Gunshots, he remembered gunshots.
Louis sat up quickly and immediately cried out in pain, clutching the stitched wound that he had just torn open once more. A hand pressed against his naked chest and forced him back down onto the bed with strength that was unexpected from the small, thin-framed woman. Her dark hair was tied up into a bob, held in place by a simple clip. Around her shoulders hung a binaural Fords Bell stethoscope, the main tube hanging down her chest with the ebony funnel stopping just above her belt, from which hung several pouches containing all manner of medical instruments and supplies that would cause Davenport to faint.
Around her waist was a waspie corset and she wore khaki coloured military fatigues also, the trousers matching this. In the medical bay, which is where the Count realised he now was, he could see other members of his crew on the beds. None were moving and from this Louis hoped desperately that they were simply under sedation rather than the alternative
Dr. Knight wore a white coat over her khakis to protect from blood spatter and it had clearly come in handy while Louis had been unconscious as it was now no longer very white but closer to red. Around her wrist she wore a simple leather vambrace which was adorned with the rod of Asclepius, an ancient symbol of the medical profession, not the caduceus which the Americans seemed to so often use
Great, now I am forced sew you up all over again. I should have been a seamstress
Dr. Elizabeth Knight was the ships medic, an expert in both conventional medicine and herbology, often combining the two effectively as she had done here. Even as Louis watched her redo his stitches, gritting his teeth in agony, he noticed the smear of green around his wound. It should have hurt much more, but she must have done something to ease the pain.
When she had finished, she turned and brought a cup of warm liquid over to him, handing it to him and raising an eyebrow when he failed to immediately down the brew. He did so, shivering and coughing as he finished due to the horrid taste.
It is a combination of White Willow Bark, Kava Kava root and liquorice. That will not only numb the pain, but heightens the senses, which I daresay you shall be needing shortly Captain. Dr. Knight smirked and removed the gloves she had been wearing, dropping them onto a tray of medical supplies.
How many times have you saved my life now? Louis asked, sitting up much slower this time.
If I kept count, I am quite sure a pay rise would be in order. The doctor winked and picked up a large roll of bandages which were clearly meant to bind Louis. She placed the bandages on the table beside the bed Louis had been lying in and lifted a mortar which contained ground herbs and roots, grinding them a little more with the pestle before slathering it onto the wound more gently than her harsh wit would have suggested.
I think after today we might need to up your pay. From the looks of things you are going to be kept busy. The Count told her, looking towards the door. He stood slowly, making sure not to do himself any more damage.
"My crew in the beds, are they..?"
"They will be fine, some more injured than others but nothing that I can't fix, now just sit still and stop fidgeting!"
Elizabeth placed some thick padding against his wound and then began wrapping the bandages around him. Louis was most certainly not a thin man; his stomach was actually quite bulbous and usually held in place quite snugly by his thick sword belt. It was strange that this man was usually such a womaniser, but his confidence and charm seemed to break through the physical barrier as over the years he had been physically engaged with a great number of extremely beautiful women.
Some mysteries were designed to remain such.
Oh Louis, if I were keeping a running tab I would have called it in a long time ago. She smirked and tied the bandages tightly at his back.
Louis immediately walked towards a nearby coat rack, pulling down his white shirt which was torn and thickly caked with blood on the left side. He followed with his red waistcoat and sighed. It was custom made and now was torn to shreds and ruined. The sword belt had escaped harm and he clipped that back to his waist quickly. At least his expensive tail coat had remained relatively safe! There was barely any blood on the inside and the outside looked pristine! Very impressive! He smirked and then replaced his top hat as well.
How do I look? The Count asked with a smirk, spreading his arms.
Like a fool who wont listen when I tell him he should be in bed right now. Someone else could lead the ship while you are recovering! Elizabeth insisted, her arms folded across her chest and a disapproving look etched into her features.
Well, as you say doctor. Louis winked and headed for the door, checking for his pistol and then remembering what had happened. Someone had clearly had the foresight to bring his sabre when they had brought him here as it was now neatly sheathed, but he had dropped it in that corridor
Dr. Knight, who brought me here? The Count asked, turning to face her.
