. I didn’t know what D.A. was on at the time, nor was I entirely certain that I cared to know. Suffice to say, he seemed oblivious of it all.

I wondered if he was worried about the expensive zepcar being parked amidst such a low populace, but as soon as he stopped he was being hailed by locals who seemed to know him. He stopped to speak to a few, in hushed tones and off a way from me. All of them seemed to look upon me suspiciously.

The place we ended up walking towards was a public house by the docks called Saunders’. It was in doubt that many who made their way to the pub could, in fact, read the sign hanging over the doorway, but the depiction of a family crest below a boar’s head and a pair of crossed spears was a fair indicator to all of the place’s shabby existence. The walls were dry-rotting, the paint peeling, and the windows were cracked. The gaslight inside shone through the cracks where the black paint over the windows was chipped away. The sounds of men and women cavorting came from within. I shuddered as D.A. opened the door, and the ghastly mingled smells of cooked food, alcohol and unwashed bodies assailed my nostrils.

There was a bustle of activity the like of which I had seldom seen. So many people pressed into one room, and all were either drunk or in various stages of leaving or entering that state. A great sweaty man in a leather apron pressed against me as he passed me by and the grease from a great side of lamb he’d been carrying sloshed onto my trousers.

A woman, her face painted up in the French fashion, pushed towards D.A. through the crowd.

“Hey, luv, c’mere an’ give Lucy a hug, you bastid!” she called to D.A.

As she approached, she eyed me warily, “Wot’s this then, a copper?”

“Hah, no, don’t make me laugh. He’s a doctor, Lucy, luv,” D.A. replied as he bent down to kiss the woman’s neck.

She closed her eyes as he did so, and ran her leg up his to his hip. I could see a generous expanse of her leg, just past her knee. She shuddered, and I could see her nipples rise through the thin fabric of her dress. She leaned into him.

“Ah, D.A., careful, now, luv, or Lucy will be givin’ you a twofer!” she chuckled.

I swallowed. He’d brought me into a den of whores. It had been such a long time; I’d been so focused upon my work and on the girl who slipped away, I hadn’t given much thought to a woman. And there were many around us now. They were eyeing me like a prospect now and D.A. like a god.

“Actually, I’m not here for any of you lasses tonight,” D.A. said with a grin, “I’m looking for Quick.”

The one who called herself Lucy laughed.

“Oh, so you lookin’ for the boyos tonight are ye D.A.! Well, dunno rightly if ol’ Quick’ll have ye, but he’s upstairs in a room with Sweet Mary. They been going at it since this mornin’.”

‘Thank you, love, then I will just have to interrupt them,” D.A. replied with a good-natured grin, “Forgive me, but I will have to speak to you lovely ladies about your services later.”

As he was saying this, I barely heard him. A sultry raven-haired beauty had moved next to me, rubbing against me, and began speaking in very hushed tones about what she could do for me were the money right and my prick hard. I couldn’t help but stare at the large globes of her breasts, pushed up and nearly out of her dress. She had been running her fingers over the edge of the dress just below where they were exposed, drawing my attention to them.

“Come on, Doctor,” D.A. said with a laugh, “Time for the fun later, we need Quick.”

“You ain’t the only ones what need him, apparently,” I heard Lucy say as D.A. pulled me around.

Looking up to the stairway to the second floor, I could see two burly men rounding the top flight and heading towards the room that Lucy had previously pointed out to us. They both looked like hard men, and ready for a fight. I found my hand reaching for the Navy revolver beneath my frock coat. D.A.’s hand pressed against mine through the coat.

“He can handle this, I’m sure,” he said with a smile.

He then headed to a table and picked up a pint of beer, sat down facing the upstairs gallery where the men were headed and put his feet up on the table’s edge. I looked up to the gallery, transfixed, wondering what manner of man this Quick was.

The two men withdrew large, boxy automatic pistols from their overcoats. One pointed his at the lock on the door and fired. The sound of the gunshot drew screams, and people scattered in panic around us. D.A. merely calmly sipped from his pint. The man who had not fired kicked the door in and stepped inside, and when he disappeared within the doorway I could hear the sound of repeating gunfire.

The man behind him seemed prepared to move in, when something slid through the doorway and between his legs. The sound of more gunfire rang out, and the man outside the doorway seemed to jump up a foot or two from the ground. Something struck the railing of the gallery, and I saw what appeared to be a small hand wrap around one rail. Another shot fired, and the man outside the doorway fell heavily.

A small form vaulted over the railing then, as the man from inside the room rushed out and to the railing. The figure landed with a thud atop one of the pub’s tables, and I could see it. He was a very small man indeed, wearing a ragged business suit and clutching a small bowler atop his head. Thick shaggy ropes of hair hung out from beneath what might have once been a fine hat, and the small man’s cheeks were heavily whiskered. He winked one beady little black eye at D.A. and me when he saw us, and both hands gripped the edge of the table he’d landed on.

As the man on the second floor gallery swung his pistol over the rail and began to open fire, I cringed back and my hand instinctively reached for my Navy revolver. The little man had already swung himself beneath the table, though, and the thug’s shots slammed into the thick table sending splinters showering around it. Hearing a click close beside me, I turned my head slightly to see another man with a pistol.

He was leveling it at the little man beneath the table. I began to pull my revolver out, but the little man’s reaction was too fast for me or the man he was facing. His little foot kicked the edge of the table, and the thick tabletop fell to the ground in front of the shot the thug was firing before I could clear my own pistol. A pair of shots sounded, and the man above crashed down to the first floor over the gallery railing without making a sound of his own.

My revolver had found its way out of my frock coat, but D.A. was pushing the barrel out of sighting on the thug. He shook his head at me. I looked over to the little man, only to see the table scooting with a loud scraping sound across the floor. The thug continued to fire into it, blasting holes into the tabletop. Then the table was nearly upon the thug, when it flipped up. The little man brought the table’s leg down forcefully upon the foot of the thug; there was a crunching sound, and the thug groaned loudly.

A loud blast rang out then, and I could see black smoke rising up from behind the table around the small man whose head barely cleared the tabletop. The thug dropped like a stone, his leg just below the knee gone and gouting copious amounts of blood.

“That all of tha bastids?” I could hear the little man saying in a surprisingly deep voice.

D.A. just nodded to him, smiling still. I looked down at the little man, shocked and surprised.

“Ye ain’t lookin’ at one o’ Darby o’Gills’ little people, damned fool. Shut yer mouth, yer jaw be droopin wide enough fer me ta stick both me barrels in, ye blasted Irishman,” the little man said to me, glaring.

He was a Gamma, one of the many genotypes engineered by the Eugenics League to create a perfect working class. They were bred from rodent stock, and incredibly hardy. And fast, too, it seemed.

“Top o’ the mornin’ t’ye, too, Quick,” D.A. said to the little man in what must have been his best Irish brogue.

“An’ what the hell d’ye want, D.A.? Ye know yer interuptin’ m’ love-life with all this shite, don’t ye?”

“Don’t worry, friend. I’ll make sure Sweet Mary’s ready for another go soon. In the meantime, hitch up your drawers and have a seat. We have a business proposition for you. Or do you mean to tell me you don’t still advertise as the quickest gun out there?”

The little man, Quick, twirled the pepperbox revolvers that he had in each hand and then shoved them into his baggy shirt. He then gave D.A. a wicked grin.

“Did ye see that comin’?”

“Actually, I did, Quick…I hired those men to draw you out and to put on a show for our friend here, who had need of some convincing.”

Quick’s eyes narrowed at me.

“So ye dinnae believe me frien’ here? I oughtta-”

D.A. pushed a pint in front of the little man, whose eyes were drawn to it like a moth to the flame. He took the pint and then sat beside the well-dressed young Wellesley.

“So did ye see how I vaulted between that guys’ legs?” he said to D.A. with a laugh.

I could scarcely believe that D.A. had set this up specifically for my benefit, to prove his associate’s skills. He had sent three men to their deaths.

“They would have come for me anyway, sooner or later, lad,” Quick said to me, and my eyes were drawn to meet his, “Owed their boss some small bit o’ clink, I did.”

I swallowed hard at the feral look in the Gamma’s eyes.

“An’ when men come for me, they’d best be ready ta pay th’ Ferryman.”

He set his pint mug down with a clunk, having drained it in the space between when my eyes had been drawn to his.

“So tell me now, laddybuck,” Quick said, beady black eyes boring into mine, “Who ye want me to kill?”


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 Post subject: Chapter Four: A Minor Distraction
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 10:23 pm 
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After a protracted conversation, in which the Gamma proffered very little by way of his own observations, D.A. and I offered up what we knew so far in hushed tones to Quick. He nodded when we concluded, and then put his small hand over the packet when D.A. began to pull it from his coat.

“Not here, what’re ye, daft?” he said, looking almost cross-eyed at D.A.

“It’s not the payment it’s the information,” D.A tried to explain, but the little man cut him off.

“Sometimes I think ye high n’ mightinesses are more that a little simple. We should go somewhere else, I’m thinking.”

I nodded my assent, eyeing D.A. The Gamma certainly had a point in his argument.

“But first, there’s one other I would like to pick up. An old friend, and someone I can trust.”

My thoughts drifted back to my time in the Navy as we walked to the zepcar.

Jones was a Delta; his kind had been engineered by the Eugenics League from canine genes. He’d been a Marine scout aboard the carrier Hereford, which I had been a medic aboard. Among the Marines he crewed with, he was always the first off of the boat, and the last to return.

I had saved his life once, when he had taken several pieces of shrapnel from a mine set off by some green recruit. Ever since then, he had watched my back during my military years. Once I mustered out to secure an education at Oxford in the medical sciences, we had parted ways. We’d met up again about four months ago, not long before the incident that had recently begun to shape my life in a new direction.

Jones had repaid me in kind during that time; if not for him, the New Reich agents fronting the mysterious death-cult I had endeavored to defeat might well have killed me. The rage I had been fueled by at that time was frightening. It had consumed me, and I had almost lost my reason; yet through it all, Jones stood by my side and watched after me much as he had during those latter Navy years.

He’d slunk into the shadows of the Metropolis after it was all over with, and I had not spoken with him in the two months since those events. I hadn’t even taken much effort to contact him in the time that had passed, and I felt more than a little guilty about it. I had been off licking my own wounds, though; first the duelist who had scarred me, and then Moira. My arm ached at the thought of the man still.

“Where to, Doctor Halloran?” D.A. said as he revved the zepcar’s ether engine into life.

“Ancoats,” I replied simply.

D.A. pulled the zepcar up above the normal ground-level traffic in an effort to be speedy about our departure. He grumbled about the distance a bit; Ancoats was clear and away on the other side of the Metropolis from the Great Docklands. Quick merely hummed a merry little tune. For the next seven minutes, I lost myself in the wondering of where this new case would take myself and my newfound companions. D.A. still held the manila envelope with the case information within, and I yearned to have a look at it.

Then we were floating down slowly towards the ground level of Manchester. D.A. seemed a bit downcast as we were too early in the day for Ancoats’ vibrant night life to really take flight. Quick leapt from the zepcar onto the street, eyeing everyone around to make certain he was doing his job as our bodyguard. D.A. removed his bib collar and tossed it into the zepcar before closing the door, and smiled and winked at a couple of young printers’ apprentices walking down Corporation Street towards the great buildings which housed the most magnificent and prolific printing presses of Great Britain.

I stepped from the zepcar, closing the door on my side, brushing the sides of my frock coat down. For a young and supposedly proper nobleman, D.A. was certainly not the most clean. Bits of debris littered the interior of his zepcar, and clung to my coat.

“Ah, Little Sandie, she likes her candy,” D.A. said with a grin, watching as I growled and tried stubbornly to remove the small pink mass from the edge of the backside of my coat.

“Where to?” Quick queried, and I pointed to an ominous looming and worn down old factory building which stood between Corporation Street and Great Ancoats Street. The Washburn had been turned into a coffin flat building for several levels, and although it was in ill repair, its lodgings commanded a respectable price in rent for the conglomerate which owned it. The last I had known for certain, Jones made his home there.

The three of us strode in through the great glass double doors of the grand entrance of the Washburn. D.A. seemed at home despite his rumpled finery, and Quick was certainly so. Everyone seemed to stare at me as I walked in, though. I heard the word “copper” on several lips softly, and many would not meet my gaze. I laughed inside. Why was I the one who always seemed to get labeled the policeman?

The lobby was a huge affair, and quite noisily busy as well. There were a large number of Gammas, like Quick, bustling about, as well as a smattering of Betas and Deltas. What caught my eye wasn’t any of these, though. A poster hanging half-cocked on the wall not fifty yards from me towards the elevator focused on a pair of the sweetest soft grey eyes, with long and lush dark lashes, that I had ever seen.

No, I thought, strike that. I have seen those eyes before. They looked like…Moira’s eyes…

But when I looked again to it after brushing the backs of my hands over my eyes, the poster was gone and only tacky bits of paper clung to the wall where it once had been.

“Dammit all and consternation,” I growled, and Quick was by my side in an instant.

“What is it, Doctor?” he said, a glint of concern in his beady little black eyes.

“Oh, it’s nothing, I think,” D.A. smiled sweetly at me, “I think he’s just caught some residuals from the incense I’d been burning on our ride out to see you, my dear fellow.”

“You didn’t, you idiot!”

D.A. giggled like a school child, and I felt an urge almost to do so myself. I knew then that he most certainly had. I didn’t know which was worse, the edging away from my sensibilities or my desire to follow it through. I had rarely been intoxicated, and it was an interesting sensation even though I wanted clarity since we were on a mission. And I knew that mission was serious, even though I didn’t feel it right at the moment.

We got in the elevator up to the 32nd floor, where I last knew Jones’ home to be. There was a pretty young thing in there making eyes at D.A., and he reached up and pushed his hair back whilst smiling slyly at her. She was all of seventeen or eighteen, and a glittering ring adorned her left ring finger. An engagement ring of some value, I took it at first. As D.A. smoothed his hair and moved closer to her, I could see her and her ring finger much better as she shifted somewhat nervously at D.A.’s closeness. The ring was not, it seemed, of much value at all. The reflection of the elevator’s etherlight dome off of the facets of the ring was weak, and the band was not in fact silver as I had first guessed.

D.A. moved in closer, leaning down towards her to whisper in her ear. I saw him lean in closer still and take the lobe of her ear between his teeth, running his tongue over it delicately. She gasped and shuddered, and I could see her nipples rise under the thin fabric of her evening dress; I looked away, flushing a bit.

Something struck me on the shoulder, and I looked to see a tiny set of ladies’ bloomers hanging there on my frock coat. The miniscule things were all the rage in Paris, scandalously hiding nothing of a woman’s form. This girl seemed to have no shame. I was very embarrassed when I looked back to see D.A. leaning the girl back against the wall of the elevator with one leg up over his shoulder and his hand working between her thighs as he kissed her neck. An expression of sheer bliss upon her face seemed to tell exactly how she felt about the situation.

Quick stood facing the door as the elevator moved inexorably upwards. I turned my gaze to match his upon the door as I saw D.A. lifting the girl up. The rocking motion of the elevator, and her cries as he rode her against the wall, indicated exactly what was going on. After a few moments, D.A. grunted and the rocking stopped.

“Here you go dear,” I heard him whisper to the girl.

The elevator stopped on the thirtieth floor; the girl passed by me, smiling, and took her bloomers from my hand as she stepped out of the elevator and blew a kiss at D.A. She had several notes in her hand as well.

The door shut, and Quick began to chuckle.

“You always could get whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted it, David,” he said gruffly but amusedly.

The musk of their sex was very strong within the elevator as it rose up one more story slowly.

“Sure, Quick, I have a knack. You should try that some time, Doc.”

“I should say not, I do not accost young ladies without their expressed interest, and I certainly don’t give them money for their charms” I said, with a slight blush.

“Ah, I gave her my last orange groove tab, too. I’ll get more in a few minutes,” he replied.

The elevator stopped.

“I’m going up to fifty four; you can come with me Quick, I have a deal to make up there. Go meet your man, Doctor, then come up to fifty four and room five-four eight-oh-five.”

I nodded, although I had no desire to join D.A. in his debauchery; but something inside of me was aching to. Already I was randier than I had been in some time, and was quite stiffened, but we still had serious business to attend to. And I meant for nothing to distract me too much.

I stepped up to the door of room 32601, where I had recovered for a short time in Jones’ tending from a bullet wound to the thigh, and where I had first discovered he’d lived that night months ago. I knocked, and there was no reply. I knocked several more times, and still got no reply. As I knocked, I saw a man step out of the elevator from the corner of my vision, and knew immediately something was wrong. The long coat he wore was black and non-reflective leather, and he was pulling it back. His boots; there was something about the boots he wore.

The drug had slowed me, and I threw myself to one side barely in time to see him raising a sleek black automatic pistol. The bullet he fired struck the door jamb in front of me, showering me with bits of wood and plaster. I quickly threw up my right arm over my face, as something in the back of my mind reminded me that this act alone would not stop a bullet. My left hand dug into my Gladstone, pulling at the heavy Navy revolver. I moved sluggishly and without my usual precision.

The second bullet slammed into the wall where my head had been as I slid down. Gripping the Navy revolver awkwardly, I attempted to level it at him. He was taking a squared shooter’s stance that I recognized as a standard one from my military training. And I was sprawled out like a drugged-up idiot on my bum.

Those boots were square-toed, in the fashion of the Americans, and they had silver toe plates; they were snakeskin. I’d seen similar boots on an American fellow I had run into during my Blood-Cult of Berlin heyday. My addled mind struggled to both grasp the act of firing the revolver in my hands and comprehend where the American had said he’d gotten those boots. I had rather pointedly asked, that time. I didn’t think this fellow was interested in bantering about his boots.

My slow fingers squeezed the trigger just as the fellow brought his automatic down to take a bead on my face. His left knee exploded in a cloud of blood and bone as the revolver bucked and roared in my hands. The man gave a wretched groan as his remaining knee buckled and he pitched to the floor.

There was blood everywhere. My first and overriding thought was to find D.A. and Quick; Jones wasn’t home, and I wouldn’t find him here anyway. I moved lurchingly to the elevator. The drug’s effects were becoming stronger.

The world spun as the elevator doors closed before me. It seemed to take forever to arrive at fifty seven. Then I remembered, as the door opened, that D.A. had said fifty-four. Two young women entered; they were wearing tight leather clothing which did nothing to conceal their nubile charms. My blood roared in my ears as I watched them gracefully enter the elevator.

“Going down?” I asked them; they both giggled fiercely.

They were looking at my trousers, I noticed. The front of them was standing out like some savage’s spear pointing in the direction of the next blood sacrifice it thirsted for.

“Are you carrying that package for anyone in particular, mate?” the saucy looking blonde with the ruby red lips said with a wicked grin.

The bulge in my trousers grew more taut. Now was not the time for this, I groaned inwardly, but in my mind’s eye I could see tearing both of the women’s leathers from their bodies and leaving them starkers. I sucked in a breath, exhaled slowly. The boiling rage in my pants did nothing to subside.

“God, you come here from India, sirrah?” asked the brunette.

“Why?” I asked raggedly.

“You have the biggest cobra coiled in the front of your pants, if you don’t mind me saying.”

The elevator chimed at the fifty-fourth, the doors slid open, and I sighed at the sweet mercy of exiting the elevator and escaping such utterly torturous temptation. I staggered to the door of 54805, and pounded upon it. The thump of some counterculture Mancurian technological beat music rattled the door harder than my fist could shake it. A slender pale hand reached to grasp mine and close it over the doorknob, twisting.

“The door’s open, Mister,” I heard the heavenly blonde angel in black leather say into my ear.

Her tongue reached out to caress my ear and the side of my neck, I shuddered, groaned, not now, and I felt my temples throbbing in time to the beat of the music. The brunette gripped my buttock firmly and squeezed.

“Come on, lover, go in, or you will miss the party,” she said to me.

I turned the doorknob, and walked uncaringly straight into Hell.


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 Post subject: Chapter Five: The Bitter Pill
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 10:27 pm 
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A bit racy for here...check my sites for a read on this one...

Again, they are: http://icharbezol.deviantart.com/

and http://www.myspace.com/perfectweboflies

and hopefully they work for everyone...if not drop me a line and I will see what is wrong...


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 Post subject: Chapter Six: The Hunters Hunted
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 10:29 pm 
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You can open your eyes now, the racy bits are gone...for the moment...
Forging on with Chapter Six now...
____________________________________________________________

The room was dark and dismal. I could hear the water running down the cheap plaster walls. The wallpaper was tearing away slowly in wet chunks. I wasn’t sure at first where Quick had taken me. He’d said we were going to a safe place. He had cleaned me up with rough hands, and then laid me out on a pallet. I had passed out, and when I came to, Quick wasn’t there.

I examined my surroundings groggily. It was a simple one-room housing unit, a coffin flat. There was no running water nor etherlight, merely a wash basin and a lit candle on a small table with a scarred top. The reddish stains in the grooves upon the tabletop made it plain it had been at some point used for butchery. I hoped it was only food.

I wasn’t sure how long it had been; my pocket watch read twelve-thirty-two. There were no windows to let any light in, so I couldn’t tell if it was a.m or p.m. I was moving slowly and my throat was ragged. I needed some water, but there was none to be had other than the small amount in the wash basin.

I stepped to the door slowly, a rickety thin of thin plywood. It shuddered open at the weakest pull. There was a man in rags in the hallway, pissing in a corner close to a door. He grinned toothlessly at me as he saw me looking. I turned away, and looked down the hallway to see a pair of glass doors which lead out into a court. There was a water pipe there, so I resolved myself to wash up and get a drink.

Once in the courtyard, I was greedily sucking water from the pipe. My parched throat and lips began to feel much better. My head still throbbed from the aftereffects of the drugs that D.A. had exposed me to. I still wasn’t certain if my encounter with the two beautiful women was a dream or if it had really happened.

Splashing water about my face, I knelt at the water pipe. I bathed myself in the lukewarm water for several minutes before the scraping of shoes across the rough flagstones of the courtyard caught my attention. Someone was moving in behind me. My hand fell to where I would normally keep my Navy revolver in my waistband when it wasn’t in the Gladstone. It wasn’t there.

“Take it easy, mate. We aren’t here to hurt you, now are we, Billy?” said a soft feminine voice from behind me.

I began to turn, and the hardened steel of a gun barrel caressed my temple.

“Oh, no, Jilly, most certainly not. We don’t want to harm you at all, young man. Our boss wants to talk to you though, and it would be most wise if you came with us, wouldn’t it Jilly?”

