Slasher McGoogs, in yachting cap, white shorts and deck shoes, stood next to Kapitänleutnant Felix Graf von Luckner, on the bridge of the surface raider Pinguin. Cats swarmed everywhere. The Pinguin was operating off the eastern seaboard of the United States of American. The cats were ships’ cats rescued from the Pinguin’s victims before the vessels were sunk, and given free range over the warship. The Merchant Marine crews were confined to the officers mess, drinking German beer, playing boogie-woogie jazz on the Steinway grand and celebrating their good luck.”
“How many merchantmen is that now captain?”
“Fifteen; a hundred and sixty thousand tons,” replied the Kapitänleutnant.
“Well it’s worked. The Sixth Fleet has diverted from its course towards Jersey and is coming to get us. The arrogance of these yanks; haven’t changed their codes in over a year. They might as well communicate in plain language.”
“Gut. Now we will make all speed for Cape Horn. The Galapagos Islands can be very pleasant this time of year. We will give away our position once in a while, make sure they follow. First stop the River Plate to drop off our prisoners, I think.”
“Erm… You won’t need me to come ashore will you?” Slasher was looking a bit shifty.
“Ah yes, the bank scandal. What is it they call you in Rio, the Teflon Spectre? Thirteen government ministers gaoled, including the Vice President, and you were acquitted in absentia due to lack of evidence.”
“It was never proved beyond reasonable doubt that I even existed.”
Auguasta found Zelda the Geek in a gothic arched Entertainment Crypt below the refectory of the convent fortress of the Lesbian Brides of Our Lady of Perpetual Self-Doubt, watching Doris Day in Calamity Jane on a 65” LG smart TV. She was listening on headphones and jumped nervously when Augusta touched her on the shoulder. Zelda turned and whipped off the black BOSE QuietComfort 35 Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones that continued to blast out The Sisters of Mercy’s Marian at high volume. The plumpish teenage sociopath could have been Velma Dinkley, in her horn-rimmed specs and orange jumper, had it not been for the Mohican, tattoos and piercings.
Augusta noted the savage, distant stare and the ravaged veins up the girl’s bare arm. “How long have you been clean, dear?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Been there before you. For me it was chasing the dragon on poppy nectar.”
“Oh. I was an innocent at Uni. Got sucked into wild Warhammer parties, Babycham and grass. Catnip looks and smells much like marijuana to the uninitiated. The occasional nipspliff led inexorably to mainlining. The nuns found me in a junky squat and dried me out. I don’t do anything stronger than Fisherman’s Friend lozenges these days.”
“Well, I’d go easy on them too, if I were you. Look, young lady, I need your help. I want anything and everything on the US Government’s involvement in this invasion… You do know there’s been an invasion don’t you? …Tweets, Instagram, the lot. And if you could get into Langley all the better. But we’ve got to remain untraceable, really untraceable. The Merovingian Lizard Kings have zero sense of humour and if my Analytical Engine gets clogged up with ads for Viagra and Penis Extensions they’ll wreak revenge. We must not exist, ghosts in the Cloud.”
“No problem,” said Zelda, “It’ll take a while to set up.”
In Zelda’s cell there was a pipe cot, a short row of coat hooks and a large secretaire. Cluttering the latter were two desktop Macs and a jumble of assorted hard drives and modems. The young nun began pulling out old connectors and cross patching a new and complex configuration.
Augusta, meanwhile, went outside and down the mound to the ancient passage grave. The path had turned slippery and sparkled from a persistent drizzle. The tunnel was dank and cold. At the far, inner end a low chamber was still guarded by two Chats Souterrains. Not the same ones, there had been several shift changes. They stood sentry either side of a steel door, its paint pealing and an injunction in French and English not to enter faded to illegibility. She passed through the door, descended a steel staircase and opened another door, painted green, frosted glass panel, into a disorderly workshop. Here she began work on a HeathRobinsonesque arrangement of multiple USB ports, a Cathode Ray Tube fettered within an electromagnetic collar, mauve glowing beam tetrodes, their HT anode topcaps arcing intermittently, and a Creed & Co teleprinter with mechanical keyboard, all conjoined in a maze of stiff, rubber coated copper wiring. This was destined to become The Analytical Engine’s near magical, and quite possibly musical Web Interface. Augusta put her soldering iron to one side and admired her masterpiece. With a little gentle manipulation the contraption was fitted into a cardboard box retrieved from under the workbench. She tucked it under her arm and marched up to yet another door, a perfectly normal door except that it hung isolated in the middle of the room some six inches above the floor. Augusta grabbed the doorknob, took a deep breath and opened. Facing her on the other side was a wide, endless tunnel ringed with light that pulsed down its length whilst playing a catchy little John Williams number.
“I hate this bit,” she muttered to herself and stepped forward.