Centurion Chronicles #7: The Nether Agenda
And the Story Continues….
Dr. Joseph Kenrick, Jack Scaper, Lady Laura Bancroft, and Mokgosi Ramotswe finish up their frustrating interrogation of The Whirlwind and allow Captain Montgomery Swift and his soldiers to arrange for her continued confinement in a remote tower of Himmelgerührt. Their deliberations are briefly interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Evelyn Kenrick who informs that that she was able to further stabilize Dr. Micheal Gerald and has him resting in her room, however without taking him to a medical facility he will most likely die. The Centurions decide to confer with the other guests and Evelyn heads back to her room to continue her care of Gerald.
As they cross the parapet they find themselves trapped in a blizzard with an unnatural cold. Mokgosi notices that it appears the snowstorm is trapped about the castle in a phenomenon that Dr. Kenrick likens to a snow globe. He theorizes that the weather formation could be held in place by some form of magnetism. Before they can discuss the issue further, a shadowy like apparition ghosts through the sheets of snow and assaults Joseph. Joseph is surprised as this shadowy figure is able to pass directly through his leather coat to strike him directly. It gets quickly dispatched and upon death it dissolves into shards of fine sand. The Centurions are able to sift some out of the snow and Dr. Kenrick takes it to make a further analysis.
The Centurions find themselves presented with a new puzzle, if The Whirlwind did assault Gerald or apparently murder Dr. Humbaar Knichte; then who did? They head back to the Banquet Hall and find that tensions of the other party goers has given birth to Chaos. Dr. Roger Rox is ranting and raving that Dr. Friedrich Zeram is going to kill them all. Achmed Al Atrash and Dr. Adelaide Swann try to unsuccessfully talk him down. Dr. Jonathan Mathias is sipping some brandy by the bar, under the watchful gaze of the bartender (Henri Raoul Gaston), appearing at turns amused and annoyed by the antics of the guests around him. Senator Charles Silver Trueman II is pacing impatiently about the room, glowering at servants who cross his path. A servant also delivers a message to the Centurions that Dr. Garrison Grayson has apparently followed after an angry Zeram and left the dining hall trying to calm him down. Dr. Abram Brown appears above it all as he stuffs his face, and pockets, with various appetizers.
Before the Centurions can get a better assessment of the situation, Senator Trueman accuses Mokgosi of being behind these violent antics. The Centurions are able to turn aside his bluster, pointing out that Mokgosi had left the knife that he used on Special Agent Allen Irons earlier in the Ballroom where anyone could have picked it up. The Senator, seeing that he is getting no support, storms out of the Dining Room and back to his private apartments. The Centurions come up quickly with a plan. Mokgosi and Jack are going to get Mokgosi’s gun in his room and have Evelyn take Gerald to the Areo Nautillus, so that Ishmail and Nemo Homer can get them to the Hospital in Zurich. They will then go after Grayson and Zeram and escort them back to the Dining Room. Joseph, Laura and Jeeves Cutler will remain behind to calm down Dr. Rox and see if they can find a way to analyze the dust that the apparition left behind.
Mokgosi and Jack go back to the guest quarters and retrieve Mokgosi’s rifle. They then head towards Evelyn’s room, only to find it being guarded by two of Senator Trueman’s bodyguards. They attempt to bar Mokgosi’s passage, but he just brushes by them; startling them both. Before they can react, Jack convinces them to head to the Dining Room to guard the other guests. Inside they find Eveyln, now armed with a large revolver, caring for an unconscious Gerald. They direct her to take Gerald to the Areo Nautillus, but Eveyln points out that she cannot carry Gerald by herself and defend him. Mokgosi and Jack decide to assist her, with Jack helping her carry Gerald and Mokgosi providing an armed escort.
