Part Twenty-Seven: A Desperate Battle Rages!

A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or less.
Part Twenty-Seven: A Desperate Battle Rages!

Simon the kapo fired first. That I could present as fact at any necessary inquest, tribunal or coroner’s hearing. Yes. I said ‘coroner’.

I dare say I could also prove I fired second; infinitesimally close to spontaneously, yes, given reflexes akin to cat or cobra. But second.

Of ballistical science, I have forgotten more than the average chap in a lab has learned, through extensive, explosive field experience.

Unfortunately, however, I have forgotten from which shooter a bullet or slug flies faster: the trusty Sten, or a government-issue revolver.

So as to whose shot hit first, well, I cannot tell, even at such a thankful remove from the all-round rather ghastly moment in question.

It is however safe to say that the YMCE kapo shot at me with my own gun, taken from me in Lambeth, and I shot at him with his chum’s Sten! 

I hit. He missed. Or rather, he missed me. Hit the Archbishop of Canterbury instead. Fetched him a nasty one in the breast. The Bish fell.

But, as I say, I hit. Somewhere round the Adam’s apple, which in Simon’s case was rather prominent. And I hit with a burst from a Sten.

Moon and Holman-Hunt (if that was his name…) caught their share of the mess. I shan’t illustrate further. It wasn’t too pretty, after all.

Simon the kapo was no more, evidently. The Archbishop of Canterbury was at best decidedly unwell. Moon and Holman-Hunt seemed in shock.

Galanthus, predictably enough, seemed unmoved. ‘My-my,’ she said, when the echo of the simultaneous salvoes had died harshly away to nought. 

‘This is now serious, Leinigen,’ she said. ‘Do not let it become seriouser still.’ Seriouser? Was that even a word? Damned Swiss liberties!

I bristled. The Archbishop moaned and slid to the floor. I stepped towards Galanthus, Moon and Holman-Hunt. This had to end. Pronto. Now.

I said so. I would arrest ’em. I wasn’t overly sure how to get them past the teeming nest of YMCE drones outside, but I’d figure it out.

Galanthus laughed. I glared. She laughed again. I asked her what the devil she meant by such behaviour. She smiled icily, and spoke. Icily.

‘Do not you see your position is hopeless?’ she asked. ‘Do not you see you cannot win? You have killed one YMCE soldier. I have thousands!’

I was willing to concede that, but brute resolution, not to mention moral outrage, had me in its grip. Lacking words, I flourished my gun.

‘Empty gestures!’ cried Galanthus. ‘Mere impotent rages!’ I glared more fiercely still. Seduction had failed her; so would base abuse.

She seemed to sense it, and softened. ‘Why do you not see? Why do you not accept? Why do you not – ‘ I knew it was coming – ‘join us?’

I drew breath to respond, but there was more. ‘Why do you not fight for a winning side?’ Galanthus smiled. ‘Why do you not fight for… God?’

With that she gestured at the gore-splattered Moon and Holman-Hunt (if that was his name…) The two of them stood there mute, still shocked.

They presented an unappetising picture. Not enough to tempt me off the straight, narrow, clean and true. Not by a long way. I shook my head.

‘Join you?’ I said. ‘Your evil crusade? Never!’ Galanthus tutted. ‘Always the Boy Scout,’ she said. ‘Always the sense of honour. Ah, well.’

The Archbishop, slumped by the altar behind me, grunted and seemed to slump to the floor. I had to save him. A plan began, slowly, to form.

Take Galanthus captive. Possibly – it had to be faced – after killing, or at least incapacitating, Moon and Holman-Hunt. Sans brackets.

The latter, if the Homicidal Portrait of Cardinal Wolsey had been a guide, would merely dissolve if I shot him. He wasn’t really real.

Moon? I could wing him. Leave him here to rot. Needs must. With the Archbish on my back and Galanthus at gunpoint, I might make it out.

Past the YMCE army. Past the guns and the tanks and a thousand dead-eyed, not to say deadly stares. Without Galanthus, they were nothing.

If I had Galanthus, I had a shield. The book too, the Taxus Brevifola. Galanthus could carry it. I assumed she needed Moon to operate it.

It wasn’t much of a plan, and it required the shooting of a man and a magically animated Pre-Raphaelite painting in reasonably cold blood.

I found a little residue resolution from somewhere within me, and tightened my finger on the trigger of the still smoking Sten. This was it. 

As it turned out, it was, indeed, it. But the it was something else. Something different. Something mad, dangerous, terrifying and glorious!  

Unnoticed, the Archbishop had not slumped to the floor – he had dragged himself up to his feet. He had leant, bloodily, on the stone altar.

Unnoticed, the Archbishop had opened the heavy leaves of the Taxus Brevifola, smearing the pages with the very crimson force of his life!

Unnoticed by Galanthus and I, and the catatonic Moon and Holman-Hunt, the Archbishop of Canterbury was intoning a list of familiar names!

‘Ames-Lewis, Hartt, Fried and Nochlin,’ he said. ‘Penrose, Richardson, Burckhardt, Nead.’ Art historians! The whole, glorious lot of them!

The Archbishop of Canterbury was initiating Project John Martin! Here, in Tavis Knoyle! In Galanthus and the YMCE’s volcanic Highland den!

As this marvellous truth dawned, Galanthus and I gaped at the determined, faltering, weakened Archbishop. Incantation done, he collapsed!

‘No!’ cried Galanthus. ‘No!’ chorused Moon and Holman-Hunt. ‘Yes!’ cried I! The Archbishop, a brainy egg with artistic leanings, had struck!

The Taxus Brevifola had been turned against its operators! Project John Martin was beginning, and not in the skies over London as intended!

There was a moment or two of chilled silence. The Archbishop groaned. I looked to Galanthus, and Galanthus looked to me. Tension reigned.

And then, from the cold roof of the cavern above us, there came a groan. Ancient rock heaved and tore apart. Judgement Day had arrived!

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