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 Grand Jersey Hotel

ninja-flo-sMad Jack had his feet up on the desk and his chair tipped back while he watched the rerun of an early episode of Downton Abbey on the office TV. The phone had not rung for several hours and he could feel a snooze coming on. The polite tapping on the office door was a surprise. Through the frosted glass he could make out the silhouette of someone short, in what looked like a flat cap or beret. It was as he rose to investigate that the penthouse windows blew in.

An indistinct something mauve whirled across the room, there was a blinding blue-white flash and his brain went into meltdown. It rebooted slowly, consciousness returning in random and unrelated snippets. He was staring at a moth hole in the Moroccan rug that was pressing into his face and a distant muffled voice was calling his name.

“Stay down. Don’t move.”

He could not help but comply, the mauve blur was kneeling on his shoulders. It dragged his arms back and slipped a nylon tie-wrap round his wrists.

“It’s safe to come in now, Mr Desai.” Dark Flo pulled the veil from her face as Ferdy entered. She lifted Mad Jack with one arm and dumped him back in his chair. “Now Mr Belvoir, I believe explanations are in order.”

“Damn right they are? Who the Hell are you and what…?” blurted the still befuddled hussar. Flo fingered her feather duster menacingly.

“No Jack. You. What are you up to?”

“It’s to do with one of Slasher’s plans, isn’t it?” asked Ferdy.

“Ferdinand, oh thank God! Who is this mad woman, and what just happened to me?”

“You have been liberated,” Flo’s steely eyes shone through the black grease paint that smeared across the upper half of her face. She spun his swivel chair, just once, for effect. “Talk.”

“McGoogs recruited me to infiltrate the British Government in Exile’s invasion force and disrupt their plans, but I’m all alone and I can’t find any plans to disrupt. Fluffy has strategically withdrawn to the Tyranny of Sark and Captain Midlands has gone rogue up north.”

“Gone rogue?”

“Off-piste, independent. No one’s reporting back here to HQ.”

 

Beryl, in the BMW 740, picked her way carefully through the rubble strewn streets of the harbour district, ruined warehouses still smoked, wrecked freighters tilted, half sunk, in the docks. The fighting had moved on towards the centre of town. They drove along the prom and it was Phoebles who spotted Ferdy’s Cierva C30 parked outside the Grand Jersey Hotel. They abandoned their car at the main entrance.

“Should we torch it?” enquired Phoeble.

“Best not,” replied Boz, “it’s not nicked, we commandeered it.”

The foursome dashed into reception. A large union jack above the desk had detached itself to hang forlornly by one corner and a sign on the counter announced ‘FLUFFYFORCE HQ Top Floor’ with a stencilled hand pointing upwards. They rushed through the deserted security checkpoint, where a metal detector set off an annoying alarm, ignored it, took the lift and burst into Mr Fluffy’s office as Mad Jack was winding up his tale of woe.

Augusta King (part two)

shambhala-sFerdy was beginning to wonder if his kindly nature had allowed him to be dragged into some bizarre fantasy. The mother superior lent her voice to his doubts.

“And exactly how long ago was all this, dear?”

“Oh ages ago. After I’d had a spell in rehab Master Dorje here turned up again and announced the Merovingian Lizard Kings wanted to build my… Charlie’s machine.”

“Slow down there. You can’t be more than forty yet you talk of sailing clippers and a mechanical thinking machine when we’ve had electronic computers for decades. The Merovingian Lizard Kings have flying saucers and who knows what else.”

“Ah… I was hoping to skip over some of this. It was all a VERY long time ago. Great Britain’s Queen Empress was still young. In Sambhala the aging process experienced by living tissue slows exponentially with time. It’s something to do with the dimensional shift in space-time.”

“Hmm… And if I believe any of this nonsense why in this age of smart phones, iPads and Pokemon Go would the Lizard Kings still be interested in your machine of gears and levers?’

“They explain it this way. Multinational Corporations are on the brink of achieving a Global Neoliberal Dictatorship. Through GCHQ, Langley, le Brigade de Renseignement et de Guerre Électronique etc they have unfettered access to Web and Cloud. Regardless of your conspiracy nerds’ Faraday cages and tin-foil hats, they know who you are, where you are and what you are about, every moment of the day or night. The Merovingian Lizard Kings deem it wise to be totally off the grid – thus their requisitioning of the entirely independent unelectronic steam powered Analytical Engine.”

“And is the thinking machine not excruciatingly slow by current standards? I ask as a technophobe and novice in such matters.”

