Episode 49: Almost Exactly Like Ragnarok, Only Different
"Odin!" The cry split the night like the cry of a valkyrie. Which
Everett and his companions knew was not far from the truth.
"Was ist das?" asked the fat man.
"Verdammt!" snarled the captain of the Duck. "Ist das
verucktfraulien ein das `Viking Girl'! We must..." Whatever the man was
going to say next was drowned out by a roar of voices from outside.
"Wasserman," snapped the fat man. "Take care of our prisoners while I see to
this matter." He slipped out of the room with surprising speed for one of
his girth. Everett moved to follow, and stopped as Wasserman's sailors
raised their rifles.
"Shoot them," said the Dutchman, "now."
At that moment, a burly Viking smashed through the door. Before either
rifleman could react, he grabbed their heads, one in each meaty fist, and
slammed them together with a thud.
"Nighty night!" he bellowed. The sailors dropped like sacks of potatoes.
"Are you one of Helga's crew?" Everett asked the brute, speaking slowly and
enunciating his words with great care. "I am Captain Roland P. Everett,
Royal Naval Airship Service."
"Quite," said the fellow, offering a bow. "Helga informed me you might be
aboard. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Now if you'll pardon me, I have
an image to maintain." He snarled self-consciously until he was foaming at
the mouth, then screamed a battle cry and charged back out the door.
"Where did he come from?" asked Iverson.
"I thought we might encounter difficulties," said Everett, "so I instructed
Helga to rendezvous with the ship and return with Sarah, Abercrombie,
Rashid, and Loris. They were to bring the launch here and raise a party of
warriors from Sarah's people. It appears they found Helga's crew as well.
Where did Wasserman get to?"
"He escaped while that gentleman was subduing his men," said Pierre.
Everett sighed. "I suppose we should try to bring the fellow to justice. If
you'll follow me."
They emerged on deck to find themselves in the middle of a wild melee
between the crew of the Duck and a mob of New Caledonian
islanders, French convicts, and Vikings. Two sailors charged them,
brandishing knives. Pierre laid one out with a savat kick while Everett
performed some quick motion that caused the other to fly over the railing.
"Kodokan?" asked Pierre.
"Greco-Roman," replied Everett, straightening his jacket. "The instructors
at my school felt that a gentleman should be able to defend himself. Our
quarry seems to have lost himself in this confusion. We'll have to split up
if we hope to find him. You take the port side, I'll take the middle;
Iverson, you take starboard.
Everett and Pierre moved off, leaving Iverson to fend for himself. Feeling
that the Captain had over-rated his unarmed combat skills, he edged his way
past the brawl, looking for the Dutchman. What he would do if he found the
man he wasn't certain.
'Daar!" someone shouted. "Het is �n van de officieren! Douw'm
onder de zoden!"
Iverson looked toward the shout and saw a pair of crewmen, armed with
crowbars, closing in for the attack. He raised his fists, determined to make
an account of himself, but then a slender figure sprang from the shadows and
sank the butt of her spear into one sailor's stomach.
"Take that, you ruffian!" she cried as the man folded.
"Het is een vrouw?" the other began. Before he could finish, Sarah
had laid the shaft of her spear alongside his head.
"John," she asked in a voice filled with concern, "are you all right?"
"Good! Let's go help the others!"
The girl checked to make sure her earrings were in place, then charged back
into the fray. Iverson moved to follow and stumbled on some unseen obstacle
so that the sailor who'd chosen that moment to attack tripped over his
outstretched foot and went flying over the rail.
"Whoopsies!" cried a familiar voice.
"Well done, lad!" called another.
Helga and Abercrombie emerged from the melee, axes in hand. The woman's face
was flushed with excitement and the Scotsman's usual dour expression had
given way to a grin. He gave the lieutenant a hearty slap on the back.
"Ah, lad, I ken ye know how tae fight!"
"What's happening," gasped Iverson, when he'd recovered from the blow.
"We winning!" said Helga cheerfully. "These Dutchmen not very strong."
"Have either of you seen Wasserman?"
"Nae," said Abercrombie, "but that looks like his first mate. What's the
fellow up to?"
He pointed forward, where a Dutchman, somewhat better dressed than the
ordinary sailors, was tugging at the lashings that secured a large crate to
the foredeck. The man heaved this aside to reveal a deck gun, a pile of
explosives, and a detonator.
"Englishers!" he cried. "This is a bomb, the same sort that we put on the
Tualua's Dream! If you don't give yourself over, I let it go off!"
Abercrombie lowered his axe in disgust. "A bomb," he growled, "why do they
always have a bomb!"
"It's always that way in radio dramas," observed Iverson.
"That," said the Scotsman, "is why I don't listen to radio dramas."
Around them, the melee had come to a halt. Across the deck, Iverson saw
Sarah raise her spear for a throw. The Dutchman shook his head. "Try it,
vrouw, and I push the trigger."
There was a whistle, a crack, and the detonator went spinning out of the
man's hand. As he stared at his fingers, trying to comprehend what had
happened, a second stone took him in the temple. Eyes swung to the foredeck,
where Rashid stood with his sling.
"Gentlemen," the Persian announced. "This fight is over."
The crew of the Duck offered no further resistance. Everett
directed Helga's men to bind them -- a task they undertook with relish --
and lead the way to the bridge. By now, the airship had dropped her mooring
and was rising into the night sky. "It looks like our mysterious host is
making his escape," said Pierre.
"Unless he means to bomb us," observed Iverson.
"We'd do well to get underway before the question arises," said Everett. "I
instructed Loris to secure the engineering plant. Let's hope he's had time
to raise steam." He examined the speaking tubes until he found the right one.
"Engine room, what is your situation?"
"Everything ready," came the reply.
"Iwamoto! I thought I ordered you to stay with the Flying Cloud."
"Hai. But my job here. I..."
"... come with engines," recited several people in unison.
Everett sighed. "I suppose we must admire the man's dedication."
Next week: No Job is Finished Until the Paperwork is Done...