Larry sat at the head of a long table that took up much of the cabinet room in Number 10. The gang were seated along its length. Barrymore was pouring out shots of Havana Club at the very cocktail cabinet after which, so it was said, the room had been named. It was all 1950s Formica and mirror glass on spindly legs.
“Rum for the boys,” said Barrymore, “and what will you girls be wanting?”
“A Mah-Jongg cocktail for me, please,” said Flo.
“Ooh, what’s in one of those?” asked Beryl.
“Dry gin, white rum and Curaçao.”
“Oh yeh, I’ll have one of those too.”
“Tiger beer for me please,” said Lady Augusta, “And Zelda will have a dandelion and burdock.”
The young punk sighed, “But…”
“Small sherry please,” said Aunty Stella, “I’ve things to do this afternoon.”
“Now,” said Larry, “let’s get down to business. Situation reports please.”
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“The Andromeda Geräte an omnipotent alien artefact is. Buried for millennia beneath the Neuschwabenland ice it was, until discovered by Kapitän Alfred Ritscher almost eighty years ago. Over this machine the Dark Lords have power and Armageddon it brings.”
“But not in time to save you little man.” The brutal black shape of a Beretta Pico pocket pistol was in Mr Fluffy’s hand, the red dot of its laser sight quivering on Master Dorje’s forehead. Startled, his Tibetan companions ducked, but Dorje refused to flinch. Lady Augusta moved swiftly between Fluffy and the ancient sage.
“Really Mrs King? This baby holds six rounds. I can waste you all.”
There was a metallic swish and in an instant the edge of a Yoshindo Yoshihara katana blade, cold and hard as a stockbroker’s heart, sharp as an Italian suit, was…
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“An IOU’s not really money is it. I can’t just go changing the script. I’ll be up before the College of Professors and drummed out of the Punchmen’s Guild.
“We’re not offering you a choice,” growled the bear. “Get your hand up the puppet and read the script when you’re cued.”
“Really, I can’t,” whined the professor. “Such a substantial deviation from the standard plot… If word got out it would be more than my job’s worth. I will lose my livelihood. I have a wife, children.”
Quietly Beryl picked up a swaddled bundle from the props basket and held it at arm’s length. “You will do as you are told Mr Flosso. Shape up or the baby gets it.”
“No. Please. Not the bairn… I can’t bear this. The world is too cruel. I will do…
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Master Dorje’s party was urgently escorted into the soaring, domed vestibule of a gilded extravaganza. A vast hall stretched away into the far distance, every square inch of wall and ceiling embellished with scenes of baroque fantasia. Legions of naked muscular men, buxom women and gambolling cherubs yearned towards their martial monarch and his sombre queen; clustered about the ornate, gold painted sterns of men o’ war; squatted on pastoral banks or rocky outcrops. A winged Adonis lounged a little too intimately alongside a wary and anachronistic white bull. Every triumph of trade and empire was glorified in the flamboyant panels; England at her best in the best of all possible worlds.
The captain of the guard felt that his charges must be impressed, “Behold a masterpiece of the interior decorator’s art, executed by the painter Sir James Thornhill at the dawn of this nation’s imperialist venture.”
“Your Mr Thornhill…
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