The Sea DevilsChapter 16
by Richard Messer
As if underscoring the Monkey King’s words a bestial bellow resounded upstairs.
“Oh, shit! Sue!” burst from the doe’s lips as she turned to sprint up the stairs.
[Don’t forget your weapon!]
The simian’s words had the tall femme spinning about to scoop up the pistol before continuing her mad dash up the detritus-strewn steps. Jade was sprinting down the corridor for the doorway when a figure came dashing in. Ming Xue nearly caromed off her friend as a gigantic hand was reaching through the door for the rodent femme. Hairy fingers made clutching motions at both of them.
Both women stood back enough to avoid those monstrous fingers, their own hands holding onto each other. Then the hand and arm were withdrawn to be replaced by a nightmare vision out of a twisted dream. A dark and hairy apish face was looking in on them, twisted sideways to offer one yellowish eye to stare in at them with bestial hatred. But it was a target too tempting to pass up. The tall Eurasian lepine made a stance and brought the pistol up with both hands. The hall reverberated with two booms from the Webley.
There came the scream of pain as the eye exploded into the corridor. The hideous face disappeared as the ogre ran away. The femmes shook their heads to clear the concussion from their ears. It was several minutes before their hearing began to recover.
“Did you learn anything from downstairs?” asked the rodent femme loudly, still shaking her head.
The rabbit doe finished reloading the pistol. “Yes, I did.” She spoke with a detached observation, then looked to her friend. “My dream came true.”
Ming Xue glanced at her employer and friend, slightly confused by what was said. Then she saw the look on Jade’s face and understood. In the briefest of words the lepine explained what had transpired between herself and the shades of her parents. The young rat woman said nothing other than to folded her hands, bow her head, and offered up a Chinese prayer for the dead. Jade followed suit.
When they had finished both femmes worked their way towards the door with caution. They sidestepped the jelly from the ogre’s eye when they reached the doorway. In the distance through the rain they heard a loud keening. Wu Hsing Jade laid a hand on her companion’s arm.
“Did you by chance see a door leading into the main compound from here?”
She spoke softly, for fear that that creature might overhear.
Ming Xue nodded. Creeping towards the right-hand side of the opening she pointed in the opposite direction, the way that the ogre had retreated. Calling on Sun Wukong’s Tear the Eurasian looked through the darkness and rain towards the temple wall. And there it was an ornately carved stone entry, before which were a few bodies dressed in red-splashed black.
“Is the door wood or stone?” Jade asked, looking to her friend.
The other shook her head. “It’s an iron door, set tight into the stone.”
Iron? That caused the lepine femme to wonder why such a precaution. It could be to prevent the ogre from entering the wat. But such an idea was a bit far-fetched as the beast was too big to squeeze through. Then maybe it was designed not to keep something out, rather to keep something in? Roger Bannon had said that the Japanese were experimenting on the local Chinese with infectious diseases. A slow nod worked Jades head up and down.
“Beyond that wall is death in its various medical forms.”
Sue frowned. “What do you mean?”
“They’re using our people to experiment on. The Japanese give them a disease and watch how it works.”
The rodent femme’s eyes widen in the darkness. “Is this true?”
Jade nodded again. “They plan on turning an epidemic loose on our people to get rid of them.” She looked at her friend. “Saves them a lot of bullets.”
Grimness settled over the younger femme’s countenance. “Then we must settle it here, and tonight!” She spoke with a resolution of spirit that was slowly coming to the surface since both had arrived in Siam.
Wu Hsing Jade agreed, and together they eased themselves back out into the rain and towards their goal. The lepine went first, the large revolver held up and ready. Ming Xue followed closely, her fans out in each hand. Through the abilities of the Tear, Jade led them along the compound wall, inching their way to the door and around the corpses there. In the distance they could hear the ogre’s whimpering over its wrecked eye.
Carefully they made their way towards their goal, the rain covering their footfalls. When they reached the door Jade laid a hand on the ornately carved lintel, feeling the weathered engraving there. When she slid her hand further along her fingertips encountered the cold smoothness of metal. She studied the door and found that there was no handle or keyhole there, and that the hinges were set on the other side.
“Damn, how are we to get inside?” the tall doe muttered to herself when all thoughts of getting in were drowned out by a great bestial roar.
Something grabbed her head, taking her long braid as a handle and pulled. A scream tore from Jade’s throat as she was yanked off her feet. The top of her head felt as if she would be scalped by the force of the pull. She had dropped the pistol to reach up with both hands to take hold of her braid, trying to ease the pain. And now she swung in the grip of the ogre that studied the rabbit woman with its one good eye. A miasma washed over her from the fetid breath of the beast as it brought her closer.
