One: Father Vorpal, Petra, Cleetus and Walden sneak a horta into the catacombs beneath the church
“But Father Vorpal, this is most irregular,” the addled sister on duty shuffled nervously from foot to foot all the while eyeing the large crate Walden had precariously balanced on the rickety old dolly. Even more perplexing was the stack of black sheets he’d piled atop the crate, so high as to practically hide him altogether. “The catacombs are most sacrosanct. They are only to be opened when interring one of our own.”
“My dear Sister Dorit, that is precisely what we are trying to do. Inside that crate is what remains of poor Father Sauriass who, after fifty years of tireless work at his mission on the remote island of New Nublar was overrun by a tribe of savage cannibals and simmered with root vegetables in a giant crock pot.”
Father Vorpal turned slightly to gesture towards Petra, Walden and Cleetus, all wearing the hooded grey and gold habits favoured by nuns of the Falunian order. “If not for the bravery of these three sisters who assisted in his mission to that remote and hellish land we would not even have these few bones to inter.”
“Oh, how dreadful.” Sister Dorit or brought her hands to her mouth. “There is an open shelf ‘bout five minutes in on yer left.” she fumbled for her keys and unlocked the door. “May the Builder praise his works.”
No more than twenty minutes later Father Vorpal returned to the station occupied by Sister Dorit.
“Where are the others?” The Falunian nun craned her neck to peer past Father Vorpal.
“They wish to meditate one final time over the remains of Father Sauriass. I have told them they have a half hour. Please relock the catacombs until I return.”
“Lock ’em in?” Sister Dorit sounded surprised. “That be most irregular ain’t it?”
“Haven’t you heard?” said Father Vorpal. “There is a monster terrorizing the streets of Falun. My dear old mother was its first victim.”
“Oh, by the Builder, I heard. Poor Verna!” The nun shook her head sadly. “We was of an age, she and I, what mischief we planned as girls.” Sister Dorit smiled for a moment at the memories but then her countenance turned sombre once more. “What heartbreak for you.”
“Church work sustains me.” Father Vorpal’s sigh sounded most sincere. “Now, for the protection of those three nuns, secure the catacombs. No one in, no one out until I return.”
Two: Junie, disguised as the femme fatale Manuka Honey and Emerson disguised as Victor Mornington meet the Pipco executive who will take them to the highly secure transfer station.
“Miss Hacker,” Milburn Pennybags lowered his voice so only his secretary, Selma Hacker, and chief of security, Eatmore Flax could hear. He eyed Emerson, in full kilt, leaning upon a his walking stick. Beside him stood Junie. “This man does not have goat legs. Are you sure about your information?”
“That’s what my sources say.” replied the Pipco secretary.
“Mr. Mornington,” Pennybags coughed as the two New Babbage investors approached. “This is rather awkward, but I was given to believe you had a rather distinguishing feature about your legs.”
“Yes, that is why I wear a kilt,” replied Emerson. “So as to not deprive people of a peek at my knees.”
“They are quite nice, I grant you, but my information says you have, er…” Pennybags coughed again. “Goat legs.”
“What?” Emerson shook his head.
“Goat legs, sir!” said Eatmore Flax stepping forward authoritatively. “If you are really Victor Mornington you should have goat legs.”
Emerson turned to Junie, the two of them started to laugh. “I believe my accent has done it again.” said Emerson exaggerating a Scottish brogue. “It happens all the time. You should see the confusion that ensues when I talk about my college days back in the sexties.” Emerson winked at Miss Hacker who blushed.
“Mr. Mornington is afflicted with gout.” Junie explained with a smirk. “Gout legs. People are always mishearing him.”
“Too much whiskey and high fat haggis.” Emerson confided. “Hence the walking stick.”
“My profoundest apologies sir,” Mr. Pennybags stepped forward. “Should we start the tour? The transfer station is always most impressive and is a wonderful way to begin by showing potential investors just how secure the mines of Falun actually are. I think you and Miss Honey will be impressed.”
“I have no doubt,” said Emerson patting his sporran. “I am quite looking forward to this.”
Three: Junie distacts the Pipco representatives while Emerson attaches a thumper hidden in the sporran to the wall in order to attract the horta
It was one thing to hear Pennybags’ boasts of an ultra secure vault large enough to contain a train station but an entirely different experience to see the amazing build from within.
