Go Again, Mrs?

Kiki crawled over to Kitty Fisher and shook her.

“Not now Mam, I had a rough night.”

“What? Ow!” Scarlet DuBois was surfacing from under the freezer.

“Jump to it you two,” said Kiki as she retrieved her Bren from a heap of burst cornet cartons, “We’re missing all the action.”

“The van’s very buckled, isn’t the door jammed?” asked Kitty.

“Might well be, where ever it is. Flew off somewhere up the hill. We can get out, but keep your heads down.”

Outside the battle was at its height, the air thick with smoke and a cacophony of percussions, cries, whinnies and faltering mariachi filling their ears.

“Come on. We’re going to take out that eighty-eight.”

“Really?” They crawled on their bellies, snake like and unnoticed towards the far gun emplacement where a Krupp 8.8-cm Flugzeugabwehrkanone was pounding shell after shell into Aunty Stella’s cavalry. The Chat gun crew were too intent on loading and firing their artillery piece to notice the kittens creeping up. Until that is, Kitty, leaning provocatively against the stacked ammunition boxes, gave a whistle.

“Hello boys. Fancy a bit of fun?” They didn’t, it wasn’t, and they never knew who hit them from behind.

*

“Go again Mrs?”

Aunty Stella had staggered back to the observatory gates, leaving her mount, turban and pride in the melee below. She was looking around for Mad Jack when the Corporal of Horse addressed her. His uniform was torn, he had a nasty gash across his forehead and was leading a limping horse. His bedraggled comrades, clutching various wounds and supporting each other, tried unsuccessfully to match his enthusiasm.

“Not today lads. It was a brave, mad dash, but once was more than enough,” she replied. A two man Kronstadt machine gun crew was still firing their PM M1910 Maxim from the back of the tachanka as Snowdrop urged her team in retreat. Scattered survivors were making their way back as best they could. The exhausted troopers moved aside as Mad Jack trotted through their ranks looking like he had just stepped out from his tailor’s, unstained, uncrumpled and blissfully unconcerned. He was escorting Aunty Stella’s cob.

“What ho. Found this back there, wandering around on its own. One’s not sure, but them Chats may have something else up their sleeve.” On cue there was a glint of sunshine on polished aluminium out beyond the Naval College, and an eerie, pulsating, whirring sound. Les Chats’ ‘Feuerball’ flying saucer rose, hovered, and then advanced towards them, its death ray swivelling to point directly at the horrified remnants of the Hampshire Light Horse.

Seconds later there was a thundering crump from behind the observatory buildings and a large bore shell whooshed overhead. It hit the fuselage of the foo-fighter with a clang but did not explode. The Corsairs tended to buy their ammo on the cheap from a highly suspect black marketeer called Ali, on the Port Said quayside. The dark bulk of the Queen Anne’s Bounty lumbered into view, her mighty engines roaring and pennants straining in the cross wind. The haunting brass of Richard Strauss’ Sunrise from Also Sprach Zarathustra issuing from her speaker arrays was withering trees. Yet the overall sound quality was disappointingly tinny as the ship’s engineers had proven better at fixing motorjets than hifi.

“That tune’s quite soothing after the first noisy bit,” observed the Corporal of Horse.

Save

Advertisements

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

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

Action Stations!

Augusta wiped her mouth with a fine linen napkin that had a skull and crossbones neatly embroidered in one corner.

“With Les Chats Souterrains against us I can’t access the Analytical Engine.”

“Huh!” Rotskagg was staring into his empty glass. “Your thinking machine hasn’t exactly proven itself to be indispensible so far. There be more pressing matters. This conflict be stagnating. There be stalemate in the west. The Résistance be holding out against the Corporate ground forces who be overstretched and short of supplies, but we be not pushing them back. We still do not control the aerodrome and for now Fluffy is out of reach. If the fighting drags on others will get involved. We can’t take the Yanks head on.

“They already have clandestine special forces operating here in Jersey’s dark heart,” added Mother Superior.

Boz sighed. “It didn’t seem this complicated when we set out. I wish…”

“Sod this,” said Kiki, “let’s just get in there and kick ass.”

Consuella gave her a stern look, which was ignored.

The airship’s first mate burst into the cabin.

“Cap’n.”

“Smee?”

“We be approaching the stockade, skipper, but there’s something up. Lookout thinks he can hear gunfire.”

