As Above, So Below

Playlist: From Out of Nowhere - Faith No More

Four Miles North of Qena, Egypt, 08:45 30th June 1940

As the engines pinged and ticked towards coolness, Birapeer reached for the radio and thumbed the transmit button. "Qena base, Qena Base, this is AJ-Y, repeast AJ-Y, over." There was a pause and then a voice came back, "AJ-Y, this is Qena Base here, hearing you loud and clear. Do you have a problem, we can see smoke and was that gunfire we heard? Over." Birapeer snorted. "Yes, something of a problem, you could say that. Send a truck please -" he broke off as his earphones filled with static and a yell from Anné rang around the cockpit.

German Soldiers Step through a Portal

Fifty yards from the plane, just off the starboard quarter, another orange glowing disc had appeared from nowhere. This one, though was level with the ground, and as Anné and Joe watched, human figures began to appear through it, sprinting towards them. There seemed to be a couple of dozen of them or so, but as they appeared the faint sound of horrified screaming, mixed with wild yells and manic laughter, drifted over to the plane. A number of the running men broke their stride as they passed the portal; some crumpled to the ground, twitching, or fell to their knees; several simply turned and fled back through the portal. Finally, around half the original number emerged fully and began to fan out, K.98 rifles in their hands, as the last three figures emerged.

Two of these were awfully familiar - the same Nachtwölfe Stalkers that the agents had last seen in Italy - but the one at the back was a new development, a normal-sized man hefting two large metal discs mounted on handles. The handles, the plates and the belt pack they were connected to all radiated an all-too-familiar blue glow.

Nachtwölfe Stalker

Recognizing the most immediate threat, Anné hefted the Boys rifle and put a shot into one of the Stalkers. The heavy bullet crashed through the half-human thing's armour, ripping into its' shoulder with a fat spark of blue light, but the Stalker appeared not to notice. She dropped the anti-tank gun and reverted to l'Etranger.

Cyril, on the other side of the plane, couldn't get a shot at any of the Germans, so opened the door and jumped out. He'd misremembered the distance to the ground from the cockpit, and fell heavily with a pained gasp, ending up flat on his back looking up at the ladder he should have extended first.

Keeper Note: Ric couldn't make it this week, so it seemed entirely reasonable that Marcus might have a panic attack, given his current minimal SAN.

Birapeer, knowing that heavy weapons were going to be needed, punched out of his safety belts and dived back into the body of the plane, tearing open kit-bags in search of longarms. As he did, he noticed Marcus, still strapped into his seat facing the great tear where the door had used to be and clutching two empty handguns, his eyes wide with panic and shock and his breathing short and shallow. The Sikh yelled at him but Marcus didn't move; it had all been too much for the Professor.

Rifle fire broke out from the advancing Wehrmacht soldiers, and bullets began to tear through the plane's fuselage. Though several came close to the people within, most of them were not visible to the soldiers and nobody was hit. The Stalkers, however, levelled their automatic rifles at the plane's engines. The deafening hammer of the oversized assault rifles overwhelmed all other sound for a moment, with the exception of several dozen 7.62mm rounds smashing through each of the plane's Merlin X engines. Even if it had been possible before, the plane now wasn't going anywhere.

Joe had been rotating his turret towards the attackers, and now lined the two Stalkers up in his sights and squeezed the trigger. The .303 machine gun roared and a line of tracer fire walked across between the two giant Nazi monsters. Each in turn recieved a heavy concentration of fire and - rather to Joe's surprise - both went down immediately.

Jimmy Wispa - possibly the first PC I've evern known take photographs in combat.

Behind the pilots, Jimmy Wispa hurried down the plane, crouching low as bullets ripped past him, stared at the oblivious Marcus for a moment, then scrambled out of the gaping hole opposite the professor and onto the wing. He slid down it and dropped to the ground, crouching to see under the wing. Unarmed, he uncapped his camera and started taking pictures.

