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.”

Save

The Horror! The Horror!

Boz and Slasher were crouched behind a clutch of dustbins looking into the cool, wide eyes of an all but invisible ninja.

“I’ve got the others to safety in the woods. Now all we have to do is join them and not get caught on the way. Follow me.” And with that she disappeared.

“Er, Flo. We can’t see you.”

“Hang on.” Dark Flo rummaged around in the nearest dustbin and returned triumphantly clutching a crumpled front page of the Beano, No 2275 from February 22nd 1986, depicting Dennis the Menace and Gnasher. She produced a large safety pin from the folds of her Shinobi shozoko. “Pin this to my backside. Carefully.”

“You’d better do it, Slasher. I’m too petrified.” Boz was indeed quaking. “She’s more terrifying than that Captain Tierrasmedias.”

“Shush. Now, come along. And keep low.”

After an age in pursuit of the waggling comic, crawling and pausing and melting into the shadows, the trio reached a hole cut neatly in the chain link boundary fence. Beyond it small paper flags of all nations, on wooden sticks, marked the location of various booby traps.

“Boz, pick up the flags as we pass them. And for Cod’s sake look where you’re putting your feet. Both of you.”

Having reached the edge of the woods they could breath again. Dark Flo led them through the undergrowth and followed a muddy ditch deep into the forest. Until…

“Boz! Slasher? We’re all here.” Ginsbergbear popped up in front of them and Phoebles pushed past him to rush at his comrades. There was whispered jubilation and hugs all round. Flo had an arm each around Phoebles and Ferdy, but Boz stood alone, quivering.

“What’s the matter, Boz?” enquired Ferdy.

The ginger cat turned. His hands were shaking and staring eyes glistened.

“This obscenity has to be ended. It stops here and it stops now. Flo, get them to safety. I’m going to finish him tonight. Just me. I can’t ask anyone else to do it.”

“But Bozzy, we don’t do that…” began Phoebles.

“Now, Flo!”

The ninja began ushering the protesting chums away. She glanced back, an anxious look in her tearful eyes, but she obeyed the command.

Once he was alone Boz slid down into the foul dyke. He stripped off his shirt and wallowed in the mud until his fur was caked and umber. Only his bloodshot eyes were visible against the growing darkness. He returned to the gap in the wire fence. Inside the stench of putrefaction seemed stronger than ever. The demonic amber glow from braziers and blazing torches danced intense shadows about the compound. Clashing gongs and booming drums drowned out all other sounds in a satanic cacophony. Capitáno Tierrasmedias’ drug crazed horde was working itself up into a frenzy before descending on the hapless defenders of liberty and freedom. Boz slithered unseen towards Les Augrès Manor.

After a while he was inching towards something indescribable that blocked his path, something with a Dayak Parang sticking in it. Boz pulled out the machete, wiped the blade on his trouser leg and tested its weight. Perfect. He crawled on.

A spectral figure rose slowly behind one of the dodo statues, eyes glinting gold in the flickering firelight, matted fur blending into the darkness. Boz strode up the steps to the mansion and sought out the Capitáno’s lair. The sofa was unoccupied. An empty Tennents lager can rolled noisily across the floor, coming to rest at his feet. The prostrate Napoleon lay in front of him on a moth-eaten kilim. A skeletal matchstick body, luminous skin stretched taught over bone, appended the globular head it no longer strove to support. Face to the ceiling, wide sightless eyes sunk deep into the skull, the deranged, hyperactive brain had finally drained all but the last vestige of vitality from its wasted host. The lips moved imperceptibly, were they trying to form words? Boz leaned towards the toothless mouth and suddenly a claw like hand grasped his shoulder, dragged him close.

“Crows’ blood!” it cried in anguish. Then, a rattle in the hollow throat, and Capitáno Tierrasmedias was gone.

Boz heard the padding splayed footfalls, the swish of a tail, the clicking of claws on bare floorboards, approaching at speed. He dropped the parang and legged it.

 

The Routemaster was still where they’d left it, partially burned out, but the radio and battery had escaped the fire.

“Versailles this is Bald Eagle!”

“What? Who?”

“Smee, is that you? It’s Boz here. Dump everything you’ve got on the Jersey Zoo. I want that abomination flattened, wiped off the face of the earth.”

Save

Save

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.

Save

Save

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.”

Save

That’s Us All Over

“A couple of dozen went in; some more willing than others.” Dark Flo pointed to two displaced pebbles, “There was a scuffle just here. How many people are missing?”

“Mother Superior and Mrs King, Master Dorje,” Zelda the Geek thought for a moment, “Generalissimo Starcluster of the Battailon Durruti, Kiki of course, and a couple more Kittens of Chaos. Kitty and…?”

