Under Consuella’s guidance the Kittens of Chaos assumed responsibility for reconstruction of the second hand Lun Class ekranoplan that they had seen in the docks. Refurbishing the eight Kuznetsov NK-87 turbojet engines proved way beyond the enthusiastic amateurs’ abilities, so they were removed by a particularly diminutive Kitten in possession of a welder’s mask and thermal lance. A local marine engineering firm was engaged to install the largest Bolinder single cylinder hot-bulb diesel to be found on eBay. Eight foot of twelve inch bore exhaust pipe protruded from the top of the fuselage, topped with a hinged cap that flicked up and clacked every time the piston expelled exhaust gasses. It blew blue-grey smoke rings with a reverberating Donk-Donk-Donk.
Rectangular holes had been cut (by the same enthusiastic Kitten) into the winglets in order to accommodate independently geared paddle wheels enclosed within ornate paddle boxes that had been put together during several of the Kittens’ Rehabilitation Carpentry Classes. The interior had been done out in Boudoir Red plush with a variety of chaise-longues and bean bags, a row of performance poles ranged down the middle of the cabin. Externally, in an attempt to avoid inevitable disharmony, each Kitten had been given a section of the vessel to paint. The result was a riotous mishmash of hues and styles, from painstakingly intricate art nouveau swirls to Jackson Pollock drips and sploshes. n unflattering portrait of an enraged Cthulhu decorated the nose of the plane and Consuella Starcluster had managed to get the colours of her venerated Spanish Republic striped onto the tail. Any possibility that the strange craft could achieve the velocity necessary for ground-effect flight was beyond expectation. She had become a somewhat unwieldy boat.
Armed with four ZU-23-2 “Sergey” 23mm twin-barrelled anti-aircraft autocannon, she was well defended, but without missiles the six fixed-elevation SS-N-22 Sunburn missile launchers, whilst looking impressive, were redundant. Not wanting to waste them, or give the Kitten with the thermal lance an excuse for more destruction, Consuella had them transformed into cannons of the type familiar to fans of Rossa “Zazel” Richter, The Human Cannonball. Powerful springs required teams of Kronstadt sailors with block and tackle to tension them and they would be able to project Durex water bombs, potatoes, grape shot made from real grapes, or even Kamikaze ninjas should any be found, high above the defensive walls of towns like Berwick.
“Is the paint dry yet? Can we go now? ‘Cos we is ready.”
Consuella looked down at a tiny fur ball under a tricorn hat, festooned with bandoleers of assorted ammunition and dwarfed by a Spas combat shotgun. Behind her ranged her compatriots in an imaginative variety of leather outfits (mostly highly inappropriate), harem costumes, saucy nurses and super heroes. She could see at least two Xenas, three Tank Girls and a Bo Peep. Their arsenal was infinitely varied and terrifyingly lethal.
Donk… Donk… Donk-Donk-Donk-Donk.
“Well, eet does sound as eef the Krronstadt sailorrs have herr rready foorr thee off. Come along, girrls. Get yourrselves aboarrd.”
There followed an unruly rush accompanied by much squealing.
“Señora Starcluster, can we give it a name – a proper name like Buenaventura’s Revenge?”
“Destroyer of Worlds!” squeaked the tricorn hat.
“I theenk that weell suit admirrrably, Fifi-Belle; thee Autonomous Battle Crrraft Destroyer of Worlds eet ees. Now, let’s get going. A lust foorrr carrrnage stirrrs weetheen my brrreast.”
Two steam tugs assisted the ABC Destroyer of Worlds through the lock gates and into the river Humber. She lumbered out past Spurn Point to face the North Sea swell, rolling, pitching and yawing at an agonising snails pace towards the northern horizon. Waves broke over the bows and washed past the cockpit windows. Windscreen wipers strained to keep the pilot’s view clear of spume, and failed. Many of the Kittens fell untypically silent, whilst others puked noisily into buckets, bowls or flower vases.
“Will this typhoon never end?” barfed Trixie de Montparnasse to the Tovarishch-Matros who was valiantly swabbing down the slippery and malodorous cabin.
“I fear little one, that we are experiencing unusually calm weather. If our good luck continues we shall reach our destination before the winter storms set in.”
“Aaaaugh!” she replied, clutching her zinc pail to her bosom like a slumbering lover.
For two weeks they wallowed up the east coast. Seagulls stood in a line along the roof of the fuselage watching puffins paddle past and a family of grey seals basked on the starboard winglet. Barnacles colonised the underside of the hull. Then, one fine, crisp dawn they found themselves in the Tweed estuary, beneath the towering ramparts of the Berwick upon Tweed city walls. They could discern no flag of surrender at the signal mast so with a call to arms, silent efficiency from the Kronstadt crew and excited pandemonium on the part of the Kittens of Chaos, the bombardment began.
Throughout the day the barrage was merciless; as night fell it became spectacular. Tracer streamed across the night sky from the 23mm water-cooled AZP-23 cannons. A gaunt pyrotechnical officer, with wire rimmed glasses and fewer fingers than normal, on loan from the Snake Pass Zapatistas, had joined before departure with boxes of Liuyang Thunder Dragon Fireworks Co Ltd Chinese fireworks, obtained at cut price in Hamleys’ summer sale. He skillfully mixed crossettes and mines, fish, Catherine wheels and Bengal Fire with the fruit and veg.
The Kittens of Chaos, emphatically banned from the powder room, were lined up on the Destroyer of Worlds’ winglets to witness the assault. But the pirate citadel did not fall.