The vault could only be approached via a long bridge hewn from the very mountain itself. A precarious drop to the basest levels of Falun would be the unfortunate end of anyone falling from that bridge.
“You weren’t exaggerating, Milburn,” said Junie taking the Pipco CEOs arm. “This is a very impressive train station.”
“It is state of the art,” gloated Pennybags. “There are only two ways in, through these great doors and through the mines, but the mines are all dead ends – these impenetrable doors are the only means of getting out.”
“You keep them locked and guarded at all times?” Junie asked..
“Oh yes, Miss Honey,” Pennybags replied, obviously enjoying the attention. “The doors are generally only opened for the team of engineers, three of them, who will drive the train from the station to whatever destination awaits it.”
“Do they travel often?” Junie asked.
“We have a coal train scheduled to depart in just over an hour.” Pennybags indicated the closest train, steam and smoke rising from its chimneys as the coals under its boiler kept it ready to ride. “But I’m sure you would be more interested in seeing the train that sits on the rails beside it. A dozen open cars overloaded with gold ore.”
Milburn Pennybags looked around. “Wait a minute, where is Mr….”
“Oooooh, my foot!” cried Junie, falling to the floor. She bent her knee, apparently in great discomfort, lifting the hem of her skirt slightly. She then slipped a finger into her sock, lowering it to just below the ankle in the process. “A pebble must have lodged in my shoe and caused a sore.”
“You certainly have a fine set of ankles, Miss Honey,” Selma Hacker observed while Milburn Pennybags and Eatmore Flax nodded in concurrence.
“Perhaps I could give you a hand with that,” Emerson winked as he reappeared from around the end of a train.
“It’s okay,” Junie smiled. “I got it.” She held a small pebble between her thumb and index finger for all to see, then casually tossed it aside. Emerson bent down and gave her a hand up. “So did I,” he said just loud enough for her to hear. “Timed to start in ten minutes.”
Four: Petra, Walden, and Cleetus, having climbed through the horta tunnel into transfer station, cover the gold in open cars with sheets.
“You think this will work?” Walden asked. He and Petra worked atop the train cars covering the ore while Cleetus tossed up sheets from below.
“It only need ta hide the gold from a distance,” Cleetus pointed out. “Or from above. But from my vantage up close I can’t see inta the cars ‘n I be taller ‘n most F’lunians.”
“It’ll be dark too,” Petra reminded him. “In the dark this will just look like a coal train.”
Suddenly a sound reminiscent of sand blowing across a beach caused them all to turn.
“Lookit that crazy horta.” Cleetus whistled. “Where she be goin’? I thought she ain’t never moved unless some thumper been set.”
“Maybe she hears something we don’t,” suggested Walden as the horta began to tunnel into the wall again, this time about sixty feet to the right of the first tunnel.
“Forget that dumb horta,” said Petra, “and help me with these sheets.”
“0h crap!” Walden cursed. “We don’t have enough.”
Cleetus eyed the two cars yet to be covered. “I figure we is goin’ ta be short by one whole car.”
“We could uncouple the last car,” suggested Walden. “There are tools here to do it.”
“Can’t risk it,” said Cleetus. “Even in the dark they can count cars. Eleven when we should have a dozen will raise suspicion.”
“Quiet knuckleheads,” said Petra noting the switches up ahead. “I have an idea,”
Five: Having taken care of the civil maintenance workers, Daisy O’Reetus and Maude Ibbs add white cane to the nutrient bath used by the city clockworks to feed the lanterns.
The Falunian street lamps were a remarkable example of communal symbiosis. Beautiful glass orbs affixed to intricately designed posts, carved from the very stone of the mountain. Each glass orb contained no less than a hundred glowworms with the mysterious characteristic of remaining in their larval form indefinitely – so long as they continue to be bathed in a specially designed nutrient rich mist.
Maude Ibbs, whose lifelong hobby had been the study of worms, was in her element as she explained to Daisy, “The natural cycle of these lantern glowworms is perfectly suited to simulating day and night because they sleep for eight hours every day. When they sleep they don’t glow as bright.”
“So we douse the little buggers in white cane and get them so sauced they pass out,” said Daisy.
“Yep,” replied Maude as she began adding white cane to the nutrient canisters the two clockwork lamp feeders would use to bathe the lamp worms.