“Oh, Billy, he should know that you speak the truth if he knew who our boss was. But I don’t think he rightly does, is that so, country doctor?”

I shook my head from side to side rather than speak. Something pointy and cold ran across the exposed part of the back of my neck. Goosebumps rose upon my flesh.

“Do you know Doctor VanGoeder, country doctor?”

I more than knew him; it was my efforts months before which had ended the Doctor’s medical career in the Metropolis and, I had thought, his life. He was an agent of the New Reich, and had been behind many of the atrocities of the Blood-Cult of Berlin. His bodyguard, a New Reich officer, had given me the scar that now stiffened my right arm.

They had called VanGoeder “the Vivisectionist” in the dailies. His medical offices, and the private laboratories in the chambers beneath them, had been the stuff of nightmares. I had seen them myself. That he had lived was very surprising. After the explosion which had lit up the night in the final moments of the struggle to end the Blood-Cult’s plots, there had been very little found intact of the building or its occupants. Little that could be positively identified, at least.

My stomach sank as the woman gripped my arm. I should have known. I should have known he would still be alive. My stomach sank further at the thought of facing his bodyguard, however. He was an excellent fencer, much better than I. I would have to find a way to get out of this, and quickly.

I turned slowly, with the knife woman following. She kept her knife at my neck. The man stood before me, clad in rags. He had the look of a navvie, rough and coarse, as though he had lead a life of harsh labour and harder truths. His grin was crooked as he looked at me. A small pepperbox pistol was leveled at the height of my navel.

“Be still, lad, or I will open you up,” Billy cautioned me in a voice like gravel.

“Please move, I want to see your innards spilt all over this court,” Jilly giggled.

I held my hands up, watching Billy’s movements closely. He whistled and a hansom began to turn the corner into the courtyard. The Chinaman running it seemed a bit frightened of his benefactors. Billy gestured for him to come closer.

“Come on and up, Jilly, ladies first. I got ‘im covered,” Billy told his lady.

She came around me, and I was shocked. I was expecting much the same in her as I had seen in him, a hard woman with hard eyes from a hard life. Instead, I was treated to a rare beauty. Her hair was purest spun gold, her eyes a pure blue, her skin porcelain perfection. She wore something that, while not altogether unbecoming upon her slight frame, was also a shock to see. A tight red leather bodysuit, all straps and chains and bedecked with sheathed knives, pulled across a slim and athletic body. Her long hair was done up in braids with red ribbons tying them. She looked at me, however, with a smile that was slightly mad.

“So now you have made the acquaintance of Jillian the Razor Queen, dear Doctor Halloran,” she said with pretty lips curled into a smile as she handed me a tattered calling card and stepped up into the hansom.

Billy continued to point his pepperbox at my belly, smiling crookedly.

“She’s a right royal woman, ain’t she, my little Jilly?”

I watched her climb the hansom, and she was indeed a lovely and sensual creature. I tucked the card into my waistcoat pocket.

“Can I at least get my coat?” I asked of them.

Billy pressed his pistol towards me. No fortune in that gambit. Jilly patted the seat beside her daintily, beckoning for me to join her. I reluctantly did so, and Billy followed into the seat opposite us. His pistol resumed its bead upon my midsection.

“So we are all going to be friendly and nice, right?” Billy observed, putting a hand down on Jilly’s knee across from him.

I nodded, never taking my eyes off of him. Thinking about what I would do to get away from these two dangerous individuals, it never crossed my mind that the one I least expected would be more dangerous. He didn’t seem particularly impressed with me, and I intended it to be his downfall. The hansom cab moved slowly as the Chinaman struggled with our combined weight. I watched some of the area as we passed it, but did not recognize this run-down part of town. There was some sort of rough market we were approaching; I watched for something that would give me an advantage.

An Indian sat playing a horn to some great hooded snake. I noted several baskets filled with them. I could push him off of the cab into them, but he’d surely shoot me whilst I did so. No good.

I could leap onto the girl Jilly and use one of her own knives to hold her hostage against him, he obviously enjoyed her company. But she looked perhaps swifter than he. Probably not the best idea either.

Then my eyes caught the great awnings of silk we were about to pass under. I slipped a little closer to Jilly. Her eyes gleamed as she smiled at my hip brushed hers. Billy didn’t like that, but he liked even less what I did next. I’ve never considered myself seductive, and I think that my luck only extends with madwomen. I slipped my arm over her slim shoulders, and she cooed at me and snuggled in close. My hand brushed her leather-clad side, feeling the sheath there under her arm.

Billy began to become visibly agitated, and I could have sworn that Jilly was becoming excited by that. His eyes narrowed as I squeezed her shoulder and allowed my hand to run down. His hand gripped his pistol white-knuckled. He began to shift in his seat. And Jilly, I could tell, was watching his reaction and smiling.

“This a game you play quite a bit then, eh?” I asked her.

Billy’s eyes narrowed even more then.

“Mmmm, you’re nice and warm, Doctor. I can’t resist,” she grinned.

Billy stood up. I saw the angle of his gun change as he stood, pointing to the ground. His eyes flashed angrily at Jilly.

“You whore!” he shouted as he reared back his hand to slap her.

Madwoman or not, I could not abide by a man striking one of the fairer sex. Now was the time, while he was distracted; we were passing just by the awnings. It was time to take the risk. My hand closed on the hilt of the knife, and I could feel her arm lift slightly as she pulled back away from Billy. Quickly, I pulled it from its sheath and lashed out at the awning’s moorings.

The silk awnings began to fall over the hansom cart and I could hear the Chinaman curse as he was enveloped. Billy looked up just as the awning began to fall over his head. I reached up to catch the falling awning, and pulled it down around Billy. The knife in my hand then found his flesh. I stabbed repeatedly at him, blood flowering and staining the silk.

I began to drag Billy down to the floor of the cart as the Chinaman stopped to struggle and curse at the silk that had fallen over him. Grunting with exertion after leaving the big man limp and unmoving, I looked up to see Jilly looking to me with a smile, eyes flashing wildly. The smile fled her face as she saw me looking, however, and I discovered just how fast she really was.

She smiled even more broadly then, sitting atop me with her knives under my chin. I knew something then; she had let me kill Billy and, in fact, had known what I was planning all along. My look of surprise at her speed pleased her greatly.

“Accelerators, baby…I am juiced up!”

“I can see that,” I said cautiously, not willing to incite a madwoman into killing me.

“I knew what you were doing…I even knew you could do it without my help, if you had really let Billy go to work on me. You’re a right gentleman, you are,” she said, eyes still glinting madly.

I couldn’t think of what to say at that point in response.

“You are a smart man, Doctor Ned. I like you,” she stated quite coherently, and then leaned down to lick my lips.

No one calls me Ned but my family and closest associates. No one really knew my nickname. Her tongue was quite deft, her scent intoxicating and her savage and feral, yet at the same time regal, beauty was invigorating. But then a shot rang out, and she leapt from me with a cry.

She was clutching her shoulder, where the red leather was torn and skin as well, blood flowing freely. I sat up as she sprang from the cart, looking behind the hansom cart. Two men were approaching, both with heavy revolvers at the ready. But they weren’t aiming at her. I ducked back down into the cart as both began to fire.

“I let you live because I have plans for you!” I heard Jillian the Razor Queen call out to me as she ducked down an alleyway.

The bullets from these new pursuers were chewing their way through the cart’s back end. It was only a matter of time before I was exposed to their shots. I heard the sounds of brass hitting cobblestone as the firing stopped, looked up and saw the men pushing speed loaders into their cylinders. I ducked back down as the first snapped his cylinder shut. A shot rang out now that could not have been him so quickly, though.

I heard the man curse, looked up and saw them raising their revolvers towards a rooftop. From the rooftop came the flash of a fired weapon, and I ducked instinctively. Another shot, and the sound of a man crumpling to the cobblestones.

Again I looked up, and saw both men lying on the ground leaking out their lives. One shot had caught one man in the temple, spreading brains and bone across the pavement as he fell. The other shot had caught the other man in the chest, and I saw the perfect placement of the bullet right at the man’s heart where he was sprawled out.

A figure landed with a thump beside me on the cobblestones. I raised my knife to defend myself, and then dropped it when I saw who it was.

“Jones! Where have you been, I have been looking for you!”

The Delta twitched his ears, put his fingers to his lips.

“Shhh. Ned, the hunt is on for you; best not to let them know where to find you, now isn’t it? Come.”

I dropped from the hansom cab and followed his lead. I had known Jones too long not to trust him. He knew where the danger was, after all. Always had, since our Navy and Marine days.

He led me down streets and alleyways, in a wide and circuitous route. I had know idea where we were going, and had only my trust of Jones to go on. When I found myself at the coffin courthouse I had just left, however, alarm bells rang out in my head.

“Jones, what are we doing here?”

“Meeting with your friends so we can take our leave of this filthy place.”

Jones had always had a sensitive nose, and I couldn’t help but feel for him when the scent of this place so disagreed with my own.

In the doorway of the coffin I had found myself awakening in only minutes previously, I saw D.A.

“It’s about time you brought him back, Scout,” he said with obvious glee in taunting Jones.

“Shut your mouth and let’s get everything ready to get out of here,” Jones replied simply.

“What’s going on? Who are all of these people? Let me see our papers now, D.A.” I said as I approached.

A sudden anger gripped me then, when I thought of my inadvertent drugging. I cross-fisted D.A. in the face. He sprawled to the floor and took out a handkerchief from his waistcoat to dab at the blood at the corner of his mouth with what appeared to be a jolly smile, and then laughed.

“Good one, Doctor! Good one. Here,” he said, handing me the manila envelope.

“No time to read, they know where you are, we have to move now. I’ve just the place,” Jones said.

He ushered us out to a steam carriage, which D.A. groaned at. It was rickety and grimy. But the engine roared to life quite serviceably as Jones turned the ignition.

“Where are we going, Jones?” I asked over the roar of the steam engine.

“To see some Travelers, they will hide you very well I think,” Jones replied.

“Oh, no, not a bunch of thieving Travelers!” D.A. groaned, pulling his wallet belt tightly to him.


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 Post subject: Chapter Seven: The Wayfarer
PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 12:34 am 
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The string of boats filled the canal leading off of the River Mersey into Widnes. The steam carriage Jones was driving stopped short of the dock they were loading their cargo from. Several surly men armed with automatic weapons were approaching the carriage. They did not look pleased to see us at all.

“So, we weren’t exactly expected, eh?” D.A. muttered nervously.

“Let’s just say I have a friend here who owes me a favor, and I wasn’t exactly planning on collecting right at this moment, but you fellows have gotten yourself in a heap of troubles.”

“So I think we’ve noticed. Once we are inside and certain it’s safe, I’ve a few tidbits. And I am sure not all of them are included in our little file. I don’t think that Father nor his friends knows what exactly we are dealing with here,” D.A. returned.

“Oh, aye, an’ ye have some certains now? Gettin’ tired o’ gettin’ me arse shot at without knowing why, laddybuck,” Quick said sternly to D.A.

“We most certainly do need to get to the bottom of this at once,” I said, nodding my assent.

“I can tell you one thing for certain, Ned. You have a price on your head.” Jones said ominously.

“A what?” I replied, flustered.

“Oh, yes. Why do you think that Billy and Jilly were after you? Their current employer, Maximillian Canning, sees you as a potential influx of cash into his flagging organization,”

“Canning, eh? Bastid wants to boost up ‘is Old Boys, then,” Quick stated.

“You’ve both lost me, I am afraid. I mean, I gather that this fellow wants me for a sum of money he will earn. But just who in the blazes is he?” I replied to them both.

“He’s a bad, bad man,” was Quick’s reply.

Jones turned to me, “He is one of the oldest of the Old Boys, a group of thugs and drug dealers spread all through the Metropolis. He’s second only to Shanks Mitchell himself, the big boss. He has a sterling reputation among the guilds and industry, runs a few legit operations as well. And he’s a bad, bad man. But he’s not the least of your worries.”

“Oh?” I queried, realizing that worse was yet to come.

“Whoever is offering the bounty is well-hidden, approaching capable parties through untraceable intermediaries. Capable parties like myself,” Jones said grimly.

“You mean someone hired you to find me?”

“And bring you in to them. They gave me three days. Offered one thousand pounds, mate. That’s some serious money.”

“You wouldn’t do that, would you Jones?” I was starting to feel a little nervous.

“I would, under the right circumstances. That’s why I came looking for you in the first place. You always were together with a plan, Ned. Let’s take them for their money.”

“But we don’t even know who they are, and I have a job that Lord Wellesley has put me up to that I have to finish.”

“All the better, two jobs in one,” D.A. said, his eyes gleaming with calculation, “We will make a killing! And I can finally set up my own new domain!”

Quick shook his head slowly at that.

“Someone offering that much money, mates, for one lil’ ol’ boyo like the country doc here, an’ I daresay it makes me suspicious. Highly suspicious. Somethin’s up there.”

One of the Travellers rapped upon the window of the steam carriage with the stock of his autogun.

“Wot’s all this about? Turn ‘round an’ get tha ‘ell outta ‘ere, ya bloody idiots! Can’tcha see this be a private dock? There’s a stiff fine levied ‘ere fer interlopers, in lead, if ya catch my meanin’!”

He began to point the barrel of the autogun at the window, the meaning quite clear. A short and rounded man in a white evening suit walked up, and pushed the barrel of the autogun downward.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Jones the hunter! You wouldn’t be looking for any of our boys would you? Don’t think any’s got papers one them right now.”

“Rushton Fuller, you know that half your “boys” have papers on them, and I haven’t come to collect a once. We have arrangements, your Folks and I, and I mean to keep them up right,” Jones responded.

Apparently that was the right response, for Fuller nodded and broke into a great grin, wiping his forehead of the sweat of exertion with a handkerchief.

“Well, as you can see, we’ve taken on a job, got to run inland through the canals with this cargo and disperse it to various sites. If there’s anywhere we can take you, Jones, just let me know.”

My friends and I need a lift to Huyton; it’s not too far, I trust?”

“Not at all, climb aboard; you’ll have to leave the chugger, though. Won’t have the room.”

Jones nodded, and soon we were boarding the Wayfarer, Rushton Fuller’s flagship of the canal boats. I could see several drums being loaded onto the Wayfarer as we boarded, and I was wary of the biohazard stickers upon them. They were obviously some sort of chemical, being dispersed by the Travellers at the behest of some industrial giant. I have never begrudged a man having to make a living however they best can, but this was unsettling to me. But, I admitted to myself, there were more important things for me to deal with at the time.

“You got a stateroom where we can talk, in privacy?” Jones asked Fuller as we boarded.

He nodded to us, and led us down to a large room dominated by a table with thirteen chairs.

“This is my captains’ room, all of us in the Fleet meet here once a month. It’s very private. About two hours and we’ll be loaded and in Huyton.”

“Oh, Rushton. You never saw us. I mean that, there could be trouble if you did.”

“No worries, I never saw you, mate.”

He walked out, still mopping his brow, and Jones shut and locked the iron door.

“Now, what the hell are we all mixed up in?” Jones asked.

D.A. took the manila envelope from my hand, and took the seat at the head of the table.

“Here’s the story so far, my friends. There have been a series of murders among the foreign delegates who have been visiting our fair city in the past several days. All have been involved in a variety of industries and means, and from a variety of nations. All have been wealthy and powerful, men with interests in the economic growth of the Great Metropolis. And this has several parties worried.”

He opened the manila envelope, spreading out a map of the Great Metropolis, upon which the scenes of the murders were plainly marked. D.A. was pulling several smaller folders from within the envelopes as well, each containing information on the victims. Something about the placement of the murder scenes struck me immediately.

“Omega; the end. Look, look closely. The scenes…they form a symbol! It’s the Greek letter Omega. These killings are ritualistic in some nature, I will assume?”

“Well, no, not in appearance. Although they are methodical. Calculated, and professional. Only with the most recent one, in Little Tokyo, was there any sort of what appeared to be an issue with the killing. It seems that there was a survivor, which was not the case for any other killing. The survivor is under guard against any further attempts right now.”

Could VanGoeder and his minions be responsible for this, I wondered?

“VanGoeder is alive,” I said plainly to Jones.

He looked shocked.

“But the explosion, there was no way he cold have survived it!”

“Nevertheless, he did. Billy and Jilly told me that he was their employer, despite what you have said about this Canning fellow. Could Canning be a dupe for VanGoeder?”

“It’s possible,” Jones said, “I have a few things I will need to attend to once we arrive in Huyton. I need to see the Dutchman; after that, I’ll go snoop around about that.”

The Dutchman was a well-known arms dealer in Huyton. I knew of him from reputation alone, having grown up in the borough. Everyone did. Not even the Irish Mob bosses messed around with The Dutchman. Jones was planning on picking up artillery of some kind.

“I could use a little bankroll, if any of you have some to spare,” Jones said to us all.

He looked rather plaintively at D.A., who sighed and pulled his money belt open and handed Jones a wad of cash and a couple of Scope tabs.

“What the hell do I want with this crap?” Jones said handing the tabs back to D.A., who shrugged and grinned.

“Could make some money off of them,” he explained.

“Then why don’t you do just that. I don’t touch this stuff. The Scope is dangerous. These tabs even more so.”

D.A. just shrugged again, “Anyway, back to the business at hand. Here’s the files on the murder victims and the survivor. They might tell us something about all of this.”

Jones, D.A. and I began to pour over the folders. Quick just pushed away the folders set before him.

“Kinnae read all this tripe, ’s all Greek ta me,” he said defensively, “And ‘sides, I’m yer man o’ action. Jus’ tell me what ye want me ta do an I shall.”

There were six victims thus far. The first was Adrianus Vrooman, a holder of numerous trade titles from Holland with heavy investments in the Dutch East Indies. The second was Hildebrand Fleischer, a financier with New Reich origins and ties to almost every major trade corporation in the world. The third was Olav Sondag, an Afrikaaner who owned a profitable chain of gold mines in several locations in Africa. The fourth was Joseph Ruehl, an American lawyer who specialized in corporate law. The fifth was Evgeni Sokolov, a highly placed member of the Soviet Politbureau and member of the priveledged Communist Party who was fond of displaying his wealth and power. The sixth of the assassinated men was Michel Croix, a French expatriate and member of the displaced aristocracy who made his home in Spain.

The final victim was to be Watanabe Fujiwara, a Japanese industrialist. He had survived only by the skills of his bodyguard on duty that evening. What did these seven men have in common that someone would be willing to kill them all systematically, and make a diagram from the sites of their deaths? I poured over the notes rigorously, and the time it took was lost to me.

“Well, here we are in Huyton. Time for you fellows to get off now, we’ve a much longer haul than this to go yet. Been nice not seeing you, Jones,” Fuller interrupted my studies with.

“Okay. Here’s the plan, my friends,” I told my gathering, “We split for the night; Jones, you try to dig around some of these sites to find out if they have anything in common. D.A., I want you to get yourself where you are most useful, in the Scope; find out more about these men. Quick, I think you should come with me as the man of action here. There are those trying to kill or take me, and I can’t have that right now. We are going to lay low while I study these files a little further. I need more information before I can formulate a plan.”

My companions nodded at their assigned tasks. Jones gripped my left shoulder.

“Ned, you should go see your mother. She’s not well, you know,” he told me softly.

“I didn’t, but I shall do so while I’m here.”

“Come on Quick, I have a lot of reading to do,” I told the Gamma street slinger.

He nodded and fell into step behind me as I made my way to a house I had long been away from. The home of my childhood, which I had long been trying to escape from.


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 Post subject: Chapter Eight: No Place Like Home
PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 5:45 pm 
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Huyton, the borough where I grew up, was ruled with an iron first by the Irish Mafia. I had known many a colorful character in my time here. Billy “Bruiser” Blannigan, the tough boss of the old Families; Kyla Kerry, the madam of the most popular whorehouse for discerning gentlemen in the Great Metropolis; Shane Dunn, the grifter with a silver tongue; Coilin Finn, the second-story man and safecracker who lost his thumbs in an explosion; O’Malvilriain, the mysterious barber and druid who was called on for anything from love potions to curses.

And they all knew me as well. My mother had been one of Kyla’s girls. She was well-known and loved by the folk of Huyton for her good cheer, irrepressible sense of humour and raven-haired beauty. Not to mention, she had at one time had every man in the Irish Mafia tied around her little finger. Muirne Halloran was also a hard woman as well, as many who crossed her found out.

Now she was older and wiser, retired from the life she had once led and living quietly on the most quality address an aging single woman could afford in Huyton on St. John’s Road. It helped that Diarmuid Maccready, the right-hand man of Billy Blannigan, was still after all of these years hopelessly in love with my mother; he had always paid for anything she had ever wanted, yet she still would not accept his offers of marriage.

Moira…my mother always made me think of Moira. Since the two of them had met a year ago, Mother had taken to reading ogham runes. She claimed to have a talent for reading the future, and Moira had encouraged her. Of course, Mother had also claimed that Moira and I would marry and have six healthy boys and a little girl. And then, after the “Blood-Cult” incident months ago, Moira had left without any warning or goodbyes. I didn’t want to think of that, it still hurt.

So I turned my path down St. John’s, thinking about my current predicament. The Omega symbol created by the sites of the murders; did it have any meaning, was it symbolic of something? I would have to find O’Malvilriain soon, much as the old man scared me and everyone else. He would have some knowledge of this, certainly.

Though the Old Ways were for all practical intents and purposes dead to the world at large, the druid did have power and occult knowledge. And he was the only other person besides Moira who I knew of to speak to on my suspicions. I have always been, to this very day, a very practical man who concerned himself with scientific knowledge, and this sort of thing went beyond my experiences.

And Mother, of all the people in Huyton, would probably know where he could be found. Quick followed upon my heels closely, his eyes peeled for trouble. I didn’t think that any would come here, in my childhood home, but then again I had seen people turn on each other for various reasons before. People are mostly the same, no matter where you go.

As I reached the rather plain brownstone, one of the last of its kind on this block of St. John’s Street, I saw something peculiar. It was as though a fleeting ghostly form had passed Quick and I and cut behind us, just in the periphery of my vision. When I glanced over my shoulder, the form was gone. Quick caught my glance and followed it.

“Seeing ghosts, are ye lad? Well, now, let’s jus’ make damned sure that we don’t be joinin’ ‘em t’day, y’hear? Step lively,” Quick said irritably at my start.

I gave a quick nod. What in blazes had I just seen? I shuddered. Mother talked about seeing spirits sometimes, and Moira could see the patterns of etheric energies. What sort of talent was this?

Nothing, I hoped. Quick stepped up to the doorway, and began to run his hands briskly across the frame. He was checking for any kind of boobytraps.

