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Chapter 7 - The Battle of Brighton

You look up from your book (an amusing little thing called Brand New Australian Myths and Legends that helps you beat the boredom and swat flies) and squint into the sun. You shift in your wickerwork chair and wonder what the temperature is. You are sweating a little in your flying suit and Mae West but you can't take them off. You look to your left to see Elfa dozing in the shade of the wing of a Hawker Hurricane. Paula is tugging at his fur-lined flying boots and sharing a joke with the mechanic. You smile a little and close your eyes. The warm spring breeze washes over you. You yawn, stretch and lay the opened book over your face and smell the flowers and listen to the steady humming of the bees.

`At least they get to fly,' you think. The engines of the aircraft near you ping and crackle under the warmth of the sun. Somewhere in the distance is the faint rumbling of the truck that is bringing the familiar fuel odours and the hazy vapour mirages that will hang over your aeroplane. Through your half-closed eyes you see the greasy, drab uniform of the flight mechanic who swears to entertain himself as he patches the line of holes punched into the fabric covering of your fuselage. The ground crew are loading thousands of rounds of ammunition into your aeroplane. You close your eyes again and unzip your leather jacket a little. The fuel truck rumbles away and you let yourself doze.

The shrill jangling of the telephone startles you into instant tense alertness. You awkwardly leap from your chair and drag your numb leg to the telephone in your stark weatherboard office. There is a terse command and you punch the scramble alarm. Your leg is screaming with pins and needles as you run towards your aeroplane.

`Scramble!' you shout, unnecessarily, because Elfa and Paula have already strapped themselves into the cramped cockpits of their Hurricane Mark IIB's and their engines are already swathed in blue smoke as their Rolls-Royce Merlin XX, twelve cylinder, supercharged 1280 horsepower engines cough, catch and roar into life. You snatch at your parachute crotch strap as you run and climb into your cockpit. In seconds your harness is attached and with deft skill you fire up your engine and the three bladed Watts wooden airscrew becomes a blur. You switch on your transceiver and wave to the ground support crew to pull the chocks away from your wheels. You taxi quickly with Paula to your left, slightly behind and Elfa to your right. You slide the armour-glass canopy shut and impatiently pour on the throttle. The twelve cylinders explode with power and you leave the ground.

`Reader to squadron,' you transmit as your undercarriage thumps into place. `Twenty bandits, bearing 270, range 50 miles at angels 7. Over.'

Already your sleek green machine is slashing low across the landscape at 340 miles an hour.

`Paula to Reader. Can we expect help? Over.'

`Squadron Reader to Paula. Negative. It's three against twenty. Over.'

`Paula to Reader. Wodger. Over.'

`Reader to Flight Control. Range to bandits? Over.'

`Flight Control,' the voice crackles, `Range 40 miles. Course 270. Over.'

`Wodger, Control. Reader to Squadron. Let's take her up to angels 8. We'll attack from above,' you order.

`Woof,' Elfa confirms.

You pull back on the round handle at the top of the joystick and begin to climb. You shoot upwards at 2950 feet per minute until you reach your target altitude of 8000 feet. You manually cock your twelve .303 inch Colt/Browning machine guns and give your final instructions.

`Reader to squadron. Stay tight until I fire then we'll scramble them. I'll take the flight leader first and then it's every human, Labrador and Polar Bear for themselves. Have fun, chaps and try not to waste our aeroplanes. These are all we've got!'

`This is Paula. Roger, Reader,' he laughs.

`Woof!' Elfa jokes.

`Reader! Bandits sighted, 9 o'clock low,' Paula calls keenly.

The grey fighters are in strict formation below you. You've kept the sun behind you and they obviously haven't seen you yet as you follow a thousand feet above them. Your gloved thumb hovers over the red trigger button on the stick. You pull down your sunglasses and push the stick forward as you roll.


