THE STORY OF THE FOURTH IRREGULAR

By Bowen

Chapter Seventeen: Help In A Small Package

Inspector Lestrade was saved from hitting the floor as Watson caught her in his metallic arms. As she got back to her feet, she looked up at her ‘attacker’ to find, to her great relief and annoyance, only Inspector Stayword.

Had it been a guard they would have been in big trouble. She didn’t want to have an ionizer fight in the same room as a high voltage generator.

"Stayword, where the zed have you bee- who’s that?"

"Some kid. I found her in with Mr. Holmes -- and I might ask you the same question."

Lestrade wanted to cry out with joy.

"You’ve found Holmes!? Where is he!?"

You could see Stayword puff up like a balloon before he answered, "Why should I tell you? I found him...."

She wanted to bash his head in. "I can’t believe this! How dare you! You tell me where he is or I’ll-"

But what she would have done to him they would never find out, as the reactor gave a rather sinister lurch and cut her off mid-sentence,

Lestrade didn’t have the patience or civility to deal with Stayword right now, although she would be sure to report him to Grayson later. The only thought in her frantically working brain at that moment was that she had to find Holmes and she had to find him now. Lestrade looked down at the girl in Stayword’s grasp as she struggled to compose herself.

And noticed that the girl had stopped trying to break free of the sweaty grasp of the man holding her, and was looking up at Lestrade in wide-eyed amazement and recognition.

Lestrade looked over at Watson, who, with anxiety in his eyes, nodded. He seemed to have similar feelings to herself. With that encouragement she turned to Stayword.

"Let her go."

"What, are you ma-"

"I said, let her go."

Watson, who was now looking desperate with worry over Holmes, grabbed Stayword’s arm and began to twist. With a howl of pain, the chubby man released his captive.

"How dare you, you idiotic compu-"

Stayword, who seemed to be getting cut off a lot lately, was shoved to the side by Wiggins, who had a look of pure hatred in his eyes. To anyone who knew the oldest of the irregulars, that seemed an impossible emotion for him to emulate, but it was there all the same as he turned his gaze on the source of his dislike. "Call Watson ‘idiotic’ one more time and you're gonna get it."

Lestrade bent down to look right into the eyes of the girl who was staring at her. Now that Lestrade took a good look at her, she realized that she should not be much older then Tennyson -- probably the same age. Tennyson himself was staring at the girl; he seemed to see something in her gaze that Lestrade could not.

"Do you know where Holmes is?" Lestrade asked.

In a frantic state, the girl nodded her head and then put her hand out as if to grab the inspector's attention.

Lestrade had hoped for some help, some pointing in the right direction. She tried again.

"Where is Holmes?"

The girl, who now seemed to be at the end of her tolerance, started clapping her hands to draw the inspector's attention to them. She then began pointing to her and mouthing something.

Inspector Lestrade was about to give up and start looking without directions. She began to turn away, at which point her wrist was grabbed in a tight hold. It suddenly hit Lestrade what the girl was trying to say.

"ARE YOU LESTRADE" She mouthed it again and again until, with a look of comprehension, Lestrade answered.

"Yes, I am." She would have been shocked at the girl knowing her identity, had she not remembered that Stayword had said he found her with Holmes.

The girl began to beckon, as if to say ‘follow me’. Then she ran back down the hall, with Lestrade, Watson and the three Irregulars following as fast as they could, while Stayword grumbled something about ‘his investigation’ while he tried to keep up with the group.


Chapter Eighteen: The Cavalry Has Come

Holmes sat propped up against the wall, wallowing in boredom and worry. He knew that Rowland did not want to be separated from him, and he felt guilty about forcing her to go, even though he knew it for her own good.

He also wouldn’t have chosen a person that his friend had described as "a glutton of a man, sweaty and pompous" to be the one to guide her to safety.

He had heard her struggling to get away from Stayword the entire time, the sounds mixed in with Fenwick’s heightened remonstrances.

Holmes’s only consolation was that Rowland would be able to find Inspector Lestrade. As he would probably be dead by then, he had only told Rowland to find her, as he knew that she would see to it that his friend was properly cared for, as would Watson.

As he sat there doubled over in pain, he wondered how such a man had managed to find his way down here. It was too much of a find to be by accident. Holmes also found the fact that he had brought no one with him very singular.

How strange it was that Holmes had known this girl for so short a time and yet, through their mutual stubbornness they had become friends. It occurred to him that ‘friend’ was not a word he ventured to use often, yet there was no other word that seemed a fitting description of his feelings toward Rowland.

