Episode 50: No Job is Finished Until the Paperwork is Done
"That should do it", said Captain Everett, signing the last form with a
flourish. "A BOT-36C/2 ‘Approval for the Use of Force During a Transaction’,
an ROV-289B ‘License for a Non-Commercial Change of Ownership’, an
RNR-6892 ‘Retroactive Letter of Marque’, and an MMR-165 ‘Provisional Title
Pending Incarceration of the Previous Owners’. These should award the ship
to you as a prize. They’ll have to be confirmed by the Admiralty Court, but
I don’t imagine there will be any problem."
"Good," said Helga. She tucked the documents away, then gazed down from the
bridge at her new command. The Duck was steaming west through the
Coral Sea, smoke from her stack streaming away to starboard. Around them,
waves sparkled in the morning sun. The old freighter creaked and groaned as
she rose to the swell, but didn’t seem in any immediate danger of sinking.
Everett had no doubt that Helga and her crew would restore the vessel to
better condition when they had a chance.
"What we do with them?" asked the woman, gesturing toward the original crew,
who sat on the deck with their arms bound. "Throw them to the sharks?"
"I believe it would be more appropriate to deliver them to the authorities
to stand trial for piracy," Everett observed politely. As an officer in the
Royal Naval Airship Service, he’d been taught to show respect for other
cultures and traditions.
"Oh well, that almost as much fun!"
Everett stifled a grimace. Having been through such a trial himself, he
suspected that the prisoners might prefer the sharks. "Have you found any
sign of Wasserman?"
"Boys still search the ship, but it looks like he get away."
"A pity. I would have liked to learn the name of his employer."
The fat man had escaped aboard the zeppelin, leaving no clues as to his
identity. From the man’s bearing, Everett guessed the German had held some
kind of command during the War, but so many officers -- on both sides of
that terrible conflict -- had been left unemployed by Woodrow Wilson’s
Peace that this information was not particularly useful.
"Ahoy the bridge!" came a call from forward. "Airship, one point off the
"I believe that would be MacKiernan," said Everett.
Ahead of them, the Flying Cloud had cleared the horizon. Even at
this range, her outline was distinctive -- an elegant streamlined form,
like a smaller version of Barnes Wallis’s classic R-100. The airship closed
rapidly, sweeping toward them like some gleaming silver cloud. Soon she was
wheeling overhead while a signal lamp flashed from her control car. Everett
recognized Jenkins’s hand.
"If you would be so kind as to bring us into the wind," he told Helga, "I
believe it is time for us to make our departure."
A short time later, the two vessels were heading southeast into a gentle
breeze. In these smooth conditions, with skilled crews on both craft, it was
an easy matter to match courses and speeds. The airship dipped lower, a
hatch swung aside, and the Transporter began its first descent.
Helga accompanied Everett and his men to the deck. "You cute boy!" she told
Iverson, giving him a slap in an unexpected location. "Too bad we never have
"Don’t worry," she said as Sarah began to protest. "Helga give word! And
besides, we fighted together. Now you Helga’s sword sister!" Reassured, the
island girl replied with a smile.
Finally, the Swede turned to Captain Everett. For once, her face was solemn.
"Helga not say goodbye," she said. "We meet again someday, I think."
"I believe you’re right," said Everett. "This tale is far from over."
"I trust that everything went well," said Jenkins when they were all back
"Tolerably," said Everett. "The leader of the nationalists may have gotten
away, and the captain of the Duck may remain unaccounted for, but I
believe we’ve scotched their plans for now."
"How will we explain this to Michaelson?" asked the signalman. "We were
supposed to be on an overnight training cruise, not scouring New Caledonia
"We’ll report that the Flying Cloud encountered the Duck
offshore," said Everett. "This is certainly the truth, and I see no need to
burden the good captain with the knowledge that we were the ones responsible
for bringing the vessel offshore."
"What if the Governor lodges a complaint?"
"It’s in his interest to keep this matter secret. Otherwise he’d have to
explain why he was entertaining enemy nationals on his island -- he can
hardly have been doing this with the approval of his own government. I
imagine he’ll express horror at our report, thank us for apprehending
Wasserman’s crew, and profess ignorance that the L-137 had been taken by
pirates." He shook his head thoughtfully. "Deceit makes strange bedfellows."
"The German who escaped: who do you think he was?"
"We’ll ask Michaelson, of course. But we should be wary about trusting his
answer. And I’m anxious to learn what our hidden transmitter has recorded
during our absence."
Sarah and Iverson watched the Duck as she dwindled astern. Iverson
imagined Helga standing on the prow, searching the seas for prey, like some
Viking marauder of old.
"She has a deck gun now," observed Sarah.
Iverson paled. "I trust she’ll use it with some restraint."
"Do you really believe that?" asked the girl.
Iverson thought back on all they'd seen of the woman’s behavior. "Perhaps
not," he admitted.
Sarah giggled. "You could have gone with her. Idyllic tropical atolls.
Dusky island maidens. Strange ports, exotic sights, a bit of piracy on the
Iverson smiled at her. "Someone made me a better offer."
Wasserman emerged from the radio shack with a scowl.
"The fat man is not happy about this," he informed the Governor.
The Frenchman seemed nonplussed. "Neither am I," he replied. "It may be time
for us to reassess this alliance."
"What do you mean by that?" Wasserman snapped.
The Governor glanced upward. The Dutchman turned to see an enormous cruiser
rising above the ridge. Sunlight gleamed on eight mighty engines, a row of
guns, and a familiar flag.
"You! You called... them!"
He lunged for the radio. A shot rang out. The Governor lowered his pistol
and shook his head.
"Someone made me a better offer."
Next week, join us for The Flying Cloud Christmas Special...