“Sebastian old chap” said Bertie, “We’ve all been summoned to the Dining Room. By the Captain no less.”
“Something must be up no doubt” replied Sebastian. “Very well.”
The other passengers had already assembled; the Steward was also present.
“Ladies and Gentlemen” commenced the Captain. “I have no wish to alrm you but it would appear that an unidentified vessel is bearing towards us at speed, having made some attempt at concealment. I can only conclude ill intent.”
“Pirates?” suggested Henry.
“Very likely” replied the Captain. “A passenger vessel is no doubt easy pickings for them, and we carry important mail as well as passengers.”
“The ship isn’t armed I take it?” asked Sebastian.
“We are not. No doubt they are – and faster too. However they will try to board.” He paused. “I have no doubt that they will offer surrender – but there is no guarantee of their good behaviour. They may decide to silence all witnesses anyway. Our choices are: surrender or fight. I consult you, as you may no doubt be related to their intent.”
“Damned if we don’t: ye don’t put yourself at the mercy of scoundrels” said Sebastian. “Fight, I say.”
“I also vill not bow to ruffians” said Baron Von Ritter. “And I haff my own pistol. my apologies Herr Kaptain… a man in my position…..” The Captain simply frowned, and nodded.
“I have a small number of pistols I can distribute to those who can use them.”
Discussions commenced. Sebastian still had his sabre in his room, as part of his Dress Uniform, and Bertie had also concealed his Bulldog and Sword cane. Henry had a Bowie Knife in his luggage. Lady Glossop had also retained her pistol.
The unarmed passengers were crowded into the Galley, protected by the Steward at the doorway. The others concentrated around the Engine Room and stern of the ship, where the attackers were most likely to gain entry. The Captain remained on the bridge.
They waited for what seemed like a long time, when they eventually experienced a jolting shudder, and heard shouts of alarm and bustle from the crew in the Engine Room. This was followed by a loud clang, as some other body made contact. Looking out of the starboard corridor Marko could see some sort of long arm mechanism swinging down from the looming bulk above them, followed by another muffled implact as something hit the side.
Bertie was facing the starboard access door when it swung open, revealing a gaggle of surprised looking desperadoes. Reaching over his shoulder, Esmeralda immediately shot one. More rushed in from the Port access, rushing Sebastian….but the narrow corridors worked in favour of the defenders.
There were a pair of muffled explosions followed by metallic clanging: the two access corridors filled with acrid smoke. Coughing and spluttering, Marko rushed along the starboard corridor to be confronted by a door shaped hole in the hull, leading to what looked like a short metallic corridor, with a file of boarders. Without hesitating he clawed his fingers into the man’s eye sockets, and ripped, pushing him backwards screaming. As he shattered the jaw of the next the ones behind tried to fire their revolvers, fortunately without effect.
A few of the new attackers had emerged in the front dining area, and were engaged with the First Officer and Steward in an exchange of pistol shots. Rushing forward Tex whopped as he shot one of them, shortly to be followed by Henry. More attackers poured forward from the Port Corridor breach, though fortunately Marko was hampering the other. With the front area cleared Henry and Tex moved astern.
Meanwhile Markos luck had run out, and he took a shot to the shoulder. The boarders were also badly mauled however, and he heard a barked command to “Retract the bridges!”
“The boarders are retreating! " he thought to himself. “But this will expose the central area to the ether!” Pulling away he started to shout the alarm in his deep voice.
In the stern area , and with the attackers beaten off, two of the crew sealed the corridor access.
“Tex is still in there!” shouted Henry, but the Engineer shook his head. “He’s down with two bullets I’m afraid, there is nothing we can do for him now”.
In the front area Marko and the Steward sealed the front access doors, when the ship shook again, pounded by several cannon shots.
As the ship lurched Marko raced up to the Bridge, where the Captain was frantically struggling with the controls. Taking the Trimsman’s console Marko nodded at the Captain, and saw out of the Bridge Windows that Mars was lurching sickeningly into view……