The Analytical Engine Speaks

It was gone teatime when Zelda and Master Dorje appeared wheeling a shopping trolley piled high with junk. Dorje cautiously isolated the readout mechanism and digging out a box of gears and worms began to ferret around in that section of the Analytical Engine’s mainframe immediately behind the blue boy. Meanwhile Zelda, utilising a watchmaker’s screwdriver, detached the lad’s writing hand. She then produced a medium sized tea chest, the contents of which were to remain a mystery to the surrounding, fascinated company.

“What does all that stuff do?”

“What’s in the box?”

“Is it safe?”

A large Papier-mâché ‘morning glory’ gramophone horn protruded from the top of the box and a twangy spring steel strip stuck out of a hole in the side. Zelda donned Chat-style goggles and pulled a welding torch from the supermarket trolley.

“What haven’t you got in that workshop of yours, Dorje?” asked Augusta with a mixture of exasperation and admiration.

Soon Zelda had firmly affixed the steel strip to the wrist tendons of the automaton. The resultant fire damage to its blue sleeve and the writing desk were deemed to be repairable if and when the opportunity presented itself.

“Ready,” she announced.

Master Dorje threw the Readout lever again. An unnerving whirring and grinding emanated from the mainframe, the lad’s arm quivered and a tinny voice issued forth from the trumpet.

“WOW…TK…AN…OY…DOF…OR…YOW?”

“Hm, just needs a little tweak,” said Zelda delving into the tea chest.

“…YEOW

“…YIEW

“…YOU?”

“There,” she said, “ask it a question.”

“How?”

“Ah, you’ll have to type into the teleprinter input port.”

“But that’s ten minutes walk away, round the other side,” said Lady Augusta.

“Am I supposed to think of everything?” The geek was becoming petulant.

“With me, your ladyship.” Slasher stepped up. “We’ll be in charge of the input. Zelda, you and Master Dorje look after your contraption. The rest of you spread out, shouting distance apart, relay messages back and forth.” The exact positioning of the gang round the perimeter of Augusta’s machine was hotly debated, resulted in one minor scuffle and was finally resolved when Aunty Stella took charge. All were in place by the time Slasher and Mrs King had reached the teleprinter terminal.

“What shall we ask it?”

“Something straightforward,” suggested Slasher.

Augusta typed, WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND OUT SO FAR?

The machine whirred. “DO YOU WANT THE GOOD NEW…S OR THE BAD NEW…S FIR…ST?”

“It’s being sarcastic,” shouted Phoebles.

“Just relay the message, Phoebs,” shouted Aunty Stella.

“Is that the message?”

“No.”

“Look,” shouted Augusta. “Can we have some discipline please?”

GOOD NEWS FIRST.

“THE…RE IS NO GOOD NEW…S.”

“Great!” AND THE BAD NEWS?

“YOU A…RE ALL GOIN…G TO DIE.”

“This is going really well,” muttered Slasher.

“Can we junk your machine and go back to making it up as we go along, please?” shouted Phoebles.

“When? Where? Why?” shouted Boz.

COULD YOU BE A LITTLE LESS APOCALYPTIC? typed Augusta. MAKE A SPECIFIC PREDICTION.

“OK. PREDIC…TION: TOMO…RROW LUNCH…TIME – E S T – FOXNEW…S WILL RE…PORT THAT – IN AN AMBI…TIOUS EXPERI…MENT, A 70,600 TONNE…S, 280 METRE…S (920 FT) LONG DRONE CAR…RIER LA…DEN WI…TH LAS…ERS, CAME…RAS AND OTH…ER SEN…SORS – BUT WITH NO ONE’…S HANDS ON THE WHEEL – HAS BEEN DE…PLOYED BY THE WEB-BASED UB…ER TECHNO…LOGIES INC ON…TO THE CHA…LLENGING SEAS OF THE NOR…TH ATLAN…TIC – STEE…RING ITS…ELF TO PRESEL…ECTED CO-ORDI…NATES OFF THE EURO…PEAN SEA…BOARD — AUTON…OMOUS DRON…ES – PRE-PROG…RAMMED FROM THE SAFET…Y OF UBER’…S SAN FRAN…CISCO HEAD…QUARTERS WILL BE DIREC…TED AT STRA…REGIC TAR…GETS WI…THIN THE ROGUE AN…ARCHY.

“THEN …YOU …DIE!”

