The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Two

Episode 99: Ujelang Delende Est

Flying Cloud and mushroom cloud

"Tea?" asked Jenkins.

"I believe I will," said Everett. He accepted a cup, took an appreciative sip, and turned back to gaze out the control car window. It might have been irregular to consume refreshments on the bridge of one of His Majesty's airships, but Iverson and Sarah were still in the mess hall, and no one had the heart to intrude upon their reunion.

After Abercrombie had repaired the radio mast, it had been easy for the landing party to arrange a rendezvous with the Flying Cloud. They'd scuttled the patrol boat to avoid embarrassing questions, then flown west to return Howard Phillips to his freighter. Natasha had chosen to accompany the American. Her motives remained a mystery -- was she still seeking Karlov or did she merely feel uncomfortable in Iverson's presence? But after her role in aiding their escape, no one felt in a position to object. Now the R-505 was bound for Kwajalein to refuel and resupply before the long flight back to Cairns.

Along the way they'd taken a detour to examine what was left of Ujelang.

The island had been devastated. No trace remained of the nationalist's base: buildings, machinery, even the jetty were gone. The verdant forest of palms that once covered the island had been flattened. The trees lay in ranks, charred trunks pointing toward the site of the explosion like an accusation. In places, fires still burned. Unbidden, Everett remembered a poem from the War.

"Dark clouds are smouldering into red
While down the craters morning burns."

"Sir?" asked MacKiernan.

"Seigfried Sassoon," said Everett. "I wonder what he would make of this `Device'."

"I can understand why the White Russians were developing it," said the Exec. "They must have hoped to use it against the Kremlin. But how did the nationalists learn what they were up to?"

"Someone must have betrayed them," said Everett. "Evidence points to the late Yakov. According to Notariello, the man did have a reputation as a schemer. I imagine he also had dealings with the Communists -- they must have obtained their information from somewhere."

"This Notariello," MacKiernan shook his head in amazement, "did he ever explain how he just happened to have the missing component the Germans needed to complete the Device?"

"I questioned him about the matter while we were waiting for the rendezvous," said Jenkins. "It appears Yakov gave it to him for safekeeping, as a precaution in the event one of his deals went wrong, along with a... somewhat distorted... description of its function. We should have guessed something of the sort. Notariello as much as told us Yakov had confided in him. And what other reason could the Germans have had for pursuing him after they'd murdered the Russian?" The signalman seemed annoyed at himself for failing to put the clues together.

"I believe," observed Everett, "that this was one of those developments that only seems obvious in retrospect."

"Do you think there are more of these things about?" asked Emily, who was managing the ballast station this watch.

Everett had been pondering the same question himself. "This seems unlikely," he replied. "The White Russians cannot have had an unlimited number of secret laboratories, and if Pierre's suspicions are correct, Karlov may have made off with the only set of plans. Also, there seem to have been some rather remarkable gaps in the Germans' understanding of the Device. We may not have heard the last of the matter, but have most certainly won a respite."

Unconsciously, several of those present glanced aft toward the mess hall. Everett noted the direction of their looks and smiled.

Iverson and Sarah sat by the window, gazing at each other. Outside, the sky was bright and the ocean was a perfect shade of blue, but the two barely noticed their surroundings, for they were lost in each other's eyes.

"I thought you'd been killed!" said Sarah. "I searched the wreck, but there was no sign of you!"

"I was afraid you'd been captured!" said Iverson. "You can't imagine how relieved I was when I learned you'd escaped!"

Sarah stared down at her hands. "I don't know how I survived without you," she said in a small voice.

Iverson took her hands in his. "I'd never have survived if I hadn't had you to return to," he told her quietly. It might have sounded like something out of a radio drama, but it was nothing less than the truth.

The girl's expression softened, then turned serious. "John," she announced, "don't you ever ever do anything like that again!"

"I'll try my best not to," he said sincerely. "That's the second time I've been a guest of the Fat Man. I have no desire to meet the fellow a third time."

Sarah smiled, mollified. "What do you think he'll do now?"

"I don't have the slightest idea," said Iverson. "I wonder if he even had a plan for this eventuality. When he interrogated me, he didn't seem to have any clear idea what the Device did."

The island girl laughed: a sound that brightened the chamber. "I imagine he knows now."

The aide saluted and handed over a folder.

"Mein Herr, Doctor Schuman has finished his analysis."

The Fat Man took the report, glanced at a few pages, and nodded. "So," he said, "the measuring instruments performed satisfactorily?"

"Yes," replied the aide, "until they were consumed by what he calls the `fireball'."

"An apt name. Does he have an estimate of the yield?"

"He believes it was equivalent to twelve thousands tonnes of high explosive."

"So much," mused the Fat Man. "I would say this experiment was a success. It hardly matters that it was the Englishers rather than ourselves who set the thing off."

"What about our men on Ujelang?" asked the aide. His tone did not suggest any significant amount of concern for their fate.

The Fat Man shrugged. "It was their privilege to give their lives for the Fatherland. And that was hardly our only base."

"But that was our only Device," observed the aide.

"For now," said the Fat Man. "Doctor Schuman had ample opportunity to study the design. According to him, it should be an easy matter to build more once we have the necessary material. And the Englishers won't be in a position to stop us. If I read the signs right, they will soon have other problems to deal with."

Far to the south, sunlight gleamed on a mighty cruiser, two rows of eight powerful engines, and the windows of an observation gallery where two men stood gazing toward the north. The titanic cloud had long since dissipated, swept away by the ever-present trade winds, but its implications remained.

"Interesting," said the Governor. "It would appear there was some truth to the old legends."

"Legends?" asked Wassermann.

The Governor smiled. "Something I learned of from a visiting archeologist, though his speculations fell somewhat short of the truth. Our hosts seemed pleased."

"Ja," said Wasserman. "You chose good allies! We should all profit from this association."

Next week, join us for The Second Flying Cloud Christmas Special...

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