He did. Frosted faces hidden behind goggles and scarves, bodies hunched against the Antarctic weather, their lower limbs engulfed in a haze of windswept snow powder.
“And the New Swabian ski patrol, half way between them and us, hunkered down for an ambush?”
Yes, Bamse saw them too; hidden behind wind carved pinnacles of ice either side of the path that the approaching sailors must take. The Neuschwabenlander Hauptmann, pointing the 9mm parabellum pistol in his right hand skyward, was waiting for the precise moment to signal his troops to open fire.
“We must warn them… but they’re well out of ear shot. If only I’d brought the flare gun.”
“I could try barking very loudly, or a wolf like howl,” suggested Bamse.
He had just coughed to clear his throat and was taking a deep breath in preparation for his record-breaking yowl, when Flo shouted, “What’s that?”
The Hauptmann dropped abruptly to the snow and almost instantaneously an Oberjäger collapsed nearby. Gone, without so much as a ‘Kiss me, Hardy.’ Moments later two loud reports echoed across the landscape.
There was a puff of snow close to one of the ski troopers’ ear and he slowly raised his hands as the delayed crack of the rifle shot rang out again. Cautiously his comrades stood up and followed suit. Soon the Kronstadt Unit had them disarmed and kettled into a submissive huddle, the snipers were trudging in from their hiding places and Flo and Bamse were walking in towards the group whilst waving white hankies.
“Comrades?” enquired the doubly puzzled Starshina; puzzled at the unexpected appearance of a Saint Bernard with a flag of truce and equally bemused by the accompanying, vague, pink shape that he could not quite make out.
“Long story,” said Flo, removing her headgear so that her face suddenly popped into view; not a reassuring sight as it floated in space with a black grease-paint slash across the eyes and Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture #101 Violet Singulier defining her lips, “Your support ship and crew is taken. Bamse you know from the voyage down. He’s been sort of spying, I’m a spy too, a proper one, with a code name and everything, but today I’m a one-woman International Rescue, and you’re going to join in and help. I have authorization from Larry and from here on in I am in charge. I should think one of your prisoners would be willing to tell us where we have to go, if you ask nicely. What happened to your transport, by the way? Bamse said you had snowmobiles.”
“They were rubbish,” said the Comrade-Starshina, “One never made it off the sea ice, threw a con rod. Mine was so noisy the whole continent must have heard us coming. So we detached the machine gun and ditched the aerosled.”
Bereft of their officer and sergeant, it took only a little persuasion for the Ski Troop grunts to co-operate with their captors and provided a detailed description of the location and layout of the Submarine Base. Relieving them of their weapons and skis the Kronstadt shore detail left the New Swabians to make their own way back, their slow progress hampered by the deep snow. Bamse had made a sketch map from their description of the terrain and was prepared to lead the way to their target. The sailors checked their equipment, oiled their weapons and hung bandoliers of ammunition across their chests. A brisk march soon brought them within sight of the sprawling base.
“Bamse and I will go in first and create a diversion. Give us ten minutes and then you bring your men in via the submarine pens. Disable what you can on the way through, spike the guns and booby-trap the subs. Let’s create a bit of mayhem,” said Flo to the Comrade-Starshina.