The Horror! The Horror!

Boz and Slasher were crouched behind a clutch of dustbins looking into the cool, wide eyes of an all but invisible ninja.

“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.

“Now, Flo!”

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!”

“What? Who?”

“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.”

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No Hammerhead Sharks?

Smoke from incense burners and josticks curled in serpentine swirls about the room, their mixture of pungent aromas masking a sweeter, pervasive and much more disturbing smell, the lingering stench of decay.

“Has no one heard of Febreze?” exclaimed Phoebles

“I would discourse with Mr Boz,” said the capitáno, “the other one is irrelevant. Feed it to the hammerhead sharks.”

“Now just hang on one minute.” Phoebles’ response was urgent if a little squeaky.

“We have no hammerhead sharks,” replied Nimitta.

“Why not? Well, feed it to something.”

There was a movement in the deep shadows behind Capitáno Tierrasmedias and a figure stepped into the half-light, a figure in a grey homburg, black mask and gabardine trench coat.

“Sla…” began Phoebles.

Boz kicked his ankle.

“Perhaps he could be returned to his cage whilst your minions source a suitable carnivore.”

“I value your advice as always Mr McGoogs. Take it away.

“Now Mr Boz, are you familiar with the works of Nietzsche?” Silence. “Übermensch?” Still no response. “I shall explain. I am become Superman. Or to be more accurate, I will become Superman as soon as my brigands can find me a phone box in which to change.” Boz remained unenlightened.

“Milne then, have you read anything of his?” asked Tierrasmedias. Boz brightened at the mention of a more familiar author.

“‘You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes,’ said Pooh. Well we are coming, Mr Boz. We are coming.”

“If the person you are talking to does not appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in this ear,” replied Boz.

“Deep, Mr Boz. Profound. I can see that we will get on spiffingly. Sit.”

 

The captain had talked for hours.

“There can be no justice in war. Your dragon slayers like Beowulf, St George, John Lambton did not prevail because they were chivalrous and bold, they won because they were harder, more persistent and more brutal than the dragons. Your revolution did not succeed because you were just, but because Mr McGoogs here was more devious than the Government. Our counterrevolution will not succeed because we are patriotic, but because we have the greater force and will not fail to use it. Your countercounterrevolution will not founder because you do not have right on your side, but because you are weaker than me. Might and badass commanders win battles. And I am the biggest badass of them all.”

“But we must strive for justice and freedom and equality,” replied Boz.

“Why? I am going to win. I am going to win because no horror is inconceivable if it brings me victory.” Captain Midlands grew tired of the conversation. “Go now.”

“I will escort the prisoner back to his pen,” said McGoogs, “Perhaps tomorrow…”

“Leave.”

 

Slasher and Boz walked at a steady pace across the compound, the stench of burning tyres hanging on the still air, the sound of clanging cymbals and subhuman howls drifting from behind the bike sheds.

“What in hell are you up to, Slasher?” demanded Boz.

“That nutter is doing more damage to his own side than he is to ours. I have been manipulating him.” Replied McGoogs.

“Well it’s got to stop.”

They reached the big cat enclosure and stared, stunned into silence. The cage had only one occupant, Nimitta, bound and gagged. There came a whisper from somewhere behind them.

“To me. Now.”

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The Mysterious McGoogs

slashers-disguise-sWith the BMW burbling on the driveway and an incensed harpy, plus dog, glowering at them through her double glazed patio doors the Kronstadt Naval Comrade-Starshina Matyushenko was reporting to Boz.

“Three of The Lady’s four propulsion units are functional. She’s lost a lot of gas, but the main burners are intact and the Lascars reckon they can patch the hot-air chamber. We should just about be able to get airborne and limp to Guernsey for repairs.”

“Good man. Text me when the old girl’s back on form. Boz turned to Phoebles and Ginsbergbear, “pile into the Beemer lads. Beryl, head for the docks. That seems to be where the action is.”

 

“There’s a group of irregulars approaching from out the bush, miss. They’re making no attempt to conceal themselves.” A shaven headed young nun in lo-vis grey robes hefting a short barrel AK-74 burst into the refectory at La Houghue Bie.

“That’s nice dear,” said the Mother Superior, “I’ll pop up in a moment. Try not to shoot anyone till I get there.” She turned back to Zelda and Augusta. “Sounds like we have visitors, lets go onto the battlements and see who they are.”