`Let's get those sheep,' you mutter as you line up the leading enemy craft in your ringsight and your thumbs stab at the firing button. Your twelve wing guns spit flames and your target is riddled with lead. It quakes, shatters and explodes in a ball of black and red flame. You roar through the flying debris and bank, ready to dive again. You see fragments of bloodsoaked wool and charred mutton fly from the disintegrating cockpit as the fuselage breaks in half and spins into a hill.

The enemy scatter as you hoped they would. Elfa is already on the tail of one, his guns blazing. A stream of black smoke pours from the stricken craft's ruptured oil line and the pilot struggles to leap from the cockpit. Elfa fires another blast and the craft dives helplessly spinning to the ground where it explodes and the dangling pilot slowly rocks beneath his parachute as he falls.

You see Paula bank and dive and attack the underbelly of another fighter. The fuselage is shattered by hundreds of shells and bursts into flames. It explodes before the pilot can jump.

`Paula! On your tail!' you shout. Two grey fighters are tailing Paula. You are crushed back into the hard metal seat as you wrench your aeroplane upwards with your guns booming. Paula banks tightly out of the pursuing fighters' line of fire. Smoke billows from the fighter you hit and soon Paula is wheeling to get the other in his sights and shatters its ailerons. He fires and dives. Paula's target spins, out of control and collides with your smoking victim. They rip apart and fall. Elfa has climbed and is pursuing a formation of five inexperienced pilots who are pulling away from the battle. He easily overtakes them and fires as he passes each one. They never break formation as each in turn is riddled and eventually catches fire. The pilots manage to jump before their aeroplanes fall, one by one, to the ground.

`Jolly good show, Elfa! I confirm five kills!' you radio in admiration. He's become an ace within thirty seconds.

`Woof,' Elfa transmits modestly.

You close on two fleeing fighters, spraying more of your 6000 rounds of ammunition. You laugh as the pilots panic and bank in opposite directions. They smash into each other and each loses a wing. They fall, crippled, like lead butterflies, their pilots jumping at the last minute as if they still believe they can regain control. The remaining enemy flee too.

`This is the Reader. Maintain pursuit,' you order and Elfa and Paula fall into formation with you as you drive the bandits away.

`How many kills, Elfa?' you ask.

`Woof woof woof woof woof woof,' he replies.

`You, Paula?'

`Two, sir.'

`I got four, so that makes twelve out of twenty. Not bad, chaps. Let's see these seven just a bit further...' you say. Suddenly your blood runs cold. `Break! Break!' you cry. It's too late. The missing enemy has already dived on Paula. You and Elfa wheel away and fight to turn in time but you see Paula's aeroplane shudder as hundreds of large calibre sheep droppings rip into it.

`Bail out Paula!' you shout. `Jump!'

`Can't oblige, Reader. Don't like to disobey orders, but I'm sort of stuck, you understand. Big bear. Small cockpit. Sorry about wasting the aeroplane. Goodbye, Sir. Out,' Paula's strained voice says as his flaming craft rolls and dives. It plummets into the ground and explodes in a red and black mushroom cloud.

You are seething as you bank and pursue the attacker who is now attempting to escape. Even when you're still well out of range your guns are blaring. You line the desperately-weaving enemy's cockpit in your sights and pour a thousand rounds into the armoured glass until it tears apart. You make sure the pilot won't jump. A shattered woolly sheep's leg flies from the cockpit and the aeroplane explodes in the air. You bank, Elfa falls in beside you make the loneliest flight of all as you remember Paula's last words.

`I just finished patching that,' the mechanic whinges as he inspects the new sheep-dropping holes in your fuselage. You grasp a hefty spanner and swing it into the back of his head.

`Thank you, sir,' he says as he salutes and collapses.

`Get me the Wing Commander!' you bellow to the timid office clerk cringeing in your office as you and Elfa storm in. You rip off your Mae West and leather jacket and collapse into the wooden seat behind your desk. The clerk grabs the telephone. Elfa sits on the other rickety chair and passes you a cigarette. Fully aware of the health hazards, you take one and light it. It's not much compared to the health hazard of getting plastered with machine gun fire. You roll up the leg of your flying suit and gently touch the bleeding wound that is throbbing so painfully.

