Originally posted at http://www.fasagames.com/blog/?post_id= ... the-ambush
Part 3 of the Seaford Expedition story.
The roar of the steam drill echoed through the next chamber, and into the one beyond, where the majority of the expedition prepared to deal with unwelcome company. Sir Sebastian and Private Jones took up positions well back from the doorway that R'tilligar had pointed out as the source of the threat, rifles loaded and ready, a pair of cartridges in hand and more in their belts. Baroness Seaford knelt on the floor to one side of the doorway, several feet back, pistol in hand, and set three speed loaders in a row by her left foot, mechanical devices capable of pushing a full load of ammunition into a revolver's cylinder in a single go. “One must know the right brassmen,” was all she said when asked about them.
To the other side of the door, R'tilligar spent a few moments conjuring, creating a faint sparkle in the air. “Barricade,” she said, beckoning Drs. Prytherch and Tredgett to take shelter behind her. Prytherch had produced a derringer and Tredgett an ancient but serviceable-looking pepperbox pistol. Both men had been told to fire only in the direst of emergencies, to which they had readily assented, neither having ever shot at another person before and not being anxious to do so now.
They hadn't long to wait. Only a few minutes after they'd taken up their positions, R'tilligar's crest went straight up, and she gave a quick nod to the Baroness. Rifles and pistols came up, R'tilligar raised a hand and closed it around nothing as if preparing to throw a spear –
A grenade flew in through the doorway, bounced once –
MacQuiston, late to the party, in mid step through the other doorway, snatched the pistol-blunderbuss device off his belt and thumbed a switch, leveling it at the grenade.
The blast turned into a terrific groan, like a ship heeling over and breaking up. Smoke and fire and metal fragments swirled around, flowed into a vortex and shot into MacQuiston's pistol like a film run in reverse. “Down!” he cried, and brought the pistol up.
Everyone flattened themselves, except Private Jones, who was already on the floor as far from where the grenade had been as possible.
MacQuiston flicked the switch over the other way. A gout of heat and noise and violence erupted from the blunderbuss, shot through the doorway, and the explosion finished in the next room. Screams followed.
“Go!” Sir Sebastian ordered, and led the charge. The team dashed into the next room to find a half dozen wounded men in mismatched bits of French uniforms, sprawled on the floor. Two reached for weapons. One brought his up. Private Jones shot him, dislocating his arm as his shoulder joint shattered. The man screamed and fell back down. The other pulled his hand back away from his gun.
“Good decision,” Sir Sebastian told him, standing over the man and sighting down his rifle at the man's left eye.
“This one's dead,” Dr. Tredgett announced, rather unnecessarily, as the man he knelt by was missing part of his skull.
“This one's not,” Dr. Prytherch said, kicking away the man's rifle. “But I dare say he could be.” He did his best to look menacing, rather defeated by his own nervousness as he pointed the derringer waveringly in the general direction of the man's torso.
“Who's in charge here?” Baroness Seaford demanded, pistol held at her shoulder, barrel pointing up.
“I am, cochon.” The man who spoke raised himself up on his elbows with difficulty. His blue uniform coat, already threadbare and tattered at the edges, bore several dark wet patches down its front. His right knee was a ruin of blood and bone fragments. “Cochon and baiseur de cochons, what sort of filth are led by a woman?”
The Baroness took two steps over toward him, halting out of his reach in case he lunged. “I seem to recall that the French were once led by a woman named Joan.”
“Salope!” The man's lips drew back half in a snarl of defiance, half in a rictus of pain. “Suillon! We will save you for last so the men can have sport with you atop the bodies of --”
The Baroness put a bullet through his head.
“Well then.” Sir Sebastian appeared to be the only one left able to speak.
“Who is in command now?” the Baroness demanded.
The man by Dr. Prytherch raised a trembling hand.
“You understand that we have beaten you?” the Baroness asked, stepping over to him and leveling her pistol.
“Oui,” the man said cautiously.
“You will tend to your wounded, and take your dead with you when you leave,” the Baroness ordered, in the same calm, no-nonsense tone that she used for everything else. “You will et it be known that we will tolerate no interference. You will be polite to every woman you meet as if she were your own mother. Am I understood?”
“Oui, madame, oui.” The man nodded once, cautiously, as if unsure that the Baroness would permit him the movement.
“Private Jones?” She glanced around. “Oh, good, you've already started. Mr. MacQuiston, kindly help Private Jones finish collecting their firearms and ammunition. Leave them whatever else they might be carrying. We're not looters.” She returned her gaze to the man at her feet. “Unlike some.”
“Um,” MacQuiston said.
“Yes?” The Baroness opened her revolver's cylinder, tapped out the spent cartridge, and replaced it.
“We've, um, we've broken through. I was coming to tell you when, um.” MacQuiston took three steps away, turned his back to the party, and was violently ill.
“S'all right,” Private Jones commiserated, offering MacQuiston a handkerchief of dubious hygiene. “I got sick the first couple of times too, once it were over.”
“Right then.” The Baroness gave the Frenchmen a last glance, and nodded her satisfaction. “Doctor Tredgett?”
“Yes?” The doctor looked up from the wound he was stitching.
“Take what time you need. Let's not have it be said that we left a fallen enemy to suffer. And doctor?”
“Yes?” He seemed annoyed that she wasn't done.
“Do you still think Mr. MacQuiston's devices are useless emitters of purple smoke?”
TO BE CONCLUDED
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