“That’s more like it,” roared Rotskagg. “Call all hands to action stations. Run out the guns. Launch armed scouts 2 and 6. We’ll work round and come in from down wind.

“Looks like you’ll get your wish Kiki, mon brave. Kit up young Flo. And here…” he casually tossed a Tokarev SVT-40 snipers rifle in the direction of Augusta King, “if it’s troops we’re up against, lass, take out anything looks like an officer.” She caught the weapon instinctively and checked the magazine. “Every one to the command deck.”

 

As the Queen Anne’s Bounty crept, as silently as could be contrived, to within view of the Corsair camp it was obvious that an attack was in progress. There was heavy small arms fire coming from the undergrowth along the edge of the woods and the pirates behind the stockade were shooting back sporadically. Within the clearing a cluster of corpses gave testament to a failed assault on the main gate.

Generalisimo Starcluster tweaked the focus on the airship’s pod mounted brass BBT Krauss 12×72 Battleship binoculars. “Those bodies look like Captain Midlands’ renegades.”

“Starboard gun crews, target the tree line. Three rounds each.” Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp turned from the ship’s intercom and picked up the VHS microphone, “Scouts, as soon as the shelling stops commence strafing run.”

Augusta opened a window and poked out her sniper’s rifle.

“Anyone runs out of the woods, your ladyship, terminate ‘em.”

The thunder of Queen Anne’s artillery shook the vessel from stern to stem. The Kittens clustered excitedly around the bridge windows, Phoebles’ heart pounded, and Boz stood resolute, stony, silent.

The forest erupted in fire and smoke as vegetation and earth were thrown upwards and outwards. Then the ornithopter scouts went in, tearing into the foliage with their 50 calibre machine guns. The first run met with a smattering of returned fire, but when the warbirds ripped a second stream of tracer into the renegade’s positions they met no opposition.

“Take her in Smee.” Rotskagg turned on the Tannoy. “Open all hangar doors. Cutlasses men. Deploy as soon as we touch down.”

The Queen Anne shuddered slightly as she came to earth and a mighty roar went up as the corsairs, and Kittens, fanned out across the clearing led by their captain, falchion bladed cutlass in one hand, Uzi Pro 9mm in the other and smouldering tapers knotted into his ginger beard.

Feeling a little left behind Boz and the gang stepped out from the dirigible. They clustered indecisively. The pirates were disappearing away into the woods, with Consuella and Flo racing to catch up, the stockade was some distance off and suddenly, glaring at them from only yards away at the boundary to the forest, was a menacing figure clad in nothing but tattoos and a US Army issue hard hat, wielding a gore stained Indonesian Golok Machete.

Save

Save

World Domination

Beryl’s radio crackled into life. It was Dark Flo.

“Karaoke night’s going to be a bit quieter from now on.”

“Come on down, Flo. We’ve got them.”

Mother Superior emerged from the Hougue Boëte portal followed by Generalissimo Starcluster, who stopped to help the aged Master Dorje off his knees, then the three Kittens, boggle-eyed and confused.

“What just happened?” asked Scarlet.

“We opened the portal,” replied Boz. “We were trying to get in to rescue you. How come you knew to be there?”

At that moment a mottled blue bat detached from the Queen Anne’s Bounty and swooped towards them. There was a crack as a parachute deployed, far later than was advisable, and the creature thumped to earth close enough to Boz for him to flinch.

“Ooof!” Dark Flo slipped out of her wingsuit and began to reel in her chute. Divested of her birdman costume Flo was clad in a skin-tight black leather cat suit and Converse All Star Black Mono leather baseball boots. Her outfit left little to the imagination and had the zip on the one-piece been pulled up a little higher Mother Superior may not have scowled so disapprovingly. Beryl climbed down from the cockpit of the shuttle and joined them.

“We’ve been holed up in the bubble universe where my Analytical Engine is installed,” said Augusta, as if there had been no interruption in the conversation.

“I’ve told them a bit about your mechanical computer,” said Zelda.

“Good. It’s been processing all the data Zelda here gathered off the Internet We added details of our plight and it came up with a set of parameters to program into the time-tunnel. The tunnel’s an artificial worm-hole that can be set up to terminate anywhere in space-time, but cannot escape the Atlantean passage system due to the constraints on dimensional shift.”

Phoebles began to glaze over.