Kiki and Consuella, Scarlet and Kitty strode up to the castellated nunnery trying their hardest not to look like an attacking army. And it worked. The famously trigger-happy nuns had allowed them to get close enough to be recognised.

“Kiki dear,” Mother Superior called down to them while the gates were being unbarred, “It would seem that you were right about Les Chats Souterrains. I don’t suppose any of you have heard of some chap called McGoogs?”

“Hwe weel deescuss such matters over lunch. Heye deed not come herre to shout overr hwalls.”

Once ensconced before wholesome bowls of steaming hot gluten free kale soup the resistance fighters began to respond to the nun’s questions. Augusta explained all that the morose Zelda had found out.

“Heye am amazed that hyourr orrderr could be so rremote that hyou have neverr hearrd of Slasherr McGoogs, especially herre on Jerrsey, wherre hees banking exploits have wrreaked such havoc.”

“Slasher’s something of a law unto himself,” explained Kitty Fisher, “not exactly on the side of the angels, but on balance he seems to be a force for good.”

“Unless you’re on the wrong end of one of his schemes,” chipped in Kiki. “Cod knows what he’s involved in with the Yanks.”

 

Had Kiki but known, Slasher McGoogs was at that very moment handing a Portuguese-Finish dictionary to Lieutenant Harrison Dewey Jr, making inexplicable gestures with his arms and requesting, “Heye hhave leetle Engleesh. Please trrranslate.”

pinguins-disguise-sAs the Sixth Fleet pursued SMS Pinguin into the South Pacific the US Pacific Fleet joined in the chase and soon had the Hilfskreuzer surrounded. Yet, as they closed the net they found that somehow the privateer commerce raider had slipped away. Now they were aboard the Panamanian registered tramp steamer Kandelfels to enquire of its Dutch skipper Felix van Luckner and its small Filipino crew if they had sighted the Pinguin. It would appear that they had not and, as Lieutenant Dewey was discovering, the steamer’s sole passenger, a Brazilian coffee magnate travelling from Manaus to Salina Cruz in Mexico to be at the deathbed of his only daughter was equally unforthcoming. Some days just did not go well.

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Zelda the Geek

ak-time-tunnel-sSlasher McGoogs, in yachting cap, white shorts and deck shoes, stood next to Kapitänleutnant Felix Graf von Luckner, on the bridge of the surface raider Pinguin. Cats swarmed everywhere. The Pinguin was operating off the eastern seaboard of the United States of American. The cats were ships’ cats rescued from the Pinguin’s victims before the vessels were sunk, and given free range over the warship. The Merchant Marine crews were confined to the officers mess, drinking German beer, playing boogie-woogie jazz on the Steinway grand and celebrating their good luck.”

“How many merchantmen is that now captain?”

“Fifteen; a hundred and sixty thousand tons,” replied the Kapitänleutnant.

“Well it’s worked. The Sixth Fleet has diverted from its course towards Jersey and is coming to get us. The arrogance of these yanks; haven’t changed their codes in over a year. They might as well communicate in plain language.”

“Gut. Now we will make all speed for Cape Horn. The Galapagos Islands can be very pleasant this time of year. We will give away our position once in a while, make sure they follow. First stop the River Plate to drop off our prisoners, I think.”

“Erm… You won’t need me to come ashore will you?” Slasher was looking a bit shifty.

“Ah yes, the bank scandal. What is it they call you in Rio, the Teflon Spectre? Thirteen government ministers gaoled, including the Vice President, and you were acquitted in absentia due to lack of evidence.”

“It was never proved beyond reasonable doubt that I even existed.”

*

Auguasta found Zelda the Geek in a gothic arched Entertainment Crypt below the refectory of the convent fortress of the Lesbian Brides of Our Lady of Perpetual Self-Doubt, watching Doris Day in Calamity Jane on a 65” LG smart TV. She was listening on headphones and jumped nervously when Augusta touched her on the shoulder. Zelda turned and whipped off the black BOSE QuietComfort 35 Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones that continued to blast out The Sisters of Mercy’s Marian at high volume. The plumpish teenage sociopath could have been Velma Dinkley, in her horn-rimmed specs and orange jumper, had it not been for the Mohican, tattoos and piercings.

Augusta noted the savage, distant stare and the ravaged veins up the girl’s bare arm. “How long have you been clean, dear?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Been there before you. For me it was chasing the dragon on poppy nectar.”

