The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 247: Wending Their Ways To Weda

Various routes to Weda

The AT-38 reached Kao's air station as the day was drawing to a close. The handling parties assembled unusually quickly and in less than half an hour the ship was on the mast. After the vessel was secure, Marty and his boys rode the elevator down to the surface.

"Ya think there's anything useful in this dump, Boss?" asked Craig.

"Naw," said Marty. "But we can lay low here 'till that Royal Navy ship clears out."

"That ground crew was better than I expected," Al remarked. "I wonder if they've handled another S Class recently."

"They're sure giving our ship the old fish-eye," said Jake. "What's their problem?"

Marty shrugged. "Who can tell with these natives?"

The elevator car struck bottom and the door rattled aside to reveal a familiar figure. "Vlad!" exclaimed Craig. "Whatcha doin' in Kao? We thought youse was in Dorosago!"

"You're back!" cried the Russian. "I thought you'd left without me!"

"Back?" said Al. "What do you mean? We only just got here!"



Marty held up his hand for silence. "Hold on, boys. Something ain't right. Vlad, what's the caper?"

It didn't take the Russian long to puzzle out this idiom. "Starbuck and I arrived this morning, looking for Anna and Nettie," he replied. "We learned that the ladies had been seen in town, so we split up to search for them. Towards noon, I saw your ship call at the station, but you left before I could get here. I didn't see Starbuck after that, so I assumed he'd gone with you."

Marty frowned. "That wasn't us. Al, you know any ships that look like ours?"

The skipper shook his head. "There might be a few old German packets based on the same design, but I can't imagine what they'd be doing in the Mollucas."

Vlad's face paled. "An old packet? That's the Fat Man's ship! He must have learned of Anna's plans and come to capture her!"

"Who's this 'Fat Man'?" asked Marty.

"Bad news," said Vlad.

"Well, if he's got the dames, that's bad news for him," the gangster announced. "Al, how are we fixed for fuel and stuff?"

"We resupplied in Tobelo," said the skipper/

"Then let's lift ship. We're goin' after those clowns."

"How are we gonna find 'em, Boss?" asked Craig.

"We'll find a way. But we ain't gonna do it standing around here."

Books looked up from the radio as they entered the control car. "Boss," said the bookkeeper, "we just got a coded message from Nettie. She's on some German ship heading for a place called Weda."

Marty beamed at his henchman. "See, boys, what did I tell ya! That's my girl!"

At last Everett was forced to admit that the L-137 couldn't be saved. The Germans had managed to land the vessel in one piece, even with their engines crippled, but the heavy swell had proved too much for the airship's fragile structure and she'd started to break up almost as soon as she was down. With no way to rescue the ship, he d turned his attention to rescuing her crew. This hadn't been easy, for he couldn't land his own airship lest she suffer the osame fate. Instead, he'd sent in the launch to ferry the nationalists clear of the wreckage, then brought them up by Transporter to be secured as prisoners. Fortunately his people had acquired a substantial supply of handcuffs during their visit to the Zelle estate.

Now Everett sat in the Flying Cloud's mess hall, finishing an entry in the log.

21 April 1927. 2°27'N 126°45'E. Engaged and took the L-137 after a three hour chase. Chase climbed to altitude, but was forced to surrender after their engines failed. Their ship was damaged beyond recovery during landing, so we sank the wreckage to prevent it becoming a hazard to navigation and took the crew prisoner. They have refused to talk. We are now interviewing their passenger.

He capped his pen, set the volume aside, and turned his attention to their guest. Around him, his crew shifted nervously in their chairs. The only one who didn't seem affected by the tension was Natasha...if that was really her name. Everett studied the woman. She'd changed her hair from blonde to brunette -- one of those feminine mysteries men were never meant to understand -- but otherwise looked much as she had on Ujelang. Her role had been just as ambiguous then.

"Miss Natasha," he said politely, "unless you'd prefer some other form of address..."

Her smile would have done credit to DaVinci. "Natasha will do for now."

"Fleming has given me a summary of your recent activities. They raise certain questions about your loyalties and agenda."

"I should think the former would be clear," she replied. "I just disabled the L-137 for you. If I hadn't, you might never have caught them."

"Perhaps," Everett observed, "but this does not answer the second question. Can you tell us why you acted as you did?"

"No," she said brusquely, "I cannot."

The captain nodded to himself. He had expected this. "Then can you clarify your relationship with Karlov?" he asked. "It's clear you're more than just casual acquaintances."

"I cannot tell you that either."

"'Cannot' or 'will not'?"

For an instant, the woman's face looked bleak. "Cannot," she replied. "But I can tell you that he's in Weda."

"What do you think, gentlemen, and lady?" Everett asked his companions after Davies had escorted their guest to her quarters.

"I'm inclined to trust her," said Iverson. "She did help us on Ujelang. Without her aid, we might never have gotten off the island."

"I'm not!" said Sarah. "She's been involved in two attempts to kidnap our people. It's true that she turned against the kidnappers in both cases, but she might just have been picking the winning side."


The signalman shook his head. "I'm sorry, sir. She guards herself too well. I am quite unable to form an opinion."

Everett glanced at the chart while he thought this over. "I doubt she's told us more than a fraction of the truth," he observed, "but we'll need resupply anyway, and Weda is near at hand. This will also give us a chance to offload slightly more than a ton of prisoners. Jenkins, contact Commodore Clark and inform him of our intentions."

When they reached Weda the next morning, they found the Cottswold riding from the station's Number One mast. Commodore Clark received them in the administration building, which he'd commandeered for his own use. MacKiernan and Miss Perkins were with him, looking perplexed by this latest turn of events.

"Good morning, Captain Everett," said the Commodore. "We received your message. That was good work with the L-137."

"Thank you, sir," said Everett. "I trust Mister MacKiernan and Miss Perkins have acquitted themselves well."

"They have," said Clark. "Who is this lady who accompanies you?"

Everett had considered keeping Natasha's presence secret, but with no way of knowing how much the Commodore knew, he'd decided it would be safer to play this particular card and see how the man reacted. "Her name is Natasha," he replied. "She was a prisoner aboard the nationalists' ship. She appears to have some association with this Karlov everyone's been trying to find. According to her, the man is here in Weda to visit the mines."

The Commodore seemed unimpressed by this news. "Is that so? Did she offer any evidence to support this claim?"

Before Everett could reply, Davies appeared in the doorway. "Sirs," the marine said urgently, "I found something rather disturbing down near the harbor."

"What is it?" asked Clark.

"I think you'd better see for yourself, sir."

They followed Davies past the docks, where crates of equipment stood waiting to be hauled to the mines. At last the marine halted in front of a massive machine covered by a tarpaulin. Everett felt a twinge of apprehension. Something about the thing's shape looked familiar. He lifted the canvas to discover an olive-green bulk with the words Chekov's Gun scrawled across its prow.

"Oh dear," said Jenkins.

"Oh no," said MacKiernan.

"That's a Mark V tank," Clark said wonderingly. "Whatever is it doing in the Dutch East Indies?"

Everett did his best not to grimace. "It would take too long to explain, sir," he replied, "but it means someone else is here ahead of us. We'll have to move quickly if we hope to beat him."

Next week: Tanks, We've Already Got One...

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