Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Storm over Nepal

In between projects I have been writing a new short story that could become the basis of a series. It is about an airship captain who takes on a dangerous mission. Here is the first part of it.

The brilliant flash of the lightning blinded the Captain as the thunder deafened him and
the crew. The winds tossed the airship about like a rag doll held in a running child's
hand. The Captain spun the wheel back and forth trying to make the best of a deadly
situation. Reading the winds was near impossible now that they were in the midst of the
storm. Would there be an eye to give them some respite? No telling, but he hoped
beyond hope that it would be the case. ! !
"Stel! Give me a heading!" he called out over the roar of the storm. Despite the windows
still being intact, it was hard to hear over the roar of the storm on the bridge. ! !
"Make south-southwest Sir!" was all he could make out as another thunderclap rocked
the ship.! !
Sean looked back to the Navigator as she pored over the map, trying to determine a
course to set. She looked up - fear etched into her features - before turning back to the
map. He shook his head. This was by far the worst storm he had ever been in. He
flinched automatically as another brilliant flash lit up the dark roiling clouds and
wondered if they would survive the night. ! !
The pilot lay in the infirmary in a coma, so Sean had to pilot the airship himself. One
elevatorman was lost overboard and three marines killed during the initial conflict.
Others were wounded. Damn the pirates for putting him into this situation. But it was
also partially his fault; he had left warnings unheeded. ! !
Sean thought back to how this all started as he fought with the wheel...! !
Stel took readings before checking the maps as she watched the terrain below for a
moment. "We should be just passing Lalitpur, Sir." she called out as they were passing
over a small city. ! !
"Start to take us down to three hundred meters above the valley." called out the Captain.
They would have to search a bit for the airship berth, not having visited this area in the
past. He had taken on a mission, a type that he had before; Transfer of documents. This
mission came as a bit of a surprise as he normally worked for the British Government.! !
Many weeks before he had finished an assignment from the Crown. Most of the crew
were on leave while his airship was in dock for repairs. Even with the work that had to
be done, the crew still had a sizeable amount for pay. The Captain paid his men well,
knowing that well paid crew made for a hard working crew.! !
As he sat eating his roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, a man in a turban, wearing a tan
coloured suit, approached his table and simply sat down. Sean raised an eyebrow and
frowned at the man, but before he was able to say anything the man said, "Captain
Armstrong, your reputation has preceded you and I would like to hire you for a, let us
say, Delicate mission." his speech was impeccable, a British accent and yet there was a
tinge of the orient. Indian?!
Sean looked at the man quizzically and said, "Go on."! !
This was not the way he was normally approached. Typically it would be a letter by post;
A request for a meeting with someone to contact. They would come in when he was in
dock, so his interest was piqued at this new approach and he would at least listen to the
proposal as he could always say no.! !
"Are you familiar with the Kot Massacre that took place about fifty years ago?"! !
"No, don't believe so." replied Sean.! !
"It was a time of upheaval. King Rajendra was deposed from the throne and his son
Surendra Bikram Shah was put on the throne, starting the Shah dynasty."! !
"So what does old history have to do with me working for you?"! !
The man took a look about and then leaned in and spoke quietly, "There is an element
within Nepal that wishes to see a change."! !
"So?"! !
"I represent a leader of a group in Nepal that is intent on restoring the old borders to
Nepal which includes lands that his family owned previously. The Khanal family was
instrumental in establishing trade starting in the 18th century and lost a sizeable fortune
to the East India Company. We have information and other items that need to be
delivered to Katmandu in Nepal."! !
"Alright, if I take on the work, what is in it for me?"! !
"My benefactor is prepared to pay you ten thousand pounds sterling and in addition to
that, upgrade your airship with newer engines and armament."! !
Sean scratched his chin and thought for a moment. Ten thousand pounds was a lot of
money. He could even invest a bit of it in goods in the orient to bring back and sell which
could turn even more profit for the ship. ! !
"We understand your crew uses Webley pistols and Martini-Henry rifles. We will be glad
to supply you with ten of the new Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistols and thirty of the
new Lee-Enfield magazine fed rifles. Two fifty-five millimetre rifled cannon with six
mounts are available. The mounts offer speedy repositioning as they have quick release
hardware. This should help in the event of difficulties."! !
Sean nodded and wondered how the hell the man knew what kinds of arms they carried
but quickly left that thought as the prospect of increasing their firepower sunk in. ! !
"... and so my agents will install the mounts in two days and the remainder of the
supplies and arms will be delivered the morning of your departure. Is this amenable?"! !
"Yes, I believe so." answered the Captain, hoping that he had not missed anything
important.! !
With a simple nod of his head the man disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
Sean scratched his head and wondered what he had gotten himself into. India was part
of the Empire and the East India Company was very powerful with agents and offices all
over the globe. At a minimum it would be an interesting enterprise. He almost scowled
visibly when he considered the implications of being on the bad side of the East India
Company. Weighing the pros and the cons he decided that the risk would be worth it. If
things went bad enough he could always look for employ in the American west moving
the same types of information and goods. South America would be an option as well.! !

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