“I don’t know where you grew up, Quick, but people aren’t like that around here,” I said, watching him nervously.

“I grew up in Faulkhurst; this ain’t nearly so bad, laddybuck, but people is people no matter where ya go.”

Finding nothing, and with everything seeming satisfactory to him, Quick stepped back with the door in hand and gestured for me to enter. I walked down the hallway and into the stairwell which led up to the top floor. Mother had the four flats on that story conjoined into one great house for her when she took over occupancy six years ago.

As I took the flight up to her door, I could smell the smells of a kitchen in use. I hadn’t smelled that coming from my mother’s house in years. It was ringing more alarums within my head than most anything that had happened so far. Mother never cooked, instead preferring to have her gatherings catered.

I knocked upon the door, my trepidation building and forming a solid rock within my belly. I straightened my coat and brushed it off. The weight grew within me as I heard the door latches being undone.

“Coo-ming!” I could hear my mother singing behind the door.

She opened the door, looking as lovely as ever in a beautiful emerald evening dress. She pushed her stole away, and reached to plant a kiss on each of my cheeks.

“Why, Ned, I’d never expect you to come here unshaven and unwashed! What on earth is going on?” she asked me, as though my place at her doorway was completely anticipated.

“Oh, and who…is your little friend?”

“I’m called Quick by those who know me, milady,” Quick said, taking off his bowler.

My mother was a lovely lady, not looking a day over thirty even though she was closer to her fifties. It was no wonder that Quick was so smitten with her so quickly. And her shining smile told me she knew she had enthralled him; it was the same smile she gave all of her gentleman callers.

“And do I know you, good sir?”

“Not yet, p’raps, but I aim ta remedy that right fast,” Quick responded.

She laughed at his humour, gesturing gracefully with gloved hands.

“Please do come in, gentlemen. Perhaps you are not quite in the state I would have expected, but you are both welcome here,” Mother said graciously.

Quick deftly flipped his bowler up onto the hat rack beside Mother’s door, and removed his tattered jacket. She giggled with delight at his display. He grinned, and I could see he was already completely charmed by her. When she saw the six holstered pepperbox pistols beneath Quick’s jacket, she gasped and her eyes widened.

“Oh, never fear, milady, ‘tis no trouble you’ll be havin’ from me. I’m just here to watch after yer son here.”

He reached up and hung the contraption he used to carry his pistols upon the rack. He then pulled a holster from the small of his back, and one out of each of his battered boots.

“You certainly come prepared, Sir. Have you any more?”

“Not where it’s p’lite ta show a lady suchas yerself. If ye’d kindly turn yer back so’s I can unholster without embarrasin’ ya?”

My mother flushed a bit, whether practiced or real I didn’t know, and turned herself to one side whilst Quick reached down the front of his pants to pull out a small pepperbox.

“And you, Ned? You know how I abhor guns at the dinner table.”

“Nothing upon me, Mother. Quick more than makes up for my lack.”

“Very well, then. Dinner’s almost ready, come into the parlour and have a seat, gentlemen. Oh, and say hello to my other dining companion. I’ve got to get that turkey out.”

I nodded and stepped towards her parlour. As I rounded the doorway, I heard the tinkle of light fingers upon Mother’s piano, playing a song I hadn’t heard in some time. A lonely, haunted tune. My face turned white as I saw who was sitting before it.

There she was, looking as lovely as ever; her fine-featured face focused on the keys in the rapture of the music she so loved. I couldn’t see her eyes from the cascade of red-gold hair falling over them, but I remembered well the soulful soft grey depths of emotion peering into my own while looking up at me. My breath caught in my throat. Then she looked up, and smiled when she saw us.

“Oh, Ned, there you are! Finally you’ve come! I was so worried about you!” she voiced softly.

She rose and swiftly came before me, throwing her arms around me. I couldn’t move as she hugged me fiercely. I didn’t know what to think, my emotions swelling within me. Her warmth, the familiar ginger smell of her, the hair I used to run my hands through…

“I’ve missed you so much, Neddy,” Moira said breathlessly as she clutched me tightly.


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 Post subject: Chapter Nine: Moira
PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 10:47 pm 
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Moira had always been a strange girl. She was an orphan, and had been taken in by an aristocratic couple with a need for a beautiful child to call their own. She’d never fit in with the other children who lived the golden life of London. There had always been a distance, she’d told me…a wariness of her. Some called her a witch because she saw things; things that had happened in the past, things that would happen in the future.

She’d known she was very different, but that had never stopped her irrepressible sense of adventure. Other outcasts had flocked to her, and they followed her like a queen. She had explored the banks of the Thames with mudlarks, rummaged through the ruins of the agricultural outer city which had been made into wild parks and hunting preserves to bring pleasure to the aristocracy. She told stories of grand and high adventure to her friends, and inspired them to wonder.

She was fifteen when she was struck by the vision. Her parents were not her own, and they would leave her nothing when they passed; all of their vast fortune was tied to an inheritance for her first-born male cousin. And she knew exactly when and how they would pass from this life. Her sense of adventure lead her to gather a small amount of belongings and take the meager allowance she’d been given and saved, without knowing why until then, and strike out for the Great Metropolis.

Three years of living in the centre of industry on her own had almost broken her. She made her way back to the city of her childhood, seeking out her cousin to throw herself on his mercy. Then we had found each other; I was fresh from the Navy, entering medical school in Oxford, and she had been sent there by her cousin. We became friends, even though I was four years her elder.

Truth be told, I was smitten by her frail form, shining red-gold hair and luminous eyes from the start. Her wit and charm were rather a deciding factor as well. I strove to hide that as best I could for the course of our studies, upholding the ways of a gentleman. We spent hours on end talking, mostly about philosophy and theology, mysticism, Lemurian theory, the Etherscope and the meaning of life. We were inseparable. And I loved her more each year that passed.

When the time came for graduation, we walked from the platform together. Long ago, I’d told her I would be going home to Metropolis upon graduation. Yet she looked upon me with no sorrow as I walked away to gather my things to leave the morning after. I was intrigued by the meaning behind the secretive smile she had given me then.

I found myself the next morning taking a steam carriage to Metropolis, and was quite surprised to find it stopping unscheduled before we’d reached the outskirts of Oxford City. A great clunk had resounded through the cab of the carriage as bags were locked into place atop it. The cab door had opened, and who had stepped in? Why, my beloved Moira, with a smile upon her face that made the day seem as night with only her beautiful smile as an illuminating sun. She had hugged me then as fiercely as she later did when I saw her quite unexpected return at my Mother’s St. John’s Street address.

“Looks like I am going to Metropolis, dear Ned! I am so pleased!” she had exclaimed joyfully.

“But I thought you hated Metropolis, my dear,” I stumbled.

“Well, I don’t anymore. Not now that you are going home,” she smiled, “Such adventures we will have when we arrive!”

And she proceeded to tell me all of them, making my face smile and my heart glad. I determined right then to make her my wife someday. Not that the thought had not before crossed my mind numerous times. Oh, so many times I had dreamed of doing just that. But this time it was definitely different. She wanted to be in the Metropolis because of me.

But events would contrive to place us apart again once we had arrived. At the tender age of twenty-one, Moira had landed a contract with the Ancoats Historical Society as an archaeological intern. She sadly had to leave only two months after arriving to go on a dig.

We parted tearfully, and I finally found my courage that day. I asked Moira to be my wife, and I found her tears to be upsetting at first, then encouraging when she explained her love for me and her wish to be my bride. She told me then that the dig would take her far from Britain, and she was uncertain of the time of her return. I swore to have a home and a wedding ring for her upon her return, and she swore to write to me daily. She had made quite the impression upon my Mother, who was as sad as I to see her go.

“Son, that woman will be your wife. Build your future together while she is gone. She’s a good woman, and I can tell that you love her like nothing else.”

I, however, found my dreams dashed at every turn while attempting to secure loans to build a practice. I soon found that many of the civics department turned up their noses at an Irish doctor from Huyton, no matter that his degree was from Oxford. So I found myself accepting country appointments and helping the poor. It was rather emotionally rewarding, yet yielded very little of the money I had expected and needed to buy a ring and build a home for my lovely bride to be. Yet still I saved.

From the beginning, Moira was true about writing to me; every day after the first week, letters began to arrive for me. They expressed sorrow at having to leave, yet elation that our love would be realized someday soon. After four months, the letters slowed, yet still showed the same affection; after six, they stopped. It was then that the news came, and I had felt shattered. The ship that Moira had been upon had went down in an unexplained explosion. There were no survivors.

I struggled to make it through the days after, with whiskey and friends. Four months later, I had found myself at the bottom of my barrel and facing my struggle largely with whiskey. I was destitute, spending more money to keep myself drunk than I made from my appointments. My mother came to clean me up and get me out of my funk then, hearing of my drunken brawls and flirtations with the rougher sort and death.

Though I initially thought it was money from her Irish Mafia lover, Diarmuid Maccready, I later found it was money from my own father, none other than Lord Alfred Wellesley III. I had a shop and flat, and my medical equipment was replaced. I had appointments again, even though my reputation was as a country doctor with some skill, and a penchant for whiskey. Then Moira had come back, right in the beginnings of the “Blood-Cult of Berlin” incident.

She had told me then that my life was in danger, and even as I welcomed her with open arms she seemed distant. She, Jones and I stumbled upon the crimes that were being committed after a cousin of mine had been murdered and I had discovered a rare sort of toxin which none of the other doctors had identified in his system.

As the days passed with our investigation, Moira stayed with my mother. I had deduced the origin of the toxin correctly, Jones had found the seller of herbs who had provided it for the murderer, and Moira had inadvertently found the lair of the villain Doctor VanGoeder and his nameless New Reich Captain henchman. We had set out to rescue her, gotten captured and then Jones and I had fought with the two until the explosion occurred and the authorities had arrived after having been warned by Moira.

So much had passed in a blur that night, but I could not forget as she stood there hugging me in my Mother’s parlor the words she had said that night when all had finished and the safety of the Great Metropolis had been ensured.

She had looked up at me with those wide, soulful grey eyes with tears welling up and a smile on her face.

“I do so love you, Doctor Edward J. Halloran, M.D., Esq.,” and she put a finger to my lips to silence me before I could return her statement.

“But I cannot marry you. It would be wrong for both of us. You do not yet understand, but you will soon enough. I must go again, you see. Tonight, a ferry leaves for me and I must take it.”

“Surely you must clean up, and get a new dress, and fix your hair, it’s such a mess. Lovely still, but a mess,” I had replied, agony building and tears welling.

To my surprise, she had nodded and came to my shop and flat with me. I availed her of my bath, bought her new clothing, and began to prepare my own bath as she dressed herself in my dressing room. I had fallen asleep in the bath, then, dreaming of making love to the woman of my heart, Moira. It was so achingly tender and beautiful, yet I awoke with a start as the dream abruptly ended with her absence. The water in the tub, once steaming hot, had cooled.

I had looked about to see the towels I had set out gone, water splashed about the floor at the base of the tub, and had run into the bedroom. The bed was still perfectly made. The towels were nowhere to be found, and the dress I had bought her was still hung in my dressing room. Moira was gone, again.

And now, a month later, here she was in my Mother’s parlour, hugging me with a fierceness that belied her frail frame. She was right, I couldn’t understand her at all.

“What are you doing here, Moira? I thought you had left for good.”

Was that hurt in her eyes as she looked up at me?


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 Post subject: Chapter 10: A Quiet Dinner
PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 12:37 am 
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Mother was right on time; my distress at confronting the object of my affections who had rejected me so easily was at a boiling point. Quick had sensed something was amiss, and headed straight into the dining room as she came out.

“Dinner is served, please do come to the dining room, my lovelies.”

I was almost afraid to, because Mother hadn’t deigned to cook for me in a good many years. But I stormed into the dining room nonetheless. Quick was seated at the head of the table, boots propped up on the edge. Mother ushered Moira and I to our seats across from one another, and then quickly swatted Quick’s legs from the edge.

“Now, now, dear, mind your manners or we shan’t be able to talk about anything later when the children go to bed, now shall we?”

I was aghast at that, but Quick seemed most pleased indeed. And my mother winked at him.

As she prepared our plates with turkey and dressing, gravy and potatos, mashed beans and corn, Mother passed a small smile at Moira.

“So, dear, when is the wedding going to be?”

Again, I was aghast. I began to speak, but was cut off by Moira’s speech and the shock it gave me.

“We will be married at the end of the year. My cousin has begun the preparations in London, the city of my birth, and he will host a gathering there to be the envy of the city. You will, of course, be there.”

Mother seemed shocked as well, and more than a little delighted. I remembered that I had not told her a month ago that Moira had told me she could not marry me. I had barely even spoken to her, burying myself in my work.

“So, dear, have you the rings yet?” Mother asked me with a side glance.

“Ah, not quite yet, Mother. But something has definitely come up in my practice as of late that will allow me to do so, and very soon.”

I looked to Moira, who smile victoriously at me. What was going on in the woman’s head? First she tells me a marriage could never work, then she throws herself at me and announces our wedding. I couldn’t understand her, even if she was giving me now what I’d wished for since the day we met.

But my sense of wonderment was soon to be interrupted. Quick leapt from his chair of a sudden, gripping my mother round the waist. He threw her to the floor, and I barely glanced what was going on before it happened. A man was coming into the parlour, straight across from the dining room hallway. A man with an autogun.

I went under the table and unceremoniously gripped Moira by the thighs and pulled her from her seat while pushing her chair back away. She landed with an ignominious thump, her distress obvious in her eyes at my act.

“Edward James Halloran,” she said, mimicking the tone my Mother had used in her displeasure during my youth while utilizing my entire name to address me, “What on Earth are you-”

And then the autogun opened fire. Quick put his feet up on the far end of the table’s underside and pushed it over. We had no guns, they were all in the parlour on the coat rack. Quickly, I reached around the table to grip the carving knife while bullets screamed into the floor. I jerked my hand back.

“Bugger all,” Quick said softly, “I knew I should nae left me guns in there.”

Mother looked shocked at him as she whispered in turn, “Watch your language in my dining room, young fellow.”

Moira peered around the table’s edge and jerked her head back a moment before bullets began to strike the heavy wooden table.

“There’s four of them,” Moira announced softly, “Two in the parlour, one outside the parlour window coming round to the dining room window and one making his way into the kitchen now.”

“Great job, yer a psycher, eh?” Quick stated, “Well, can ye see whereabouts inna kitchen?”

Quick fumbled with his shirt as Moira seemed to concentrate.

“Always keep yerself a weapon o’ last resort, Doc,” he said as he pulled a long, flat leather pouch from under his shirt, held around his neck by a thin leather thong.

“Around the island now, coming towards the door,” Moira informed him.

“I’ll distract the two in the parlour,” I said to Quick, and he nodded.

My mother gripped the large carving fork in a white-knuckled hand.

“I will lay in wait for the man in the window,” she said grimly.

I knew she could handle herself, but I was loathe to put that in practice. Rather than wait for her move, I leaped up over the table and towards one side of the doorway. Autoguns opened up, and I felt a stinging furrow of pain dig into my calf as I passed the doorway. After the initial hail of bullets passed and the men in the parlour were repositioning themselves, Quick moved, and moved like his name.

Unfolding the straight razor he’d produced from within the pouch about his neck, Quick pushed off and slid feet-first towards the door of the kitchen. It swung open forcefully as he hit it, striking the man behind it full in the face. As the door swung back out towards Quick, he somersaulted to one side and his hand flashed out. Flicking the blade of the straight razor between the stunned man’s legs, Quick reached around and severed his left Achilles tendon.

I grimaced as I saw the fellow take a step, blood jetting from the back of his foot, and fold. Quick came up atop the fellow, hunched down below the height of the upturned table. One of his hands pulled the autogun from the man’s grasp, while the other hand moved the straight razor swiftly across the back of his neck.

At that moment, the dining room window crashed inwards. The man outside fell in, and Mother rushed towards him low with a howl and the fork leveled at his groin. The man fell soundlessly into her, and bowled her over. I realized that there was something on the man’s back, a humanoid form.

Something else caught my attention more immediately, however. The barrel of an autogun, at chest height, came around the corner of the doorway. It was moving around the corner to fire at me. I ducked, but not too quickly to catch one bullet in my right shoulder. I grabbed the arm as it came further around the corner, and ruthlessly bit into the hand holding the gun where the thumb met the wrist. I levered the gun away from the wounded hand, spiting blood from my mouth.

It was then that I heard a shotgun blast roar out, leaving my ears ringing. An autogun clattered to the floor, on the side of the doorway opposite me. The hand that had held it was still attached to the grip. A scream resounded from the parlour.

The handless man came full into view, pulling a pistol from his waistband with his left hand and aiming it at Jones, the form who had come through the window and who was currently reloading the double barreled shotgun he held frantically. As the man leveled the pistol at Jones, I tried to swing the awkward weight of the autogun towards him.

Quick beat me to the punch, however, as he flung the straight razor through the air. The blade sank into the gunman’s neck. His eyes went wide, and his bleeding handless stump of a wrist went to his neck. He managed to continue to stand, however, and began to bring his pistol to bear upon Quick.

I leapt before him, using the autogun I held to push him back. The pistol fired, and I felt a fire punch into my ribs and heard them crack quite distinclty. I fell back, dropping the autogun, groaning. My vision was fading into a tunnel, and I felt my head crack against the floor. Then everything went dark.

I am not sure how long I was out, but Moira and Mother’s tearful pleadings for me to come back to them were what awakened me. I was still lying on the floor of Mother’s dining room, with a terrible throbbing in my head. The man with the razor in his throat was down, and bleeding profusely. A few seconds, I gathered. Concussion. I struggled to rise while Moira and Mother’s hands pushed me down.

“Lay down, my sweet boy, oh lay down. We will get a doctor!” Mother sobbed.

“I am a doctor,” I grumbled, then winced at the pain in my side.

Looking down, I expected to see a great pooling of blood coming from a gaping bullet hole. But there was none. I looked to the rifle. Its stock and entire firing mechanism was shattered. The man had shot into the autogun rather than me, and a large chcunk of the resulting debris had rammed into my left side. My ribs were cracked or, more likely, broken.

“Did we get them all?” I asked.

“Ye did good, laddybuck, real good. Ye can rest easy now, th’ Ferryman’s comin’ soon. I got a couplea pence if you want them.”

“He’ll be fine, shut up Quick,” Jones growled, pushing the Gamma away with his two pence.

“Can you get up, Ned?” Moira asked.

“Uhh, yes, give me a hand?”

She and Jones helped me rise. As I faced her, I could see that she had been shedding some amount of tears. I smiled weakly at her, reached up and rubbed the tears from her right cheek with my thumb.

“I’ll be all right. Now, who were these men?”

Jones stepped up as Moira slid to my right side and slipped her arm around my waist.

“There were two more waiting downstairs, for any stragglers, I suppose. I took them out quiet. I think one of them might have been some kind of wiz or something.”

Edward James Halloran, what in Hell is going on here!” Mother interrupted.

“It’s a long story, Mum, and I don’t have time to get into it. Go stay with Diarmuid tonight, he’ll watch over you. I don’t like him much but I do trust him. Take Moira with you.”

“No way am I going to run and hide,” Moira said then, her face flushing in anger, “I am going with you!”

“We don’t know yet what is going on for certain, only that there are men out to kill us for something we are searching for clues on. It’s too dangerous for you to tag along, dear! I don’t want anything to happen to you!” I argued.

“Well, fine! Nothing’s going to happen to me, then! But you most certainly will take me with you, because you need me to make sure nothing happens to you!” Moira yelled at me.

“Children, children,” Quick retorted with a grin.

“Shut up,” Jones said curtly, cutting us off with a gesture of silence, “I do know what’s going on, sort of. And I know we need to get to Little Tokyo to stop the next murder. Watanabe Fujiwara is going home. He’s under guard still, but he’ll be the next target, and now is our chance to put a stop to this and find out for sure what is going on!”

That’s when I heard the front door swing open. Gripping up an autogun, I moved quickly into the parlour with Quick following and stepping in front of me with an autogun in his own grasp. There at the doorway stood D.A. A bullet hole in his chest seeped blood, and he was pressing a soaked handkerchief to the wound.

His paleness indicated to me that he’d lost quite a bit of blood; perhaps too much. I dropped the autogun and dashed over to him. Quick moved to shut the door. D.A. fell into my arms, his hand dropping from his wound, and blood seeped out from it onto my coat in a startling amount.

“Dtharsa…Dtharsa…” he muttered.

I didn’t understand what he was saying as his hands pulled at my waistcoat weakly.

“Hold on, D.A., hold on. Quick, get me some bullets from that gun, get the lead off them now. Jones, get me some towels to stop this up while I prep. I need something sharp…Moira, get me the carving knife, please.”

Quick was gathering several bullets before I’d finished, and Jones knew my drill, he’d seen it before. Moira stood confused.

“Darling, I need a knife now. Please, go!”

I ripped open his shirt; it was an ugly wound in the front and I was fearful for the size of the exit wound, if there was one.

All the while, D.A. kept uttering the word that eluded me, “Dtharsa.”

I poured out the contents of two bullets onto the entry wound.

“Quick, got a match?” I said as I fumbled for my cigarette tin and found it missing.

He produced one, and I lit the gunpowder. It flashed, and D.A. groaned and began to gnash his teeth. I forced his jaws apart for a moment, keeping him from biting his tongue.

Moira pushed the carving knife at me.

“Flip him onto his belly, gently. I need to look at the exit wound,” I told Jones, who nodded and complied.

The bullet had exited, leaving quite a mess behind. I took hold of the knife to move the edges of the wound and examine it. I found several pieces of shattered bone within the wound.

“Get something for him to bite down on,” I told Mother.

She came back with a leather razor strap and pushed it into D.A.’s mouth. He had blacked out now, so the struggling with this would be limited, fortunately. I dug out the bone chunks as best I could with such indelicate instruments, then poured and lit more gunpowder upon the surface of the wound. D.A. groaned and shuddered violently.

“Call a cab, Mother, we need him to a hospital at once or he will surely die, and I haven’t the equipment to save him myself anymore than I’ve already done. Go with him, have the cab waiting, and then go to Diarmuid’s straight away.”

“Come on, the rest of you, we’ve got to get to Little Tokyo to watch Watanabe Fujiwara’s place. He is the last, and we’ve got to find a way to counter it and find out who exactly is behind all of this!”

Jones nodded, “I’ll pull around the zepcar. We’ve got to make this quick.”


