Doogan here and I’m lucky to be alive.
It seemed an eternity that Lt. Merian Archer of the United States Rocket Corp and I floundered through the dense tropical forest, following a tributary of the Boo-Kong River. At last fortune smiled and we chanced upon a sampan. My expertise with South-Asian dialects enabled me to negotiate passage with the grizzled farmer and his family who were transporting their crop to market. (Note to Mr. Hearst-please forward on account; one silver-plate Timeking wristwatch to my lodgings in China Station, engraved with the following; ‘To my flying hero, love Becky Sue’.)
Storm clouds were not far away however. As the river began to widen we saw in the distance a log boom chained across the water and baring our way. From the agitation of our hosts I deduced that we had chanced into the trap of a band of river pirates, a not-uncommon occurrence in this remote district. The sampan family was for a return up river but Lt. Archer adamantly argued for a bold scheme, which if successful would see us through the trap and on our way east.
At this point a shot rang out, splintering our gunnel. Emerging from the riverbank was as motley an assortment of villains this side of Al Capone’s bachelor party. The gaggle of eye-patched and ragged brigands waved at us with their weapons which included antique matchlocks, machineguns and every stage of firearm development between. Boats pushed off from the shore and I knew we were for it soon.
All this while Lt. Archer was fiddling with his damaged rocket pack. As our host family cowered in the bottom of the sampan I prepared to meet the pirates with my usual bravura. I realized however that I had little time to disguise myself as a Chinese peasant’s grandmother. It was just as the bandits neared our vessel that Lt. Archer’s rocket gave a truncated bark of smoke and then violently roared to life. A column of fire exploded from the back of our craft, blew the pirate dinghys top over bottom and we leapt forward toward the log boom. We must have been nearly out of the water as we passed clean over the boom and continued on down the river at what must have been eighty miles per hour. Merian braced his rocket pack against the back of the boat while the rest of us held on for dear life.
I am writing this dispatch in the market town of Chin Wey where we have taken our leave of the farmer and his family who were so grateful for their deliverance from the pirates (and a record setting travel time to market) that they gave us a basket of mangoes and a live chicken.