Beyond the Mountains of Madness : Bloody Starkers
by, 10th February 2012 at 09:12 AM (867 Views)
The next morning dawns, and James Ford opens his eyes to a pounding headache, and a closeup view of a gulls beak. The gull squarks in an offensively loud fashion, and flies off.
It appears he fell asleep in a chair on deck last night. Across from him are two feet sticking out from under a blanket. From the snoring sound, he identifies the steward, Adam Henning , who blearily wakes up and heads down to the kitchen.
Dr Dibden wakes up on a couch in the bar, having fallen asleep fully dressed, sitting between Fitzwilliam and Charlie Whitsun. The three rouse themselves, and view the scattered casualties of the party lying around them, most of whom are still in their outfits from the night before.
Romford is roused by what (at first) appears to be a furry motorcyle sitting next to his ear - but on second sight it turns out to be Mrs Chippy, who is waiting breakfast. After retrieving his shoes, he heads towards the kitchen to find some food for the cat. However, as he passes the refridgerator hold, he is struck by the smell of ammonia and food going off. Suddenly feeling very sober, he investigates and discovers that the pipes in the hold have broken. He runs off to find Moore.
Shortly thereafter, Moore, Starkweather, Ford, Dibden, Fitzwilliam and Romford stand in the hold, looking forlornly at the pallets of spoiled food.
Ford, an experienced engineer, takes a look at the copper pipes - they are pitted and eaten through. They could probably be repaired, but much of the food supplies are ruined. On closer inspection, he realises that the break is not due to natural rusting - someone has sabotaged the pipes with acid !
Starkweather and Captain Vrendenburgh discuss the problem. The Captain suggests returning to port, to Starkweathers consternation.
"We must turn back, sir !" objects Vrendenburgh
"No, Captain, we must not !"
"Mr Starkweather, we are four days out from Panama, and two weeks away from Australia. We cannot repair this machinery in the middle of the ocean - your remaing supplies will spoil, sir !"
Starkweather explodes. "We have lost too much time already. SHE is already several days ahead of us - we shall not wait another day. We press on !"
As Starkweather storms away, the watching Bert Pacqaure shakes his head.
"He's gone mad."
"He's bloody starkers !" adds in Niles.
"Bloody Starkers is about right." grunts Bert. "Ah well, we'd better get to work..."
The team discuss the sabotage, and decide to spending the next few days checking the other supplies and equipment in detail.
Romford is relieved to find the Miss Enderby appears to be fine. Fitzwilliam discovers that the pemmican (a specialised high calorie food used in many antarctic expeditions) currently being used to feed the sled dogs has been dusted with a white substance - which turns out to be strychnine.
This latest development causes the most concern. There's enough strychnine over each portion to poison any man or dog on the expedition - no minor matter. Fitzwilliam points out that the dogs are still alive, son this must have happened the previous night. It has to be someone currently on the boat.
Dibden rushes to find the dog handlers, and persuades them to hold off on feeding the dogs, as their food may have been poisoned. Enke Fiskarson goes to check on the animals, and returns reporting that fortunately they seem fine. The poisoning has been discovered just in time.
The pemmican blocks are examined one by one, and the ones which are safe are kept and the others dumped.
They realise that given there are over 70 people on board, they have a long list of suspects. The team go to find Harry , who had been taking photographs at the party. Developing the photos, they begin examining them to see who they can account for during the party.
Over the next couple of days, over 12 tons of food has to be thrown away, but the meals provided by the kitchens are sumptious. Then, as the last of the fresh food is used, the team get their first taste of pemmican....and their second...and their third... After a few days, the diet is beginning to get distinctly dull.
Ford chases down a list of those people with access to the various sabotage sites. It turns out that only four keys exist for the refridgerator hold - The First Officer (Turlow), the Duty Engineer (Pacquare), the Steward (Henning) and the Chef (Niles). Checking the lock suggests it hasn't been picked - so these would appear to be the main suspects. He determines to interview them all.
With Moore's permission, Romford and Fitzwilliam to work through checking the expedition gear, one item at a time, a painfully slow process given they have to rig lighting to help them with their search.
They discover that many of the oxygen tanks seem suspiciously light. The valves have been loosened and the affected tanks are now empty. Given these will be vital on the Antarctic plateau, they'll have to be replaced in Australia.
Meanwhile, Ford and Dibden are interviewing the suspects. The results are sadly inconclusive, given most of the suspects had official reasons to be near the refridgerator hold the previous day, and the confusion of the party made it difficult to keep track of individuals.
Back in the holds Romford and Fitzwilliam continue their checks. Romford finds a small parcel lodged between the fuel drums; a makeshift bomb made from the missing fuse-wire and blasting caps. They take it to Ford, who has experience with explosives from his mining career. His experienced eye shows that its not fully readied - someone would have to come back to finish setting it up......
Between this and the strychnine, its now quite clear someone is playing for keeps.....