CSS Überkatzen

Back inside they finalised their plan. Dark Flo had assumed command. “Ferdy, you’d better co-pilot Beryl, make sure she doesn’t drop out, turn on, or whatever it is she’s inclined to do. Once we’ve found the carrier I’ll go first and take out the defences. Then the rest of you parachute drop onto the deck.”

“Me? Parachute?” cried Zelda.

“It’s a buddy sky-dive for you,” continued Flo, “in tandem with the bear.”

“I might need a spot of that stuff Beryl’s on,” said Ginsbergbear.

“Me too,” said Lady Augusta, “What exactly does this para-thingying involve?”

“No one’s going to be on anything until this op’s over. It’s serious. You all heard the Analytical Engine. It’s a matter of life or death. Now, get kitted up and let’s be off.”

“I’d better get back to my regiment,” said Aunty Stella. “When Les Chats get wind of what you’re up to they’re bound to make a move. Good luck all of you.”

“And I’ve got to see a man about a dog,” said Slasher. “Want a lift in the Duesy, Mrs S?” They walked together out into Narrow Street.

The cumbersome Dornier was lumbering above Tiger Bay when two radial engined fighters caught up with them and took up station off the flying boat’s wing tips, Polly’s scarlet replacement Rata to starboard and an off-white I-16 with a red star on the tail to port. The DoX’s radio crackled:

“We’re your escort, Mr Boz,” said wing-Comrade Polly Karpova.

“Fab,” replied Beryl, “this beano could well turn toasty hot.”

Flo grabbed control of the radio, “Stay frosty, Pol. We’ve only a vague idea what we’ll be up against.” But they had to find the drone ship first, in a very large ocean.

They had been stooging around the North Atlantic for more than an hour and had investigated two targets that turned out to be innocent container vessels before Phoebles showed signs of over excitement, bouncing about and pointing out of his allotted porthole.

“I can see another wake,” he shouted, “down there.”

Boz grabbed up the big binoculars (Kronos 20x60s) from their box by the chart table. “Looks like her. It’s huge.” As they closed in on the ship he could make out the flight deck, the bridge and air traffic control towers. She was dazzle painted in the red, yellow and silver grey beloved of Les Chats Souterrains, with the Uber logo on her superstructures and CSS ÜBERKATZEN stencilled in large capitals along the sides of her hull.

“We’re on. Take us up to ten thousand feet,” said Dark Flo, zipping into her wing suit. “I’m going to bail. Keep out of range of her defences till I call.”

They climbed slowly, and then…

“We’re at 10,000 feet,” reported Ferdy. Without another word Flow flung herself head first out through the hatchway.

Almost immediately three of the Sea-Whizz pods rose up out of the Überkatzen’s deck and began to pan around, unable to get a fix on the tiny blue avian. One of the pods fired a short burst from its M61 Vulcan cannon. The Polikarpov I-16s instantly broke formation.

“We’ll cover you, draw their fire,” Polly called over the radio. “Let’s demonstrate some soviet aerobatics Tovarishch Lilya, show them what our Ishaks*8 can do.” The pair of Ratas barrelled and looped around the azure sky whilst Flo spiralled in towards the carrier. Moments later a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper launched from the Überkatzen. It locked onto Flo almost immediately. She banked hard, but could not shake it, so she tucked her arms into her sides and went into a steep dive. The drone followed. Flo opened her wings and slowed. The Reaper passed her, pulled up, and she crashed onto its back, clinging on to the fuselage with arms, legs and sheer willpower. Bracing her knees against the robotic beast and freeing an ugly, heavy bladed bowie knife from the sheath strapped to her thigh she began to prise open a maintenance flap on top of the drone. It gave way suddenly and flew off in the slipstream. Flo peered into the interior, pulled out two wires, one orange the other striped purple and yellow, and cut them both. The confused drone began to waver. Next Flo stripped back the insulation off the wires, swapped them over and twisted the ends together. The Reaper steadied, turned and headed back to the carrier.