Standing in stunned disbelief Ming Xue stared up at her friend. For the moment her mind was blank as she stood frozen in indecision. Then a soft voice - a familiar voice from her past – began chiding her in the back of her mind.
‘Come, child, don’t dawdle in the face of tragedy! Remember who you are and what your purpose is in life!’
Those words from Master Tang at the time she faced her first ogre were like a jolt through her being. There came the snapping of fans to their fullest as the young rat exorcist took a stance and brought her tools up. Through the rain could be heard the chanting as Ming Xue began weaving those fans into familiar patterns. Fire traced off the steel tips, limning a wall of energy before her. It was enough to attract the attention of the otherworld beast such that it lowered its victim into the mud.
Finding herself forgotten for the moment, Wu Hsing Jade managed to free her hair from the ogre’s grip and stumble to stand behind her companion. The fiery display kept the beast hypnotized long enough for Ming Xue to complete the spell. The fans were clapped together to produce a flaming ball of white energy between them. And from this ball there lanced a shaft of light that struck the ogre full in the chest.
A bellow of rage and pain burst from thick lips as the beast was forced back several yards before it managed to dig in its toes and fingers. It stood venting its rage and pain at this spear of energy burning into its breast. But as the force of the strike pushed it back, it wasn’t enough to destroy it.
“Jade! I need some help here!” The rodent femme ground those words out through clenched teeth. Her image rippled from the power of the spell she had conjured as the glare of the sphere between her fans bathed the slim figure in blinding white. But Jade could see that what Sue had called up wasn’t enough to eliminate the giant ape-like creature.
[Use the energy within you to supplement what she needs!]
Sun Wukong’s words roused the Eurasian to action. Stepping up behind the trembling figure she braced her hands on the rat woman’s shoulders. From deep within her being the rabbit doe called up raw energy that had once been harbored inside the Tear. Like a battery too big for a light bulb, the power surged forth, causing the glowing ball centered between the fans to brighten to stellar incandescence. Both femmes closed their eyes to the intensity as the spear of light flashed forth with greater force. When it struck the ogre there came an unearthly scream ripped from a hairy throat until the beast exploded into a cloud of flesh, blood, and bone.
The falling rain was the only sound to be heard besides the raged breathing of two figures that slumped against a wall of dressed stone. It was some time before either femme stirred. Jade slid along the stone to take a trembling Sue into her arms. They stood that way for a few minutes before the rodent woman spoke.
“I definitely need to grow my hair! If it had been as long as when I was in Shanghai, then I would have easily defeated that thing!”
The Eurasian managed a weak chuckle. “Then we’ll grow it down past your ass, girl. Like we talked about.”
That earned her a chuckle in return. They stared at each other for a moment before sliding into a tight embrace. The kiss lasted a minute before they separated. Once more the pair stood before the door. Sue was too spent to summon up anything needed to force the iron portal open. But Jade took a few paces back to face the door. Once more she called up the hidden powers deep inside her being as her hands began to weave the spell. A fiery red orb of energy was formed between her hands until the casting was done. Then like a pitcher giving the final throw of the game, Wu Hsing Jade delivered the orb over the plate and into the door.
There came a loud metallic clang and ripping of sheet metal all rolled into one sound. The red orb splashed against the hard iron surface and tore a gaping hole through it. For a minute nothing else occurred save the rain and two figures poised to leap aside. When nothing came out nor a shot rang through at them, Jade and Sue gingerly stepped up to the sundered door and looked in.
Beyond could be seen lights within the other buildings of the wat. Somewhere could be heard the steady growl of a generator. Carefully they passed through the tear and into the weed-choked grounds of the temple complex.
Before the door were a few bodies; some in the khaki of the Japanese infantry, while others were clothed in black silk. Lifeless hands held rifles, swords, and knives. Stepping around them the two femmes reached a pair of tall wooden doors, the carvings weathered and the paint faded. They listened at the double portal but could not hear anything other than the rain, the distant generator, and an occasional gunshot. Together they pushed on one of the doors and felt it give way with ponderous slowness.
White sheets were hung from a metal frame six feet from the doors, creating a kind of alcove. Jade and Sue eased into the space before closing the door behind them. They stood there, straining their hearing for any telltale sound. When nothing was noticed the two exchanged a glance before parting the sheets. What they saw rooted them in place, horror stamped on their furry faces.
