Biggles woke at three in the afternoon and wondered if his bed was on fire. After a moment's reflection he accepted it was, grabbed a box of cigars and jumped out the window.
“Fire!” he screamed and immediately a howitzer stationed beneath his Nissen hut opened fired and destroyed the local water works. Biggles had fallen asleep with a box of Havanas and set fire to his room, it was only a ferret-like instinct for survival and the fact he always slept with an open window insured his continued existence. It was the fifth Nissen hut he had burned down that month and sleepily wondered if smoking really was unhealthy.
“Biggles!” Group Captain Wilkinson stared down at Biggles lying in the sand. Biggles was cradling a box of Cubans, his teddy bear and trying to get back to sleep. “Report for briefing.”
“Not now matron,” Biggles smiled as he fell asleep, “in the morning, and biscuits please.”
“Biggles!” Wilkinson kicked Biggles feet. “Report for briefing, or I’ll have you shot for insubordination!”
“Not the whip matron!” Biggles blurted out in his sleep. “Not the whip!”
Five minutes later he staggered into briefing tent with a cup of tea, his teddy and dragging a sleeping bag he had pilfered behind him. He collapsed at a desk and laid his head on the bear. Ten seconds later a five-foot ruler crashed down next to his face and he woke up with a jolt.
“So glad you could join us Captain Biggles!” Group Captain Wilkinson yelled at him.
“Ginger!” he yelped and rolled his eyes around, trying to get his bearings. “Jerry’s on your tail!”
Biggles had been now awake for three days, after a reconnaissance mission over the southern Zagros Mountains had gone terribly awry and he had landed his Hawker GR-9 Jump Jet in the main Bazaar of Istanbul. How he had flown off course by 1500 miles was a matter of some confusion, but was probably due to his using his teddy bear instead of the navigation computer for directions. After being chased by the Kamu Güvenliği Teşkilâtı, or the Turkish Secret Police, through most of the streets in Istanbul, Biggles had finally escaped into the largest brothel this side of the Cairo and suffered a worse case of sleep deprivation than the secret police could have ever achieved. Three days later, it had taken five burly Royal marines in the middle of the night to drag him away from the intoxicating rhythms of a room filled with Turkish belly dancers and Irish whiskey.
Group Captain Wilkinson resumed his position at the front of the room.
“Thanks to Captain Biggles’ unfailing ability to lose the recon photos of the Iranian base at Imam Ali, near Khoramabad in the Zagros Mountains, we are forced to repeat the mission.” He pointed at a map with a laser. “Now we know the Iranians are up to something, because Khoramabad had the word ‘bad’ in it. Or at least this is what MI-7 has decided, and given MI-7 is the propaganda division of military intelligence – their opinion may be subject to interpretation. So we are forced to undertake the mission, yet again. Any questions?”
Biggles sat up and stared about the room blearily. It was at this point he realized he was the only person in the room beside Group Captain Wilkinson. He frowned. This meant he was going to take the mission. Then he smiled and wondered how long it would take to get back to Istanbul.
“Any volunteers?” Group Captain Wilkinson stared Biggles.
Biggles grinned, thought about the brothel he was about to elope to and held up a flying glove. “When Blighty calls – I’ll be there!”
Group Captain Wilkinson smiled back. “Good Captain Biggles. Since, however, we are missing your GR-9 Jump Jet as the Turks have impounded it, we will be parachuting you near the Khoramabad base and you will perform the reconnaissance on foot.”
It was quarter of an hour before the M.P.s had cornered Biggles attempting to commandeer a Vickers VC10 to fly to Istanbul, and instead bundled him and his parachute onto a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. It was a further two hours later before he was thrown into the black sky above Iran with a Stasi spy camera hidden inside his teddy bear. He would have parachuted earlier, but they had to release him from a death-like grip on the Hercules airframe as he screamed about frequent flyer miles to Istanbul.
In the empty gloom of the freezing air above Khoramabad, Biggles wondered about early retirement at the age of 110, but then cheered himself up when he realized he had his bear to talk to.
“You know Monty,” he said to his habitual companion. “This reminds me of that time Matron took us to the London zoo on the Tube.” At that moment, a tremendous barrage of flak opened up around him, as Iranian anti-aircraft gunners tried to shoot down the fleeing C-130 Hercules. “Although, I can’t remember Matron being over Berlin with us.”
With this, he fell asleep as the toll of three days without slumber finally caught up with him, all the while flak crumped about him with all the danger of exploding sheep. In the morning he awoke wrapped in his parachute and surrounded by a dozen Iranian soldiers armed with their Khaybar assault rifles. They poked him with bayonets and sticks, and drowsily he grumbled about Sleepy Time in the kindergarten.
“Get Up!” said a solider with more facial scars than a cow at the wrong end of an abattoir.
“Whiskey. Ice.” Biggles mumbled as they dragged him to his feet and through him in the back of a Cobra armoured personnel carrier. “Have you cigars?” and then promptly fell back to sleep.
He awoke strapped to a chair and a bucket of water in his face.
“Heathens!” He ejaculated, then blinked and saw remarkably it was his latest archenemy Captain Arash of the Iranian Savama, or secret police.
“We meet again, Captain Biggles,” he lit a cigarette and offered it to Biggles. “We have to stop meeting like this.”
“Yes, let's have lunch at the Lyceum club, oh wait you’re not a member.”
“Really Biggles,” Captain Arash pursed his lips in a smile.
“That's Captain Biggles to you,” Biggles raised his eyebrows, “and I demand my rights according to the Geneva Convention.”
“Remind me what those rights are?”
“You don't know?” Biggles blew a smoke ring, “Well first of all, any serving officer of the Royal Air Force is entitled to a free telephone call, tea and crumpet on silverware any time of night, holidays in Majorca during the off season, free dental care, and most importantly a date with Christine Keeler or Anna Chapman depending whom we're are at war with at the time.”
“But Captain Biggles,” the secret policeman sighed, “we’re not at war, you are here spying on us, that makes you a spy and not a prisoner of war.”
“Tosh - if you can fly a Camel, you can fly anything.”
“That doesn't really follow from what I said, but you’re still a spy.”
“Prove it!” Biggles slammed the table with his fist. “I demand proof!”
Captain Arash pulled the head off Biggles teddy bear and pulled out the camera.
“Monty!” Biggles shrieked. “You murderer!”
“It's just a toy.”
“And a serving officer in the Royal Air Force! That bear was the best autopilot I’ve ever known! This is a war crime!”
“We're still not at war, and it's still just a teddy bear.”
“Prove it! Give me justice or give me liberty!”
Captain Arash pulled out the stuffing of the bear.
“I always get the nutters,” Captain Arash rolled his eyes.
They then attempted to torture Biggles with electric shocks and telephone books to the head, but every time they put a blindfold over his head he promptly fell asleep as three days without sleep in a Turkish brothel makes you immune to pain. Three hours later Biggles was put on a train to Turkey, and told not to spy on Iranian secret bases anymore. The bear they gave ten years hard labor for entering the country without a passport.
Copyright reserved by Jim O’Brien ©