R505: the Flying Cloud

Episode 10: The Prize

Boxes of contraband

After they'd finished tying up their captives, the airmen began to explore their prize. "We could be in a bit of trouble if it turns out this vessel is legitimate," observed Iverson. "The Admiralty Court might have some sharp words to say about piracy."

"I don't think we need to worry," said Everett. "A German airship, on a secret visit to a French penal colony? There's no way they could be here legally. Something isn't on the level."

"I hope you're right, sir," said the young lieutenant. "I don't fancy being hanged by the neck until dead, then having my body cut down and strung from a gibbet between the tides to serve as a warning to others who might..."

"Best not to dwell on such things," said Everett brightly, for he was concerned himself. If it turned out they'd been in the wrong, he might have some explaining to do.

His concerns vanished when they reached the cargo hold. "Look at this, sir," said Davies. The marine opened a crate to expose a row of Mauser rifles, each coated with a layer of preservative oil and wrapped for shipping. "What a beautiful sight."

"If you like those, you'll be thrilled by these ones," said Fleming, opening another crate to reveal a Spandau machine gun, along with its tripod, cooling jacket, and several belts of ammunition.

"Whatever were these people up to?" asked Davies. "There are enough weapons here to equip a small army."

"Smugglers, lad," said Abercrombie, "like we use tae have up in the 'ighlands. They were probably takin' these arms to America, to deliver ´┐Żem tae gangsters. That daft Prohibition of theirs has been a boon to such folk."

"Are ye daft yerself?" said MacKiernan. "These were clearly intended for the fellows here in New Caledonia. They must be plannin' an uprising among the natives."

"Ye willing to put money on that?"


"Let's see what else we can find," Everett said quickly.

The only other things in the cargo hold were an anonymous box of electronic components -- resistors, capacitors, vacuum tubes and the like -- and a small crate of rocks. The former told no tales. Everett had no idea whether the latter were geological samples or intended as trade goods to some exotic island culture with an unusual basis for their currency, but he saw no reason not to keep them. If nothing else, they rocks could serve as ballast.

From the holds, they made their way aft to the Number One engine car, on the starboard side of the keel. When they switched on the lights, they discovered yet another mystery, for the engine was not the stolid Beardmore diesel they'd expected.

"This looks like a German design, Captain," said Abercrombie.

"Indeed it does," said Everett, perplexed. "But there don't seem to be any builder's marks or serial numbers. Pity we don't have an engineer who could tell us more." Their own engineers had gone down with the stern section of the Flying Lady, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. "Do you think you could get this thing running?"

"I know a little aboot the theory. I ken I could manage, wi' Davies to help me. The man does 'ave soom knowledge o' machines."

"Good," said Everett. "We'll get started as soon as we finish the rest of our inspection."

In the central engine car, Number Two, they made another discovery.

"Who's this fellow?" asked Iverson. "Has he been here all along?"

Inside the car, a short Asian man was bent over a fuel injector rail, tightening something with a wrench. He looked up as they peered down through the hatch.

"Is almost done," he announced. "Another hour to install pressure regulator."

Everett glanced at Iverson. "I thought you checked all the engine cars," he whispered.

"We did. We must have missed him somehow. He'd be easy to overlook."

Everett had to agree. The man was so unobtrusive that he might almost have been part of the machinery. Motioning Iverson to remain where he was, he slid down the ladder to confront the stranger. The fellow seemed unlikely to cause any trouble, but even if he did, the captain must have outweighed him by at least a stone.

"I'm Captain Roland P. Everett, Royal Navy Airship Service," Everett announced, drawing himself up as much as was possible in the limited space. "We have determined that this vessel is engaged in activities prejudicial to the laws of commerce and seized it pursuant to naval regulations. You are now our prisoner. Please state your name and rank."

"I am Iwamoto. I come with engines."

"This was a German vessel. Are you an officer? An enlisted man? What is your status?"

"Not officer. Not enlisted. I come with engines."

"He looks like a Chinaman," Iverson called down from above. "He must be an oiler."

"Not from China," said the man. "Not oiler. From Japan. I come with engines."

"Perhaps he's some sort of civilian contractor," said Everett, "hired as an engineer."

"Hai! Contractor. I am engineer. I come with engines."

"This could work to our advantage," Everett observed to his lieutenant. He turned back to the stranger. "This vessel is now a prize of the Royal Navy, pending adjudication by an Admiralty Court," he informed the man. " Would you be willing to continue your tenure under a new employer?"

"I am engineer. I come with..."

"Yes, I rather get the picture. You are now enlisted in the Royal Naval Airship Service as a civilian specialist under RNR 247-632 subject to naval regulations and conditions subject the provisions of RNR 247-401 Clauses C and D with final pay grade and bonuses to be determined according to Clause G welcome aboard."

The man gave a quick bow. "Arigato," he replied. "Now I install pressure regulator."

There was little more they could do until it was light, so Everett and Iverson made their way forward to the crew section. Davies had gone aft to help Abercrombie inspect the rigging, Fleming was in the galley, examining the German food stores with a mixture of wonder and dismay, and Wallace and MacKiernan had made their way to the control car, though there was little need for them to stand a watch with the ship drifting through the night sky so far from land.

Jenkins looked up when they entered the mess, where he'd been keeping an eye on Pierre and Sarah. Alone of all the crew, he seemed immune to the young woman's charms. "Did you discover anything useful, sir?" he asked.

"For the most part, no," said Everett. "But we did come across an engineer. That's not something you find every day. And he seemed willing to work for us."

"That's a relief, sir. What do we do next, now that the ship is ours?"

Everett opened his mouth to answer, then paused. "I can't honestly say. To tell the truth, I hadn't got that far in my thinking."

Next week: Sky is Empty...

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