The Last Train From Haserabad.
By Dave Turner.
The Second ‘Wild Colonial Slayer’ story.
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or ‘North West Frontier’. I write these stories for fun not profit.
Crossover: BtVS with the 1959 classic film ‘North West Frontier’.
Spelling and Grammar; Written in glorious English-English. English idioms are used throughout this fic.
Timeline: 1908 Buffyverse.
Words: Five Chapters of circa 3000 words.
Warnings: Some violence.
Summary: The Wild Colonial Slayer (Polly) gets caught up in a Native rebellion on the NW Frontier of India.
Thanks: Many thanks to Rachael who betaered this and checked the Australianisms for me.
The Last Train From Haserabad.
By Dave Turner.
“It’s easy for you to mock us. We’re used to that. Half the world mocks us--and half the world is only civilised because we have made it so.”
Haserabad, North West Frontier Province, British India 1908.
“Mrs Carter-Browne,” called the male and very English voice from behind her.
Polly stood on one of the balconies of the Governor’s Residence and looked out over the refugee crowded town of Haserabad. The streets were thronged with panicking people who, having just escaped the fighting outside, found themselves packed between the white and brown flat roofed houses of the old Indian town. Polly was relieved to see troops and police began to work their way through the crowds and start to restore order.
Letting her eyes stray from the town to the surrounding country; Polly immediately started to feel homesick for her native Australia. Haserabad was built on a small undulating plain surrounded by hills and mountains. The scenery was a uniform sun bleached khaki colour the monotony of which was only broken by sage coloured scrub bushes that dotted the plain and surrounding hillsides. Above it all was a sun that beat down from a clear blue sky and baked the countryside, rebels, soldiers and civilians without mercy.
The local Moslem Princes who had until recently fought against each other had now banded together to oust the ruling Hindu Prince. The Rajah fearing for the life of his six year old son, Prince Kishan, had asked the British authorities for their help. The provincial Governor, Sir John Wyndham, had dispatched a small force of Sepoys under a British officer to snatch the prince from under the noises of the rebels. In this they had been successful and had brought the young Prince back to the supposed safety of Haserabad. Unfortunately the town was now under siege by those self same rebel Princes determined to massacre the mostly Hindu population and kill the child Prince. Obviously anyone with a white skin could expect little mercy from the rebels.
“Mrs Carter-Browne!” came the voice again, this time she felt a hand take her by the elbow and try to lead her away from her exposed position.
Polly realising that the man was talking to her, being only six weeks married it still felt odd to be called ‘Mrs Carter-Browne’. She turned to see a British officer, one of the Governor’s aides, standing next to her with a concerned expression on his face.
“Mrs Carter-Browne,” said the officer for a third time, “please come in…it wouldn’t do for you to be hit by a stray bullet.”
Polly could hear the pop-popping of rifle fire from the troops on the walls as they repulsed another rush made on the town by the rebels. At least she hoped they were being repulsed. Polly smiled at the young man.
“No worries mate!” she replied, “I’ll be right.”
The officer did a quick double take at this obviously well-to-do young woman before trying to lead her away from the balcony and back into the safety of the Residence proper. He might as well have been trying to move an elephant. After all he was just a young Staff Officer; she was Polly the Vampire Slayer.
Polly Doolan, as she then was, had become The Slayer when she was almost seventeen. Within a few weeks her Watcher, Henry Carter-Browne, gentleman adventurer and member of the Watchers Council had turned up at her family’s Sheep Station and explained about what Polly being a Slayer entailed.
After a tearful farewell from her family Henry and Polly had embarked on many adventures tracking down and destroying demons and vampires in Australia’s towns and cities. However, it was on a trip into the Outback that the second great change in Polly’s life occurred. After a fruitless search for the fabled Bunyip, the two had been set upon by three Vampire Bushrangers.
In the ensuing fight both Polly and Henry had been shot, but not before Polly had ‘dusted’ two of the Vampires. Henry had been saved from an untimely death by his silver cigarette case. Polly, unfortunately, had been mortally wounded and had in fact died. In his rage at having his two companions killed, the surviving Vampire had kicked Polly in the ribs and inadvertently started her breathing again. Henry had only discovered this after he had dispatched this last Vampire.
Over the next two or three weeks Henry had tenderly nursed Polly back to health. He had telegraphed the Council only to find that they already knew of Polly’s ‘death’ and that his services as a Watcher were no longer required; and would he please send a full account of the deceased Slayer’s activities at his earliest convenience.
