The Empress of India

TEoI 10 - Stay of Execution

The day it all changed...

The proper application of murder

Gene was laying in bed for hours, listening to the patrolling patterns of her captors. She was blindfolded, her hands were bound. Her husband, Nathan, was in bad shape after a rough interrogation earlier in the day. She engaged in an obfuscated discussion with Nathan to devise a plan. She tip-toed to Nathan’s writing desk and located the letter opener with her fingertips. She hid it in her dress.

She asked the guard in the sitting room to escort her to the lavatory. There, she tried to sever the ties binding her hands but to no avail. Her dress was a mess as she leaned over the chamber pot. She lifted it a bit to show some skin and beaconed the russian guard into the lavatory. The russian, taken aback, obliged to help her untangle. Gene coughed to signal Nathan to charge. His blindfold was loosened and could be removed. The sound of his uneven gait took the russian by surprise. Gene took advantage of this situation by stabbing him in the back, puncturing his lungs. The russian was then tackled by Nathan as they collided. Gene madly stabbed at him until he expired. She was covered with splatters of blood, her right hand drenched in red halfway up the forearm.

She pulled a revolver from the captor’s coat and handed it to Nathan. The two made their way to the office and slipped down the wall to the ground. The fall wasn’t graceful but no one got seriously hurt. Nathan was then reeling from the pain of the beating. They stumbled through the streets. It was about midnight when they got to the gate of the Red Fort.

In the belly of the beast

Bloodied, Gene and Nathan knocked at the gate of the Red Fort and waited for the door to open. The Shah’s guards were at first confused to see European on the street. They assumed that they were the “special” europeans that mistakenly had been beaten by one of the death squads. When it became clear that they were English, the sergeant reported to the officer in charge. Gene introduced herself as the ambassador, and explained that they indeed had escaped the day before. However, they were now returning with utmost important news for the Shah. The officer was incredulous, but found the situation sufficiently unusual to let this escalate higher up.

They were sent to another house in the Fort. Gene refused to get washed and insisted on meeting the Shah in her bloodied clothes. At around 3 AM, ththey finally met with the emperor himself. The Shah was weak and sleepy. Minister Arkhesh was there too, as well as a number of guard and Deptir the astrologer. Deptir’s presence was a complicating factor since he was a russian collaborator.

The Shah spoke in Urdu and Gene replied through her husband. Nathan nailed down the protocol despite his slurred speech caused by missing teeth. Gene explained that she had evidences that the Shah was manipulated by russians agents. She accused Deptir of collaboration. Deptir retaliated with a tirade on how the ambassador had never bothered to meet in court before, that women lies when motivated by envy. Gene was a bit cowed a bit by the harsh veracity of her detached policies in the past, and hurt by the memories of discrimination at Oxford. The Shah requested counsel from Minister Arkhesh, who explained that the scenario was credible and that there was a fair chance that Russia was behind the Sepoy. He advised the Shah to stay the execution and investigate the allegations.

The Shah was troubled, indecisive. He breathed heavily and silently held back many sentences. He finally ordered Deptir to be arrested and the execution to be stayed. He offered accommodation to Gene and Nathan and took his leave.

Gene realized that the traumatic last few hours had lead to the temporary reprieve for the English expatriates.

Allahabad, March 17th 1857

The mopping up in the street of Allahabad was a sad affair as the lancers were rounding up civilians that were suspected of collaboration with the mutineers. Cresford saw in this opportunity a golden occasion to shine as a political envoy. He ordered the lancers to remain in the city for the time being. Devasheesh argued against the plan and was rebuked by Cresford. The lancers were neutral on the order. Devasheesh eventually convinced Cresford that there would be more room for career advancement in Delhi as it was the epicenter of the mutiny. They left on the worker’s train up the river.

During this time, Devasheesh cultivated the friendship of the lancers. His battlefield cool, his flair and glorious past as a soldier in the Punjabi army earned him the respect of the men. Furthermore, he and the lancer’s commander hit it off to a good friendship. They attempted to scrounge more explosives from the stations on the way, but all supplies had already been cleaned by unknown parties.