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 Post subject: Chapter Eleven: Little Tokyo
PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 3:52 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 140
Location: Somewhere in the CAS
Jones had the zepcar running when the cab arrived for Mother and D.A. As I opened the door for Moira, I saw that Jones had been yanking out wiring under the dash. He had installed some sort of black box, hooking the zepcar’s wiring into it.

“What in blazes is that?”

“This rig,” Jones grinned, “aids in the avoidance of being unnecessarily slowed down. It overrides the guidance pylons.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“Something like that. Hold onto something, this’ll be a bumpy ride.”

Quick climbed into the front passenger seat, checking his rounds and speed loaders compulsively. Moira squeezed close to me, and I remembered her warmth, slipped an arm around her. She smiled up at me then, a brightness shining in her eyes for me. We were getting married after all, then. I decided not to question; perhaps I didn’t understand her entirely, but then did any one person understand another completely? I smiled back to her.

Despite my worries for Moira’s safety, I would allow her this journey with me; she had been completely invaluable with her uncanny skills during the “Blood-Cult of Berlin” incident. They had already served well again, during our interrupted engagement dinner.

Quick tossed an autogun my way as we pulled into Little Tokyo. Jones knew exactly where he was going. We stopped a few blocks away, and Jones went to the rear of the zepcar to open up the boot. I was amazed by the huge black duffelbag he pulled out.

“I’ve got a good choice of loadouts here,” Jones said, unzipping the bag as he dropped it to the ground, “Oh, and Ned, here’s your pistol.” He grinned as he tossed my Navy revolver to me.

I smiled and pushed it into my waistband, then reached to grasp the speed loaders of ammunition he was handing me. The autogun was bulky and the recoil unpleasant, so I opted to drop it into the bag and pick up a very fine Italian shotgun that was towards the bottom of the bag. Grabbing up a box of shells, I began to load it and stuff some extra shells into the pockets of my overcoat.

Quick didn’t even look in the bag, just patting his coat and grinning. Moira peeked into the bag, eyes growing wide at the assortment of firearms that Jones had collected from The Dutchman. She reached in timidly and gripped a pair of autopistols. Jones handed her several magazines as well, which she stuffed into her handbag daintily. To my surprise, she checked the loads of the magazines and the slides of each pistol, tested the trigger pull dry and handled the guns familiarly. A woman of extraordinary experiences, indeed.

Jones himself gripped up a crossbow and a small quiver of bolts, which he strapped to his back. He then pulled out two very large revolvers and strapped the gun belt on. Onto the belt, he latched something I remembered well; his favourite combat knife from the Marines, well over eleven inches in length and serrated upon the back edge. But he didn’t stop there, because he next pulled out a shoulder rig with two compact autopistols and strapped it on.

“Expecting trouble?” I asked.

“I am with Quick on this one. Things are going to get bloody.” Jones replied simply.

He cocked the crossbow.

“I will take the lead, scout around. You three stand back a bit, follow my lead, don’t come till I call.”

Jones moved out in full stealth mode, and Quick pshawed him as he was out of view.

“”E can smell trouble, then, can ‘e? Well, I can smell it too, and waiting ‘ere stinks sum’tin awful. I am gonna take the back, Doc, watch yer sweet missie there. An’ watch yerself too, get shot up ‘n then I get ta take care o’ her,” he grinned at Moira, who stuck her tongue out at him.

As we crouched there during the wait for some signal from Jones or Quick, Moira took my hand in hers.

“I do love you, Ned,” she said to me.

Her face was radiant and shining. My heart felt like it was going to explode, it hammered in my chest so hard. The earth moved as our faces grew closer. I was ecstatic, but shocked when I realized the rumble was not caused by our chemistry alone. Something was happening.

The glass from the lower floor windows rained out in a deadly shower as the explosion rippled upward from below the street level. Smoke billowed from the ruins of the doorway. Scraps of silk flapped in the wind, flying free from whatever mooring they’d had.

I saw Jones staggering back from his hiding place between two steam carriages that had been rocked by the explosion. I threw aside my coat to rush to him, when I stopped. From the roof of the building across from Watanabe Fujiwara’s home, something snaked across the night sky. Looking up, I saw it was some sort of grappling cable, with a heavy hook which cut into the brick and locked on the Japanese dignitary’s home. A large dark form was swooping across from the top of the other building, a figure in a great coat which flapped in the wind behind it. Something gleamed from its arm.

I leaped for Jones, driving him to the ground and landing atop him as the massive form came down past us and flew through the front door. The sound of heavy steel striking stone gave me an indication that this man had replaced his legs with cybernaughtics. Jones was gripping his eye, where a sliver of glass had embedded itself from the explosion.

“Be still, man, I can get it out if you will just be still!” I said, more concerned with Jones’ eye than the dreadnought that had passed us by.

Moira rushed over, breathless and flushed.

“What was that! Jones, are you okay? Ned, what was that?”

“Shh! Get me my bag! I have to do something for Jones first, before I can do anything about that giant!”

She rushed to bring me my Gladstone, and I opened it and pulled forth the tools of my trade. With exacting precision, sweat running from my forehead, I removed the sliver from Jones’ eye. Fortunately, it had entered the orb straight and not at an angle nor spiraling; as I examined the wound, I saw that it had not unduly damaged the optic nerve.

“Jones, you must take yourself to a hospital now; with any luck, they may be able to save your eye. Quick, Moira and myself will handle this.”

“That thing would kill you all, you have to take it by surprise. It’s a goliath, you’d better be careful Ned,” Jones said.

Just then, one of the fourth story windows erupted outward. A small form flew forth, and landed with a loud slam on the top of one of the steam carriages parked below. Something skittered across the ground to my feet; it was one of Quick’s pepperbox pistols, the barrels still smoking. I began to rush towards him, fearful for his life now, when two grappling forms landed on the street between he and I.

The two figures stood to their full heights, fearsome opponents of which I stood a chance against neither. I shrunk back, and found Moira’s hand as I watched the two begin to circle one another like wolves circling their prey. The one who had flown into the building was a juggernaut of steel and steam, with gleaming red eyes and little showing in the way of flesh beneath the dulled metal that covered his body.

The second was a samurai in a red slicksuit decorated with cherry blossoms in white. Where the juggernaut was huge, the samurai was tall and lean, slender and quick. The two looked the very extreme opposites of deadliness. I laid my arm across the front of Moira at the spectacle, pushing her back. She pushed back at my arm, struggling with me, and I looked back to see a mixture of awe and fear in her eyes.

A long and heavy blade extended from the right arm of the juggernaut, to match the slim blade the samurai carried in his own hand. The two circled closer and closer. They were warriors of flesh and steel, they whirled into action at a blinding speed. Swords clashed, ringing loudly as the two attacked and counterattacked, parried and thrust, matching each other blow for blow. Moira clutched me tightly. I saw Quick move atop the steam carriage, and began to edge around these two warriors’ battle to reach him. Moira moved with me, fingers white-knuckled upon my shoulders and her vision locked upon the two combatants.

Just as we reached Quick, the contest was decided. The samurai swept his sword in a downward arc as the giant thrust his towards the samurai. The katana was keen and strong; it sheared through the giant’s sword a mere four inches from where it joined with his arm. But the giant continued forward with his momentum even as the samurai swiftly attempted to bring his blade up for another attack; the shaft of steel that remained of the giant’s sword punched through the samurai’s neck just below his chin as the giant’s leg kicked the moving katana to one side.

The ancient Japanese sword fell from lifeless fingers as blood spilled in a torrent when the giant twisted the stump of a blade and pulled it free. The samurai fell to the ground in a heap. The juggernaut looked up to the window they had come out of, and I followed his gaze. Standing in the window was a small, balding Japanese man whose face was a mask of fear.

The juggernaut began to stride towards the building purposefully. As he passed Moira and me, I could swear I saw something akin to anger within those mechanical eyes. I had to take action or this raging melding of man and machine would kill yet again. But it was Quick who took my action for me, the brave and fearless little man.

He rolled from the top of the steam carriage, landing with a thump upon the cobblestones and reaching both hands into his coat. He withdrew two very large-barreled pepperboxes, and opened fire at the juggernaut’s legs. It took a moment to realize that the two pepperbox pistols he fired were not actually pepperbox pistols at all…they were grenade launchers.

The two projectiles landed directly in front of the juggernaut, and Quick deftly slid under the steam carriage he’d dropped from. The juggernaut turned towards him and leveled his left arm towards the steam carriage, but he didn’t have the time to get off the shots from the autogun that popped up on his arm. I grabbed Moira and threw us both to the cobblestones, trying to wrap my arms around her to cushion her fall.

The heat of the explosion was terrific; I looked up to see the juggernaut blown forward from its force and be driven into the steam carriage, which was carried across the street and into the side of the building there by the resulting explosion of the juggernaut itself. I could see no sign of Quick at all. I covered Moira as best I could while the flaming bits of steel and glass rained down onto the street.

With horror I saw the juggernaut rise shakily. One red eye was left intact, and it was focused upon the small Japanese man who was running towards an intact steam carriage down the street. It lumbered towards him, quicker than I would have given credit for something so damaged. A shot sounded out then, ringing loudly through the brisk night air. As I saw the lumbering juggernaut stagger and then fall in a heap of scrap, I looked back with the expectance of seeing Jones behind us.

What I saw instead was a sleek sports zep, its gull-wing door opened, and a man dressed in a crisp grey uniform stepping out with a long-barreled targeting pistol in his left hand. His uniform was that of a New Reich officer. As he turned towards me, he holstered his pistol and I could see a horrid mass of reddened and burn-scarred flesh with a large cybereye protruding on the right side of his face. My horror mounted and then peaked into fear as I saw the pristine left side of his face. My saviour had been The Colonel, my nemesis from the “Blood-Cult of Berlin” incident.

His smile seemed twisted by the burned side of his face as he looked upon me, walking around myself and Moira.

“So, you can still recognize me, can you Doctor Halloran? Even through what you did to me?”

I had seen the bullet strike The Colonel’s temple from Jones’ revolver, seen him fall down five flights of stairs and crumple into a lifeless heap. Yet here he stood before me, somehow alive.

“I do believe we have some unfinished business, no?” he said as his foot caught under the katana that the samurai had dropped and he launched it into the air towards me.

I caught its hilt, a quivering setting into me as I watched him draw his cavalry saber. I was afraid of this man.

“Not yet, you don’t,” came a silkly, sensual voice from the sports zep.

I watched a slender, long and sensual leg encased in red leather step out of seating area of the sports zep. Long strands of golden, braided hair fell around her face and left only one eye visible, glaring madly at The Colonel. She held a pair of knives in each hand, poised to throw them. As I looked back at The Colonel, I saw a look akin to fear pass his face fleetingly. Behind the madwoman that was Jillian the Razor Queen, Doctor VanGoeder stepped out.

“She is right, Colonel. We need their help right now, not their deaths. Please, stand down or I will order her to make you do so,” VanGoeder said in his authoritative voice.

“Doctor, we need to talk, as man of science to man of science. Colonel, apprehend Watanabe Fujiwara. He must be questioned extensively. Jilly, go with him and see to it that he makes no mistakes.”

VanGoeder gestured to the sports zep.

“If you will join me, Doctor Halloran, I believe an explanation is in order as to why our enmity, although rightfully earned for both of us, must be temporarily put aside for the good of the entire civilized world.”


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 Post subject: Chapter Eleven: Little Tokyo
PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 3:55 pm 
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Hard-Bitten Adventurer
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Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 140
Location: Somewhere in the CAS
Jones had the zepcar running when the cab arrived for Mother and D.A. As I opened the door for Moira, I saw that Jones had been yanking out wiring under the dash. He had installed some sort of black box, hooking the zepcar’s wiring into it.

“What in blazes is that?”

“This rig,” Jones grinned, “aids in the avoidance of being unnecessarily slowed down. It overrides the guidance pylons.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“Something like that. Hold onto something, this’ll be a bumpy ride.”

Quick climbed into the front passenger seat, checking his rounds and speed loaders compulsively. Moira squeezed close to me, and I remembered her warmth, slipped an arm around her. She smiled up at me then, a brightness shining in her eyes for me. We were getting married after all, then. I decided not to question; perhaps I didn’t understand her entirely, but then did any one person understand another completely? I smiled back to her.

Despite my worries for Moira’s safety, I would allow her this journey with me; she had been completely invaluable with her uncanny skills during the “Blood-Cult of Berlin” incident. They had already served well again, during our interrupted engagement dinner.

Quick tossed an autogun my way as we pulled into Little Tokyo. Jones knew exactly where he was going. We stopped a few blocks away, and Jones went to the rear of the zepcar to open up the boot. I was amazed by the huge black duffelbag he pulled out.

“I’ve got a good choice of loadouts here,” Jones said, unzipping the bag as he dropped it to the ground, “Oh, and Ned, here’s your pistol.” He grinned as he tossed my Navy revolver to me.

I smiled and pushed it into my waistband, then reached to grasp the speed loaders of ammunition he was handing me. The autogun was bulky and the recoil unpleasant, so I opted to drop it into the bag and pick up a very fine Italian shotgun that was towards the bottom of the bag. Grabbing up a box of shells, I began to load it and stuff some extra shells into the pockets of my overcoat.

Quick didn’t even look in the bag, just patting his coat and grinning. Moira peeked into the bag, eyes growing wide at the assortment of firearms that Jones had collected from The Dutchman. She reached in timidly and gripped a pair of autopistols. Jones handed her several magazines as well, which she stuffed into her handbag daintily. To my surprise, she checked the loads of the magazines and the slides of each pistol, tested the trigger pull dry and handled the guns familiarly. A woman of extraordinary experiences, indeed.

Jones himself gripped up a crossbow and a small quiver of bolts, which he strapped to his back. He then pulled out two very large revolvers and strapped the gun belt on. Onto the belt, he latched something I remembered well; his favourite combat knife from the Marines, well over eleven inches in length and serrated upon the back edge. But he didn’t stop there, because he next pulled out a shoulder rig with two compact autopistols and strapped it on.

“Expecting trouble?” I asked.

“I am with Quick on this one. Things are going to get bloody.” Jones replied simply.

He cocked the crossbow.

“I will take the lead, scout around. You three stand back a bit, follow my lead, don’t come till I call.”

Jones moved out in full stealth mode, and Quick pshawed him as he was out of view.

“”E can smell trouble, then, can ‘e? Well, I can smell it too, and waiting ‘ere stinks sum’tin awful. I am gonna take the back, Doc, watch yer sweet missie there. An’ watch yerself too, get shot up ‘n then I get ta take care o’ her,” he grinned at Moira, who stuck her tongue out at him.

As we crouched there during the wait for some signal from Jones or Quick, Moira took my hand in hers.

“I do love you, Ned,” she said to me.

Her face was radiant and shining. My heart felt like it was going to explode, it hammered in my chest so hard. The earth moved as our faces grew closer. I was ecstatic, but shocked when I realized the rumble was not caused by our chemistry alone. Something was happening.

The glass from the lower floor windows rained out in a deadly shower as the explosion rippled upward from below the street level. Smoke billowed from the ruins of the doorway. Scraps of silk flapped in the wind, flying free from whatever mooring they’d had.

I saw Jones staggering back from his hiding place between two steam carriages that had been rocked by the explosion. I threw aside my coat to rush to him, when I stopped. From the roof of the building across from Watanabe Fujiwara’s home, something snaked across the night sky. Looking up, I saw it was some sort of grappling cable, with a heavy hook which cut into the brick and locked on the Japanese dignitary’s home. A large dark form was swooping across from the top of the other building, a figure in a great coat which flapped in the wind behind it. Something gleamed from its arm.

I leaped for Jones, driving him to the ground and landing atop him as the massive form came down past us and flew through the front door. The sound of heavy steel striking stone gave me an indication that this man had replaced his legs with cybernaughtics. Jones was gripping his eye, where a sliver of glass had embedded itself from the explosion.

“Be still, man, I can get it out if you will just be still!” I said, more concerned with Jones’ eye than the dreadnought that had passed us by.

Moira rushed over, breathless and flushed.

“What was that! Jones, are you okay? Ned, what was that?”

“Shh! Get me my bag! I have to do something for Jones first, before I can do anything about that giant!”

She rushed to bring me my Gladstone, and I opened it and pulled forth the tools of my trade. With exacting precision, sweat running from my forehead, I removed the sliver from Jones’ eye. Fortunately, it had entered the orb straight and not at an angle nor spiraling; as I examined the wound, I saw that it had not unduly damaged the optic nerve.

“Jones, you must take yourself to a hospital now; with any luck, they may be able to save your eye. Quick, Moira and myself will handle this.”

“That thing would kill you all, you have to take it by surprise. It’s a goliath, you’d better be careful Ned,” Jones said.

Just then, one of the fourth story windows erupted outward. A small form flew forth, and landed with a loud slam on the top of one of the steam carriages parked below. Something skittered across the ground to my feet; it was one of Quick’s pepperbox pistols, the barrels still smoking. I began to rush towards him, fearful for his life now, when two grappling forms landed on the street between he and I.

The two figures stood to their full heights, fearsome opponents of which I stood a chance against neither. I shrunk back, and found Moira’s hand as I watched the two begin to circle one another like wolves circling their prey. The one who had flown into the building was a juggernaut of steel and steam, with gleaming red eyes and little showing in the way of flesh beneath the dulled metal that covered his body.

The second was a samurai in a red slicksuit decorated with cherry blossoms in white. Where the juggernaut was huge, the samurai was tall and lean, slender and quick. The two looked the very extreme opposites of deadliness. I laid my arm across the front of Moira at the spectacle, pushing her back. She pushed back at my arm, struggling with me, and I looked back to see a mixture of awe and fear in her eyes.

A long and heavy blade extended from the right arm of the juggernaut, to match the slim blade the samurai carried in his own hand. The two circled closer and closer. They were warriors of flesh and steel, they whirled into action at a blinding speed. Swords clashed, ringing loudly as the two attacked and counterattacked, parried and thrust, matching each other blow for blow. Moira clutched me tightly. I saw Quick move atop the steam carriage, and began to edge around these two warriors’ battle to reach him. Moira moved with me, fingers white-knuckled upon my shoulders and her vision locked upon the two combatants.

Just as we reached Quick, the contest was decided. The samurai swept his sword in a downward arc as the giant thrust his towards the samurai. The katana was keen and strong; it sheared through the giant’s sword a mere four inches from where it joined with his arm. But the giant continued forward with his momentum even as the samurai swiftly attempted to bring his blade up for another attack; the shaft of steel that remained of the giant’s sword punched through the samurai’s neck just below his chin as the giant’s leg kicked the moving katana to one side.

The ancient Japanese sword fell from lifeless fingers as blood spilled in a torrent when the giant twisted the stump of a blade and pulled it free. The samurai fell to the ground in a heap. The juggernaut looked up to the window they had come out of, and I followed his gaze. Standing in the window was a small, balding Japanese man whose face was a mask of fear.

The juggernaut began to stride towards the building purposefully. As he passed Moira and me, I could swear I saw something akin to anger within those mechanical eyes. I had to take action or this raging melding of man and machine would kill yet again. But it was Quick who took my action for me, the brave and fearless little man.

He rolled from the top of the steam carriage, landing with a thump upon the cobblestones and reaching both hands into his coat. He withdrew two very large-barreled pepperboxes, and opened fire at the juggernaut’s legs. It took a moment to realize that the two pepperbox pistols he fired were not actually pepperbox pistols at all…they were grenade launchers.

The two projectiles landed directly in front of the juggernaut, and Quick deftly slid under the steam carriage he’d dropped from. The juggernaut turned towards him and leveled his left arm towards the steam carriage, but he didn’t have the time to get off the shots from the autogun that popped up on his arm. I grabbed Moira and threw us both to the cobblestones, trying to wrap my arms around her to cushion her fall.

The heat of the explosion was terrific; I looked up to see the juggernaut blown forward from its force and be driven into the steam carriage, which was carried across the street and into the side of the building there by the resulting explosion of the juggernaut itself. I could see no sign of Quick at all. I covered Moira as best I could while the flaming bits of steel and glass rained down onto the street.

With horror I saw the juggernaut rise shakily. One red eye was left intact, and it was focused upon the small Japanese man who was running towards an intact steam carriage down the street. It lumbered towards him, quicker than I would have given credit for something so damaged. A shot sounded out then, ringing loudly through the brisk night air. As I saw the lumbering juggernaut stagger and then fall in a heap of scrap, I looked back with the expectance of seeing Jones behind us.

What I saw instead was a sleek sports zep, its gull-wing door opened, and a man dressed in a crisp grey uniform stepping out with a long-barreled targeting pistol in his left hand. His uniform was that of a New Reich officer. As he turned towards me, he holstered his pistol and I could see a horrid mass of reddened and burn-scarred flesh with a large cybereye protruding on the right side of his face. My horror mounted and then peaked into fear as I saw the pristine left side of his face. My saviour had been The Captain, my nemesis from the “Blood-Cult of Berlin” incident.

His smile seemed twisted by the burned side of his face as he looked upon me, walking around myself and Moira.

“So, you can still recognize me, can you Doctor Halloran? Even through what you did to me?”

I had seen the bullet strike The Captain's temple from Jones’ revolver, seen him fall down five flights of stairs and crumple into a lifeless heap. Yet here he stood before me, somehow alive.

“I do believe we have some unfinished business, no?” he said as his foot caught under the katana that the samurai had dropped and he launched it into the air towards me.

I caught its hilt, a quivering setting into me as I watched him draw his cavalry saber. I was afraid of this man.

“Not yet, you don’t,” came a silky, sensual voice from the sports zep.

I watched a slender, long and sensual leg encased in red leather step out of seating area of the sports zep. Long strands of golden, braided hair fell around her face and left only one eye visible, glaring madly at The Captain. She held a pair of knives in each hand, poised to throw them. As I looked back at The Captain, I saw a look akin to fear pass his face fleetingly. Behind the madwoman that was Jillian the Razor Queen, Doctor VanGoeder stepped out.

“She is right, Captain. We need their help right now, not their deaths. Please, stand down or I will order her to make you do so,” VanGoeder said in his authoritative voice.

“Doctor, we need to talk, as man of science to man of science. Captain, apprehend Watanabe Fujiwara. He must be questioned extensively. Jilly, go with him and see to it that he makes no mistakes.”

VanGoeder gestured to the sports zep.

“If you will join me, Doctor Halloran, I believe an explanation is in order as to why our enmity, although rightfully earned for both of us, must be temporarily put aside for the good of the entire civilized world.”


