Air and Sea

Playlist: Tentacles - Noisia

In the Air, between Northern Italy and Malta, 18th February 1941 21:13

Do26 on the water.

With the comforting thunder of the quadruple Junkers Jumo engines lulling the tensions of their undercover mission, the team began to relax a bit. Francoise, handing control over to Birapeer, experimented with the radio, trying to scan for German or British r/t. Nothing seemed to be happening, until Birapeer reached over and flipped a switch from Ausschalten to Anschalten. Valves glowed and a familiar crackle filled the earphones.

FW190 Night Fighter

Half an hour later, voices faded into shape and Joe and Birapeer judged them to be from a flight of German FW190 night fighters, out on patrol. Taking a careful guess as to their likely location, the Sikh - despite fighting the effects of his morphia shot - plotted a change of course, and Francoise swung the big seaplane gently onto a new heading. Slowly, the routine communications faded away as the fighters carried on out of radio range.

Seeing that Birapeer was in trouble, Cyril reached forward and called on the questionable but useful magic of healing, and watched as the Sikh's wounds closed over and healed - not entirely but to a great extent. Apparently, the magic made no differentiation between damage and self-inflicted 'injury', because the effects of the morphia were also largely purged, and what wounds were left began to hurt again. A clear head was worth the pain, however, and Birapeer nodded his thanks.

Apparently, the Do26 has a real fan base... you can actually get the gig shirt of the seaplane!

A couple of hours later, as Francoise was dozing in her seat, the radio came alive again, this time with fruity upper-class British voices, as a flight of Hurricanes came into range of their reception. Obviously, this was a conversation that would require careful handling... Jake joined Joe and Birapeer at the microphone.

Hurricane Night Fighter

The pilots were rightly suspicious as the three began to explain. Joe told them, not untruthfully, that this was a 'repatriation' flight returning an undercover team from a secret mission. Jake attempted to put some 'spin' on the situation, but this seemed to elevate the distrust of the pilots; he sat back again. Joe passed over some codenames and call signs for the pilots to relay to base for confirmation, and - after a deep breath - their own position and heading. A few minutes later, a flight of three Hurricanes slid very neatly into position either side and above/astern of their plane.

Charlie Leader gave them very strict instructions to carry on as planned to Malta, not to deviate from their course or do anything else inadvisable. Joe gave them a wave from the forward turret and very obviously came back out of it.

RAF Ta'Qali, British-Held Malta, 19th February 1941 02:05

Ta'Qali Airfield

Under the watchful eye of the Hurricanes of Charlie Flight, Francoise brought the beautiful gull-winged plane down towards the landing strip of the airbase on Malta. Constructed just before the outbreak of war, the airfield was situated on the bed of an ancient lake on the flat cultivated plain which stretched between Rabat and Valletta.

The flarepath was lit, and the weather was good although there was no moon. Flattening out, she angled the plane downwards, but tired eyes blinked at the wrong moment. Birapeer had a split second to register the runway rushing up at completely the wrong angle, and frantically grabbed the stick on his side of the cockpit, ramming the throttles forward again. Instead of going in nose-first for a disasterous dead-stop crash, the plane angled upwards as it touched down. For a moment it looked as if he'd saved them; and then the undercarriage collapsed.

Keeper Note: Poor Lizzie had a rotten evening with the dice this time. Between her and Aimo, three natural 00s in one landing.

A masive impact seemed to shake the plane apart, and everything disapeared in a blizzard of flying shards of metal and glass. The tail sheared off just behind the turrets, leaving a stunned Anné still strapped into her seat, attached to a piece of decking not much bigger than it, neatly upright on the grass as the rest of the plane tumbled away from her, one engine already on fire. Finally everything came to rest, and the team began to drag themselves out of the wreckage.

As they began to move, the wreck seemed to fill up with Tommies, rifles in hand and bayonets fixed, urging them firmly but not unkindly away from the mess and efficiently divesting them of their weapons. Most could walk, but Francoise had been cruelly bruised against the controls, and Charlie was hanging upside down in the wreckage of the starboard wing, dangerously close to the burning engine.

