The vault above with its carpet of stars and ribbon of Milky Way was as eternal as ever, but the landscape below was getting closer. Black trees reached up towards them from the dark earth. The forest grew aggressively close, twigs and leaves rattling against the hull. The clattering and scraping stopped and beneath them was sandy scrub that turned into a patch of obsidian blackness, peppered with stars – the sky again, below them. A playful zephyr rippled cats’ paws across the mirror surface making the stars dance and then break up as the Dornier touched down onto a small lake at a considerably steeper angle than recommended in the flying manuals. She dug in. A bow wave curled back and drenched the cockpit windscreens, spray obscured everything outside, rhinestone teardrops plumed from prop blades or dribbled down the skin of leviathan. Waggling flaps and throwing those engines that still functioned into reverse Ferdinand and Boris fought to bring the craft under control. It slowed, bobbed and eased its bow up a gently shelving beach at the far end of the pond. Phoebus and Ginsbergbear appeared in the doorway.
“Did we miss something?”
Trousers rolled up and boots in hand the heroes disembarked and as they reached the strand yellowing twin headlamps flashed three times from the edge of the woods, a signal.
The transport awaiting them was an ageing Chevy pick-up with Strawberry at the wheel. He was one of the cats who lived with Aunty Stella and would take them to pick her up. Boz and Phoebles piled into the cab whilst Ferdinand and Ginsbergbear scrambled over the tailgate and settled down amongst the sacks and boxes in the back. It is possible that having three ginger cats in the driving cab of a blue Chevrolet truck is not ideal. As they pulled away Boris decided to take command though he had no idea where they were. Phoebles had a map that Ginsbergbear had lent him and elected to be navigator. The map however covered the entire world in indifferent detail and was in a foreign language. Strawberry had the wheel and managed to retain it despite a great deal of pushing and shoving and squabbling. As they careered through the winding lanes with headlamps picking out fleeting detail in the gloom Ginsbergbear rang ahead on his shiny new i-Phone. He and Ferdy sat braced with their backs to the cab from which came shrieks and thumps and Rossini on a blaring car-radio.
After a hair-raising half hour the truck pulled up outside Aunty Stella’s house and Strawberry papped the horn. Ginsbergbear banged on the roof of the cab to attract the attention of those within.
He shouted through the window, “I have rung the aerodrome. They will have the Lady Aethelflaeda fired up and ready for us.”
Aunty Stella emerged, resplendent in pith helmet and tweeds and carrying a small overnight bag. Ferdy jumped down, helped her up over the tailboard and they were off again, heading north.
“Googleberry and Mouse may well follow tomorrow, they are still making sandwiches.”