The Kronstadt Ratas were still dodging bullets, but with Dark Flo out of immediate danger they broke off and returned to the flying boat. Comrade Lilya performed a quick barrel roll, just for the hell of it. Flo hung on to her mount.

As the drone lined up, somewhat erratically, with the carrier flight deck Flo leapt to her feet and rode the Reaper like a surfer. At the first uncertain bounce she sprang back and landed with a forward roll. The drone tipped nose down and flipped, toppling head over heals along the deck and over the side.

“I think she’s alright,” cried Boz, still hogging the binoculars. “She’s up. She’s out of her wing suit. She’s heading for the bridge.”

 

*8 – The Polikarpov I-16 was nicknamed Rata (Rat) by the Spanish Nationalists, Mosca (Fly) by the Republicans, and Ishak (Donkey) by the Soviets.

 

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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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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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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.”

Wee Hamish

March Ör Die SThey squeezed through as near to the front as they could manage and Dark Flo lifted the vertically challenged Ferdy onto her shoulders. They were in time to see Snowdrop’s techanka wreathed in flowers with Consuella in her most exotic Carmen Miranda outfit, letting rip on her tambourine. The techanka was followed by the prancing cavalry of the Snake Pass Zapatistas led by Aunty Stella, in her Subcommandante Everyman outfit, sans ski mask, but wearing a delicate feathered purple half mask that perfectly matched her hair. Each caballerro lofted a fluttering black SPZ flag. Next came the Catnip Growers Association rainbow float, swathed in a purple haze. Bringing up the rear, with the Kittens of Chaos crammed on the roof rack, came the Vicecream van booming out the Slasher Theme from Psycho. As the last of the parade passed, the crowd spilled onto the road and followed into the Recreation ground.

Just inside the gate there were Hoop-La stalls and coconut shies and Hook-a-Duck, all the fun of the fair for thruppence a go. Beyond these they approached an inflatable paddling pool and soggy cleric beneath a sign proclaiming Dunk the Vicar. A target was contrived, by utilising a cunning arrangement of levers and gears, that when hit it would trip a precarious chair, tipping its occupant into the water below. The local boys were very good at throwing. Flo had travelled down with Boz and Co on the Æthelflæda, trusting the public bar at the Den into the care of one of the more reliable regulars, a trustworthy, conscientious and only slightly undead connoisseur of the golden nectar. She took one look at the forlorn and bedraggled priest, strode over and stepped into the pool.

“Go and get yourself a cup of tea, Pops,” she said swinging herself up into the chair and smiling sweetly at the queue of teenagers. “Come on, brats, I don’t mind a little water.” Somehow, under Flo’s withering gaze they found themselves utterly unable to hit the mark, several broke down before they got to their turn and one optimistic urchin, having thrown up on the grass, tried unsuccessfully to demand a refund.

Boz smiled, “Best crack on, she’ll be there for a while.”

As they moved further in amongst the booths and stall they were enveloped in a cacophony of sound.

“They playing Charles Ives in a fairground?’ queried Ginsbergbear. But no. As they approached each booth they could tell that it had an accompanying tune. And each tune mingled with that of its neighbour’s. The musical jumble was punctuated by tings and boings and the squealing of infants, underscored by the incessant rumble of generators. They had to shout to be heard. The irresistible scent of chips frying wafted on the air.

“Is it lunchtime yet?” asked Phoebles.

They were passing side isles cluttered with jostling fast food stalls, Egyptian Koshari, Vietnamese Pho, Bakewell puddings, Welsh cawl, Hairy Tatties from Strathbogie and, of course Harry Ramsden’s Guisely fish and chips.

“Hokey pokey penny a lump. Have a lick make you jump.” An Italian hokey-pokey man had parked his ice cream trike close by the Kittens’ Vicecream van and was attracting a queue. Within the forbidding gothic interior of the Vicecream van a plot was being hatched to remove the unwanted competition, whilst one of the less scary Kittens leaned out of the serving hatch and beamed a smile at the unwitting Latin.