“It would be. But the Dark Lords have lodged my machine in a bubble universe. Regardless of the time a calculation takes we can re enter this parallel world at a carefully calculated later point in space-time, years later if necessary, but after only seconds in our world, to extract the answer. Metal fatigue, frequent maintenance of worn components and the need for regular dusting are more of a hindrance. The bubble universe solves the portability problem too. You wouldn’t believe how vast the Analytical Engine is.”

“So this machine is going to win the war for us?”

“Well… it will calculate probabilities, plan strategies, compose a rousing marching song.”

“We were hoping for something somewhat more decisive.” The mother superior sounded a tad exasperated. “People are being shot at.”

“There is always the Tesla Death Ray of course,” replied Augusta, “ but the Merovingian Lizard Kings don’t want to resort to anything that could be construed as direct intervention.”

Ferdy jumped down from his chair.

“Great. Well. If you think of anything useful you can contribute let me know. I’d better be getting back to my autogyro, there’s an invasion to be countered and Boz will have organised a real response by now.” He turned to Augusta, “we’ll postpone that chinwag about aviation till after you’ve won the war for us. And keep an eye on those Chats. They will have their own agenda, trust me.”

A Neolithic Portal

Kiki spoke, “Mr Ferdy may be trustworthy, but right now I am your only chance of getting into the fortress of La Houghue Bie. I would advise against approaching the Résistance Crapaud with Les Chats in tow. They will shoot first and ask questions… Actually they’ll just shoot. Best explain yourself to the Lesbian Nuns. Leave your dubious allies here and follow me.” Kiki did not return to the sally port, she took them to the main gate and began to kick it hard whilst shouting, “hey, you lot!”

A pair of shaven heads peered down from the battlements and quickly vanished. More kicking and shouting. The sturdy axe proof oak door swung back just enough for the mother superior to step out, one finger curled resolutely round the trigger of her AK-47.

“Oh, it’s you. Stop kicking my door, you’ll scratch the paint.” The venerable nun eyed the monk, dodo and one-eyed aristocrat standing behind Kiki, “And what have we here, a travelling circus? Come inside quickly. Monsieur vendeur de oignon laissez votre vélo à la salle des gardes.” She turned back to Kiki, “I believe an explanation would be in order, my young kitten. Refectory, all of you. Now.”

Augusta King had been talking for some time when Kiki started to fidget.

“Kitty, Red, there’s too much chatter and not enough action in this chapter. We need to get back to the Resistance.”

The mother superior rose, begged Augusta’s pardon for the interruption and addressed the kittens.

“You are probably quite correct, young miss. Take some of my girls with you, they need an outlet for their wilder tendencies, and you will need a guide. Let them face peril.”

Obedient for once, the Kittens rounded up a contingent of enthusiastic volunteers, cleaned and greased their weapons; packed sandwiches, fresh knickers (with the exception of Kiki who despite the chafing of her combat chinos insisted on going commando) and a generous supply of ammunition. With a cheerful goodbye they set off into the night.

The mother superior resumed:

“Now Mrs King, perhaps if I ask questions we can obtain some clarity. Mr Desai here, who I perceive is neither French nor indeed an onion seller, tells me you immerged from our Neolithic passage earlier this evening.”

Augusta was not sure how much of her tale would be believed. She took a deep breath:

“Your chamber contains the concealed entrance to a trans dimensional portal into the Atlantean world tunnel system. Vast amounts of power and ingenuity are required to breach the veil between worlds except on a very limited number of auspicious occasions each year, like Halloween. The tunnels link to our home in Shambhala.”

The nun wrinkled her brow, but Ferdy recognised something in the description.

“I know about these portals. The boys and I discovered one in Derbyshire. Oh, you probably don’t know about Boz and Phoebles and Ginsbergbear and Slasher and me, but we do this sort of adventuring stuff all the time. We were sabotaging a secret underground flying saucer factory.”

His outburst did not reassure the mother superior. Yet she continued her interrogation.

“And you, young lady? Lets start with your history.”

“From the start?”

“Probably, if that’s not too tedious.”

Save

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Mr Desai I Presume

Augusta King SKiki froze for a moment and then began to rise. She had barely moved when she was stopped by the sound of cracking twigs. A few feet to her left an onion seller, pushing a rather rusty, antiquated bicycle stepped out into the clearing. The bike’s wheel-bearings squeaked as he approached the group standing at the passage entrance. He held out a stubby wing to the lady who had addressed him. She shook it enthusiastically.

“Mr Ferdinand Desai I presume.” The onion seller confirmed her presumption with a cautious nod. “My name is Augusta King. I believe we have a shared fascination for aviation.”

