The Pyramids of Hertfordshire, episode 5

Cur­ruthers meets an old col­league; Pren­tiss pulls the plug.

Played

3rd June 2010.

Dramatis Personae

  • Lady Anto­nia deVorea Heav­i­ly-armed Aris­to­crat.
  • Miss Con­stan­ti­na Spita Rebel­lious Debu­tante.
  • Cap­tain Ben­son Cur­ruthersa Mil­i­tary Police­man.
  • Jack Pren­tiss – a Dodgy Pedes­tri­an.
  • Miss April Sharpea Self-taught Inven­tor.
  • Rod­ney Marsha Par­tial­ly-reformed Thief.
  • Mr Chester – a For­eign Gen­tle­man of the Sci­en­tif­ic Per­sua­sion.
  • Jack­son – an old Asso­ciate of Cur­ruthers.
  • Two Anony­mous Sci­en­tists.
  • A Scep­ti­cal Com­man­dant.
  • A num­ber of Heav­i­ly-armed ‘Game­keep­ers’.
  • A large num­ber of Sham­bling Corpses.

Plot

After the night’s exer­tions, the team head­ed for the dark­ened lounge of the Inn and sev­er­al mem­bers con­sumed a stiff brandy (at least three in Marsh’s case). They prised Marsh’s dis­cov­er­ies out of him and decid­ed that they would vis­it the mys­te­ri­ous camp in per­son the fol­low­ing day, mak­ing no secret of their true authority.

They hired some rid­ing hors­es and, after much delib­er­a­tion over the best route, led them by the known for­est trail over the ridge. They hit a well-packed grav­el road to the north-east of the camp at around 1 pm and, sur­mis­ing that it led to the camp, fol­lowed it to the south and west. Marsh fol­lowed them sep­a­rate­ly though the woods, act­ing as a kind of back-up.

After ten min­utes of trav­el, they encoun­tered a bor­der-style check­point and were hailed by a man dressed in tweeds, armed with what appeared to be a very large dou­ble-bar­relled shot­gun. Cur­ruthers imme­di­ate­ly assumed an air of author­i­ty and demand access in the name of the Min­istry. The man looked con­fused, but asked them to wait while he head­ed inside a hut by the side of the road. The heroes could hear him talk­ing to some­one whose voice could­n’t be heard. A moment lat­er, anoth­er man in tweeds poked his head out of the door and, this time, Cur­ruthers recog­nised him instant­ly as Jack­son, a Colour Sergeant he had known in India. They exchanged some pleas­antries while the one-sided con­ver­sa­tion in the hut con­tin­ued, then Jack­son returned to the hut and joined that con­ver­sa­tion. After a minute or so, he returned, say­ing that the ‘Com­man­dant’ had agreed to see them.

He accom­pa­nied them along the mile or so to the camp, which was revealed in day­light to be quite a defen­sive struc­ture. A long earth ramp led to the main gate of the facil­i­ty on the cen­tral rise, bro­ken only by a makeshift draw­bridge. A twen­ty-foot high guard tow­er con­tain­ing two guards with a machine gun over­looked the main approach­es and the bush­es around the edge of the rise pro­vid­ed nat­ur­al crenel­la­tions hid­ing snipers.

Watch­ing from the woods, Marsh saw them cross the ‘moat′ and fol­low their guide into what appeared to be a guard­house. Jack­son asked them to wait while he fetched the Commandant.

The Com­man­dant turned out to be a tra­di­tion­al­ist type who imme­di­ate­ly began to butt horns with Cur­ruthers, point­ing out that the project was a top secret oper­a­tion of the War Office and that the Min­istry (which seemed to know about) had no author­i­ty there. After much argu­ment, he agreed to show them the exper­i­ments, on the basis that they were near­ly com­plet­ed anyway.

They were led to the open square at the cen­tre of the camp, sit­u­at­ed between four pre­fab­ri­cat­ed struc­tures, one of which appeared to con­tain a steam-pow­ered elec­tri­cal gen­er­a­tor, and con­tain­ing a tall mast, linked by cables to the pow­er­house and the build­ing oppo­site. Knock­ing on the door of that build­ing, the Com­man­dant entered and returned, accom­pa­nied by a short, mous­tached man, who he intro­duced as Mr Chester. Chester turned out to be Hun­gar­i­an, judg­ing from his accent, but was soon per­suad­ed to explain how they were exper­i­ment­ing with broad­cast­ing elec­tri­cal pow­er through the æther to vehi­cles and oth­er devices.

This was then demon­strat­ed as the gen­er­a­tor was start­ed up, caus­ing hairs to rise on every­one, before one of his com­pan­ions drove an elec­tric vehi­cle out from behind one of the build­ings. Miss Sharpe dis­cussed the the­o­ry with Chester, putting for­ward the the­o­ry that the broad­cast elec­tric­i­ty was respon­si­ble for ani­mat­ing the zom­bies; both Chester and the Com­man­dant reject­ed the idea as impos­si­ble and refused to con­sid­er the idea.

The Com­man­dant now informed them that they would not be allowed to leave until the final exper­i­ments were fin­ished and locked them in what appeared to be a bar­racks. The group imme­di­ate­ly began look­ing for a way out, check­ing the floor, door and windows.

Out­side the camp, Marsh became aware of move­ment around him and spot­ted numer­ous zom­bies sham­bling towards the camp. He pan­icked, trans­formed, after a brief stut­ter, into a rat and bolt­ed for the camp.

Inside the bar­racks, the team were prepar­ing to break the door down, when they became aware of gun­fire, increas­ing in vol­ume and rate of fire, and soon accom­pa­nied by the chat­ter of the tow­er-mount­ed machine gun. A num­ber of screams were also heard and it became appar­ent that the guards were being over­whelmed. They renewed their efforts with repeat­ed charges, then Cur­ruthers bust the door open and was near­ly flat­tened by a walk­ing corpse. As he bat­tled for his life, aid­ed by Lady Anto­nia, the oth­ers tried to fig­ure out how to shut down the elec­tri­cal broad­cast. Around them, the guards were attempt­ing to hold a perime­ter against the sham­bling attackers.

Pren­tiss sprint­ed for the pow­er­house, burst­ing through the door, then duck­ing at the last moment to avoid los­ing his head to a shov­el wield­ed by a pan­ick­ing stok­er. Marsh arrived behind the zom­bie fight­ing Cur­ruthers, returned to human form and near­ly decap­i­tat­ing it, fol­lowed up by bow­ing iron­i­cal­ly to his com­bat train­er. Lady Anto­nia decid­ed to try and help the guards while Miss Sharpe pow­ered up her weapon and aimed it at the top of the mast, soak­ing it in a stream of cor­ro­sive liq­uid. Miss Spit fol­lowed Pren­tiss into the pow­er­house, arriv­ing just in time to see him pull a thick cable out of the steam-pow­ered dynamo, caus­ing a mas­sive show­er of sparks which made up for the lights going out.

The dynamo sped up, its whine rapid­ly ris­ing in pitch, until the build­ing explod­ed in a show­er of flames and shrapnel…

Notes

Ooh! A cliff-hanger!

Will Pren­tiss and Miss Spit sur­vive the explo­sion? Has Marsh final­ly taunt­ed Cur­ruthers one too many times? Did Miss Sharpe real­ly under­stand any­thing Mr Chester said? What will hap­pen if Lady Anto­nia gets her hands on a real­ly big gun?

Find out in the next thrilling instal­ment of…

The Pyra­mids of Hertfordshire!