Henry had written an exciting and mostly truthful account of Polly’s last days and dispatched it to London on a slow steamer while he and Polly took ship for a tour of Japan and the Far East. Although Polly was no longer ‘the’ slayer she was still ‘a’ slayer and was still drawn to evil and had evil drawn to her. This was why they had ended up in Haserabad. There was a great dark presence hanging over the place and Henry was of the opinion that it was this ‘presence’ that was behind the present unrest.
The young officer gave up trying to move Polly by main force and like any good product of Sandhurst Military Academy changed tactics. Obviously Australian women were stronger than they looked.
“Please Ma’am,” he pleaded, “your husband will skin me alive if I don’t get you inside.”
Polly listened while a shell from a field gun whistled over the walls and landed in the market square below. Next she heard the answering fire from the garrison’s ‘Screw Guns’. After a moments thought she believed the young officer (who was actually older than she was) might have a point. She might be a slayer and possessed of superhuman abilities, but it didn’t make her proof against artillery fire. She turned from the balcony and headed towards the inside of the Residency. The young Staff Officer followed with an audible sigh of relief.
“Where is my husband, by the way?” asked Polly using her ‘ladylike’ voice, her earlier slip into the Australian vernacular would have made Henry wince.
Henry had been trying to turn Polly into something approaching a Lady since before she had stopped being ‘the’ slayer. He had not really had much luck; this was due to Polly’s natural stubborn streak and Henry not fully having his heart in the task, he loved her as she was. But, she tried to speak properly when they had ‘company’ or when they were in the presence of the rich and powerful, so as not to show up poor Henry.
“I believe he’s with Sir John in the Governor’s office.”
“Which is which way?” Polly asked, the officer pointed.
Polly started to head towards the Governor’s Office.
“I say!” cried the aide as he started after her, “you can’t…”
Polly didn’t hear what she could not do as she was already out of normal human earshot.
Polly made her way down the wide staircase into the main reception area. The splendour of the room was at odds with the bustle of activity taking place there. Messengers in khaki uniforms rushed here and there. She looked into one of the function rooms to see a ‘Dressing Station’ had been set up there. Wounded Sepoys were being carried in on stretchers and treated by an army doctor and his staff. Polly caught a glimpse of Lady Wyndham as she rushed about organising the Residency servants and helping to care for the wounded. Polly turned away from the scene and walked towards the Governor’s office; she opened the door and burst in.
“Penelope!” cried Henry in surprise.
“Mrs Carter-Browne,” added the Governor, he looked slightly amused by Polly’s sudden appearance.
Walking over to her husband Polly took his arm she looked up into his face and frowned. He had taken to calling her Penelope (which was not her name; she had been born ‘Polly’) since they had started to move in more refined circles. Henry looked down at his wife and smiled a croaked smile at her ‘annoyed look’.
Henry Carter-Browne was a couple of inches over six feet tall and not to put too fine a point on it, thin. He also suffered from the sun as his fair hair and complexion would attest. He had a long, almost horse like, face with piercing ice blue eyes that seemed to be able to see into your very soul.
Polly on the other hand was just a little over five foot tall, auburn haired, and a darker complexion than her husband thanks to some Spanish blood somewhere in her Irish ancestry. Her face was heart shaped with big brown eyes. She possessed what was called, in polite circles, a ‘well rounded’ figure; Polly just said she had big ‘tits’ and joked about not having seen her feet since she was twelve. But not while she was in polite company…well only the once and that was because she was not used to drinking wine.
“It seems my dear,” said Henry deliberately not calling her ‘Penelope’, “that the Governor insists that we leave the city.”
“NO FEE-AH!” shrieked Polly in surprise before she remembered he was supposed to be trying to be refined. “But we can’t,” she continued in a slightly less raucous tone of voice, “the last train left hours ago and the towns surrounded by rebels.” She looked the Governor in the eye, “I can’t believe you’d throw us out the gate to be killed by the ‘Fuzzies’! I mean what would the papers say?” Polly smiled at the Governor to show she didn’t really think he would throw them to the rebels.
She glanced at her husband who picked up on what she was really worried about. So far they had failed to find the malignant presence that cast it’s shadow over the entire province. No doubt if it succeeded here it would cause the rebel Princes to fall out and start fighting amongst themselves, and then who knew how far it would spread it’s evil before it was finally defeated?
“I’m sorry Mrs Carter-Browne,” continued the Governor choosing to ignore Polly’s earlier outburst, “but I insist, and anyway we have found another train and I’m sending a small group of the most important people to safety in Kalapur you’ll be leaving at dawn tomorrow morning.”
