With the adventure of dueling a massive, cyclopean mechanical serpent behind us, Doc Kate took the initiative and moseyed on over towards the towering Thoth statue. I think most of us were interested in, if not the statue, the gilded box at the foot of the bird headed god. As we congregated around the plinth, Doc Totem glanced around at our inaction, scratched his head and adjusted his fez and shrugged. “Well then. Let’s poke it with a stick shall we?” he announced, crouching down and prizing open the cigar box sized coffer with some implement he produced from the multitude of pockets lining his jacket.
Within the box was a dry scroll, curled in upon itself with the weight of the ages. In fancy, illuminated script it bore the following legend:
Let it be known that in this, the 1214th year of our Lord, I, Raymond de Savoir, Knight Templar in good standing, oversaw the removal of the last treasure from this sacred place. In keeping with the instructions of my forbearers, it was deemed this treasure was too great for mankind and thus has been taken for safekeeping to the Castle of Our Lady of Mercy in the land of France. This testament I do swear in the name of our Lord.
The knight had signed the document with an elaborate scrawl accompanied by a wax signet, crumbling and flaking with age. While our assembled company started debating back and forth which location in France the knight might be referring to, some noise in the rear of the chamber, near the staircase, alerted us to a swarm of Ahnenerbe goons pouring into the room, Lugers and Schmeisser MP-38s at the ready. Nora almost leapt into my hand of her own accord.
Agent Alpha was the swiftest of the group though, as is often the case his Golden Gun was barking at the Krauts, and I saw one tumble to the ground as the rest of us joined in. Doc Kate fired wild and I think it was Ms. Barnes whose shot ricocheted off one of the stone bookcases and winged poor Agent Alpha. He’s a tough guy, made of sterner stuff though, so he soldiered on.
I drew down with Nora on Herr Templeman, that rat faced weasel of a Jerry we’d seen calling the shots for them before. The shot struck home just left of center mass in his chest, and I hoped for a moment I’d struck a telling blow but he crumpled only momentarily before straightening, plucking a dented flask from his breast pocket and smirking at me as he barked orders to his lackeys in harsh German. He returned the favor with a couple of shots from his Luger, but I snaked away at the last moment and the rounds tore through empty shirt and narrowly missed my ribcage.
Doc Totem made for quite an impressive presence, twin hand cannons from Webley and Mauser booming away in the best display of Anglo-German cooperation since the Hessians signed on to crush the fledging American independence movement. One of the Krauts dropped before a cacophony of Nazi fire erupted in the chamber, pinging off every available surface and filling the air with a dusty miasma of plaster and sandstone detritus. I swear some of the rounds may have pinged off Doc Totem himself, it’s always hard to tell when he’s spouting his mumbo jumbo about the stone headed Moai on Easter Island. I half expect his head to grow to massive proportions, and not in the usual sense like when he lectures me on my lack of knowledge of obscure Phoenician burial rituals.
Whether it’s the Doc’s mumbo jumbo or the steady hail of gunfire, something in the temple’s structural integrity decides to go pear shaped on us, and there is a deafening roar as half the southern wall caves in unleashing a torrent of dark river water into the room. The onrushing wave topples a couple of columns to add to the debris filling the air.
The room collapsing around us would have a tendency to really stop most folks in their tracks. Mind you, I’m not exactly most folks. This ain’t my first collapsing temple sunshine. I’ve seen disasters that would turn the most hardened Chicago fireman whiter than a polar bear in a snowstorm. So you have to believe me when I note that there is almost nothing in the world as terrifying as seeing a dozen sarcophagi burst open as a pack of ibis headed mummies decide to join the fray. Let me say that again. Bird headed. Walking. Dead. Mummies. Spiders dripping off half of them as they emerge from their dark, forsaken tombs to lurch after every living, breathing human in the room.
I momentarily lose all sense of gunfire in the room as everything lurches into slow motion. I can hear a terrible noise, but it takes me a moment to realize it’s the sound of my own throat screaming. Everything lurches back into real time, or maybe it’s faster than real time. I feel amplified, jazzed. My hands, my legs, my whole body is trembling with every action. I know I have to find some way to send those horrors back to whatever night lands are found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Nora booms like thunder in my hand at I unload her shotgun barrel into one mummy, then unleash a rain of fire as fast as I can fan the hammer into two more. I watch in horror as the holes explode through the first one, shooting mummy dust and fibers out the back but doing nothing to halt its lurching gait forward. One of the second pair does burst apart under the fusillade though, giving a momentary, faint glimmer of encouragement.
The Germans ignore the mummies for the moment, or haven’t spotted them shambling up behind them. They rain heavy fire down on Alpha, Doc Kate and Ms. Barnes, and I see the Doc wince as a round creases her gut. I can hear Doc Totem rallying us back with some noise that’s tremendously rousing. I can’t be sure in all the cacophony around me, but later I’ll swear I heard the Yale “Boola Boola” fight song amidst the chaos.
By this point, the mummies on the opposite side of the now raging river are tearing into the Nazis, which is a mixed blessing. I can’t think of anything nice to say about the Ahnernabe, but they’re still human beings, and a part of you dies when you hear their screams as the living dead rip them limb from limb. Frantically seeking something to focus on to drown out the screams I chance upon Ms. Barnes clambering to the top of a pile of rubble, fishing about in that carpet Gladstone bag she always carries with her. She grins wickedly as she draws forth a bottle of some kind of perfume, and wraps a rag around it, lighting the end with a Zippo before hurling the makeshift grenade into the midst of our German aggressors.
