The Destroyer of Worlds
Flushed, nay ecstatic, with their unprecedented success at the siege of Berwick, and having extracted guarantees of future good conduct from the pirate captains, the Kittens of Chaos reassembled upon their waterborne battle craft and headed back out to sea. The Destroyer of Worlds wallowed south on a mission to reap havoc amongst the Tyne ports. The hours crawled slowly one behind another like zombies queuing for a brain handout at an NHS Autopsy Surplus Store. As autumn turned to winter the weather deteriorated and seas rose. The Kittens retrieved their buckets and retreated to their couches. Tovarishch-Matros Petrichenko readied his mop and pail.
As they passed the citadel of Bamburgh flares went up ashore and signal fires followed them down the coast. Warnings of their progress dogged them every fathom and league till they were pitching some way off the Fiercely Independent Pirate Republic of Craster. Braving the mounting swell a flotilla of sturdy cobles, tiny piratically decorated vessels, churning foam and bucking the waves, swarmed from the fortress harbour intent on surrounding the monstrous ekranoplan. Kittens manned the ZU-23 Sergeys, prepared to sell their honour dearly. Consuella took the helm and began to turn the Destroyer of World towards the oncoming fleet. They had a jolly good ramming coming to them.
“Hold fast, señora,” said the Tovarich-Starshina, putting down his binoculars and turning from the cockpit window, “The lead craft is displaying a flag of truce.”
“Parlé!” came the cry.
The Destroyer of Worlds heaved to and Consuella Starcluster stood by the Starboard paddle box, flanked by two heavily armed Kronstadt seamen, to receive their visitors. The lead coble was approaching the wing stub a little too quickly.
“Gan canny or we’ll dunsh summick,” a sturdy corsair addressed his helmsman from the bow and then called out, “Hoos ya fettling, hinny? Hey ya git the
Kittens aboard? We waad leik te hev a crack wiv t’wi bairns.” He heaved the boat’s painter to one of the Kronstadt crew. Consuella did not move.
“Stay een hyourrr boat. Eef hyou want to talk hyou can shout frrrom therrre.”
“Wi heerd aboot they rumpous in Berwick. There’s a hiring on offer fre they sonsy kiddars ashore heor. Can Ah na come abooard? Hit’s aaful rough oot heor in this wi booat.”
“Hyou’ll do fine as hyou arrre, señor. Speak hyour pieze.”
“Oh bugger! Give ower, y’a kiddin. Ah weel a’s ney huffed… They’s a bit o’ sorta cabaret woerk. T’Alnwick Empire ay putting on a performance o’ Les Miserables on Ice, bun th’entire chorus o’ revolutionary virgins hez gan doon wi chicken pox. Wi wore hoping ter tice yer lasses in te standing in fer a few weeks.”
“I ham not so surre about that, meesterr. I hwould haff to come along too, as chaperrrone.”
“Tha’d be fine, canny lass, the hintend o’ Dobbin hez bin caal’d fre jury duty, so wi’s getten a job fre yee sel tee.”
There were squeals of, “Please, please, miss, miss please, señora,” from the doorway behind Consuella.
“Hokay meesterr, hyou haaf ay deal. Lead the way.”
Flo passed her 8×30 field glasses to Bamse, “Do you see the Kronstadt sailors approaching in open order?”
He did. Frosted faces hidden behind goggles and scarves, bodies hunched against the Antarctic weather, their lower limbs engulfed in a haze of windswept snow powder.
“And the New Swabian ski patrol, half way between them and us, hunkered down for an ambush?”
Yes, Bamse saw them too; hidden behind wind carved pinnacles of ice either side of the path that the approaching sailors must take. The Neuschwabenlander Hauptmann, pointing the 9mm parabellum pistol in his right hand skyward, was waiting for the precise moment to signal his troops to open fire.
“We must warn them… but they’re well out of ear shot. If only I’d brought the flare gun.”
“I could try barking very loudly, or a wolf like howl,” suggested Bamse.
He had just coughed to clear his throat and was taking a deep breath in preparation for his record-breaking yowl, when Flo shouted, “What’s that?”
The Hauptmann dropped abruptly to the snow and almost instantaneously an Oberjäger collapsed nearby. Gone, without so much as a ‘Kiss me, Hardy.’ Moments later two loud reports echoed across the landscape.
“That sounded like SVT 40 Tokarev rifles,” said Flo, “The Kronstadt troops have snipers out. Cunning little buggers.”
There was a puff of snow close to one of the ski troopers’ ear and he slowly raised his hands as the delayed crack of the rifle shot rang out again. Cautiously his comrades stood up and followed suit. Soon the Kronstadt Unit had them disarmed and kettled into a submissive huddle, the snipers were trudging in from their hiding places and Flo and Bamse were walking in towards the group whilst waving white hankies.
“Comrades?” enquired the doubly puzzled Starshina; puzzled at the unexpected appearance of a Saint Bernard with a flag of truce and equally bemused by the accompanying, vague, pink shape that he could not quite make out.
“Long story,” said Flo, removing her headgear so that her face suddenly popped into view; not a reassuring sight as it floated in space with a black grease-paint slash across the eyes and Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture #101 Violet Singulier defining her lips, “Your support ship and crew is taken. Bamse you know from the voyage down. He’s been sort of spying, I’m a spy too, a proper one, with a code name and everything, but today I’m a one-woman International Rescue, and you’re going to join in and help. I have authorization from Larry and from here on in I am in charge. I should think one of your prisoners would be willing to tell us where we have to go, if you ask nicely. What happened to your transport, by the way? Bamse said you had snowmobiles.”
“They were rubbish,” said the Comrade-Starshina, “One never made it off the sea ice, threw a con rod. Mine was so noisy the whole continent must have heard us coming. So we detached the machine gun and ditched the aerosled.”
Bereft of their officer and sergeant, it took only a little persuasion for the Ski Troop grunts to co-operate with their captors and provided a detailed description of the location and layout of the Submarine Base. Relieving them of their weapons and skis the Kronstadt shore detail left the New Swabians to make their own way back, their slow progress hampered by the deep snow. Bamse had made a sketch map from their description of the terrain and was prepared to lead the way to their target. The sailors checked their equipment, oiled their weapons and hung bandoliers of ammunition across their chests. A brisk march soon brought them within sight of the sprawling base.
“Bamse and I will go in first and create a diversion. Give us ten minutes and then you bring your men in via the submarine pens. Disable what you can on the way through, spike the guns and booby-trap the subs. Let’s create a bit of mayhem,” said Flo to the Comrade-Starshina.