Space 1889 When Worlds Collide

Act 1, Scene 9: Terror at Crossness

Can our heroes stop Reverend Cutter poisoning London’s water supply?

Sparing little time, the team return to the Explorers’ Society, and despite their continued surprise that Rosewood House doesn’t operate a twenty-four hour service, make plans for their confrontation with Reverend Cutter. Taking an opportunity to compose himself, Chief McGee helps himself to the Society’s scotch while perhaps Rutherford strayed too close to the Admiral’s laudanum – but more on that later.

Over the sound of sterner weaponry being checked and cleaned, our heroes debate the best course of action, and though they know the location of Cutter’s vessel – The Esmeralda – they choose to head directly to Crossness in the hope of preventing the evil priest discharging his vile poisons into London’s water supply. Armed with crudely-constructed incendiary devices, they make haste in the hansom cab they obtained previously.

Reaching the surrounds of the water works an hour before dawn, they approach through the trees and scrub. Usher Hall, finally in his element, disappears into the inky night to observe more closely (‘like some sort of Italian’ in the words of Chief McGee, disapproving of sneaking as a concept) and quickly returns to confirm that something is afoot around the pump rooms with many of Cutter’s men patrolling outside.

At this point into the proceedings, discord strikes the discussion regarding the plan of attack. While McGee proposes a frontal assault, Ellerson opposes the decision and even Felice suggests stealth. Rutherford meanwhile, obviously overcome in a laudanum fit begins to hallucinate and is stunned into confusion. Eventually, after some frank and open exchanges of views, Hall and Felice sneak forward to deal with the first sharpshooter, overpowering him in a flash and dragging him back into the undergrowth.

Restraining the man, Felice opens her medical case and showing the man its contents demands answers from him. Impressed and alarmed by the contents, the man quickly spills all he knows, identifying Cutter’s location and his intentions though refusing to believe that the priest plans to turn London into a city of the dead.

Chief McGee grabs the man’s stovepipe hat and quickly mans his post, just in time for his colleague to return on his round. The man sees nothing amiss and returns on his route; only to be duped by the engineer into coming over and knocked unconscious with a single powerful blow.

With the approach to the main pump house being clear, Hall sneaks across the open ground and spies Cutter along with several of his henchmen inside, no doubt preparing to commit their terrible crime. As the soldier returns, Rutherford – despite being utterly delusional – picks out the faint sound of a steam boat approaching over the birdsong as dawn breaks. Realising that time is now of the essence, Walters is sent to create an incendiary diversion but in a moment of enthusiasm, he sets the device off too early leaving his comrades to run to the pump house against a backdrop of quickly spreading flames; a task made even more difficult by their various wounds.

Just as they reach the door, a patrolling lackey with a dog spots them and combined with the fire quickly raises the alarm. Despite early difficulties, they force their way into the pump room to see Cutter’s crates lying nearby and the villainous priest making a dash for them. McGee charges forward but is beaten back by a sudden counterattack from Cutter which narrowly misses his jugular. Only Ellerson’s quick thinking saves the Chief, who is pulled back at the last minute by the archaeologist with a shout of ‘get up you dipshit’.

Rutherford, still under a strange influence, manages to bar the doors preventing more reinforcements arriving but is unable to hold them off for long, falling back hollering ‘All I can see are eyebrows’. Outside, Walters has considerable luck in his sniping position, striking down several men as they run towards the melee at the pump house.

As men pour into the room, Felice, Hall and McGee attempt to engage Cutter, while Ellerson trades volleys with his men. McGee attempts to keep Cutter at range, using his rifle and bayonet, but demonstrates his true strength in pugilism, failing to strike his opponent. Felice strikes at the priest, but he is ready for the attack and lunging past her guard buries his rapier in her stomach. With a groan she falls to the floor clutching her wounds. With the battle in danger of turning against them, our heroes falter for a moment – Ruthford wailing ‘we’re all tables now!’ as Cutter’s men surround the Frank and the detective.

Finally, Hall catches Cutter with a sabre blow, and at the same moment one of Cutter’s men misjudges his aim and buries a rifle bullet in the priest’s back. The man throws his rifle down in horror and flees into the night. Pressing the attack, Hall rains down blows against Cutter forcing him back and finally strikes a grievous blow that forces him to flee.

Finally, Rutherford’s fugue lifts and he discovers himself in the midst of a furious battle. Surveying the situation he cries ‘Oh my god!’ but furiously continues to fight.

Suddenly Ellerson crumples to the floor bleeding from a bullet in the guts, fired from across the room by another sharpshooter. Now desperate and outnumbered, McGee raises his rifle and with a crack Cutter is slammed against the pumps, a spray of blood flying from his mouth as he falls dead.

The half-forgotten steamboat pulls up to the docks, but from the safety of the boat the Reverend Humbert sees that the situation is likely lost and chooses to make good his escape. The boat disappears back into the morning mist and is gone.

Seeing their boss killed breaks the morale of Cutter’s lackeys and they quickly bolt into the dawn, eager to put as much distance between them and this massacre as possible. Though her friends make every effort to attend her wounds, Felice’s wounds prove to have been fatal and they gently remove her body from the scene to be buried with full honours by the Explorers’ Society. Though Ellerson’s wounds were serious, the archaeologist survives and after receiving hospital treatment will return fighting fit another day.

Improving on their initial plan – burning down the pump house, thus depriving London of water for several weeks – the survivors drag the crates of ichor outside the building and torch them all. Before making their withdrawal, Rutherford checks through Cutter’s jacket and discovers the letters stolen from Miss Clarke in a document pouch tucked inside the man’s steel breastplate. Rutherford pockets the letters with satisfaction as his case can finally be closed, while Chief McGee unbuckles the breastplate and takes it for his own.

Though their victory is tempered by with sorrow at the loss of Felice, our heroes leave Crossness and return to Rosewood House to prepare for their next adventure.

God Save The Queen!

Comments

The frontal assault plan would have worked considerably better had the ‘distraction’ been timed to actually distract, rather than act as a combination attention-getter and force-us-to-move-before-we-were-ready-ier. Ah well, it’s all water over the dam now.
Sadly the optimal plan, set fire to the exit then hurl more incendiaries through the windows, retiring to cover in order to gun down any survivors who struggled out of the inferno, only occurred to me about an hour and a half into the suboptimal frontal assault. Can’t be helped now, and at least we continued a noble tradition of Martin’s character getting killed.

 

Sadly due to my hallucinations I was unable to offer any opinion on the tactical situation. Hopefully that was a one-off!
Looking forward to meeting the next female sociopath to join us!

Degriz

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