Meanwhile back in the Dining Hall; Joseph confronts a distraught Dr. Rox. He continues to rant and rave about Zeram ridiculing his work and that he “will show him, will show everybody!” Joseph is able to get him to discuss his research regarding the Journey to the Center of the earth and convinces him to get a drink. Laura, utilizing a first aid kit, utilizes a sedative and laces a beverage; which Jeeves takes to Dr. Rox. Dr. Rox promptly takes a deep gulp and crashes to the floor unconscious. Achmed and Swann take over the care of Dr. Rox and Joseph asks the scientists present if any of them have a magnifying glass or a method of looking at some strange dust closer. Dr. Mathias quietly presents a magnifying glass and invites Joseph and Laura over for a drink.
Back in the hallway Mokgosi cannot shake a feeling that they are being watched. He falls behind Jack and Evelyn as they carry Gerald through the hallway to see if he can identify the watcher. He notices that the air gets chilled as if something passes by him in the hallway, but it is something that he cannot see. Jack and Evelyn chat and Jack gets the feeling that the animosity Evelyn shows towards Joseph is grounded with issues she has with their father. The small group reaches the great hall and the exit to the courtyard outside. They notice that it is still snowing furiously and that an unnatural chill is filling the air, one that saps their very vitality.
Back in the dining room, Joseph dumps out some of the fine dust for Dr. Mathias to examine. Under the magnifying glass, Dr. Mathias identifies the substance as Netherite, a crystal that is not of other dimension, but apart of another. He also notes that the dust has a strange magnetic pull. Mathias is unable to identify more of its properties without taking it aboard his airship. Joseph, knowing a little of Mathias’s background, declines the offer, and pulls Laura aside for a brief conversation. Joseph notes that the Soul of Hakkar is made of netherite and that it was a crystal discovered by Dr. Grayson; the scientific community had largely ignored the find and information about it went into obscurity. Joseph notes that Evelyn’s research in Phase Harmonics makes mention of the substance, but he would need to see her personal research notes. Laura and Joseph decide to go to Evelyn’s room and ask her about the substance
Outside, Jack and Evelyn struggle in the cold carrying the prostate Gerald through the freezing blizzard. Mokgosi, feeling as if an ambush is about to happen, hangs back, his rifle at the ready. Soon enough, a large group of dark figures begin to materialize in the blizzard. They move through the snow unaffected by the cold, going directly towards Jack, Evelyn and Gerald. Mokgosi urges them to move swiftly and begins to open fire on the shadowy apparitions. His bullets rang true and several dissolve into dust, vanishing into the wind. Jack and Evelyn are able to dodge some of the blows getting Gerald to the hull of the Areo Nautillus. Mokgosi swiftly closes in, coldness slowing his reflexes, he continues to battle the apparitions, giving Jack time to get the Nemo brothers’ attention. The hatchway open, as Mokgosi’s rifle continues to ring out, and the small party is able to make aboard the warmth of the airship. The extreme cold has taken its toll on Jack and Mokgosi and they are forced to remain in the airship as it departs for Zurich.
During this time, Laura and Joseph begin moving throw the hallways of the castle. They notice that it is getting very chilled and they can start to feel the cold sapping at their vitality. They get to Evelyn’s room unmolested, however they find it abandoned and torn asunder. They notice that the door was locked from the inside and that the only entrance to the room was through an open window. Laura goes to secure it and in the distance she can hear the booming shot of the rifle and then is able to see the Aero Nautillus lift off into the sky. Joseph combs through the wreckage of the room and is only able to find a little Evelyn’s personal research. She theorizes that the Soul of Hakkar is in another dimension and that a device utilizing Netherite can activate it. She also notes that the last individuals to do a research paper on it was Knitche, Rox, Gerald, and Zeram; despite Grayson being the one to discover it. Joseph thinks that it is the Soul of Hakkar that is being used to create this cold and to create the murderous apparitions. Before Laura and Joseph can continue to explore the room an explosion rocks the castle.
