Despite some minor technical hitches at the start of this weeks game, we managed to get a solid few hours in and things are starting to flow nicely for the group. This was a more traditional episode with some breaking and entering as well as some “Library use” rolls. A rather excellent roll of an ’02’ for mechanical engineering needed to be rewarded and they managed to leave Derby with some useful information.
Two Booms in a room
Even though they rose early, catching a train from Edale to Derby still involved a long wait at the station as, being a Sunday, few trains ran. Arriving at the Derby city station just after 11 am, there was a brief discussion around what to do in the city.
They had come to Derby to look into Hensons Manufacturing, which they had found references to, but there were more pressing things to attend to first. The wounds that Singh had received during the fight in the graveyard were becoming infected, he was eager to find somewhere he could get attended too quickly. They also needed a place to stay while in town.
With this in mind, Constanza and MacTavish approached one of the staff working at the station to ask for any recommendations. After thinking for a minute, the station guard suggested The Old Bell Hotel in the centre of the city. Thanking him they split up, MacTavish went with Singh to the hospital, while Bolan and Constanza headed into town to book into the hotel.
The hotel was a charming 17th century coaching inn that had plenty of spare rooms. Booking four rooms, Bolan and Constanza dropped off their luggage and waited in the restaurant.
At the hospital, Singh has his wounds cleaned and dressed as well as some ointment for the injury. MacTavish also had his wounds checked and dressed as well. They then left and met with the others at the hotel.
Being a Sunday they thought it would be a good time to strike out to look for Hensons as it would most likely be shut. The receptionist at the front desk had heard of the factory but didn’t know its location so they left the hotel to find it the hard way.
After a short walk, they found a pub and discreetly asked for directions to Hensons. They got lucky, the first person they spoke to gave them clear directions to the factory and it was only a short walk to the address.
It was late afternoon by the time they reached the site and the area was deserted. The yard itself was behind a pair of sturdy gates and a high wall. Looking through the bars it was possible to see a large shed on one side with a workshop building on the other. The larger gate had tracks for trucks and carts running under it and to the large shed building while the smaller gate was worn by years of foot traffic going back and forth to the workshop. Watching for a while to see if any security was visible and then carefully rattling the gates, it was obvious it wouldn’t be possible to stroll in.
It would be dark in a few hours and it seemed the best option would be to just break straight in. Returning to The Old Bell for a few hours would also give them a chance to rest after the excitement of the last three days in the peak district and then back to Hensons to break in.
Waiting until it was after 9 pm, they slipped through the quiet Derby streets and reached Hensons again. MacTavish crouched by the smaller gate and quickly snapped the lock open with a deft flick of his tools. The gate swung open and they quickly entered the yard. The nearest building was the shed and MacTavish once again opened the door with little effort.
The shed was one large room with most of the space taken up by a pair of industrial ovens and a furnace while piles of coal and wood, iron, steel, copper and tools filled much of the rest of the building. A careful search didn’t reveal much except some old shipping labels from Australia.
Slipping back outside into the dark yard, their next visit was to the workshop. MacTavish worked his magic with the locks for the third time in a row. There was a gentle click and the door swung open letting them into the building without a hitch.
They walked into the darkness and could see three doors in the corridor, two locked, the third opened into the main workshop. Taking some time to look around the work areas there were several desks, machines and tools in tidy spaces ready for the next shift. A pair of storerooms filled with more tools and equipment filled part of the east end of the room. The smaller of the two was filled with chemicals and acids that had clear danger symbols on them and MacTavish backed out slowly after seeing what was in there.
A huge walk-in safe door was hidden behind a pair of false wooden panels and the huge double lock was too much for MacTavish so the group headed back to the corridor to explore the other rooms.
As both doors had been locked, MacTavish knelt over the first one but his lucky streak with locks was now truly over and it refused to open. Singh found an easier way to open the door. Putting his back to it he smashed the door open and the door creaked open to reveal an office with a large desk and a filing cabinet.
Rummaging through the cabinet turned up a large collection of blueprints which they spread over the desk to look at. Many looked like old designs but many looked more recent. MacTavish, being an engineer studied them carefully yet struggled to make sense of them. What he saw on each one looked like parts for some kind of machine but nothing he had seen before. The nearest it could be was an engine but it defied all of his understanding.
Bolan, on the other hand, gasped at what he saw drawn on many of the more recent plans. Strange symbols that he had seen before recently were woven into the designs and parts. Thinking back he realised they were sigils connected to the ancient ones known as the Great Race, but he couldn’t decipher more.
Realising that they needed to get into the safe, they tried to plan what to do. There were now signs of a break-in, so coming back the next day was out of the question, the security would be tightened. Pocketing some of the blueprints, MacTavish said he wanted to examine the chemicals in the storeroom again and headed back to the workshop.
Carefully picking around among the chemicals, he realised he could make a small, but powerful explosive to blow both locks. With trembling hands, he mixed up the chemicals and packed the mixtures into the keyholes and ran back. With a loud bang that shook the windows, both locks exploded in a shower of sparks.
Pulling the huge safe door open they crammed inside to find it lined with small machine parts that resembled the blueprints. As well as modern versions, there seemed to be older versions which, to their surprise, looked like they could be thousands of years old. This seemed impossible and it was reasoned they must be aged on purpose to look ancient but it didn’t make sense why anyone would do that. Bolan noticed more symbols on the side of these parts which looked different but he couldn’t place them.
Realising that the noise from the explosions must have been enough to alert anyone in the area, it was agreed that it was time to leave quickly. Grabbing everything they could, including another shipping label for the Randolph Shipping Company, Port Darwin, Northern Territory, Dominion of Australia, they left. Not a moment too soon as well. A few minutes later, as they headed for The Old Bell, a pair of police constables trotted past them towards Hensons.
Arriving back at the hotel without being spotted, they all headed to their rooms after a late supper. Bolan stayed up a bit further into the night trying to cross-reference the new symbols with what he had read in the copy of the Pnakotic Manuscripts he had brought from New York but it was too late and he was too tired after the excitement of the evening and wasn’t able to find anything.
Waking early they met for breakfast in the hotel restaurant to plan the next step. More information about Henson Manufacturing was needed and they headed back to the site to see what was going on.
A large crowd had gathered in the street outside where police held back the gathering. Walking past the crowd slowly and listening to gossip, several rumours had already spread, including that there had been an explosion or some kind of fire inside but nobody knew exactly what had happened. Realising it wasn’t a good idea to be seen there, they headed back into the city and to the local library.
A few hours in the old newspaper clipping gave them a trove of information about Henson. It had been bought in 1921 by Edward Gavigan. There were a couple of articles about the sale of this company and how it was going to be expanded allowing more jobs to become available but, despite some thorough investigation, the reporter was unable to get any information about what the site would be making. Rumours of work with the War Office only fueled more gossip in the paper before the lack of results got to the reporter who moved on to other stories.
The threads started to come together and it was time to leave Derby. Heading back to London on the first available train, it was time to find out more about Gavigan.