The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 341: It Was A Useful Alias

Chessboard with unusual knight

The life of a mastermind involved certain necessary disappointments -- the failure of a minion, the exposure of a secret lair, the thwarting of some nefarious plan. Chief among these was the discovery that one had been out-masterminded. This discovery did not make Captain Michaelson happy. He glared at the man in front of him --- a modestly-dressed figure, apparently in his early thirties, with a slender build, light hair, and a sardonic smile.


"You were expecting someone else?" asked the Russian. "A particular woman, perhaps?"

Michaelson frowned. How could the other man possibly know his history? "I take it you are the `Rabbit'," he replied, doing his best to keep his voice neutral.

Karlov smiled. "Also the Kanichen, Krolik, Lapin, and Kani. The concept is more universal than you might imagine."

"You must be the one behind this business with the Rabbit-Proof Fence."

"You think so?" said Karlov. "Surely the name would suggest otherwise."

It didn't take Michaelson long to realize the implications. "So this is the work of some adversary of yours? Who might this be?"

"That's what I've been trying to determine," said Karlov. "I didn't think it was you -- the plot was too heavy-handed -- but I wanted to be certain. You wouldn't have asked the questions you just did if you'd been behind it."

Michaelson thought this over. It had been a clever bit of work, luring him and Fenwick to this isolated settlement with hints they might learn who was behind what they'd assumed was a conspiracy by one of the renegade nationalist groups. This too had implications.

"I assume you have prepared for the eventuality that this plotter might be someone else," he observed.

"Very good," said Karlov. "I see I didn't underestimate you. My plans will require that you and your new aide remain incommunicado for a time. When this period is over, I suggest you contact your rival and instruct him to evacuate his people. The stroke is not intended for them."

Before Michaelson could reply, Karlov had stepped back into the alley from which he'd emerged. Fenwick moved to follow, but Michaelson signaled his aide to halt. "You won't catch him," he growled. "The man has a way of vanishing after confrontations of this sort."

"What did he mean by `incommunicado'?" asked Fenwick.

"He must believe we'll be unable to leave this village. Let us prove him wrong."

The two airmen hurried back to where they'd left their car. As they approached, they heard a squeal of tires, followed by the sound of crumpling metal. They rounded a corner to discover that a delivery truck had veered across the road to strike their vehicle broadside. A cloud of steam rose from the lorry's hood.

"I say!" the driver cried when he saw them. "What were you doing parking your motor in my way?"

"What were you doing running into it?" asked Michaelson.

The driver shuffled his feet, then held up an envelope. "I was reading this letter," he admitted.

Michaelson shook his head. "Let that be a lesson to you about text and driving."

Both vehicles had been disabled by the crash. A quick search of the village established that there was no other transportation to be found. The telegraph station was out of commission as well due to some obscure fault with the equipment.

"Did Karlov arrange all of this?" marveled Fenwich.

"Quite possibly," said Michaelson. "He's managed this sort of thing in the past."

"Whatever is he up to, and who are these enemies of his?"

The senior captain gazed at the wreckage of their car and sighed. "I dearly wish I knew."

Miss Perkins gazed out the window, wondering what was happening on the airfield. The confusion of engine noises suggested some sort of activity, but gave no clue as to what this might be. Her thoughts were equally confused. She'd left Cairns to prevent Michaelson from using Everett and his people as pawns in one of his endless games, but the unlikely sequence of events that had brought her and her companions to this secret air station in the middle of the Outback could hardly have happened by chance. Who was responsible, and what were they hoping to accomplish?

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. She turned to see a worried-looking Finn standing next to a hard-faced man with Asian features. It was obvious, even before he spoke, that this man wasn't Chinese, but came from a culture with a more martial tradition.

"Come with us," he ordered.

The three women followed the guards outside, where they discovered that Lady Warfield's airship had departed on some errand. In its place, the mysterious cruiser loomed overhead like a threatening storm. Sunlight gleamed on its mighty hull, its towering fins, its eight powerful engines cars. Where the Philadelphian had been elegant, and the Flying Cloud graceful, this vessel seemed brutal -- an ominous instrument of war. The guards escorted them to what seemed to be the operations shack. Inside, several more hard-faced Asians were studying a chart. They set this aside as the three women entered.

"You will answering questions," said one who was obviously their leader. "She translating."

He indicated a slender blond-haired woman standing behind him. Miss Perkins coughed to hide her surprise. Whatever is she doing here? she wondered. She glanced at Clarice and Emily. One quick look showed that they wouldn't need her warning to remain silent.

The man spoke to the woman in Japanese. Miss Perkins hardly needed a translation, but she listened anyway to see if it was accurate.

"You are Captain Michaelson's secretary" the woman said. "What was your mission?"

"There is no mission," Miss Perkins replied. "If you know who I am, you must have some spy in his office, so you must know that I left of my own accord."

"So it was reported," the woman translated. "Why did you leave?"

Miss Perkins wracked her brain, trying to decide on the best answer, but couldn't think of anything better than the truth. "He meant to sacrifice some of his people to further his own ends. I couldn't accept this, so I left to warn them."

The man listened to his translator, then scowled, as if unimpressed by Miss Perkins's motives. His reply was curt.

"How did you find this place?" the woman translated. "Did the Russian scientist tell you about it?"

Miss Perkins studied the translator, wondering if the woman knew she'd realize the second question was an addition. "He had nothing to do with this," she replied, being careful not to mention Karlov's name lest the Japanese recognize it. "We haven't seen him since Gilolo. We stumbled on this place quite by accident while looking for the site of a new resort."

The woman translated only the last sentence. The man listened, then gave a dismissive reply.

"He says it was your duty to obey your superior," the woman told them. "Since you failed in this, you are of no interest to him."

Clarice and Emily waited until they were back in their apartment, then turned on Miss Perkins with questions.

"That was Natasha!" Clarice exclaimed. "What could she be up to here?"

"And who could she be working for this time?" asked Emily.

"I don't have the slightest idea," Miss Perkins admitted, "but if we wait, I believe we may learn soon."

As if on cue, the door opened and the subject of their discussion stepped into the room. "Miss Perkins, Clarice, Emily," she said. "We need to talk."

Next week: You Don't Get An Opportunity Like This Every Day...

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