Swiss and Charles came together. It seems that Swiss fired at the man, point-blank and knocked him through the hatch, but the body was not recovered. They must have taken their wounded. Charles came up the hatch and both carried you here before returning to the siege. She sighed and shook her head. Be careful. I treated the wound but there were some signs of poison. It was removed but, I had not seen it before and I do not know how much got into your system.
Louis nodded and then smiled, You also counter-acted the paralysis? I had forgotten about it until just now.
Get out of here. Thank me later; I have other wounded to attend to who are less likely to get up go gallivanting around a warzone. She smiled and he left, closing the door behind him.
Their first meeting had been much in the same vein as this, her patching him up and sending him on his way. She was an extraordinary doctor with simple needs.
She had been a military doctor, hence her love for military fatigues which extended to the present day. Louis had been called into battle in the Valkyrie, used primarily as a decoy vessel with which to provide hit and run manoeuvres. The HMS Valkyrie was the fastest ship in the fleet, and as such could fly in at speed, pepper an opposing vessel with grape shots then while that ship was busy trying to counter-attack, the British warships could take them out of commission for good.
It had been an excellent plan, until the Valkyrie had been caught in the crossfire. A German Battlecruiser had been lucky enough to catch the Valkyrie by chance when firing at a British Dreadnought. Louis had been climbing down into the engine room at the time and the blast caught them hard, closer to the engines than Louis cared to remember.
And far closer to him than he ever wished for! The blast had caused the ladder to crumple and blow outwards, sending Louis slamming into the wall opposite with a stomach full of charred and twisted metal. The ship had been taken down elegantly and smoothly, landing in a field south of Wolverhampton. The medics had gotten to them at incredible speed and were called aboard by frantic semaphore messages.
Dr. Knight had been the lead surgeon and medical expert on that particular team and she had been incredibly skilled. Not only had she managed to remove all of the shrapnel before it damaged any organs. She had also patched him up well and removed virtually all of the pain.
You know, we could use a woman like you on board. The Count had joked, checking himself over with an expression that betrayed how very impressed he had been.
How much do you pay? She asked matter-of-factly, cleaning her hands and rubbing alcohol over them.
I am a very wealthy man. I am sure that, combined with what you would still be getting paid as part of the military would be much in your favour. Louis had responded, laughing lightly at her honesty.
Believe me; I am not without my integrity. This is not just about the money. On your ship I would be doing virtually the same job, just more specialised. Dr. Knight stood and smirked. Less of this running around all over the Midlands crap. I would actually know where I would be each day. Plus I would hope that your crew get into trouble less than the entire Central Band Defence Grid.
Is that a yes? Louis asked, smiling and holding out a hand.
Sure. Youre out of commission for a while, so is your ship. I am stationed in Birmingham which is where your ship will be towed to at any rate. So when you depart, I will be with you. But I will need state of the art equipment and-
Leave your bill with Smith. I am quite sure we can provide anything you desire. Louis laughed. Good to have you on board Doctor
Knight, Elizabeth Knight. Call me Liz and I can put that shrapnel right back where I found it
She had then shaken his hand with that same cocky grin she had given him in the Medical Bay only moments before and Louis was forced to laugh at this memory, sure that the sarcastic and dark humour was the main reason he wanted her on his ship.
Outside the door, Charles at posted one of his soldiers by the door to protect the medical bay and those who were being treated within. The private looked at Louis in surprise, clearly not expecting him to be moving about any time soon.
"Stay here to protect Doctor Knight and the wounded! I am counting on you Private..."
"Edwards Sir," the soldier replied, coming to attention smartly and saluting the Captain, "and you can count on me!"
The Count threw the man a mock salute and headed off further into the ship. He knew what had to be done now, but as he moved towards the bridge, he could see that Davenport had the same idea.
In the corridor leading up to the ladder to the bridge, Davenports men were setting up the tripod mounted .303 Maxim gun, one of those which Louis had purchased for exactly this reason but forbidden them from using unless dire circumstances called for it. This gun was one of the first machine-loading guns that they had seen. Louis despised weapons of the like as they seemed to take all of the honour out of battle, just keep firing and stop when everything around was dead
but he also realised that not only were they efficient, but they were new. And when something that efficient is first marketed, it is either you have one or you are on the receiving end.