Birapeer scrambled back into the cockpit, throwing a Lee-Enfield to Francoise as he clipped a magazine onto his Bren gun. Anné had already backed from the window to avoid presenting a target as she worked the bolt of her rifle, and Birapeer took her place, raking the oncoming soldiers and dropping several of them in one burst. Her rifle readied, Anné followed Cyril out of the plane rather more adroitly, landing upright but unfortunately on top of the parapsychologist. She threw herself against the front oleo leg and took cover behind it.

Cyril had unslung the Italian SMG he'd grabbed and opened fire from the prone position, but he was still dazed after his fall and his shots went wide. He lurched to his feet, reaching for a grenade instead. Francoise levelled her rifle out of the window, and wounded a German as he worked his rifle bolt.

The German soldiers were still working their bolts but the officer leading them levelled his Luger and fired at Birapeer. He failed to hit the parts of the Sikh sticking out of the window, but the bullet cut through the skin of the aeroplane and nicked his arm.

Joe levelled his turret gun at the man with the glowing discs and opened up, then stared in disbelief as the whole burst was deflected by something invisible a couple of feet from his target and sent harmlessly off to the sides as the man calmly continued to advance. He flicked the weapon sideways as he realized this, and scored a consolation prize by riddling the officer, dropping him dying to the sand.

Cyril moved a couple of steps to his left to where he could see around the nose of the plane, and lobbed his grenade. Unfortunately, he over-egged it, and it sailed well past the remaining Germans to explode harmlessly in the sand. Between Francoise and Anné, another soldier went down.

Nachtwölfe Starkmeister

Then the German with the discs stopped walking, planted his feet firmly and lifted the plates to point at the plane. Twin crackling arc of actinic blue energy leaped from the discs to the plane and siezed hold of it. The man shifted his shoulders - and heaved the whole nine-ton aircraft off the ground and hurled it fifty feet away from him!

It was fortunate for Francoise, Birapeer, Marcus and Joe that they were all more or less in their seats - in some cases, strapped in - as they were flung around by the shattering impact. The fuselage buckled and pieces flew off in all directions.

At the sight of this, the last last German soldier hurled his rifle away and spun, fleeing back through the portal. Shaking his head to clear it, Birapeer emptied the rest of his Bren clip through it after him, angling it down from the window to try and hit anyone remaining on the other side. Whether or not this was the cause, the portal snapped shut and the orange glow vanished.

Joe was pretty sure he was wasting his time, but he directed another long burst from his now-jammed turret at the man who'd wielded such shocking power. Much to his surprise, the bullets went straight through him and he dropped without a sound.

The fighting ended; all that was left of the enemy was scattered bodies and equipment - and four soldiers, oblivious to the approaching Allied agents. One lay catatonic, twitching slightly; another knelt, chanting nonsense over and over in a tight voice and no language anyone recognized. A third had torn his own eyes out and was clawing at his face, still screaming with horror, while the last was repeatedly banging his already bloodied and smashed face against a rock. Joe and Anné gazed at them in pity, and rendered the only mercy they could; a single clean bullet to the back of each head.

The radio was working again, and Birapeer got back in touch with Qena base. The truck was already en route and he hung up the mike for the last time as the others unloaded their equipment and persauded Marcus to snap out of it and put his guns down.

Francoise had been busy; she had stripped several of the less mutilated German soldiers of their uniforms, ending up with several sets of mildly holed clothes and enough cloth to patch the holes. If they ever needed to outfit a few people as Nachtwölfe soldiers, they had the basics.

Captain Jenkins

Captain Jenkins had ridden out with the truck, and now stared around at the corpses - dressed in Northern European Wehrmacht uniforms, no less - with utter disbelief. "Where did all these chappies come from?" he asked. Birapeer grinned a darkly humorous grin at him. "Magic!" he said cheerfully. Jenkins laughed heartily, but trailed off as nobody seemed to be sharing the joke. "No, really?" he said. Birapeer looked directly at him. "You don't need to know," he said with finality. Jenkins sat back, shaking his head in bewilderment.

Qena - Cairo Line, Egyptian National Railways, 16:13 30th June 1940

After applying some influence to get a private carriage on the sparsely-filled tourist train, they boarded the train and settled in as it pulled out of the station. Everyone had cuts and bruises and Birapeer had a bullet graze, so there was a round of wound-dressing and general sorting-out. Marcus began to recover from his panic attack, and settled down to sleep.

