James sat up, his movements slow and stiff from lying in the corner. He rubbed his eyes and groaned as a joint in his back popped audibly. Of the others, it was Adonia who recovered her voice first.
“James?” She asked hesitantly. He looked over at her, blinked, then frowned as if he was not fully awake. Adonia pressed on. “James, we’re on a relay station some distance from your camp. You’ve been … asleep for some time. How are you feeling?”
The archeologist winced, running a hand along his lower back, his body language conveying the look of a man that carried a full set of aches and pains due to lack of rest and too much activity. Dr. Von Patterson rubbed his eyes in an attempt to make them focus while he looked around the shed. “A bit of the Rip Van Winkle, eh? Well, I’m feeling my own share of wear, though I don’t remember a spot of it. I’m a bit parched, could anyone spare a drink? Some water perhaps? I could manage well enough after that.”
Krumer pulled a small metal flask he carried and handed it to the archeologist. James took a long drink then returned it to the first mate. “Thank you for that, and thank you for asking, my dear Adonia. I must say, it does one good to find themselves among friends.” His eyes wandered the room, until he turned face to face with the gray-furred muzzle of Tacita. She sniffed the air around James experimentally, her whiskers extended in his direction.
Dr. Von Patterson chuckled nervously. “My word! You’re quite the … er … specimen aren’t you?”
“Tacita won’t hurt you, Dr. Von Patterson.” Tiberius said with an nervous smile. “I’m Tiberius Fabia, you might remember our letters? We corresponded?”
Dr. Von Patterson gazed at the young man a moment, then awareness spread over the archeologist’s face. “Why yes! From the University of Rome! Indeed, I remember you. But how are you here on this … ” James hesitated as his location suddenly escaped him. He looked to Adonia for help.
“Relay Station.” She offered.
“Quite.” Dr. Von Patterson replied with a fatigued sigh, “What are you doing here?” Before Tiberius could answer, the archeologist frowned and shook his head slightly. “In fact, what am I doing here? My head is in such a fog. Wait, there was a dig site. I think there was a dig site.” He said absently.
Krumer walked over to the door and glanced outside. The fog had returned in force. Bands of mist ran eagerly along the roof top and danced around the occasional lightning rod. Despite the thickening fog, he could still make out the silent, unmoving figures in the distance. It bothered him that the zombies had retreated so abruptly, only to stop for no apparent reason. It was almost as if they stood guard outside despite the approaching storm – but whom they stood guard for worried him.
“What do you remember?” Krumer heard Adonia ask Dr. Von Patterson. The orc stepped away from the open door to rejoin the others.
The archeologist’s brow furrowed in thought. “I remember a campsite. A dig at a ruin of some kind. My wife and children were there as were some of my colleagues. There was a statue … and gunfire. Voices, lots of voices all yelling at once in Latin? Perhaps not in Latin, but at some point someone was speaking quite a bit of Latin to me. Finally, however, I heard a woman’s voice.” He looked up at the others. “I heard her voice before I opened my eyes and … well … found myself here.” After a brief pause, Dr. Von Patterson asked. “My family … are they well? Safe?”
Adonia smiled softly at her friend. “Yes, James. You had the presence of mind to send them away the very day before the attack took place. They will be worried with grief, but last I knew, they were quite safe.”
Krumer was only partially listening to the conversation. His eyes were on Tiberius. The young man was eager to speak to Dr. Von Patterson, that much he could tell, but the first mate also saw lines of worry on the young man’s face. Most notably, when he sat quietly by while Adonia and Dr. Von Patterson talked. The orc cleared his throat. “Tiberius, the telegraph is still hooked to the battery. I don’t think the zombies will attack just yet.”
Tiberius caught Krumer’s suggestion and smiled. “Thank you.” Rising from his place near the door, Adonia, and Dr. Von Patterson, he hurried to the telegraph. Once there, he squatted down and began to tap out a very precise code.
“I thought you didn’t believe him, my friend?” Adonia asked with a slight smirk on her face.
“I’m keeping an open mind like you asked.” He replied with a slight sigh. “Even if it’s against my better judgement. Let us say for a moment that he can rouse help for us. It would mean more able bodies against the zombies … and whoever is behind them.”
“Speaking of such, can we not escape with the zombies … hm … resting?” Adonia asked with a brief glance towards the fog-laden doorway.
“Once Tiberius is done, we will.” Krumer replied.
Dr. Von Patterson turned to look at the fog that swirled along the rooftop outside the door. “I remember … ” He looked between Adonia and Krumer. “Is the statue here?”
Adonia shook her head. “No, there was an attack. It was taken.”
The archeologist rubbed his face from fatigue. In the background the tapping of the telegraph filled the air. “We have to find it. I … I remember flashes of memories. They are quite jumbled and come at me in a rush. I remember something about that statue. I daresay I don’t understand how it was made, but it held recordings. I think they were all in Latin.” He hesitated a moment, as if searching to grasp at an elusive memory that danced just out of his mind’s reach. “Yes, they were. That is where I heard all the Latin.”
Just then, Tacita’s ears turned around in two different directions: one towards the door and the other towards the back wall. The great cat’s posture went tense. Krumer held up a hand for quiet. He had heard what Tacita had noticed – a faint set of footsteps.
“Tiberius? Almost done?” Krumer asked carefully.
“Almost,” the young man answered, oblivious to Krumer’s expression. “Why?”
“I believe we’ve visitors,” The first mate said softly. Tiberius looked up in alarm. Krumer motioned for the young man to resume sending his message. Tiberius nodded, licked his dry lips, and picked up where he had left off. Tactica stood and padded over to crouch not far away, facing the outside.
Quickly, Adonia helped Dr. Von Patterson to his feet. Together, they made their way over to the large, four foot tall cylindrical generator and crouched behind it. Meanwhile, Krumer quietly stepped over to the right of the doorway, drew his pistol, and waited.
The footsteps, though still nearly silent, moved around the outside of the shed. They were almost a sliding gate, much like the zombies that had come at them earlier. The first mate firmly squeezed the grip of his pistol, keeping the barrel pointed at the floor of the shed. A shadow crossed the opening and slowly obscured the fog. It solidified into a figure that stepped within arms’ reach. Immediately, Krumer moved in a blur of motion. His pistol shot up, the palm of his hand slammed back the hammer of the gun ready to fire.
In the same moment, Conrad O’Fallon, quartermaster of the Brass Griffin, threw himself against the opposite side of the door frame, his own pistol drawn and pointed in towards Krumer. When the Scotsman realized who he threatened, he lowered his pistol with a bruised and bloody grin.
“Top o’ the evenin’! Ah’d bet ye be wonderin’ just how we got past the zombies?” O’Fallon asked, dropping his pistol into the holster at his belt.
“Indeed,” Krumer replied with a faint – and relieved – smile of his own.
“Well then, if we be havin’ the time for a quick breather, Ah’ll be happy ta show ye.” The Scotsman replied cheerily.