They had only used it for offensive purposes once, when boarding an airship with a crew that was far larger than they had imagined. They had used it for suppressive purposes, firing continuously to keep the enemy under cover while they boarded and then attacked in a non-lethal manner.
Good thinking Davenport. I was just about to suggest this myself. Louis winced and clutched his stomach as he approached but then moved his hand and said nothing.
Should you be up sir? Charles asked, raising an eyebrow questioningly.
Report and leave my health to me.
Yes sir. We were unable to use the Maxim any earlier as we were holding the entrance cabin. However, when falling back, I had two men go ahead of us to gain it from the armoury while we held the boarders off. I also deployed four men to the engine rooms as the engineers alone were beginning to struggle. One of his men sat down in the seat on the back of the tripod, the belt of bullets fed into the weapon by another soldier it as the Darmanians threatened to break down the barricade they had set up. They had closed the doors and piled Darmanian bodies in front of it, several of whom were missing limbs or had holes punched clean through them.
Who did that!? Louis asked, pointing to the bodies.
The barricade? That was us, the bodies
Captain if you have to ask Id be tempted to forget that you were just stabbed and knock you one myself. Davenport replied drily. With a curt signal from the lieutenant, the two man machine gun team swung the newly assembled weapon to cover the door. A crash came from the door, splintering the wood as Swiss stepped through, over the bodies with a crazed grin on his face.
As he walked up to them, he nodded his head to the Count, his cap stained with blood as were most of his clothes. The worst part was his metallic arm, which was drenched with still warm blood, running down along the smooth metal, staining the woollen support surrounding the part that connected to his arm. The sharp fingertips, which were silver plated, still had what appeared to be pieces of flesh still embedded under the talon-like nails. He had taken the deadly-force order to heart and had let loose the inner psychopath which he usually kept under wraps.
Most of this corridor is clear Captain, but there are more on the way for Charles to play with. Swiss walked alongside them all and around the Maxim. I have been wanting to see this baby in action.
Step back Swiss, I want two of my men stationed either side with rifles to pick off those that this doesnt simply destroy. Charles told him, shaking his head and trying not to look at the metallic arm too closely. Despite his military prowess, the sight of blood still made him more than a little queasy. He reloaded his pepperbox and waited for the coming storm.
I can get them for you
Swiss smirked but his face fell as he saw Louis shaking his head.
You will get in the way of the fire from the Maxim. Stay back for now Bjorn. If our defences are breached, then we will need to defend the bridge. Louis drew his sword, staring at the now breached doors as they heard many heavy footfalls coming along the hall.
The riflemen got to one knee on either side of the Maxim, the guns aimed squarely at the doors in case the Maxim did not take down every man to breach the corridor.
Steady. The Count told them, watching intently, the calm before the storm putting all of them on edge as they waited for the bloodthirsty Darmanians to arrive.
Suddenly, the enemy were upon them, kicking over the small pile of bodies with glee, uncaring for their dead as they suddenly came face to face with the Maxim.
Commence firing! Charles shouted, holding his own aim and taking down one of the advancing forces.
The Maxim fired a short burst, the platoon members grip on the handle and the trigger tightening as the recoil from each shot simultaneously ejected the expended shells and loaded the next round effortlessly. The Darkmanian forces did not seem to fear death and rather than hold back, strategise and attempt to overcome this obstacle, they merely came through in larger numbers, hoping to overrun the Valkyries crew. Louis suspected some kind of narcotics, or perhaps the rumours of the occult were true? For the Darmanians seemed to crave blood passionately and their strength was nigh on superhuman.
Engine room is cleared sir! A female voice came over the speaking tubes.
Excellent Lydia, do not abandon your posts however, I want them defended in case any more come along. Louis told one of the lead engineers.
Aye sir. You know you cant get me to leave the engines even if you wanted me to!
Louis had no time to joke as seven Darmanians filtered through the corridor, lifting bodies of their fallen comrades to use as shields against the onslaught of the Maxim. Most were still torn through by the rapid fire, but a few approached closer than the others and the riflemen picked two off, immediately reloading and preparing for the next wave. Davenport had clearly chosen the two best sharpshooters for this assignment as neither missed their mark.
