The Lost Diaries - Book Two
Sarawak Sojourn - service in the Brooke Raj, being volume 2 of Captain Arjun Khan's diaries.
CHAPTER FOUR - NUMBER TWO OX
But Captain Cavor and Mr. Korzeniowski had miraculously survived the explosion and evaded the pirates, and managed to gain the shore of an islet, from where they saw me being taken into the submersible. This stretch of waters being a busy waterway, it was not long before a Chinese junk came by and they were able to attract the attention of the crew, and be rescued.
Once back in Kuching, Captain Cavor and Major Chard wasted little time in raising a small force to rescue me and punish the pirates for their crimes.
In planning the rescue attempt, Captain Cavor determined that a good deal of heavy firepower would be needed. While the Gardner gun would go a long way towards remedying that lack, something more was needed. As it so happened, the Captain took a short cut on his way through Kuching town, and chanced upon Mr Wong's Amazing Emporium of Chinese Oddities, Trinkets, and Genereal Provisions (Incorporating Laundry). Having determined quickly that he did not require laundry, the owner, one Mr Wong Ah Soo, ushered Captain Cavor to the back room, where an ancient Chinese Rocket Cart lay amongst the dusty piles of stuff. Given that the contraption looked rather unreliable, Mr Wong endeavoured to reassure Captain Cavor that it would be "just the thing" for any big game hunting expedition (the excuse Captain Cavor had given) and, as a gesture of his confidence, offered the services of Number Two Ox, his second son, to both carry and operate the infernal engine.
Captain Cavor surmised correctly that the likeliest hiding place of the pirates would be on one of the islands which are called the Natunas chain, and that the submersible would have to be powered by steam power. Approaching at night in a sloop, he saw the plume of smoke which told him exactly which island the pirates had their base on.
After a careful reconnaissance, Major Chard and Captain Cavor found the pirate camp, and proceeded to plan a daring night attack on the pirates.
The first I knew of the raid was when I was roused from my sleep by the loud squealing of a wild boar. I was afterwards told by Mr. Korzeniowski that a marine must have disturbed the sleep of the beast, which attacked and gored the poor fellow for his inconsideration. Mr. Korzeniowski dispatched the animal promptly with his bayonet, but the alarm was raised and the Timorese guards quickly turned out in full force.
Dr Doomeira ordered the men to form before the hut and hold off the attackers, while he and his small party of bodyguards purposed to make good their escape under the cover of darkness, all the while holding me at gun point.
Presently Number Two Ox fired off the first salvo from his rack of rockets, one of which landed near us and killed one of Dr Doomeira’s guards instantly. Another landed upon the thatched roof of the hut which we just left, and promptly set it ablaze. At this point I thought it safer to follow my captors away from the battlefield, as my rescuers seemed to be the greater danger to my health!
The account of the battle afterwards was related to me by the others.
Major Chard’s party, which accompanied the Gardner gun, was set upon by a steam-powered mechanical mason. The brave marines managed to kill the pilot of the terrible machine with their well-aimed fire, but even afterwards it continued on its destruction and slew one of the crew with its rotating saw before grinding to a halt.
Closer to the hut, the Timorese have rallied and formed a line of battle, and Captain Cavor judged that it would be a hard fight dislodging them. But the second volley from Mr Wong Ah Soo’s rockets fell squarely amongst them, causing the remainder to rout.
Encouraged, Captain Cavor led a charge upon the second steam-mason. But the machine’s armour was proof against the men’s weapons, who only managed to break a steel plate off the body, and Captain Cavor was himself grievously wounded by the machine. Number Two Ox, seeing his captain hurt, was roused to fury. Seizing the last rocket from the rack, he vaulted over the offending machine and lodged the rocket in the chink in its armour. The resultant explosion destroyed the machine, and afterwards it was short work for the men to round up the few remaining Timorese.
Leaving the Gardner gun crew to tend to Captain Cavor and the other wounded, Major Chard and Mr. Korzeniowski set off on pursuit.
. . .