“Banshees?” suggested Boz, unhelpfully.
“Well no bloody boggart’s getting on my bus,” said Flo, advancing towards the rear platform. OK, so someone had to put on a brave face, however much they just wanted to go home. She braced herself defiantly in the stairwell and stared out into the darkness.
Le Brocq called through from the drivers cab, “It’s only howler monkeys; they seem to have got noisier since they spread out from the zoo. They’re harmless. It’s the silent stuff down in the undergrowth you need to worry about, animal and human. If you can still call Captain Midlands’ degenerates human.” Somehow no one felt particularly reassured.
The bus swerved to avoid a haunch of venison that lay in the road still attached to the shredded hindquarters of its original owner. The stockiest lizard Le Brocq had ever seen waddled out onto the verge to glare back at him. He straightened up the Routemaster and watched in his rear-view mirror as the reptile returned to its meal. Then a flash of twilight on gunmetal in the sky ahead diverted the partisan bus driver’s attention and the dark mass of Rotskagg’s flagship descended into view. There was a fluttering buzz as a Tiffany Blue, single-seater odonaptor scout flew up alongside, close enough for the pilot to eye the occupants of the bus. He made an ‘O’ with thumb and forefinger and then gestured for them to follow.
The Queen Anne’s Bounty was being tethered at ground level when Boz and his comrades arrived at a clearing in the woods. Centred on the open space the Corsair camp was ringed by a defensive palisade with a hundred yards of barren killing ground in every direction. The entire area was starkly floodlit. They parked up and as they disembarked Rottskagg and his ship’s-mate Smee strode out to meet them.
“Had a good journey?” asked the pirate king as he ushered them through a gateway in the palisade topped by a timber-framed watchtower. A solid looking blockhouse took up much of the compound and a flagpole was flying Rotskagg’s death’s head banner.
“Not too eventful, so far,” replied Boz weakly.
“Ninja fashion has come on some since last we met, my petite assassin.” The corsair addressed Dark Flo with a twinkle in his one eye. “Very floral.”
Damn, she had forgotten she was still wearing the improvised poncho. For the first time in the gang’s memory Flo looked embarrassed. Rotskagg doubled up with mirth. Boz thought he had better intervene before someone died.
“Your camp is very well defended captain.”
Smee answered for his commander. “The renegades have made a number of tentative sorties against us and we have lost a cabin boy to the Komodo Dragons. Dragons’ spittle be like something out of Alien, an obnoxious brew that infects wounds and carries certain death. So we be organised. The next assault will meet with stiff opposition. The gunners and stokers sleep aboard the Bounty on twenty-four hour alert. Her main armament can be active within two minutes and she may be airborne in five.”
“Bloody lizards,” muttered Rotskagg, “the crew were fond of that lad.”
Everyone huddled around the chart table in Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp’s suite.
“So, my young friends, why be ‘e here?”
“We need to get into the Atlantean tunnel system,” replied Boz, “Les Chats Suterrains have captured Consuella and the Kittens and have disabled access to the interdimensional portal.”
“And Mrs King. They have Mrs King and Mother Superior,” added Zelda.
“Ah. I were rather taken with the Lady Augusta,” says Rotskagg.
“I have a plan,” continued Boz. “When we were in the Castleton caves we observed the veil between worlds responding to a specific combination of audio frequencies. Zelda here believes she can hack the system.”
“I have Edgar Varèse’s Poème Électronique on my iPhone along with any number of Charles Ives compositions. If we can combine them through your gargantuan ghetto blasters and I add a little touch of my own we should be able to force a crack, open a way in,” she explained. Some of the group looked impressed, others evidently found her taste in music a little unconventional.
“Where, not back at the convent?” from Rotskagg.
“No, Le Chats will have that portal locked down.” Replied Zelda. “Boz thought we could try at La Hougue Boëte.”
“Kushti, little technomage. Waste no time. We sail right after tea.”