Everyone rushed round to join Slasher and Augusta.

“What on earth is it this time?” said Boz.

“CIA black ops again,” said Slasher. “They’re still in with Les Chats.”

Ginsbergbear puffed on his briar. “Zelda, can you hack an aircraft carrier that’s on autopilot?”

“Not remotely,” replied the geek. “I’d need to be onboard.”

“Good as done,” said Dark Flo. “I’ll alert Beryl.” She took out her smart-phone, looked disappointed, tried holding it above her head. “No signal. We need to get back to the Den.”

“How will we possibly find this drone carrier in the middle of the Atlantic?” said Ferdy.”

“No problem,” said Lady Augusta. “I’ll get Mr Doom and Gloom here to calculate a Latitude and Longitude for it.”

Save

Save

The Blue Boy

“What just happened?” Aunty Stella tried to straighten her turban where it had tipped forward over one eye and dislodged her spectacles. “What’s this place?”

Lady Augusta took a deep breath and began to blurt out an inadequate explanation. “It’s not really a tunnel as such. It bends space-time back on itself so that where you are and where you want to be are next to each other. That results in a bit of a multidimensional vacuum that kind of sucks you in and spits you out again. Not entirely unpleasant.”

“Mostly though…”

“Yarrooo!”

Boz was ejected onto the Carrara floor, with Phoebles clinging to his knees. They were closely followed by Phoebles’ waders and a strong smell of catnip. Ginsbergbear emerged holding his deer-stalker on with both hands, his Peterson glowing flame red and pouring out more black smoke than a Greek tramp steamer.

“I’m flying!” Ferdy shot out of the tunnel and into the far wall. “Oh.”

Unruffled, Master Dorje and Zelda, old hands at spacetime travel, stepped into the room. Slasher McGoogs was on his hands and knees heaving noisily. He coughed up a huge fur ball. “Oh dear.”

“Is Flo here?” asked Boz.

“I am.” She was squatting, panther-like, where she had landed by the Analytical Engine.

“Welcome to my bubble universe,” said Augusta. The little party gathered their wits whilst the great engine loomed over them, clattering, whirring and clanking as it continued to analyse the data Zelda had fed into it on her previous visit. “Let us see what the miraculous beast has to tell us. Come round to the output terminal.” The countess patted the bronze framework affectionately as she led them to the far side. Five minutes walk down the length of the machine a small boy in a blue velvet suit sat at a vintage school desk. With expressionless face and vacant stare he held a cheap Biro poised above a scroll of printer paper.

“Would you do the honours, please, Master Dorje?”

The monk threw a lever labelled ‘Readout’. With a jerk the child put pen to paper and painstakingly inscribed a copperplate ‘a’. Its hand moved along and wrote another letter, and another, and another. Unseen within the torso of the automaton a programmable wheel, with the alphabet inscribed about its rim, began to rotate. A column of irregular discs stepped up and down to align with steel arms, sprung to follow the contours of each disc as it turned. Each time the scribe reached the end of a line the paper inched up and the process continued.

“Is this as fast as it goes?” Phoebles was looking concerned. “Les Chats will be ruling the world long before we get an answer at this rate.”

“It’s very elegant though, isn’t it,” said Ferdy.

“Aesthetically pleasing,” added Ginsbergbear. “Does it do poetry?”

“Bloody useless,” said Boz.

“Oh…” Lady Augusta was downcast.

“I might have an idea.” Said Zelda cheerily. “Have you got a box of bits?”

“In my workshop.” Master Dorje replied.

“Come along then, Master D. You lot stick with this antediluvian contraption while me and the magus work on an upgrade.”

Underground

“Which way did the caretaker say?”

“Right fork… I think,” replied Ginsbergbear absently.

“Probably doesn’t matter so long as we’re headed upstream,” from Boz, “He’d no idea what we were looking for anyway.”

This branch of the sewer soon began to narrow, the brickwork was old and weathered and the stuff they waded through becoming deeper. The air was thick and treacly with a hint of ammonia, the heat oppressive and the darkness, alleviated only by the skittering beams of their headlamps, was unsettling the reluctant heroes. An eerie mist, faintly glowing a bilious green, hung above the ‘liquor’ that rippled about their knees. There was a splash from up ahead, the mist swirled and a low bow-wave swept towards them. Something large and slithery brushed between Phoebles’ legs. Lady Augusta jumped, shrieked and then looked embarrassed.

