The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 504: Just a Minor Annoyance

Great Cthulhu rising above the Cairns Royal Air Station

Captain Michaelson sat at his desk, reviewing the month's department reports. It was well past midnight at the Cairns Royal Air Station, and dawn was still two hours away, but paperwork knew no rest. He glanced up in irritation as Fenwick knocked on his door. "What is it?" he snapped.

The aide accepted the reprimand without flinching. He was learning. "We've received a wire from the American squadron headquarters in Sunnyvale," he replied. "It appears that a commercial flight to New Zealand, N-98 The Spirit of Portland, has gone missing. Their last transmission placed them near 28 47 S 160 46 W."

Michaelson set down his pen and rose to check the chart that hung from the wall. "When did this occur?"

"Six hours ago. That would have been just after midnight, local time. Do you think the Japanese nationalists on Sarah's Island were involved?"

"No," Michaelson decided, "that's much too far to the west. I imagine the Americans have some mechanical trouble and are drifting without engines or power while they wait for rescue."

"Shall I order McKiernan to the scene?" asked Fenwick.

Michaelson shook his head. "His Wolseley is unlikely to have enough consumables. The order would only serve to alert our Japanese friends to his presence. Even if he could make the flight, there's little he could do until daylight. I imagine the USN has already sent a vessel from Pago Pago to begin a search. Let us visit the wireless station to learn how this is proceeding."

The grounds were quiet as the two men strode across the field. The clouds had drawn away -- unusual during the rainy season -- and the moon hung low in the west. Beneath it, Michaelson noticed a bonfire flickering in the hills.

"I take it our guest workers are still at it," he remarked to Fenwick. "Did you discover what this is about?"

The aide gave a tentative nod. "These islanders seem to believe the stars are `right' for some noteworthy event. Their dialect is difficult to interpret, so it's difficult to determine whether this involves the arrival of a great ship filled with cargo, the return of an evil spirit from some ancient city lost beneath the waves, or the arrival of some great ship filled with cargo belonging to an evil spirit from some ancient city lost beneath the waves."

"They're fortunate to see the stars at all this time of year," Michaelson remarked. "We'll leave them to their entertainment and see what Snider has for us."

The atmosphere in the wireless room was calm and businesslike, as befit an establishment of the Crown. Lieutenant Snider stood next to one of the operators, listening in on a spare headphone. He looked up as Michaelson entered.

"I take it you've come about the Americans, sir?" he asked.

"You are correct," Michaelson admitted. "Has there been any word from Pago Pago?"

"They've sent a Los Angeles class vessel to investigate. They should be approaching the location now."

Michaelson nodded in approval at the Americans' choice. The Los Angeles class had a long and successful history. They might not have been the fastest or most powerful vessels, but their reliability was proverbial, and they had long legs. "Put the signal on the speaker," he ordered.

Snider nodded to the signalman. As tubes warmed up, a voice sounded from the amplifier.

"...ZR-57 Burbank, ZR-57 Burbank, this is NAS Pago Pago. What is the progress of your search?"

"NAS Pago Pago, ZR-57 Burbank. We haven't spotted the missing ship, but there's a new island at this location. It must have just risen from the sea."

Fenwick raised an eyebrow. "Do you think this could this have any connection with the missing vessel, sir?" he asked Michaelson.

The senior captain made a dismissive gesture. "We shouldn't be too quick to see significance in what might just be a coincidence. These geological upheavals happen all the time."

The operator at NAS Pago Pago seemed to be thinking along the same lines as Fenwick. "Do you see anything to suggest the N-98 went down on this island?" he asked,

"Negative," came the reply, "but it's clear the place was once inhabited. It's a coastline of mingled mud and ooze, and weedy cyclopean masonry."

"Understand you have some weedy cyclopean masonry. Could this have been some form of air station?"

"Negative, it seems to be the remains of a city. Something about its geometry is abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours. We're overflying it now."

Fenwick frowned. "Didn't Captain Everett observe structures with unusual geometry at several of the sites he's investigated?"

"It does seem to be common in this part of the world," said Michaelson. "Perhaps the fellows who built this city copied some long-standing architectural tradition. Let's hear what these fellows on the Burbank have to say."

"We've spotted an enormous monolith ahead, composed of vast angles and surfaces too great to belong to anything right or proper of this earth," came the voice from the speaker. "One side looks almost like a titanic door. That's odd, some trick of the light makes it seem to be... Oh my god! It's..."

The transmission stopped abruptly. The signalman fiddled with his receiver, then looked up Snider. "I'm no longer getting a signal, sir," he told the lieutenant. "They must be having some trouble with their equipment."

