So I gets a letter a while back. An invitation, from a professor no less. I’ve worked for a few people who’ve had some clout the last year or two, mostly yanks mind you, but that was a new one. Supose I’ve always been a curious type, so I thought I’d see what hair brained crap was afoot. There was always that offer I’d had to go with that safari expedition to Venus. The money was good, it sounds more appealing than Mars, but even if he was a friend of Mr. Barnston’s, the guy recruiting for it was not someone I’d care to work for. Couldn’t say why but he makes me suspicious, and I trust my gut. Although I might need my bumps feeling if I’m seeing someone by the name of Professor Bottom as a better bet eh ? Anyway after a bit of rest and a night dabbing it up with one of Abbess May’s judys, I go take up my invitation.
Walking the streets of London in my travelling gear drew plenty of stares, but no coppers at least, so bugger ‘em. Me being fresh off the ship from Sytris, the only other clothes I had were my Rifleman’s uniform. I swore I’d never put that bloody thing on again as long as I draw breath. Dunno why I keep it really. I found the adress pretty sharpish, which was good as I stood out even worse in that neighbourhood. I gets showed into a waiting room, to sit with a right collection of characters. Soon enough the Prof. calls us in and we make introductions.
First up was a bleedin’ peer of the realm, no less ! Lord Henry Forrester, thank you very bloody much and me without a friggin’ croquet mallet. Looks every inch the real deal, silver spoon and all. Seemed decent enough for quality but what would I know. Someone’s foot loose younger son I imagine. Guess time will tell if he’s a peacock or an eagle eh ? The uniform definitely makes me think the first option is on the cards mind you.
Next up was an old salt. Theodore Montgomery. Some sort of Navy NCO, and a decent pilot by the Prof’s accounting. Sporting an iron and a handy looking neddy, looks like a solid sort too, someone handy in a scrap.
Then comes a squirrely young fella called Seamus. Smart suit and scruffy hair. Apparently he’s a cartographer by calling.
Oh but the best was saved till last. Johny Fargo, by name. Every inch the starched, uptight twat, a temperance nut and to top it off a friggin’ jack rozzer.
So the Prof. launches into his spiel about wanting us all to sign up for some cloak and dagger lurk that I won’t go into details about. No sooner has he blathered the words “Queen and Country” than the other’s sign their mark. Their choice. Me I stops to ask particulars and also about the pay. If I’m going to be a pegion I’d rather be a vaugely informed one (who am I kidding?), and a decent bit of push for my troubles don’t hurt neither. It was decent enough so I gave him my mauley. Johnny threw me such a dirty look down his beak, that I thought about sticking a bayonet up his arse to follow the stick that’s already there. Fuck him. I was hauling my arse across the globe for Queen Vic when he was still learning which fork to use for cake at the vicarage reception, the cunt. 25 years of spilling blood and sweat, when he was rolling drunks and putting the squeeze on dollymops for freebies.
Anyways once things were settled, the Prof. told us that a certain important scroll had gone missing, stolen from a museum in Cairo. Apparently one of their noses had got himself shanked whilst tryingto get a telegram off about it. Seems the thing had surfaced at Fort Oublie, a short ways over the border into Libya.
So after some provisioning and packing, we set off on a ship to Cairo. Bad memories and all that, but can’t say I was unhappy to be underway. Strange how I’ve spent years of my life, in some far flung fleahole or another, wishing myself back home, but when ever I get back to blighty a day or two passes and I’m twitching to be off. The journey was easy enough. Teddy was like a pig in shit once we were aboard. Me and the blue bottle managed to keep our (low) opinions mostly to our selves, and Seamus seemed to get on well with both of us so that helped. Seems like a nice enough lad, even if he is a bit gulpy, and very talented with a pen and brush.
A short stop in Cairo, with a brief sampling of the local pleasures, and away we went into the sands. Apart from the fact I like camels even less than I like horses, and being utterly sick of hearing “I say, could you be a good fellow and just…”, it wasn’t a bad journey all told. Well until we got to the fort.
So catching sight of the fort, we heads down to it. Then all of a sudden rifle shots ring out and the camels go down. A bunch of wogs began firing at us from the crest of some dunes, tauregs by the looks of ‘em. At least it’s not fuzzy wuzzies, but hearing them cry, I swear my shoulder started aching. I cursed myself for a pox ridden shirkster for being gulled so. Caught in the open, we all made a dash for a rocky outcrop between us and the fort. Once we got there we started swapping lead with ’em.
My first round popped the noggin on one of em, and they starts having second thoughts. This one brave bugger though, he just stands there plain as day, callin’ on the prophet and all that, whilst banging shells our way, neer a flinch, even though his mate’s head had just burst like rotten fruit next to him. Brave, but bloody stupid mind. Talking of stupid, Seamus picks this moment to decide to stand up for a better look at proceeding. Perhaps he was taking it all in for a painting session later, but I won’t be able to ask him now anyway, because the wog standing on the ridge drops him faster than a dock street judy’s draws. Johnny seemed a little shaken by this, guess it was a bit different than coshing confessions outta prisoners ? About this time we notice a few other things. On the ridge the chief in charge of the wogs rides over the dune and starts ttrying to put a bit of backbone back in to em. Over towards the fort bodies can be seen slumped on the walls, with a lone figure staggering around.. oh and a knotted rope hanging from the wall !
I’ve gottten close to enough people, then seen them die, to have had practice shutting it out, and at least Seamus got it nice and quick, but be buggered if I was letting that go unheeded. So despite the fact the horseman was starting to rally his tribe, I sent the brave but equally stupid wog off to meet his god first. Who knows, maybe he’ll share some of them 50 virgins with Seamus sometime.
Anyways ole chiefy started his fellas marching down towards us, firing off the odd shot as they came. Johnny picked a good time to pull his finger out, and heaved a stick of dynamite at the advancing line. It landed right at the feet of one of em and for a brief second he stood there all gormless. Then a god almighty explosion blew several of em to kingdom come.
By this time the rider is galloping past his men, sword pointed and charging. I swear to christ the prophet must have been with him for he rode straight at us, with me and the others firing away and not one of us dropped him. Lord Forrester drew his sabre and I got a bayonet on the metford Seamus had dragged over from the camels. He got to us, and I was thinking I’d stick his horse, same way I did that camel at Abu Klea, but his lordship parried a slash from his sword and rolled his blade right up into the buggers chest. Not entirely a stuffed shirt after all it would seem. Good to know.
So we made for the camels and our gear, while his Lordship nabbed the arabian and headed over the ridge to see if he can snag some more mounts. No sooner had we grabbed our gear, than he came riding back at a great gallop, shouting that more nomads were on their way.
We gets to the rope, and I heaves over the wall. Sure enough the slumped over legion fellas are dead and all for show. Bit of an insult to the wogs intelligence if you ask me. Even them Mahdist crack pots back in 86 weren’t that friggin daft. Any road once I got over I catches sight of the fella stumbling along the walls, and I see a few more live ones staggering about in the courtyard and on the far wall. So I pulled me pistol sharpish ,while the rozer got over and started helping teddy up.
I’ll write about what happened when we got into the fort when we stop to make camp tomorrow.