R505: the Flying Cloud

Episode 26: Hijackers

Hijackers overpower guard on the handling platform

Abercrombie deposited Iverson on his bunk as gently was he could. The young lieutenant landed with a thump, dead to the world.

"Will he be all right?" asked Sarah.

"He may have a wee headache in the morning," the Scotsman said solicitously. "I never knew an Englishman could hold his liquor. But otherwise he’ll be fine."

"Why did he drink so much?" asked the girl. "That’s not like him."

"I it’s my fault I suppose. I cannae say as I didn’t egg him on. But he was worried he might be about tae lose’ somethin’."

"Lose what?" asked Sarah.

Abercrombie gave her a pat on the shoulder. "I reckon ye’ll figure it out someday, lass. Now let’s leave the poor lad t’get his sleep."

The rigger walked Sarah to her cabin, waited until she'd closed the door, then made his way forward to the control car, shaking his head. He’d been young once too, but had it really been that difficult? He was glad he was past that sort of nonsense. And if he kept telling himself this, he might even believe it.


"Unh!"

The guard folded to the ground. The leader checked to make sure the man was unconscious, then gestured for his henchmen to start up the ladder. There was another guard at the top of the mast, circling the handling platform with the bored indifference of a sentry who knew that his duty was meaningless. He never saw the black-clad figure slip through the hatchway behind him, never felt the blow, never saw the ground rush up as he toppled from the platform.

"Careless," hissed the leader. "You didn’t have to kill him."

"He slipped," the other man hissed back. "And do we care?"

The leader shook his head. "Were there any others?"

"Nyet."

"Then you know the plan. Let’s go."


Wallace stood in the galley scratching his head. There’d been a new jar of Marmite on the shelf and now it was gone. Who could have taken it, he wondered? No one else on the ship could stand the stuff, except for Fleming, and the Aussie had his own supply of the inferior Colonial substitute. But there was no time to look for more for it his turn to stand mooring watch.

Leaving the crew section, he made his way forward along the keel passageway toward the bow station. When he passed the companionway to the control car, the catwalk began to ascend and his surroundings grew darker, for lights here were masked by the curve of the hull. He paused, suddenly alert. That had sounded like a footfall. He peered ahead, straining senses honed by the life he’d left to join the Navy. He knew the sound of an alleybasher moving into position -- he’d been one himself. But he didn’t notice the man behind him.


The leader straightened. This one was still alive, not that it would matter after the ship was theirs. He nodded to his men to resume their advance down the passageway. Seconds later, the darkness was split by a shout. One man toppled, laid low by a kick from a short figure clad in overalls. The attacker turned to strike again, but now the others were upon him. A sap rose and fell and the figure was still.

"It looks like the engineer," whispered the man with the blackjack. "The Japanese. He must have been on the bridge and heard us coming."

The leader reviewed what they knew of the crew. According to his informant, most had gone to a reception and a dance, leaving just two of their number behind to stand watch.

"That should be all of them," he whispered. "We’ll take the control car, release ballast, and drop the mooring. Then the ship will be ours."

"What about Dimitri?" asked someone.

"Leave him here," said the leader. "We can come back for him after we’ve started the engines."

"Da," said the man. "This was easy."

Yes, thought the leader, this been easy. Those Royal Navy airmen were such fools..


"I’ll take over here, Mister Iwamoto," said Abercrombie. "You get some sleep."

"Arigato. I go forward check fuel connection first. Make sure it not damage when emergency tanks drop."

"Now, at this hour of the night?"

"Hai."

Abercrombie shrugged as the engineer left the control car. That man was a strange one. He glanced around once to make sure everything was as it should be, then took his station at the elevator wheel. This was never left unattended, even when the vessel was on a mooring. A moment later, he heard a cry, followed by a thud.

What the? he thought. That can’t be Iwamoto! Leaving the ship to fend for herself, he seized an axe from the damage control station and dashed up the companionway.

"Where’d he come from?" cried a heavily-accented voice as he reached the top. He looked to see four dark-clad figures rushing down the keel passage toward him.

"Boarders!" he yelled. "To arms!" But there was no chance that Sarah or Iverson, asleep in their cabins, could hear and come to his aid. Raising his axe, he faced the attackers and growled.

"Would ye now?"

"Take him!" came an English voice, clear in the gloom. "He’s alone."

"Da," came the reply. The attackers conferred briefly, then two stepped onto the frame girders and began to work their way past Abercrombie's position while their companions held the keel passageway. The Scotsman watched with dismay. There was no way he could stop the hijackers from outflanking him. Could take the two in the corridor before the others could react? It was better than waiting here to be surrounded. Calling upon the strength of his Gallic ancestors, he readied himself for a desperate charge.

At that moment, the darkness was shattered by a cry.

"Odin!"


"This one’s unconscious," said Jenkins.

"So’s this one," said MacKiernan, "but he’s bad hurt. Someone must have pushed him off the handling platform."

"Telephone’s dead," said Jenkins. "The lines have been cut. Elevator’s out too."

"Then we’ll have to use the ladder," Everett said grimly. "I’ll go first. Space yourselves out behind me. If I'm attacked, work your way out along the girders so you can hit them from the side."

The three reached the top of the ladder unmolested. Everett peered across the gangway, wondering if the ship was still theirs. Perhaps he was leading his men to captivity or death. He saw movement in the gloom.

"Who goes there?" he cried.

"It’s Abercrombie," came a voice.

"What’s happening? Is the ship secure?"

"There was a boarding party," said the Scotsman. "We took care o’ the fellows, and the vessel's safe, but... well... you’d better see for yourself, sir."

Next week: Not Another Island Girl...

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