“Keep moving,” said Slasher.

‘I’m really not enjoying this a lot,” said Phoebles after a while.

“You should try it from down here,” said Ferdy, whose lack of length in the leg department was, yet again, proving a disappointment.

A pair of turquoise eyes, on stalks, popped up to stare at the interlopers, and Zelda blasted them with her shotgun. Everyone ducked as slime splattered in all directions and the booming discharge echoed up and down the tunnel.

“For…” Slasher howled, “We could have brought the Dagenham Girl Pipers if we’d wanted to make sure everyone knew we were here. Don’t do that again.”

“What’s this?” said Aunty Stella. She was pointing to a semi-circular arch just above head height in the tunnel wall. There was a broad arrow chiselled into the capstone, a grill hanging awkwardly where it had rusted through and a little stream dribbling from the orifice. Dark Flo went over to inspect.

“It’s not sewage, it’s fresh water,” she observed.

“You been tasting things again?” asked Phoebles.

“Glamour it is,” said Master Dorje,

“Eh?”

“A disguise. Making the tunnel a working outlet to look like, it must be.”

“Eh?”

“And it’s not on the map,” noted Ginsbergbear.

“Good enough,” said Slasher, “we’ll check it out.”

Dark Flo yanked the corroded grating off the wall and they were lifting Dorje and Ferdinand into the side tunnel when Ginsbergbear noticed a pair of beady crimson eyes piercing the darkness up the main sewer. There was a squeak.

The two eyes became six and the squeaking increased, attracting Bozzy’s attention. He nudged Slasher. By the time everyone was aware of the situation there were dozens of tiny, perfectly round red eyes with pinpoint black irises peering at them. Flo reached for her katana. Zelda loaded a flechette cartridge into the breach of her SPAS and fired up the tunnel. Blood curdling shrieks filled the air, died away and the eyes were gone. Indescribable shreds of matter flowed past. Phoebles shuddered.

Slasher’s ears were ringing, his hearing muffled.

“I thought I said… Just stop that, Zelda! Now, everyone up into the hole. Quick.”

The side tunnel’s stonework was ancient. Its barrel roof, barely five foot high, forced all but Ferdy to bend over and waddle inelegantly.

“I hope this doesn’t go on long, it’s murder on the knees,” said Phoebles.

They tottered on, with the occasional ‘Ouch’ as someone banged their head. After ten or so painful minutes they came to a small pool where a spring bubbled playfully.

Dorje pointed with his staff. “The source of your stream this is.”

“Hmm,” said Boz, “I think we’d worked that out.”

A low, stone sill just beyond the pool ensured the crystal water flowed in the desired direction and after a few paces the passage took a sharp turn to the left. It began to open out until they could all stand upright at last. Then the tunnel ended, in a solid wall of bedrock. A Minoan Labrys had, long ago, been incised into the rock and picked out in gold leaf.

Master Dorje began to search.

“Let us see. Ah yes.” He was scraping away, with one sandalled foot, at the dried mud that obscured the floor of the passage, revealing a pentagram of Tyrian purple glazed tessera set into a plain mosaic. He thrust his staff into a two-inch diameter hole at the centre of the pentangle and began to rummage in the folds of his yak-hide overcoat. To the amazement of all he produced a soprillo saxophone and handed it to Phoebles.

“Dressed most appropriately for this task you are. When I call for it, a ‘B flat’ you will give me.”

Phoebles fingered the instrument without much confidence.

Dorje placed one hand on each blade of the carved pelekys and began to press.

“Now, Mr P.”

Phoebles blew hard on the sax and the rock wall, like a stretched rubber sheet, began to give.

“Again,” cried Master Dorje.

Note:

The Minoan Labrys, also known as “pelekys” or “sagaris”, was a double headed ritual axe, found in ancient Minoan depictions of the Mother Goddess. Its symbolism is related to the labyrinth and it is believed that the meaning of the word labyrinth is the ‘house of the double axe’. The Labrys was used by female priestesses only, for bull sacrifices. The shape of the double axe (referring to the moon) and the belief that it was used in battle by the Amazons make it a symbol associated with female empowerment to this day.

Representations of the double axe are found in Africa, in Old Europe and in Minoan Crete among other places.