Meanwhile: Malus and Lottie race for the surface
“It is getting darker in here.” Lottie observed, stopping when she reached the the top of the stairs to allow Malus a chance to catch up. They had yet to climb a half dozen streets before reaching the level of the rail line.
Malus looked up. The lights several levels above were quickly dimming. “They’ve gone ahead and started without us.”
“I was not informed of the plan,” said Lottie. “What coincides with the dimming of the lights?”
“Petra is supposed to disable the real coal train inside the transfer station.” Malus said aloud, trying to recall the bizarre scheme Emerson had come up with on the wagon ride north. “While the engineers are trying to repair it I was supposed to ride the gold train out of the vault. If they are actually pulling this off we don’t have long.”
“Understood,” replied Lottie. “Would you like me to carry your trophy so that we might make better time.” She indicated Nefertiti’s severed head which Malus still held by the hair.
“Just go!” Malus shouted. She paused for a moment then abruptly turned and started to run once more at a quarter step faster than Malus’s top speed.
Six: The Gangplank crew attempt to ride the gold train across the bridge in a race to the exit.
From the platform, Emerson and Junie watched alongside Pennybags, Miss Hacker and Eatmore Flax as the train from the vault slowed.
“For a final security check we have the guards climb up on each car and ensure that it is indeed coal inside each one.” Pennybags explained. As he spoke, however, he looked up and around with a puzzled look upon his face. “What the devil is going on with the lanterns?”
It was noticeably darker as the train came to a full stop beside them. The engineer nodded from the window of the locomotive. Junie elbowed Emerson. It was Cleetus. With him peeking out of the cabin were Petra and Walden. Junie gripped Emerson’s arm tightly and nodded as one of the guards, shovel in hand, climbed the side of the first car behind the locomotive.
“What if he looks in that car, Em?’ Junie whispered. Emerson shuffled nervously but remained silent. The moment seemed interminable but then, to their surprise, they heard the sound of a shovel digging into coal. Emerson and Junie exchanged quizzical glances.
“It be so dark I can barely see what I be doing?” the guard called down. “but it be coal no doubt.”
The guard was moving to the next car when three men ran from the tunnel shouting, though their cries were drowned out by the sound of the locomotive’s steam engine.
Before the men had covered a quarter of the distance, Cleetus engaged the engine in the locomotive. Slowly the train started moving.
Suddenly an explosive rumble shook the ground while plumes of smoke poured from the tunnel. Emerson and Junie exchanged confused glances. One street above, the Falunian Church of the Builder crumbled as it collapsed into a sinkhole.
“What was that?” Emerson shouted genuinely surprised. Confusion and panic sent people scurrying. Emerson took Junie by the hand and the two of them ran to the train which was steadily picking up speed. At the second car behind the locomotive they managed to reach the ladder and scrambled up the side.
“Look!” Petra pointed. Up ahead, on the far side of the bridge, Malus and Lottie were running towards the tracks.
“We be movin’ too fast fer ‘em!” Cleetus shouted, “They ain’t never gonna be able ta climb on.”
As they ran for the tracks, Malus seemed to realize he would not be able to jump for the train whilst simultaneously holding Nefertiti’s head in his hands. He stopped, weighing his options as the train continued to pick up speed. Acting decisively he started to swing the head by the hair, sling-like, to generate force. With a mighty heave he launched it at Emerson high atop one of the cars with the hopeful plea to ‘CATCH!’
To everyone’s surprise Emerson did just that, leaping into the air and snagging it mid flight like a cat jumping for a bird. But then, with a startled look of revulsion he processed what it was that he had caught!
“Aaahhhh!” Emerson let out a horrified scream then tossed the bloody head over the side of the train sending it to the very depths of Falun.
Malus stood by the rails like a statue, dumbfounded by what he had seen. The train continued to pass by at increasing speed, and still he stood there as if in shocked disbelief.
Acting decisively Lottie grabbed Malus by the seat of the pants and the collar. She then spun around to generate force. With a mighty heave she launched him at Emerson calling out “Catch!”
Upon seeing Emerson and Junie holding the squire securely atop the ore laden car, Lottie sprinted off down the tracks towards the receding train and leapt aboard just before it passed into the final tunnel leading to the outside of the mountain.