`Get on with it! Where's the W.C?' you shout at the clerk who is still trying to get through.

`It's out the back, sir,' he stammers in his thin, scared voice.

`Not the bloody toilet! I just went at the end of the last chapter. I want the bloody Wing Commander!' you scream.

`Got him, Sir,' the clerk says with relief. You snatch the receiver from him.

`Get the M.O.' you snap.

`The money order?' he says.

`The bloody Medical Officer! My God!' The clerk thankfully runs out of the office.

`This is the Reader. You there, Basil?'

`Water Closet Basil here. Got a blocked up toilet, Squadron Leader?' the voice says.

`I want bloody Wing Commander Basil!' you thunder.

`I'll get him, Sir.'

A few minutes pass during which time the Medical Officer appears, his face covered with blood.

`What the hell happened to you?' you ask.

`Your clerk said he wanted a bloody Medical Officer. He hit me in the face with a cricket bat and dragged me over here,' the confused doctor said.

`Whoever bloody thought up conscription?' you wonder as the M.O. lifts your leg onto the desktop and starts work.

`Bloody Wing Commander Basil here. That you, Reader?'

`What the hell do you think you're playing at, Basil? Can't you warn us of a scramble before the bandits are fifty miles away? I just lost Paula, you retarded slug,' you shout. To avoid a court martial, you add, `Sir.'

`Paula? I'm sorry, Reader. He was a great pilot and a good polar bear,' Basil says.

`He'd still be a good polar bear if you idiots got your act together and gave us earlier warning. We must engage bandits where we want, not where they want,' you shout.

`Well, we've got a problem with communications,' Bloody Wing Commander Basil says.

`What problem, slime features Sir?' you shout.

`Tom got a puncture on his bicycle. We can't get any glue to patch it. The office staff have sniffed it all.'

`A puncture?' you scream.

`You see, the radar station's on the coast. We thought that would be a nice place for it. The radar station crew wanted to be near the sea. It's so much pleasanter there. Anyway, when they get their little blips on their screens (or whatever they get) they tell Tom and he flies like the wind on his bicycle to Fighter Command and lets us know. Then we tell you chaps. Can't do much more than that, can we?' Basil croons.

`It's forty bloody miles from the coast to Fighter Command!' you say.

`Forty-one actually. Plus a slight detour for Tom to get a cup of tea at Plato's Fish and Chip shop,' the ever-accurate Wing Commander says.

`It's not exactly efficient,' you say, trying to stay calm.

`What more can we do? We bought Tom a jolly nice pair of trouser clips after the bombing of Brighton,' Basil argues.

`You what?'

`Last month the radar station picked up a couple of thousand Sheep bombers heading for Brighton. They gave Tom the message on the back of an envelope and off he went. Unfortunately his trouser cuffs got caught in the chain and he crashed. By the time he'd straightened out his front wheel and bought a new bicycle bell, the bombers had wiped out East Brighton. Damn shame, that. My mother lived there,' Basil mused.

`Have you thought of possibly telephoning the radar information to Fighter Command?' you ask with a sarcastic tone.

`Of course we thought of it. The radar chappies refused to pay the telephone bill. Said it was the War Department's responsibility. The W.D. didn't want to pay it, what with paying for tea and buns for the radar fellows already, so their telephone got cut off. It's one of those tragedies of war, I suppose,' Basil says.

`Well, what are you planning to do about it then?' you demand.

`We're buying Tom a ten-speed bicycle!' Basil glows. `Only snag is that we have to get the money somewhere, so you chappies will have to do without ammunition for a little while. Hard cheese, I'm afraid. Oh! There's the morning tea coming. I must dash. If you see any invasion force coming, leave a message with Doris at the switchboard will you?'

You put the receiver down. The M.O. finishes bandaging your wound.

`Nasty wound there, Reader. Will that be Bankcard or cash?'

`What?' you growl quietly.

`Or health insurance?'

You take your revolver from your holster.

