The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 409: They Stir In Their Lairs

Beach chair, table, and drink

Fenwick had survived the trip back to Cairns without too much trauma. The combination of a choppy ocean voyage and a severe hangover might have daunted ordinary men, but members of the Royal Navy Airship Service's Signal Corps were expected to face such challenges without flinching. Now he was doing his best to hide his nervousness while Michaelson read his report. It was difficult to face the senior captain without qualms.

At last Michaelson set the document aside. "This work seems adequate," he conceded. "You've verified that Miss Kim arrived at Cooktown. When MacKiernan calls at Port Moresby, we can correlate his report with yours to narrow down the list of vessels she might have been on. If she was seen in New Guinea, it will have been one that called at both ports. If she wasn't, it will be one that only called at Australia."

Fenwick couldn't resist a question. "How do we know MacKiernan will stop at Port Moresby, sir?"

If Michaelson's expression was a smile, it wasn't a kindly one. "We can control the activities of our workmen by controlling the capabilities of their tools. MacKiernan's options will be restricted by the limitations of the command I gave him. The R-46 can only fly so far without resupply. Now let us consider the matter of Miss Kim's pursuers. In the words of your informants, they arrived aboard some `crook vessel with low freeboard' and their automobile had a hood ornament your informants described as resembling `a silver bug with wings'. What does this suggest to you, Fenwick?"

Fenwick had spent some time reflecting on just this question during his voyage from Cooktown. "They will have been more of these German nationalists," he replied brightly. "The vessel would be one of their so-called schnellboots, and the motor would be an Adler, similar to the one they brought to Cairns last year."

Michaelson's expression suggested disappointment. "No matter," he sighed. "I will leave the correct solution to you as an exercise."

Who else could it have been? Fenwick wondered, but he knew enough not to compound his error by asking. "What is our next move, sir?" he asked instead.

"We are trying to determine two things," said Michaelson, "Miss Kim's allegiance and the location of the secret Japanese base. We wish to pursue these inquiries without interference from any of the nationalist groups or this `Scott of the Yard'. To this end, I have arranged matters to suggest that Miss Kim and Inspector Scott are both aboard the Flying Cloud. This should keep our adversaries occupied trying to thwart each others' attempts to interfere with him."

"What if the nationalists guess you're using Everett's ship as a decoy?"

Michaelson made a gesture of dismissal. "It hardly matters. They can't take the chance that I'm not. This will leave MacKiernan free to search for the secret base while you follow Miss Kim's trail to identify her hypothetical confederates."

Fenwick nodded. It was a masterful plan. Unstated was the implication that if things went wrong, the worst Michaelson stood to lose was an unwanted crew, an obsolete airship, and a junior signalman.

Schreiber swallowed nervously as he entered the building. It might have been an ordinary bungalow, but it carried an indefinable aura of menace. Matters could hardly have been otherwise, given its owner.

Inside, the Fat Man looked up from the report he was reading. "You will have word from Cairns," he said.

Schreiber paused to organize his thoughts. His superior valued precision. "Ja, mein Herr. According to our agents in Sydney, Michaelson has been ordered to assist an inspector who will be investigating piracy of the American liner."

The Fat Man grunted. "This should keep the Kapitän from interfering with our plans. It will keep our Japanese freunde occupied as well. What do we know about this investigator?"

"He doesn't seem to be connected with the Admiralty, so he must have been sent by some civilian authority. Should we find out who this was?"

"This is not an urgent matter. England is a nation of shopkeepers. It's natural for them to send out some low-ranking civil servant to investigate a theft. Is there more?"

Schreiber nodded. "It seems that the Korean woman arrived at Cairns Royal Air Station shortly before the inspector."

The Fat Man sat up in his chair. "The Korean! We're certain of the timing?"

"Ja. This occurred two days before the inspector departed with Captain Everett aboard the R-505."

"This is excellent news! She must have brought them some word of the Japanese. She will be aboard Everett's ship as well. We will take steps to assist him against our former allies."

"What about Kapitän Michaelson? Shall we continue to keep an eye on him?"

"He has shown a tendency to sneak off on a Wolesley class courier when he thinks no one is watching. We need only keep track of that ship to follow his movements."

The officer saluted, then waited for his superior to acknowledge his presence. Patience was a virtue in the service of the Emperor. At last the commander deigned to acknowledge the presence of his subordinate. "Do we have any word on the fugitive?" he asked.

"Hai," said the officer. "According to our new ally, she reached Cairns and took refuge at the air station."

The commander frowned. "We should have dealt with her when we had the chance. It's Arakida's fault for losing track of her after the fiasco on Ujelang."

"He has acknowledged his failure," said the officer. "His family will be informed that he died in service of the Emperor."

"Was there any activity at the air station after her arrival?" asked the commander.

"Hai. Captain Everett lifted ship in the R_505 two days later. According to our agents in Manila, he is now in the Philippines investigating the attack on the American liner."

"Was there any connection with the fugitive?"

"Not that our observers were able to determine, but she hasn't been seen after his departure."

"We must assume she's aboard," said the commander. "We will take steps to intercept her."

"What if she's still in Cairns with Captain Michaelson?"

"They can accomplish nothing as long as they remain there. Instruct our observers to watch the ship Michaelson uses and inform us if it leaves."

Lady Warfield toyed with the dagger, then raised it to the light to examine the edge. It was one of her favorite weapons. Elegant in its simplicity, it was perfectly adapted for stabbing people in the back. Satisfied, she turned to her minion.

"You have a report from Cairns," she said.

"Yes, Baroness," said the man. "I'm afraid the Korean reached the air station ahead of our hunters."

She held the dagger still for a moment. "However did she manage to outdistance them? They had the Rolls."

The minion glanced at the blade and swallowed. "It seems she managed to procure a motorcycle before she reached Cooktown," he said carefully.

The baroness sighed and tapped the dagger against her desk. "The woman is more resourceful than we gave her credit for. I suppose our revenge must wait. Do we have any idea what became of her after she reached the station?"

"No, but Captain Everett lifted ship shortly after her arrival, and we've seen no sign of her since."

"What about Captain Michaelson?" the baroness asked sharply.

"He's still in Cairns, along with that Wolesely class courier he's been wont to use."

Lady Warfield studied the dagger again. "I sense an opportunity here," she observed, "but we will want to move cautiously. When Lawrence is involved, things are never what they seem."

Next week: If You've Lost A Scientist...

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