Ferdy liked nothing more than to talk planes with almost anyone. But whilst speaking to Augusta he was eyeing her feline escort.

“As I am sure you are aware I was proceeding on my lawful occasions, all be it in disguise, within a downtown opium emporium frequented by lesser clerks of the Occupational Administration when I was approached by your oriental companion. He requested that we meet here. Said it was of vital importance. He did not mention Les Chats Souterrains.”

“What is it you say, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’? I appreciate your scepticism, you and they have clashed before, but they are integral to my mission.” Her homely smile never faulted.

“I don’t think I have ever said that.”

“I could send them away.”

“As they are here, madam, and would seem to be associated with your purpose. I would just as soon have them within sight.” Ferdy was beginning to doubt the wisdom of having turned up at all. He was not about to trust some strange woman in league with Les Chats. On the other hand he had not failed to notice Kiki in the bushes and she famously packed a fearsome array of percussive hardware. At this very moment she could be drawing a bead on either one of these tunnel-wraiths. He was ready.

Augusta King smiled on.

No shot rang out.

One of Les Chats nervously fingered a tin ray gun that looked as if it might have come from a Woolworth’s toy counter back in the 50s. After the conversational hiatus had dragged out rather longer than was comfortable Augusta spoke again.

“Your young friend could come out into the open as well, if she wanted.”

Kiki didn’t move, just in case. But this time no one else emerged. She stood up and stalked out of the underbrush. Even when she appeared sheepish there was a sense of barely contained wrath in her demeanour.

“Oh, come on, the pair of you. We really are all on the same side, just this once.” Augusta was being almost too solicitous; she had all the big guns. In fact, for the moment, she had the only guns.

Kiki glared, “Why?”

“Because… Hmm… I expect you have surmised that I am tasked in some way by The Merovingian Lizard Kings. Master Dorje here and I myself do in fact hail from their mountain domain. They are less than happy with the current situation and do not wish to see a restoration of the conditions that were extant prior to what your Mr McGoogs chooses to call his Great Revelation, your little British coup. I have run numerous scenarios through my analytical engine and in every model you do not prevail. Your surreal confederacy constitutes a guttering beacon of hope in a blighted world and, for the time being, they do not wish it to be extinguished.

Kiki still glared, “What?”

Ferdy placed a wing on Kiki’s shoulder. “I fear we do not entirely grasp your intentions. Why us?”

“You, Mr Desai because I want to chat amiably of ornithopters and because you are trustworthy. As for the lioness,” Augusta King glanced towards Kiki, “she was not supposed to be here.”

“I am but a pilot and own an autogyro not an ornithopter. I’m afraid I know little of bird flight.” Ferdy flapped his wing stubs ineffectually to reinforce his point.

Master Dorje stepped forward:

“Extending our time out here in the open I do not want. A British Imperialist patrol might pass at any moment. But perhaps I may elucidate.

“In our mountain valley utopia, China and the orient at our backs we have, with their predilection for conformity and tradition. Society is all, the individual nothing. Confucius and Lenin for that I blame. Before us the seething shambolic legions of the subcontinent there is. The Dark Lords are drawn naturally to such chaos. Concluded they have that the near global Corporate Neoliberalism pertaining at this time curbed must be. Overt US Military intervention avoided at all cost however must also be. And your Temporary Acting Prime Minister Larry is our last, great, and woefully forlorn, hope. We are picking a side.”

Intelligence Gathering

Ferdy had landed his Cierva in a field several miles to the west of Jersey’s capital and hidden it in an improvised hayrick. He had borrowed a bicycle, found propped up in the nearby farmyard and was peddling into St Helier cunningly disguised as an onion seller. The deserted streets looked as if a tornado had passed through. Empty crisp packets and greasy newspaper fluttered like tumbleweed along the highway, crushed soft drinks cans piled up in the gutters, doors swung on creaking hinges and bedding hung out of hollow windows. An unseasonably cold, lonely wind wafted mournfully through the town. Nearing the General Hospital the intrepid dodo was surprised to hear the rousing strains of Rule Britannia being bashed out on a concert grand that had been pulled out, minus its lid, into the car park. He leaned his transport against some railings, adjusted his Basque beret and hung two strings of onions about his neck. Tentatively he peered through the main gates. A grizzled character in paratrooper’s uniform stood at the piano, tapping one foot as he played, whilst a curvaceous Lionheart, having removed her mask, and enticed into a wild fandango by two of the Kittens of Chaos, twirled dangerously close to the flames of several fiercely burning 2CVs. A roaring fireball erupted from one of the tiny exploding fuel tanks and Ferdy sprang back into the soft arms of…

“Haave a carre Meesterrr Ferrdinand Desai.”