On the second day a small inflatable with a Comrade-Starshina and two of the less irresponsible Kittens was dispatched to the shore to procure mercenaries. There was no let up in the assault on Berwick. To the joy of the Kittens of Chaos, Kronstadt sailors, stripped to the waist and drenched in sweat, toiled at the ropes.
“Two, six, heave! …Load! …Fire! …Two, six, heave!”
The shore detail was seen to return after several hours.
“There are no ninjas for hire. Not kamikaze ones. Not even in the pubs, after we’d bought them several pints, and us doing our wiggly dance. What are we going to do? That mob in Berwick is very resilient.”
“Hwell, they arrre corrrsairrrs and buccaneerrrs, dearrr.” Consuella had been giving the matter much of her attention, “We cannot affoord a long siege. We’ve burrrnt theirrr boats, but ourrr ammo ees getting low and prrretty soon they weell come up weeth a plan to counterrr attack.
“Petticoats off girrrls. We weell fashion them into parrrachutes. Hyou arrre all going eentoo action.”
Fluffybum pulled back the bolt on her StG 44 assault rifle, “Lock and load!”
“No dearrr. Hyou weell be exerrrcising yoor uniquely individual skeells to underrrmine barrrbarrrians unused to such subtlety, frrreebooterrrs amongst whom turrrning down the sound on MOTD and shouting Brace yerself! ees rrreegarded as forrreplay.”
And so it was that the Kittens of Chaos, dressed as for a Tarts and Vicars party without any vicars, though there were plenty of nuns in suspenders and fishnets, were packed in pairs into the missile tubes and projected over the walls to parachute into an unsuspecting Berwick.
Next morning the gates of the historic burgh opened and a sheepish group of spiritually broken and severely hung-over councillors emerged to surrender.
“Kommänder, an aircraft has been spotted flying over the base.”
“Stand the anti-aircraft crews to, but don’t do anything to attract attention. It’s probably just the Yanks doing some stunt to get in the Guinness Book of Records again.”
At last, thought Bamse, this must be Larry’s response to my call for help.
The day after sending out his radio message, not being one to waste time waiting, he had climbed onto the plateau above and behind the whaling station and had marked out a landing area with a large yellow X in the snow. For good measure he had drawn a prominent yellow arrow pointing to the cross and written ‘Over here’ in joined up writing. Each day he had revisited the spot and refreshed the markings. And now help was at hand. The Norwegian sea dog made his way through the back alleys, out of the camp and up to the landing site.
Beryl flew the Loening in a wide circle round the New Swabian whaling station, satisfying herself that they had reached the correct destination. She could see the coleyfishtrawler Lord Ancaster in the harbour below. Then she commenced a straight run directly over the harbour, trailing Red-White-and-Blue smoke. Throwing the bi-plane into a series of loops and tight turns she sky-wrote Hi Folks across the heavens.
“Might as well be obvious. They’re bound to have seen us,” Beryl called down to Flo who, was kneeling over the Elsan.
The Loening turned south, heading towards the pole until Beryl was reasonably sure their audience would have lost interest. Then she climbed to ten thousand feet and turned back towards the coast. In the cabin Dark Flo had changed into her new Class A1 16TOG ninja outfit. It was dyed Mountbatten Pink – a Greyish-mauve all but invisible to simian optical sensors. Over it she pulled on an X-Bird 3 wingsuit of mottled blues. Her minimalist katana, devoid of decoration, and her Fukiya blow pipe were across her back, daisho and feather duster tucked in her waistband, and she carried a haversack filled with assorted Shuriken throwing stars, darts for the blowpipe, her war fan, and Happo eggs filled with Metsubushi blinding powder.
“Ready to go, Flo?”
“All set. Keep her steady.”
Flo clambered out onto the wing, there was a loud crack as her wing suit stretched out in the slipstream, and without a word of farewell, she was gone. As the Loening continued northwards Flo swooped over the polar terrain, a tiny blue dart invisible from below. Her speed sucked the breath out of her and an icy wind pressed her goggles into her face. Looping above the barren land she took stock of her surroundings, spotted a line of despondent emperor penguins trudging inland and then noted a group of men – sailors, judging by their visorless caps – a few miles from the whaling station, proceeding in an open, skirmish formation. Back tracking, Flo identified Bamse’s fresh yellow X and dove towards the landing area, deploying her chute at the last possible moment and ploughing into the snow with a thud. She quickly wound in the parachute, unzipped her wing suit and buried the ensemble. For good measure she kicked clean snow over the landing markers. When she looked up Bamse was strolling across the snowfield towards her. Being a dog, he could just make her out despite the camouflage pink. Canine rods and cones differ significantly from those of monkey descendants and are less likely to be confused by weird colours.
“Let’s get under cover and out of the cold. I’ve built a bit of an igloo back there amongst the drifts. It’s fairly cosy.” He had also brought a thermos of builders’ tea and some pickled cabbage sandwiches.
The igloo was compact, inconspicuous, beautifully crafted, a handy bolthole and sufficiently warm for Flo to feel the need to remove much of her ninja kit. While they drank their tea, Bamse launched into his report.
“We got the shore detail away before we were captured so I don’t think anyone knows they are here. The Lord Ancaster’s down in the harbour, but a bloody big sub took Harold and the crew off somewhere. This whaling station is just an outpost – from what I’ve gleaned in my time here the main operation’s elsewhere. And they all think it’s something special”
“I believe I saw your Russians down the coast,” said Flo, “I wonder if the New Swabians have a submarine base over that way. We need to locate the rest of the crew and find out what’s going on. Whatever it is it sounds every bit as big as Larry reckons.
“Don’t suppose we could manage the trawler on our own so it looks like we’re on foot for now. Best save the sandwiches in case we need them later. Let’s go and explore.”