Our friend gelignite

February 16th, 1917

Diary of Captain T.E. Lawrence

Today I held an impromptu class entitled Our Friend Gelignite. I wanted to explain to Browntrout and Stanley how to lay railway charges in the simplest possible language — using pictograms if possible. I told them that gelignite was like a very special dough, but instead of yielding leavened bread, mangled steel and disrupted supply lines were the results when this special “dough” rises. I held the detonator in one hand and said “DET-ON-AT-TOR.” Browntrout reminded me that he and Stanley both understand English quite well. After completing my demonstration, I allowed them to give it a go. Their attempts were both crude and clumsy. Stanley squeezed too hard on a detonator and it blew up in his paw, but because he is built of studier material than us homo sapiens, it did no damage. Meanwhile, Browntrout was molding elaborate sculptures out of the gelignite. I had to remind him that he wasn’t Michelangelo, and that he was here to destroy God’s creations, not to venerate them. I have absolutely no hope for these two. At least they are trying to fit in a little. Although they make a ridiculous sight, they both wear Keffiyehs and agals — atop their British uniforms. It’s a beginning. Of sorts.

February 18th, 1917

Diary of Captain T.E. Lawrence

We reached the target area before dawn. There was a bend in the Hejaz Railway around some jagged cliffs, which were split by a ravine 100 yards from the tracks — a perfect nook for the Maxim (captured from a German supply depot), though one with no escape, should anything go wrong. Browntrout, Auda, Stanley and I set about laying the mines. I supervised the odd pair closely and found to my surprise that even the large, unwieldy paws of the Stanley were handling the detonators, cord and explosiveness with more deftness and surety than before. After the mines were buried, we retreated to our positions. I put Stanley and Browntrout on the Maxim because I knew they had prior experience with light machine guns and I didn’t trust Stanley with close quarters combat, lest his bestial nature overtake him and he kill or maim indiscriminately, or slaughter our prisoners after their surrender.

Shortly after dawn, we heard the vibration of the train approaching and saw puffs of smoke rising from the engine from around the cliffs. Once they were in range I detonated the first mine, which toppled the engine and hurdled wheels and other train fragments dozens of yards in the air. Auda triggered the second, crippling the middle of the train and mangling the tracks. It was a troop transport. After they had a few moments to collect themselves, the men exited the train, not bothering to take up defensive positions. Once the majority seemed to have disembarked, I gave Stanley the signal, and he opened up on them with surgical precision. His fire took out more than half of the troop in less than a minute.

Just then, an open-carriage car rolled up on a side road, parallel to the tracks. It was carrying several Turkish non-commissioned officers. They were heading straight for Stanley and Browntrout. Just as the car reached them, the Maxim jammed. I watched helplessly from the other side of the tracks as the Turks drew their firearms.

There wasn’t time for Stanley and Browntrout to draw their side-arms. Instead, Stanley had a more novel solution I have never seen before or since: He wrenched the jammed ammunition belt out of the chamber of the Maxim and raced toward the Turks’ vehicle, wielding it like a bullwhip. With one swing, he did in their windscreen. By now, Browntrout had his pistol on them and they had their hands in the air, so terrified they were of this beast who could do almost as much damage throwing ammunition as he could firing it out of a gun.

Once Stanley had the Turks dead to rights I thought that was it for those soldiers; they were completely at his mercy. To my surprise he harmed not a hair on their heads — even without Browntrout telling him to back down. Then I recalled the fight in Auda’s tent with Sayid, which Stanley had done nothing to provoke. He had every right to kill Sayid, but he’d barely touched him. Once the melee was finished, Browntrout pulled out his medical kit and went to work on those of the enemy who could be saved (which were not many, so thorough was our operation). I can only imagine what he must have felt as he put his physician’s skills to use toward the men he had just mowed down with Stanley on the Maxim gun. Whatever he thought or felt, he worked feverishly to save them. Stanley was his ready assistant in this, even pushing an overturned train car off of a Turkish soldier that had pinned him to the ground when it went over. Given these displays of valor — which I was admittedly slow to acknowledge — perhaps I had misjudged Browntrout and the Saysquack entirely.

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Dash Fire Diaries

Dash Fire Diaries

Envisioning a past that never was. Step through a surreal portal where objective truth, imagined history and satirical fiction coexist.

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