Cruisin’ on a Cruiser

A boarding ladder was dropped down from Aurora’s poop deck as the rubber duck came along side, and was climbed with varying degrees of agility. A Starshina piped Boz and his pals aboard and they were met at the rail by Acting-Comrade-Captain-for-the-Day Tchaikovsky in a peach evening gown from Les Modes, abundantly trimmed in lace, and wearing a discrete diamante tiara perched on top of his ginger crew cut.

“Thought I’d best dress for the occasion,” he explained.

Next day most of the gang had dug out their swimwear and arranged loungers around the six-inch gun on Aurora’s foredeck. Dark Flo’s Airtex Y-fronts gleamed white in the sunlight, her pert breasts supporting an angled reflector designed to give an even tan under the chin. The cruiser had rounded Cap de la Hague in the early hours and was rolling gently as she proceeded up the English Channel. Ginsbergbear had his deck chair aft of the third funnel, sheltered from the wind. He was reading a borrowed copy of Michael Moorcock’s Cornelius Chronicles. In view of the impending apocalypse it seemed appropriate, but was not helping.

Phoebles was on the bridge being given a closely supervised turn at the wheel by an alert member of the steering committee.

Boz was in the wardroom consulting with Augusta King and Master Dorje.

“Les Chats Souterrains are capable of popping up almost anywhere at will. The situation back home might already be grave.”

“The answer’s in my Analytical Machine, I’m sure it is. We must find a way of getting to it.” Insisted Lady Augusta.

“Permitted only a limited degree of autonomy the minions normally are. Given the current situation, less than happy the Lizard Kings must be.”

“Or maybe they like it this way,” said Boz. “Aren’t they the Lords of Chaos after all? I think we must try and be patient until we can get to Larry and find out how things stand. We’re just guessing wildly at the moment.”

“But…”

There was a commotion on deck.

“It’s the white cliffs of Dover.” Phoebles shouted down from the port wing of the bridge. Everyone clustered along the rail to view the towering white walls of chalk. Gulls turned lazy circles against an azure sky, the faint sounds of a gramophone playing a Kate Smith rendition of God Bless America drifted across the water. Ferdy sighed.

By the time the Aurora steamed into the Thames Estuary it really did feel as if they were coming to the end of a proper cruise, a cruise on a cruiser. The river seemed remarkably quiet. They saw no aircraft flying in or out of the Silvertown airstrip and the flood barrier appeared deserted. Rounding the Isle of Dogs not a boat passed them in either direction. When they got to Limehouse Reach Dark Flo appeared on deck with her Bergen rucksack.

Can you drop me off at the Den? I want to check they’ve not lost too much trade in our absence.” A jolly boat was lowered and as it approached the ladder at the back of Bozzy’s Catnip Den Ferdy and Ginsbergbear saw Sam the piano player come out onto the balcony to meet her.

And then Tower Bridge loomed before them. The cruiser’s horn blasted out…

Whooooop whup whup whup

…the time honoured signal requesting that the bascules of the bridge be lifted. There was a delay as they drifted nearer and nearer, whilst any traffic was halted, and then the bridge began to open. The Aurora moved quietly into the London Basin, picked up a buoy for’ard and one aft. The Comrade-Officer on the bridge rang down ‘Finished With Engines’.

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Les Chats’ True Colours

The long, forbidding shadow of the Queen Anne’s Bounty sidled over the pair as they walked back to the corsairs’ compound.

“We have lost Boz,” said Ginsbergbear solemnly.

“Lost as in…?” asked the horrified aviatrix.

“Lost as in we don’t know where he is. No more than that at the moment, but we are extremely worried about him.” Ginsbergbear recounted the events leading up to the destruction of Jersey Zoo. By the time they had reached the stockade gates the pirate flagship was moored close by, beyond the palisade. Rotskagg and the gang had disembarked and as a group they went into the blockhouse. Lady Augusta and Dorje, Mother Superior and Zelda, Consuella with the Kittens were already seated at the roughly hewn communal dining table. McGoogs leaned nonchalantly against an African Blackwood mantelpiece.

“The foo fighter’s back,” announced Polly. “Les Chats Souterrains have switched sides and we were totally routed at the aerodrome.”

“Not switched sides,” interjected Slasher McGoogs. “They have formed an unholy alliance with the CIA and constitute a Third Force. They are on nobody’s side but their own.”

Thucka thucka thuck thuck thuck thuck thuck.

Something passed low over the pirate camp. There was a moment of silence then a loud Crump followed by a grinding and graunching of metal and a springy sort of Twang. Everyone rushed outside.

