“Are you certain you know what to do, Mrs King?” asked Boz as they carefully strapped on their parachutes.
“Mostly,” replied Augusta. “I’m sure I can work the rest out on the way down. Let’s get on with it.” She stepped out onto the starboard float and was instantly sucked off by the slipstream. Boz went next; and then Phoebles.
Ginsbergbear and Zelda, firmly strapped together, performed an inelegant and rather embarrassing waddle out to the hatch. Then Zelda tripped, failed to grab hold of anything, and they were airborne.
The carrier had looked tiny from the air, but it was coming up fast. Then the chutes opened with a whump and the harnesses bit deep, delivering the mother of all wedgies. Had the cats or teddy bear possessed anything down there to be crushed there would have been some very squeaky voices after they landed. Lady Augusta had drifted far from her comrades, but a serendipitous zephyr swept her back towards the carrier and left her dangling high above the deck, her chute caught up in one of the Überkatzen’s sensor arrays. For the rest, frantic manoeuvring brought each safely, if somewhat heavily, down onto the flight deck.
“That was great!” squealed Zelda, “can we do it again, Ginsbergbear?”
“If you lot are all in one piece, I could do with a hand up here.” Dark Flo was hanging upside down, her legs wrapped round the slotted wave-guide of Überkatzen’s short range radar, and hacking away at the tangled suspension lines to Augusta’s chute with a razor sharp wakizashi short sword. Augusta King was becoming agitated.
“Quick,” shouted Boz. They rushed into the forward island. “Someone grab a blanket on the way up.” They located the bridge and climbed out onto the monkey island above, directly below Augusta and Flo. Minutes later Phoebles joined them, considerably out of puff, clutching a blanket pilfered from the deserted crew’s accommodation.
“Stretch it out tight.”
Flo cut the last of the nylon lines and almost immediately lost her grip. They fell together.
The pair were not exactly ‘caught’ in the blanket, but it broke their fall a bit.
“Is anyone hurt?” asked Boz.
“I’m OK,” said Flo, “I landed on Mrs King.”
“And Mrs King,” added Augusta, “is probably just bruised.” Ginsbergbear helped the countess up. “Oh, ouch. No, I may have sprained an ankle.”
“We must locate Mission Control.” Flo still seemed to think she was in charge and no one else felt inclined to challenge her. “Get Zelda cracking on the job in hand. Then we can take Her Ladyship to the infirmary and sort her ankle out.
Flo and Ginsbergbear supported Augusta down past the Roles Royce marine gas turbines and out into the hangar deck. Regimented row upon regimented row of expectant drones stretched into the far distance within the cavernous space. There was one gap in a line of General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers.
“That’ll be for the Certifiable Predator B I took out,” said Dark Flo.
“Why’s it called a Certifiable Predator?” asked Boz idly.
“’Cos they’re psychos. Never give up, never stop, never rest; fully autonomous nutters. And they pack a punch.”
“Sorry I asked.”
Beyond the Reapers were the sleek outlines of Northrop Grumman X-47C stealth drones, glittering under the flickering strip lights.
“And they’re worse,” added Flo.
“Mission Control is one deck down,” said Zelda wielding her cutaway drawing of the ship. When they found the war room and entered it was just like those pictures of NASA at the space launches, a ‘big board’ facing rows of computer screens. Zelda got herself ensconced at the nearest terminal and immediately began to type.
“Great,” she exclaimed, “They’re running Windows 10. That’ll make hacking in a lot easier. Off you all go. I’ll be fine.”