“Oh. I was an innocent at Uni. Got sucked into wild Warhammer parties, Babycham and grass. Catnip looks and smells much like marijuana to the uninitiated. The occasional nipspliff led inexorably to mainlining. The nuns found me in a junky squat and dried me out. I don’t do anything stronger than Fisherman’s Friend lozenges these days.”

“Well, I’d go easy on them too, if I were you. Look, young lady, I need your help. I want anything and everything on the US Government’s involvement in this invasion… You do know there’s been an invasion don’t you? …Tweets, Instagram, the lot. And if you could get into Langley all the better. But we’ve got to remain untraceable, really untraceable. The Merovingian Lizard Kings have zero sense of humour and if my Analytical Engine gets clogged up with ads for Viagra and Penis Extensions they’ll wreak revenge. We must not exist, ghosts in the Cloud.”

“No problem,” said Zelda, “It’ll take a while to set up.”

In Zelda’s cell there was a pipe cot, a short row of coat hooks and a large secretaire. Cluttering the latter were two desktop Macs and a jumble of assorted hard drives and modems. The young nun began pulling out old connectors and cross patching a new and complex configuration.

Augusta, meanwhile, went outside and down the mound to the ancient passage grave. The path had turned slippery and sparkled from a persistent drizzle. The tunnel was dank and cold. At the far, inner end a low chamber was still guarded by two Chats Souterrains. Not the same ones, there had been several shift changes. They stood sentry either side of a steel door, its paint pealing and an injunction in French and English not to enter faded to illegibility. She passed through the door, descended a steel staircase and opened another door, painted green, frosted glass panel, into a disorderly workshop. Here she began work on a HeathRobinsonesque arrangement of multiple USB ports, a Cathode Ray Tube fettered within an electromagnetic collar, mauve glowing beam tetrodes, their HT anode topcaps arcing intermittently, and a Creed & Co teleprinter with mechanical keyboard, all conjoined in a maze of stiff, rubber coated copper wiring. This was destined to become The Analytical Engine’s near magical, and quite possibly musical Web Interface. Augusta put her soldering iron to one side and admired her masterpiece. With a little gentle manipulation the contraption was fitted into a cardboard box retrieved from under the workbench. She tucked it under her arm and marched up to yet another door, a perfectly normal door except that it hung isolated in the middle of the room some six inches above the floor. Augusta grabbed the doorknob, took a deep breath and opened. Facing her on the other side was a wide, endless tunnel ringed with light that pulsed down its length whilst playing a catchy little John Williams number.

“I hate this bit,” she muttered to herself and stepped forward.

The Pirate Court

Jolly-FishermanA lukewarm quart each of Wallsend’s Mordue Brewery Workie Ticket mellowed the majority of corsair captains, but the litre biersteins of flatulence inducing Carlsberg seemed to render the bellicose mercenaries more incalcitrant than ever. They belched out unreasonable demands and threatened to offer their services to king Charles if negotiations broke down.

“Mar amat!” A small, wrinkled, golden-skinned woman, with clusters of gold rings dragging each stretched ear lobe down onto her shoulders leaped up and began a high-pitched rant in an alien Asian tongue. She flailed her arms and jabbed a knobbled forefinger towards one unnerved mustelid in slightly threadbare plumb and gold finery.

“Who the hell is that?” Flo leaned over towards Rotskagg and whispered from behind her hand.

“That, my young valkyrie, be Kapten Nyai of the bisquine Bonnie Lass. She be a Sea Dayak and has never been known to utter a word except in her native language which be totally incomprehensible to her entirely Geordie crew. But then few can understand them either. Seems to work well for all concerned. They be contraband Newcastle Brown smugglers, and highly successful too. Hold fast there, Nyai!”

She glared and then sat, continuing to express her outrage under her breath. Rotskagg turned to the hireling soldiers:

“You will not be contacting our enemies. You will not be getting off this island without transport arranged through my friends here. In fact you will be lucky to leave this room if I give them the nod. We will now discuss a profit sharing contract that I am sure you will find agreeable. As for my captains, they are not going to turn down a chance to swashbuckle.”

“And where will all this swashbuckling get us, Mijnheer Blenkinsopp?”

Kapitein Dirk Blauvelt of de Kraken skippered the most heavily armed whale chaser on the New Barbary coast, sporting a 105mm howitzer in a forward turret with twin .50 calibre machine guns mounted on top. His support would carry considerable clout.

