Episode 458: And Our Friends Are All Aboard!
Clarice and Emily crouched in the lifeboat, peering through holes in the
boat cover. The novelty of their adventure had worn off quickly, for their
refuge was hot, humid, and uncomfortable, and its bilges had never been
designed for repose. It also lacked certain essential facilities -- the
bucket Emily had brought was hardly an adequate substitute. Worst of all,
there was also little for them to do.
"I'm bored," whispered Emily.
"So am I," Clarice whispered back.
"Maybe we can wait for nightfall and row to shore," Emily suggested.
Clarice wasn't certain her companion's plan was practical. They'd have to
swing out the davits by themselves, lower a two ton lifeboat, cast off the
falls while underway, and vanish into the night without being noticed. "I
don't reckon that's a goer," she remarked.
"Strewth," Emily agreed glumly.
With a sigh, the two women returned to watching the strangers who'd hijacked
the freighter. These fell into two groups. One was Japanese -- Clarice and
Emily might not have understood the language, but they recognized it from
overhearing pearl fishers in Darwin. These men went about their duties with
an efficiency that would have done credit to the Royal Navy. The other
seemed composed of deckhands hired from the docks of the Dutch East Indies,
and was quite clearly subservient to the first. The relationship was not
harmonious, with the one party issuing harangues the other seemed determined
At last this demonstration of poor management skills was interrupted by a cry
from the starboard lookout. Clarice and Emily edged to the other side of the
lifeboat, taking care not to set the craft swinging, and peered east in time
to see a long sleek shape rise from the waves. As they watched, two stubby
funnels extended from its deckhouse and began to belch smoke.
"What the devil is that?" exclaimed Emily.
"It looks rather like a submarine," Clarice remarked.
"I can see that, you ocker," said the blond, "but what are they doing here?"
What they were doing, it seemed, was calling on the tug to surrender. A
hoist of "ID", followed by a shot across the vessel's bow, left little doubt
about the matter. A second hoist of "AB" -- "Abandon ship as fast as
possible" -- was unnecessary, for the tug's crew was already scrambling to
On the Viking Girl, the prize crew was also rushing for the
lifeboats. Recognizing that further concealment was impossible, Clarice and
Emily flung off the cover from their erstwhile refuge, then helped cast off
the pendants, swing the boat out, and slack off the falls. A short time
later, they were bobbing on the waves in the company of several puzzled
"Sumimasen," said the man who seemed to be in charge. "Who you?"
"Don't mind us," Emily replied artlessly. "We're glad we could help."
"Arigato," the man said uncertainly, "but how you here?"
"Oh, we were just passing through," said Clarice.
The man frowned. "Hai," he said, "but that not tell why..."
The two women were saved further explanations when the submarine opened fire
with its deck gun. A few smartly-aimed shots sent the tug and freighter to
the bottom. Then the raider was pulling alongside their own craft. A voice
called down from the conning tower.
"Ahoy there! You are now our prisoners! Your officers are to surrender and
come aboard our vessel! After they have done so, the rest of you will be
free to go! Make no attempt to resist or... I say... sir, you might want to
have a look at this."
The stateroom of the submarine was even less spacious than the lifeboat. It
was considerably better appointed, however, with furnishings that might not
have seemed out of place on a yacht. This impression was heightened by
appearance of the owner -- a middle-aged man in trim nautical apparel,
complete with a peaked cap. Clarice recognized Mister Fuller, one of the
British Union's former agents in Darwin. This presented her with a dilemma.
If she admitted knowing who he was, this might seem suspicious. But if she
pretended ignorance and he recognized them, this might also lead to trouble.
"Mister Fuller!" Emily exclaimed with evident delight. "I remember you!
You're the bloke who bought those tanks! Those were a real corker!"
Clarice glared at her companion. Did she mean to give the game away? The
blond affected not to notice.
Fuller seemed taken off balance by this unexpected praise. "Thank you," he
replied bashfully. "They were meant to defend Darwin against foreign
aggression. Machines such as these represent the future of warfare. We
stand upon the threshold of a new epoch in the history of the world -- war
based on petrol, the natural sequent of an industry based on steam..."
"And they were brilliant!" Emily interrupted. "No one's attacked our town
since you brought them!"
"Quite," Fuller said with a cough. "May I inquire as to your names? I'm
afraid you have me at a disadvantage."
The blond affected a giggle. "I'm Emily Wilcox and this is my mate Clarice
Blaine. Is this your submarine? She's a bewdy!"
Clarice gave her companion a credit. Praising a man's vessel was always
good strategy. "She's a K Class fleet submarine, steam-powered, with a top
speed of 20 knots," Fuller told them. "I picked her up at auction when the
Royal Navy decommissioned these boats after the war. I considered naming
her the Nautilus, but this seemed presumptuous, so I settled on the
Proteus. Captain Boyd had quite the fantastic voyage bringing her
here from England."
"And you maintain her as yacht?" asked Clarice, getting into the spirit of
"For that, and to rescue fair maidens from pirates," Fuller said gallantly.
"It's kind of you to assume..." Emily began before Clarice could elbow her
in the ribs. "We're glad you rocked up!" she told their host. "We were
wondering how we'd get clear of those wankers."
"May I ask how you came to be aboard their prize?" asked Fuller.
"Their prize?" Clarice said indignantly. "That tub was ours first! Our aunt
was salvaging it, fair dinkum, when they came along and nicked it."
"I suppose I owe your aunt an apology for sinking the vessel," mused Fuller.
"I shall have to make this up to her. Do you have any appraisal of its
While they were thinking of an answer, a radioman appeared and handed their
host a message. He read it and frowned, like a man forced to resort to
some unwanted prevarication.
"I'd hoped to convey you directly to Darwin, but it seems we must make haste
to the Dutch East Indies to... deal with another pirate," he told them. "I
have no wish to inconvenience you with a wait while we pursue the fellows,
so I shall drop you off in Kupang. The Foreign Office maintains a
representative there. You should have no trouble getting back to
Next week: Follow That Submarine!...
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