Archive for June, 2015
Dr. Llwellyn raced down the carpeted stairs near the Duchess’ stateroom. His lithe elven physique, designed for long distance running, had put him several steps ahead of his companions. He headed down the stairs at a breakneck pace. Once he reached the hallway, he sprinted towards the fallen body of Captain Hunter.
“Anthony! Devil take it all! You never listen!” The doctor’s reproach was sharp, but laced with deep concern for his friend.
Dr. Llwellyn dropped his leather medical bag and knelt next to the captain. He pressed his fingers to Hunter’s neck. There was a pulse. He let go of a small sigh of relief.
“Thank the ancestors and the mountains they guarded. You’re alive.” He shook his head in relief. The doctor turned to rummage in his bag and arranged vials of lotions and other medications on the floor next to him.
The doctor had withdrawn a roll of linen bandages by the time the others arrived. Noel St. Claire and Tom Parker joined Dr. Llwellyn while James McCabe led a quartet of Britannia’s armed sailors to invade the Duchess Von Ferrin’s stateroom.
“Merde!” St. Claire swore once he saw the captain’s state.
Dr. Llwellyn glanced in the young man’s direction to acknowledge his arrival, then returned his attention to the captain.
“Indeed,” he replied. He withdrew another roll of bandages from a bag and handed those to St. Claire. “Noel, help me cut away portions of the captain’s shirt. We need to see what we’re up against with his wounds.”
“Bien sûr,” the West African man replied. His face was a portrait of grim concern and amazement. “I have never seen burns like these. It looks like he was attacked by a swarm of bees.” He produced a folding knife from a pocket. “Where do you need me to start?”
“His ribs. I’m worried for his heart.” Dr. Llwellyn’s replied. The doctor studied a nasty burn at the base of the captain’s neck. He nodded at the wound as if he recognized it.
Parker recovered from his initial shock. He dropped to one knee beside Hunter. “We need to haul him off the floor and get him to an infirmary!” The bear-like man reached for the captain. Dr. Llwellyn’s hand latched like a vice onto Parker’s right arm.
“No! I’ve seen a fair amount of electrical burns. These are not the usual garden variety.” When Parker did not move, the doctor fixed a hard look on the man. “We move him once we’ve an idea how bad off he is.”
When the doctor released his grip, Parker sat back on his heels. “Right. I lost my head for a moment.”
The doctor gave a reassuring smile. “Little Tom, your instincts are fine. Just a bit premature. We’re all worried.”
St. Claire studied the burns with the intensity of a scholar. “But you know what kind of burns they are? Or what caused them?” he asked.
The doctor frowned and searched his collection of medications. “I know it’s an electrical burn, just not what caused it or why there’s so bloody many of them.” He blended the lotions onto a bandage using their position in the lineup to indicate how many doses to apply when making the final mixture. “Given that the destruction to the skin is localized around each burn like an insect bite, I’d say they are low voltage burns. Possibly from two small electrical leads placed close together. If they were high voltage, there would be scars farther out across his body, and the skin might have even ruptured along the path as he burned from inside. His clothes might even have ignited. In any case, we need to apply bandages to the worst of the burns. Only then should we move him.”
He eased the poultice against one of the exposed burns on Captain Hunter’s neck. The captain groaned in reaction and stirred. The doctor kept a firm hand on Hunter to steady him.
“Little Tom, unroll the next bandage,” the doctor instructed. “Apply a thin layer of medication from each vial and mix them on the linen strip. The mixture is one I’ve used before with this type of burn. Start with the container to my far left and work to the right just as I did. When done, apply the poultice to where I show you.”
“Aye, Doc.” Despite his thick, knotted hands, Parker unrolled a bandage and applied the medical lotions as instructed.
McCabe appeared at the stateroom door. “Her Grace isn’t about,” he said with a stern tone. “But her stateroom’s seen quite the storm. Tables tossed, chairs thrown and plenty of these laying about.” In one hand he held the twisted remains of a seamstress spider by one leg. The small clockwork looked as if smashed by a hammer, or the heel of a boot.
Dr. Llwellyn eyed the battered device, the needle mandibles, then the burns on Captain Hunter. “In theory, that would be the likely culprit of what attacked the captain. Of course, that is if a servitor of that size could hold enough of a charge, or if there were just that many of them.”
“It sparked across its mouth when we came across it, so it might could hold a charge.” McCabe explained. “But it also seems as if these little servitors can do all sorts of nasty things. The last device like this I stumbled over? I watched it ‘sew’ poison into a victim,” he added with a bitter tone.
The doctor cut a hole in the captain’s shirt over one of the uglier, blackened burns. Parker eased a poultice into place the moment the hole was wide enough.
Dr. Llwellyn scowled at the metal spider. He thought back to the small puncture wounds in the maps aboard the Griffin. “They’re also the size to have perforated our navigational charts.”
“Pardon?” St. Claire said in surprise. “Perforated our charts?”