“Er… I am just an innocent onion seller. Oh… Consuella? You shouldn’t creep up on people like that.”

“Eet ees best we keep a low profile. Come away from thees demonic scene. Arre you rready foorr a cup of tea?”

 

The pair sauntered inconspicuously down the road to the opera house and then crossed over to the small café where Consuella had established her clandestine HQ. They settled at an inside table for two and Consuella called over to a trim waitress.

“A larrge plate of crroissants pleeze dearrr and a pot of tea foorr two.

“Thee girrls have been working harrd on some of thee highest rrranking officerrs of thees invasion forrce. They have brroken alrready Union Jack and Captain Brritain and, as you obserrved, they arre currrently softening up Lionhearrt. We have learrned much of theirr plans.”

Ferdinand frowned. “Are your activities strictly ethical?”

“Hno pain eez involved Meesterr Desai. Anyone succumbs in time to catnip, pole dancing and thee prromees of sex.”

“Hmm. So what have we learned?” whispered Ferdy, leaning across the table in a conspiratorial manner.

“Here’s your hot croissants ma’am. Tea’ll be a second or two, once it’s brewed.”

“Thank you Ellouise… Hwe do not have much time. Theirr High Command is prressing theez insurrgents to crrack on and complete theirr occupation of Jerrsey. Thee long terrm plan eez to install a puppet government and apply foorr interrnational rrrecognition as thee trrue Grreat Brrritain in an allience with the Imperrial Tyrrany of Sarrk.”

Another explosion rocked the café.

“I hope the Kittens are being careful,” said Ferdy.

“I ham going to pull thee girrls out. We will forrm thee corre of a guerrreella rrresistance een thee mountains.”

Ferdy Flies Out

Ferdy over Jersey 2SThe summons, when it came, was not from Larry’s able factotum. Dark Flo knocked gently on the penthouse bedsit door.

“Call for Boz, the payphone on the landing.” She smiled round the corner at Phoebles, who blushed. “Can’t stop, there’s a riot broken out in the bar.”

“Need any help?” asked Slasher McGoogs as Boz squeezed past on his way to the phone.

“Nah, it’s just high spirits.”

And out on the landing Boz picked up the handset.

“Boz? It’s Ferdy. I’m grounded in Guernsey, at the Silvertown Airways’ airship hangers in St Peterport. There’s some sort of commotion going on out over the sea to the southeast and I’m worried about The Kittens. I dropped them off outside St Helier earlier. They and Consuella have a gig at the Jersey Opera House. Have you heard what’s going on.”

“The Opera House?” The Kittens of Chaos were infamous for many activities, but their choral skills had rarely been called upon.

“Yes. It’s the Channel Islands Naturist Society Annual Karaoke next week and the Kittens are booked to do their Histoire d’ O with Balloon Sculpture. But what about the other stuff?”

“Oh that’s just an invasion. I expect Larry will want us to do something about it. Keep calm and find something to occupy the time while you wait for us. Have a go at that Jackson Pollock jigsaw I gave you for Christmas.”

But Ferdy could not just wait. He was a dodo of action.

 

Ferdinand sprinted across the tarmac, buckling his flying helmet under his chin as he ran and pulling on his goggles. He sprang into the rear cockpit of his shiny new Cierva C.30A autogiro, taxied onto the runway and took to the air.

As he approached the island tax haven of Jersey, hidden beneath a blanket of oily smoke, his headphones crackled into life.

“Sergei’s taken a hit! Watch out for the flack, comrades!”

“Mayday! Mayday! I’m going in!”

“Red6 on strafing run. Yahoo! See how they scatter!”

“Cut the chatter, comrades. And keep tight.” This last voice had been female, sultry, with just a hint of Russian accent. Ferdy flicked on his microphone.

“Polly? Is that you Wing-Comrade Karpova? What’s occurring?” Her distinctive scarlet Ratta burst out of the smoke screen climbing steeply, looped over and plunged back into the fray with all guns blazing.

“Ferdy? Good to see you old friend. Welcome to the scrap. It’s hotting up down here. There’s two clapped out old battleships anchored in the bay, but they’re bristling with Ack-Ack, QF 2-pounder pom-poms. Can’t get near them. And some mob’s established a bridgehead on the beach. God know’s where they bought their uniforms, they’re all dressed as superheroes. We’re trying to keep them pinned down.”

“What’s the plan?” Ferdy asked.

“No plan, and no back-up. So we’re just going to blast the hell out of them till we run out of ammo and then bugger off home.”