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.”
“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.
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!”
“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.”
A thick, aromatic fug obscured much of the interior, a fug almost dense enough to muffle the jangling, stannic notes of Sam playing Jelly Roll Blues on an open fronted upright. Entering deeper into Bozzy’s Bohemian Babel and adjusting slowly to the atmosphere Larry discovered Phoebles doing duty behind the bar.
“You’re not the regular bar staff. Where is Dark Flo?” Larry coughed as a swirl of sweet smelling smoke diverted from its random meandering to insinuate his left nostril. A feeling of unaccustomed light heartedness came over him, “Is Mr Boz in?”
Phoebles wiped a tumbler with a corner of his apron, “Flo’s on her hols I suppose. And…”
“…Boz is over there,” announced Barrymore as she strode towards the front bar. Sam’s playing rose to a crescendo.
Boz was sitting at his favourite table in the bay window, affording a comprehensive view of activity within the den and the pavement outside. He was with Ginsbergbear who’s Peterson appeared to be responsible for most of the surrounding smog and, as it seeped out through a fanlight above the door, for a hint of gothic noir in gaslit Narrow Street. Barrymore pulled out a chair for Larry and then seated herself opposite Boz, elbows on the table and glaring uncomfortably closely into his face.
“OK, let’s have it. Dark Flo doesn’t take holidays. And you and your gang aren’t the sort to sit around doing nothing while an adventure is unfolding.”
Boz gazed innocently back at her. “We’ve been a bit worried about Ferdy and the Kittens. They would appear to be lost in the thick of all that mayhem in the Channel Islands. Have you heard about the invasion then?” One eyebrow raised as he tilted his head inquisitively.
“C’mon. Give me more.”
“Oh… OK… Slasher wanted you two kept out of the loop for as long as possible. He and Flo have gone up north to talk to the pirate king, Rotskagg Blenkinsopp. Alongside the Kronstadt Coastal Patrol he sees the Corsairs as our only hope of successfully fighting back. Cod knows how he finds things out, but he says the Corsairs are upgrading The Destroyer of Worlds. They’re fitting banks of von Ohain HeS1 turbojets in the hope of getting her back up as a GEV, that’s a ground effect vehicle,” he added helpfully, “and replacing the missile tubes with six sawn off Japanese Type 94 naval guns. Big bangs, not too much accuracy.”
Larry slid down in his chair. “So we do have a plan. Can we go home now?”
This is not part of the story. And we appear to have started something of a trend – The People’s Republic of Brighton and Hove has its own flag and passport, and Manchester has applied to join an independent Scotland. Now read on:
The Autonomous Anarcho-Surrealist Utopia of Micromercia
On St George’s Day 2015, whilst the nation was temporarily without a government, Phoebles, the one and only Autonomous Anarcho-Surrealist Utopia of Micromercian, announced his intention to declare The Autonomous Anarcho-Surrealist Utopia of Micromercia independent of the United Kingdom in general and the Westminster Parliament in particular.
The Autonomous Anarcho-Surrealist Utopia of Micromercia occupies an approximately one half of a millihectare corner of The Snug in Ye Olde Dolphin Inne, Derby.
The official flag of the Autonomous Anarcho-Surrealist Utopia of Micromercia.
In July of 918 AD, some decades after the crushing of The Great Heathen Army (Mycel Heathen Here) and the liberation of Derby from the tyranny of the Dane Law by the housecarls of Lady Æthelflæda, the Snug of Ye Olde Dolphin Inne (At that time the Eallniew Delfin Inn) was granted autonomy by Ælfwynn who had succeeded Æthelflæda as Lady of the Mercians (Myrcna Hlæfdige) a month earlier, on the occasion of her mother’s demise. The exact events leading to this grant are not known and the relevant paperwork has subsequently been mislaid.
In 1745, following the rout of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Highland Army, which had been billeted in The Dolphin, at the Battle of Swarkstone Bridge, a little way south of Derby, a grateful king George II wrote a letter of thanks to the landlord in which it is certain that the monarch ratified the independent status of The Snug. If only the current whereabouts of this historic document were known.
In the mid to late 1960s there was a small number of drug fuelled attempts to establish a Free State within the confines of The Dolphin Inn. These invariably came to naught, primarily due to restrictions imposed by the draconian licensing laws of the time.
Then, on the 23rd of April 2015 The Autonomous Anarcho-Surrealist Utopia of Micromercia became a reality. The future is in our hands.
Titular Head of State
The Autonomous Anarcho-Surrealist Utopia of Micromercia has a tab at the bar and is currently running a fiscal deficit.
Visiting immigrants are welcomed personally by the landlord of The Olde Dolphin Inne and Temporary Citizenship is freely granted to anyone willing to buy a round.
The ultimate aim of The Autonomous Anarcho-Surrealist Utopia of Micromercia is to break out geographically from the confines of Ye Olde Dolphin Inne and form a loose federation with the historic Mercian capitals of Repton and Tamworth and environs there of. Together we will revive the traditional brewing industry in Burton, nationalise Rolls Royce and the railways and restore the Derby Navigation in order to establish a maritime link with the mighty trading ports on the banks of Humber and Mersey. It is our intention that the NHS will once more have proper matrons and nurse’s uniforms and that veterinary services will be encompassed within a fully funded welfare state.