Maets Rifle Back Story

Steampunk RIfleThe Dalai Lama’s retinue were worried. China was an oppressive place, and had begun cracking down on religions that contradicted their fervent ideology. The Highest of Lamas, whilst always happy, was now a picture of determined good humour, and even that was proving difficult for him to maintain in the face of the CCP. Tonight, the CIA were to help the Lama and his entourage flee Tibet and cross the border to India. Many of the monks were nervous, especially with the gun-toting Americans constantly patrolling His Holiness’ temporary dwelling. Despite the humble, domestic locale, it was unnaturally quiet outside. One of the monks, a man named Shamar, sat cross-legged in front of the Dalai Lama’s door. He had found himself unable to sleep, or think on anything productive, so he had decided to dedicate himself to a small purpose; if an assailant breached the CIA perimeter, they would have to go through him to reach the Lama.
 One of the CIA agents stalked past and regarded him. Shamar didn’t recognise him, so assumed he spoke little, if any Chinese. He bowed his head, and the American, if a little awkward, returned the gesture. Before any more could be communicated, shouts in English came from the street. The American laid a hand on his pistol and put a finger to his ear.
 “What’s going on?”
 Shamar spoke no English, but assumed the question was the same as his.
 “What do you mea-”
 Automatic gunfire ripped through the silence of the night.
 “CCP!” yelled an American voice. Shamar recognized the English name for the communist party. His eyes flicked around the complex as agents previously hidden emerged from their hiding places, drawing weapons. He calmed himself and stilled his mind. No matter the outcome, he would not move from this doorway until the Lama was safe. There was more gunfire, and Shamar saw the silhouettes of Americans fall to its withering hail, as well as a few People’s Liberation soldiers collapsing under the counterattack.
 “We have to move him!” shouted one of the agents, pressed against a wall.
 “Move him where?” retorted another, reloading, “Through that APC?”
 They resumed firing, sacrificing accuracy for cover and firing half blind.
 There were shouts in Mandarin now, and hurried footsteps as the PLA moved in. The two Americans exchanged a glance and dashed across the courtyard to the doorway where Shamar sat. They took up station either side of him and aimed back at the street entrance, raising their weapons and prepared themselves. As the wave of troops crested the rise from the street, a thick geyser of steam sprouted from a wall to the left, creating a small fountain of brick. A heavy boot kicked down what remained at ground level and a man in a coat stepped through. Though heavily shadowed, some of his features could be made out. He had a moustache, of the Western style, and he wore goggles over his eyes. The CIA men drew a bead on him, but he yelled something in English that caused them to lower their guns out of sheer astonishment.
 “Bernard Maets,” he said, “inventor, artist, and your cavalry.”
 He then turned to the street entrance and brandished his odd weapon. An affair of brass and silver tubing, suffixed by a wooden rifle stock. He looked down the barrel and apparently squeezed the trigger, for another cloud of steam burst from the contraption with frightening strength. Chinese soldiers could be heard howling and retreating before the blast, which began to stop and start as the man selected targets. One enterprising soldier made his way to the top of the stairs and raised a combat knife. The moustached man stopped firing, kicked his opponent hard in the shin and then swung the weapon at him stock first. The soldier went down, eyes rolling, and the stock splintered halfway down. The agents moved forwards and checked the street, where the PLA was in hasty retreat. They started to interrogate the new arrival, inquiring about his weapon and his intentions. Shamar looked on in wonder. The three of them crossed the courtyard again, back to the door, and the man grimaced at his weapon.
 “Prototype anyway,” he muttered gruffly, “here you are,” he passed the thing to Shamar, who took it reverently without standing. “You lot had best get His Holiness moving,” he said, “they’ll be back, and I’m out of steam.”

from the biography of Bernard Maets

The Unknown Wonder of Invention – by Jason Crick

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