The last day, the train could proceed no longer. The track had made it as close as 20 km from Delhi. The workers and company foremen were nowhere to be found. The lancers, Cresford and Devasheesh completed the journey by road. They were 30 lancers, about 40 horses and a small field gun in tow. At no point during the day did they encounter the Shah’s troops. By the end of the day, they were in sight of Delhi, unmolested.

Interrogating people along the way, they found out that there was to be a mass execution on the following day at hig noon. Time was running out.

Delhi, March 19th 1857, after dark.

Devasheesh left the camp and entered Delhi in the last light of the 19th. His disguise as a local had been believable enough to go through the gate without a search. He had left his Jezail with Lt. Elwood, however. He searched the most likely spots where Gubdan may have been waiting for him. Much later in the evening, he made it to England House and sneaked in the shadows to observe the activity there. He found the place mostly empty, except for a nervous european pacing around the kitchen nervously, a rifle in hand. As he left to go to Rafi’s house, Gubdan intercepted and took him in the safe row house across the main street.

Gubdan explained how he found Delhi upon his return and how he and his motley crew began monitoring the Russian activity in England House. The exchanged news ans they entered the rowhouse. In there, there was Maritje having a meal with the Punjabis.

Three days in Delhi

Maritje‘s ankle was sore and bruised. She couldn’t walk on it very well, but it was getting better and wouldn’t need immobilization. She befriended Har Moh, a dashing young Sikh who was working for the EITC in Peshawar. The 19th, Reiko was smuggled out of Delhi to meet with her brother Sojiro while Maritje decided to stay in the city to document and get the story right. Her instinct as journalist had kicked in: if the execution was to happen tomorrow, she would be the only western european left to tell the tale.

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When Devasheesh entered the rowhouse, Maritje was examining the loot from the raid on England House on the night of their arrival. After the death of one of the pursuer, the punjabis returned and swiped a strange device from a crate. The device was wrapped in a parchment and a thick layer of machine grease. Gubdan identified the bottom part as a component of a small steam engine. The upper part was of an unusual, almost ridiculous design. The metal was also unknown, Maritje could think of someone in England who could identify the metal, but no such person was known to her in Delhi.

Devahseesh and Maritje told their own stories about airship encounters. They concluded that the Russians were probably moving through the air all over British India using a device like what was on the table. Maritje resolved to find out as much as possible tomorrow amidst the drama of the public execution.

Delhi, Morning of March 20th 1857

Maritje left the rowhouse with Har, disguised as local woman. Her costume wasn’t all that convincing because of her blue eyes, plump cheeks and a skin unevenly stained with walnut juice. She headed for Dati square where she found a stockade with 6 nooses. She noted that it was unusual that such as small installation would be used to execute a hundred expatriates. Har pointed out that the Shah most likely had ordered firing squad do do the bulk of the work quickly. Maritje notices some of the mutinous sepoys loitering around the square. She also saw Damian (a pseudonym for a known Russian spy) briefly converse with some of them. She kept hidden in plain sight in the crowd. Shortly, the guards started to take down the stockade. Har found out that the execution had been stayed and wouldn’t take place on this day. Maritje started roving along the perimeter of the Red fort in hope to find someone that would have more information on the fate of the English prisoners.

Meanwhile, Gubdan and Devasheesh inspected the city walls and gates in hope to find a way to smuggle the lancers in. The task was frankly a desperate one . Only much later, as Devasheesh was about to leave the city to meet with the Lancers across the valley, he spotted four dots in the sky. They were coming in fast.

Invasion

Gene soaked in her tub for the best of the morning. The water had cooled down and the bath was pleasant. She couldn’t wash the feeling of blood on her skin. In another suite, Nathan was treated for a skull fracture. The noise of dozens of worried voices un Urdu drew her out of the tub and into simple clothes. As she walked into an inner garden of the fort, she saw overhead four large airships descending over Delhi. One of them disappeared under the cityscape to the South. The other three circled the Red fort. One of them trained a heavy cannon from a turret at it’s prow. The two others dropped in altitude very quickly and something like 100 soldiers were preparing to debark. The other airship opened fire. In a thunderous roar, the walls of the main house in the fort crumbed like a pile of pebbles.

Gene noticed the coat-of-arm of the Tsar Alexander II’s navy flying proudly over the flagship.

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Flight. fight?

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