The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 227: You May Not Need A Weatherman To Tell Which Way The Wind Blows, But It Helps

A weathervane

Everett studied the shirt his men had recovered from the laundry in Rabaul. It was a plain utilitarian garment, devoid of any marks or insignia, in an unattractive shade of brown. There was no maker's label. A faint line of stitching showed where this had had either torn away or been removed.

"We're certain this came from the N-109?" he asked.

"That's what the... uh... lady... at the cleaning shop claimed," said Loris. The airman seemed somewhat out of sorts.

"It does look like the sort of thing the Fat Man's men might wear," Jenkins observed. "They seem to favor that particular hue."

Everett nodded. He recalled that one of the major nationalist groups in Germany was known for the color of their shirts. He set the garment aside and unfolded the receipt Loris had found in the front pocket. A heading at the top proclaimed Rabaul Flugreisen Wettervorhersage Gesellshcaft. Below this were several numbers. These seemed to correspond to some of the weather reports Jenkins and Emily had recovered.

"This seems like an unusual stroke of luck," said Iverson. "Is there any chance the nationalists planted this to lead us astray?"

"It's difficult to see how they could," observed Jenkins. "They would have had to know we were following them, anticipate that we'd inquire at the weather office after our arrival, and guess exactly which laundries our agents would investigate."

"That is my conclusion as well," said Everett. "Thank you Loris and Wallace." He nodded to the riggers. "You may return to your duties. Jenkins, Mister Iverson, Miss Sarah, let's see what these numbers can tell us."

An hour later, the four sat back and studied their notes.

"There is most definitely a pattern here," said Jenkins. "These fellows purchased a short term departure forecast for Rabaul, medium-term regional forecasts for New Guinea, the Banda Sea, and the Dutch East Indies, and a long-range arrival forecast for Jakarta. That would seem to establish their intended route beyond any reasonable doubt."

"It also suggests an objective," observed Everett. His expression was troubled.

"You're referring to the Countess?"

"We must consider the possibility," said Everett. "We've assumed the Fat Man's people are trying to find Karlov, and we know she was in communication with the man. They might know this too."

"What shall we do, sir?" asked Iverson.

"It's a difficult problem," mused Everett. "We can't send a radio message to warn her of their approach, for there's every reason to believe it would be intercepted. They same applies to wire. Can we get to Jakarta ahead of them?"

Iverson applied a pair of dividers to their small scale chart of the Pacific, jotted down some figures, and shook his head. "The great circle distance is approximately 3150 miles. At cruising speed, with the trade wind on their quarter, they'd make good 50 knots. That works out to a travel time of 63 hours. At our top speed, with the same wind, we could manage the trip in 42 hours. This is almost a day faster, but unfortunately they have a three day head start."

"We will make the attempt anyway," said Everett. "The odds may seem to be against us, but I believe Tennyson had something to say on the subject. Miss Sarah, how would this leave us for consumables?"

The island girl flipped through her records. "Our gas cells are at 80%, and we're currently have 3000 gallons of fuel and 12,000 lbs of ballast. Forty two hours at full power will consume 2000 gallons. We could also expect to expend 4000 lbs of ballast. That would leave us with 1000 gallons of fuel, 8000 lbs ballast, and 70% hydrogen."

Everett nodded. "That should be acceptable, provided that we resupply as soon as we arrive." He stepped to the intercom and keyed the mike. "All hands to flight stations. We lift ship in an hour."

At full power, the drone of three supercharged airship diesels echoed through every part of the Flying Cloud. Forty two hours at these RPMs would place some strain on the ships' plant -- Iwamoto, Cameron, and Crowley could look forward to a sleepless night. Up in the control car, the vibration set up unexpected resonances in some of the fittings. Everett set down his pen, then frowned as it began to skitter across the top of the chart table. He glanced about to make sure no one noticed, then snatched it up and returned it to his jacket.

"Upper Lookout to Bridge," came Davies's voice from the intercom. "We have a freighter to port, bearing one nine zero, range three miles."

Everett raised his binoculars and focused them on a small steamship that was plodding along the coast of New Guinea. Through the glasses, he could just make out the name Tranquility.

"I remember those fellows," he remarked. "They were the ones with the beer."

"Do you think they recognize us?" asked Sarah.

"It's doubtful," Everett replied. "We're up-sun of them. They might not even have seen us. I'm more concerned about our German competitors."

"You really think they mean to speak with the Countess?" asked the island girl.

"It's difficult to imagine what else they could be seeking on Java," said Everett. "And one cannot help what measures they might intend to prevent her from retaining a record of this interview. They've shown a notable lack of scruple when it comes to taking human lives." The captain sighed. "We'll have to hope she's prepared to defend herself. This is certainly possible. She did manage to survive the War."

"Is there any chance we can get there first?"

"This seems doubtful," said Everett. "Mister Iverson's calculations are sound. The lieutenant has the makings of a good navigator. Unless they divert from a direct course, they'll arrive two days ahead of us."

Sigmund descended the ladder to control car and saluted his captain. He had to shout to make himself heard over the clamor of the forward engine.

"Mein Herr," he reported. "Klaus has finished his inspection of the Number Two diesel."

"What did he find?" asked Ernst.

"One of the main bearings has failed," said the marine. "That can be replaced, but there was also some damage to the crankshaft. It will have to be reground. He cannot do this on board."

Ernst thought this over. An S Class airship could be handled with one engine out of action. He'd done this several times during the London raids. But there would be a cost in speed and efficiency, and loss of another engine -- always possible on a vessel this old -- could lead to serious problems.

"How long does Klaus estimate the repairs would take?" he asked.

"Two days, in a proper machine shop."

The captain nodded. The delay was acceptable. "We will call at Hollandia for repairs," he announced. "One can find anything there. We might even find some shirts to replace the ones Bertold left behind at that schrecklich laundry."

Next week: A Simple Java Program...

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