“Yes.” The doctor gestured for the navigator to continue cutting open the captain’s shirt. “The maps had been ransacked. The captain and I had speculated it might have been a clockwork device behind it.” He gestured to the ruined servitor spider. “That might very well prove we were correct. It was at least one small clockwork servitor. Given the mess, and that one’s size, probably a group.”
“It was dozens that murdered Boyle and Taylor,” McCabe said. His voice was bitter with memories.
“How’d they all get aboard?” Parker asked while he prepared another bandage.
Suddenly, Hunter’s eyes flew open. He spasmed once, then gasped when pain struck him like a slap across the face.
“Hell and damnation!” the captain exclaimed. He struggled to sit up and failed. White hot waves of pain sapped his strength. He collapsed back to the floor.
“Mon Capitanne!” The navigator reached over to help the captain. “Do you remember what happened?”
Captain Hunter clenched his jaw. The countless burns littered across his body screamed for his attention. He closed his eyes and gathered his strength. He tried once more to push himself to a sitting position. With the navigator’s help, that time he succeeded.
“Sadly, Mr. St. Claire, I do. Every painful detail. Where is that venomous woman?” Hunter snapped. He winced when Parker applied another poultice. “Has anyone located her?”
“She’s fled her stateroom, but we’ll track her down.” McCabe’s face was tense. Memories of murdered crew lingered fresh in his mind. The sailors with him filed out of the stateroom. McCabe gestured towards the other end of the hallway away from the Brass Griffin crew. “She had to have left that way. Go after her. Send word to the leftenant if you find anything. I’ll be along shortly.”
“You’ll need all the strong right arms you can find to deal with her.” Hunter made to rise, but the doctor kept a firm hand on the captain’s shoulder.
“Which will have nothing to do with you,” Dr. Llwellyn interjected.
“Blood and sand, Thorias!” Hunter exclaimed. He tried to shrug off the doctor’s hand, but his injuries got in the way. “She’s after Moira! I believe she’ll cut and murder her way to get her, too. And those seamstress spiders are not just any run of the mill clockwork servitors. They react to her unspoken commands.”
A stunned silence clamped down the hallway.
“Edinburgh, Thorias,” Captain Hunter said to break the quiet. “Dr. Mary Hereford’s experiments.” He glanced over his shoulder with a meaningful look at his old friend.
“The murders,” Dr. Llwellyn answered in a hushed, horrified tone.
“Yes, the very same,” Hunter replied. “Duchess Von Ferrin claims to have been her true benefactor.”
Wide-eyed, St. Claire looked over at Parker. “Little Tom, that was the story you were telling me, non?”
The big man gave a grim nod. “The Edinburgh murders? Aye. It was not long before you joined us.”
Dr. Llwellyn shook his head. “No matter. Anthony, you’re not fit to go chasing her all over creation and back. Mr. McCabe? I must get Captain Hunter to an infirmary. Once done, I can send help your way. That is, if you believe you’ll need it?”
McCabe nodded. “I’ve seen and heard more than enough. I suspect I’ll need the help and be glad it’s there. Leftenant Mason will understand, given the circumstances.”
“Noel and Little Tom,” the captain began.
“Will help me get you to an infirmary,” Dr. Llwellyn interrupted.
Captain Hunter scowled at his friend, but the doctor was not moved.
St. Claire sat back in surprise at the argument. Tom Parker grinned. He had seen this exchange many times before.
“Them’s the doctor’s orders, Cap’n.” Parker’s huge grin lit up his face. “You’ve said it yourself. Best to do what the doc says.”
The captain’s belligerent posture relaxed somewhat as he resigned himself to the inevitable.
Dr. Llwellyn shifted the topic. “Mr. McCabe? Where can Noel and Little Tom meet you?”
“This hallway takes you toward the starboard reading room and the promenade,” he explained. “We will wait for you there. It’d be the best place anyone could try to lose themselves among the passengers.”
Parker and St. Claire maneuvered the captain to his feet while the doctor repacked his medical bag.
The Griffin’s navigator cleared his throat. “Pardon, monsieur McCabe, what of the passengers? It has been made clear more than once to not disturb them over all this. Especially by your Leftenant Mason.”
McCabe gave a grim smile. “Given all that’s happened? I’d say they know.”
Parker and St. Claire helped Hunter limp toward the stairs, with Dr. Llwellyn in tow. Behind them, McCabe hurried down the hallway in the opposite direction.
A dull rumble of thunder shook the floor and rattled the fixtures on the wall. Everyone stopped dead in their tracks.
“Another explosion?” Parker said aloud.
“That was below us! A single deck or maybe two at the most. There are second class staterooms and one of the cargo holds used for passenger luggage,” McCabe said in alarm.
“Well, so much for the keeping it from the passengers,” St. Claire remarked.
“Right. Infirmary first, explosion next. Mr. McCabe? I’ll go myself to check for any injured. I’ll send Noel and Little Tom here straight away to find you. Then, with a bit of luck, the Duchess,” Dr. Llwellyn said. “Perhaps once we have her, this whole sorry affair can come to a quick finish.”