Bozzy’s Back!

“We know. What the hell happened to you?” Flo was truly concerned about the state Boz was in.

“Napalm, mostly. One of you buggers was non too bothered where he dumped it. And I’ve lost my second best telnyashka.”

“But you’ve been gone so long,” said Phoebles.

“Yeh, well, I had to take a bit of a roundabout route coming home. There’s some weird shit out in them there woods.”

“Let’s get you cleaned up and into a change of clothes,” said Ginsbergbear.

“Six penneth of coleyfish and chips and a nip spliff and I’ll be fine,” replied Boz, “So, what’s happening back here?”

“Rotskagg reckons un Chatattack is imminent. The Corsairs are planning to split. And the Kittens and nuns are going their own way too. So it’s going to be down to us to sort things as usual.” Flo delivered her assessment.

 

Boz was looking almost as good as new when he and Ginsbergbear rejoined the Crisis Briefing. His fur was still a bit frizzed, but would soon grow out. He was bright eyed and alert, dragging on the biggest catnip joint the gang had ever seen. He leaned forward across the table and peered at each of them in turn. “The counterrevolution has become a sideshow. For now we can leave the island in the hands of La Résistance Crapaud. I think we need to get back home, Les Chats could be popping up all over the place.”

“I need to get my flyboys back to the Kronstadt Airbase on Hessle Foreshore to lick our wounds,” said Polly Karpova.

“Hand hwee weel keep thee rrevolutionarry end up heerre, Meesterr Boz. Haf no fearr. Guerrillas een thee… ”

Smee crashed in on the discussion. “Cap’n, there be summat rum turned up outside.”

“Great Herrings In!” cursed Captain Blenkinsopp, “What is it this time?”

“That’ll be my boys,” said Le Brocq.

 

Drawn up beside the main gate were two heavily armed Willys Jeeps and an Austin K2 Ambulance, its red crosses painted over, somewhat crudely, with the flag of Free Jersey. The drivers, in leather jerkins and woollen beanies, were having a crafty smoke.

“Anyone coming with us pile into the van,” La Brocq called out. He turned to Mother Superior, “We can give you a lift to La Hougue Bie. But stay alert, you’re awful close to that Chats’ portal.”

“My girls will see that the passage entrance is well boarded up.”

“I’m going with Boz,” said Augusta, “Can I borrow Zelda?”

“For as long as you want, dear.”

“Can we hitch a lift as far as Bonne Nuit Bay, Captain? We…”

“Bouonne Niet,” Le Brocq corrected.

“…have a rendevous.” Slasher finished asking the Pirate King.

“Have we?” said Boz.

“Hang on a mo,” said Phoebles, “We’ve forgotten about Mad Jack.”

“Quite right,” replied Slasher. “Let’s keep it that way.”

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A Fruitless Search

The gang returned from yet another fruitless search for Boz.

“This is hopeless,” said Ferdinand, “What on earth are we going to do next.”

“The bird be right,” joined in Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp. “We be no nearer to finding him now than when we started. The other matter be going to catch up with us. Les Chats Souterrains have already gifted us more time than I had anticipated and the foo fighter will soon come for the Queen Anne. She be defenceless against its Tesla Death-Ray. We must relocate.”

Mother Superior and Consuella looked at each other and the nun spoke reluctantly, “The Generalissimo and I must scoop up our charges and regroup, prepare for the worst.”

“But…” from Phoebles.

“The air-search is just wasting time,” said Ginsbergbear, “The forest canopy is too dense to see anything.”

“So we start again, on the ground,” said Phoebles. He had been doing some serious thinking. “Last we heard of Bozzy, he was at the omnibus near the zoo. We go there and look for clues. Split up and work outwards if need be. Flo, you’re good at this tracking lark.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” said Dark Flo.

The discussion continued for a while longer, but minds were made up. Soon they were outside, splitting into teams.

“Where will you go Captain?” asked Ginsbergbear.

“Guernsey Hangars first, to restock and assess the situation. Be not afeared Mr Bear we will not abandon the fight.”

“Can you drop us off on the way?” Phoebles was fired up with newfound hope.

“Of course lad. Comrade Pol, you be looking lost without your plane. Would you like to borrow one of my scouts? We could paint it red. Can you fly an ornithopter?”

“I can fly most things,” replied Polly, “How hard can it be?”

“A lot harder than you’d think,” said Beryl, “None of the controls seem to do the same thing twice.”

“Cap’n!” There was a cry from the lookout tower. “There’s something moving in the woods.” They could hear rustling and suddenly a murder of startled crows took to the air, cawing as they went.

“What can you see, Smee?” Rotskagg shouted up to the lookout, whilst reaching inside his shirt for the cold Uzi Pro that nestled there out of sight.

“It’s coming this way. It’s…”

A wraith like figure stepped out into the clearing; covered from head to toe in a coating of light grey ash, streaked with sweat, fur scorched to a frizz, shirtless, jeans tattered and torn. It strolled nonchalantly towards them.

“Boz?”

“I’ve been thinking.” The spectre spoke in a parched near whisper. “We’re going to have to do something about those Chats Souterrains.”

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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Where’s Boz?

The sky was copper where the park still burned beyond the horizon. As dawn crept up, returning tank buster single-seater ‘dragons’ careered recklessly in through the Queen Anne’s midships hanger bays to pull up sharply as their tail hooks engaged with the arrestor wire, each urgently manhandled to one side before the next warbird arrived. Cumbersome roach-like bombers circled Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp’s dirigible, waiting for their turn to be craned up into the ventral hanger. Ferdy, in his Cierva, bumped down onto the topside flight deck. He stood at the edge of the platform as a lift lowered him and his autogyro into the cavernous interior. He was met by the expectant enquiring faces of Phoebles and Flo.