Aboard the Areo Nautillus the navigation systems go haywire. The entire vehicle hits a magnetic field and finds itself upside down. The Homer brothers are able to regain control, but find themselves forced to turn back towards the castle. They also see that this snow storm is being held in place by the magnetic field. Mogkosi and Jack remember Zeram’s research into magnetism and the human psyche and urge the Homers to take them back to the castle, so that they may confront Zeram and save Grayson. From the Areo Nautillus, the Centurions see a massive explosion rock the castle and the tower by Mathias’s airship has a huge explosion in it. They order the Aero Nautillus closer and jump out into the open hole aside the castle wall; leaving Evelyn behind to care for Gerald aboard the Aero Nautillus’s sick bay. Amongst the wreckage they find Dr. Mathias standing slightly bemused. Mokgosi holds him at gun point and an unconcerned Mathias explains that he was confronted by one of these apparitions, in which Mathias debated the existence of such a creature with itself. It did not take to Mathias’s conclusions well, but in the end violently agreed with the proofs which it was presented. Jack is then able to convince Mathias to take Gerald aboard his airship and to use his significant skill in the sciences to continue his care. Mathias agrees, allowing Mokgosi and Jack to delve deeper into the keep, moving swiftly towards Grayson’s apartments. Jack also theorizes that the apparitions can only materialize in intense cold.
Laura and Joesph, concerned about the explosion, run back to the Dining Hall. On the way they find two of Senator Trueman’s security guards in a bloody pool on the hallway floor, apparently bludgeoned to death (The two that Mokgosi and Jack had encountered earlier). Laura draws her guns and Jack takes out his roll of quarters and they charge into the Dining Hall. Inside a melee has erupted, Gaston is protecting the other guests (Minus Senator Trueman, who is absent from the dining hall, but not missed) from a large group of apparitions. Another group appears to be finishing off two security guards. Before the Centurions can act, the apparitions knock Gaston unconscious. Joseph tackles the group fighting that were fighting the security guards; while Laura opens fire on the group attacking the guests. In Joseph’s struggle a fire erupts setting the alcohol soaked table, rug, and tapestries alight. Laura is able to pair down some of the apparitions and then destroy them, but not before one snaps Rox’s neck; murdering him. The fire soon rages out of control, destroying more apparitions. Joseph comes up with a plan and shoots out the large window in the dining room, a blast of cold air quickly quenching the flames. The intense cold, however forces the Centurions out of the dining hall; escorting the remaining guests who carry the prostate Gaston.
Mokgosi and Jack run down the hallway, feeling the familiar cold freeze from outside now invading the interior of the keep. (The damage to the boiler room is interfering with the heat of the castle. They close in on Grayson’s apartments and hear more arguing from inside. It appears that Zeram is scoffing at Grayson’s achievements, as Grayson is trying to calm him down. They are interrupted by a loud crash, forcing the Centurions to intervene. Mokgosi crashes through the door. He looks at Jack for back-up, but finds he has vanished without a trace. He turns and sees Grayson fending off a couple of apparitions, screaming that Zeram is trying to murder him. Mokgosi, takes a shot at Zeram, but misses. Grayson shouts for Mokgosi to kill Zeram to make the apparitions go away. Zeram takes off running down the hallway with a vengeful Mokgosi in pursuit. Mokgosi is able to tackle the sprinting scientist and after a brief struggle is able to tie him up, ignoring Zeram’s protests of innocence.
Mokgosi takes Zeram towards the Dining Hall and encounters Laura and Joseph, leading the survivors into the castle looking for a place of warmth. Joseph suddenly notices a note in his hand from Jack stating that there are people in the kitchens using the stoves to stay warm and that he has gone to look for more assistance. The Centurions escort the guests and their prisoner to the kitchens. Along the way Zeram accuses Grayson of killing them, because he, Gerald, Knitche, and Rox discredited his research into Netherite. Joseph hears those words and remembers reading the scientific paper and is able to confirm the story with the rest of the Centurions. Laura, Mokgosi, and Joseph decide to return to Grayson’s apartment and confront the man himself.