The Count noticed that from the doors, many of the Darmanians were hiding around the corner to the right, likely lining the corridor, but yet more were along the corridor straight ahead, setting up barriers as they began unloading what appeared to be advanced guns of some kind. Each of the rifle-sized weapons contained a large, clear cylinder on the back, within which lay a strange rod around which electricity bounced and rebounded, ready to be focussed upon them.
Then the rumours are true, Louis said to himself, remembering the damage that the lightning they had been struck with earlier had caused the ship, Bjorn, there are a number of them waiting in that corridor
How is your throwing arm?
Which one? Swiss asked with a wink as he unhooked one of his grenades from his belt, lighting it and focussing his bionic eye on the distant enemies. He held the grenade with his left arm and steadied himself.
Davenport knew enough about grenades that he ordered a ceasefire, causing the Maxim to suddenly fell silent. The lieutenant knew that one stray bullet and they could end up setting the grenade off prematurely and blowing themselves to kingdom come.
Swiss eye let out a small beep and he laughed as the steam-powered arm suddenly shot forwards with astonishing speed, releasing the grenade so that it flew past the barricade the Darmanians had set up. The ones at the front turned to look behind them as an explosion went off, destroying the floor and parts of the walls. Bodies were sent into walls with sickening cracks and others fell through the floor, leaving only two who had climbed onto this side of the barricade to avoid the explosion.
Without a word, the sharpshooters fired, one hitting his mark and the other nicking the mans neck, but deep enough that he stumbled over, gurgling his own blood.
Shit. He said to himself, reloading as he prepared another shot.
Hold that shot, we have more pressing concerns. Davenport instructed as the Maxim came to life once more.
The Darmanians that were around the corner had clearly seen this as an opportunity and were now swarming the main corridor in great numbers. Davenport and his men were doing an amazing job and keeping their numbers down, but the sheer amount was beginning to overwhelm the firing squad.
Louis stabbed his cutlass into the floor beside him and pulled a pistol from a fallen platoon members holster, kneeling beside one of the riflemen to do his best to help quell the numbers. Three Darmanians caught one of their allies who had just been shot and used his body as a battering ram, slamming into both the rifleman and Louis before dropping the body. A shotgun blast sent all three flying backwards with gaping wounds covering their bodies as Swiss fired a round into them, rotating the barrel before firing again.
Louis winced in pain as he got to his feet and saw a top hat flash past the door, as if someone had moved from the corner cover to the left side, behind the shim remnants of the wooden doors. A large blunderbuss, clearly not designed for boarding missions, fired along the corridor to the right before an old flintlock pistol picked off a Darmanian who was running toward Louis.
What the hell? Davenport asked, holding his hand up, instructing his men to cease fire just long enough for a figure none of them had seem before emerge through the clearing smoke of battle from the hatchway. Louis quickly deduced she was defiantly not one of the crew but more importantly not of Darmanian origin either. The Telescopic Diagnostician zoomed in for closer inspection, revealing the mystery individual to be a woman, wearing a top hat, waistcoat and frock coat. As quick as flash, the strange newcomer ran along the corridor in a crouched position to duck down behind the rifleman with Louis.
Identify yourself! The Count shouted to her as Davenport gave the order to resume fire with a nod to his men.
Im Mei Li. Look, Ill explain more later! She told him, reloading the flintlock at a speed that impressed Louis before she fired again.
The woman was clearly oriental, rare to be seen this far west as most Asian nations kept to the East and made a clear show of not getting involved in Western policies. She wore black and white striped stockings under black bloomers and her face was stained with soot, or perhaps gunpowder since both weapons she carried were virtually antiques. The blunderbuss series had been put out of commission decades ago and were no longer used in military applications; neither was the flintlock pistol she was now continually reloading and firing.
Who was she? And more importantly, how did she get on board!?
The Count suddenly remembered his grandfathers flintlock tucked into his belt and he drew it, firing before then firing the spare pistol. He had no time to reload the ancient flintlock pistol so simply tucked it away again and focussed on the pistol fire. When the gun clicked empty, Louis dropped it at his side and stood, leaning over a speaking tube.
All crew not defending the engine room or the armoury, get to the bridge and be careful! Louis shouted quickly, turning to survey the damage.