Parked neatly next to the Queen Anne was a twisted pile of wreckage, haemorrhaging oil and cracking sparks from exposed electrics. Sitting, rigid, in a pilot seat near to what had once been the cockpit of Mr Fluffy’s shiny black Chinook was a tiny Hit-Girl, still tightly clutching the helicopter’s joystick.

“Anna-Vasil’yevna! Hwhat have hyou done thees time?” called Consuella Starcluster. Anna-Vasil’yevna, AKA Thérèse Defarge, last encountered working undercover as Mr Fluffy’s personal secretary, shook herself out of her shocked trance, tossed the redundant joystick away and scampered over to her mentor.

“Oh miss, I don’t think I’ve quite got the hang of big choppers. Did I crash it?”

“Technically, dearr, eef hyou can walk away frrom hyourr helicopterr eet ees not ay crrash eet ees ay harrd landing. But why arre hyou heerre?”

“It’s Les Chats Souterrains, miss, they’ve switched sides…”

“Well that’s an important bit of news,” muttered Phoebles.

“…They’ve taken Mr Fluffy and King Charles hostage. I only just managed to get off Sark before I was captured too. Is Mad Jack still controlling the counterrevolution from St Hellier? If he’s as thick as he looks he’ll not have a clue what’s going on.”

“He is, and he won’t, child, but don’t concern yourself with Mad Jack. For the moment he is irrelevant.” Slasher spoke quietly, “Les Chats are on the move and they are confident. We must formulate a response.”

“The answer will be trapped in my Analytical Engine,” said Augusta, “and Les Chats are barring our access to it.”

“Hang on. What about Boz?” There came a desperate cry from Phoebles. “We have to find Boz before anything else.”

“He’s right,” said Ginsbergbear. “No one’s going to think straight till we know what’s happened to Boz.”

There was a Whump! And flames began to lick around the wreckage of Mr Fluffy’s Chinook. One of the Queen Anne’s mooring lines caught light.

“Smother that! Quickly! Before my airship gets damaged,” ordered Rotskagg.

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Zombies?

“Zombies!” bellowed Phoebles.

“Worse I’m afraid.” Le Brocq jumped down from the airship and joined his nervous companions, “That is one of Captain Midlands’ rogue psychos.”

Boz flicked off the safety on his Saturator AK-47 water pistol, not that anyone believed that a face full of water was going to deter this demon. Everyone else began to walk backwards, very, very slowly.

“Steady now. We don’t want to startle it,” said Augusta.

Master Dorje, on the other hand, marched towards the creature holding aloft his twisted yew staff, “Now then son, looks to me as if a fair bit of stress you have had of late. Due for some rest and recuperation you must be.”

The eyes of the thing that had once been a Navy Seal stared blankly into space, the lad’s connection to the real world as tenuous as that of a teenager with a smart phone. It uttered a curdling scream and charged, brandishing the lethal golok. Dorje stood his ground.

Before the creature could cross ten feet of open ground a vaguely pinkish whirlwind surrounded it, its head snapped back and its feet, still running, took to the air. It landed heavily and was instantly leapt upon by the indistinct figure of a Ninja. Dark Flo had her left knee pressed down on his carotid and was now in possession of the machete. She poised, about to bring the golok butt down on his temple, changed her mind, and put him out with two fingers and a thumb pinched just above his collarbone.

“Contravening the Geneva Convention is the Vulcan death grip,” exclaimed Master Dorje.

“The only Genever I know of is Dutch gin,” said Flo, “and unless you’ve got a bottle it’s hardly pertinent.”

“Oh Flo,” said Boz, “we thought you’d gone off with the pirates.”

“Nah,” she replied, “I had a feeling this bloody great black airship parked in the clearing would attract some sort of unsavoury attention.”

Radial engine spluttering and coughing and better late than never, a maroon autogyro chose this moment to land next to the Queen Anne’s Bounty, with Ferdy at the helm and Ginsbergbear in the front cockpit wielding a Purdey 12-bore.

“Have we missed all the fun?”

 

When the prisoner awoke he had been divested of hat and boots. For the sake of propriety he had been put into a pair of Mother Superior’s bloomers and, for safety, into a straight jacket. He was dangling from a girder within the ‘Games Room’ on the Queen Anne, upside down with a chain round his ankles. His head hung a few inches above a bucket that Smee swore was filled with hyena offal though from whence it came he would not tell.

