The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 423: Meanwhile, Back In The Hidden Lairs

Lady Warfield reading her mail

Michaelson was making his way through a thick stack of RNC-4921 forms when he heard a timid knock. He looked up to see Willard, the trainee who handling the communications while Fletcher was away, standing at the door.

"What is it?" he asked.

The radioman held out a set of message forms as if he hoped these could offer him some protection. "We've received a communication from Captain Everett in the standard cipher," he said. "I have the plain text here." The youth seemed unduly impressed by this unremarkable exercise in cryptography.

Michaelson read the message and allowed himself a smile. It was much as he'd expected.

In Rangoon continuing investigations to assist S. Found evidence British Union arranged deal between Burmah Oil and Divine Thunder Corporation. No sign of American chemist but archaeologists visited en route Bhamo. Will fwd this info to S.

He noted what was left unsaid. In particular, there was no mention of what Scott had actually been doing in Rangoon, though the last sentence implied this hadn't involved tracking down the kidnapped archaeologist who'd provided the pretext for the inspector's mission.

"It seems Everett is learning to play the game," he remarked. "That is obliging of him."

Willard seemed perplexed by this observation. As well he might be. "Sir?" he asked.

Michaelson shrugged to himself. He was prepared to reveal some of his thoughts. This too was part of the game. "Everett wanted the contents of this message to get out." he replied. "That's why he used the ordinary cipher. This is hardly secure."

"It isn't?" Willard squeaked in surprise.

Michaelson shook his head inwardly. "Not to a sufficient degree. We can be certain that all of our adversaries have access to the code. The German nationalists and the British Union will have obtained it from their agents here in Cairns, the Japanese will have obtained it from the Germans while they were still allies, and the Russians are very good at breaking these sort of things."

"Why would Everett want them to have this information?"

"To force my hand," said Michaelson. "He wonders what I was trying to accomplish when I ordered him to play host to this Inspector Scott. He has provoked our adversaries so he can infer this from my response. He hopes this will put me under pressure, forcing me to make some move that will reveal my purpose. It will not have occurred to him that I might be acting on orders from Sydney."

That is how the game is played, thought Michaelson. The last statement may not have been strictly false, but it was entirely irrelevant. If Willard should happen to be captured and interrogated, it should send the enemy on a false trail. He considered arranging this himself, then discarded it as not worth the effort. "Is there anything else?" he asked.

"There was also this personal message from what I assume is a member of your family," said Willard. "It was unsigned."

Michaelson frowned, then took the flimsy from the radioman's hand. It would have seemed quite innocent to anyone who happened on it by chance.

Dear Lawrence, I trust you are well. Your brother-in-law has finished his business here and contemplates a vacation in the Pacific.

"Sir? asked Willard. "Is anything wrong?"

Michaelson brought his expression back under control, cursing himself for the lapse. "Of course not," he said calmly. "You can go about your business."

The Commander glanced out the window and allowed himself a frown. This unruly combination of jungle and mountains was quite unlike the Land Of The Gods. He turned back to the message intercept. This too was worthy of a frown.

"It seems Captain Everett has found out about the Burmah Oil transaction," he said to his aide. "The man is getting too close."

"It would be easy enough to intercept and destroy him," his aide suggested.

"That would lead the Royal Navy here," said the Commander. "Our adversaries will be hoping for us to make such a mistake. We need to find some way to lead him astray. Everett could never have gotten this far on his own. He's just an ordinary airship captain. He must be receiving information from the Royal Navy's intelligence service. We know they don't have any significant resources in Cairns, so this must be coming from Sydney."

"There is a man from Sydney aboard his vessel," said the aide, "this inspector named Scott."

The Commander nodded. "He will be the link. We will take this man and blame it on the Germans."

The aide watched cautiously as the Fat Man read the report. By now he'd learned to read his superior's expression, and this one suggested annoyance.

The Fat Man set the paper down. "According to this, Everett has only gotten as far as Rangoon," he growled. "I expected more from him."

"He may not have enough information to work with," suggested the aide. "We've been intercepting of all the Japanese attempts to interfere with him. Perhaps we should allow one to reach him so that he can take some prisoners."

"They would die before they talked," the Fat Man said dismissively. "It's what they do. We need to prompt Everett to take a greater interest in Burmah. Fortunately, those fools in Sydney have provided us with the means. We will take that passenger of his -- this inept inspector -- and blame it on the Japanese."

The Baroness looked up from inspecting the edge of a poignard and smiled when she recognized the massive figure who'd knocked on the door. There was a lot of mass to recognize.

"Bludge!" she said delightedly. "When did you arrive?"

"Just this morning, milady, on the packet from Ceylon," said the butler. "The route was sufficiently obscure that it should escape notice of the authorities, and the vessel seemed large enough that her crew wouldn't comment on my weight."

The Baroness nodded. This had always posed something of a challenge for their servant, who was built along the lines of a gorilla who'd pursued an aggressive program of physical development. "I trust the Baron has resolved the situation in England," she remarked.

"Yes, milady," said Bludge. "The Milbridges' snare was quite extensive, but milord was able to call in some favors. We've been asked to perform a favor in return."

"What form does this favor take?" asked the Baroness.

The butler produced an envelope from wherever it is butlers produce such things. "It seems there is an inspector: a man named Scott..."

Next week: Some Historical Research...

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