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 Post subject: Twelve: Interrogation
PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 11:18 pm 
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Doctor VanGoeder had a new haunt, it seemed. He’d ushered Moira and I into the sports zep, and had rushed off without waiting for The Captain and Jilly to return. And without giving me the chance to scan the battlefield that had been formed for Quick or Jones. The place was dank and miserable, and a stomach-wrenching smell hung like a pall in the air. It was in Makerfield, perhaps the most dismal borough in all of the Great Metropolis. The coal mines had once been housed here, but that venture had long fallen to ether gas production. The land, buildings and factories that had once been quite prosperous were slowly subsiding into the earth slowly. Only the truly desperate made their homes here.

A pair of such, rough-looking epsilons, stood in the dark doorway to the sunken factory we were approaching. They merely nodded at VanGoeder, and stiffened at the sight of myself and Moira. It was then that I remembered through the shock that had been induced by the uneasy truce we had struck on the ride here that Moira still had her pistols tucked into her belt. VanGoeder had said nothing about them.

What he had said, in the ten minutes that we had shared in the ride to Makerfield, had chilled me to the bone however. I had been informed by The Vivisectionist that the murders had been necessary, and that the man performing them had been righteous in his own way. The symbol had not, in fact, been formed by the murderer’s choice of victims. Rather, it had been formed by the victims themselves.

There was a true occult menace to the Great Metropolis and the rest of the world as well. VanGoeder himself had been away to Paris recently, since the literal explosion of his last job, and uncovered something of a mystery. The doings of a Monsieur Michel Croix had come into question, dealing with the purchase and sale of rare artifacts of an unusual nature. This had seemed to pique Moira’s interest.

VanGoeder’s investigation had again brought him to the Great Metropolis whilst following Monsieur Croix and his niece, Mademoiselle Genevieve Croix, in his investigation. And then the murders had begun. The murderer was a street templar from Paris by the name of Thierry Spencer, who VanGoeder had discovered had made it his holy mission to kill the occultists.

As we stepped into the ruin of the factory, I had to ask VanGoeder a question. Many, rather, but one came to mind most immediately.

“Why, then, did you have Spencer killed, Doctor? He would have been an invaluable ally.”

“Nonsense…remember, we are speaking as men of science and reason, Doctor. True men of faith are creatures of blind devotion, unbending morality and unquestioning loyalty to their cause, true, but do you really think he would have served under a man such as me, who has done morally questionable things? Even if they are for the betterment of his people?”

I raised an eyebrow at that; I couldn’t see how mass murder would be of a benefit to the people of the New Reich, or any other country. But I supposed that this was just one among many points that VanGoeder and I would never agree upon.

“But you, my good Doctor…you are a man of reason, like myself, and a man of science. Surely you can see as well that these things these people are playing with have a need to be studied by men such as ourselves, rather than locked away and left to rot or for someone such as Spencer, with a perhaps a more malevolent faith, to find and bring to use? And this, I suspect is exactly the case with the six murdered individuals and our dear friend Watanabe-san, who is undoubtedly on his way to this place now.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to play dumb country doctor. I knew from experience that it pleased VanGoeder to show me up with his knowledge.

“Surely you don’t expect me to fall for the same trick twice, VanGoeder! You are the same villain you always were, undoubtedly,” I retorted sharply; I truly meant the last part of it.

“Well, perhaps a villain I am, but I assure you, Doctor Halloran, that I hold no designs for the destruction of the world. That I leave to true madmen! Perhaps I direct their hands subtly to influence events,” with this he grinned, referencing the “Blood-Cult”.

“But in the end, Ned, I am just trying to secure the Fatherland and its future. You surely understand, being an agent for your own Queen and country, don’t you?”

“I am no spy, just an ordinary country doctor caught up in the middle of things well over my head yet again.”

VanGoeder gripped the grate door of the elevator we found before us and yanked it up savagely.

“I would be a fool to underestimate you, Ned,” VanGoeder smiled wickedly, “I fear there’s more to you than any simple Irishman.”

If it was fear he wanted, it would be fear soon enough that I gave him.

“Moira, dear, there’s a sitting room in here that’s quite comfortably furnished. Please, make yourself at home. There’s some tea on, and biscuits. This,” The Vivisectionist motioned to the elevator, “leads to where no proper Lady such as yourself should go.”

“I…I think I will go,” Moria said, looking a bit green.

The Doctor looked quite nastily pleased at the look on her face as she looked to the elevator. His grin spread from ear to ear.

“Yes, I think that you…understand, don’t you, dear?”

She nodded, choked a bit, and turned, almost running from the elevator. I dashed to her side and gripped her arm, to find it shaking and she sobbing.

“Darling, what’s wrong? What’s going on?”

“He’s hurt them, and cut them, and taken out their innards while they are still alive, and fed them pieces of themselves. And he even eats them sometimes!”

I clutched her tightly, holding her as she shook against me.

“Don’t worry, my heart, I will end this man tonight. Such an evil creature has no business living. Mark my words,” I whispered as I took one of the autopistols from her waistband and slipped it into my overcoat surreptitiously.

“It’s all right, love,” I said a bit louder, “We will complete this adventure, and we and this villain shall part ways. It is only for the civilized world that I dare join forces with The Vivisectionist. Now go, and have some tea to calm your nerves.”

She nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks. Ah, the pain of seeing such a sight! She then turned and fled to the sitting room.

I made my way back to VanGoeder and the elevator. He was smiling, and watching Moira rush away.

“So pretty, Doctor Halloran, so pretty. Best have a care of what might befall her in such a cruel world. She needs someone to protect her, I can see that.”

I looked at him angrily.

“Do not threaten my love. You may do as you wish with me, after all of this is done and should you be victorious in the battle between us that will surely follow the conclusion. But never think of harming a hair upon her perfect head. That would be your utter ruin, and living or dead, I would see to it myself. Do I make myself understood?”

“My, my, dear Ned, such a dramatic display of emotion!” VanGoeder laughed and clapped his hands slowly together.

I reached into my coat, intending to do him in right at that moment. But his left hand came from behind his back, clutching a Reik luger. He pushed the long barrel into by neck, and I staid my hand.

“Let’s not do something ill-considered, shall we, Ned? I don’t want to kill you, not right now. I saw you take that pistol from the hussy. Drop it to the floor, will you?”

A look of doggedness must have crossed my face then, and a slow and cruel smile spread across VanGoeder’s face. He stepped back away from me, and I began to withdraw my gun. Before it cleared my coat, he spoke the words that chilled me to my bones.

“She is pretty isn’t she? And such a good wife she will make you, too. But that sitting room I have sent her to is an abbatoir, Ned, and she is the next victim should I not exit my vivisectionary. So shall we play nicely, cooperate, and be logical? Drop the gun, and I will consider not sending my command now to begin with her. She won’t be so pretty when my assistant is done with her, will she?”

My hand cleared my coat, and his finger tensed upon the trigger. I let the autopistol clatter to the floor.

“Alright, VanGoeder, you win…for now…”

“My boy,” VanGoeder said, chuckling as he pushed up the grate of the elevator door with one hand and kept his luger pointed unwaveringly at my head, “You will learn soon enough that I always do.”

The room the elevator emptied into held the cloying scent of fresh blood, feces and urine. Low moans escaped the numerous forms that were strapped to the tables and chained to the walls. None of them looked entirely human anymore, yet all were still alive. My gorge rose, and I fought with myself. I had to persevere; I could not let Moira end up like this. I had to find a way to beat this villain.

“Come,” VanGoeder said, “I have something I want to show you, in here.”

He walked backwards, around the forms writhing in agony and to a large iron door.

“This is where I keep my…special playthings.” He said with that smile that I was wearying of looking upon.

“Watanabe-san will join us in here.”

He swung the door open, revealing a room of white tiles on both walls and floor. In the middle of the room was a great drain grate, which was either stained or rusted to match the color of old blood. A pair of meathooks hung from an iron bar running the length of the room. In the far corner, there was a tray, covered with a pristine white cloth.

“Ah, good, I see my assistant has made ready my instruments,” he said cheerily.

He was in his element, and I found myself thoroughly disgusted. The sound of the elevator door slamming shut, and the cable pulling it back up, was loud in the small rooms.

“Ah, right on cue!” he said as he moved to the small tray and uncovered the instruments beneath.

Although many resembled medical instruments in function, I knew them for what the truly were.

“I find that pain is one of the few means we have to reveal ourselves for the true faces behind the masks we wear for the rest of the world. How long, dear Ned, do you think it will be before Watanabe-san reveals his true face?”

The elevator began to drop. VanGoeder was sharpening a long serrated boning knife. I could hear the Japanese man’s stammered protests as The Captain and Jilly lead him into the room. He took one look at the meathooks hanging on the iron bar and released his bladder.

“Oh, Watanabe-san, how thoroughly embarrassing! I can ensure that you never have such a problem again, if you like. His pants, Jilly.”

The man was shackled at hands and feet. Jilly pulled a knife from one of her many sheaths, and slit his trousers from the waist to the ankle. Fujiwara cried out in pain as the razor-sharp blade slit through both cloth and flesh. Blood began to run the length of his leg. He tried to move, but the hideously-scarred Captain held him completely still. Jilly smiled as she moved to Fjiwara’s other side and repeated her motion. His cry was sharper this time, as the knife cut more deeply into the meat of his thigh. Her smile grew warmer. She looked to me and licked her lips, then the blood from the knife’s blade with her eyes a panorama of madness.

“We don’t have to do things this way,” I protested to VanGoeder.

It was then I realized this was precisely one of the reasons that he’d brought me to be a captive audience of this horror show. He meant for me to play the “good cop/bad cop” routine with him, since no one on his own crew could be very convincing. But even as a player, I know that nothing I could do would save the Japanese man’s life this day.

Unless I acted quickly and decisively, I thought. But in the meantime, until I could get my bearings, I would have to allow The Vivisectionist to believe that I was playing his game. A plan was forming as Jilly and The Captain moved Fujiwara beneath the hooks.

“Wait! I am sure that Watanabe-san would be most eager to tell you of what he knows! There’s no need for this!”

I surprised everyone next, by speaking to Fujiwara in his native tongue.

“Surely you have seen his work, Watanabe-san. I have; it is most gruesome. He toys with his victims for hours on end, a truly masterful villain. Why, some of those you have seen in the room before this one he has been working on for days. Please, I beg of you, speak to us before your life is forfeit,” I said in perfect Japanese.

Just as Fujiwara was nodding his assent to speak fearfully, The Captain took him up and lifted him onto the hook. The squelch of the iron piercing his flesh was a terrible sound, but his screams of agony were more terrible by far. I cringed as VanGoeder watched my reaction.

“I am afraid you will have to try harder to convince the poor man,” he said in his own perfect Japanese, “but I am both surprised and pleased that you have mastered his language. You may continue, Doctor Halloran.”

No matter what I said now, VanGoeder planned to torture and kill this man. Both he and I knew it, and shared a look of understanding in that moment of knowledge. Watanabe Fujiwara began to scream.

“Dtharsa! Dtharsa! Togorthi Dtharsa!” he screamed, over and over again.

“He won’t talk,” The Captain said disdainfully, stepping back away from The Vivisectionist’s path to his work.

VanGoeder shook his head, clucking his tongue, and stepped up to Watanabe-san with a pair of bone saws.

“Now, which finger is it that you fellows remove first?” He asked as he approached.

Jilly and The Captain seemed transfixed by the scene. Now was my chance. Not needing to feign my disgust as VanGoeder began to deftly remove the Japanese man’s right little finger with one of the bone saws, I staggered back and bumped into the tray of instruments. I saw Jilly’s eyes meet mine, and the most curious smile crossed her face. Her hand ran across her hip, her eyes fell and saw the scalpel that I was palming. She knew. What was her game?

She made no move to stop me at all, but glanced at The Captain. She was telling me to attack him first, I could see, although that had been my decision all along. With The Captain transfixed by the removal of Watanabe-san’s left little finger, I made my move.

I placed the scalpel in my left hand, and when The Captain seemed very fixated, I reached across and jammed the scalpel blade into his throat. His hand flew up to his neck and I jerked the blade savagely downward, laying open his neck widely. He began to reach for his saber, choking, and the noise caused VanGoeder to turn towards us.

To my surprise, Jilly had two knives in each hand, and before the Doctor could reach very far for his luger the four blades struck into his flesh. One struck his shoulder, the second pinned the hand reaching for the luger to his chest, the third struck him full in the throat, and the fourth hit him just below the hand pinned to his chest. Within the blink of an eye, he was down on the tile floor.

The Captain was gouting blood and attempting to draw the cavalry saber and turn to me. I pulled my hand free of his, and rammed the scalpel blade into his one remaining flesh eye. My hand sought to drive more than just the blade, pushing much of the handle in as well. I followed him to the ground, gripping his sword hand, and twisted the scalpel about. His cybernaughtic eye was looking straight at me, his mouth gasping and wide open.

“That’s for the scar, you right bloody bastard!” I hissed at him vengefully.

“That’s right, kill him, kill him!” I could hear Jilly saying softly into my ear.

I wrenched myself from the dying Captain and sobbed. Her arms caught my shoulders and she assisted me in standing.

“He scarred you, he deserved that. Scarred my perfect little Neddie Ned,” she purred angrily.

I wheeled upon her.

“What manner of a madwoman are you? You work for the men who want to kill me, then you idly stand by whilst I dispatch them?”

“Oh, Ned, I wouldn’t call that idly,” she purred sensually, gesturing to The Vivisectionist, who lay still upon the tile floor, “You wanted him dead, and I made him dead for you, Ned darling.”

Her scarlet-gloved hand came up to caress my shoulder. I shrugged it away.

Her eyes flashed angrily.

“The least you could do is show a little gratitude to the woman who saved your life; he was going to kill you next, you know.”

Her British accent was gone. I glared at her.

“Just who the hell are are you, Jilly?”

“Someone who cares. Ned darling. The longer you wait, the greater the chance that your sweet Moira will be put to the knife, and I don’t think you want that at all, now do you?”

She turned from me and began to walk to the elevator. I followed after, the question unanswered still in my mind. Who was this utterly lovely and completely insane woman?

“Wait, I will want a gun,” I said as she pushed up the elevator grate.

I turned back to the tile room. VanGoeder’s body was gone. I tore the cavalry saber from The Captain’s sheath angrily, wheeling about the room to search for his method of escape. Watanabe-san could give me no indication; his throat had been slit.

Now I was even more angry. My one link to the reason for the murders was broken and my arch enemy had made his escape even though seemingly mortally wounded. For the second time in a row.

“We mustn’t keep dear Moira waiting for us, my love,” I heard Jillian the Razor Queen, or whoever she really was, call to me.


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 Post subject: Twelve: Interrogation
PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 11:19 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 140
Location: Somewhere in the CAS
Doctor VanGoeder had a new haunt, it seemed. He’d ushered Moira and I into the sports zep, and had rushed off without waiting for The Captain and Jilly to return. And without giving me the chance to scan the battlefield that had been formed for Quick or Jones. The place was dank and miserable, and a stomach-wrenching smell hung like a pall in the air. It was in Makerfield, perhaps the most dismal borough in all of the Great Metropolis. The coal mines had once been housed here, but that venture had long fallen to ether gas production. The land, buildings and factories that had once been quite prosperous were slowly subsiding into the earth slowly. Only the truly desperate made their homes here.

A pair of such, rough-looking epsilons, stood in the dark doorway to the sunken factory we were approaching. They merely nodded at VanGoeder, and stiffened at the sight of myself and Moira. It was then that I remembered through the shock that had been induced by the uneasy truce we had struck on the ride here that Moira still had her pistols tucked into her belt. VanGoeder had said nothing about them.

What he had said, in the ten minutes that we had shared in the ride to Makerfield, had chilled me to the bone however. I had been informed by The Vivisectionist that the murders had been necessary, and that the man performing them had been righteous in his own way. The symbol had not, in fact, been formed by the murderer’s choice of victims. Rather, it had been formed by the victims themselves.

There was a true occult menace to the Great Metropolis and the rest of the world as well. VanGoeder himself had been away to Paris recently, since the literal explosion of his last job, and uncovered something of a mystery. The doings of a Monsieur Michel Croix had come into question, dealing with the purchase and sale of rare artifacts of an unusual nature. This had seemed to pique Moira’s interest.

VanGoeder’s investigation had again brought him to the Great Metropolis whilst following Monsieur Croix and his niece, Mademoiselle Genevieve Croix, in his investigation. And then the murders had begun. The murderer was a street templar from Paris by the name of Thierry Spencer, who VanGoeder had discovered had made it his holy mission to kill the occultists.

As we stepped into the ruin of the factory, I had to ask VanGoeder a question. Many, rather, but one came to mind most immediately.

“Why, then, did you have Spencer killed, Doctor? He would have been an invaluable ally.”

“Nonsense…remember, we are speaking as men of science and reason, Doctor. True men of faith are creatures of blind devotion, unbending morality and unquestioning loyalty to their cause, true, but do you really think he would have served under a man such as me, who has done morally questionable things? Even if they are for the betterment of his people?”

I raised an eyebrow at that; I couldn’t see how mass murder would be of a benefit to the people of the New Reich, or any other country. But I supposed that this was just one among many points that VanGoeder and I would never agree upon.

“But you, my good Doctor…you are a man of reason, like myself, and a man of science. Surely you can see as well that these things these people are playing with have a need to be studied by men such as ourselves, rather than locked away and left to rot or for someone such as Spencer, with a perhaps a more malevolent faith, to find and bring to use? And this, I suspect is exactly the case with the six murdered individuals and our dear friend Watanabe-san, who is undoubtedly on his way to this place now.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to play dumb country doctor. I knew from experience that it pleased VanGoeder to show me up with his knowledge.

“Surely you don’t expect me to fall for the same trick twice, VanGoeder! You are the same villain you always were, undoubtedly,” I retorted sharply; I truly meant the last part of it.

“Well, perhaps a villain I am, but I assure you, Doctor Halloran, that I hold no designs for the destruction of the world. That I leave to true madmen! Perhaps I direct their hands subtly to influence events,” with this he grinned, referencing the “Blood-Cult”.

“But in the end, Ned, I am just trying to secure the Fatherland and its future. You surely understand, being an agent for your own Queen and country, don’t you?”

“I am no spy, just an ordinary country doctor caught up in the middle of things well over my head yet again.”

VanGoeder gripped the grate door of the elevator we found before us and yanked it up savagely.

“I would be a fool to underestimate you, Ned,” VanGoeder smiled wickedly, “I fear there’s more to you than any simple Irishman.”

If it was fear he wanted, it would be fear soon enough that I gave him.

“Moira, dear, there’s a sitting room in here that’s quite comfortably furnished. Please, make yourself at home. There’s some tea on, and biscuits. This,” The Vivisectionist motioned to the elevator, “leads to where no proper Lady such as yourself should go.”

“I…I think I will go,” Moria said, looking a bit green.

The Doctor looked quite nastily pleased at the look on her face as she looked to the elevator. His grin spread from ear to ear.

“Yes, I think that you…understand, don’t you, dear?”

She nodded, choked a bit, and turned, almost running from the elevator. I dashed to her side and gripped her arm, to find it shaking and she sobbing.

“Darling, what’s wrong? What’s going on?”

“He’s hurt them, and cut them, and taken out their innards while they are still alive, and fed them pieces of themselves. And he even eats them sometimes!”

I clutched her tightly, holding her as she shook against me.

“Don’t worry, my heart, I will end this man tonight. Such an evil creature has no business living. Mark my words,” I whispered as I took one of the autopistols from her waistband and slipped it into my overcoat surreptitiously.

“It’s all right, love,” I said a bit louder, “We will complete this adventure, and we and this villain shall part ways. It is only for the civilized world that I dare join forces with The Vivisectionist. Now go, and have some tea to calm your nerves.”

She nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks. Ah, the pain of seeing such a sight! She then turned and fled to the sitting room.

I made my way back to VanGoeder and the elevator. He was smiling, and watching Moira rush away.

“So pretty, Doctor Halloran, so pretty. Best have a care of what might befall her in such a cruel world. She needs someone to protect her, I can see that.”

I looked at him angrily.

“Do not threaten my love. You may do as you wish with me, after all of this is done and should you be victorious in the battle between us that will surely follow the conclusion. But never think of harming a hair upon her perfect head. That would be your utter ruin, and living or dead, I would see to it myself. Do I make myself understood?”

“My, my, dear Ned, such a dramatic display of emotion!” VanGoeder laughed and clapped his hands slowly together.

I reached into my coat, intending to do him in right at that moment. But his left hand came from behind his back, clutching a Reik luger. He pushed the long barrel into by neck, and I staid my hand.

“Let’s not do something ill-considered, shall we, Ned? I don’t want to kill you, not right now. I saw you take that pistol from the hussy. Drop it to the floor, will you?”

A look of doggedness must have crossed my face then, and a slow and cruel smile spread across VanGoeder’s face. He stepped back away from me, and I began to withdraw my gun. Before it cleared my coat, he spoke the words that chilled me to my bones.

“She is pretty isn’t she? And such a good wife she will make you, too. But that sitting room I have sent her to is an abbatoir, Ned, and she is the next victim should I not exit my vivisectionary. So shall we play nicely, cooperate, and be logical? Drop the gun, and I will consider not sending my command now to begin with her. She won’t be so pretty when my assistant is done with her, will she?”

My hand cleared my coat, and his finger tensed upon the trigger. I let the autopistol clatter to the floor.

“Alright, VanGoeder, you win…for now…”

“My boy,” VanGoeder said, chuckling as he pushed up the grate of the elevator door with one hand and kept his luger pointed unwaveringly at my head, “You will learn soon enough that I always do.”

The room the elevator emptied into held the cloying scent of fresh blood, feces and urine. Low moans escaped the numerous forms that were strapped to the tables and chained to the walls. None of them looked entirely human anymore, yet all were still alive. My gorge rose, and I fought with myself. I had to persevere; I could not let Moira end up like this. I had to find a way to beat this villain.

“Come,” VanGoeder said, “I have something I want to show you, in here.”

He walked backwards, around the forms writhing in agony and to a large iron door.

“This is where I keep my…special playthings.” He said with that smile that I was wearying of looking upon.

“Watanabe-san will join us in here.”

He swung the door open, revealing a room of white tiles on both walls and floor. In the middle of the room was a great drain grate, which was either stained or rusted to match the color of old blood. A pair of meathooks hung from an iron bar running the length of the room. In the far corner, there was a tray, covered with a pristine white cloth.

“Ah, good, I see my assistant has made ready my instruments,” he said cheerily.

He was in his element, and I found myself thoroughly disgusted. The sound of the elevator door slamming shut, and the cable pulling it back up, was loud in the small rooms.

“Ah, right on cue!” he said as he moved to the small tray and uncovered the instruments beneath.

Although many resembled medical instruments in function, I knew them for what the truly were.