“But we can’t!” exclaimed Polly, the Governor raised a questioning eyebrow as if to ask why not, “We’re not packed!” replied Polly as if that put an end to any discussion of them leaving.
Polly looked at her husband for support; he just shrugged and said nothing.
“That’s not a problem,” replied the Governor with a grin, “I’ve sent some servants to your hotel to pack your things, you’ll be spending the night here at the Residency.”
Polly looked at Henry with more than a little panic in her eyes, ‘the weapons’ they seemed to say. As any good slayer does Polly owned a collection of weapons that would make the average assassin jealous, not the sort of thing that a refined lady would keep in her drawers along with her under garments! Plus there were all Henry’s books and magic supplies; it didn’t matter about his weapons people expected ‘adventurers’ like Henry to be armed to the teeth.
“I’ll have one of my staff show you to your room.” continued Sir John either ignoring Polly’s look of panic or not seeing it, “then if you’d come to my office at seven o’clock this evening, Captain Scott who’ll be leading this little expedition will be there to explain his plan of campaign.” Sir John looked from Henry to Polly, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a town to defend.”
Just then the ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ of a burst of Maxim fire split the late afternoon air as the rebels launched yet another attack on the town.
“What are we going to do?” asked Polly after she and Henry had been shown to their room in the Residency.
Henry looked around at their luggage which lay all around them in an untidy pile.
“Blowed if I know Poll,” he sighed.
“I think we better start to pack a few things for the journey,” Henry started to sort through their things; “I don’t think we’ll be allowed to take everything.” He opened a case and pulled out a hunting rifle, “I think a change of clothes and your favourite weapons will be enough.”
“But what about the whatever it is?” demanded Polly stuffing a clean blouse and underwear into a carpet bag, “We can’t just leave it here to cause mayhem and death.”
“With luck,” Henry fed cartridges into his rifle, “the garrison will hold out until the relief force gets here, we may only be gone a day or two, a week at most.”
“If that’s the case,” Polly paused in her packing, “what’s the point of us going in the first place?”
“The point,” Henry went over and embraced his young wife, “is that if we don’t go the Governor will be really annoyed and might even throw us in jail!”
“He wouldn’t dare,” sulked Polly resting her head on Henry’s chest.
“Yes he would!” replied Henry, “He’s the nearest thing to God in these parts, he can do very much as he wishes.”
“And what do think you’re doing?” Polly felt Henry’s hand on her breast.
“Well,” Henry bent down to kiss Polly on her lips as he slowly steered her towards the bed, “I thought we could pass the time in a more enjoyable way until we have to see this Captain Scott.”
Polly felt the bed bump into the back of her legs; she gave a cry of surprise a she fell backwards onto the bed with Henry landing beside her.
“That was lucky!” Polly gasped between kisses.
“What’s that?” Henry started to unbuttoned her blouse.
“Oh! That there just happened to be a bed here to break our fall,” she giggled as she pulled at Henry’s jacket.
“Yes,” replied Henry between kissing Polly’s breasts, “it’s almost like I planned it.”
“Cad!” giggled Polly again.
Polly and Henry made it to Sir John’s office just after seven o’clock. Polly looked around at the room and wondered again how the British seemed to be able to transport a piece of England to almost anywhere in the world. To be honest it was all still a bit new to her, but Henry had assured her that this sort of thing was not unusual.
There were about a dozen people in the room. There was Sir John and Brigadier Ames, the garrison commander, the man standing next to a black board in front of a small group of civilians must be Captain Scott thought Polly. He looked competent enough and she supposed that Sir John wouldn’t have put him in charge if he didn’t think he was the man for the job.
The civilians included Lady Wyndham, the Governor’s wife, a minor British bureaucrat Polly didn’t know. Then there was Mr. Peters, a dark haired tall man almost as tall as Henry, Polly knew he was an arms dealer who may very well have sold the weapons being used by the rebels. Lastly there was a strikingly handsome woman in her early thirties Polly guessed; she was taller than Polly, slim and with fairish hair. When she spoke she had a slight American accent, her name was Mrs Wyatt and she was governess to the young Indian Prince.
Captain Scott stood next to the blackboard exuding typical British calm and military competence. Polly had made a study of the British military during the long sea voyages she and Henry had taken. She had discovered that the British were not a particularly warlike people. But, they were quite convinced of their own superiority, and this coupled to an ability to ‘muddle through’ made them almost unbeatable.
Captain Scott explained his plan to get them safely to Kalapur. He had found an old ‘tank engine’ plus a coach and a truck to carry extra coal.
“Now the rebels have taken the Railway Gate,” said Scott in what they would soon recognise as his usual clipped manner, “which is going to make our leaving the city a little difficult.” Scott drew two lines across the blackboard and a representation of a railway line between them.
