The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 295: No One Goes to Ujelang Anymore, It's Too Popular

The pattern of destruction on Ujelang

Miss Perkins looked as prim and neatly dressed as ever. No one would have guessed she'd just completed a swift ocean passage to a remote Pacific island as part of an urgent last-minute rescue operation.

"Kurt and Dietrich spotted me on Kwajelein," she said, indicating a pair of Germans who'd arrived to help collect their captives. "I must have been careless. When they explained their plan, I volunteered to accompany them. It seemed the quickest way to regain communication with Captain Michaelson.

"We reached the atoll two days ago, hid our vessel off Eneu island, and paddled here on a native canoe to make contact with Marco. He'd already been sent to Bikini under Heinrich's instructions. I gather he established his cover here shortly after the attack on Cairns." The beachcomber raised his pistol in salute. "After that, it was just a matter of waiting for Lady Warfield to appear. She was so certain she'd outwitted your trap for her trap that it never occurred to her we might have laid a trap for her trap for your trap for her trap.".

Everett nodded cautiously. He wanted some time to think this one over.

"What were you doing on Kwajelein?" asked Michaelson. "Your last report placed you in American Samoa."

"I arrived on the 14th with Sigmund's people. They were following the American airship, believing your agents to be aboard."

"Agents?" Everett asked sharply. He did not like the sound of this.

"Your two young companions from Darwin," Michaelson replied. "The Fat Man's people had reached the mistaken conclusion that they were working for me. It seemed a pity not to take advantage of their misapprehension. Knowing who they were after, it was easy for us to follow their movements and trace their inquiries. This has allowed us to identity much of their network."

Everett struggled to contain his indignation. It was one thing to send military personnel on a dangerous mission. This was part of their job. Placing innocent civilians in harm's way, merely for the sake of strategy, was another matter entirely.

"What became of them?" he asked, as calmly as he could.

Miss Perkins glanced at Michaelson. "The Germans took the vessel just before I left," she said. "I believe they're heading for Ujelang."

The senior captain seemed unconcerned by his secretary's implied accusation. "Everyone seems to be heading for Ujelang," he mused. "I suppose we should go and apprehend them."

"And just how are we to accomplish this?" asked Everett. "The Flying Cloud won't be available until MacKiernan has a chance to resupply, and we couldn't fit everyone on our launch even if it did have the necessary range."

Miss Perkins offered one of her rare smiles. "I believe we have a solution."

Michaelson adjusted the fit of his jacket, then glanced around the deck of the Todstalker. The schnellboot's lean warlike lines seemed entirely out of place in this peaceful island setting. "It was thoughtful of Sigmund's men to leave this vessel behind for you," he observed.

"It would have been even more thoughtful if they hadn't disabled the wireless before they left," said Miss Perkins.

Michaelson shrugged. "We can't have everything. Captain Everett, I trust you can navigate us to Ujelang."

Everett bit back a retort. The senior captain could hardly have forgotten that he'd once commanded a destroyer in the North Sea during the closing months of the War. "We have a party of nine, including Miss Perkins, Marco, and their companions," he replied. "That should be enough to manage the craft, if we have enough fuel."

"We sounded the bunkers after we arrived," said Deitrich. "There were 8000 liters left."

"That should suffice," said Everett. "But if this boat is like the last one we took, the passage will take at least twenty hours. I suppose there's no help for it. Let's hope we arrive in time."

"Quite," said Michaelson. "I wonder what we'll find."

Emily and Clarice gazed down at Ujelang from the windows of the Philadelphian's control car. This was the first chance they'd had for a good look at the island. Previously, they'd only seen the place from a distance, and that had not been under the best of circumstances, for it had been obscured by large mushroom-shaped cloud.

Now they could appreciate the magnitude of the cataclysm that had engulfed it. The eastern end of the island had been burned flat by some unimaginable blast of heat. In one spot, the sand glittered as if it had been fused to glass. Clarice guessed this where the tower that held the so-called `Device' had stood. Some distance away, a pulverized foundation marked the place where the German nationalists' laboratory had been. No one could possibly have survived.

Immediately west of the burned area, the jungle had been flattened by the force of the explosion. Trees lay in rows, their trunks pointing toward the center of the region of destruction like accusing fingers. Farther to the west, the vegetation had survived, but it seemed strangely altered, as if by some lingering malignity. The effect seemed more pronounced on the downwind side of the island. Clarice wondered at this. Hadn't that blimp captain on Kwajelein remarked that the place was unhealthy?

Sigmund exalted at the spectacle. "This is wonderful!" he announced. "A weapon such as this could destroy an entire city. Once it's in the service of the Fatherland, no one will dare to stand against us!"

The two women weren't so sure about the `wonderful' part. They couldn't help imagining what would have happened if the Device had exploded in Darwin. It would have reduced their home town to ashes. But this didn't seem the appropriate moment for a debate.

Somehow the island's jetty had survived, sheltered by some freak of geography. A neat row of tents stood nearby, next to a portable mooring mast surmounted by the flag of the rising sun. Clarice guessed these were the Japanese scientists the professor on Guam had told them about. They'd assembled a handling party to help with the mooring, unaware what a snake they'd be clasping to their bosom.

A short time later, the Philadelphian was riding from the mast and a party of Sigmund's men was descending the ladder to the ground. The skirmish that followed was entirely one-sided. Unarmed scholars, taken by surprise, were no match for a team of trained commandos. Sigmund watched with approval, then turned to his captives.

"Your friends were unprepared," he observed. "They will regret this mistake. Let us go down to examine what you Englishers would call `the bag'."

"Our `friends'?" Clarice whispered to Emily as the Germans marched them forward to the bow station

"These drongos do seem to be leaping to conclusions," Emily whispered back. "Can you think of any way to use this against them?"

"No," admitted Clarice, "but we should mention it to Mister Cartwell. Perhaps he'll have some idea."

Next week: The Pause That Regasses...

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