Biggles and the Walking Death
The Mallard soon brought them off the coast.
Looking ahead Biggles could see the village on the coast (just out of the picture) while out of the port window Algy pressed the binoculars to his eyes as he watched the land. "There's nothing moving," he observed. "There's a small lake just inland from the fishing village. Shall we try to put her down there?"
Biggles looked back and called to Hook, "What do you think of trying to land on the lake?"
"Too dangerous," he returned. "Crocodiles, dead trees and all sorts of rubbish end up in the lakes hereabouts. You can see that it does not empty into the sea so everything collects there. Better to come in from the sea."
Biggles set the Mallard down with an uncharacteristic bump which dislodged a stowaway from the cargo. It was Li. He rolled down between the seats and came to a stop in a heap behind Biggles' seat.
It was too late to take him back. Looking down at him, Biggles spoke with a steely edge in his voice, "If you come with us you must do what you are told."
Li nodded his agreement.
Biggles brought the Mallard in to the shore running up on the firm sand of the beach. Not a soul emerged from the houses or trees to greet them. Most unusual. Not even a dog, or chicken or pig was moving in the village.
Hook advised caution and Biggles agreed. His wartime senses were warning him. And so, taking their weapons with them they moved out to check the village. As the crossed the beach they heard the sound of motor engines approaching from both sides. From the left came the Local Forces led by Lieutenant Mi Su Pah and from the right a truckload of Gurkha Rifles commanded by Lieutenant Lorrington King.
A few brief introductions were made. The Gurkha Officer was on secondment from the Guards and introduced himself as "Gimlet".
The village was searched and not a living soul was found nor were there any animals. Everything was as if the people had just disappeared. Then a shout from a hut brought them running. The Gurkhas had found a hole in the back of the hut after forcing aside a barricade. The occupants had obviously broken out and their tracks ran down to the beach. To a boat presumably. Now long gone.
Biggles decided to search the area before dark. Resisting the chance to split up and cover more ground he decided on a sweep by all three parties with a strong force left to guard the village, the trucks and the Mallard. He put Gimlet in charge of this and asked him to make a defensive position in the strongest house. He also said that he would fly a search pattern over the ground around the main party with Smyth as observer.
The search started in the woods near the village, Algy was in command and kept everyone together, Local forces on the left, Gurkhas on the right and his own group in the centre while overhead Biggles flew slowly and deliberately observing the ground. In the dense woods Algy saw a large figure in the undergrowth. "A dinosaur!" cried Heather.
"Hell's teeth!" cursed Ginger as Nickolai dropped to one knee and fired two shots. The other joined in with a devastating fusillade that shredded the undergrowth. But the figure stood impassive. Algy began to laugh. He could see even in the gloom that they had just fired on a large statue. The village shrine no doubt. There were small offerings of flowers at the base of the shrine and Algy ordered that they spend a few moments collecting flowers and arranging them to hide the bullet marks. He was trying to appease any unseen watchers.
The sweep of the forest gave no clue as to what had happened. Biggles flew on ahead and circled over what looked like a mine shaft entrance. But it was very high up on the hilltop.
Suddenly from the trees and undergrowth came fearsome cry, "Chit, chit chittah! Chit, chit chittah! Chit, chit chittah!" As a horde of giant spiders emerged surrounding the Gurkhas who fought with rifle, bayonet and kukri. The others fearing to hit the Gurkhas fired only if they had a clear target. A brief but fierce struggle left 9 dead spiders and one wounded Gurkha.
The Havildar called on his men to reload as that dreadful cry once again rang out. "Chit, chit chittah! Chit, chit chittah! Chit, chit chittah!" As another even larger wave of black spiders attacked. One made straight for Algy who fired his pump action shotgun into it until he ran out of cartridges. Nicholai accounted for a pair with his heavy gun. The Local Forces charged in fearlessly with the bayonet and once again the spiders were driven off but a gallant Gurkha lay dead amidst the dead and crippled spiders.
Algy ordered the troops to regroup and move out into the open. He was fearful that this was only the beginning. The sound of the Mallard's engines could still be heard and he wanted to get out where he could see and be seen.
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