As they relaxed, it came home to them that, against considerable odds, they had done it; they'd recovered the first piece of the Palladion, prevented the Nazis getting hold of it, and were on the way home. Despite this, they arranged to sleep in shifts of four - excluding Marcus who was not really up to it - and two awake, just in case. They'd carefully watched the other passengers boarding, and seen nothing out of the ordinary - the usual well-off civilian or high-ranking officer tourists, come for a day at the ruins to allieviate the boredom of a posting that seemed never likely to become part of the war.

Over the next hour, Joe had a couple of casual wanders up and down the train, unobtrusively getting a look at the passengers.

Qena - Cairo Line, Egyptian National Railways, 18:30 30th June 1940

It was Francoise and Birapeer's turn to watch when it happened; without any warning, the handle of the door leading to the next carriage towards the back of the train was rattled, and someone knocked softly. Francoise called quietly in French, enquiring what the caller wanted. The answer came back in Arabic. She looked up to see a sleepy Jimmy Wispa stepping up beside her, wakened by the sounds. "He's asking if he can come through to the toilet," he murmured. He called back in Arabic; "'Ana asif lkn, hadhih laysat almarahid." (My apologies, but this is not the toilets). There was another tap on the door.

Birapeer flicked the string retaining the blind off with his Bren's muzzle, and it smacked up into the top of the door, leaving their caller staring directly into the flared muzzle of the light machine gun from a range of a couple of inches. Their visitor was a passenger they vaguely remembered boarding the train, a typical example of a well-to-do Westernized Egyptian in European clothing. However, seen close up and spoken to directly, Jimmy began to suspect that he was no such thing; he looked as if he was a dark complected European artfully disguised to look like a local. Turning pale and stammering an apology, the man backed rapidly off and disappeared back into the next carriage.

Flicking the lock, Jimmy stepped through the door after him, Birapeer clicked the lock closed again and restored the blind, then settled back into his chair with the air of someone unlikely to open the door again should the young photojournalist come back.

Jimmy located his target, sitting further down the carriage than Joe remembered. Approaching him, Jimmy spoke politely to him in Arabic, though with a different accent to make it appear he was someone else. He apologized for the overeager approach to security shown by his colleauge, and invited the man back with him for refreshments. The man declined, refusing to make eye contact and conveying a distinct desire not to talk. Jimmy persisted, way past what was mannerly, and was beginning to attract disaproving looks from nearby passengers by the time he gave up. He wasn't sure, but he had the feeling that this man was less susceptible to his patter than most people. He returned to their carriage, into which Joe admitted him as Birapeer sat ignoring the knocking.

Central Station, Cairo, Egypt, 20:05 30th June 1940

As the group disembarked and summoned porters to collect their luggage, they surreptitiously watched the other passengers leaving. Mostly, they were completely normal; weary tourists heading home after a pleasant day's diversion. Their nocturnal visitor appeared in no hurry; he was roughly in the middle of the gaggle of passengers as he climbed from the train. However, unlike the others, he gave an impression of quiet alertness that did not quite fit with his persona.

As with any piece of infrastructure in the Empire at this point, there were soldiers on duty, and Joe stepped smartly up to a couple of squaddies and pulled his rank. "See that man over there? Reason to believe he may be an enemy agent. Arrest him, and take him to LtCol Mansuel at SIME, please." He scribbled on a piece of paper. "Here are orders to that effect," he added. He watched as the two soldiers converged with their target and halted him, talking quietly, before heading towards the exit, escorting him. Joe intercepted them; "Turn out his pockets," he said.

The usual personal effects of a gentleman of the man's apparent type appeared, along with a small notebook. Joe flipped this open, and skimmed through a series of notes of the agents' movements from the time they joined the train ... written in English. He handed this directly to the more intelligent-looking squaddie. "See Lt.Col Mansuel gets this directly," he said, saluted and walked back to the train.

Session Date: 31st July 2018