“So we found ourselves in a stone chamber with a dead horse and no door. Then, wammo, there’s a hole and you lot on the other side of it.” The hummock from which they had emerged quivered. Thrup, and the portal was gone.

“Ooer.” Mrs King continued, “I don’t know what Les Chats were playing at. I thought they were supposed to be on our side.”

“World domination,” said Phoebles, “with them it’s always world domination.”

Shriek, shriek, shriek, shriek! A fiddle scraping in their collective imagination, the party glanced about nervously. Arboreal talons seemed to close in around them.

“Perhaps we’ve out stayed our welcome. Let’s get back to the airship,” said Beryl. There was a mad dash for the shuttle. Beryl Clutterbuck swung up into the cockpit and the aircraft’s diaphanous wings began to clatter and beat.

 

Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp broached a fresh keg of grog.

The gang had disembarked into the main hangar of the Queen Anne’s Bounty. Zelda and Flo had slunk past the charred and still smouldering remains of Rotskagg’s sound system as they were all ushered in to the saloon, carved oak panelling, pure Grinling Gibbons on steroids, vast oak table and benches.

“Tuck in.” Silver, the ship’s cook, smiled as he laid out second breakfast, Phoebles’ favourite meal of the day. It was the gaudy macaw perched precariously on his shoulder that had spoken.

“Kippers!” exclaimed Phoebles.

Zelda began to devour a substantial bacon banjo.

Mother Superior was scowling again. She had selected two dry bread doorsteps to be washed down with fresh, clear spring water and felt righteous. Master Dorje was dipping a lightly toasted soldier into his soft-boiled egg.

“Let it be, for now. Exceptional times, these are.”

“I shall be having a word with that one later.”

Save

Zelda’s Triumph

“Has anyone here got an old iPod?” Zelda was kneeling in front of the Bounty’s gramophone. A grizzled corsair stepped forward.

“It’s got Patsy Cline on it. You won’t wipe it will you?”

“I’ll be careful.”

“Er… We’ve got a karaoke mixing desk in the crew’s mess too. It’s not very sophisticated, but could you use it?”

“Not half. And wire, lots of wire. And a soldering iron.”

The Queen Anne’s Bounty was airborne and purring her way towards the ancient cairn at La Hougue Boëte, with a skeleton crew, and the post-PinkFloyd speaker arrays swung out ready for a trial run as soon as Zelda’s contraption was prepped. Powerfull searchlights panned across the landscape below, scanning for any possible danger.

“We’ll be over the target in about ten minutes.” Called Rotskagg.

“Right,” said Boz. “Drop down as low as you dare. And we might need to stick something in our ears.”

They held position, in fact, until the first milky rays of dawn streaked over the hilltops. An ornithopter shuttle dropped Boz, Phoebs and Zelda the Geek near the overgrown mound. Beryl had been granted the honour of piloting the wing-powered craft and was exhilarated, even when she landed rather heavily.

“I hope I haven’t broken anything.”

They searched the wild shrubbery as best they could in the half-light but could find no indication of an entrance or sign of where the archaeologists had broken in.

“I suppose this is the right mound,” said Phoebles.

“Do you really want to question Rotskagg’s navigation?” said Boz. “It must be. We’ll just have to blast the whole hillock with sound and see what happens.”

Zelda took over the shuttles radio. “Ready Flo? In ten.”

They each packed wax plugs into their ears and put on massive ear-defenders. The first notes hit them like a gust in a gale. There were woos and boings mixed with a discordant variation on God Save the Queen. Grass withered and several important bits of the ornithopter began to rattle. The dissonant notes clashed together in an unholy crescendo. Phoebles’ tummy turned to butterflies and tunnelling moles were ejected, squeaking, from their holes. An area of mound began to shimmer. Something a bit like a figure began to waver in and out of view. The ground was shaking.

Zelda gave Beryl the thumbs up and Beryl shouted, “NOW, FLO!” into her helmet microphone. A shattering burst of sound; water sprang from the quivering earth under their feet and several defoliated trees split open lengthways. The spectre was more distinct, but not stable. Zelda stepped forward, pointed a compressed-air foghorn and added a strident ‘Worraaargh’ to the mounting cacophony. There was a boom and a green flash and the portal was open, a neat portal of dressed granite. And standing in the portal were Augusta King and Master Dorje, surprised at first and then dropping onto their knees clutching their ears.