`I'll take a chit or an I.O.U.' the M.O. says, backing towards the door as you aim at his leg. `Of course I could forget all about it,' he shouts as he sees you squeeze the trigger. He runs outside, cheated. To get even, he lets your tyres down on your Hurricane. He skips back happily to his surgery where Elfa's private firing squad is waiting for him. You hear twelve rifles fire together and a couple of minutes later the Labrador flying ace returns with a mischievous grin. You don't ask questions.

`Elfa,' you say. `We've got to do something about these Renegade Sheep Squadrons. They've been weakening us for months now and we can't hold out much longer. We can't get new aeroplanes, we're about to get our ammunition supply cut off and the man at the petrol station won't extend us any more credit. We can't go on just defending ourselves against those woolly devils. We've got to strike them.' You go to a map on the wall and point to an area marked in red. `Our only hope is to attack their paddocks, destroy their factories, demoralize the flock. We have to hit hard and we have to hit soon before they destroy us. With poor Paula gone there's only you and me left, old chum. We've got enough fuel and ammunition for one more mission. Are you with me?'

Elfa woofs and nods. You poke your head through the window.

`I wish I'd opened it first,' you mutter to yourself as the glass splinters embed themselves in your neck.

`Put on the long range fuel tanks on both aeroplanes and refuel them. I want the ammunition refilled and two 500 pound bombs on each machine,' you yell to the ground crew who seem to be arguing over who gets a polar bear skin they found. While they prepare the aircraft, you lean back in your chair and try to relax for a moment but your thoughts are plagued by the sheep.

The Renegade Sheep: a band of warlike woolly waifs expelled from their flocks for their aggressive nature and desire to take over the country. Their leader is the lunatic ram Lisab: his real name apparently is Lisa Buttercup which is thought to have driven him insane. Because of the strict regulations of the Sheep Naming Act (1936) he was unable to change his name legally so he abbreviated it to Lisab. The name changed: his dream of dictatorship didn't. With his desperate crew of layabout lambs, rogue rams, useless ewes, hated hoggets he preached rebellion and violence. He attracted fat lambs laughed at for their tubbiness. Ewes who were angry at the theft of their wool joined him. Young rams, humiliated by the brutal authority of sheepdogs flocked to him. Hoggets destined to become lamb chops clung to him as a saviour. Right-thinking sheep snubbed him and his angry philosophies.

Shepherds armed themselves against night raids by terrorist commando rams aiming to `liberate' the flocks of prisoners. Month by month Lisab's fearsome flock grew in numbers and power. They called themselves the PLO - the Powerful League of Ovines - and there were several militant splinter flocks such as the IRA (Irate Ram Army), the INLA (Imperious Naughty Lamb Army) and the BLEAT (Brotherhood of Liberated Ewe Anarchists and Terrorists). The news of the sheep's struggle reached radical ruminants around the world. The central committees of HOOF (Homeland Organization for Our Flocks) and CUD (Cows United against Dairyfarmers) financed Lisab's scheme to purchase weapons of war in their fight for ovine independence and the establishment of an Independent Sheep Republic for All Exploited Livestock (I.S.R.A.E.L.). Their vicious terrorist attacks on shearing sheds, butcher shops, dairies and other `legitimate military targets' soon became a war between the PLO and the Allies comprising the National Dairyfarmers' Association, the Australian Shepherds' Union, the Australian Butchers' Federation and the National Shearers' Union. Australian primary producers were at war! Electrified barbed wire fortifications soon replaced the usual paddock fences. Farmhands were trained in the use of Uzi machineguns and anti-sheep mines. Customers who looked even slightly woolly were searched for bombs in butcher shops. Shearers passed sheep through X-ray weapon detectors in case any of them were Kamikaze sheep who armed their own fleece with high explosives. Milk tankers were armour plated and crewed by machinegunners in case of terrorist guerilla attack by cow sympathisers.