"I wonder what that last bit was about," wondered Fenwick. "The man sounded perturbed."

"I wouldn't place too much significance on his outburst," said Michaelson. "These Colonials always tend to over-react to minor problems. Snider, see if Samoa is still in contact with the vessel."

The lieutenant glanced at the signalman, who reached for his microphone. "NAS Pago Pago, NAS Pago Pago, this is RAS Cairns. We've been monitoring your QSO with ZR-57 Burbank. Are you still in contact with your vessel?"

"Negative, RAS Cairns," came the reply "They seem to have dropped off the air. We're trying to reestablish... That's odd, we just had a earth slight tremor. I wonder if the volcano is acting up again. Hold while I check."

Over the speaker, the Englishmen heard shouts, screams, and calls of alarm. The operator came back on the air, his voice distorted by some terrible extreme of emotion.

"There is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorable lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order!" he cried. "A mountain walks or stumbles! God..."

Once again, the transmission stopped abruptly.

"I say," Fenwick remarked, "that didn't sound promising."

"They did seem to be experiencing some difficulties," said Michaelson. "Snider, contact USN Pacific Squadron headquarters at NAS Sunnyvale to determine if they know what's going on."

The lieutenant nodded to his underling. The signalman worked his key while he adjusted his dial to scan through the frequencies. After a moment he looked up. "They aren't answering my calls," he reported, "but I am receiving a general broadcast from NAS Sunnyvale relayed through Howland Island. Shall I put this on the speaker?"

"Please do," said Michaelson.

"...also destroyed by the earthquake," came a voice from the set. "Colonel Lewis reports that the creatures have overwhelmed defenders at Redwood City. He's falling back to establish a defensive line at Dumbarton Point until we can..." The voice paused. In the background, the Englishmen heard gunfire, followed by the sound of collapsing masonry. "Oh no! They're here! They're..."

There was a loud crashing noise, followed by silence.

Fenwick frowned, then glanced at his superior. "I believe I detect a pattern here, sir" he remarked apprehensively.

"Let us hope it is not too widespread," said Michaelson. "Mister Snider, see if there's any mention of this affair on the news."

The lieutenant led them to the end of the room, where several off-duty radiomen were already clustered around the big commercial set. The calm voice of BBC World Service, Sydney, came from the speaker.

" Washington DC, the world collapsed early Sunday morning. An army of these creatures have jumped the barricades and are attacking from the sea. The government has been moved to Pittsburgh, while the army hopes to hold a line at the Appalachians.

"In Germany, sappers are digging a system of trenches from Bremen to Hamburg while Krupp Arms ships batteries of their 420mm 14L/12 light naval cannon to deal with the invaders. In France, Paris has been overrun by massive congeries of formless protoplasm that emerged from the Seine. In a series of brave charges reminiscent of the Marne, French infantry held the creatures off while the government and citizens were evacuated to Limoges.

"There is still no word from Italy, Russia, or Turkey. The last message from our correspondent in Rome was quest non è buono. Farther to the east, we've received reports that a giant monster is destroying Tokyo. We've contacted our office there for clarification.

"Meanwhile, England remains an island of order. The King has urged Britons to keep calm and carry on while our constabulary rounds up these piscine hooligans and sends them packing. The Home Office expects to see this accomplished by mid-week."

Michaelson, Fenwick, and Snider listened to the broadcast with varying degrees of interest, concern, and appreciation of the work of a fellow professional. "It appears we may have a busy time ahead," Michaelson remarked.

"Quite," said Fenwick. "At least Australia hasn't been attacked,"

"I wouldn't be so sure of that," said Snider. The lieutenant pointed out the window, where some great cosmic entity, miles high, was rising from the waters of the Coral Sea. Lightning played about its features as flocks of lesser beings wheeled through the skies below it. As they watched, it began to stride toward shore, shaking the ground beneath its feet.

Fenwick stared at the apparition in horror. "Sir?" he asked Michaelson, "Whatever should we do with it?"

"Whatever should we do with it, sir?" asked Fenwick.

Michaelson set down the manuscript and gave the pages a tap. "It's comparatively imaginative, as such things go, but it may not be suitable for presentation at this month's Australia Day festivities. Contact the author -- some Greek fellow, as I recall -- and inform him that it doesn't meet our requirements."

"Shall I add anything else, sir?"

The senior captain thought this over. There was no point in alienating writers. Someday one might feature him in a story. "Yes," he decided. "Advise him that he might wish to consider offering it to the American audience as one of their famous `April Fools' jokes."

Next week: His Ship Should Be Easy To Find...

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