Zelda made an urgent slashing motion with hand across her throat and Beryl relayed, “Kill it, Flo.” With a small explosion from the direction of Rotskagg’s dirigible and a puff of smoke out of her hangar bay, silence descended on La Hougue Boëte.

Save

Boz Has a Plan

“What in all that’s… What’s out there?” Phobles’ natural light-hearted resilience was being sorely tested.

“Banshees?” suggested Boz, unhelpfully.

“Well no bloody boggart’s getting on my bus,” said Flo, advancing towards the rear platform. OK, so someone had to put on a brave face, however much they just wanted to go home. She braced herself defiantly in the stairwell and stared out into the darkness.

Le Brocq called through from the drivers cab, “It’s only howler monkeys; they seem to have got noisier since they spread out from the zoo. They’re harmless. It’s the silent stuff down in the undergrowth you need to worry about, animal and human. If you can still call Captain Midlands’ degenerates human.” Somehow no one felt particularly reassured.

The bus swerved to avoid a haunch of venison that lay in the road still attached to the shredded hindquarters of its original owner. The stockiest lizard Le Brocq had ever seen waddled out onto the verge to glare back at him. He straightened up the Routemaster and watched in his rear-view mirror as the reptile returned to its meal. Then a flash of twilight on gunmetal in the sky ahead diverted the partisan bus driver’s attention and the dark mass of Rotskagg’s flagship descended into view. There was a fluttering buzz as a Tiffany Blue, single-seater odonaptor scout flew up alongside, close enough for the pilot to eye the occupants of the bus. He made an ‘O’ with thumb and forefinger and then gestured for them to follow.

The Queen Anne’s Bounty was being tethered at ground level when Boz and his comrades arrived at a clearing in the woods. Centred on the open space the Corsair camp was ringed by a defensive palisade with a hundred yards of barren killing ground in every direction. The entire area was starkly floodlit. They parked up and as they disembarked Rottskagg and his ship’s-mate Smee strode out to meet them.

“Had a good journey?” asked the pirate king as he ushered them through a gateway in the palisade topped by a timber-framed watchtower. A solid looking blockhouse took up much of the compound and a flagpole was flying Rotskagg’s death’s head banner.

“Not too eventful, so far,” replied Boz weakly.

“Ninja fashion has come on some since last we met, my petite assassin.” The corsair addressed Dark Flo with a twinkle in his one eye. “Very floral.”

Damn, she had forgotten she was still wearing the improvised poncho. For the first time in the gang’s memory Flo looked embarrassed. Rotskagg doubled up with mirth. Boz thought he had better intervene before someone died.

“Your camp is very well defended captain.”

Smee answered for his commander. “The renegades have made a number of tentative sorties against us and we have lost a cabin boy to the Komodo Dragons. Dragons’ spittle be like something out of Alien, an obnoxious brew that infects wounds and carries certain death. So we be organised. The next assault will meet with stiff opposition. The gunners and stokers sleep aboard the Bounty on twenty-four hour alert. Her main armament can be active within two minutes and she may be airborne in five.”

“Bloody lizards,” muttered Rotskagg, “the crew were fond of that lad.”

 

Everyone huddled around the chart table in Captain Rotskagg Blenkinsopp’s suite.

“So, my young friends, why be ‘e here?”

“We need to get into the Atlantean tunnel system,” replied Boz, “Les Chats Suterrains have captured Consuella and the Kittens and have disabled access to the interdimensional portal.”

“And Mrs King. They have Mrs King and Mother Superior,” added Zelda.

“Ah. I were rather taken with the Lady Augusta,” says Rotskagg.

“I have a plan,” continued Boz. “When we were in the Castleton caves we observed the veil between worlds responding to a specific combination of audio frequencies. Zelda here believes she can hack the system.”

“I have Edgar Varèse’s Poème Électronique on my iPhone along with any number of Charles Ives compositions. If we can combine them through your gargantuan ghetto blasters and I add a little touch of my own we should be able to force a crack, open a way in,” she explained. Some of the group looked impressed, others evidently found her taste in music a little unconventional.

“Where, not back at the convent?” from Rotskagg.

“No, Le Chats will have that portal locked down.” Replied Zelda. “Boz thought we could try at La Hougue Boëte.”

“Kushti, little technomage. Waste no time. We sail right after tea.”