Overhead the Kronstadt Fleet Air Arm were giving a heart stopping aerobatic display in their little Ratas. As the gang looked up Polly broke away from her squadron to skywrite Hello Boz within a heart across the clear blue. At a lower altitude, Beryl was taking kids on flights round the town in the Dragon Rapide.

The boys had not gone much further when they heard the soulful strains of Scottish bagpipes.

“Come on.   Sounds like we’re missing something good.”

They emerged onto a grassed plaza where, shadowed beneath the looming presence of Tamworth Castle, erstwhile seat of Æthelflæda Myrcna hlæfdige, legendary feminist and war-leader, the piper, kilted and clad in Darth Vader helmet, droned out Motörhead’s March Ör Die, blasting flames from the chanters and swirling tight circles on his unicycle. A small torti-shell was hurrying towards Boz and his pals.

“Hi, you’re here then. We made it too. Anna’s just over there with the ambulance.”

Anna Alban Pyromatrix travelled with Bui her cat in and old ambulance converted to a mobile home. It was more cramped than a Winnebago, but cunningly kitted out to provide all their basic needs.

“This,” Bui pointed at the piper, “is Wee Hamish. He came down with us.”

 

Gilnockie Tower Part 3

Gilnockie Tower UFOLes Chats’ Foo Fighter

Then we all tuck in to our porridge, which is REALLY salty, not like at home, and I’m not liking it much, but you got to be polite. Conversation is replaced by munching for a while and then Boz pipes up:

“I’ve got an idea. It’s the Tamworth Ranters’ Gala coming up soon, and that’s always good for a laugh. Lets all meet there and after the fun we can have a conference. If you sir…” he addresses The Gilnockie, “ …bring some of your chaps and this pirate king along, we’ll get Larry to join us and we can thrash out a deal.”

“Sounds good to me,” says The Gilnockie of Gilnockie, “Will there be booze?”

“Good Burton ale,” says Ginsbergbear, puffing quietly on his Peterson briar.

“But no weapons,” chips in Barrymore, “and that includes bagpipes.”

“What about Les Chats Souterrains?” asks Ferdy, “No one’s mentioned them yet.”

“Ah…”

That’s when I become aware of a whirry buzzing noise from outside.

“Last time I heard a sound like that we were running for our lives in Castleton,” says I.

“Oh no,” groans Boz. And we all rush up onto the battlements in time to see the metallic Frisbee glinting pink and mauve in the setting sunlight.

“Is that a real flying saucer?” shouts The Gilnockie.

“Les Chats Souterrains’ foo-fighter,” says Ferdy, “We really don’t need this right now.”

It’s got revolving, flashing lights and flies straight over the croquet lawn level with the battlements, and it is so close we can see the pilot’s face, all white and demented in dark goggles. The flying saucer whizzes right past us, cranks its death ray round and targets The Airship of State. And it doesn’t do the dirigible any good at all. There are a series of explosions and a sort of crumpling metal greeouch noise and our airship transport collapses in on itself in flames.

“Bugger.” Says Slasher McGoogs, looking pointedly at Boz, “Someone’s going to get that stopped out of his pocket money.”

“If they’ve scorched my Roller,” screams The Gilnockie, “I’m going to get really cross.”

The foo fighter is just beginning to train its death ray onto the upper floors of Gilnockie Tower when a stream of bullets is pinging off it’s hull. Out of the majestic, orange disc of the sun races a little crimson Rata, and it will be opening up with its cannons any moment. The saucer recoils and then hurtles off towards the east at an incredible speed, enthusiastically pursued by Polly, shooting as she goes. But there’s more…

“Hens’ teeth!” exclaims Slasher McGoogs as he peers over the parapet and his Mauser Red9 materialises in his right paw.