“Left hand down a bit, the tower is over there,” I says to Ferdy, who is doing the driving. And he gives me a stern look, as if I’s criticising his navigation or summat. I do have very keen eyesight, ’specially when I got the spyglass. But Ferdy’s being OK too.
Polly sticks her head round the door.
“Are we nearly there yet?”
So I says, “Yup, we’ll be landing within the hour.”
And she says, “In that case I am going to bugger off in my little red plane. If things don’t go to plan you all may need back up later.”
She’s dead good in that thing. It’s a Polikarpov I-16 fighter, red all over with yellow stars and two 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns and two 20mm ShVAK cannons mounted in the wings. And it’s dead manouverable.
She stops off at the officers’ canteen to pick up a pre-ordered packet of Catapano goats cheese and Coln Valley smoked salmon sandwiches and to refill her hip flask with cheap vodka.
“No point using the good stuff,” she says, “in the middle of a dog fight I spill more than I drink.”
“You should get one of those Beerbelly™ WineRack bras for hands free drinking,” suggests the Pusser.
“What’s a bra?” asks Polly.
The best things about the Airship of State are deffo the food. She has chefs instead of cooks and three-Michelin-star gourmet restaurants instead of mess decks and there is all day breakfasts available ALL DAY!
Anyway, back to the story. Polly gets in her plane and starts up the engine and stuff, while the crew are lowering it out of the hangar, unbolting things and hammering and swearing at the release mechanism. Then there is a clunk and the red Rata drops away from beneath the airship. And she is whizzing off towards the horizon doing barrel rolls as she goes.
And I has another look through the spyglass. It’s dead good, made of brass tubes that slide inside each other and when you stretch them out it’s really long and makes things look ever so close even when they’re not. I’m looking at Gilnockie Tower again. It’s grey and stony and has a little flag on top.
The dour, granite, crenulated pile had been sturdily built with defence high on its creator’s agenda. It stood in solitude amidst the wooded hills of the Scottish Marches, bearing the battle scars of centuries of conflict, family feuds, power struggles and border wars.
We approach slowly from down wind and come in over the croquet lawn. Lots of ghillies (sort of Scotch servants) in greeny-bluey tartan kilts and matching bonnets rush out to catch our mooring lines as we cast them down, and we are dragged and guided over towards the stables, where we are tethered close to the laird’s Silver Ghost.