Or hers toward him. Perhaps his blindness had forced him to allow this invasion into his usually iron emotional control. This new challenge had made it impossible for him to survive on his own. Rowland had been his link to the outside world, she had been his eyes; and now, without her company, he felt more blind then ever.

He was in the middle of contemplating this, allowing the darkness to swallow him in his isolation, when he heard yet another barrage of hurrying footsteps.

"Ah, Fenwick is...........making......... another round- what in the world?"

His ejaculation had been drawn from the fact at least one of the sets of steps was familiar to him, very familiar. He was now sure he was beginning to feel the effects of losing so much blood. The steps sounded like.......No, there could be no mistaking that heavy metallic thud; they were Watson’s.

As he listened, he began to make out more patterns, more familiar footsteps.

"Lestrade........Wiggins, Deidre" He could even hear a buzz that sounded something like Tennyson’s hover chair. There were also two sets of steps that he couldn’t quite place, and yet he knew he had heard them recently. It was hard to single them out among the pounding of the others.

Had he been able to walk, or indeed see, he would have gotten up to take a look out of the mutilated door to what was now his cell.

However, as it was, he seemed to have no choice but to except the fact that he was delirious. He sighed. It was so ironic that, even with the door bashed off its hinges, he was unable to affect an escape.

"At least Rowland..........will be in safe hands."

Suddenly the door gave a huge groaning sound, and the footsteps, along with their unseen owners, entered through the battered doorway.

"Oh, my God! Holmes, are you all right?"

"Inspector Lestrade.....is that you?"

"What do you mean, is it me?" Immediately after saying this, she regretted it. She should have realized that Holmes couldn’t see her; otherwise he would not have asked. She also knew Holmes couldn’t walk, as he would have come with Stayword. Blind or not, he had his pride. A wave of pity and horror washed over her

She turned her head to Watson, who was pushing past the Irregulars to get to his friend.

"Watson, could you carry him?"

"Most certainly, yes. I will be careful."

Lestrade was confused. "I didn’t ask you to be."

"No, Inspector, this young lady did."

Comprehension dawned as Holmes realized that he had not heard anyone caution Watson, and in his alarm began to cough up more blood.

"Rowland......what are you......you doing back here?"

He heard quick footsteps coming toward him and he felt the familiar lettering being pressed into his left palm.

"I BROUGHT LESTRADE" pause "I COUD NOT LEAVE U"

Holmes was about to say something else when he was interrupted by Lestrade.

"We better hurry."

The screaming of the frantic Fenwick was getting closer and closer.

"Hurry up, Watson, we don’t have much time."

Holmes felt himself being lifted off the floor in his friend's metal embrace. The movement, however gentle and gradual, made him dizzy. Fortunately, he had not eaten for three days; otherwise he would have thrown up. This had to be real. Otherwise, his delirium had gone to a new level.

No, they had found him, and however embarrassing being carried about by his best friend in front of his Irregulars and Inspector Lestrade was, he had to admit to himself that was glad to be going home.


Chapter Nineteen: The Evil Excuse

[Author's Note: This chapter will be from no one person’s point of view, as it is where all the characters come together.]

Fenwick saw the group as he ran down the hall followed by his herd of guards. The Yardie, the three brats, the fat inspector, the girl and the dead detective, who was being carried by the compudroid -- and all he could think about was how to kill them before his master found out. "Shoot zem!" he shrieked.

Lestrade was one step ahead of him, however. She began to fire her ionizer, which was fully charged due to its non-usage, at the offending group, walking backwards to give her party time to vacate the premises.

"Get back to the trapdoor!" she yelled back.

The guards began to fire, and Holmes heard Watson’s voice above him. "Hurry, inspector!"

"You take care of the kids and make sure Holmes is all right. I’ll follow."

Holmes felt helpless and completely useless, not to mention embarrassed by Lestrade’s comment. He was completely unable to help his friends, a situation that he seemed to be coming across a lot lately.

He heard a buzz from an ionizer and a scream -- he could not tell from whom -- just as a huge burst of pain began to spread though his already broken ribs. He smelled burnt cloth and heard Lestrade curse, then nothing more.

Watson watched as the blast from one of the guard's ionizers hit his helpless friend in the chest. He seemed to glow for a minute before he went limp. The light went from his sightless eyes and his breathing became even more spasmodic.

Had he been able to, he would have cried from the sheer injustice of it all. He yelled at Lestrade, "Holmes has been hit!"

