Curruthers meets an old colleague; Prentiss pulls the plug.
3rd June 2010.
- Lady Antonia deVore – a Heavily-armed Aristocrat.
- Miss Constantina Spit – a Rebellious Debutante.
- Captain Benson Curruthers – a Military Policeman.
- Jack Prentiss – a Dodgy Pedestrian.
- Miss April Sharpe – a Self-taught Inventor.
- Rodney Marsh – a 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.
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…
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!