“Time for a chat,” said Rotskagg.

“I don’t have to tell you anything but my name, rank and number,” said the tattooed fiend. His chain jerked and head dropped an inch or so.

Rotskagg indicated the newly appointed replacement cabin boy straining to hold the handle of a winch. “Roger be not a strong lad and he has to pop off in a mo to help the cook. I wouldn’t hang about longer that you have to if I were you. Do you even remember you name?

“Look boyo, whatever concoction it is that you be on, withdrawal is not going to be pleasant. All we be wanting to know is how much of these rumours about you degenerates be true. Oh, and the location of your camp’s defences, troop numbers, fire power and future plans.”

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Action Stations!

Augusta wiped her mouth with a fine linen napkin that had a skull and crossbones neatly embroidered in one corner.

“With Les Chats Souterrains against us I can’t access the Analytical Engine.”

“Huh!” Rotskagg was staring into his empty glass. “Your thinking machine hasn’t exactly proven itself to be indispensible so far. There be more pressing matters. This conflict be stagnating. There be stalemate in the west. The Résistance be holding out against the Corporate ground forces who be overstretched and short of supplies, but we be not pushing them back. We still do not control the aerodrome and for now Fluffy is out of reach. If the fighting drags on others will get involved. We can’t take the Yanks head on.

“They already have clandestine special forces operating here in Jersey’s dark heart,” added Mother Superior.

Boz sighed. “It didn’t seem this complicated when we set out. I wish…”

“Sod this,” said Kiki, “let’s just get in there and kick ass.”

Consuella gave her a stern look, which was ignored.

The airship’s first mate burst into the cabin.

“Cap’n.”

“Smee?”

“We be approaching the stockade, skipper, but there’s something up. Lookout thinks he can hear gunfire.”

“That’s more like it,” roared Rotskagg. “Call all hands to action stations. Run out the guns. Launch armed scouts 2 and 6. We’ll work round and come in from down wind.

“Looks like you’ll get your wish Kiki, mon brave. Kit up young Flo. And here…” he casually tossed a Tokarev SVT-40 snipers rifle in the direction of Augusta King, “if it’s troops we’re up against, lass, take out anything looks like an officer.” She caught the weapon instinctively and checked the magazine. “Every one to the command deck.”

 

As the Queen Anne’s Bounty crept, as silently as could be contrived, to within view of the Corsair camp it was obvious that an attack was in progress. There was heavy small arms fire coming from the undergrowth along the edge of the woods and the pirates behind the stockade were shooting back sporadically. Within the clearing a cluster of corpses gave testament to a failed assault on the main gate.

Generalisimo Starcluster tweaked the focus on the airship’s pod mounted brass BBT Krauss 12×72 Battleship binoculars. “Those bodies look like Captain Midlands’ renegades.”

“Starboard gun crews, target the tree line. Three rounds each.” Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp turned from the ship’s intercom and picked up the VHS microphone, “Scouts, as soon as the shelling stops commence strafing run.”

Augusta opened a window and poked out her sniper’s rifle.

“Anyone runs out of the woods, your ladyship, terminate ‘em.”

The thunder of Queen Anne’s artillery shook the vessel from stern to stem. The Kittens clustered excitedly around the bridge windows, Phoebles’ heart pounded, and Boz stood resolute, stony, silent.

The forest erupted in fire and smoke as vegetation and earth were thrown upwards and outwards. Then the ornithopter scouts went in, tearing into the foliage with their 50 calibre machine guns. The first run met with a smattering of returned fire, but when the warbirds ripped a second stream of tracer into the renegade’s positions they met no opposition.

“Take her in Smee.” Rotskagg turned on the Tannoy. “Open all hangar doors. Cutlasses men. Deploy as soon as we touch down.”

The Queen Anne shuddered slightly as she came to earth and a mighty roar went up as the corsairs, and Kittens, fanned out across the clearing led by their captain, falchion bladed cutlass in one hand, Uzi Pro 9mm in the other and smouldering tapers knotted into his ginger beard.

Feeling a little left behind Boz and the gang stepped out from the dirigible. They clustered indecisively. The pirates were disappearing away into the woods, with Consuella and Flo racing to catch up, the stockade was some distance off and suddenly, glaring at them from only yards away at the boundary to the forest, was a menacing figure clad in nothing but tattoos and a US Army issue hard hat, wielding a gore stained Indonesian Golok Machete.

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