Instinctively, the doctor spun around and stepped away from the sound. The simple motion spared him a knife in the back!
“You!” the doctor snarled, clutching his tender ribcage and putting another step of distance between himself and Peter Bauer.
Bauer, a massive figure even for Fomorians, was fully transformed, his clothes burnt and torn. In his left hand, he clutched a sharp Bowie knife, the blade dripping with blood. Running along the monster’s right side was a terrible, raw burn that was not healing with the usual accelerated rate Thorias might expect. Over Bauer’s left shoulder, Ian – burned and bleeding – hung limp like a bag of wet rags. Thorias’ mind spun, running through dozens of half-ideas, any method to recover Ian before he bled to death.
“Ja, me,” Bauer replied with an ugly sneer. The act twisted his scarred face into a demonic grimace. He stepped forward, brandishing the Bowie knife. “Doktor, I must admit, I am so very pleased to find you here: the man who deciphered mein people’s Hellgate formula. The shame of it being it had to be done by a Tuatha Dé Danann. Ah, but we will fix that, ja? Then no one will ever know the full truth. Only the truth I will give!”
Thorias tensed, sparing a quick glance over his shoulder. Bauer was talking too much for comfort. The doctor knew he was up to something. He drilled a hard look into the Fomorian captain. “Let the man go, Bauer. Ian’s done nothing to you.”
The Fomorian’s face twisted, his hands shaking from rage. “Nein! He did everything! Everything!”
“Impossible!” Thorias snapped. “He has nothing to do with your poison, nothing to do with your kidnappings, nothing–“
“We were trying to stop the oppression of the people by the ruling class over two years ago! But he stopped my bombs before they could do their work!” Bauer yelled, interrupting Dr. Llwellyn. “Mein men … all of them … were hanged for it! I lost everything because of him!” The Fomorian’s eyes bulged with hate. “But I will have my revenge on him and those with him … such as you!”
Dr. Llwellyn sidestepped, circling Bauer in an attempt to keep him at the same distance. When he did, for a moment, he heard something in the thick smoke not far behind him. The doctor glanced over his shoulder again, but saw nothing. When he looked forward, Bauer was smiling. Thorias narrowed his eyes, every sense was as alert as he could manage; the Fomorian was up to something unpleasant. Bauer was stalling. Thorias suspected the Fomorian was waiting for someone.
“You’ll never leave here by any means! Captain Hunter will make–” the doctor said.
“Hunter!” Bauer spat. “Strutting blowhard! I prepared something special for him! If the normal artillery does not kill him, the gas ammunition will! It will eat him from the inside slowly, far after this is done! Even if he brings my Revenge low, I still win!”
At that Thorias smiled.
“Provided no one has deduced a treatment,” Thorias replied calmly.
“There is no treatment!” The Fomorian snarled, tossing Ian off his shoulder to the ground. The pilot moaned incoherently but did not move.
Thorias winced slightly on watching his friend lay helpless at the Fomorian captain’s feet. The doctor needed to lure Bauer away from Ian. He also needed some way to handle the monstrous brute. Fists alone would not do. At the edge of his vision, he heard a crackle of electricity from somewhere nearby. An idea suddenly came to him. To make any of this work, he would have to play into the Fomorian’s trap. Hopefully, his own plan would win over Bauer’s.
“Of course there is,” Dr. Llwellyn replied, “just like there is one for your so-called ‘mystical’ elixir. It’s a poison, with no more occult qualities to it than cow urine!” The doctor took a step backwards as Bauer advanced, seething. “Oh yes,” Thorias continued, “I deduced a treatment for your ‘Mustard Gas’, just as I formulated a means to neutralize that Hellgate poison from the body of any addicted to it!”
“Then it will die with you!” Bauer screamed.
The Fomorian captain lunged forward, plunging the knife down towards Thorias’ chest. The doctor sidestepped, narrowly avoiding the blade. Bauer slashed out immediately, however Dr. Llwellyn dropped to a crouch, hammering a stout fist into side of the Fomorian’s knee. The large man yowled in pain and staggered backwards a step. Immediately, Thorias jumped up to back away and nearly stumbled into the hands of a burly, tattooed Fomorian!
“Ah!” Thorias exclaimed, just narrowly eluding the second brute’s grip. The doctor ducked behind his attacker and bolted for the Ironclad and the hole ripped open in its side. Behind him, his two attackers hurried after.
At the rent in the metal, Thorias paused, gasping in pain and out of breath. He glanced at the ruined equipment frantically.
