Shit or Glory!

lady-ae-sBeryl Clutterbuck clenched her teeth, set her shoulders and aimed the Lady Æ down the length Of USS Texas’ foredeck. The dirigible’s six-pounder turrets were swung to aim for’ard and fired continuously. Her airframe vibrated and steam gauges quivered around the red danger mark. As she plunged into the smoke of the still smouldering wreckage the flight deck crew flew on blindly, emerging back into daylight just in time to avoid colliding with the battleship. Phoebles pulled her up on the elevators, Boz pumped ballast to the stern and Beryl spun the steering wheel to port. They grazed passed the warship’s superstructure now gleaming Day-Glo pink from the paint shells, beyond the smashed bridge windows oozing amber-green diammonium sulfide gunk from the stink shells, and broke clear. Instantly the air around exploded with Ack-Ack. Shrapnel tore into the canopy, rattled off the gondola, the rear windows imploded and one of the Stanley Steamer engines caught fire.

“Both barrels!” Boz spoke quietly, cool and resolute. Lady Æthelflæda’s stern-chaser howitzers boomed out and the anti-aircraft fire ceased as pink powder paint showered down on the gun emplacements. But the airship was slowing and losing height.

“Aim for the shore and try and find something soft to crash onto,” said Boz, addressing Beryl. “Chuck out anything we don’t need, lads.”

The pilot steered her sluggish charge, as best she could, low over a burning fuel dump that did not look at all soft, drifted above some anonymous tax exile’s luxury property, taking out a chimney stack on the way, called out, “full astern, vent gas!” and dumped the crippled dirigible into a heated outdoor swimming pool. It overlapped at both ends, a lot. A border terrier barked at them, had second thoughts and ran inside the house.

Beyond the coast the battle scarred Queen Anne’s Bounty, now treating the residents of Jersey and the Normandy western seaboard to the Sex Pistols’ Greatest Hits turned landward, opened her ventral hangar doors and launched six Personnel Transporter Lucanoptors, heavy wing-powered shuttles carrying Corsair Marines, Mercenaries and Reivers for the ground assault. Inchcolm Lassie with De Kraken as escort headed for Jersey Harbours. The monitor fired a round from its 105 mm howitzer to signal the start of the bombardment and wave after wave of screaming rockets launched from the puffer into quays, storehouses and Yankee Merchant Marine supply ships. Out at sea several corsair corvettes, carried into war on the swell, wallowed, sinking. Surviving corvettes, as the pirates styled their whale catchers, swarmed about the Arizona and Texas inflicting little more than dents in the foot-thick armour and spoiling the warships’ paintwork. Kapten Nyai’s lugger Bonnie Lass had lost her main mast and retired.

Kronstadt Fleet Air Arm Ratas buzzed ineffectually above the USS Texas while the officers on the Arizona had re-established control over their panicking crew and were manoeuvring to bring all her main guns to bear on the Queen Anne’s Bounty.

Battered yet unbowed the Imperialist floating fortresses were winning the day.

On the Queen Anne’s dimly red-lit command deck a nervous first mate was reluctantly approaching Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp.

“That bloody warship be about to give us a broadside! What be ‘e wanting, Smee?”

“Just got this telegram from the radio room, cap’n. You’re not going to like what it says.” Rotskagg snatched the sheet from his hapless subordinate.

SCATTER STOP EXCLAMATION STOP US 6TH FLEET ON YOUR POSITION IMMINENT STOP DOUBLE EXCLAMATION STOP HAND STOP LARRY TAPM RUCS XX ENDS

“Scatter be buggered!” roared Rotskagg, his face turning crimson, arteries bulging at his temples and his mate scuttling for the exit. “Charge the Arizona’s guns. Ramming speed. If we be going down it be here and now and it won’t be with our arse shot away. Shit or Glory!”

The Arizona was ready to fire. Rotskagg was ready to become legend, and take his crew with him. And then… Announced by a ringing clang a ragged hole appeared in the USS Arizona’s funnel, she rolled over some twenty degrees and slowly came back, her forward hyperboloid lattice observation mast disintegrated. Several more shells burst along her length. Round the point, from the eastern side of the island steamed a ‘protected’ cruiser, black hull, gleaming white superstructure and three canary yellow funnels. She was escorted by two Kronstadt armed trawlers, her fourteen six inch guns were firing a second salvo and she was all but dwarfed by a battle ensign the size of Luzhniki Stadium. It streamed blood red, emblazoned with hammer and plough and the words ‘All Power to the Soviets’. As she pointed towards the Arizona she fired two torpedoes.

“Smee, put The Internationale on the phonograph!”

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