It was obvious by this time that they were going to have to stop to regroup and make sure Holmes was all right, if he was still alive. The guards, and Fenwick, who apparently had borrowed an ionizer from one of them, were now converging on the invaders full blast, firing at will.

The walls seemed to resound with the energy bouncing off them. The invaders of the fort ran (or floated) for all they were worth, Watson in the lead as he used his back to shelter Holmes from any more stray ionizer blasts. He didn’t think that his friend’s damaged body could handle another injury of any kind.

Lestrade continued to fire as she walked slowly backward, dodging the ongoing shots of Fenwick and his brigade. At last they came upon the only room that could possibly shelter so big a group as their eight people.

The generator room.

Taking up stations behind the massive illegally constructed machine, the seven of them waited for Lestrade. Watson gently set Holmes down next to him on the ground; Deidre removed her coat and put it under the bloody head of her mentor.

They had to talk loudly over the pounding of the machine. "Is ‘e going to be all right?"

"I should think so," said Watson, scanning his friend and removing the makeshift bandage that Holmes still had around his head. "As long as we can get him back to New London without further injuries." He had refrained from telling her the full extent of damage, as it might worry his young friend more then it already had.

Deidre turned around as she felt a hand on her shoulder. Rowland mimed her question, mouthing it at the same time. "IS HE GOING TO BE OK?" She seemed to be desperate for any information about her cellmate’s condition.

Seeing that Watson was fairly immersed in trying to help his unconscious friend, Deidre answered for him. "Watson says he thinks Mr. ‘Olmes will he fine, as long as we can get him back to New London." Neither of them wanted to think about what would happen if they didn’t.

Lestrade ran into the room and leaped behind the generator, covering her head as she dodged ionizer fire, and anything else the guards threw at her.

She hit the ground next to Watson, a particularly hard-looking chair just missing her by inches as it bounced off the wall behind her.

They were now safe, at least until Fenwick brought Moriarty, who would no doubt manage to think of a way to get them to come out. Fenwick wouldn’t dare fire anything in here. If he hit the generator the whole zedding place would be incinerated.

And although that might be a brilliant idea in another situation, it was not going to work here unless Fenwick wanted to blow himself and ‘Master’ to Timbuktu.

Now that she had a spare moment, Lestrade was able to turn her attention to what she considered the real concern on hand, Holmes’s health.

"How is he, Watson?" she asked, as she stared down at the battered form of Sherlock Holmes, lying unconscious on the vibrating floor beside her right knee.

Whereas when talking to Deidre, the compudroid had tried to make the situation seem less grave then it really was, he now dropped his confident manner and let the full extent of their situation sink in.

"Not well. I don’t think he will last much longer if we cannot get him to a hospital soon."

"How long does he have?"

"Hard to say. A few hours at most. The ionizer hit him right in the most vulnerable spot in his chest; he already had about three broken ribs there."

Lestrade wanted to strangle Stayword, and rightly so.

She turned on him; he was sitting right beside Rowland, who was glaring at him with a venomous look even Grayson would be proud of.

"You selfish idiot! If you hadn’t insisted on keeping Holmes’s whereabouts to yourself so you could nab all the credit, then we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place!"

"Excuse me, it’s not my fault that Mr. Holmes was idiotic enough to get himself abducted, further-"

The Irregulars and Lestrade (Watson was too busy looking after his friend) had been about to pounce on the repulsive Stayword when a scream that seemed to echo throughout the room erupted from the small, supposedly traumatized girl sitting beside him.

Rowland was on Stayword before anyone could stop her, punching him in the face as he yelled with the pain.

"OE AIRTY OU IK EFNDT!" she screamed over and over at the top of her voice.

"HU ISA EYTING ERE HODTY RETH ANG YKGH AGH SUHJK INGS JIF ECXTYGN FOD TY HUANID BEIHD!!!" She hit him again and again, crying and screaming as loud as she could until, because they didn’t want to carry Stayword as well, they had to pull her kicking and screaming off the now badly bruised inspector.

None of them had understood a word she had said, none of them had needed to. Her meaning was clear enough, and said more plainly then words could ever attempt to, "How dare you do say that about my friend?" "He is lying there half dead and all you can think about is yourself! How dare you say such things, you evil excuse for a human being!"


Chapter Twenty: Another Blunder

Moriarty rushed out into the hall. He could hear someone screaming, although he couldn’t for the life of him make out what they were saying.

He had just been into the security camera area that adjoined his own quarters and had seen the battle waging in the vicinity of his generator.

He should have known better then to entrust such a task to Fenwick! They were all here, the Yardie and her bunch of idiots! And they would all have to die here and now, if his plan was still to succeed.

