The secret weapon
Women and children were crying in the center of the village. Armed men had dragged them out of their homes in the middle of the night. Their husbands had all been taken down to the river by more armed raiders. They had come for slaves. Every one knew of the slave raiders that attacked by night. Some thought they didn’t exist but on this fateful night there were no disbelievers.
Some in the village tried to fight back or escape only to be cut down by the raiders. The village never stood a chance against the military precision demonstrated by these savage men. They were not from Quazistan. They had traveled half way around the world after they lost their war. They could no longer own slaves in their homeland so they came here. They were aggressive and armed with the best weapons money could by. They all rode horses with a skill that would rival the Mongol hordes of old.
They wanted to take this land for themselves. They came to build a nation in their image. They came to build a new Confederacy. They would all be wealthy landowners if they did what Sheetz told them to do. He had been right so far. They had found the old tin and cooper mines abandoned by the Chinese two hundred years ago. They rebuilt the fortress that commanded the valley over looking the place where the three great rivers met. And there were slaves for the taking. Most of the native inhabitants were peaceful farmers. The great Quazistani armies of ancient times had faded into dust just like the rest of their ancient civilization. The farmers were no match for these modern weapons and the obsession of one utterly ruthless man.
“Pardon me General sir, what do you want us to do with the men?” the one eyed man asked. He wiped his face with an old silk scarf and waited as the man on horse back came closer.
The man on the large black horse looked down at the one eyed man. His own eyes were concealed in the shadow of the large black broad brimmed hat he wore. His face was weather worn and cracked like old leather from a life of out of doors. A shaggy half grown beard flecked with gray gave the appearance of a ruggedness too him. This man led his men from the front. He ate and slept when they did. He provided for his men. He was their father in the tough times and in the good times. He was loyal to them and they would gladly lay down their lives for him if he asked.
“Send them to the mines up north. The women and children will be sold to the Arabs next month so don’t let too many die on the trip if you can help it.” the General said in a low gravely voice.
“That’s going to be tough with the Undango River still in flood stage after all that rain.” The one eyed man said rubbing the back of his neck.
“Do the best you can Pike, I trust your judgment. Just make sure most of them get to the fort in one piece.” The General said. He pulled on the reins and started off back towards the center of the village.
“Stop this! Stop this at once!” an elderly man with an English accent yelled at the General as he broke free form two of the General’s men and made his way to the side of the horse.
“I must protest sir! I am a British subject and these people are under the protection of Her Majesty the Queen of England. I demand you release these people immediately! The man shouted angrily.
“What’s your name?” the General asked.
“I am Professor Jacob Oxley. And who might you be sir?” the Doctor demanded.
“I am General Langston Sheetz, former officer of the great Confederate States of America. You may consider this your lucky day sir. I am not in the habit of enslaving white men. Besides you’re too old to work in my mines. So unless you have some other business to discuss I’ll bid you a good evening sir.” Langston said tipping his hat.
“Intolerable! You sir are an insolent kur and I will see you are held accountable.” The Professor yelled red faced.
Sheetz drew his Colt Dragoon pistol from his belt and shot the Professor between the eyes.
“I’m the ruler here sir! Your good Queen has no say here unless I allow it!” The General erupted shouting at the dead body of the Professor. Everyone froze and turned towards the General. He was known for his violent outbursts and shoot first ask questions later attitude.
Sheetz stuffed the pistol back into his holster. “Go about your duties men, I’m finished with the good English gentleman.”
The men had seen this all too many times before. The General didn’t take kindly to anyone trying to upset his plans. He was the type of man that got results but at any price.
He had lost his commission in the Confederate army by raiding towns in the west. This was not unusual but after General Sherman’s march too the sea Sheetz developed a scorched earth policy as well. The one difference was he had his men burned every single building to the ground and systematically killed every living thing in the town they attacked. Not even women and children were spared. He had become so out of control that the Confederacy could no longer sanction his actions. He had even gone so far as to murder the messengers that brought him his official papers that relieved him of his rank and duties.
“Check the good Professors belongings for any clues that might tell us why he was here John.” Sheetz yelled to his second in command.
“Yes sir General.” Pike said. John Pike grabbed the Professor’s bag and rifled through it. He pulled out something wrapped in a white piece of linen.
“Let me see that Pike.” The General said. Pike handed the
parcel to the General carefully. Sheetz opened the linen and found it contained an old book with strange writing on the cover. He held it up closer to the light of the now burning houses to see it better. The book was old and looked to be written in Chinese. There were well-drawn maps and notes that the Professor had written stuck in between the pages.
“Lord ‘o’ mighty!” Sheetz whispered.
“What is it General?” Pike asked as he looked up from his duties of relieving the poor deceased Professor of his belongings.