Large naked light bulbs on metal stands stood before the shuttered windows to either side of the vast single room, with long rows of beds lining both sides. And still figures filled each bed, the white sheets stained with splotches of red. Male and female, from the elderly to the very young, lay dead there.
With slowness as if awakening from sleep the two femmes made their way down the broad aisle, each staring at her side of the ward. The bodies were contorted in death, faces twisted in agony. And the examination showed that each figure had been bayoneted!
<Why? > The single word was squeezed from a constricted rodent throat.
<To leave no witnesses, > came the terse reply. <Those Japanese soldiers outside must have been ordered to do this, and our people caught them coming out afterwards. >
A dark grey-brown hand took hold of the doe’s forearm. <Does this mean we could catch something in here? > Black eyes were wide with fear.
The tall Eurasian gave a slight shake of her head. <Don’t know. But I’m not staying long to find out. Let’s go! > She took off at a jog to the other end of the temple. Xin Xue didn’t wait to be persuaded to follow.
The doors at the other end stood slightly ajar. Out in the rainy night there came the sporadic reports of gunfire. Lights dotted the stone walls, creating pools of luridness at intervals along the bases and silhouetting other structures in the compound. Sometimes the two would see a muzzle flash, then hear orders shouted in two languages as Japanese and Chinese sought to dispatch each other.
A quick glance around showed Wu Hsing Jade there was no one about to see them as anyone still alive was busy trying to kill someone else. With a word she dashed to the building across from the temple, Xin Xue hot on her heels. The doe recognized this structure as being the library that the monks would use to store their scriptures for study and sermons.
It was up a short flight of steps and passed the columns supporting the portico to flatten themselves on either side of the doors. Jade fumbled for her revolver then remembered she lost it out in the palace grounds during her struggles with the ogre. She threw up her hands in exasperation before looking inwards to the Tear for something to use. The doe found it in a most interesting spell there. She quickly reviewed its workings until she felt capable of casting it. The rat femme gave her a questioning look. All she got was a shrug and an indication for them to head in.
A long ear and a round ear were pressed against the cold wood of the door but nothing was heard through it. With a slight nod to each other they pressed shoulders against the door and began to heave. It swung in easily, almost causing the pair to stumble in.
They caught themselves quickly; Xin Xue with her fans up as Wu Hsing Jade quickly muttered words under her breath, her right hand up and back as if to throw another baseball. But nothing assailed them.
The library had been made over into a combination of laboratory and office. Desks filled the middle of the room covered in paperwork and files. Along the walls were benches that held glassware and burners and other paraphernalia of research. And there were bodies dressed in hospital whites or the khaki of infantry. And one such figure was a macaque slumped over a desk.
This one Jade stepped up to and felt for a pulse at the throat. It was there but fading. Carefully the two femmes eased the officer back upright. Sue noticed the spreading red rose on his tunic and pointed it out to her friend. The other nodded and knelt on the floor.
<Who are you and what is your purpose here in Siam? > the doe asked the dying officer.
There was a bubbling sound to the breathing and Jade knew the simian’s lungs were filling with blood. The eyes fluttered open in the pale face, and took a moment to focus. They swiveled to regard the Eurasian. A chuckle brought a fit of cough that flecked those thick lips with a pink froth.
<So, you have come to finish what was started in the hotel? >
Jade shook her head. <No, that was then. This is now. Why did you keep my parents for so long in that room? >
Those large brown eyes closed and the lepine femme had the sickening thought that the macaque would die before answering. But a deep raspy inhale followed by the eyes opening again briefly stilled that thought.
<When they found our operation here in the jungle I couldn’t let them leave. But I couldn’t bring myself to kill them out of hand. I am a doctor, not samurai, and my oath as such could not compel me to commit murder. So I kept them in seclusion, trying to learn what they knew of our work here. >
<And what is that work? > Xin Xue had taken the simian’s chin in hand and turned his face towards her.
<To study the effects of infectious diseases on anthro bodies. My superiors in Tokyo had ordered this as a means of introducing such diseases on a civilian population, or a military force, to allow us to take over without much effort. >
The rodent femme snarled, her incisors bear inches from the macaque’s face. <Without much effort? May the gods damn you for what you’re doing in China! Those are my people you’re slaughtering up there! >
A weak smile quivered on those bloody lips. <Yes, may the gods damn me and my people for what we’re doing. > Then the smile grew slack as the eyes rolled up into the head.
Quickly the doe felt for a pulse and found none. The two femmes looked to each other.
“We need to find that other sonofabitch and deal with him next!” Cold venom dripped from Xin Xue’s words.
Wu Hsing Jade nodded as she stood.
“The sooner, the better!”