“I find that pain is one of the few means we have to reveal ourselves for the true faces behind the masks we wear for the rest of the world. How long, dear Ned, do you think it will be before Watanabe-san reveals his true face?”

The elevator began to drop. VanGoeder was sharpening a long serrated boning knife. I could hear the Japanese man’s stammered protests as The Captain and Jilly lead him into the room. He took one look at the meathooks hanging on the iron bar and released his bladder.

“Oh, Watanabe-san, how thoroughly embarrassing! I can ensure that you never have such a problem again, if you like. His pants, Jilly.”

The man was shackled at hands and feet. Jilly pulled a knife from one of her many sheaths, and slit his trousers from the waist to the ankle. Fujiwara cried out in pain as the razor-sharp blade slit through both cloth and flesh. Blood began to run the length of his leg. He tried to move, but the hideously-scarred Captain held him completely still. Jilly smiled as she moved to Fjiwara’s other side and repeated her motion. His cry was sharper this time, as the knife cut more deeply into the meat of his thigh. Her smile grew warmer. She looked to me and licked her lips, then the blood from the knife’s blade with her eyes a panorama of madness.

“We don’t have to do things this way,” I protested to VanGoeder.

It was then I realized this was precisely one of the reasons that he’d brought me to be a captive audience of this horror show. He meant for me to play the “good cop/bad cop” routine with him, since no one on his own crew could be very convincing. But even as a player, I know that nothing I could do would save the Japanese man’s life this day.

Unless I acted quickly and decisively, I thought. But in the meantime, until I could get my bearings, I would have to allow The Vivisectionist to believe that I was playing his game. A plan was forming as Jilly and The Captain moved Fujiwara beneath the hooks.

“Wait! I am sure that Watanabe-san would be most eager to tell you of what he knows! There’s no need for this!”

I surprised everyone next, by speaking to Fujiwara in his native tongue.

“Surely you have seen his work, Watanabe-san. I have; it is most gruesome. He toys with his victims for hours on end, a truly masterful villain. Why, some of those you have seen in the room before this one he has been working on for days. Please, I beg of you, speak to us before your life is forfeit,” I said in perfect Japanese.

Just as Fujiwara was nodding his assent to speak fearfully, The Captain took him up and lifted him onto the hook. The squelch of the iron piercing his flesh was a terrible sound, but his screams of agony were more terrible by far. I cringed as VanGoeder watched my reaction.

“I am afraid you will have to try harder to convince the poor man,” he said in his own perfect Japanese, “but I am both surprised and pleased that you have mastered his language. You may continue, Doctor Halloran.”

No matter what I said now, VanGoeder planned to torture and kill this man. Both he and I knew it, and shared a look of understanding in that moment of knowledge. Watanabe Fujiwara began to scream.

“Dtharsa! Dtharsa! Togorthi Dtharsa!” he screamed, over and over again.

“He won’t talk,” The Captain said disdainfully, stepping back away from The Vivisectionist’s path to his work.

VanGoeder shook his head, clucking his tongue, and stepped up to Watanabe-san with a pair of bone saws.

“Now, which finger is it that you fellows remove first?” He asked as he approached.

Jilly and The Captain seemed transfixed by the scene. Now was my chance. Not needing to feign my disgust as VanGoeder began to deftly remove the Japanese man’s right little finger with one of the bone saws, I staggered back and bumped into the tray of instruments. I saw Jilly’s eyes meet mine, and the most curious smile crossed her face. Her hand ran across her hip, her eyes fell and saw the scalpel that I was palming. She knew. What was her game?

She made no move to stop me at all, but glanced at The Captain. She was telling me to attack him first, I could see, although that had been my decision all along. With The Captain transfixed by the removal of Watanabe-san’s left little finger, I made my move.

I placed the scalpel in my left hand, and when The Captain seemed very fixated, I reached across and jammed the scalpel blade into his throat. His hand flew up to his neck and I jerked the blade savagely downward, laying open his neck widely. He began to reach for his saber, choking, and the noise caused VanGoeder to turn towards us.

To my surprise, Jilly had two knives in each hand, and before the Doctor could reach very far for his luger the four blades struck into his flesh. One struck his shoulder, the second pinned the hand reaching for the luger to his chest, the third struck him full in the throat, and the fourth hit him just below the hand pinned to his chest. Within the blink of an eye, he was down on the tile floor.

The Captain was gouting blood and attempting to draw the cavalry saber and turn to me. I pulled my hand free of his, and rammed the scalpel blade into his one remaining flesh eye. My hand sought to drive more than just the blade, pushing much of the handle in as well. I followed him to the ground, gripping his sword hand, and twisted the scalpel about. His cybernaughtic eye was looking straight at me, his mouth gasping and wide open.

“That’s for the scar, you right bloody bastard!” I hissed at him vengefully.

“That’s right, kill him, kill him!” I could hear Jilly saying softly into my ear.

I wrenched myself from the dying Captain and sobbed. Her arms caught my shoulders and she assisted me in standing.

“He scarred you, he deserved that. Scarred my perfect little Neddie Ned,” she purred angrily.

I wheeled upon her.

“What manner of a madwoman are you? You work for the men who want to kill me, then you idly stand by whilst I dispatch them?”

“Oh, Ned, I wouldn’t call that idly,” she purred sensually, gesturing to The Vivisectionist, who lay still upon the tile floor, “You wanted him dead, and I made him dead for you, Ned darling.”

Her scarlet-gloved hand came up to caress my shoulder. I shrugged it away.

Her eyes flashed angrily.

“The least you could do is show a little gratitude to the woman who saved your life; he was going to kill you next, you know.”

Her British accent was gone. I glared at her.

“Just who the hell are are you, Jilly?”

“Someone who cares. Ned darling. The longer you wait, the greater the chance that your sweet Moira will be put to the knife, and I don’t think you want that at all, now do you?”

She turned from me and began to walk to the elevator. I followed after, the question unanswered still in my mind. Who was this utterly lovely and completely insane woman?

“Wait, I will want a gun,” I said as she pushed up the elevator grate.

I turned back to the tile room. VanGoeder’s body was gone. I tore the cavalry saber from The Captain’s sheath angrily, wheeling about the room to search for his method of escape. Watanabe-san could give me no indication; his throat had been slit.

Now I was even more angry. My one link to the reason for the murders was broken and my arch enemy had made his escape even though seemingly mortally wounded. For the second time in a row.

“We mustn’t keep dear Moira waiting for us, my love,” I heard Jillian the Razor Queen, or whoever she really was, call to me.


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 Post subject: Twelve: Interrogation
PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 11:27 pm 
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Doctor VanGoeder had a new haunt, it seemed. He’d ushered Moira and I into the sports zep, and had rushed off without waiting for The Captain and Jilly to return. And without giving me the chance to scan the battlefield that had been formed for Quick or Jones. The place was dank and miserable, and a stomach-wrenching smell hung like a pall in the air. It was in Makerfield, perhaps the most dismal borough in all of the Great Metropolis. The coal mines had once been housed here, but that venture had long fallen to ether gas production. The land, buildings and factories that had once been quite prosperous were slowly subsiding into the earth slowly. Only the truly desperate made their homes here.

A pair of such, rough-looking epsilons, stood in the dark doorway to the sunken factory we were approaching. They merely nodded at VanGoeder, and stiffened at the sight of myself and Moira. It was then that I remembered through the shock that had been induced by the uneasy truce we had struck on the ride here that Moira still had her pistols tucked into her belt. VanGoeder had said nothing about them.

What he had said, in the ten minutes that we had shared in the ride to Makerfield, had chilled me to the bone however. I had been informed by The Vivisectionist that the murders had been necessary, and that the man performing them had been righteous in his own way. The symbol had not, in fact, been formed by the murderer’s choice of victims. Rather, it had been formed by the victims themselves.

There was a true occult menace to the Great Metropolis and the rest of the world as well. VanGoeder himself had been away to Paris recently, since the literal explosion of his last job, and uncovered something of a mystery. The doings of a Monsieur Michel Croix had come into question, dealing with the purchase and sale of rare artifacts of an unusual nature. This had seemed to pique Moira’s interest.

VanGoeder’s investigation had again brought him to the Great Metropolis whilst following Monsieur Croix and his niece, Mademoiselle Genevieve Croix, in his investigation. And then the murders had begun. The murderer was a street templar from Paris by the name of Thierry Spencer, who VanGoeder had discovered had made it his holy mission to kill the occultists.

As we stepped into the ruin of the factory, I had to ask VanGoeder a question. Many, rather, but one came to mind most immediately.

“Why, then, did you have Spencer killed, Doctor? He would have been an invaluable ally.”

“Nonsense…remember, we are speaking as men of science and reason, Doctor. True men of faith are creatures of blind devotion, unbending morality and unquestioning loyalty to their cause, true, but do you really think he would have served under a man such as me, who has done morally questionable things? Even if they are for the betterment of his people?”

I raised an eyebrow at that; I couldn’t see how mass murder would be of a benefit to the people of the New Reich, or any other country. But I supposed that this was just one among many points that VanGoeder and I would never agree upon.

“But you, my good Doctor…you are a man of reason, like myself, and a man of science. Surely you can see as well that these things these people are playing with have a need to be studied by men such as ourselves, rather than locked away and left to rot or for someone such as Spencer, with a perhaps a more malevolent faith, to find and bring to use? And this, I suspect is exactly the case with the six murdered individuals and our dear friend Watanabe-san, who is undoubtedly on his way to this place now.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to play dumb country doctor. I knew from experience that it pleased VanGoeder to show me up with his knowledge.

“Surely you don’t expect me to fall for the same trick twice, VanGoeder! You are the same villain you always were, undoubtedly,” I retorted sharply; I truly meant the last part of it.

“Well, perhaps a villain I am, but I assure you, Doctor Halloran, that I hold no designs for the destruction of the world. That I leave to true madmen! Perhaps I direct their hands subtly to influence events,” with this he grinned, referencing the “Blood-Cult”.

“But in the end, Ned, I am just trying to secure the Fatherland and its future. You surely understand, being an agent for your own Queen and country, don’t you?”

“I am no spy, just an ordinary country doctor caught up in the middle of things well over my head yet again.”

VanGoeder gripped the grate door of the elevator we found before us and yanked it up savagely.

“I would be a fool to underestimate you, Ned,” VanGoeder smiled wickedly, “I fear there’s more to you than any simple Irishman.”

If it was fear he wanted, it would be fear soon enough that I gave him.

“Moira, dear, there’s a sitting room in here that’s quite comfortably furnished. Please, make yourself at home. There’s some tea on, and biscuits. This,” The Vivisectionist motioned to the elevator, “leads to where no proper Lady such as yourself should go.”

“I…I think I will go,” Moria said, looking a bit green.

The Doctor looked quite nastily pleased at the look on her face as she looked to the elevator. His grin spread from ear to ear.

“Yes, I think that you…understand, don’t you, dear?”

She nodded, choked a bit, and turned, almost running from the elevator. I dashed to her side and gripped her arm, to find it shaking and she sobbing.

“Darling, what’s wrong? What’s going on?”

“He’s hurt them, and cut them, and taken out their innards while they are still alive, and fed them pieces of themselves. And he even eats them sometimes!”

I clutched her tightly, holding her as she shook against me.

“Don’t worry, my heart, I will end this man tonight. Such an evil creature has no business living. Mark my words,” I whispered as I took one of the autopistols from her waistband and slipped it into my overcoat surreptitiously.

“It’s all right, love,” I said a bit louder, “We will complete this adventure, and we and this villain shall part ways. It is only for the civilized world that I dare join forces with The Vivisectionist. Now go, and have some tea to calm your nerves.”

She nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks. Ah, the pain of seeing such a sight! She then turned and fled to the sitting room.

I made my way back to VanGoeder and the elevator. He was smiling, and watching Moira rush away.

“So pretty, Doctor Halloran, so pretty. Best have a care of what might befall her in such a cruel world. She needs someone to protect her, I can see that.”

I looked at him angrily.

“Do not threaten my love. You may do as you wish with me, after all of this is done and should you be victorious in the battle between us that will surely follow the conclusion. But never think of harming a hair upon her perfect head. That would be your utter ruin, and living or dead, I would see to it myself. Do I make myself understood?”

“My, my, dear Ned, such a dramatic display of emotion!” VanGoeder laughed and clapped his hands slowly together.

I reached into my coat, intending to do him in right at that moment. But his left hand came from behind his back, clutching a Reik luger. He pushed the long barrel into by neck, and I staid my hand.

“Let’s not do something ill-considered, shall we, Ned? I don’t want to kill you, not right now. I saw you take that pistol from the hussy. Drop it to the floor, will you?”

A look of doggedness must have crossed my face then, and a slow and cruel smile spread across VanGoeder’s face. He stepped back away from me, and I began to withdraw my gun. Before it cleared my coat, he spoke the words that chilled me to my bones.

“She is pretty isn’t she? And such a good wife she will make you, too. But that sitting room I have sent her to is an abbatoir, Ned, and she is the next victim should I not exit my vivisectionary. So shall we play nicely, cooperate, and be logical? Drop the gun, and I will consider not sending my command now to begin with her. She won’t be so pretty when my assistant is done with her, will she?”

My hand cleared my coat, and his finger tensed upon the trigger. I let the autopistol clatter to the floor.

“Alright, VanGoeder, you win…for now…”

“My boy,” VanGoeder said, chuckling as he pushed up the grate of the elevator door with one hand and kept his luger pointed unwaveringly at my head, “You will learn soon enough that I always do.”

The room the elevator emptied into held the cloying scent of fresh blood, feces and urine. Low moans escaped the numerous forms that were strapped to the tables and chained to the walls. None of them looked entirely human anymore, yet all were still alive. My gorge rose, and I fought with myself. I had to persevere; I could not let Moira end up like this. I had to find a way to beat this villain.

“Come,” VanGoeder said, “I have something I want to show you, in here.”

He walked backwards, around the forms writhing in agony and to a large iron door.

“This is where I keep my…special playthings.” He said with that smile that I was wearying of looking upon.

“Watanabe-san will join us in here.”

He swung the door open, revealing a room of white tiles on both walls and floor. In the middle of the room was a great drain grate, which was either stained or rusted to match the color of old blood. A pair of meathooks hung from an iron bar running the length of the room. In the far corner, there was a tray, covered with a pristine white cloth.

“Ah, good, I see my assistant has made ready my instruments,” he said cheerily.

He was in his element, and I found myself thoroughly disgusted. The sound of the elevator door slamming shut, and the cable pulling it back up, was loud in the small rooms.

“Ah, right on cue!” he said as he moved to the small tray and uncovered the instruments beneath.

Although many resembled medical instruments in function, I knew them for what the truly were.

“I find that pain is one of the few means we have to reveal ourselves for the true faces behind the masks we wear for the rest of the world. How long, dear Ned, do you think it will be before Watanabe-san reveals his true face?”

The elevator began to drop. VanGoeder was sharpening a long serrated boning knife. I could hear the Japanese man’s stammered protests as The Captain and Jilly lead him into the room. He took one look at the meathooks hanging on the iron bar and released his bladder.

“Oh, Watanabe-san, how thoroughly embarrassing! I can ensure that you never have such a problem again, if you like. His pants, Jilly.”

The man was shackled at hands and feet. Jilly pulled a knife from one of her many sheaths, and slit his trousers from the waist to the ankle. Fujiwara cried out in pain as the razor-sharp blade slit through both cloth and flesh. Blood began to run the length of his leg. He tried to move, but the hideously-scarred Captain held him completely still. Jilly smiled as she moved to Fjiwara’s other side and repeated her motion. His cry was sharper this time, as the knife cut more deeply into the meat of his thigh. Her smile grew warmer. She looked to me and licked her lips, then the blood from the knife’s blade with her eyes a panorama of madness.

“We don’t have to do things this way,” I protested to VanGoeder.

It was then I realized this was precisely one of the reasons that he’d brought me to be a captive audience of this horror show. He meant for me to play the “good cop/bad cop” routine with him, since no one on his own crew could be very convincing. But even as a player, I know that nothing I could do would save the Japanese man’s life this day.

Unless I acted quickly and decisively, I thought. But in the meantime, until I could get my bearings, I would have to allow The Vivisectionist to believe that I was playing his game. A plan was forming as Jilly and The Captain moved Fujiwara beneath the hooks.

“Wait! I am sure that Watanabe-san would be most eager to tell you of what he knows! There’s no need for this!”

I surprised everyone next, by speaking to Fujiwara in his native tongue.

“Surely you have seen his work, Watanabe-san. I have; it is most gruesome. He toys with his victims for hours on end, a truly masterful villain. Why, some of those you have seen in the room before this one he has been working on for days. Please, I beg of you, speak to us before your life is forfeit,” I said in perfect Japanese.

Just as Fujiwara was nodding his assent to speak fearfully, The Captain took him up and lifted him onto the hook. The squelch of the iron piercing his flesh was a terrible sound, but his screams of agony were more terrible by far. I cringed as VanGoeder watched my reaction.

“I am afraid you will have to try harder to convince the poor man,” he said in his own perfect Japanese, “but I am both surprised and pleased that you have mastered his language. You may continue, Doctor Halloran.”

No matter what I said now, VanGoeder planned to torture and kill this man. Both he and I knew it, and shared a look of understanding in that moment of knowledge. Watanabe Fujiwara began to scream.

“Dtharsa! Dtharsa! Togorthi Dtharsa!” he screamed, over and over again.

“He won’t talk,” The Captain said disdainfully, stepping back away from The Vivisectionist’s path to his work.

VanGoeder shook his head, clucking his tongue, and stepped up to Watanabe-san with a pair of bone saws.

“Now, which finger is it that you fellows remove first?” He asked as he approached.

Jilly and The Captain seemed transfixed by the scene. Now was my chance. Not needing to feign my disgust as VanGoeder began to deftly remove the Japanese man’s right little finger with one of the bone saws, I staggered back and bumped into the tray of instruments. I saw Jilly’s eyes meet mine, and the most curious smile crossed her face. Her hand ran across her hip, her eyes fell and saw the scalpel that I was palming. She knew. What was her game?

She made no move to stop me at all, but glanced at The Captain. She was telling me to attack him first, I could see, although that had been my decision all along. With The Captain transfixed by the removal of Watanabe-san’s left little finger, I made my move.

I placed the scalpel in my left hand, and when The Captain seemed very fixated, I reached across and jammed the scalpel blade into his throat. His hand flew up to his neck and I jerked the blade savagely downward, laying open his neck widely. He began to reach for his saber, choking, and the noise caused VanGoeder to turn towards us.

To my surprise, Jilly had two knives in each hand, and before the Doctor could reach very far for his luger the four blades struck into his flesh. One struck his shoulder, the second pinned the hand reaching for the luger to his chest, the third struck him full in the throat, and the fourth hit him just below the hand pinned to his chest. Within the blink of an eye, he was down on the tile floor.

The Captain was gouting blood and attempting to draw the cavalry saber and turn to me. I pulled my hand free of his, and rammed the scalpel blade into his one remaining flesh eye. My hand sought to drive more than just the blade, pushing much of the handle in as well. I followed him to the ground, gripping his sword hand, and twisted the scalpel about. His cybernaughtic eye was looking straight at me, his mouth gasping and wide open.

“That’s for the scar, you right bloody bastard!” I hissed at him vengefully.

“That’s right, kill him, kill him!” I could hear Jilly saying softly into my ear.

I wrenched myself from the dying Captain and sobbed. Her arms caught my shoulders and she assisted me in standing.

“He scarred you, he deserved that. Scarred my perfect little Neddie Ned,” she purred angrily.

I wheeled upon her.

“What manner of a madwoman are you? You work for the men who want to kill me, then you idly stand by whilst I dispatch them?”

“Oh, Ned, I wouldn’t call that idly,” she purred sensually, gesturing to The Vivisectionist, who lay still upon the tile floor, “You wanted him dead, and I made him dead for you, Ned darling.”

Her scarlet-gloved hand came up to caress my shoulder. I shrugged it away.

Her eyes flashed angrily.

“The least you could do is show a little gratitude to the woman who saved your life; he was going to kill you next, you know.”

Her British accent was gone, replaced by the distinctive speech of an American. I glared at her.

“Just who the hell are are you, Jilly?”

“Someone who cares. Ned darling. The longer you wait, the greater the chance that your sweet Moira will be put to the knife, and I don’t think you want that at all, now do you?”

She turned from me and began to walk to the elevator. I followed after, the question unanswered still in my mind. Who was this utterly lovely and completely insane woman?

“Wait, I will want a gun,” I said as she pushed up the elevator grate.

I turned back to the tile room. VanGoeder’s body was gone. I tore the cavalry saber from The Captain’s sheath angrily, wheeling about the room to search for his method of escape. Watanabe-san could give me no indication; his throat had been slit.

Now I was even more angry. My one link to the reason for the murders was broken and my arch enemy had made his escape even though seemingly mortally wounded. For the second time in a row.

“We mustn’t keep dear Moira waiting for us, my love,” I heard Jillian the Razor Queen, or whoever she really was, call to me.


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 Post subject: Thirteen: The Razor Queen's Escape
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 4:57 pm 
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Jillian and I took the elevator up, I holding The Captain’s cavalry saber and she clutching three knives by their tips in each hand. The elevator clanked to a stop, and I could see the twin epsilons that had been by the doorway moving towards us. They were carrying old splintered cricket bats with huge rusted nails pounded into them.

Without even looking, Jilly launched her right handful of blades into the air. The first epsilon fell, with three knives in his face. She moved fluidly around the second epsilon, moving one knife from her left to her right hand. She came around the fellow, driving the knives into his back. He stiffened, and then dropped as Jilly’s booted foot pushed her from the knives.

Jilly then continued to walk without hesitation in the direction of the sitting room that Moira had gone to before I had went down into the vivisectionary. I followed, the cavalry saber gripped tightly. We came to a pair of double doors, when Jilly turned to me and grinned.

“Booby-trapped,” she said simply, and then walked back towards the fallen epsilons.

She gripped up one of the corpses, and hauled it over to the door. My eyes could discern a very fine, almost invisible wire running between the twin door handles. Jilly pushed the corpse direct into the door hard, and it immediately sent out an electrical charge into the still-warm corpse. Tenatively, she reached for the door handles.

“Wait!” I started, but her hand fell upon a handle.

She began to groan and jerk. I grimaced, looking for something to detach her from the handle with.

She began to laugh and then turned the handle and strode into the room beyond. We found Moira in a pleasantly furnished room, sipping at tea and taking delicate bites from a biscuit. I sighed with relief.