“Providence Mr. Pike! The good lord has seen fit to give me the resources to finish our blessed work. With this book we’ll soon be kings of this country and wealthy beyond our greatest dreams.” The General said with his eyes locked on each page as he turned them.
“What’s in the book Langston?” Pike and Sheetz had been friends since childhood and he was the only man the General would allow to be so familiar as to not address him as General on occasion.
“I won’t tell you right now Johnny my boy but when we get back to the fort I’ll tell you everything. Trust me on this for a while longer John and I promise you won’t regret it.” The General said leaning down so only John could hear.
“You know I will General, you’ve never played me false.” John said saluting.
“You’re my boy John. Can always count on you.” The General said offering Pike his hand. John took it and they shook.
“I’m with you too the end sir.” Pike said.
The General carefully rewrapped the book in the linen and placed it in his saddlebag. Sheetz stood in his stirrups and surveyed the burning village. He always made sure that everything was destroyed before they left. He watched as his men shot the remaining animals in the village. They would only take enough to feed themselves on the trip back to the fort so he had the rest killed. This way if anyone tried to pursue him they would be slowed by having to take time to forage.
The journey took three days. The General took his turn watching the rear to see if they were being pursued. It was one of the traits that kept his men so loyal to him. He was a soldier first and an officer second. He shared in the hardships of his men as well as the good times.
At last they had reached the old fortress. John Pike had taken a short cut the day before with the women and children. The General had brought the men and loot from the village with him to this point.
The General’s men who ran his mining operations in the north met them. They would take the male slaves to the mines and the General would then continue onto the fortress with the loot.
Once inside the General turned over the processing of the loot to his subordinates. He went to his bedchambers to wash and take a nap before dinner. He entered his room and was met by his slave Annabelle. She had been a schoolteacher at one of the villages he had raided two years earlier. She had pleaded for her life when he had all the whites hung for teaching the natives. It wasn’t helpful to him to have these people educated but she was young and pretty so he spared her life for the time being. The thing he liked best was she was terrified of him. She wanted to be brave but the evil that lived in the General frightened her to the core.
“Help me with my boots girl.” He ordered as he sat heavily in the plush chair in front of the fireplace. She ran to his side and lifted the left foot tugging on the knee-high cavalry boot. She lurched forward as it finally slid off. She quickly did the same with the right boot as well. Annabelle took both boots and set them next to the side of the chair.
“Would you like something to drink General?” she asked nervously. Sometimes if a raid went poorly he would take it out on her but other times he would be a perfect gentleman. He was tortured by his past and the belief that is fellow countrymen let him down. He was willing to do anything to win but they didn’t have the same commitment he did so they betrayed him and cast him aside in his mind.
“Bourbon.” He replied in a voice that was tired yet calm.
“Was anyone hurt on the raid General?” Annabelle asked. Of course she wasn’t referring to the captives only his men.
“No, everything went as planned.” He reached down and took the wrapped book out of the saddlebag. He hadn’t removed it the entire journey. He didn’t want his men to know what he had until he had a better chance to read it cover to cover.
Annabelle handed him his drink.
He opened the fragile tome carefully. There in the front was a new photograph of a young woman. She was beautiful. He could tell that she was half-caste but it didn’t matter, something about her was irresistible to him. He turned the photo over and saw writing on the back.
My dear Professor Oxley
I will be arriving in Port Victoria shortly and hope to be able to help you translate the book you found. I’ve been brushing up on my Cantonese and Mandarin so as better to help you.
Langston read the note on the back of the photo over and over again. The answers to the riddles in this book were going to be at the mission station within the month. He new of Parson Downe and this girl must be his daughter. He had never paid too much attention to the religious folk at the station because they had nothing he wanted. Soon they would have something that interested him quite a bit. The girl in the photograph would be able to decipher the book. He would have to kidnap her and force her to interpret the book.
“Draw me some water girl. I need to scrub the jungle off my hide. That damned jungle stinks like Gettysburg in august.” He said standing up. Annabelle quickly ran to the pump and started to fill the big wooden tub. She was lucky that it was so hot here and she didn’t have to fetch wood to build a fire to heat the water. No one here took hot baths. He would just soak in the tub of cool water and relax.
The next day the General was at his desk going over the ancient tome in his office. He heard the drone of one the German airships as it descended from above. He had forged an alliance early with the Germans soon after his arrival. They had a multitude of new weapons in their inventory that he needed. In exchange he would leave the German settlements unscathed and focus his raids against the British. In addition he would help the Germans take care of “special problems” whenever they arose.