“There’s no sign of him.” Ferdinand said dejectedly. Nothing had been heard from Boz since he called down the air strike, and the trio had accompanied the attack fleet in the hope of picking him up.

“But what can have happened to him,” said Phoebles.

“All be not yet lost.” Rotskagg came up from behind and placed a hand on the ginger cat’s shoulder. “We’ll be back in camp soon and gather together your colleagues to plan our next move.”

Ginsbergbear was outside the stockade watching the Queen Anne’s Bounty approach through his little brass pocket spyglass. He jumped as a scarlet, stubby, monoplane fighter roared overhead, barely clearing the blockhouse roof; its Shvetsov M-63 supercharged radial engine spraying oil and smoking. Two gaudy red and yellow Grumman J2F Ducks were hard on its tail firing bursts from the heavy machine guns gaffer-taped to their top wings. Within seconds the ack-ack battery immediately forward of the Queen Anne’s majestic four funnels opened up with a QF 2-pounder pom-pom. One of the Ducks erupted in a ball of fire and spiralled away. The other broke off and, with shells exploding all around, turned it’s rear end to the airship. The red Rata executed a 180-degree handbrake turn, losing height all the time. It banged down heavily, at speed, onto the cleared killing zone surrounding the corsair compound. It roared past Ginsbergbear and into the woods, sacrificing its wings and many other vital bits as it ploughed on between the trees. The bear broke into a trot, following the gouged scar of snapped twigs and flattened foliage. And eventually, there was Wing-Comrade Polly Karpova sitting astride the tail section of her I-16 and downing a long swig of something suspect out of a plastic milk bottle. She unzipped her flying jacket and pulled a Rizla from the breast pocket of her dungarees.

“Ginsbergbear. Swap you the last of this Ukrainian horilka samohon for a roll of nip.”

The teddy bear offered up his tobacco pouch. “You be careful with a naked flame near to that moonshine,” but she tossed the bottle down to him before lighting up. “Where’s the rest of your plane?”

“Most of it’s on down there a ways.” Polly waved a thumb over her shoulder. “Not sure where I left the wings, I had my eyes shut. Think she’s going to be a bit of a challenge for the maintenance guys.

“Are Boz and the rest of the gang here? I’ve some important news.”

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One for the Gang

The moment their captive’s densely tattooed billiard-ball pate touched the steaming gloop below he became eagerly co-operative and unstoppably talkative. His accent was pure Louisiana swamplander.

“I am become Nimitta Matram, Petty Officer, 984-31-78. This here is what happened to us. Before He was wi’ us we was getting nowhere. Wi’ help from us Seals Mr Fluffy’s band a patriotic no-hopers could jus’ about have defeated the Jersey police and a bunch a locals wi’ pitchforks, but not when the Résistance was operating behind our lines. Then Captain Midlands turn up wi’ his irregulars, guerrillas to fight guerrillas. Self sufficient, independent, autonomous units, living off the land, free to respond instantly to rapidly cchanging conditions, genius. Pretty soon we was starving, diseased, demoralised and out a supplies.

“That was when He had an epiphany. You should hear Him. ‘War is not a game. War is lunacy. It can only be legitimised by victory. Victory at all cost. No atrocity, no perversion is unconscionable if the result is victory. Armageddon!’

“He reinvented Hi’self as Capitáno Tierrasmedias and we became His willing acolytes. Magic mushrooms and all-night line dancing orgies helped win over the sceptics. We are His lunatic tools.”

“OK, Mr Matram, that be all most fascinating.” Rotskagg leered into the Petty Officer’s inverted face, intimidating, invading every last vestige of spoliated personal space. “Let’s get you down. Lower away Roger.

“Ah, sorry.

“Smee, remove the bucket please. We be contemplating a cautious first contact with your metamorphed commander. I trust you be able to expedite a meeting.”

Nimitta Matram was hauled upright from the floor and dumped in a chair.

“I think we’ll leave you in the straight-jacket just now. We have yet to establish even a modicum of mutual trust.”

“Why, yeh. I can get you to the Boss. He will blow your minds. Believe me, I can be really useful to you.” enthused the pathetic prisoner.

Boz stepped forward. “I believe this is one for the gang. Queen Anne’s Bounty is required here to keep the barbarians from the gates and we need your corsairs…” he was addressing Rotskagg, “…in reserve. I bet we can talk Captain Midlands back down. He’s probably just a bit frustrated. We’ll have this here Nimitta with us while we check out the situation so we should be safe… -ish.”

“Er… Does ‘the gang’ include me?” said Phoebles, “It doesn’t sound all that safe-ish.”

“Yes, you and me, and Ferdy and Ginsbergbear, the old team. We’ll take the bus. Zelda, can you install a transceiver so we can keep in touch?”

 

And thus it was that the Kronstadt Sailors’ bus disappeared into the forest, trailing a cloud of oily exhaust. Phoebles was at the helm, Boz and Ginsbergbear keeping a cautious eye on Petty Officer Matram and Ferdy checking out the radio.

“Testing Testing, Roger Wilco.”

Dark Flo watched them depart.

Turning to Rotskagg, “I’d best keep an eye…” She pulled the Mountbatten pink veil of her Shinobi shozoko across her face and vanished.

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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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