“Oh, Ned! You are alright!” she nearly shouted as she saw me and jumped up from the couch.

She stopped when she saw Jillian.

“Who is this?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.

The two regarded one another with what appeared to be nothing short of pure animosity. Jilly strutted stiffly, hands close to her knives, while Moira’s hand inched towards the gun in her sash.

“Everything’s alright, Jilly helped me escape the Doctor’s clutches; he meant to kill me, you know, my dear,” I tried to soothe Moira.

It did not seem to be working.

“It’s Jillian to you, dear lady. Jillian the Razor Queen. Can’t say I am pleased to make your acquaintance, though,” Jilly said to Moira, her stiffness evident in her voice and all trace of The Queen’s English dropped.

“Likewise, I am certain. I am Moira, and I am Ned’s fiancé,” Moira replied, her own voice honeyed anger.

Moira slipped her arm around my waist, assuming a possessive stance that I did not miss. She seemed to be threatened by Jillian. And with the beautiful woman’s attitude she had shown towards me, her “plans” for me, I could see why.

“Thank you for assisting in preserving my husband-to-be’s life, milady. But from here on out, I think that we will be fine. Perhaps we will see you another day.”

Moira began to steer me towards the door out, but stopped short and began to stare in that distant gaze that I’d come to associate with her sensitive state.

“What is it, my dear?”

“There are men coming. Violent men, who intend us harm.”

Jilly brushed past the two of us then, and looked back as she cracked the door to look out. Her lips were curled in a snarl.

“Perhaps you need me now more than you know, little one,” she said to Moira.

“They are armed,” Moira said, still with her distant stare, “and they are lead by a man with dark secrets, evil secrets, ready to twist the world to his bidding.”

Jilly laughed, “That’s all men, honey, and it’s high time you got used to the truth of that.”

“Some men just want to twist the world in a pleasant way,” she added, winking at me.

Although Moira didn’t see Jilly wink, she did tighten her grip on me.

“Murder. They want to kill. They want to kill us. They are killing VanGoeder’s men now,” Moira said in a monotone voice, her body shuddering.

I had only the cavalry saber to protect us, and I readied myself as the door shuddered before us. Jilly struggled to lock it up and push the couch in front of it.
I couldn’t help but notice a rather fetching runnel of sweat begin to roll down the swell of her breast.

She caught my glance, grinned and mouthed “Dirty Boy!” at me.

“Least you could do, you stiff Englishman, is give a girl a hand here!” she grunted audibly.

I flushed, and walked over to help her while Moira still stared.

“Get out,” I heard Moira say softly as we finished with moving the couch against the door.

“Get out of my head!” Moira screamed loudly.

“What’s with her?” Jilly jerked her thumb at Moira.

“She’s a psychic, she has visions and sees things,” I tried to mumble in explanation.

“So do I sometimes, comes with our territory, but she doesn’t seem to have to any control, strange.”

I couldn’t think of a response for that. I was completely mystified. What was she suggesting?

Moira turned from the doorway and screamed wordlessly. Jilly pushed her away from the area, and began to withdraw knives. The door was buckling.

“What is going on? What are these things that are coming in, and just who in Hell are you, Jilly?”

“Well, I hate to tell you this, sweetheart, but I am going to let you in on a little secret. We’re standing on the edge of the end of the world, baby. Doesn’t it feel good?” She smiled at me, then ducked in to kiss me full upon the lips.

Her lips tasted of orange spice and something else I found indefinable, her tongue poked out along my lips to open them to her, and God help me, I was enjoying it. I tried to pull away, but didn’t want to at the same time. I shuddered with the pleasure that came with the kiss.

Moira’s shrill scream broke us apart, and I remembered that she was there. Reddening heavily, I turned to her, but she was lying flat on her stomach on the floor, heaving. Her dress was plastered to her, she was sweating so profusely.

A large axe-head began to crash into the door. At first, the door merely splintered a bit, then the axe began to break holes into it. The savage faces beyond, looking in at us, were intent upon our blood. Jilly began to toss a few of her knives through the holes, but every one of our enemies she dropped was replaced by another. I stabbed with the saber at several questing hands entering the holes in the door.

A hand grasped the saber, and sought to pull it from my grasp. I yanked, grunting, and several fingers dropped to the floor on our side of the door as I hefted the saber. The doors opened a crack. Jilly looked to me with a wicked grin, her last two knives clutched in her hands.

“If we don’t make it out of this, Ned, I want you to know it’s been fun!” she shouted over the roars of the men breaking into the room.

I stepped back, mopped sweat from my brow with the sleeve of my coat, and readied the saber as several men burst in. Jilly danced among them gracefully, her knives letting fly with ribbons of blood and flesh. I slashed at the man bearing down on me past her, cleaving his face in twain. Few of the ragged combatants bore any sort of weapon, and they sought to rend us limb from limb with their bare hands.

What seemed like an eternity of grasping hands and slashing blades left a pile of corpses at my feet, probably ten or twelve, and still they came. Jilly moved among them like an angel of death, blades slashing at vitals. Then a great scream came from the back of the crowd of savages, and they began to back away slowly.

Several gunshots rang out, and the savages began to flee out of the room. I was winded and bruised, with several small nicks from a variety of knives and razor blades. Jilly breathed heavily, her tightly-corseted chest looking rather appealing. I shook my head as I watched her bosoms heave with her exertion, wondering where my thoughts were going. I looked back to Moira, who was rising from the floor.

She was shaking heavily, and she looked to me with a small smile. Then Jilly grunted, and I saw a savage had charged her and thrust a knife into her belly. A gunshot fired from outside the room and clipped her shoulder, spraying bllod from the furrow it had dug.

I reached to catch her, and saw Moira passing to stand in front of me. She held up her hands. I thrust the saber under Jilly’s arm to catch the savage who was pushing his knife into her gut in the underside of his chin, and the saber’s point pushed gruesomely out from the top of his skull.

Moira was pushed aside by a figure entering the room; fearing a regrouping of the savages pressing forward, I lifted the saber to defend the now-unconscious Jillian from them. I looked up to find Jones standing over me. He was pointing his rifle down towards Jillian.

“No!” I protested, “She’s helped me, no one is going to kill her!”

Jones growled, “She tried to kill you before, Ned.”

“No, she helped me before too!”

“Now, Ned darling, you know she is an evil woman!” Moira spoke, glaring at Jillian.

“And,” a familiar voice said through the doorway, “she is also a spy, an agent from America, of which you know with some certainty by now, no doubt, Doctor Halloran.”

Harvey Tallhorn stepped into the room. Several men in police uniforms were behind him.

“Take her into custody, men,” Tallhorn ordered.

Jillian groaned, eyes narrow, as the men gripped her arms and lifted her. I could tell she was in some pain, and I felt something tug at me inside.

“Wait, let me have a look at her before you take her away, let’s make sure she won’t die on the way to prison,” I said.

I bound her wound with clean strips of my own shirt since there was little else to do so with. She smiled weakly at me as I did so.

“You know I am not really crazy, don’t you?” she gasped softly.

I nodded, giving her a smile of my own.

When finished, I stood back from her and watched the policemen help her out of the room.

“Well, it seems your group of investigators has uncovered one very crucial detail now; the involvement of this man in all of this,” Tallhorn said as he bent down over one prone form.

The man whose head he lifted up was none other than David Alfred Wellesley.

“D.A.! What is the meaning of this!” I shouted at him, looking sternly upon him.

“It’s no use speaking with him, Ned; I had to blast the creature possessing him from his brain,” Moira said as she fell against my arm, breathing heavily and looking frail.

I took her in my arms.

“A psychic, eh? So you saw some kind of creature within his brain, eh? Some sort of demon or something?” Tallhorn questioned curiously.

Moira nodded tiredly, and Tallhorn stepped up with notebook in hand.

I pushed him away.

“Not now, Tallhorn, can’t you see that she is tired and hurt? I intend upon taking her home to get some care, a bath and rest. Move aside, you can come speak with us later.”

“Oh, Ned,” Moira said against me, “It’s over now, isn’t it?”

There was a squeal of brakes and the crash of a steam carriage colliding with something large outside. Several men came running in a moment later, shouting for Tallhorn.

“Sir, Sir! The paddywagon, it’s crashed! And sir…”

“The woman in red is gone!”

Tallhorn regarded his messengers sternly.

“How did you allow a mortally wounded woman to escape you?” Tallhorn said, following them out of the room and heading for the site of the crash.

Jones and I exchanged a look then. Something was not right here. I smiled down to Moira to give her reassurance, but I was certain that this whole mess was far from over.


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 Post subject: Fourteen: The Morning After
PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:35 pm 
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I awoke, sunlight streaming into my flat through opened curtains. I could not recall leaving them open. Groggily, I rose and shut them and fell back into my bed. The wounds of the past day’s action left me feeling drained. I checked the stitches in my lower calf where the bullet had grazed me. The bruise on my chest and stomach where the autogun’s stock had been splintered and driven into me was still quite bruised and tender. And there were the numerous bruises and small scratches from the grasping hands of the savages.

Jones had opted to stay at my flat with me. He was still quite concerned that there was more to this than met the eye. The way we had stumbled into this job, stumbled through it and reached a conclusion so quickly was curious. There were many loose ends, and all of them were being tied up by invisible hands that were holding dark secrets from us and from the rest of the world. We had talked about it until late in the evening, over some fine cognac Jones had brought with his things.

He had an appointment that morning with a cyberdoc to build a new eye; he’d not gone to the hospital that night, but had gone off in search of Moira and I. The eye was very bad off, and he’d been drinking and using copious amounts of Helldust to kill his pain. I tried to warn him that night of the addictive properties of the street drug that I had been warned about in medical school, and offered him some morphine instead, but he’d scoffed and said he could handle any drug on the market street or not.

When he’d eaten his fill from the meal Nana, my shopkeeper, always brought over in the morning, he turned to go.

“You keep an eye out, you hear? I still think something is wrong, very wrong.”

I resolved myself to sit back and concentrate a bit, and think things through until the afternoon. Maybe a bit of clarity would hit me; I already had so many pieces of the puzzle, and yet it was all so fuzzy. I slipped my hand into my Gladstone and pulled out a small packet of white powder. Focus.

Normally, I have never condoned the usage of illicit drugs. A navvie working out in Trafford Park had given me the packet when I had been working on a wound he’d sustained. My work had allowed him to keep his natural limb rather than enforcing a need for replacement, unlike many other doctors working with the poor lately. I’d sworn I would never use it, and would get rid of it before long. That was four months ago; now, its reputed properties drew me to the powder.

Focus would cause me to do just that; it was said that the drug intensified a man’s concentration to an incredibly keen edge. This was an edge that I would need to begin my studies. I shook out the powder onto the glass top of the small table in my flat. Using the edge of my straight razor, I drew the powder into a trio of lines, as I’d seen addicts to other drugs do. Cautiously, I moved my face down to the lines and pushed my thumb over one nostril. I inhaled deeply, drawing in the first line.

My head began to pound almost instantly. I shook my head, and then repeated the process with the other nostril. My vision was sharpening in a way it had never seemed to be, but it was a tunnel of sharpness and I found my concentration beginning to become quite intense on the smallest thing. The one remaining line of Focus stood before me. Was what I had ingested enough? I put my head down, thumbing my nostril again and sniffing the powder in.

My head roared. I found my thoughts whirling, a jumble of chaotic things. I found myself reaching out to take hold of the thoughts I wished to look upon more closely. Moira, lovely Moira; how I loved her. Yet I pushed that thought away. As much as I did love her, I knew that in the back of my mind she was immaterial to the question in the back of my mind I needed to focus more closely on what I had observed so far, and on what I knew or thought I knew.

Start at the beginning, then, shall we? Wellesley. It definitely came back to my father. He had put this whole thing together, in a desire to punish those who would harm his beloved Metropolis. He was too close to the city, and had too much to gain by its prosperity. He would not have anything to do with this mystical plot for obliteration. Omega; The End. That’s what this amounted to, and my father was too settled into his ways, his women, his money and his city to afford much thought to that.

His son, D.A. David Arthur Wellesley. Though Moira had seen him as possessed, I did not think it likely that he would plot the destruction of the Great Metropolis either. He was too entrenched in his life, or what passed for a life, here. He was truly happy. Or was that the mask? I remembered what Doctor VanGoeden had said about pain and masks.

I decided that once I had examined more options, I would head out in search of more dirt on my brother, whom I’d never really known. Next subject, then. Move on. Tallhorn. I’d never trusted him, even though British Intelligence seemed to place great faith in him. Power corrupts, I reminded myself. I didn’t know what to make of him for certain, though. Even though he’d had me questioned and bound and threatened, and might have had me beaten as well if he’d thought it would have served his purposes, I believed in the veracity of his love for Britain. I’d seen too many of his deeds in my previous escapades. Masks, remember the masks though.

And what of Mademoiselle Genevieve Croix? She was related to Michel Croix, who had been murdered and whose residence was a part of the Omega symbol formed by the victims. Surely she had something to do with this. She had set up the mission along with the others. Perhaps she had used what political pull she had within the New Reich to accomplish this. I had to find out more about her too.

The Vivisectionist. I strangely believed him more than I had anyone else outside of my small circle of companions along this ride so far. While he was demented, and my nemesis, there was a twisted sense of honor that I could almost respect about the man. Almost. I didn’t believe that he was behind any of this.

Jilllan the Razor Queen; who was this beautiful and mysterious, deadly creature? She I knew the least about out of all of them. She portrayed a madness, yet was not mad…or was she? Not English, yet her accent when applied was impeccable. And something about her drove me mad with desire. Best not to touch too deeply upon the taste of her, I thought, as I remembered it. Oops, too late for that now.

But something else had been strange about the vivisectionary besides the missing Doctor when I had turned to retrieve a gun. I hadn’t been able to place it entirely, yet had felt it at the time. I recalled the event with perfect clarity, and replayed it over and over again. I found I could stop the scene in my head and zoom in to look in more detail on the landscape.

It was the wounds that were on Fujiwara Watanabe’s corpse, swaying slowly upon the meathook. Two little fingers, missing. Small and concise cuts down his thighs; one was deeper, on the left, I recalled. Where Jilly had cut his pants free. The slit in his throat. Focus. My head cleared of everything but the scene.

I saw it now. The hurried look had caught something even though my brain didn’t register it at the time. The cut along the Japanese man’s throat had been too clean. The Doctor had had only bonesaws in his hands. They were laying on the ground precisely where he’d dropped them when Jillian’s knives had felled him, and their cuts would have been too ragged to have done such a thing. The only scalpel that had been missing on the tray was the one I had taken The Captain’s life with, and it had still been buried almost all the way into the socket of his flesh eye.

I replayed the scene again, from the time I had turned to The Captain from Jilly’s eyes, telling me to take him first. As I turned, I stopped the scene in my head. Three knives in the Doctor; but Jilly…she was holding four, I saw from my peripheral vision. One between each digit of my hand. Yes, if I focused more clearly, I could see this. Four knives.

Forward. To looking about the room with the doctor’s body gone. There, lying against the wall, unseen in the struggle…the fourth knife, its balde wet with blood. Fujiwara Watanabe’s blood. Jilly had killed the man! I struggled with possible reasons why.

Suddenly, my mind did a 360 degree spin, and I found myself looking at Thierry Spencer, the street templar from Paris. He’d come to kill these men, who Doctor VanGoeden had claimed were cultists. I remembered the goliath swooping above myself and Jones. Something had gleamed at his neck as I looked up at him. Something insignificant at the time, I had thought, yet seen with perfect clarity. A silver fleur de lis cross.

Whirling again, my mind settled upon the first time I had seen Jillian the Razor Queen. When she and Billy had been planning to take me to The Vivisectionist and she had first aided me. The chains hanging off of her tight red leathers; the slim, athletic and sensual body beneath them playing a man’s mind to distraction. Yet there it was, hanging from one chain; that same fleur de lis cross.

The murderers had been both Thierry Spencer and Jillian the Razor Queen! They had been working together. She was my answer, then, I determined. But how many masks did she wear? I would have to find her, and uncover them all.


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 Post subject: Fifteen: The Rocky Road to Discovery
PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 1:14 am 
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I stepped from my flat, ready to embark upon my journey of discovery. Jillian knew the truth, and was behind at least some of the murders. I had to find her.

As I passed a newsboy hawking his wares I was so concentrated upon finding Jillian, I almost missed what he was crying out.

“Read ALL ABOUT IT! Murderess at large! Jillian the Razor Queen Revealed! The Omega Murders Solved!”

Quickly I snatched up a daily and dropped four pence in the newsboy’s upturned bowler lying upon the ground. I snapped open the paper and found the continuation of what was on the front, which I had already scanned in. Focused so intently upon the paper I was, I stepped into the street to cross without looking, and would have been run over by a passing steam wagon were it not for a small hand on my elbow jerking me bodily back to the curb.

The ragged figure at my side looked up, and I found myself peering into the blackened eyes of Quick.

“My friend, I-”

“Shh, not so obvious. The death mark’s off ye now, but it’s still nae safe t’ be seen with me. I ‘ave lots o’ enemies, I do.”

“Meet me in Trafford Park by th’ canals, look for th’ Wayfarer. Ye remember, laddybuck, the Traveller barge?”

“Sure. You know them well, too?”

“Nah, don’t be a daft twit. I wouldn’t associate wit’ tha likes o’ them on a normal day. Jones is setting this up. He found D.A.; they put th’ poor bloke in a sanatorium. Sum’tin’s not right wit’ ‘is gourd.”

“Yes, Moira had to do something to him, he was possessed by some kind of demon.”

“Dunno ‘bout demons. Just meet us there. Two hours. An’ Jones said ye should hit up th’ libbary wit this, mate.”

He handed me a piece of parchment. It seemed old, antiquated. I stared at it blankly, my focus still on Jillian. I must have said something, because Quick frowned and then spit.

“We can do this without th’ likes o’ ‘er, mate. Madwoman, she is. Nothin’ but trouble there. Two hours, mate. Check this out inna libbary.”

I nodded, and felt my focus shifting to the parchment. I thought momentarily of Moira, a member of the Ancoats Historical Society. She would know what to do with something like this. But she had strained herself so terribly fighting whatever fight with the demon she had engaged at the vivisctionary, I didn’t wish to engage her further in this matter at the moment. She was resting at a friend’s house. I resolved to go to her later in the day to see how she was doing.

Instead of bothering Moira with this, I decided I would engage the aid of someone else from her society. The AHS building was a museum of sorts, and many scholars made a semi-permanent residence there. Surely there would be someone who could decipher this strange script. Well-versed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, this writing looked unlike anything I had seen.

Making my way swiftly, I soon noticed the zep car following me. It was not obvious, but in my state of heightened concentration, I was aware of many things at once that normally I might let pass. I reached down to the weight of the Navy revolver in my overcoat pocket. Its weight comforted me. If they were to try anything, I would be ready. I had known Moira’s statement about this being over was mere wishful thinking.

I stepped into the old brownstone, and at the foyer I was accosted by the doorman, who pronounced me unfit to enter as I was not a member of the Society.

“Do you allow visitors to enter, if they should present certain documentation that may be contributed to the historical archives here?” I queried, certain that this would gain his, and perhaps others’, attention.

He shuffled his feet a bit before asking, “Can you produce said document for an examination, good sir?”

“But of course,” I replied smoothly.

He shuffled off, muttering about speaking with someone. I noted that the zep car had parked down and across the street, and no one had yet exited. I smiled, and stood awaiting the return of the doorman. He came back only a moment later.

“Professor Blythe would like to speak with you and see to the veracity of your claim, sir, if you would follow me please.”

I followed wordlessly down the hallway, and to the large room the doorman lead me into. Like many of the rooms in this place, I was quite certain, it was wall to wall bookshelves stuffed with tomes, scrolls and antiques. Some were even of an origin I had never studied in my time at Oxford. Curiously I gazed upon them as I awaited my host, Professor Blythe. I waited for some ten minutes by my pocket watch before he arrived.

A kindly-looking old gent with a full beard and a generous shock of white hair, Professor Blythe seemed as ancient as some of the volumes in his care.

“Please do sit, ah…forgive me, but you need no introduction, Doctor Halloran. We are quite familiar with the work you’ve done in the past for the Great Metropolis. You know, ahhh…” he shuddered as he sat behind his desk, “the “Blood-Cult of Berlin” was a fake. I don’t know if anyone ever told you of that, Doctor.”

“Yes, I had it quite figured out by the time much of the events had come to pass, Professor. Now, if you could have a look at this? I am quite curious as to its origin.”

I handed the parchment to him. He pulled some glasses from his vest pocket, settled into his chair more, cleared his throat, and began to read over it. The thing was a mere scrap, so I wasn’t certain exactly why he was taking so long, but he read over it for almost twenty minutes. He then stood up.

“Where did you acquire this document, Doctor Halloran?” he asked me, and I suddenly sensed a bit of sternness from him.

“A friend unearthed it; he didn’t say where and I was not as impolite to ask. He merely asked me if there were some folk I knew who might afford an understanding as to what the language is, and what the paper says.”

“This paper is written in Lemurian, Doctor, and its words I will not be less than circumscribe and repeat aloud. This is something that should not be left to the hands of any man who would be foolish enough to do so. I believe you should allow me to take possession of this, and allow it to be kept by the Society. Some secrets, dear Doctor are better left undisturbed.”

He reached for the scrap on the table, but I put my hand down atop his.

“And how much would something like this be worth to the Society, if I may be so bold to ask?”

His eyes narrowed; I could see by the look that he was now considering me beneath him, a common treasure seeker looking to turn his find into quick coin. He sighed and pulled his hand away, leaving the scrap in mine.

“I would say this very scrap would be worth perhaps three hundred pounds. It would easily be worth twice that were it a full sheet, and ten times that if it were the volume itself.”

“And what volume would that be, praytell?” I questioned, attempting to intimate that perhaps I had this very same volume and was tantalizing the Professor with but a taste of it.

“The Scriptorum Dictum, as I have been taking to calling it. The volume deals with the binding and command of…ancient things, Doctor.”

I gave my eyes a look of amused disbelief.

“Scoff if you will as a man of science; I myself, as a man of science, have seen things that science alone cannot explain!”

“Well, I haven’t any such volume, but if you will fetch me the three hundred pounds we’ve already spoken of, I will leave this with you,” I said, my smile still attempting to convey skepticism.

I folded the scrap and put it in my vest pocket, and folded my arms. The Professor
harrumphed and stepped from the room, dismissive of my mercenary attitude.

I waited for some time, then heard the door open. Turning back to it, I saw the Professor shuffling into the room. But the person behind him was not someone I had expected to see this day.