“Consuella and the Kittens? Les Chats have bagged quite a catch. Well, we obviously can’t follow them in there,” said Boz. Le Brocq looked relieved. “There must be other entrances. I don’t know how common portals into the Atlantean Tunnel System are.” Boz turned to le Brocq. “Are there any other passage graves on the island?”

“Lots, but they were mostly destroyed or looted in the nineteenth century. There’s Dolmen du Monts Grantez near the west coast, that’s where the fighting is most fierce at the moment. Or there’s La Hougue Boëte. It’s a round mound that has a chamber at its heart. Archaeologists found the skeletons of a man and his horse inside and it’s supposed to be haunted. In the old days it was the site of a Seigneurial court.”

“Seigneurial court:” Boz had no idea what a Seigneurial court was, but it must be just the sort of place to hide a space/time portal. “Sounds promising. Where’s that one?”

“North of here. Not far from where Captain Midlands is operating.”

“Perfect,” said Boz, “I have a plan, but we’ll need Rotskagg Blenkinsopp and the Queen Anne’s Bounty.”

“Perfect? Haven’t you heard the rumours about Captain Midlands and his brigands, the cannibalism, diabolical nocturnal rituals, naturism?”

“Well, that’s us all over,” said Phoebles, “Stick our heads in the crocodile’s mouth and then improvise. Should we perhaps get the weird one into some dry clothes and have a mug of cocoa before we dash off to our inevitable doom?”

“And locate my spare pair of specs,” added Zelda.

 

Master Dorje cleared his mind and began to ‘Om’. He transcended into a trancelike meditative state. As his chakras aligned he seemed to compress and, with a little squirming, he managed to slip out of his oversized and firmly gaffer bound yak hide coat. Groping round their prison he located the others and freed them.

“Shshsh.” He gently loosened the tape from Kiki’s mouth; she was quivering with rage.

“$*† µ* å† †£øß* ∫$ØØÎ¥ ƒËç*Âß!!”

Master Dorje replaced the gag. “No dear. Behave, or leaving you tied up I will.”

“MM M’mm mm mmmm.” Kiki simulated a wide-eyed kittenish innocence which, in the total darkness, was lost on her companions.

“Good girl. Now, exploring our environment let us be.” The aging monk, clad only in a loincloth and his pointy hat, began to shiver. “Formulating a plan I would like. Before succumbing to hypothermia I am.”

“Here, borrow my combat jacket,” said Consuella.

Cautiously they felt their way round the walls, only bumping into each other occasionally. Their prison was small with a single, sturdy, locked door. They heard movement outside.

“Kiki, behind thee doorrr,” hissed Consuella, “Everrryone else back to thee meeddle of thee rroom. Trry to look as eef hyou arre steel tied up.”

A key turned in the lock. There was a clanking of chains and the rasping of bolts being drawn. The door opened. It opened outwards, not into the cell. And a shaft of light exposed Kiki, poised to attack.

“Bugger,” she said, as a Chat Suterrains warder glared at her.

Save

Save

Taken

biepcard2Dark Flo froze in the middle of the courtyard and listened intently as a lonely wind stirred up the dust. She looked around slowly, taking in the general scene. She squatted to observe more closely an area of ground that had attracted her attention. She began a microscopic examination of the open gate.

“What’s she doing now?” asked Phoebles as Flo spotted a small pile of poo beside the path.

“Your ninja has picked up a turd,” observed le Brocq.

Flo held the nugget between finger and thumb. She sniffed at it and then touched it to the tip of her tongue.

“Eeuugh!” The entire company, which had been watching with interest, turned away in disgust.

“That’s the last time I let you kiss me. Er…” Beryl blushed and suddenly discovered a need to study her left shoe.

“Les Chats Suterrains,” cried Flo triumphantly.

“Is anybody there?”

The voice was faint and echoey, as if it came from the bottom of a well. Boz sauntered over to the convent’s well and peered down. It was deep and dark.

“Are you friendly? I’m a bit stuck. Could you pull me up?”

“Where are you?” asked Boz.

“Down here, in a bucket.”

Boz tried to wind the wellhead winch, but it was too stiff. “A hand here one of you. Summat talkative’s stuck down the well.”

“It’ll be Little Timmy,” said Phoebles, “It’s always Little Timmy in the films.”

“Here,” said le Brocq, grabbing the handle. “Make sure the pawl’s on or the winch could run away from us.” Author’s note: this is important information if you are ever winching someone out of a well.

They wound and wound and wound, and the pawl clanked reassuringly. Eventually a strange creature, with Mohican hair and a grubby, wet, orange jumper, emerged sitting in a bucket.

“I’ve lost my specs.”

“We’d best get you wrung out,” said Beryl, “Who are you? And what happened here?”

“Zelda. And I don’t really know. There was a lot of shouting and Mother Superior told me to hide. Then she stuck me in this bucket and dropped me down the well.”

“You didn’t see who was attacking you?”

