The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Two

Episode 67: Mostly Welcome Reunions

Abby rushing the Transporter while Fleming steps back in alarm

Mooring operations at the Darwin Air Station went smoothly. The Flying Cloud weighed off, came into the wind, and dropped handling lines to the waiting ground party. A short time later, the vessel was riding at the mooring mast in a gentle morning breeze. MacKiernan kept his men aboard while he descended to speak with Lieutenant Dabney. He returned carrying a bulky satchel stenciled with the initials ĎPMGí.

"Thereís still no word of the Captain," he informed his command crew. "But it appears that the post office has been busy in our absence. Mister Iverson, you may call the men in by sections to pick up their mail."

Mail call was held in the mess hall; the only compartment in the crew section big enough for this purpose. Much of the correspondence was official in nature. Like all large organizations, the Royal Navy produced massive amounts of paperwork, most of which served no function other than to provide job security for the bureaucrats who invented it. But there were several personal letters and Loris collected a thick packet of envelopes addressed in a variety of feminine hands. There was also a telegram for Fleming.

"Do you know anyone in Enterprise Creek?" MacKiernan asked as he handed it to the young Aussie.

Fleming examined the senderís name and turned pale. "Howíd she know Iíd be here?" he muttered. "Oh well, at least it canít be very long." He unfolded the flimsy, read its contents, and raised his eyebrows in puzzlement.

"Sir," he asked, handing the form back to the Exec, "what do you make of this?"

PETER STOP HOPE YR WELL STOP CAPTAIN TOLD ME ALL ABT YOU STOP AMBER

"How could she have met the Captain?" protested the airman. "He never visited Enterprise Creek."

MacKiernan thought the matter over, then grinned. "Perhaps," he observed. "But Channel has no way of knowing this. I suspect heís there now and chose this method to call for a rendezvous without the police chief finding out."

"Orders, sir?" asked Iverson.

"Thereís no point in rushing off and giving the game away. Weíll wait for evening, make a leisurely departure, and stand offshore. Once itís dark, weíll circle back inland and set a course for the cattle station."


"Fleming looked terrified!" said Sarah after the others had left. "I wonder what that girl is like."

"I suppose he did," said Iverson, trying to sound curt. He was still feeling miffed at the she'd had been ignoring him.

The island girl laughed. "You looked terrified too, back at the harbor."

"I did?" squeaked Iverson.

Sarah reached out to touch his arm, suddenly serious. "Iím sorry if it seemed I've been avoiding you, John. But thereís no privacy aboard an airship. I hope you donít think Iím like Helga."

As an officer of in the Royal Navy, the lieutenant had been taught to react decisively in the presence of danger. "I..." he stuttered, "err... uh... I... that is..."

The girl laughed again, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and leaned forward to whisper into his ear. "Wait until we have shore leave and you may find out!"


"There she is!" announced Abercrombie. They were standing with their hosts on the verandah of the McIntyre homestead. Around them, the morning was growing brighter. To the north, the Flying Cloud had just cleared the horizon.

"Thatís a right bonzer!" said Drew. From his tone, it was clear this was a term of admiration. His daughter seemed to share his opinion.

"Sheís gorgeous!" said the girl.

Everett had to agree. The airship's hull was a thing of beauty -- a testament to the artistry of her designers. Her control car was graceful blend of curves, like the figurehead of some ancient clipper. Her fins had always seemed to him like masterpieces of proportion. He sighed, thinking back to a time when beauty took another form, in an age gone beyond memory or recollection. We must be grateful for what we have, he told himself.

"Jenkins," he said, turning to his aide, "you may inform them we are here."

The signalman produced an Aldis lamp and flashed off a signal. A light winked in reply. Minutes later, the ship was maintaining station overhead while MacKiernan, Davies, and Fleming descended on the Transporter. The young Aussie's eyes widened in alarm when he saw who was waiting. Abigail gave a cry of delight.

"Peter!"

"She looks chuffed!" laughed Drew as the girl dashed forward to greet the hapless airman. "Half your luck! Thatíll give the rest of you a chance to talk."

Everett smiled to himself. Like all good airship captains, he took pride in making strategic use of his resources.


"Itís good to see you again, sir," said MacKiernan, after they'd exchanged salutes.

"Itís good to be reunited," said Everett. "I trust youíve taken good care of the vessel."

"Weíve done our best to live up to your standards. Have your investigations been productive?"

"To some extent," replied Everett. "We still havenít ascertained their motives, but weíve established that at least two different parties of Russians are involved, in addition to the German nationalists and Channel. They all seem to be interested in the geologist who came here to purchase that shipment of uraninite back in May. The most recent inquiries came from a Russian woman who arrived here a week ago, representing herself as his wife. If I read the signs correctly, she was kidnapped by the nationalists, who took her aboard their ship."

"Their ship was here?" said the Exec, glancing at their own vessel in alarm.

"I don't think we need fear an attack," Everett reassured him. "They must be long gone by now. How have you occupied yourselves in our absence?"

"We mounted a search for the barge where Captain Ray of the Tranquility found that cargo of barbed wire," said the Irishman. "I intended it as a feint, to draw Channelís attention away from your activities, but to my surprise we actually found the vessel. It was lying near the mouth of a river, downstream of an abandoned laboratory similar to the one Miss Sarah and Helga discovered on Oa Ki. This clearly belonged to one of our Russian parties. It appears that the nationalists attacked and plundered the place a month ago. The only thing they left untouched was a sealed vault. This was blocked by a massive steel door that we had no way to open because someone had fused the locking mechanism shut. Weíd have needed high-speed carbide-tipped saws to cut our way in."

"High-speed carbide-tipped saws," mused Everett. "Itís a pity the cargo of the R-67 was lost."

MacKiernan cleared his throat. "Actually, sir, it wasnít. We found the wreckage of the control car on our way here from Cairns. It was quite easy to spot from the air."

They exchanged glances. The German nationalists had an airship, and agents in Darwin to inform them that the crash site had been discovered.

"Oh dear," said Jenkins. "Are you thinking what Iím thinking?"

"Back to the ship," ordered Everett brusquely.

Next week: There's Wisdom In Some of Those Old Saws...

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