Adventurer Raymond Swift stars in......

Trail of the HMS Fortuna

A Far-Flung Epic in 9 Chapters!

by Andrea Tran
About the author

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Previously: Ray and the others travel deeper into the network of caves and come upon a mysterious chamber covered in cave drawings...including images that seem to depict a 20th Century airship, like the missing HMS Fortuna! But before they can ponder this, the sinister Dr. Belarski reappears and, with his powers of mental persuasion, send Ray and Capt. Fitzroy screaming to their knees...

Episode 9: The Fate of the Fortuna


  THE TORMENT SEEMED TO LAST for eternity, then the glow in Belarski’s eyes faded away. The two men collapsed on the ground, like marionettes discarded by a capricious puppeteer.

Ray and Fitzroy breathed heavily, and soon realized in horror that they had been paralyzed by the Hypnotist! The only parts of their bodies they could control were their eyes. Looking towards Annabelle, they saw her on the ground next to the Doctor. The panicked look in her eyes told them she could not move either.

‘That’s better, gentlemen, a much more civilized mode of interaction.’ The Doctor walked nonchalantly across the chamber, picking up Ray’s torchlight from the ground. ‘All this…gun pointing, violent brawling -- it really isn’t good for you. Frightfully common.’ He walked very close to the lying men, and put one foot over Ray’s face. He leaned down, shining the torch in Ray’s powerless eyes. ‘People can get hurt,’ he whispered mockingly. Then he chuckled, walking leisurely away past Annabelle, towards one of the chamber walls.

‘You really should revise your priorities in life, my friends. You were so intent admiring these… pretty pictures, that you missed the best part.’ He shone the torch around, illuminating a feature they had not spotted before. It looked like a large rectangular container of ancient stone, around eight feet long, and waist-high. A thick horizontal slab acted as a lid. On the slab was engraved a large version of the airship symbol.

Doctor Belarski leaned over the container, turned to look at his victims.

‘Ladies and Gentleman,’ he said in a mocking stage entertainer's voice ‘I give you… Professor Kramer’s Invention!’

Ray saw Belarski push the stone slab aside, causing it to fall heavily on the ground. The Doctor laughed triumphantly, shining the torch inside.

Then his laugh died abruptly in his throat. His eyes widened, terror replacing greed.

‘No! Noooooo!’ Belarski shouted, stepping away from the container.

It was too late. They watched in horror as Belarski’s figure was entirely covered by a myriad of crawling scorpions coming from the stone container! He fell on the ground, his arms frantically pushing scorpions away from his face, his ghastly screams muffled by hundreds of chitinous shells. They could see the poisonous tails stinging viciously, they could hear the clicking sounds of their pincers biting flesh.

Then, as Belarski’s movement and muffled cries ceased, Ray and the others could feel the power that held them paralyzed slowly vanishing. They gradually started to move their limbs, painfully. Their minds felt exhausted.

Suddenly Ray realized the scorpions were reacting to their movements, and had started to crawl towards the closest human being, Annabelle!

‘Stop moving!’ Ray shouted at her, shaking his head to clear his mind. Annabelle froze, moaning in fright. He struggled to concentrate. The mass of crawling scorpions was now gathering together like a deadly pool of living poison, moving towards the girl.

‘Fitzroy!’ Ray called. ‘Can you move?’ The Captain weakly assented.

‘I need your help,’ Ray whispered. ‘We need to reach that stone slab.’ He waited for a few moments, taking his breath.

‘Now!’ Ray shouted.

He and the Captain staggered to their feet, limping across the room as fast as their exhausted bodies would permit. Some of the scorpions reacted, scuttled towards them. The men reached the stone slab, struggled to move it. They let out cries of effort, then finally lifted it. A few scorpions were quickly gathering at their feet. Ray and Fitzroy ignored them, stepping instead closer to Annabelle. They dropped the heavy slab on the main heaving mass of crawling horrors! A hideous crunching sound was heard.