As a soldier removed his commando weapon, Joe waggled a hand. "I want that back, you know," he said sharply. "If the Officer says so," replied the soldier calmly. "... Sir," corrected Joe out of habit. The soldier grinned cheekily. "Mein Herr," he said, looking over Joe's Luftwaffe uniform. Behind him, Birapeer, lugging the Clypeus shield, flatly told the soldiers that anyone touching his blades was going to be looking for his kidneys. A standoff looked likely, but the Lieutenant in charge had evidently encountered Sikhs before - if not one in the uniform of an RAF pilot - and simply added two more soldiers to his guard. Separating the team into two groups, he sent the obviously injured off to the base hospital and escorted the rest to secure but reasonably comfortable quarters. Discovering these to have adequate beds, the team gratefully folded into them and sleep enveloped them.

RAF Ta'Qali, British-Held Malta, 19th February 1941 10:25

The next morning, the team found themselves in an office opposite a young Captain, the base Intelligence officer, who had been instructed to debrief them. Despite having passed their codenames as verification, the team didn't think this fresh-faced youth ready for the details of their experiences, and told him the very basics. Among other things, he was deeply confused about how some people had gone into the hospital freshly injured - in one case nearly dead from serious burns - and after a night's sleep looked as if they had been under medical care for a month. Again, the team refrained from any mention of magic.

A week later, they were loaded onto a cargo ship destined for England and - escorted by the Hunt II class Navy destroyer Blencathra - headed out to sea.

Yes, really, there was a cargo ship in WW2 called SS Lesbian. The real one was nicked off us by the Vichy French in 1940 and scuttled in 1941 off Beiruit, where you can now dive and look at her.

SS Lesbian, North Atlantic off Portugal, 5th March 1941 00:00

Shipboard Cricket!

The voyage had gone quite well, a highlight being an impromptu game of cricket between the Navy and Merchant crew and the team plus the dozen marines from the Blencathra stationed aboard and any other odd servicemen being shipped aboard. Despite puffing about "the senior service" the sailors had lost comprehensively, and the exercise had done everyone's convalescence a great deal of good. Not to anyone's great surprise, Charlie the Train Driver turned out to have played nearly to County level for Yorkshire in the past.

Several days later, Joe found himself leaning on the rail, enjoying a quiet pipe and chatting idly with Jake and Marcus. Their mellow moment was interrupted by a dull, resonant clang, as if something heavy had bit the hull. After a pause, it happened again, and again.

Marcus flicked his fingers in the now-familiar movement and cast the Voorish Sign, gazing around. Once again, the dark ocean filled him with deep unease and misgivings - but much more to his concern was an arcane glow, sickly and evil, that was rapidly approaching from directly below, close in to the side of the ship.

Quad MGs mounted on a ship

Joe was taking no chances; he raised the alarm for an attack. Klaxons sounded, and on both ships men raced to their battle stations. The two machineguns which had been added to the Lesbian were manned and officers raked the horizon with binoculars looking for trouble. Joe, Birapeer and the rest armed themselves with their heavier weaponry from where it had been packed for shipping. Minutes ticked by, as the sea peacefully washed against the hull, and gradually the ship's crew began to look at the "landlubbers" with suspicions that this had been a false alarm. Just as the officers were preparing to call off the alert, the clang was repeated, and then immediately followed by another and a quickening succession of them - and suddenly, huge tentacles erupted from the water on both sides of the ship, shooting into the air higher than the masts and curling inward with dreadful portent. Huge suckers lined the things, and the watchers shuddered as they realized that within the suckers, hard sharp horny blades moved back and forth, ready to savage anyone gripped.