“It was all a bit of a blur without my spectacles. There’s not many of us here. The front has moved well to the west and most of the girls have gone off with the resistance. If only Captain Blenkinsopp had still been here.”

“You’ve seen Rotskagg?” asked Boz.

“Yes. He threw us a big party, but then he shipped out in his airship to track down Captain Midlands and the renegades.”

“Over here.” Flo was feeling neglected. She pointed to a significantly bent blade of grass. Boz was impressed.

“Grass,” he observed.

“They went this way.” Flo bounded down the hill. Her tracking skills took them directly to the Neolithic tunnel entrance and without hesitation Flo went in. No one followed. After a few minutes she re-emerged.

“It’s a low tunnel, leads to a chamber and then stops. Looks old. They definitely came in, but there’s no tracks coming out.

“It’s a stone age passage, but a space/time tunnel too,” said Zelda, “Les Chats must have turned it off.”

 

It was pitch black and they were bound tightly with gaffer tape. Kiki had twice as much gaffer tape as the others and her mouth was taped shut too. She was fuming!

Save

Kronstadt Sailors

kronstadt-sailors-3sSoon the reunited parties had relocated to a Starbucks franchise on the ground floor of the hotel where Ferdy briefed Boz on his observations.

“The Gilnockie Reivers are mopping up the last pockets of resistance in town, but we’ve lost the mercenaries to the temptations of looting and pillage. I have no news from the hinterland.”

Phoebles was on his third blueberry muffin. “Whoof mufflup hurver mrm wuck borrumzy?” He swallowed and tried again. “The pirates, do we know what’s happened to them?”

“The survivors of the sea battle are scattered. We just don’t know.” Flo leaned over and flicked some crumbs from Phoebles’ furry chin.

“Oh. Heruugh. Is there any chance your ninja could get out of that suit?” The sight of Flo’s disembodied head bobbing about above her all but invisible costume was making Mad Jack queasy.

“Oh for… If you think I’m stripping just to keep you happy.” She whipped out her trusty Yoshindo Yoshihara katana. Mad Jack flinched and uttered a pathetic squeal. Flo ignored him, strode over to a window, deftly sliced a poncho out of the chintz curtain and threw it over her Mountbatten Pink shozoko.

“Better?”

Whilst our heroes were catching up with local events, the dinky Kronstadt armed trawler Parizhskaya Kommuna, formerly the Ross Tiger, slipped into St Hellier harbour and tied up at the quayside. Three sailors and a washerwoman disembarked. They commandeered two trishaws and requested to be conveyed to the Grand Jersey Hotel where they soon discovered Boz and Co.

“Lev Mikhailovich Zhiltsov, Acting-Comrade-Skipper-for-Today of the Parizhskaya Kommuna. I have with me three representatives of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Cruiser Aurora’s Steering Committee. Apologies for Comrade Tchaikovsky being out of uniform. Ever since we disguised ourselves for the raid on Petrograd we can’t get him out of a dress.”

“Steering committee?” Ginsbergbear enquired. “An advisory body usually made up of high level stakeholders and/or experts who provide guidance on key issues such as company policy and objectives, budgetary control, marketing strategy, resource allocation, and decisions involving large expenditures?”

“Not exactly; the Committee that decides which way to steer. We are here to give our report.”

“Get yourselves a coffee and come and sit down,” said Boz.

Once armed with Butterscotch Brulée Lattes, Piccinos, Espresso Macchiatos and Hickory Smoked Bacon sandwiches all round one of the Kronstadt sailors began:

“Feliks Nikolayevich of the cruiser Aurora, now anchored in St Aubin’s Bay. Wing-Comrade Karpova and the Kronstadt shore detail are meeting stiff opposition from crack Imperialist troops under a Sergeant Phantom at the aerodrome. The Imperialist battleships are no longer a threat, the puffer Inchcolm Lassie is towing the disabled Destroyer of Worlds into St Hellier and Kapten Nyai has taken her bisquine down to St Malo for repairs.”

“Comrade Karpova urgently requires a fresh supply of vodka, preferably Polish,” added Tchaikovsky, “and reports that her planes are running low on 0.762 ammunition.”

“I’ll have a word with the maître d’hôtel,” said Ginsbergbear. “Ferdy and I can deliver a few bottles to tide her over.”

“Great,” said Boz. “The rest of us should link up with the Resistance. We’ll need suitable transport.”

“I think I can help there,” said Comrade Ziltsov. He carried his iPhone over to the window for a better signal. “Сергей, вы можете получить omnibus над к отелю быстро?”

The group finished their drinks and Phoebles stuffed a last blueberry muffin into his pocket. They emerged onto the prom as an AEC Routmaster doubledecker pulled up opposite. It was painted a drab olive green with revolutionary slogans in red and two Soviet flags firmly tie-wrapped to the radiator grill.

“Bags I drive,” cried Phoebles.