“Karaoke night’s going to be a bit quieter from now on.”
“Come on down, Flo. We’ve got them.”
Mother Superior emerged from the Hougue Boëte portal followed by Generalissimo Starcluster, who stopped to help the aged Master Dorje off his knees, then the three Kittens, boggle-eyed and confused.
“What just happened?” asked Scarlet.
“We opened the portal,” replied Boz. “We were trying to get in to rescue you. How come you knew to be there?”
At that moment a mottled blue bat detached from the Queen Anne’s Bounty and swooped towards them. There was a crack as a parachute deployed, far later than was advisable, and the creature thumped to earth close enough to Boz for him to flinch.
“Ooof!” Dark Flo slipped out of her wingsuit and began to reel in her chute. Divested of her birdman costume Flo was clad in a skin-tight black leather cat suit and Converse All Star Black Mono leather baseball boots. Her outfit left little to the imagination and had the zip on the one-piece been pulled up a little higher Mother Superior may not have scowled so disapprovingly. Beryl climbed down from the cockpit of the shuttle and joined them.
“We’ve been holed up in the bubble universe where my Analytical Engine is installed,” said Augusta, as if there had been no interruption in the conversation.
“I’ve told them a bit about your mechanical computer,” said Zelda.
“Good. It’s been processing all the data Zelda here gathered off the Internet We added details of our plight and it came up with a set of parameters to program into the time-tunnel. The tunnel’s an artificial worm-hole that can be set up to terminate anywhere in space-time, but cannot escape the Atlantean passage system due to the constraints on dimensional shift.”
Phoebles began to glaze over.
“So we found ourselves in a stone chamber with a dead horse and no door. Then, wammo, there’s a hole and you lot on the other side of it.” The hummock from which they had emerged quivered. Thrup, and the portal was gone.
“Ooer.” Mrs King continued, “I don’t know what Les Chats were playing at. I thought they were supposed to be on our side.”
“World domination,” said Phoebles, “with them it’s always world domination.”
Shriek, shriek, shriek, shriek! A fiddle scraping in their collective imagination, the party glanced about nervously. Arboreal talons seemed to close in around them.
“Perhaps we’ve out stayed our welcome. Let’s get back to the airship,” said Beryl. There was a mad dash for the shuttle. Beryl Clutterbuck swung up into the cockpit and the aircraft’s diaphanous wings began to clatter and beat.
Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp broached a fresh keg of grog.
The gang had disembarked into the main hangar of the Queen Anne’s Bounty. Zelda and Flo had slunk past the charred and still smouldering remains of Rotskagg’s sound system as they were all ushered in to the saloon, carved oak panelling, pure Grinling Gibbons on steroids, vast oak table and benches.
“Tuck in.” Silver, the ship’s cook, smiled as he laid out second breakfast, Phoebles’ favourite meal of the day. It was the gaudy macaw perched precariously on his shoulder that had spoken.
“Kippers!” exclaimed Phoebles.
Zelda began to devour a substantial bacon banjo.
Mother Superior was scowling again. She had selected two dry bread doorsteps to be washed down with fresh, clear spring water and felt righteous. Master Dorje was dipping a lightly toasted soldier into his soft-boiled egg.
“Let it be, for now. Exceptional times, these are.”
“I shall be having a word with that one later.”