Suddenly the Valkyrie shook, the sound of a large explosion rocking their senses. For a heart stopping moment Louis thought that his beloved vessel was finally succumbing to the damage wrought upon it, or some machinations from the Darmanians still on board had caused the damage. A second shockwave buffeted the vessel, causing the Count to cock his head to one side and listen, hoping the enemy vessels in pursuit had not caught his limping ship. A third, far louder explosion shook the vessel, throwing a couple of crew members to the deck. Louis placed his hand on a nearby bulkhead for support and allowed himself a smile to break the weariness which crossed his features. He knew large calibre gunfire when he heard it and if that kind of weaponry had been aimed at his vessel, they would be dead already. These salvos clearly had different targets
Hold them back! The Count told them, climbing the ladder up into the bridge where a young, inexperienced pilot had the helm and looked terrified.
Captain! Vessel approaching from the cloud bank to the South East! Its large, very large! Battleship class I think!" The helmsman held up a telescope and strained his eyes.
by god! Its the HMS Mjolnir! The crewman shouted excitedly.
The Admirals flagship!? Louis raised an eyebrow and walked gingerly to the dashboard and leant on it, staring out as he realised the lad was right. Slowly emerging from the thick clouds, the turrets aboard the mammoth vessels prow began to speak in unison. Powerful rounds began to pepper the corvette as the enemy vessel desperately attempted to evade this new and far more pressing threat. Coming around to present its flank to the enemy vessel, the Mjolnirs numerous turrets slowly tracked to lock onto their target. By now the battleships gunners had found their range. With an ear-splitting crack, the battleships turrets fired a broadside volley at the approaching corvette. The Count winced as the salvo sliced into the corvette, bracketing the corvette amidships splitting the vessel in two. Seconds later the combustible gasses that kept the vessel aloft ignited, engulfing it in a fireball leaving a pall of black smoke as the once sinister vessel began its terminal descent through the clouds into the sea far below.
The Count could not believe it! They had backup now! The frigate, which had been struggling desperately to catch up to the Valkyrie, now veered sharply and aimed to put as much distance between themselves and the Mjolnir as possible, leaving the Darmanians on the Valkyrie behind.
They were saved! Now it was a matter of overpowering the enemy on board!
Louis laughed, elated now as he slapped the pilot on the back. Keep us steady. I will be just down the ladder if needed!
* * * * *
Skye stabbed the blade hard into the mans chest, kicking him violently so that her dagger was freed from his flesh as she made her way to the bridge, finding a gaping hole in the floor before her. She looked up to see men swarming the door that led to the bridge hatch before one near the back pressed a hand to his ear, nodding before turning and fleeing. Her eyes widened and she turned around, running along corridors to cut him off. With expert precision, she threw one of the knives, impaling him to the wall through his left shoulder. As she caught up with him she pulled another blade and repeated the impalement with the right shoulder and dropped into a crouched position, slashing through the back of the mans leg to sever the Achilles tendon, leaving his feet useless.
Youre going nowhere til we find out what the hells going on! To emphasise her point, Skye drove the daggers in his shoulders deeper into the wall. He would not be able to use his arms or his legs now and would be trapped for interrogation later. Judging by the murky black of his uniform compared to the relatively downtrodden browns and beiges of the other men, this was a man of rank within the Darmanian military. He would be useful!
This is impossible
now she will never come back
Steven wandered along the corridor, as white as a sheet with his eyes unfocussed on anything around him. He stumbled but kept walking as if in a daze.
Steven! We need ta get ta the bridge now! Skye told him, grabbing his shoulder before he shrugged her off.
Dont you get it? They have her and now they wont give her back! Steven shouted, clutching his head in his hands and shaking almost violently.
Skye slapped him suddenly and caught his wrist, pulling him along the corridor where the Darmanian forces were now beginning to run towards them, away from the Maxim fire which now stopped.
Skye released Steven and threw a dagger into a mans face, knocking him into another before both fell to the sea of bodies now littering the corridor. One of the Darmanians crashed into her, knocking her into a wall before he pulled a sword and- a wrench connected with the side of his skull, caving it in as he crumpled to the floor.
