The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 328: Ein Kleinen Honeymoon Resort

Bridal couple with Flak 88

"Sir?" asked Jenkins, "Would you care for more tea?"

Everett glanced up from his desk. "Thank you. I don't mind if I do."

The signalman poured out a serving, taking advantage of their vessel's stability to top off his captain's cup. This was one advantage airships had over other forms of transportation. Automobiles and carriages were at the mercy of the road surface, trains rattled and swayed along their tracks, and surface ships were notorious for their capricious ways, but in most weather, an airship was as steady as the ground over which it flew. Writers of speculative fiction, such as Olaf Stapledon, might imagine futures in which aeroplanes came to replace them, but no flimsy heavier-than-air machine could ever hope to equal the comfort, speed, and cargo capacity of a large rigid dirigible.

Everett made a marginal note on the form he'd been reviewing, set it aside, and sighed with relief. Tomorrow might bring another onslaught from the bureaucracy, but today's paperwork was finally done. "Have we received any instructions from the Admiral's office?" he asked his aide.

"No, sir. Cairns has also been silent."

"I suppose we should have expected this," Everett mused. "I'd hoped to provoke a response from whoever it is who doesn't want us to search for Marty and his `boys', but the fellow must have decided to keep quiet lest he give himself away, and Michaelson will be playing a similar game."

"Where does that leave us?" asked Jenkins.

"Free to act as we see fit, provided we take some care to disguise our intentions," Everett decided. "We still wish to warn the Americans to abandon their career of piracy without revealing that we know who they are. If they're planning an attack in German New Guinea, as we suppose, they'll almost certainly have some contact in Rabaul. We will call there for resupply and send a message to the resort, taking no particular pains to keep our activities secret. That should attract their contact's attention."

The Administrator of German New Guinea seemed pleased to see Captain Everett and his officers again. This was understandable, for they'd saved Rabaul from possible annihilation by a copy of the Ujelang Device the previous year. He greeted them in a reception room in the Government House. This suited Everett's purposes perfectly, for the more people who were aware of their presence, the better.

"Thank you for your hospitality," he told the Administrator. "I trust nothing particularly exciting has happened since our previous visit."

Their host chuckled. "The Lutheran missions held their annual tennis tournament, and there was some speculation in copra futures, but no White Russian exiles have attempted to destroy any of our settlements recently."

"Whatever did you do with the fellows we captured?" asked Everett.

"We sent the commoners to prison," said the Administrator. "For political reasons, we felt it expedient to release the nobles, but we have agents watching in case they should attempt another conspiracy."

Everett nodded. Of all the players in this ill-defined game, the White Russians seemed to be the least adept at espionage. "I'm glad you have matters in hand," he said. "That brings me to the purpose of our visit. I trust you're aware of the recent pirate attacks on Thursday Island, Madang, and Guadalcanal."

Their host seemed amused by the subject. "They've been a subject of considerable interest in the local papers," he said "We haven't had so much excitement since Mount Tavurvur threatened to erupt. Everyone is speculating where the raiders will strike next."

"We have reason believe it might be the resort we investigated last year. Is it still run by agents of the nationalists?"

The Administrator shook his head. "The Fat Man's people sold the place shortly after your visit. They must have decided their operation there was compromised. Now it belongs to some members of Hauptmann Seldte's organization. I'm sure they'll appreciate a warning."

Iverson perked up his ears. He had little doubt who'd be tasked with delivering this message. "What are the new owners like?" he asked.

Their host opened his mouth to reply, then sighed. "You will have to see for yourself."

Iverson spun the wheel to back the launch down next to the wharf. He was still far from being an expert boat-handler but several months of unwanted experience had taught him a few basic skills. They'd telegraphed ahead, so attendants were waiting on the dock to receive the mooring lines from Lieutenant Murdock. The men wore neat white tropical suits, badges with what he supposed was the hotel insignia, and polished steel helmets reminiscent of the ones issued to German infantry at Verdun.

"Welcome, lieutenant," said their leader. "My name is Eckhart. To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?"

"We have some important information for your manager," said Iverson. "Could you take us to see him?"

The man nodded. "If you'll accompany me."

Their guide waited for the airmen to disembark, then led them across the grounds. As the Administrator had implied back in Rabaul, these had undergone substantial changes under the resort's new management. Many of the pathways had been re-laid, the bungalows looked freshly painted, and one of Krupp's new L56 anti-airship cannons stood next to a row of picnic tables. Iverson gave the weapon a quizzical glance. In spite of its unusual situation -- someone had draped the recoil mechanism with hibiscus flowers -- it seemed well-maintained.

The resort's manager, Herr Messner, was a cheerful-looking man with the mannerisms of a company sergeant, a junior banker, or the maitre d' at a fine hotel. They found him in the dining hall, finishing what must have been a hearty lunch. Around him, serving staff were setting tables, preparing the room for some afternoon function. Like the dock attendants, they all wore helmets. The effect was incongruous, like a platoon of waiters advancing across some particularly well-furnished no-man's-land.

"Welcome to the Romantischer Badekurort," he told his guests. "What do you think of our establishment?"

"It's quite unique," Iverson said honestly, "but some of the decorations seem rather unusual for a honeymoon resort."

Messner glanced out the window at the gun that rose, proud and erect, from its emplacement. "Not at all," he replied. "They'll inspire the gentlemen to greater... service... on behalf of their new brides."

Murdock scratched his head as if bewildered by this statement. Iverson glanced at the junior lieutenant and decided that an explanation could wait. "Quite," he told their host. "I assume you're aware of the recent attacks on resorts in this part of the Pacific. We have reason to believe the pirates may plan to strike here next."

The manager gestured toward the cannon and smiled. "They may not find us easy prey," he observed.

The air station on Aneityum looked the same as always -- a decaying relic of some failed business venture in a forgotten corner of the Pacific. And as always, its looks were deceiving. Its operators, Vlad and Anna, made a tidy profit from airmen such as Marty and his boys who wished to avoid the eyes of the authorities.

Marty was sitting in the station's office, examining a map of Western Australia when Books approached. "We just got word from our guy in Rabaul," said his henchman. "It seems our pals in the Royal Navy are waiting for us."

"Nice of them to be so public about it," Marty said with a grin. "They're sending us a message that the resort caper is over."

"What we gonna do next, Boss?" asked Books.

Marty gestured at the map in front of him. "I been talking with Vlad, and it gave me some ideas."

Next week: Sometimes There's No Taste For Accounting...

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