“Not now Mam, I had a rough night.”
“What? Ow!” Scarlet DuBois was surfacing from under the freezer.
“Jump to it you two,” said Kiki as she retrieved her Bren from a heap of burst cornet cartons, “We’re missing all the action.”
“The van’s very buckled, isn’t the door jammed?” asked Kitty.
“Might well be, where ever it is. Flew off somewhere up the hill. We can get out, but keep your heads down.”
Outside the battle was at its height, the air thick with smoke and a cacophony of percussions, cries, whinnies and faltering mariachi filling their ears.
“Come on. We’re going to take out that eighty-eight.”
“Really?” They crawled on their bellies, snake like and unnoticed towards the far gun emplacement where a Krupp 8.8-cm Flugzeugabwehrkanone was pounding shell after shell into Aunty Stella’s cavalry. The Chat gun crew were too intent on loading and firing their artillery piece to notice the kittens creeping up. Until that is, Kitty, leaning provocatively against the stacked ammunition boxes, gave a whistle.
“Hello boys. Fancy a bit of fun?” They didn’t, it wasn’t, and they never knew who hit them from behind.
“Go again Mrs?”
Aunty Stella had staggered back to the observatory gates, leaving her mount, turban and pride in the melee below. She was looking around for Mad Jack when the Corporal of Horse addressed her. His uniform was torn, he had a nasty gash across his forehead and was leading a limping horse. His bedraggled comrades, clutching various wounds and supporting each other, tried unsuccessfully to match his enthusiasm.
“Not today lads. It was a brave, mad dash, but once was more than enough,” she replied. A two man Kronstadt machine gun crew was still firing their PM M1910 Maxim from the back of the tachanka as Snowdrop urged her team in retreat. Scattered survivors were making their way back as best they could. The exhausted troopers moved aside as Mad Jack trotted through their ranks looking like he had just stepped out from his tailor’s, unstained, uncrumpled and blissfully unconcerned. He was escorting Aunty Stella’s cob.
“What ho. Found this back there, wandering around on its own. One’s not sure, but them Chats may have something else up their sleeve.” On cue there was a glint of sunshine on polished aluminium out beyond the Naval College, and an eerie, pulsating, whirring sound. Les Chats’ ‘Feuerball’ flying saucer rose, hovered, and then advanced towards them, its death ray swivelling to point directly at the horrified remnants of the Hampshire Light Horse.
Seconds later there was a thundering crump from behind the observatory buildings and a large bore shell whooshed overhead. It hit the fuselage of the foo-fighter with a clang but did not explode. The Corsairs tended to buy their ammo on the cheap from a highly suspect black marketeer called Ali, on the Port Said quayside. The dark bulk of the Queen Anne’s Bounty lumbered into view, her mighty engines roaring and pennants straining in the cross wind. The haunting brass of Richard Strauss’ Sunrise from Also Sprach Zarathustra issuing from her speaker arrays was withering trees. Yet the overall sound quality was disappointingly tinny as the ship’s engineers had proven better at fixing motorjets than hifi.
“That tune’s quite soothing after the first noisy bit,” observed the Corporal of Horse.