Were even now. Gen told Skye before both ran along the corridor, killing the three men that were left. They rounded the corner and a bullet hit the wall behind Gens head and she looked up to see Louis grabbing an oriental womans wrists and aiming her flintlock to the floor as he shouted something at her.
Genevieve, Tabitha! You are safe! Louis exclaimed with a smile before he grimaced, laughing lightly.
Skye suddenly turned around and grabbed Steven by the back of his neck, holding a dagger to his back and forcing him up the corridor to the group.
It were im! e told em where ta find us! Skye announced, throwing him forwards towards Louis.
THEY HAVE MY FIANCÉE! Surely you of all people can understand that! Steven shouted to Louis, tears spilling freely down his face. They told me all they wanted was you and then theyd let her go!
Swiss suddenly backhanded Steven with his metallic hand, sending the pilot crashing into the wall with a broken jaw.
Bjorn stop! Louis shouted, grabbing his arm to hold him.
Im with Swiss here Captain. Traitors are hung back home, I say we flay him here and now and have done with. Davenport stood to Louis left with his arms crossed at his chest, shaking his head in disgust.
What, for doing all he could to save the woman he loved from Darmanian forces? Would I not do the same? Louis asked, looking down at the floor.
No! No you would not! Gen interjected, glaring at him. You may put all of your effort into finding them, but you would never betray us to get them back!
And you know this how!? Louis shouted back, his emotions getting the better of him.
Because we know you. Charles answered with a smirk. You may be a bit of a ponce, but youre a good man Louis. Hes scum!
The Count hid his face, turning his back for a second to regain his composure.
Take Steven to the brig, bind his hands and feet. Take Miss Mei Li there too but leave her unbound.
But sir! Ive been helping and I worked my ass off to get here! Mei Li interjected in an accent that betrayed a combined Chinese and English heritage or at least someone who had spent a long time in both countries.
We do not have the time to assess your situation just let madam, we will put you there temporarily and once we are sure the ship is safe, you will be released and I will converse with you. Louis informed her as Swiss put both hands on her shoulders, ready to escort her to the brig.
Skye was already tying the now weeping Stevens hands behind his back and none too gently.
Wait, before you go, I have an announcement to make. Louis told them with a smile. Ever since
since Smith, I have not had a first mate. I feel the need now to appoint one in case anything should happen to me again in the field. You all did brilliantly today, but you should have had a second in command to rally behind.
All of them were staring at him intently now as he spoke of appointing a first mate.
You all have merits that would qualify you for the job. Charles, you are an excellent leader who knows protocol and procedure; however your lack of knowledge of airships and your connections to the military mean I cannot appoint you. Plus the notion of an Army type commanding one of the Royal Navys vessels would cause a huge uproar back in London, and we have annoyed the bureaucrats back home quite enough already. Louis placed a hand on the Lieutenants shoulder with a faint smile.
Understood sir, and believe me, theres no amount of money in this world that would make me want such a job. Davenport smirked.
My choice is Tabitha Rose Skylar.
The crew all turned to look at Skye who was holding Stevens wrists. Her eyes widened in surprise and she stared at him, open mouthed for longer than was dignified.
Capn, is this a joke? Im nuffin special an I cant command this ship! She argued, shaking her head.
You are inexperienced, but I trust you. You do not seem to care for authority, you yearn for freedom constantly, you are a pilot, a navigator and you have a mind for airships. Not to mention your internal compass and this has saved us more than once. You are more like me than our backgrounds would suggest. Louis smiled warmly. That is, if you want the position.
of course I, but its so
Yes sir! Skye saluted with a beaming smile.
But her smile quickly vanished as a drop of blood landed on the Counts foot. He looked down and realised that both his waistcoat and tail coat were drenched in blood. Perhaps he had seen this coming and so forced himself to choose a first mate now rather than later?
Well, this was rather more exhilaration than Dr. Knight would approve of
Louis laughed lightly as he fainted, glad that he had managed to hold out for so long. He had torn stitches more than once since leaving Elizabeths Medical Bay and knew that this was coming. But he had to ensure that his crew were safe!
And now, he had done that.
He heard voices crying out in concern. Was Genevieve crying? Someone had caught him and he was now being slowly lowered to the floor, his head being cradled by someone
their faces were nothing more than dark shapes in his fading and blurred vision.