Episode 149: Picking Up The Peace
The owner's stateroom of the collier Hughenden had been refurbished
as a command center, its original furnishings replaced with files and charts
from the Royal Air Station at Cairns. The compartment next to it was
crammed with wireless gear, where a rating sat with headphones clamped to
his ears, listening for signals from the ether. It seemed that Captain
Michaelson had been planning this operation for quite some time.
"I'd say that went rather well," he remarked as he poured tea -- an
unremarkable but palatable Assam from the Administrator's supply. "We've
interrogated the Grand Duke's people at length, and it appears that all of
these 'Devices' are accounted for."
"How did you know the second one would be a dud?" asked Everett.
"It seemed a reasonable supposition," observed Michaelson. "We know this
`uraninite' material must be processed in some fashion to enhance its
potency before it can serve in a weapon.
But the timing of your discoveries at the secret laboratories in
Collier Bay and Oa Ki suggested that the White Russian scientists had only
just completed the first Device when the German nationalists struck.
This suggested the second one might be a mock-up built to impress their
superiors. Russia has a long history of such things, dating back to the
time of Potemkin."
Everett nodded. He'd reached the same conclusion himself after they'd
examined the settlement on Eua. For all of their fervor, the czarist exiles
had only a limited amount of resources.
"So this was all just a stratagem to lure Mosley and his so-called British
Union out of hiding," he said, indicating the paraphernalia around them.
"Yes," replied Michaelson. "Miss Perkins played her part well. By
informing our adversaries of your movements, she was able to gather them all
in one place for collection. Her encounter with the Grand Duke's men was
particularly fortuitous, for it allowed us to rope them in as well."
"How long you were aware of Blacker's activities?" asked Everett, doing his
best to sound unconcerned. Had his superior deliberately sent the R-212 to
her destruction to investigate the man's loyalties?
Michaelson gave him a glance that could have meant anything. But then, he
was poker player too.
"We'd assumed he'd been lost with the Flying Lady. His
reappearance came as something of a surprise. But we'd already
instructed Miss Perkins to be on the alert for any overtures from Sir
Everett noticed that the other man hadn't really answered his question. And
who was this `we' to whom Michaelson referred? Had this been a slip of the
tongue, or a warning that the senior captain had powerful allies who might
react badly to curiosity on his part?
"Is she really the baronet's niece?" he asked, switching to a safer topic.
Michaelson nodded, as if pleased his hint had been noticed. "The
relationship is somewhat more indirect, but it was somewhat naive of Mosley
to assume we wouldn't be aware of it."
"What will you do with his men?"
"Lieutenant Blacker and Commander Harris will be remanded for
courts-martial," said Michaelson sternly. "The hearings may have to be
secret, but the consequences will be quite public, and they will be ones
these men regret. We may have to let Becket go, given his position in the
government, but it seems he was never too serious about this fascism
nonsense -- he regarded it as something of a hobby, which has not proved
quite as engaging as he anticipated. Mosley we cannot touch. He wasn't at
the scene, so it would be your officer's word against a baronet who also
happens to be a sitting member of Parliament. But we've pulled the fellow's
claws. He'll be on his way back to England by now, and he knows the
Admiralty will be watching him closely.
"What about the White Russians?"
"The Grand Duke's fate is a matter beyond our pay grade. Knowing how they
think, I wouldn't be surprised if Naval Intelligence released him to serve
as a stalking horse. But his minions are guilty of any number of crimes
against maritime law, so we can salt them away for quite some time. The
only people unaccounted for are their leader, who should be at a loss
without her agents, and Mister Fuller. After these recent adventures, I
cannot help but feel that the latter is more of a liability than an
advantage to anyone's cause.
Everett nodded. The renegade technophile had distinguished himself in some
rather remarkable ways. Still, there was one more thing he needed to know.
"Am I correct in assuming Miss Perkins was your agent from the very
beginning?" he asked. This time he made little attempt to hide his
"Of course," said Michaelson dryly. "And this proved fortunate. Blacker
never suspected his own cousin of deception."
Everett sighed. "He may not be the only one."
The senior captain surprised him by agreeing. "I imagine so," he said
regretfully. "Given what lies between us, we can hardly pretend any
sympathy for each other, but I do feel rather sorry for your Mister
They sat on a terrace of the Government house, gazing out at the town. In
the streets below, the citizens of Rabaul were adding final touches to their
Christmas decorations. The effect, with cherubs and snowflakes dangling
from acacia trees beneath the tropical sky while volcanoes smoked in the
background, was somewhat incongruous.
"It's difficult to believe how close this all came to destruction."
MacKiernan remarked. "But they're safe now, so I suppose it ended well."
He didn't sound entirely convinced.
"You didn't trust me," said Miss Perkins. Her tone was casual -- she might
well have been discussing the weather -- but the Irishman had learned to
recognize things she kept hidden.
"Well, you did use us," he replied, trying to keep the sense of betrayal out
his voice. "You were playing a double game all along."
She looked down at her teacup, as if hoping it might supply her with an
answer. "I suppose that's true," she said at last. Her voice was very
MacKiernan studied her expression. Was that a tear, he wondered? And did
either of them know if it was real? "What will you do now, Alice?"
he asked gently.
"I'll be accompanying Captain Michaelson," she replied. "The
Tower Hill will arrive on Boxing Day to take us back to
MacKiernan nodded. "Perhaps this is for the best. It might do us
good to be apart. I imagine we both need time to think."
She nodded. Then she met his gaze. "Perhaps you're right," she replied
quietly. "But Fergus..."
"Yes?" he asked.
Her expression softened. "I'll be waiting for you."
This coming weekend, join us for The Third Flying Cloud Christmas Special...
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