Cries and screams of alarm arose from the crew and passengers and then gunfire, from all sides; it was a target-rich environment after all. Anné had brought up her Boys anti-tank rifle, and was the first to get a shot off. Perhaps to her surprise, the heavy round tore through the tentacle, leaving a ragged hole dripping with slime and ichor. Nearby, Birapeer opened up with his Bren, sawing a line of twenty rounds across a tentacle where it passed level with the rail. The bullets tore right through and the tentacle toppled inward and crashed onto the deck, extending right across to dangle off the other side. Birapeer twisted to avoid it but it caught him a glancing blow and sent him sprawling.

Glancing at the pistol he was carrying, Cyril turned his gaze upwards and caught sight of the green starboard running light above his head, currently unlit for blackout reasons. Leaping for the rigging, he began to scramble up towards it, fumbling for the lighter he carried.

Arghh! (click for appropriate sound effect)

Further down the deck, Marcus levelled his shotgun and blasted another tentacle, putting a big rent through it. Jake, next to him, used both barrels of his gun, severing it, and both were likewise knocked over and bloodied by the falling piece. It twitched and thrashed, the hideous suckers convulsing and their blades snicking hungrily as it died.

Joe and Charlie lined up targets with their Bren guns, and the tanker severed two tentacles before deftly stepping between the falling ends. Charlie, however, was rewarded only by a metallic clank as his Bren jammed. Next to him, Francoise, eyes wide with horror, crouched momentarily frozen in horror at the scene - not improved by an unfortunate crewman, siezed by a tentacle, being hauled off the deck into the air with a despairing scream before being whipped below the surface of the water,

With several tentacles severed, the team began to hope that they were making progress; but more seemed to emerge from the water to replace them all the time.

Feeling exposed, Anné dived for the superstructure, rolling through an open hatch just as a tentacle erupted past her through a nearby window. Reaching a different window, she leaned out and began to shoot at tentacles further away, hoping to be less likely to be attacked back from cover. Continuing the good work, Joe scythed two more arms with his automatic fire, Next to him, Charlie dropped his useless Bren and grabbed a Sten - not the world's most accurate weapon - and blazed away to no great effect. From prone, Marcus fired his last barrel and rolled frantically out of the way as a tentacle groped towards him.

Birapeer scrambled to his feet, coming up against the starboard rail, and something made him glance over the side. Blinking in shock, he stared. Instead of the water he expected, a vast face, the size of a car across, looked up at him, just clear of the water which washed across it from time to time. Huge green eyes filled with malice swivelled to him and locked onto his own. With a screamed oath in his own language, the Sikh swung his Bren up and began spraying .303 bullets down at it, finger clamped on the trigger until the drum was empty. The rounds ripped into the face, carving gashes in several places - and just at that moment the oil lamp from the riding light, trailing flame, dropped into the wound and smashed, splashing fire across the face.

HMS Blencathra

Whether it was the fire, or the hail of lead, or possibly the application of the flames to the flesh below the slimy skin, no-one was sure, but the thing seemed to flinch, and then it submerged, drawing all the tentacles - and one last unfortunate crewman - with it. Francoise and Jake were slashed by the edges of one as it whipped past them and suddenly, everything was still. Breathing hard, some covered in slime or their own vomit, the crew and passengers looked around; the seas were empty all around. Suddenly it dawned on someone; the sea was empty. Of the HMS Blencathra, and her one hundred and sixty-four crew, there remained only a scatter of floating wreckage. A half-dozen or so survivors drifted amongst it, men fortunate enough to have been on deck and to have been missed by the tentacles; most of them were catatonic or crazed.

With great disgust and care, the crew of the Lesbian levered the severed pieces of tentacles off the deck and into the sea, where they sank without a trace. As they helped, Cyril and Marcus both obtained samples, and the parapsychologist fetched his camera and took a sequence of photographs.

Clemens Park, England, 15th March 1941

Gathered once more, the team sat opposite Alec Towton and listened as he updated them on the situation. The experts working on the Palladion at the Park had tentaively assembled the four pieces so far obtained, and were beginning to understand how the Book of the Machine connected to the completed artifact. One piece remained - Viracocha's Mirror, reputed to be somewhere in Peru, where the Incas had worshipped the sun under the name of Viracocha.

Session Date: 7th January 2020