He found his personal slave and a group consisting of his entire security staff situated outside his generator room, just as he had seen them through the camera lens. He could see Fenwick waiting, ionizer poised, ready to shoot the moment he had a chance.

"FENWICK!"

The offending minion turned to face his master with pure fear in his mutated eyes.

"Fenwick, what is going on!?"

"Master, zee Yardie ‘as come back and found zee fat man and taken zee prisoners!"

Fenwick cowered, waiting to be knocked off his feet by his master. He didn’t have to wait long. As the punch landed home he skidded across the floor, looking something like a stone skipping across water.

He howled with the pain. Moriarty paid no attention to the sound or his sniveling lackey, but approached the guards, who were beginning to look rather uncertain themselves.

"I presume from your obvious lack of confidence that they are hiding behind the generator?"

The guard who had been in charge of shuffling Holmes back and forth from his cell stepped forward. "Ya, they’ve bin in there abou’ ten minutes."

Moriarty stepped up to the burnt-looking doorway; there was no way his enemies would try to shoot when it would pose the same risk to them as it would to him.

"My dear Lestrade, surely you realize the futility of your actions? There is no possible way you can make it out of here alive," he voiced in the direction of his enemy’s concealment.

Lestrade was not in the mood to play games, but she was willing to do anything right about now if it would buy them some time.

"That’s what you think, scumbag!" she yelled back at him over the pounding of the massive power conductor.

"I propose a trade. You give me back the girl and I will allow you to walk out of here without further resistance, not to mention the fact that I will allow you to bring Holmes back to New London in one piece."

"Forget it, clonehead! Do you think were going to let you lull us into a false sense of security and then shoot us when our backs are turned!?"

"I assure you that is not my intention, I am a man of my word."

"Ya, in an alternate universe, maybe. Besides you’ve already bashed up Holmes enough. I think we both know it’s Rowland you really want; what makes her so valuable to you?"

"I must confess that I was indeed planning to kill Holmes. In fact his execution was scheduled for-"

Moriarty stopped talking and they could only assume that he was glancing at his watch. "Well, twenty minutes ago now. However, no harm will come to the girl if you hand her over to me now."

"No way!" The last thing she wanted to do was surrender something to Moriarty that he considered valuable.

"So be it! We shall see who is victor. But unless I am very much mistaken, and as I saw it happen myself I highly doubt that I am, your precious Mr. Holmes has a very short time to live unless you can get him to a hospital in the next few hours. Judging from his present condition and the fact that he was knocked unconscious by an ionizer blast about fifteen minutes ago."

Lestrade was torn. She knew there was very little chance that Moriarty would just let them walk out of here alive, girl or no girl. She also knew that Holmes would not want her to give up the life of a child in exchange for his own. She had no idea what Moriarty could want from this kid who she had heard Holmes call Rowland, but she had no intention of giving her up.

"I’LL SEE YOU BEHIND BARS, MORIARTY!"

"Very well. Do let me know when you have changed your mind."

The group heard what sounded like fifteen or so ionizers revving up. It was now just a question of how much time they had to formulate a plan, or rather how long they had before Holmes couldn’t hold out any more.

Lestrade glanced over at the dirty scruffy looking kid who was sitting in the farthest possible spot away from them that could offer cover. She was covered in blood, and as she herself was not bleeding, Lestrade guessed that some of it belonged to Holmes and some to Stayword.

She was wearing a ripped pair of blue jeans and a shirt that might once have been white but was missing a sleeve which had been ripped off at the shoulder. Lestrade realized that it must have been sacrificed to make the bandage she had seen around Holmes’s head earlier.

Rowland looked completely absorbed in her own thoughts. Just looking at this wreck of a child with her dirty, supposedly black hair covering her face only served to make her look more helpless. The only clue to the fiery soul that lurked underneath the surface of her pitiable exterior was the look in those black eyes of hers, a look of hatred such as Lestrade had never seen before. The girl was staring at the moaning Stayword as if she would like to kill him then and there. Her eyes seemed to shine with the emotion.

However, what Lestrade didn’t understand was that it was the emotion of eleven years of abuse and loneliness and anger at the world, and the loss of her greatest friend -- who in her mind she was about to lose all over again -- all erupting at once, and taking tangible shape in the rather hefty form of Inspector John Stayword.

Finally, in all her time living on the streets and all that time being neglected by her own parents, someone had finally gone too far, and she was not going to let anyone hurt her friends, or her, ever again. She was no longer scared.


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