On one of these occasions there was a local village elder that didn’t want to allow the Germans to pass through their territory so Langston had him disappear one night. He made it look as if bandits had caused the disappearance. Eventually they discovered the elder’s dead body minus its head. Soon the remaining elders suddenly became interested in the protection the Germans could provide and granted them passage and an outpost for one of their garrisons.
He knew how to create fear in people and that is what he sold the Germans. He could get away with doing things a civilized nation couldn’t. Sheetz also knew he and his men needed to upgrade their weaponry. Enter the Germans. They had the finest weapon factories on the planet. His fee would be arms built by the Germans.
They paid him in the past with Mauser rifles and pistols along with Maxim machine guns, a favorite of his men.
This airship of the Germans was very similar to ones the Confederacy had used in the war but this one was larger and had the hull of a ship that allowed it to land in any large body of water in case of emergency. It mounted a huge breach loading deck gun that he guessed was at least a six-inch gun. Two Maxim guns stored inside could quickly be mounted on each side as defensive weapons.
Langston had surmised that this was a new type of airship that the Germans were testing here in Quazistan and away from the multitude of European spies that littered the continent.
The English had recently been testing two airships that didn’t rely on gas for lighter than air travel. The English airships were top-secret designs and kept under heavy guard at all times.
The Germans would pay handsomely for the secret of the English lifting system.
The airship cut its engine and lowered several ropes followed almost immediately by several crewmen sliding down those same ropes and guiding the massive ship down. The ropes were quickly tied too the broken stonework of the tower and made secure for the ships Captain to make his departure from the craft and onto the balcony where Sheetz was waiting.
Out of the cabin stepped a monocled German officer wearing a fresh white tropical jacket covered in shiny brass buttons and gold braid. He held his trademark “picklehaube” helmet under his arm while he hesitated long enough to twist his upturned mustache into shape once again.
“Good day Herr Sheetz.” The officer said finally acknowledging Langston as he leaned casually against the archway leading out too the balcony.
“Morning Captain Ludendorf, did you bring my new rifles?” the General asked.
“Yes General and more.” He grinned. Captain Ludendorf turned and motioned too his men to bring out the item. It took several of them to bring the devise over and onto the balcony. Sheetz could tell at once this was some sort of artillery piece almost at once. He frowned at the Captain noticeably. He was a hit and run cavalry fighter and artillery would only slow him down.
“This is all well and good Ludendorf but I don’t use field pieces during my raids. Besides its almost impossible to move artillery through the jungle.” Sheetz said.
“Give me but a moment longer and you will see you won’t be able to live without this new weapon.” The Captain smiled confidently. He handed Langston a pair of darkened goggles and indicated he should put them on. The Captain took a pair from a pouch on his belt and put his on as well. The crew had finished assembling the weapon and stood at attention two too a side.
“Are you ready General Sheetz?” the Captain asked.
Sheetz stood erect away from the wall and spat off the balcony. “Okay Captain show me your shiny new toy.”
The Captain snapped his fingers and one of the crewmen brought him a metal box. The Captain opened the box causing a bright bluish white light to erupt from inside. He carefully reached inside and lifted out a glowing crystal about the size of a fist and placed it in an opening in the back of the strange looking artillery piece. With a few orders given to his crew in German the men aimed the gun across the valley from the fortress where they stood.
The weapon began to hum louder and louder and the crystal began to pulse with energy. A flashing blue light raced up and down the weapons barrel faster and faster until it appeared to be vibrating.
“Scheizen!” the Captain ordered and with the order given one of the men pushed a lever forward causing the weapon to fire.
There was no recoil from the weapon at all only a piercing white-hot beam of light that immediately flashed across the valley hitting the hillside directly across from their position. At first nothing seemed to happen but after about a second or two there was a tremendous explosion that threw dirt rock and foliage seventy feet into the air raining debris over a two hundred foot area. The beam continued churning up the ground to a lesser extent causing fires to start in the under brush and the fallen trees.
“Halten machen”. The Captain ordered as the crewman quickly pulled the lever back.
Sheetz pulled off his goggles and ran inside. He quickly returned carrying his field glasses. He looked at the devastation on the other side of the valley in amazement.
“What do you think of my shiny new toy now General?” the Captain asked confidently.
Sheetz turned slowly and looked at the Captain. “Sir, I have done unspeakable things in my life, vile evil things that no white man should be known to have done but this weapon has been built by Satan himself. No man should have such power in his hands.”
“I take it you like this devise Herr General?” the Captain asked.
“Like it? Why this terrible engine of destruction was made with me in mind. After all Captain what other contemptible kur would use such an evil thing?” Sheetz grinned malevolently.
“Excellent, it is yours General but the crystals only work a limited number of times I’m afraid. The one in the weapon now has only four charges left in it.” The Captain said.