“Confound it, where is it?” the doctor demanded. At that moment, he saw what he was looking for: the cables connecting the main capacitors to the Ironclad’s generators. Suddenly, the hulk of the war machine shifted to one side: his Fomorian pursuers were on him. He was out of time! He quickly jerked the cables loose, careful not to touch the exposed leads.
Outside the war machine’s hulk, the tattooed Fomorian glanced over at Peter Bauer, who had just scaled the wreck of the iron beast. Bauer shook his head and waved his accomplice aside.
“He ist mein!” Bauer snapped. “There is a young mädchen, ein werewolf. She is constantly near him. Watch for her! I wish to kill this Tuathan slowly with mein own hands, and I do not wish to be interrupted, ja?”
“Aye, Cap’n,” the brute replied, taking a step away to keep watch.
Thorias perched on one of the insulated pilot’s seats in the ruined interior thick with the smell of charred meat. The doctor clutched to the frayed, sparking cable as if his life depended upon it.
Bauer licked his lips with a sneer, slowly stepping menacingly into the opening. His bulk filled the available space, casting a shadow over the interior.
“My people should have exterminated yours. If they had, so much trouble would have been averted,” he growled in a low tone.
Thorias chuckled, which quickly turned into a laugh. It caught Bauer off guard; he was used to causing terror, confusion, not mirth. An edge of uncertainty crept up on him. He instinctively glanced around for … what, he was not sure. The German Fomorian scowled at the doctor.
“What are you laughing at?” he demanded.
“You,” Thorias replied smartly. “All your talk of ‘history’ and ‘your people’ and ‘my people’. If you were a true Fomorian, an actual Fomorian, you would not be stupid enough to fall for this pathetic trap! I see your invented ‘Mythology’, and raise you proper, logical science!” Abruptly, he grabbed a ground wire leading to the generator. He slammed the exposed end of the cable against the metal frame of the Ironclad. The war machine’s capacitor exploded with a deafening pop as it released every farad of electricity it housed in one single discharge!
Light and sound collided with a thunderous roar. Screaming, Bauer was illuminated like the lead in an arc lantern, electricity writhing over his body. Both Fomorians were hurled from the machine as if by a giant hand, throwing them across the dark hillside. The first Fomorian – the one watching for Angela – landed head and shoulder first against the remains of a rock wall with a sickening crunch.
Captain Peter Bauer – self-proclaimed leader of the Fomorians – pitched high then fell headlong into the dark earth, twisted and burnt, his body convulsing with uncontrolled spasms. Twitching, his still smoldering body slid over the sloping grass towards the waiting pit of fire that was all that remained of his Fomorian port of call.
Thorias tossed the cable away from him as the indicator light on the capacitor dimmed, showing it had spent its full charge. With great effort, he released his death grip on the grounding wire, and leaned forward in agony, a ghastly pale color. The doctor clutched the back of the pilot’s chair desperately while darkness swam at the edge of his vision.
“No, confound it! Not now!” he croaked hoarsely, “I have to warn Anthony about the gas artillery aboard the Revenge before he walks into the teeth of it!”
The doctor gritted his own teeth against the pain and turned in the seat. He searched the unfamiliar cabin for any means of communication that might have survived. Finally he located the cracked and battered housing of an opti-telegraphic. The keys were askew, and two were even missing entirely. Thorias worried whether or not the device still functioned.
He reached over and turned the crank, nearly passing out in the process. His breathing ragged, Thorias covered his mouth and coughed sharply. Pulling his hand away from his mouth, he sighed heavily at the spot of blood on his hand.
“Doctor!” Angela shouted from the hole in the side of the war machine.
“Here,” Thorias grunted in reply, wiping his hand on his already stained vest. “Here, child. Quickly, help me.”
The werewolf rushed over to his side, wary of the exposed cable on the floor. Her eyes went large when she saw the doctor. “Oh, Doctor,” she said horrified at his deathly pallor.
“Shush, did you get the bag?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes, and when I didn’t see you, I bandaged Moira as best I knew how. Did I do the right thing?”
“For now,” Thorias replied weakly. “We’ll check on her in a moment. Right now you’re going to help me send a message to Captain Hunter.”
Angela reached for the damaged keyboard but Dr. Llwellyn brushed her hands away. “No, I doubt they work. Hit the keys I tell you and speak into the device.”
“Speak to it?” the girl replied, her werewolf countenance pinched together in a confused look.
“Yes, speak to it. An opti can relay voice but only at a short range. The Griffin should be, hopefully, close enough to lie within that range.” the doctor explained. “Now do precisely what I tell you. Lives depend upon it. Understand?”
The girl nodded quickly, a furiously determined look on her face. “Yes, Doctor.”
The doctor smiled, patting her on the shoulder. “Brilliant. Here we go.”