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#9: A Mind of Their Own

“Explain to me again why we’re here and Giles and Howard are off saving the day?” Jane’s malcontent ramblings once again filled the small confines of the cab which she shared with Reginald and James.

Perrigordon fixed the lady with a disapproving glare, for she knew full well why Inspector Newberry had been quite clear in his directive to the three when he had them wait out of harm’s way whilst he and his team stormed the abandoned hospital. While technically part of the Majesterial Department of Protection for Gentleman Inventors and Scientific Advancement—and Ms. Temble’s status was doubtful at best—they were still citizens, not full agents skilled in armed confrontation.

But the minutes ticked by and Dr. Perrigordon, used to sitting safely ensconced in offices and restaurants while others took on the more dangerous duties—nobody had yet asked him from where he got all his purported expertise, and if they had he couldn’t have answered, as a matter of national security—yes, even he had to admit to some boredom and to some belief that they were, in fact, missing out.

Meanwhile . . .

It felt good to command a team of like-minded, Yard-trained men again. Smiling as he made eye contact with Howard from his position by the other back door, Newberry gave the signal.

Howard echoed the signal and readied his men, Giles picturing the alert traveling around the building’s exterior from team to team, like a children's game of messenger only—he hoped—more effective.

Drawing a quick breath as his internal count reached zero, he slammed his booted foot through the cheap panelled door and could feel the tight noose his force made as they converged upon the hospital’s doors and windows. Over the pounding of his heart he could hear sharp, faint yells, a quick crack of gunfire and then one more sound—something unidentifiable, composed of a low hum followed by something akin to a whip cracking.

Rushing forward down the darkened corridor, noting that there were indeed lights on deep within the supposedly abandoned hospital building, Giles felt his blood sing in his veins, answering the siren’s call of action. By jove, they had ‘em!

“That’s it,” Jane reached for the carriage door handle, daring either man to stop her,

“We’re either on the team or we aren’t.”

“Well, technically, James was recruited and I was appointed, whereas you—”

“Really? We’re going to have this argument now?” With words as withering as her glare, Jane hitched up her skirts, exposing one elegant booted ankle. Unbuckling two small matching pistols, she tossed one to Crothall, addressing James breathlessly as she jumped down from the cab and smoothed her shirts, “Are you armed, doctor?”

“Yes,” Perrigordon squeaked out the word, minds’ eye still on Ms. Temble’s unorthodox holster.

With a rocking groan, the carriage deposited the good doctor on the sidewalk, Crothall daintily stepping out behind, hands gingerly holding the diminutive pistol, a slightly dazed look on his handsome face. Getting a grip on himself—and the pistol—Reginald smiled, “Well done, milady, though I hope you’ll forgive this one time when I do not allow the lady to go first.” Breaking into a loping run, grinning the smile of one newly freed, Crothall led the charge, trailing one equally fresh-faced Ms. Temble and further back, a sweating and less spry Prof. Perrigordon.

* * *

Well, now this is a bit awkward, Giles and his men stared down the heavy black barrels of their standard-issue weaponry, daring the enemy to make a move. A half-dozen men, clad in various accoutrements suggestive of heavy lab work, returned the favour, their hard faces confronting the officers over an armoury of guns—some recognizable, some . . . more creative in origin.

Giles risked a glance to the side where their one injured man lay—the cause of said standoff and the one to discover firsthand what the strange, unidentifiable sound had been echoing through the building during the main charge. Newberry’d be hearing about this one—precautions or not, the officer who’d fallen would have permanent scars from his burns.

It was hard to tear his gaze from the sparkling, wicked rods—some sort of energy weapon, quite fascinating really—held by the impassive men of science, faces cold enough to confirm that this was the sort of team capable of the types of cruel human experimentation they were suspected of. As if the array of tools and machines lining the walls and massive steel operating table gracing the room weren’t confirmation enough. Giles tried to recall the initial moments of confrontation, gauging as best he could from sight and sound how many of the energy prongs had been discharged. His guess was about half. Subtly shifting his weight to ready himself for their next move—which had damn well better be quick if they were to strike before the energy guns fully recharged!—he glanced to Howard, their gazes locking before a loud bang shattered all concentration.

Door banging open behind the crew of robot-building brain-dissecting madmen, three comfortingly (and oh-so-distressingly) familiar figures burst onto the scene accompanied by a good two-dozen other people, men and women with hungry murder in their eyes. Turning to meet the new threat, the assembled suspects redirected their assorted weaponry, breaking the standoff and allowing Giles and his team the inch they needed.

An inch that they took full advantage of. Picking on the gentleman he suspected was the leader—by merit of his having the longest coat and the biggest goggles—Giles engaged the crew in combat, wincing as energy rods cracked to life around him. The Inspector’s guess was good and his officers had the criminal gang surrendering in moments once he had their leader disarmed and at his mercy.

It was at this point that Giles risked a look around, glancing curiously at the seemingly random selection of backup. Yes, Mr. Harvey Whitlock was amongst them. Allowing a slow smile to burn through his all-business grimace, Giles allowed his men to round up the remaining baddies and strode to the other end of the room where Jane and Reginald were sheepishly rounding up the dazed-looking victims.

“Right mess we made of it, but it looks like we solved it, eh?” Reginald greeted his partner with a hearty grin, as Jane liberated her yet unfired derringer from the dandy and secreted it back in its holster, looking around the lab—in reality a converted hospital operating room—with horror. Sidling up to Giles and keeping her voice low, she explained, “All these people have similar cranial scarring. We found them locked in one of the wards we passed on the way in. It looks like about as many people as autobots so I’m guessing there are no victims unaccounted for, no new ones anyway . . .”

“Will make a complete sweep of the hospital,” Giles promised. He looked around the lab, its distasteful purposes masked by the multitude of people milling about. “Where’s Dr. Perrigordon?”

“I’m not sure, actually,” Jane appeared surprised, “He was right behind us when we— oh!” The throng momentarily parted, giving both a quick view of the casualties—five in total—who sat off to the side, out of harm’s way while an officer tended to them. Dr. Perrigordon was among the wounded, half-sitting, half-laying, a look of patient pain on his usually cheerful face.