Episode 68: There's Wisdom In Some of Those Old Saws
They reached the crash site around noon. By now a breeze had begun to
blow from the south, sending dust devils swirling across the plain. This
made Transporter operations dangerous, but Captain Everett was in no mood
to wait. He rode down himself, accompanied by Iverson and Davies. Iverson
noticed that the marine was carrying one of the ship’s Lewis guns.
"Sir?" he asked Everett.
The captain stared off into the distance, as if gazing at something only he
could see. "This recent train of events disturbs me, lieutenant. I doubt
we’ll run into trouble today, but I have a feeling that somewhere, somehow,
the stakes in this mysterious affair have grown higher."
Iverson opened his mouth to speak, but now their shadow was rising to meet
them. An instant later, he was thrown to his knees as the platform struck
the ground with a crash. Davies, more experienced, crouched to absorb the
impact and rose catlike to his feet. Everett seemed too preoccupied to pay
attention to the laws of physics. He stepped to the ground, straightened
his jacket, and waited impatiently for the others to recover.
"If you’d lead the way, Mister Iverson, and show me where you found those
They’d set down closer this time, so the wreckage of the R-67s’s control car
was only a short distance away. It looked much as before: a once-streamlined
now-battered form, like some stranded creature of the sea, that seemed
strangely out of place in this desert. But they could see at a glance that
others had been here recently. The ground around the site was covered with
footprints. These led back to a set of drag marks where someone had landed
"Davies?" asked Everett.
The marine paced the impressions to measure their dimensions, then crouched
to examine some of the tracks. "The platform was the same size as the one
at Enterprise Creek. I’d judge they landed a week ago. And this..." he
indicated a bootprint in which they could plainly see the marks of
hobnails, "...looks like it was left by a marschstiefel."
Everett nodded. They’d both seen enough prints like these during the War.
"Our German friends again, and they seem to have known exactly what they
were doing. I do not like this at all. Let’s see what they took."
It came as no surprise that the saws were missing. The area around the
wrecked gondola was pockmarked with holes where someone had used a
trenching tool to pry them free from the dirt. All that remained were a few
stray blades. Iverson picked up one of these, wrapped it in a kerchief, and
stuffed it into a pocket of his jacket under some vague impression that it
might be worth saving. Meanwhile, Davies had widened the scope of his
"The beer’s gone too!" he announced, pointing at an empty crate.
"Those rotters!" exclaimed Iverson, coming to stand beside him. For some
reason, this seemed even more irritating than having a cargo of power tools
snatched from under their noses.
Everett reached into the crate and fished out a single stubby.
"What have we here?" he announced, holding it up to the light. Inside, the
others could see a rolled up piece of paper.
"Sir," said Davies, "if you'll allow me." He smashed open the bottle with a
flick of his wrist and handed the paper to the captain. Everett
smoothed it open so the others could see.
Herr Everett, you cannot possibly hope to win at this game. You
forget that we are a nation of warriors. I would suggest you
abandon your attempts to involve yourself in matters that do not
Everett’s expression hardened. Then, unexpectedly, he laughed. "So,
Herr Fat Man, you call this a game? You Germans may be a nation of
warriors, but you forget that we British are a nation of sportsmen!"
The mood was lighter by the time they returned to the bridge. Sarah caught
Iverson’s eye, winked, then turned to study the ballast board. Below, the
ground was dropping away as MacKiernan let the ship rise to a safer
altitude. The Irishman tapped the altimeter, then turned to greet the
"Where to now, sir?" he asked.
Everett walked over to the starboard windows and gazed toward the west.
"These nationalists have been ahead of us every step of the way," he
observed. "But the race goes to the persistent as well as the swift.
Miss Sarah, what’s our fuel and ballast status?"
"We’re down to 80% hydrogen, 3400 gallons of fuel, and 8,000 pounds of
ballast," said the island girl.
"That should be sufficient," said Everett. "We’ll return to this secret
laboratory you discovered and conduct a thorough examination.
There’s no need to hurry, for I imagine this Fat Man has been there ahead of
us, so we’ll proceed at our most economical cruising speed."
"What do you think we’ll find?" asked MacKiernan.
"Perhaps nothing," said Everett. "But we may get lucky and discover
something he missed."
The bridge was quiet that night. The only sounds were the distant drone of
the Number Two engine and an occasional creak from the hull above. Clouds
massed to starboard, black against the stars, for Everett had routed the
ship south to take advantage of a weather system. He glanced at the sky,
then finished his entry in the ship's log.
August 10, 1926, 2200 hrs. Lat, 18 18’ S Long 124 29’ E. His Majesty’s
Airship Flying Cloud, R-505, Captain Roland P Everett cmdr. Investigated
wreck of R-67 control car to find it plundered, apparently by German
nationalists in the L-137, Davies estimates on or around August 3.
Proceeding W to investigate abandoned Russian laboratory Lt-Cmdr MacKiernan
discovered near King Sound. Anticipate L-137 has preceded us by approx 1
"What do you think they’re up to, these nationalists?" asked Davies, who had
the helm this watch.
"I imagine they’re unhappy with the outcome of the War," said Everett, "and
hope to resume it on favorable terms, though I can’t imagine how a pigment
for ornamental glassware is going to help them."
The marine shook his head. "You’d think that by now the world would be
tired of war."
"So I would," said Everett sadly. "But it seems that some people never grow
tired of war."
Next week: Too Late... Again...
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