“As you can see I’m not much of an artist,” he joked, “what we’ll do is start out at first light and smash though the outer gate, hopefully before the rebels realise anything is happening.”
Polly winced at the ‘hopefully’, Henry didn’t seem to be bothered.
“Now ‘Victoria’,” continued Scott referring to he engine, or so Polly hoped, “is a fine old engine but she’s damn noisy, so we’re going free wheel down the slight incline between the two gates. By the time we get to the outer gate we should be going fast enough to break right through.”
“Should?” said Polly out loud before she even realised she had opened her mouth.
Scott looked at her and smiled encouragingly at her.
“Don’t worry Mrs Carter-Browne I’m sure we’ll be alright,” he said just as another man burst into the room.
Polly’s ‘Spider Sense’ as she had called it after it had warned her of an attack by a Spider Demon back in Australia, screamed at her as the man walked into the middle of the room and looked around. Polly squeezed Henry’s hand; Henry had to stifle a cry of pain as his wife almost broke every bone in his hand.
“Mr Van Layden!” cried one of Brigadier Ames’ aides as he tried to intercept the interloper.
Van Layden walked over to the blackboard dodging the aide’s attempt to stop him, and studied the drawing for a minute. It was all Polly could do to prevent herself from jumping up and ripping the head off the ‘man’ there and then. She felt Henry rest a restraining hand on her shoulder.
Polly guessed that Van Layden was in his late thirties, he wore a rumpled light grey linen suit, a leather bound note book protruded from one pocket and a newspaper from the other. He was no more than of average height, with almost black hair under his battered Fedora hat. He studied the drawing with dark, piercing intelligent eyes.
“I see,” he spoke in unaccented and well spoken English, “you’ve found another train from somewhere and you’re planning to send these good people out of the city to safety…I wonder why?”
He turned to look at a young Indian boy who played quietly at the other end of the room.
“Ah-ha!” he exclaimed.
Polly had another almost overwhelming urge to ram a dagger into the man’s heart.
“Prince Kishan!” continued Van Layden.
“Captain Scott,” ordered the Brigadier, “throw that man out!”
Scott moved to grab hold of Van Layden but some how he seemed to avoid the officer.
“That would be very foolish Sir John,” said Van Layden nastily, “I wonder what would happen if all those refugees out there were to find out there was another train leaving Haserabad?”
“What do you want Van Layden?” asked Sir John after a moment’s hesitation.
“A seat on your train Sir John,” replied Van Layden greasily, “after all you’ll need someone to chronicle the exploits of your brave attempt to save the Prince.”
“Only if you wish to read lies and misinformation, Mr Van Layden,” announced Lady Wyndham haughtily from across the room.
Van Layden cast the young Prince a glance so full of venom and hatred that it laid open Van Layden’s demonic nature so plainly that Polly had to stifle a cry of alarm.
“Mrs Carter-Browne, are you feeling unwell?” asked Captain Scott.
“Strewth! Umm, yes…I’m sorry,” gasped Polly, she turned to Henry, “I think I need some fresh air.”
“Well may I suggest that we finish now and meet at five o’clock tomorrow morning in the shunting yard?” Captain Scott was still watching Van Layden closely.
Henry and Polly stood outside in the late evening cool.
“So,” began Henry kneading his hand, “I take it that’s the one we’re looking for?
“Bloody right!” exclaimed Polly belligerently, “Do you think Sir John would mind if I killed him now?”
“I don’t think he’d mind as much as have to take notice, my dear,” replied Henry trying to calm his wife.
“Strewth!” spat Polly.
“Yes I know it’s a pain,” agreed Henry as they walked through the Residency garden, “but Van Layden and that paper he writes for are a thorn in the side of the Government here, and if he was to turn up dead people might talk.”
“Yes…yes I know,” admitted Polly, “it’s just so frustrating.”
“Well at least we can catch the train tomorrow with a clear conscious,” pointed out Henry as he patted Polly’s hand where it rested in the crock of his arm. “I’m sure you’ll find an opportunity to push him under the engine or something.”
“I’m sure I will.” Polly was already planning Van Layden’s demise. “How’s your hand?” She asked lifting Henry’s slightly crushed hand to her lips and kissing it.
“I’ll live,” replied Henry stoically, “really it was no worse than being hit by a cricket ball.”
“Nonsense!” Polly examined the injured hand, “It’s obvious you need rest. Come on,” Polly started to drag Henry back towards the Residency, “let’s get you to bed where I can make it up to you!”