The results are explosive as glass shards and flaming liquid engulf four of the flunkies, narrowly missing our old buddy Templeman. The flaming goons run screaming into the now raging river, and are carried off by the increasingly strong current.
As I catch Alpha downing another mummy with his Golden Gun I am horrified as the shrieking beak of one of the mummies bears down on me, plunging into my shoulder as I feel the pain explode down my arm like white hot fire.
Ms. Barnes slams her Gladstone into the mummy, momentarily staggering and driving it back long enough for me to swing Vera up to bear and empty the last rounds into the beast. Still, they are to no avail as the bits of plaster and wrappings exploding out the back of the mummy do little to slow it’s relentless approach. I hear Doc Totem’s shrill incantation to the Hawai’ian goddess of earthquakes and the ground splits asunder, trapping the remaining mummies on this side of the river while the few remaining Germans do battle with those left on their side.
Alpha continues his relentless assault on the ibis headed freaks of nature, downing one of the trapped monstrosities. Inspired by Ms. Barnes’ resourcefulness I take a large swig of the Old Overholt rye in my flask. I’ll admit, as the sweet burn of whiskey rolls across my tongue, this plan is not entirely about a makeshift flamethrower, but I relent and spit out a cloud of alcohol which ignites from the flame of my Zippo, engulfing our last Ibis beast in flames and ending its unnatural unlife.
I hear Doc Totem crow with glee as a booming handgun claims another Ahnernabe lackey, though whether he’s been paid in English Webley or the home coin of the Mauser is hard to distinguish in the echoing din. I see Doc Kate and Alpha scrambling over a makeshift rubble bridge towards the remaining Nazis and the exit as white water spumes form around them where raging river meets blocks of sandstone.
I holster Vera and scoop up the Mauser rifle at my feet, snapping off an iron sights shot at Templeman that narrowly misses, lifting the fedora off his head as the color drains from his face and he turns his ashen visage to regard me as a proper threat. All around our shocked but unshaken group is mounting an impressive offensive. I see goons fall to gunfire from Alpha and Ms. Barnes as withering gunfire takes the fez from the top of Totem’s head, eliciting his undying enmity towards the Germanic peoples for their aggressions against the millinery arts.
Despite heavy German losses, these troops are hardened, and aren’t giving up. Templeman grazes Doc Kate’s cheek with a 9mm parabellum round from his Luger. I cycle the bolt action of my Mauser Karabiner 98K, chambering a round of 7.92 × 57mm that heads downrange as soon as I acquire the dangling grenade from one of the Jerry’s belt with my front sight post. The potato masher goes up in a blooming fireball that enshrouds two more in a fiery conflagration.
I hardly have time to appreciate the fine shot (Damn, you can say what you want about the Germans, but the accuracy and output from Herrs Wilhelm and Paul Mauser’s little arms factory in Oberndorf am Neckar is hard to outdo) when I see Doc Totem yammering on something about Nancy Fancy or somesuch and he’s scrambling across the goddamn CEILING like a gecko or – far worse – a damned SPIDER. Obviously, the Germans, being humans beings who live in the world like any sensible folk, are not expecting their foe to cavort about on the ceiling like some kind of horrible spider, so they’re quite shocked when Doc empties his Webley into them, scratching the ranks of the Ahnernabe down even further.
I’m watching the ongoing shootout between Alpha, and the Doctor Duo of Kate and Totem as I scramble across our makeshift rope bridge, but the river’s gotten much worse since we made it the first time, and the ripstrong current tears me away to deposit me against the rubble from one of the columns further downstream, soaked to the bone and bruised to the marrow for my efforts.
Alpha charges to my position, screaming offers of aid above the raging torrents of white water as he guns down a final Nazi. Templeman, rapidly running out of allies manages to crack a shot off at Doc Kate that would have taken her head off had it not ricocheted off her fancy goggles. Doc Totem, perched halfway up the goddamn WALL is shouting at Templeman to surrender but gets only screams of “Nicht! Nein! NEVER!” for all his entreaties.
Doc Kate returns fire at Templeman, plucking a button off the epaulettes of his overcoat as he valiantly tries to make a last stand. Ms. Barnes hits the mark, taking a chunk out of his right shoulder and causing his gun arm to drop leadenly to his side. By this point Alpha has helped me to his feet and we both close the circle around Templeman, weapons leveled, closing out any last hope of escape. The Luger drops from fingers slippery with bright red blood thinned by the wet spray of water from the river and Templeman slumps to his knees, attempting to raise his wounded arms in surrender.
Given the continued rumbling, and the chunks of ceiling plunging noisily into the raging river water, we police up the few remaining survivors nursing their wounds on the sandy floor and shepherd everyone out of the temple as the rushing waters and roiling earth combine to collapse the remaining structural integrity of the place and recommit the ruins to their place of mystery, lost to the mists of time forevermore.
A few of us are nursing wounds as well as numerous scrapes and bruises, but there’s a German truck stocked with supplies and Ms. Barnes makes like Florence Nightingale, tending to our wounds and the Germans as we load up for the arduous trip out of the desert.
Doc Kate warily takes stock of the Jerry cans of petrol on the back of the truck and questions “Do we have enough gas to get us back to civilization?”
“What?” Totem muses, angrily fingering twin bullet holes marring the otherwise lovely surface of his beloved fez, “All the way to Europe?”