“We meet again, good Doctor Halloran,” The Vivisectionist said to me.

He gestured for the Professor to take his seat at the desk with the barrel of his luger.

“Doctor VanGoeder, I wish I could say something about how pleasant it is to see you again. Unfortunately, it is not.” I couldn’t help the sour note in my voice.

He smiled. He’d changed his appearance this time; gone were the blond locks, replace by a shaven head. Great rimmed spectacles adorned his face. Golden-capped incisors gleamed in the gaslight of the Professor’s study. He wore the charcoal grey suit of an industrial worker. His face was marked with pocks, and a scarf was tied about his neck. I’d noticed that his voice was a bit rougher.

“Jilly’s knife made some improvement upon your voice, I see,” I smirked.

“Ah, yes, nothing permanent. Doctor, as I told you before, I’ve nothing against you personally, even though our paths have crossed on the wrong sides as of late. And when I show you what I mean to now, we will be again conjoining. I told you I did not want to kill you just yet, and had some use for you.”

“Whatever might that be?” I feigned indifference.

“Well, first of all, I would like to tell you that it was ill-considered of you to come here, of all places, with a bit of Lemurian sorcery in your hands and not offer to just give it over to them. The AHS looks down upon that,” he grinned.

“So I noticed.” I replied nonchalantly.

“So should I drag the bodies I’ve had to create in her to illustrate my point? There were several men that the Professor here spoke with who would have gladly parted your head from your body for that scrap. And I have again protected you and fostered your healthy interests in staying alive. We should try a little harder, Ned; I am sure we could become friends.”

“Not likely, but I will consider what you have to say. I am not that far gone, VanGoeder.”

And so it was that we set into conversation with the old Professor, The Vivisectionist and I. And VanGoeder didn’t even once threaten to disembowel him. It proved for an interesting hour. I could not, however, be persuasive enough to The Vivisectionist, or myself for that matter, to allow the Professor to live after we’d parted ways with him. Especially after he drew a revolver from his drawer while we were preparing to leave him peacefully.

My own revolver barked loudly in the confines of the enclosed library, and the Professor rocked back in his chair with a neat blood-rimmed hole in his forehead.

“Very nice shot, Ned. Well done, if I do say so,” VanGoeder offered.

“Thanks. I thought that avenue would be better than allowing him to shoot me in the back.”

“Ah, but you missed one small detail. He was pointing his gun at me, not you. So I supposed that for today, at least, we are even of accounts.”

“Jolly good, then. Are you in the zep car that has been following me?”

“Why, indeed I am.”

“Good, then,” I informed him, “You will be giving me a ride down to Trafford Park, where I can meet my friends to discuss all that has gone on here. Then we will determine if we have some use for you,” I replied, smiling.


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 Post subject: Chapter Sixteen: Quick’s Revenge
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 2:28 am 
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The zep car ride was not as protracted as I had thought it would be; Doctor VanGoeder had thoughtfully installed a lanebreaker. It seemed a much more sophisticated device than the one Jones had used. The Focus still roared in my ears, keeping my thoughts tight on the matters of the Omega Conspiracy, as I’d decided to term it.

From what I knew of VanGoeder, he could not be trusted. He was a man of great intellect, and was most certainly striving to find a way to be rid of me so as to claim the glory of whatever victory we would find for his own. But he also seemed generous to his underlings, and if that was what he now thought of me as, I might be able to gain his trust and avoid confrontation. But there was also the fact that I was a loyal subject of the Throne, for the most part, and had no wish to gain the New Reich any glory on our own soil.

I was walking a razor’s edge on this adventure, and every step I took had to be with the utmost caution. I needed more information, to either still some suspicions or to cause them to gain wind to their sails. I needed something that perhaps only the Etherscope could give, since I could not travel far. I needed D.A.’s expertise. Government and corporate files would be necessary.

My thoughts were turning to crime and perhaps even the crime most loyal British citizens considered the worst, treason. For this was the risk I was running, herding a foreign agent through my hoops and stealing documents of a very sensitive nature with VanGoeder at my side. But there might be some area in which his expertise might be necessary.

We arrived shortly at the dock where the Wayfarer was moored, taking in cargo again. The Traveling Folk were boisterous and happy tonight. This was good, because I’d have no fear of the plan that had been forming in my mind being overheard by any one; except, of course, by those already present.

I lead VanGoeder aboard the barge, several of the Travelers staring. They’d most certainly expected me to arrive alone. When I opened the door to the meeting room, it seemed that no one had expected me to arrive with The Vivisectionist. Bloody hell, neither had I, come to think of it. Jones stared at VanGoeder in shock; I knew he recognized the man, even in his disguise, because we’d tangled with the man too closely before not to. Quick merely sat at his spot at the table, and it was only a moment later after I had closed the door that I realized his hand beneath the table held a pepperbox at the ready.

“Tell your little man to put away the gun, Doctor. Are we here to help or threaten one another?”

“Make a move, Kraut, an’ I’ll spread ye ‘bout this room. Make no mistake, I’d sooner kill ye and be done wit’ ye than listen ta yer serpent’s tongue,” Quick announced, spitting to one side of the table with his eyes fixed balefully upon VanGoeder.

Everything Jones and I had been through up against this man, and yet neither of us evinced such a reaction to The Vivisectionist. It was truly a curious reaction, and I resolved to ask of Quick what the nature of his difficulty with the Doctor was at a later time when VanGoeder was not in earshot. If Jones noted it, he was not acting as such. VanGoeder himself seemed to delight in Quick’s venom.

“Perhaps I should warn you now, little one, that I am carrying quite a collection of explosive devices upon my person at this time. Should you decide to fire that weapon, I shall release the trigger which is bound to them all and then you will be responsible for the deaths of all of these good Travelers, your companions and yourself as well.”

VanGoeder showed us the small switch in his palm, with his thumb poised over the red flashing button; and ether transmitter of some kind.

“Yer bluffin, ya rank bastid!” Quick spat again.

“Perhaps, but perhaps you should hear me out and not take such a great risk with so many others’ lives rather than chance it, eh? Put the gun away.”

“Quick, if what he says is true…” Jones said, concern lighting on his vaguely canine features.

“Never mind if he’s bluffing, Quick, put the gun away. We are here to negotiate a treaty for now, which will aid us all in finding who is responsible for this whole mess. And I have developed something of a plan which will enable us.”

“Right, Doc, I’ll do it, only ‘cause ye asked nicely. But mark me, Kraut, I’ll be tha death o’ ye.”

I could sense the tension in Quick; he was wound up tighter than I’d ever seen him.

“Listen, all of you,” I interrupted the situation which was growing out of hand too quickly, “I need D.A. We have to spring him. He’s in the Santa Lucia Rosaria Benefice Sanatorium. I worked there briefly for some of the patients when it seemed their, ahem, plumbing was stopped up for a time. Seems the dietarian upon the premises was something of a poisoner, and sought to kill off several of the inmates. So I know the layout.”

I looked about and found some draft paper and a charcoal pencil, and began to draw the layout of the hospital. My skills at drawing were never all that pronounced, but I went on nevertheless. As I represented the sanatorium, I detailed them upon its background and security as my drug-sharpened memories provided. Before I knew it, an hour had passed, and all seemed shaken by my planning and forethought into the presentation. I smiled to them as they nodded in approval. Of course this would work out without a hitch, I had thought.

But that was before I began to crash from my high as we began our approach to the area of the Santa Lucia Rosaria Benefice Sanatorium an hour later. I clutched my head, groaning. My companions, now armed to the teeth and readied for our mission, evinced a great deal of concern for me, but I pushed their questions aside. I reached into my Gladstone, pulling out an ampule of Go, which I had acquired from my same source for the Focus; I could not allow myself to come down so hard yet.

“Hitting the stimulants now, eh Halloran?” VanGoeder sniffed disdainfully as he watched me snort the white powder.

I didn’t deign a reply. Instead, I remembered the details of the plan that I had kept solely to myself. I endeavoured not to allow my thoughts to betray themselves.

We piled from the zep car, ready for the great stone wall that was guarded by four corner watchtowers. Many of the most wealthy and powerful citizens of the Great Metropolis interred their troubled loved ones in Santa Lucia. What I hadn’t yet told my companions was that many of the inmates lived in the lap of luxury, and there were a good many who were not nearly as troubled as they appeared. This would be a very tricksome proposition, as these folk were well-guarded.

Jones had the grapplegun, and he used it to good effect. I’d worked out a manner of tricking the ether-eyes which watched over the wall in between the guards. I had remembered during a lecture on ethertech theory in Oxford how some devices were used to provide remote security. During the hour between my planning and our arrival at Santa Lucia, I’d had Jones and Quick go out to pick up a few things and stayed behind with VanGoeder going over the plan with him again.

Jones had gathered some ethertech tools in that time, which I carried as I struggled up the line he had secured for me to the wall. I had never been incredibly athletic, but I managed. I then spread out along the top of the wall, just beyond the ether-eye’s sight in that moment, and took out the toolkit.

Utilizing a magnetic spreader and a simple screwdriver, I unlocked the sealed ether-eye before me and began to slowly remove the panel upon its tiny side. I pocketed the side panel, and slung myself over the side of the wall as it sung around to view the top of the wall. When it turned again, I climbed back up the line and began to
check the wiring within it. I found what I was looking for, the small hydraulic cable which enabled it to move back and forth, and with a small pair of wire clippers I cut it loose. The ether-eye’s movement stopped. My companions then began to climb up the wall. I had to use both of my hands to pinch the line together on both ends so as not to lose too much fluid.

Quick came up first, and held up something in front of the eye. He had picked up an elongated ether mirror-plate, and was now using it to mirror an image of the grounds the eye studied, moving it back and forth in front of the eye as though it might still be roaming in its visual capture. This would hopefully be enough to fool whoever might be watching what the ether-eye saw. When Jones and VanGoeder had passed over the wall, I began to clamp the two ends of the hydraulic cable together. Once I had given Quick the signal that I was done, he leaped with the mirror over the other side of the wall and pushed me with his foot to slide over as well as I grasped the toolkit.

The lines securing us carried our climbing rigs to the ground, and I secured the toolkit carefully in the small pack I wore. Step one was complete, and had worked marvelously. We made our way swiftly and stealthily over the grounds to the low wall of the inner courtyard. That, as I had judged before, was one of the more difficult tasks as it required constant attention to the movement of the guard’s searchlights. We managed to slip in unnoticed.

The Spanish monastic architecture took my breath away as we followed Jones’ scouting over the low wall. It came as little surprise to me, since the Santa Lucia Rosaria Benefice Sanatorium had been built up around an old Spanish mission in Valleys. Sweeping and grandiose, it was a fitting retreat for the troubled wealthy.

Although five months old, I still had the visitor’s pass for the sanatorium I had acquired upon my last visit. My hope was that it would pass a cursory examination and gain me egress to the security waystation. Once we controlled that central location, VanGoeder would locate D.A. in the waystation’s databanks. He claimed some small skill in remote Scope usage, whereas we other three had none.

I donned the pass and strode through the side entrance to the waystation towards the guard there while the others awaited my signal.

“Late hours, eh Doc? Who you here to see this time?” the guard said, recognizing me from my last visit.

This was fortuitous. I smiled and made idle chatter with the man, all the while as Jones took aim on the man with his crossbow. I gave our signal, pointing to the stairs and frowning at the guard, and the man was struck by a bolt in the arm. I had decided on a non-lethal method of subduing the man at VanGoeder’s protest. There was no need to cause casualty, I had argued.

The bolt was coated with a paralytic toxin which Jones was familiar with. Its effects would not last long, but it was long enough for Jones and the others to join me at the waystation and bind and gag the guard. We then moved him to the water closet. Quick was instrumental at this juncture, his skills with picking mechanical locks proving quite worthy to locking the W.C.’s door from the outside.

Here we proceeded to the dressing room for visitors. There were, as I had remembered, more than an ample supply of doctor and aide garb here, as the sanatorium was adamant in that all visitors and employees alike were to wear white frocks while on the premises. Odd, I had originally thought, but convenient to our current needs.

The Vivisectionist then took command of the Scope point at the waystation, and began to access it. He smiled as he donned the Scope gloves. I paid little attention at this point, and drew Quick to one side.

“Remember to stick to the plan,” I warned him.

He nodded in reply, but I could see the glaze of anger and hatred spread over his eyes as he watched VanGoeder work. I looked over to Jones and he nodded at me as well.

“Got him!” VanGoeder proclaimed, “You really are a sly devil when you wish to be, Ned my boy.”

I just grinned at him.

At this point, with VanGoeder being the elder, he was dressed in the garb of a visiting doctor. A small picture of him of the same approximate size as my own upon my visitor’s pass was affixed now to it, over my own picture. Quick was to lay low and watch the waystation, while Jones and I followed the Doctor in the capacity and garb of aides.

We met with no suspicion or resistance in our journey to D.A.’s cell, and Jones moved through each key in turn we’d lifted from the guard in the lock. After several moments, the key opened the door. My first sighting of D.A. since the day before was frightful to say the least.

He was filthy, and had not bothered to lower his trousers to use the chamber placed in the room. The shackles upon his wrists and ankles had rubbed his skin raw and bleeding in places. He’d not had a shave or comb even, which was quite shocking for his usual well-placed care in his appearance. His eyes were blank and staring at nothing.

I lifted him from the pallet, hoisting him over my shoulder. He was limp and unresisting. The dead weight was almost too much for me, and so Jones took hold of his legs while I held him on my end by his shoulders with his arms crossed over his chest. He had the appearance of a corpse in such a pose, and VanGoeder smiled thoughtfully at him and closed his eyes almost in the manner of a mortician.

We moved quickly to take our leave from the sanatorium. The path was quite clear, and not even one guard was present to question us upon our mission. I’d prepared a cover story for just such an interception. We made our way to the wall again, but this time it was on the opposite side of the sanatorium. Beyond this side, we would be closer to the moors of Valley and our cover would be greater in our escape.

With the waystation guard left subdued, our movement over the wall would go unobserved. If VanGoeder had performed his function while checking for D.A.’s whereabouts within the Scope layout of the sanatorium, he would have also disabled the recording functions of the ether-eye at this point in the wall as well. Jones fired off the grapple gun again, and went over first. I secured D.A. to the line and went up behind him, pushing him along. VanGoeder came over the wall last. When we rejoined on the other side of the wall, we were off for the Pennine moors and a small tributary of the Irwell, where our zep car had been securely hidden away.

Quick was to follow behind to lay down a separate trail in case we were being followed; there were other reasons as well, which were well-founded I discovered upon our arrival at the zep car. The current constant and drizzling rainfall was obfuscating and a mist was arising. The muddy peat sucked at our tall boots and slowed us, which made us prime targets.

Sure enough, VanGoeder did not disappoint me. During our earlier meeting aboard the Wayfarer, I’d seen him palm an ethercomm, and I had suspected he was transmitting my entire plan to someone else. I’d had little time to alert my companions to my suspicions since then, but they were as suspicious as I and our constant shared glances confirmed them amongst us while VanGoeder had not been looking.

Five burly men with autopistols awaited us upon our arrival to the zep car. They brandished their weapons indimidatingly, and VanGoeder stepped out before us.

“Drop your weapons, cur,” VanGoeder snarled to Jones, “and you your ever-present British Navy revolver, Ned.”

He pulled out his luger and joined the men standing before us.

“As you can see Ned, any plan you come up with, while appreciated in aiding my cause, is superfluous to the fact that I will always have the upper hand over you.”

“Gloat all you like, VanGoeder. You may have won this round, but we will come for you and find a way to defeat you,” I replied, in what I hoped wasn’t too obvious an attempt to stall his getaway.

Two of the men came over to pick up D.A.

“Whatever this man has experienced will lead me straight to the heart of the conspiracy,” VanGoeder confided, smiling gleefully, “but your time is at an end, I fear, Ned. I have no need of you anymore, and tools are always best discarded when they are of no use. Shoot them.”

The three remaining gunmen brought up their weapons. It was then that two particular pieces of inventory I’d specifically sent Jones shopping for were to prove quite useful. The goggles we’d worn were very protective against glare and had the added benefit of low light visuals. The gunmen did not share these goggles. The flash grenade in my palm, which I tossed to the peat before them, blinded them long enough for me to recover my revolver and Jones to gather up his boxy autopistols.

We split upon a hand motion and look from Jones. Box-three, a maneuver Jones had come up with in our time in the military. While I’d never had the pleasure of participating in this particular maneuver, Jones had proven it quite successful in the past in his sorties. We moved to our corners, and spread out like the base of a triangle. The three disoriented men began to recover.

I fired my revolver, the bullet catching one man high in the chest. He fell over, spurting blood and choking. Jones’ autopistols fired in rapid succession, and a second man was down after being unstitched across his belly. The two gunmen carrying D.A. dropped him and dove for cover, proving that they might be smarter than they looked.

“Very smart move, Ned,” VanGoeder called out to me as he fired at me into the mist.

I ignored his taunt to have me call out to him and moved back three steps further into the mist. I dropped down to present myself as less of a target. That was when a bullet hit me in the back from behind. I cursed, knowing he would have more men around somewhere. The bullet had not entered my flesh, as the heavy armored vest I wore which Jones had provided us one of with had stopped it. I heard the sound of someone approaching, and lay still.

Several other gunshots rang out, and I saw Jones stumble into my vision, clutching his chest. Resisting the urge to cry out, I lay silently in wait for my stalker. I watched my friend pitch face-first into the peat. The man behind me suddenly stopped, the sucking noise of his boots moving falling silent.

“I can’t see you, Ned, but that’s alright. I want you to come out now. I will put a bullet in your friend the dog’s head if you do not.”

The sound of a body hitting the peat heavily, followed by another lighter thump behind me caused me to turn to look behind me. A ghostly figure stood in the mist over the fallen body of what must have been one of VanGoeder’s thugs. The gleam of metal in the moonlight came off of something the figure gripped.

It moved tantalizingly almost close enough to see, and I could see a hand moving to place one finger across the face. The figure was telling me to keep quiet. The next gesture was something of a surprise. It motioned for me to move towards VanGoeder.

Uncertainly, I rose and did so slowly. The figure could not be who I had expected to come to our aid. Where was Quick? I moved haltingly towards The Vivisectionist and his men. They waited for me, all wearing smiles.

“So you see, Ned,” VanGoeder said as I came into full view, “I do always win.”

He lowered his luger and began to pull his trigger to fire upon the fallen Jones. Suddenly, something whipped through the mist and struck his hand. The pistol flew from his grip, while blood was pouring from the gash in his hand. VanGoeder grimaced in pain and staggered back.

I raised my revolver, but staggered back with the force of two bullets from The Vivisectionist’s men slamming into my chest. The others fired off into the mist towards where the knife had been flung from. A smile rose upon my lips when I saw the knife lying upon the bog. She had come for me, like I had been certain she would. Jilly.

I saw something small and sure move across the bog, and duck behind the zep car on the other side of it from me. A rapid succession of muzzle flashes showed under the car and the roar of a firing pepperbox sounded. One of the thugs fell to the ground, his feet nearly severed from the bullets that had shattered through bone and torn away flesh.

VanGoeder screamed out loudly. It was not pain; I knew he would not allow himself that. It was rage. Pure and unadulterated rage.

The two remaining thugs turned to fire upon the zep car. Their shots blew out the windows, punched through the doors and blew great holes in the interior. They emptied their magazines and then dropped them to reload. The onslaught was deafening.

I crawled towards my revolver, as rising was proving difficult in the peat with the heavy armor vest on. Close to me, VanGoeder was reaching down to grasp his luger in his left hand. Before my hand could take up my favorite Navy iron, his hand raised the pistol and he fired. Something was in front of him before the bullet struck its target though, a white clad figure with whirling long black braids.

The figure landed in a heap, and I found no bullet buried in my flesh. I raised my revolver then, and the hammer clicked back. It struck on nothing. I looked with consternation at the pistol as VanGoeder began to laugh. My speedloader pouch were dropping to the ground from his hand.

“This was all very well done, but now it is over, Ned. Finally over.”

He raised the luger slowly to take a bead upon my forehead. There was nothing I could do to stop him. Then a strange sound, and the rapid firing of a pistol drew my attention from staring down the black bore of the luger. It was Quick.

He had slid from underneath the zep car through the bog, firing all the way into the two men on this side as he slid past them. His head came to rest upon the back of The Vivisectionist’s boot as he stopped sliding. The two men remaining fell prone onto the bog.

VanGoeder laughed again victoriously as Quick looked up at him, pointing the barrel of his pepperbox up at him, and clicked on a dry cylinder. VanGoeder swung the barrel of the luger around towards Quick’s head, but that shot was never fired. Instead, VanGoeder teetered and began to scream.

I jerked my head to one side, to see Jones had jabbed the point of his eleven inch knife into one side of VanGoeder’s boot near his ankle, blood drooling from his mouth. The knife point had punched on through the other side of the boot, and blood squirted out onto the bog.

His face contorted with rage, VanGoeder fired into the top of Jones’ head, and swung around with frightening speed toward Quick. He was intent in his pain at taking me last. But his speed, frightening as it was, was nothing compared to Quick’s lightning draw.

Quick pulled a large pepperbox free of its holster and fanned four rounds into VanGoeder. The bullets ripped VanGoeder open from groin to belly, just below the armor vest he had been provided with by Jones before our departure. As he fell to the ground, Quick flipped up onto his feet and spun. The desperate shot fired by The Vivisectionist barely missed the Gamma.

“This is for me da,” Quick spat at The Vivisectionist.

Quick fired his fifth and final round in the pepperbox into VanGoeder’s face at the bridge of his nose, and punched through his skull into the peat below.

I rose shakily, looking down at the ruined and bleeding remains of the face of what had once been my nemesis. There was no escaping this death.

“’Oo gives a fuggin’ shite ‘bout how damned clever ya think ya are now, eh?” Quick said, spitting directly into the oozing hole of VanGoeder’s face.

He looked at me, eyes awash in hate and pain.

“James Hebbish,” he said simply to me.

My mind connected. The last victim that had been found of The Vivisectionist during the “Blood-Cult of Berlin” days. And now I knew the real reason Quick had followed me all of this time.

“Comon, Doc, gotta get ‘em all in the ‘car. Kinya drive?”


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:58 pm 
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Hard-Bitten Adventurer
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Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 140
Location: Somewhere in the CAS
OK, brief break while I get my bearings on a few things affecting me right now, will resume after the weekend...stay tuned...


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 6:57 pm 
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Wild-Eyed Zealot

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Location: The Great Metropolis
Hi, could you post this up on the fan site as well, I'm sure people there will be interested as well! Cheers!

Nigel


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