Much had changed since the early days of the Coleycorsair Wars. The Lady Æthelflæda had recently had a major upgrade. She bristled with assorted weaponry and her eight newly modified, light weight, yet ultra-powerful Stanley Steamer engines drove three twin, contra-rotating propellers each. She was fast and agile. The top half of her canopy had been painted a North Sea slate-grey and below she was a light sky-blue. Ginsbergbear and Phoebles felt they had greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the camouflage by painting waves and an albatross into the dark grey and adding fluffy clouds to the blue underside. The aluminium outer casing of the gondola was streamlined and starkly functional. In the pilot’s seat the once affable dodo appeared drawn, thin beaked, his cold eyes fixed on the distant horizon. Boz sported an eye patch and the empty right arm of his reefer jacket was safety-pinned to his breast.
Phoebles was unimpressed, ‘You might find the controls easier to manage if you stopped mucking about and used both hands – put your jacket on properly,’ he muttered, somewhat scornfully, ‘And if you don’t take that silly eye-patch off you’ll go blind. You don’t look rugged, just daft.’
Boz sighed, ‘This war’s not much fun any more… And that bruised tail is making you insubordinate.’
The Lady Æthelflæda descended and Ferdinand straightened her up to hover a few feet above the swell, midway between the abandoned pirate vessel and its intended victim, a Belgian sidewinder coleyfishtrawler that wallowed and rolled as only a Belgian built trawler can. The entire crew lined the rail in enveloping oilskins and sou’westers and a cheer went up.
‘Hoera! U hebt ons opgesiagen.’
‘Hourra! Vous nous aves sauvés.’
Ginsbergbear and Phoebles waved to the fisherman whilst Boz turned his field glasses onto the corsair pursuit craft. A bilious green mist rolled along the deck to tumble through the scuppers and drift down wind along the surface of the sea. A little further away orange life rafts bobbed at the mercy of the waves. Gradually the gang became aware of a distant, gnat like whine and Boz spotted two indistinct dots in the sky to the northwest. Ferdy took up the 20×60 binoculars that were housed in a box by the bridge windows. Through them he could make out two gaudily painted Grumman J2F Ducks sporting CSAAF insignia on the wings and tail. Each had twin ring-mounted 50 calibre machine guns to the rear of the cockpit and they had additional machine guns Gaffer taped to the wings. The Corsairs and Reivers utilised prodigious amounts of gaffer tape and controlled by far the largest Gaffer tape factory in the northern counties.
‘It’s Les Chats Souterrains,’ shouted Ferdy.
‘Bugger,’ groaned Boz, ‘Is there no let up?
‘Take her up again, Ferdy. Those crates can’t out climb us. And, Phoebles, get the Kronstadt Fleet Air Arm on the radio. We need back up.’