Most of the scorpions were crushed by the slab. Ray and Fitzroy finished the surviving dozen scuttling around their feet, by stomping on them with their leather boots.

When it was over, they fell exhausted next to Annabelle.

~~~

Doctor Belarski’s corpse lay horribly bloated by the scorpion’s poison, his flesh mangled by the myriad of pincer bites. Annabelle hid her face against Ray’s shoulder as they walked past it. Ray picked up the torch fallen next to the corpse, then they gathered silently around the open container.

He slowly directed the light inside.

A mummified body lay there, thousands of years old. The stone container was a sepulchre! The mummy’s rotting clothes were beyond recognition. The body had been buried in a solemn posture, holding with both hands a stone tablet on his chest.

On the tablet, words were hastily etched, some effaced by time, but most intelligible.

They held their breath in shock, realizing those ancient words were in modern English!

‘I entrust these words to stone
Hoping they will one day be read
Don’t have much time left. My injuries (…)
1937 HMS Fortuna transporting (...)ime Travel Device
Mutineers on board. Captured ship
I activated Device, to prevent (...) in enemy hands
Disaster ensued. Device never tested
airship travelled in time, but violent explosion (...)
Fortuna and Device destroyed by fire
Only survivor
Rescued by tribal (...) Look like Neanderthals
They call me Azewa Winiran
No way to know what year it is
Time trav(...) (…)nciple works
Secret dies with me.
May God protect my Annabelle.
Wilfred Kramer’

Annabelle burst into tears, pressing a hand hard on her mouth. Ray put his arm around her.

'Azewa Winiran...’ Fitzroy whispered. ‘"The blue-eyed man from the stars..." The men who built this sanctuary believed him a God...'

‘He was a God. A God of Science,’ Ray said softly, holding Annabelle tight.

They remained silent for a while.

Ray then looked at Captain Fitzroy, seeing his very own thoughts reflected in the officer’s eyes.

Their mission was over. They had found the incredible destiny of the HMS Fortuna.

EPILOGUE...

The Fairchild 71 was waiting on Camp Meridian’s airstrip.

Ray and Annabelle were ready. They turned to say goodbye to the group of military men who had gathered by the airstrip.

Colonel Halley stepped forward. ‘Mr. Swift, Miss Kramer, the Crown is in great debt to you both. Thanks to you, the tragic, extraordinary end of the Fortuna is no longer a mystery.’ He turned to Annabelle, his eyes sympathetic behind the gold-rimmed spectacles. ‘Your father was a hero, Miss Kramer. His sacrifice has very possibly saved the world.’ Annabelle lowered her eyes. Halley touched her hand gently. ‘The loss of knowledge Mankind is facing cannot compare to the loss of a father for a daughter. A very gifted daughter,’ he added, smiling.

Hands were shaken. Lieutenant Morel approached Ray, patted him on the arm. ‘Merci, monsieur Swift.’ Ray smiled at him, pointed at the bandage around the Frenchman’s neck. ‘No hard feelings, I hope, Lieutenant.’

Captain Fitzroy greeted the pair. ‘Jolly good to have met you both. We will be waiting you back at Camp Meridian, Miss Kramer.’ Annabelle nodded. ‘Thanks Captain, I will be back to study that… unusual site’.

The couple stepped on the small ramp by the Fairchild door. Then Ray noticed Irat by the side of the airstrip. The old Berber was waving at him. ‘Argaz, Hanamar!’ the man shouted, smiling. Ray and Annabelle waved back.

After the plane had lifted off, Annabelle turned to Ray. ‘What did Irat say to you, Ray?’ she asked.

Ray turned to look at her beautiful blue eyes, took her hand in his. ‘He said… Lucky Man,’ was his answer.

The End


Back to Episode 8: The Mysterious Chamber


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The Trail of the HMS Fortuna is copyright by Andrea Tran. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)