The nature of the war changed when Lisab managed to buy fighter planes and long range bombers from a war surplus store overseas. He began terrifying nightly bombing raids over Brighton which contained the Allied HQ. His troops - intelligent though they were - knew no fear. They followed their officers like - well, like sheep. With his passionate propaganda speeches he pulled the wool over the eyes of many normally-docile cud chewers. Lambs at school were filled with woolly thinking about the glory of the Ruminant Revolution. They proudly informed on their parents if they suspected them of anti-revolutionary thought or deed (such as reading knitting patterns or complaining of flystrike caused by the banning of crutching).

As you sit in your office you know the sheep must have a weakness somewhere. Since Lisab's order that any shearing and tail docking is counter revolutionary, many of his followers are flystruck, nearly wool-blind and sluggish because of the heavy fleeces and dags they have to carry. Downed sheep pilots were glad to be shorn of their distressing wool load. They gladly expressed their discontentment with life under Lisab's iron hoof. There were even rumours of an assassination attempt against Lisab by his top generals. You sit and think, knowing you'd have to come up with a strategy as soon as your planes were refitted.

All too soon you are told that the fighters are ready. You call Elfa to your desk and explain, as best you can, what you have in mind. He looks up and you detect doubt on his hairy face.

You shrug and say, `It's all I can think of. We shan't be coming back from this, Elfa. It's been great working with you.'

He extends his paw and you shake it sadly, thinking of the adventures and dangers you've shared. You brush a tear from your eye and hurriedly dress for battle.

You fly low, hoping to stay out of the PLO radar as long as you can. With the 90 gallon long range fuel tanks you'll have enough fuel to reach Lisab's headquarters but with the extra weight of the bombs you will not have enough to return, even if you have the chance to try. You meet heavy resistance from anti-aircraft guns and intercept planes as you near Lisab's home paddocks. You escape the aerial skirmishes unscathed but you've used valuable fuel. The resistance is enormous as you cross Lisab's border. Ack-ack shells fill the sky around you like flies around a sheep's bum but still you roar onwards just above the height of the fences.

`I'm coming to get you, Lisa Buttercup,' you growl through clenched teeth as the explosions around you buffet you violently.

`This is the Bloody Wing Commander. Where the bloody hell are you, Reader?' the radio crackles.

`Taking care of Lisab,' you reply.

`You do not, repeat do not have clearance for this action. Abort the mission immediately. Repeat: abort immediately,' the angry voice shouts into your headset.

`Get stuffed - sir,' you growl and you switch off the radio. You climb suddenly to clear a row of cypress trees and drop again, right into Lisab's main base. You and Elfa speed over a heavily fortified concrete bunker, dropping your bombs near the entrance, and you signal to Elfa with your hands to touch down. You slam on the brakes, nose-diving the propeller into the runway, and leap out. You dive into Elfa's saddle and he gallops like a thoroughbred towards the bomb-shattered bunker entrance as you spray machinegun fire at the armed sheep who swarm from it like ants defending their nest. The bunker soon resembles an abattoir: shredded sheep skins, minced lamb, legs of lamb, lamb chops are lying everywhere as Elfa charges down the corridor like a Panzer and you exhaust magazine after magazine of ammunition. Deep in the bowels of the bunker you reach a massive door. Elfa passes you a charge of plastic explosive from his saddlebags. You lay the charge against the door, take cover and detonate it. You charge, screaming through the choking smoke and rubble into Lisab's operations room.

`Freeze, sheep!' you scream, aiming your Uzi at the startled flock hunched over their control panels. `Rattle one dag and you're sausage meat.' Elfa growls viciously and holds up the certificate he won at the last Brighton sheepdog trials. The woolly warriors tremble. Even fanatical sheep fear a champion sheep dog.

`Where's that scum Lisab?' you demand. `I want his hide.' You could do with a nice sheepskin beside your bed.

`You want me, Reader?' a suave voice says. You spin around to the voice in shock. Before you stands a sheep with an eyepatch and a row of medals pinned to his wool. `You disobeyed orders, didn't you, Reader?'

That voice! It sounds just like...