They traverse the freezing hallways, the cold sapping at their vitality. They eventually reach Grayson’s apartments and make their way inside. Mokgosi and Laura follow a small blood trail and find that Grayson went out on the balcony, Mokgosi, despite the snow is able to see that Grayson actually climbed the wall and was trying to fake that he went over the side. Mokgosi and Laura follow Grayson up the wall and into the unnatural cold. Joseph opts to use the stairs and head towards the stairs to meet them on the roof.
Mokgosi and Laura feel their limbs start becoming sluggish as the unnatural snow storm continues to suck the warmth from them. They reach the top of the tower and in the blustering wind and snow they see a shirtless Grayson standing atop a sky light, untouched by the chilled air. He is wearing black gloves made of netherite and standing behind a table with a chessboard full of pieces, both made of netherite. His instability becomes obvious as he cackles insanely, he begins to madly proclaim his desires for revenge; relishing in the fact that he almost got Mokgosi to kill Zeram for him. He then tips the chessboard over, the netherite chess pieces come to life; forming into shadowy apparition. Both Mokgosi and Laura open fire on Grayson, but his gloves create a magnetic field that he is able to use to deflect the bullets from their gun.
Meanwhile Jack suddenly reveals his presence as a robotic butler towards Mathias and Evelyn aboard Mathias’s airship. Jack explains the apparitions and Grayson’s connection to the Soul of Hakkar and pleads with Mathias for help. Mathias relents and provides Jack with a silver sphere that if given time will disrupt Grayson’s electronics. He gives it to Jack on the condition that Jack owes him one. He then has his automaton servitors escort Jack off the ship and into the open air below.
Laura and Mokgosi are able to defend themselves from the shadow apparitions, but they begin to suffer from the effects of frostbite. Mokgosi’s rifle ends up being destroyed by the cold itself. Laura takes the opportunity to blow out the glass from the skylight, forcing everyone to tumble into the room below; bathing in sudden warmth. Joseph, hearing the crash, is able to light a broken chair leg and breaks into the room. He begins to lay waste to the apparitions and the Centurions begin to thin their ranks significantly. Before they can rejoice; Grayson’s gauntlets begin to glow and more apparitions join the ranks.
Jack, as a robotic butler, comes crashing through the ceiling; joining the rest of the Centurions in the battle. He activates the sphere that Mathias gave him and keeps it hidden, holding to his disguise. (Jack is able to secretly pass a message along that the sphere will shut down Grayson’s gloves.) Unfortunately, Jack gets swept in his disguise and drops the sphere, quickly caught by Laura, to get a bottle of Champagne for Grayson’s Guests. He sees the orb and focuses upon Laura.
Laura is able to nimbly dodge the shadow apparitions, keeping the sphere activated. Mokgosi and Joseph continue to pummel shadow apparitions into dust and Jack waits patiently by Grayson with a bottle of Champagne. When the sphere goes off, Grayson’s gauntlets fail. Jack knocks him off balance with a strike from the Champagne bottle, Mokgosi and Joseph pummel him with their fists, allowing Laura to open fire with her two pistols; filling the room with gun smoke. The chessboard explodes and Grayson becomes overwhelmed by the dark energy of the Soul of Hakkar and begins to have netherite flakes cover his skin before passing out.
Mokgosi goes to strip the gauntlets from Grayson’s hands, but finds them seared to his flesh; he skins them off with his knife, uncaring of the damage he inflicts. To his surprise the Gauntlets suddenly grasp onto his hands, melding into his skin. Mokgosi and his companions are unable to peel them off; however Mokgosi thinks he might be able to control their power.
With Grayson unconscious and the snowstorm quickly passes. The authorities quickly come on the scene taking Grayson and The Whirlwind into their custody. Agent Irons leaves with Senator Trueman and their party, with Zeram following in their wake. Mathais’s airship long since leaves and Joseph is concerned that he has taken his sister; however Evelyn comes out of the castle with a telegram and states that Henry Smith has asked that they research netherite in greater depth.