“Do ‘e really want the old days back, Royal Navy patrols, interference from Westminster? One glorious mad dash into the jaws of hell and we secure our reputations, our pirate coast and the gratitude of Larry for generations.” There was a spontaneous and resounding ‘hoorah’ from all but one of the corsair captains. Ernie Spinks, ex Yarmouth fisherman now skipper of the tiny piratical airship Albatross was more circumspect.

“Have we assessed the opposition?”

“Erm…” Slasher too, had been considering a course less perilous than a glorious mad dash into the jaws of anything; “We may perhaps discuss the finer details of strategy once a general agreement has been reached.”

“Too bloody true,” said Flo, pressing her head into her hands.

“Kushti. More ale all round landlord,” cried Rotskagg Blenkinsopp.

The Jolly Fisherman

Inchcolm Lassie S“Ahoy Capitano. Sastimos. Shee oney bonaroo pluk boot.” The approaching figure, paddling at the water’s edge, had his trousers rolled up above the knees and a knotted handkerchief on his head, over a black and white polka dot Lone Ranger mask.

“Rocka Inglés, McGoogs. Flo, here, has no Polari,” bellowed Rotskagg Blenkinsop.

“And she’s no time for your mucking about. Get over here, Slasher.” Dark Flo turned back to Rotskagg. “Our Coldwar Spytrawler Lord Ancaster is working out of Braye Harbour on Alderney, gathering as much info as the crew can glean. We need to scupper this invasion on Jersey before it gets established. The Kronstadt sailors are a formidable fighting force ashore, but only have two lightly armed trawlers. The Polikarpovs will provide air cover and we are getting the Lady Æthelflæda out of mothballs.”

“So, apart from this Caspian Sea Beasty, what can you offer, Captain?” chipped in Slasher.

A barely perceptible scowl flickered across the pirate king’s usually amiable countenance. “IF we come in on your side, Mr Cat o’ Mystery; that has yet to be decided. I have convened a Pirate Court and we shall have to see how many Corsair captains turn up. Their whale chasers also be armed only with a single 40mm Bofors, or pair of 37mm Soviet V-11s at best. My Queen Anne’s Bounty and the Destroyer of Worlds be the only craft as can take on a battleship.” The Queen Anne was Rotskagg’s imposing black flagship dirigible. She bristled with every conceivable calibre of weaponry. “The Gilnockie of Gilnockie has dispatched a contingent of his Reivers and Moss Troopers aboard the somewhat overloaded Clyde puffer Inchcolm Lassie. As we speak they should be passing through the Caledonian Canal en route to Banff where they will swell their ranks from volunteers in the local Insurrectionary Militia. Furthermore a band of continental mercenaries be awaiting our arrival in Craster in order to negotiate their fee. They be irrepressible dandies, but hard fighters.

“So, it be down to you, cat and barmaid, to make a compelling case for your cause.”

“No pressure, as usual,” grumbled Slasher as the trio headed back towards the cramped harbour of Craster. Roistering and squabbling from within the tavern drowned out even the incessant squawking of the gulls. Herring barrels were stacked at the roadside. In the little garden, kept neat by the landlord’s daughter, were piled halberds and pikes, cutlasses, flammenschwerts and beidhänders, many a sawn-off shotgun and every mark of Kalash assault rifle confiscated on entry to the Jolly Fisherman. When Rotskagg held open the door to the bar and stood back to let the others in they were met by a sight and sounds of utter pandemonium. A group of weasels in flamboyant garb, slashed and puffed sleeves, striped hose, massive floppy ostrich feathered hats stood together on a long oak table roaring out demands for ludicrous amounts of what they were calling ‘Gelt’, preferably in Euros; the throng of angry corsairs that surrounded them looking almost sombre by comparison, in their spotted kerchiefs, cropped Levis and hearts and roses tattoos.

Rotskagg turned to Dark Flo, “Would you like to do your thing, dearie?”

“Time gentlemen, Please. Let’s be having you now.” Her gently melodic voice sliced through the furore like a freshly honed stiletto. The company froze. A dread silence descended, punctuated only by the tick-tock of an age-darkened act of parliament clock marking the passage of the moments above the open fireplace.

“Good. Now come to order. Sit,” Rotskagg turned his single, ice-cold eye to the weasels. “…all of you.” Then, “Mine host, lager for the Europeans and strong ale for my hearties here. Smartly does it.”

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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.”