`Bloody Wing Commander Basil. Basil...Lisab. Of course!' you discover (everyone else figured it out ages ago. Elfa, for instance, is grinning in a superior manner. So are all the sheep. So is Lisab.)

`Of course, you fool! We evil characters always call heroes fools. Why do you think Allied Fighter Command has been doing so poorly? Who do you think sabotaged Tom's trousers so they'd get caught in his bicycle chain?' He cackles like evil lunatic sheep always do. `You will doubtless kill me but that is of no consequence. My twin brother will finish the war. We sheep often have twins, thanks to the greediness of farmers. You, of course, will never get out of here to tell the Allies of our infiltration into their ranks. You also lack the advantage of having a twin like I do. Go on, kill me! Then prepare to die.' He cackles loudly again and you wish he'd stop it. It's most irritating. Machinegunning mutton appears in the doorway, their beady eyes sighting you down their barrels. Things look grim.

`Things look grim,' you tell Elfa. He nods and is tempted to bite your leg for getting him into this grim looking situation. Lisab's mocking laughter echoes throughout the concrete room and fills your head.

Suddenly you raise your arms and shout to the ceiling: `Met, God of Making Digital Watch Batteries Go Flat, hear me now. I now demand the wish that you have promised me!'

A voice, apparently coming from every direction at once, says, `I hear thee, Reader. What is thy wish?'

`Why art thou talking like that?' you ask.

`Yea, verily, I am trying to sound like a proper God. I am after a promotion,' the voice replies.

`My wish is that henceforth, until the very end of time, sheep shall be the stupidest of animals,' you cry.

`Fair enough,' the voice says.

`Hold on there,' another voice interrupts. Ovine, the God of Sheep, suddenly appears in front of you. `That's a bit drastic isn't it? I wanted you to stop Lisab's rebellion against me but wishing my flocks to be a crowd of woolly bozos is a bit rough. How will they defend the Australian Livestock Chess Championship this year?'

`Hard cheese, as they say, Ovine. You wanted Lisab's rebellion stopped and I've stopped it. Have you any other better ideas? The rebels won't obey you. That's why this trouble broke out in the first place. Now that they're brainless, you'll have them under your hoof,' you argue.

`Oh, all right. Grant the wish, Met.'

`Yea verily. Thy wish is granted,' Met echoes.

`You can cut out the fancy chatter too, Met. You sound positively biblical. Do you want to make us Gods sound out of touch with the modern world?'

`Sorry Ovine.'

`Well, Reader, you have quashed the rebellion of the unfaithful flocks. For that I am grateful. I am sorry for what happened to Paula but he is now in Valhalla with Rosepetal and they are shall be happy for eternity.'

`Rosepetal is dead? How?' you ask in shock.

`Apparently she picked up something really nasty from Wodger and zap! She was a goner. A shame: she was such a woman! I always thought it was a pity she wasn't a ewe...' Ovine drools. `Anyway, Paula's got her now and they're rampaging through Viking heaven now.'

`That's a relief anyway,' you say. You look around to see the sheep assassins looking in confusion at their weapons. Having forgotten how to use them, they wander back to their paddocks to graze. You give the now-timid Lisab a kick in the dags and he scurries outside to join them. Until now you've never understood why sheep are so retarded have you? Neither did you know where the last polar bear in Australia went to. Myths and legends explain a multitude of strange things!


`What's next?' you ask, rubbing your hands together. 

How many pages are left?

`Hardly any,' you say, looking ahead towards the back cover.

That's right.

`You mean that's the end?' you ask. 

Sure looks like it.

`Don't I meet the prince who French kisses sewer rats?' you moan.

That's the problem with short books. They have to end sooner rather than later. You should have thought of that when you picked a thin book from the shelf.`What happens now?' you ask, noticing that Elfa, the entwined Judge and Trooper and manacled lawyer are becoming fuzzy already.

The end, of course.

Elfa gives your face a final lick and everything disappears. The end is just around the corner and over the sand dunes..


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