The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 284: More Fun With Ancient Spanish Settlements

Abercrombie and Sumo amidst the ruins

The Shiratori Maru's previous destination had been the Japanese resort on Cebu. With few other leads available, Everett decided to investigate the island for some clue as to why packet had been attacked. They could also take this opportunity to return Tsumura to his countrymen.

Cebu had a long and colorful history. This was where Ferdinand Magellan had died during his incomplete (as far as Magellan was concerned) circumnavigation. As the one of the largest islands in the Philippines, it had loomed large in the Spanish colonial administration, and its capital had once been of considerable importance. Originally part of the Rajannate of Kangdaya, it had been renamed Villa de San Miguel de Cebû by the Spanish after their one-sided treaty with the luckless Rajah Tupas. Three centuries later, in an act of poetic justice, it had passed into American control after the equally one-sided Treaty of Paris that concluded the Spanish-American War.

Since then, Cebu City had languished in obscurity. William Howard Taft had visited it during his brief tenure as Governor-General of the Phillippines, but it remained to be determined if this would become a career path for future aspirants to the American presidency. In this sleepy tropical setting, the new air station on Mactan Island seemed an incongruous intrusion of the modern world.

Everett glanced out the window of his cabin at the empty mooring masts, wondering what had prompted the Americans to build such an extravagant facility here. Had they done this in anticipation of some future need, as a kickback to some influential government contractor, or merely because they could? He suspected the latter -- this seemed to be a defining quality of American culture -- but there was no way of knowing, so he turned his attention back to the desk where McKiernan and Jenkins sat.

"We wish to determine why our friends on the mysterious cruiser might have destroyed the Shiratori Maru," he observed. "Unfortunately, this passenger manifest Mister Tsumura composed for us raises more questions than it answers. This industrialist from the Toyoda clan could have been on some errand our hypothetical Japanese nationalists wished to thwart. This liberal politician from the Diet seems the sort of fellow they might have wished to assassinate. One must also wonder what this team of scientists from Tokyo was about."

"I managed to track down some of their professional publications," said Jenkins. "These suggest the fellows were biologists. It's difficult to imagine how they could have been involved in this affair."

"Perhaps," said Everett, "but any number of unimaginable things have happened over the past several months. Perhaps the Japanese worry that their activities in the Pacific might lead to some invasion of large dangerous animals."

"How should we proceed?" asked MacKiernan. "If someone is trying to prevent us from finding out what the packet was up to, won't our investigations put them on guard?"

"We could arrange for a distraction," Jenkins suggested. "There are plausible reasons for us to suspect that the vessel's navigator was an agent. A highly visible inquiry regarding the fellow's movements might draw attention away from our true intent."

"That should serve," said Everett, "and I believe I know how to go about this."

Loris studied the street sign, compared it with the paper he held, and frowned. It was difficult to tell if the characters were the same. Were those curved lines a meaningful difference or just some quirk of calligraphy? "Why can't these fellows use a decent alphabet," he grumbled.

"Dinnae fash yerself," Abercrombie told him. "I never did ken why you Southrons make such a big thing about writing. We Scotts did very well without it."

"Is that why you're still under English rule?" Loris quipped.

Abercrombie laughed. "Nay, we're just biding our time until we seize the throne."

"We've spent a fair bit of time asking about this navigator," said Loris. "Do you think we'll learn anything about the fellow?"

"I dinnae ken," said Abercrombie, "but the Captain may just want us to attract attention while Jenkins and Pierre do the real work."

The airman's face brightened at the prospect. "What kind of attention are we supposed to attract?"

"I reckon 'twould be something like that," said Abercrombie, pointing to the two men who'd emerged from an alley to block their path. One was a lean muscular figure with the bearing of a fighter. As they watched, he assumed a combat stance, legs flexed, torso erect, hands held low to deliver a punch. The other -- a massive brute who seemed as wide as he was tall -- dropped into a wrestler's crouch.

"You ask many questions," said the first man. "You will stopping."

"And if we don't?" asked Abercrombie.

"We will stop you," rumbled the brute.

"The wee one looks about your size," Abercrombie said to Loris. "Think ye can take him?"

Loris smiled and laid his jacket aside. "Of course!" he announced, "if you keep the big one from tripping over me."

The Scotsman turned to their assailants and grinned. "A tussle!"

Pierre raised his glass and saluted. "To your health, Mademoiselle."

His companion was worthy of the gesture. Glossy blonde curls framed the face of an angel while her dress -- what their was of it -- suggested more than a hint of diablerie. The only thing that seemed out of place was a pair of horn-rimmed eyeglasses. "And yours Monsieur," she said coyly. "What brings you to our library here on Cebu?"

"I came in search of a book, to while away the time while my ship is resupplied," said the Frenchman. "Instead I found a treasure beyond price."

The woman blushed. "I bet you say that to all the librarians!"

"Non," Pierre replied earnestly. "Only to ones as beautiful as you. How long have you graced this bibliothèque with your presence?"

"A year," she giggled, "and it's been quite dull."

"How can this be?" asked Pierre. "With such a remarkable director, I would think your establishment would be thronged with customers."

She sighed, then gazed at him with hopeful eyes. "Would that this were true," she told him. "But the only visitors we've had recently were some Japanese biologists."

At that moment, panes shattered as a massive figure came flying through the window. He struck the floor with a crash, leapt to his feet, brushed debris from his shoulders, and cried, "Will ye now!" Then he charged back out through the door.

Pierre shook his head at this performance. "These intrusions are impardonnable," he observed to his companion. "Shall we retire to someplace more private?"

Next week: Several Different Equations Converge On The Same Value...

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