Kiki froze for a moment and then began to rise. She had barely moved when she was stopped by the sound of cracking twigs. A few feet to her left an onion seller, pushing a rather rusty, antiquated bicycle stepped out into the clearing. The bike’s wheel-bearings squeaked as he approached the group standing at the passage entrance. He held out a stubby wing to the lady who had addressed him. She shook it enthusiastically.
“Mr Ferdinand Desai I presume.” The onion seller confirmed her presumption with a cautious nod. “My name is Augusta King. I believe we have a shared fascination for aviation.”
Ferdy liked nothing more than to talk planes with almost anyone. But whilst speaking to Augusta he was eyeing her feline escort.
“As I am sure you are aware I was proceeding on my lawful occasions, all be it in disguise, within a downtown opium emporium frequented by lesser clerks of the Occupational Administration when I was approached by your oriental companion. He requested that we meet here. Said it was of vital importance. He did not mention Les Chats Souterrains.”
“What is it you say, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’? I appreciate your scepticism, you and they have clashed before, but they are integral to my mission.” Her homely smile never faulted.
“I don’t think I have ever said that.”
“I could send them away.”
“As they are here, madam, and would seem to be associated with your purpose. I would just as soon have them within sight.” Ferdy was beginning to doubt the wisdom of having turned up at all. He was not about to trust some strange woman in league with Les Chats. On the other hand he had not failed to notice Kiki in the bushes and she famously packed a fearsome array of percussive hardware. At this very moment she could be drawing a bead on either one of these tunnel-wraiths. He was ready.
Augusta King smiled on.
No shot rang out.
One of Les Chats nervously fingered a tin ray gun that looked as if it might have come from a Woolworth’s toy counter back in the 50s. After the conversational hiatus had dragged out rather longer than was comfortable Augusta spoke again.
“Your young friend could come out into the open as well, if she wanted.”
Kiki didn’t move, just in case. But this time no one else emerged. She stood up and stalked out of the underbrush. Even when she appeared sheepish there was a sense of barely contained wrath in her demeanour.
“Oh, come on, the pair of you. We really are all on the same side, just this once.” Augusta was being almost too solicitous; she had all the big guns. In fact, for the moment, she had the only guns.
Kiki glared, “Why?”
“Because… Hmm… I expect you have surmised that I am tasked in some way by The Merovingian Lizard Kings. Master Dorje here and I myself do in fact hail from their mountain domain. They are less than happy with the current situation and do not wish to see a restoration of the conditions that were extant prior to what your Mr McGoogs chooses to call his Great Revelation, your little British coup. I have run numerous scenarios through my analytical engine and in every model you do not prevail. Your surreal confederacy constitutes a guttering beacon of hope in a blighted world and, for the time being, they do not wish it to be extinguished.
Kiki still glared, “What?”
Ferdy placed a wing on Kiki’s shoulder. “I fear we do not entirely grasp your intentions. Why us?”
“You, Mr Desai because I want to chat amiably of ornithopters and because you are trustworthy. As for the lioness,” Augusta King glanced towards Kiki, “she was not supposed to be here.”
“I am but a pilot and own an autogyro not an ornithopter. I’m afraid I know little of bird flight.” Ferdy flapped his wing stubs ineffectually to reinforce his point.
Master Dorje stepped forward:
“Extending our time out here in the open I do not want. A British Imperialist patrol might pass at any moment. But perhaps I may elucidate.
“In our mountain valley utopia, China and the orient at our backs we have, with their predilection for conformity and tradition. Society is all, the individual nothing. Confucius and Lenin for that I blame. Before us the seething shambolic legions of the subcontinent there is. The Dark Lords are drawn naturally to such chaos. Concluded they have that the near global Corporate Neoliberalism pertaining at this time curbed must be. Overt US Military intervention avoided at all cost however must also be. And your Temporary Acting Prime Minister Larry is our last, great, and woefully forlorn, hope. We are picking a side.”