“So here’s where we lay our cards on the table eh Lundendorf?” Sheetz said.
“So it seems Herr General. I have been ordered to give you one more crystal giving you five more charges. The weapon is yours to test as you see fit with one condition. We will be leaving an agent of the Imperial German Information Group to record the weapons effectiveness in your…field trials. This agent will then report back to us with the information. Do you agree?” the Captain asked.
“Sir, I would steal a kiss from the devil’s daughter to have this weapon at my disposal.” Sheetz replied agreeing to the Captains conditions.
The Captain signaled too the airship and soon a woman wearing a bright red form fitting dress trimmed in black lace and black feathers came out onto the deck. She lifted her head revealing her face that had been obscured by her wide red and black trimmed hat to expose her flawless face. She had silken black hair that had been dressed up high on her head and vibrant icy blue eyes that glinted at Sheetz. He could tell this woman was far more dangerous then the awful weapon that he had just seen bring down half the side of a mountain.
She smiled and with a well-practiced flick of her wrist opened a black lace covered fan and slinked over from the airship to the balcony followed by several less than enthusiastic crewmen carrying a plethora of bags and personal belongings. Her feminine saunter swished her hips slowly from side to side reminding Sheetz of a snake slithering towards him.
“This is Ilsa Schmidt General Sheetz, she will be the observer I told you about.” The Captain said.
Ilsa covered her face slightly feigning a shyness that had long since left this woman leaving only pantomimes of what once was there. She extended her hand in greeting towards Langston.
“Madam something tells me my hand would be safer in the mouth of a half starved mountain lion than in your hand.” The General said bluntly.
Ilsa was too smart to fall for this test, a vulgar insult to make her slip up and show her true colors. In an instant she sized up the General, smart, cunning and completely ruthless. He was a man she could work with.
Ilsa withdrew her hand and smiled flashing her eyes and grinned.
“You were right Captain, this General is nobodies fool to be sure. You were correct to make him an ally. He is indeed formidable as you said and quiet handsome…in an earthy way.”
“Okay Captain…she can stay. I want your weapon more than this woman gives me the willies. I’ll make sure nothing happens to your secret weapon, (Sheetz said looking at Ilsa) or your gun.” Sheetz said.
“Then we are finished here, excellent. Thank you very much General I shall take my leave and give you the extra crystals.” The Captain said.
Langston watched as the airship lifted off and flew gracefully across the valley back towards the German colony of Kaiser port. Sheetz walked over to the artillery piece and turned the controls until it was pointing at the airship.
“What are you doing?” Ilsa protested.
Sheetz drew his heavy colt’s dragoon pistol and pointed it at Ilsa’s head while taking hold of the guns firing lever.
“You have one chance to make me believe that this whole deal ain’t some kind of trick…start talking.” Langston said in a low and serious tone.
“It is no trick General. We only wish to test the weapon under real conditions. We chose you to do it because you will not hesitate to use this weapon to its full effect.” Ilsa said in slightly nervous tenor.
Langston cocked the hammer on his massive pistol. “What’s with the crystals? Were did you get them?” he asked.
“They were discovered by one of our scientists on an expedition to the center of this continent. He has refused to tell us exactly where he found them for now. Since he is the only one who knows of their location he holds all the cards as you Americans say.” She said staring at the gun in Langston’s hand.
“If I find you have played me false Miss Schmidt I will guarantee you your life will become exceedingly more difficult than you can imagine.” Sheetz snarled.
“General might I point out that if we wanted to do you harm all we had to do is fire that weapon at you upon arriving instead of giving it and the crystals to you.” Ilsa said sternly knowing she had nothing to loose at this point. Sheetz was undeniablely the most dangerous man she had ever met and a stone cold killer.
Sheetz un-cocked his pistol and slid it back into its holster.
“You make a damned fine point Miss Schmidt. I can’t think of a better argument for not ending this relationship right now. After all we are all friends here aren’t we?” he said smiling.
“You had me startled for a moment my dear General. Part of my presence here is to be a sort of liaison between the Germans and yourself. The Germans are very pleased with the results you have obtained thus far and they wish to continue their relationship with you.” Ilsa said calming Sheetz down a bit.
“You say “Germans” as if you weren’t one of them.” Sheetz asked.
“Its true General, I’m Austrian by birth. Like yourself I sell my services to the highest bidder from time to time.” She said.
“Well that’s the kind of person I can deal with. I like a person that can be bought. Money is the best loyalty maker there is.” Sheetz grinned.
“I agree General, greed has always been my best motivator.” She said smiling back at him.
If you have enjoyed these stories please check out my first all original book series at Amazon.com. The title is Beyond the Crystal Heaven.
Once again thank you for your support.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 10 September 2013 01:36)