The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 402: My Previous Visit Was So Much Fun I Just Had To Come Back Again

Part of the Cape York Peninsula

Everett and his companions watched with some trepidation as Michaelson examined his touring car. The Vauxhall had undergone a substantial transformation, and this had not been for the better. The grill was now a crumpled ruin -- coolant still dripped from the smashed radiator behind it -- and the bonnet sported a sizable dent where some heavy object had bounced off it after destroying the left front fender.

The senior captain sighed. "Have you had a chance to assess the damage?" he asked his mechanic.

The mechanic seemed unperturbed. "It doesn't look irreparable," he announced cheerfully. "The motorcycle was small, the automobile was large, and the collision happened at fairly low speed. Still, it may take some time to set matters right."

"Quite," Michaelson said sourly. "Mister Murdock, do you have an explanation for this?"

The lieutenant had been standing toward the back group, as if hoping to go unnoticed. He shuffled his feet awkwardly.

"I had finished cleaning and waxing the vehicle and was driving it back to the motor pool as per your instructions..."

"When you somehow failed to notice a loud brightly-colored motorcycle headed directly toward you."

"Uh... not at first," confessed the lieutenant.

Michaelson shook his head. "We will speak of this later. Let us have a look at the instrument responsible for this destruction."

The motorcycle had not fared quite as well as the automobile. A collision between two objects of different mass might well preserve momentum, but much of the energy of the collision tended to get transferred to the smaller party, with unfortunate results. The machine's front wheel had been pushed back into the frame, twisting both beyond recognition. The headlight was shattered, the horn had gone missing and fuel tank was too badly crumpled for them to make out any distinguishing marks -- fortunately, it must have been almost empty or fire might have added to the list of the vehicle's woes. Even so, enough remained for them to tell that this had been a powerful machine. Its single-cylinder engine must have produced well over 3 horsepower, its front wheel was fitted with a suspension to improve handling, and its modern three-speed transmission might have allowed speeds as high as 60 miles per hour.

Some details struck Everett as peculiar. The cylinder was mounted horizontally rather than vertically, so that it protruded in front of the engine, and the crankcase was engraved with what appeared to be a signature.

"Do we have any idea where this machine came from?" he asked.

"It's an Italian model, made by some firm in Lombardy, I believe." said the mechanic.

Everett raised an eyebrow. "However did it end up in the South Pacific?"

The mechanic shrugged. "The doings of motorcycle enthusiasts are not for the fathoming of eyes that see, for their marvels are strange and terrific."

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of an orderly. Michaelson studied the message the man bore, then turned to his subordinates. "It would appear the other actor in this unfortunate comedy is finally awake," he told them. "Let us pay her a visit."

"I instructed Fletcher to make inquiries of our intelligence sources on the Cape York Peninsula," Michaelson remarked as they entered the infirmary. "We've been able to reconstruct most of Miss Kim's route here."

Intelligence sources on the Cape York Peninsula? marveled Everett. Someone is a bit of an overachiever. "What have we learned?" he asked.

"It seems she arrived in Cooktown a week ago -- presumably by ship, since there were no reports of any airships in the vicinity. From there she proceeded in a loop inland, reemerging at Port Douglas, after which she followed the coastal tracks south. There is some evidence she was being pursued, for our contact in Port Douglas saw a large black motorcar pass through town a short time after she did."

"This wouldn't happen to have been another Adler?" asked Everett, remembering the Fat Man's agents from the year before.

"There's no way to tell from the description," said Michaelson. "Perhaps the lady will shed some light on the matter."

The infirmary was a barracks that had been pressed into service for this purpose during the Great Influenza. In this happier day, it was almost empty of patients. When they reached the room where Miss Kim was being cared for, Everett was surprised to note the absence of a guard.

"Aren't you concerned she'll escape like she did last time?" he asked Michaelson.

The senior captain gave him an impatient glance. "Of course not. This time she went to some lengths to approach us. I think we can assume she'll stay."

They found the patient sitting up in bed. Aside from a sticking plaster affixed to her forehead, she seemed little the worse for her experience. Everett felt some sympathy for her, alone and friendless in a foreign land. Michaelson didn't seem to share this sentiment.

"We know that you understand English, so don't try to pretend otherwise," the senior captain said sharply. "Who are you working for and what is your mission?"

The woman nodded, as if recognizing a superior will. "I am from Korea," she said softly. "Japan took over my country after their war with Russia. I am part of group that fights for freedom."

Her command of the language was even better than Everett remembered. Except for the occasional grammatical novelty and a bit of trouble with rhotic and lateral consonants, her speech seemed no more remarkable than the native dialect of Australia.

"You have only answered the first question," said Michaelson. "What about the second?"

"I was sent to..." she seemed to struggle with two of the next words, "...infiltrate Japanese nationalist organization. They are building weapons at some secret base in the South Pacific. You have seen one of these and captured another."

"These would be the mysterious cruiser and the Flying Cloud," said Jenkins.

"Yes," said the woman. "I travel to this base aboard the cruiser, disguised as a worker, to discover its location. But something went wrong. When I escaped to give my report, there was no sign of my contact and the Japanese were waiting. I barely escaped."

Michaelson nodded. It was obvious he had many questions, but he skipped to the one that seemed most important. "And where is this secret base?"

The woman made a helpless gesture. "I don't know. We were locked in a cargo hold during our trips there and back. I only know that it was much warmer than Korea."

The senior captain frowned. This did little to narrow things down. "So what do you want from us?"

"I want help for fighting Japanese."

"How do we know we can trust you?"

The woman reached to the table beside her, retrieved her purse, and opened it to produce a small gold cufflink engraved with an image of a Coastal class blimp -- a mate to the one they'd found at the bomb site that May. Everett recognized it instantly. It had belonged to Lieutenant-Commander Forsythe, who'd been lost with the R-212. As he'd noted before, no one else would have commissioned something so ugly.

The woman held it out and met their gaze. "I know where your people are being held."

Next week: Conflicting Agendas...

Comments about Episode 402? Start a new topic on the Forum!

StumbleUpon        submit to reddit Reedit