Episode 404: Oh Great... Scott
Everett set down the maintenance report and reached for his pen. It seemed
the overhaul had gone well. The Flying Cloud's engineering plant,
gas cells, rigging, ballast tanks, bunkers, instruments, and controls had
all been serviced, inspected, and were ready for flight. If only their
other problems could be dealt with so easily.
He was signing the receipt when he heard a knock on the door. He looked up
to see MacKiernan. "Have a seat, Lieutenant-Commander," he said cheerfully.
"Has Captain Michaelson revealed what ship he's found for you?"
MacKiernan drew up a stool and settled onto it with sigh. "Not yet,
captain. Knowing him, it's some raich uatásah that will
fall apart as soon as we lift."
Everett gave a rueful nod. "This is all too possible. The man is not know
for his generosity."
"What's he up to?" asked MacKiernan. "Is he deliberately trying to prevent
us from rescuing our people?"
"I doubt it," said Everett. "There are limits to the man's iniquity.
Still, I don't imagine he'd be upset if you suffered some mechanical
failure, leaving him to take credit for completing the job. We shall have
to make sure this doesn't occur. I can give you Abercrombie. He should
be able to hold the ship together."
"Thank you, sir," said MacKiernan. "What about you? Do you have any
idea what this Scott of the Yard fellow intends to do?"
Now it was Everett's turn to sigh. "I imagine we'll know soon enough.
He'll be boarding in an hour."
Motors whined down as the lift slowed to a stop. It seemed unusually
well-mannered this morning, as if fearful of offending its occupant.
There was a brief pause while the operator secured his controls. Then the
doors slid open and Scott made his entrance.
The man seemed incapable of arriving in any other way. His clothing was
immaculate. His hair was perfectly coiffed. His hat was adjusted with
a precision that would be the envy of a watchmaker. He glanced at the
assembled airmen as if marveling at their quaint native customs, then
handed Everett a folder.
"Good day, " he announced. "We will be investigating the piracy of the
American liner. Captain Michaelson has instructed you to give me your
complete cooperation. You'll find your orders here."
Everett leafed through the contents of the folder. It contained no
surprises. "Michaelson's concept of `cooperation' seems rather
comprehensive," he observed dryly.
"Quite," said Scott. "It's best to put these matters on a proper footing.
You can give me a tour of the ship while my luggage is brought aboard."
Everett shrugged inwardly. There was almost certainly worse to come. He
stepped aside to let Scott duck under the bow fitting -- predictably, the
investigator managed to do this without inconvenience to his headgear or
dignity -- then led the way down the keel passage.
It seemed Scott had traveled as an ordinary passenger on his previous
flights, for he seemed bemused by this way of boarding an airship. "This
descent is somewhat inelegant," he remarked. "Why is it so steep?"
Everett and Iverson exchanged glances. Could the man be serious? This
did not bode well. "It must conform to the curve of the hull," Everett
"So," said Scott. It seemed he wasn't impressed by this excuse.
They paused at the accommodation section so Everett could show Scott the
stateroom they'd prepared for him and his aide. Weight was too precious
on an airship to allow conceits such as an Admiral's Cabin, but Everett
had taken advantage of MacKiernan's departure to assign the Exec's
quarters to Scott and his valet. It was a major concession -- ordinary
passengers on a naval airship could expect to bunk with the crew.
Scott glanced around the interior with the same expression a man might
use when inspecting a rabbit hutch, then tapped the aft bulkhead. "This
room is not unduly spacious," he observed. "Can we knock out this wall?"
Everett and Iverson exchanged another set of glances. "I'm afraid not,"
said Everett. "It might compromise the structural integrity of this
Scott nodded as he acknowledged their failure. "Then I suppose this
will have to do. My valet and luggage can occupy the room next door."
The investigator made no comment as they negotiated the cargo hold. It
seemed that mere cargo not worthy of his attention. He also showed no
inclination to descend the ladders to the engine cars. This might have
been due to disinterest or because gentlemen of his station didn't climb
ladders. Everett greeted this development with some relief. The man
might be obtuse, but he would be sure to notice the difference between
the Flying Cloud's 12-cylinder supercharged diesels and the
stolid 6-cylinder Beardmores that were the specification for a Junior
Crisis threatened when Scott caught sight of Iwamoto.
"What is this Chinaman doing on your airship?" he demanded.
Everett had anticipated this eventuality. "He's not Chinese," he replied
smoothly. "He's a representative of a Japanese engineering firm the Royal
Navy hired to improve the efficiency of our engines."
Scott's snort had clearly been honed by long practice. "That seems
"Not at all," said Everett. "Effective research always involves
cooperation between the government and private sectors."
The keel passage climbed again as they approached the tail section. At
last they reached the massive cruciform of girders that supported the fins.
Scott studied the obstacle, as if wondering how he could negotiate it
without compromising his dignity, then prodded the vertical access ladder
with his foot.
"Where does this lead?" he asked.
"Going up, it provides the riggers access to the upper rudder control
cables," said Everett. "Down, it leads to the emergency control station."
Like his snort, Scott's grunt was clearly a highly-polished skill.
The investigator insisted on concluding his tour with the bridge.
Everett might have been within his rights to refuse, but he felt it
wiser to save this ammunition for some future encounter.
Scott came to an abrupt stop when he noticed Sarah. As well he might.
Her smartly-tailored skirt and jacket showed off her figure in a way
that would have been hard not to notice.
"What," demanded Scott, "is this... lady... doing here."
The island girl might not have been carrying her spear, but her glare
was an adequate substitute. "I'm civilian auxiliary,
serving as ballast officer in the Royal Naval Airship Service as a
civilian specialist under RNR 247-632 subject to naval regulations and
conditions subject the provisions of RNR 247-401 Clauses C and D with
final pay grade and bonuses to be determined according to Clause," she
The two matched gazes for a while. At last Scott shrugged and turned
"I've seen enough," he announced. "As soon as my luggage is aboard,
you will lift ship and set a course for Manila. That's where we can
expect to find the American liner."
Without waiting for their reaction, the investigator spun on his heel
and strode from the bridge. Iverson watched him go with an expression
"Sir!" he said to Everett after the man was out of earshot.
The captain repressed a sigh. "Fortitude, lieutenant," he said. "We
will make the best of the situation. And we shall hope MacKiernan can
manage to do the same."
Next week: I Suppose Things Can Only Get Better...
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