The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 537: We Hope That You Enjoyed Your Visit

Hijacking the L-103

Iverson stared at trio ahead. "Is that who I think it is?" he asked.

The three women -- a blonde and brunette wearing fashions more suitable for the dance floor than the jungle, accompanied by a third Iverson remembered all too well -- turned and stared back. They seemed every bit as surprised as he was.

"Bonzer!" said Emily. "It's Iverson, Sarah, and Jenkins! What are you doing here?"

"Captain Everett sent us to find you," said Iverson. "What's Natasha doing here?"

"She was helping us escape... until those nongs started a blue," said Clarice. "She gestured at the fields to the north and east, where the British Union was driving the Japanese nationalists back toward the Governor's mansion. The fighting remained fierce, but the outcome was no longer in doubt. "How'd you get to the island?" she asked hopefully. "Can you give us a lift?"

"We deployed on the launch, but it had to return to the ship lest it be spotted. It will take several hours to call it back."

Beside the two Aussies, Natasha frowned. "We may not have that much time," she warned. "The British Union is winning the battle here. They'll have taken control of the defenses by then."

Iverson noticed the look Sarah was giving Natasha and realized he might have another battle on his hands if he didn't act quickly. He pointed north, where the L-103 rode from her mooring mast. "It's a pity we don't have enough people to crew that ship or we could use it to escape."

Clarice and Emily exchanged glances. "We know where you can find a crew," said Emily. "They're in that stockade ahead of us."

Iverson studied the prison camp. It was guarded by a double row of barbed wire and four watchtowers. The latter were unmanned, their Japanese crews withdrawn to aid the defense, but three Englishmen guarded the gate with rifles at port arms.

"It could be a bit of a trick getting past that lot," said Iverson. With battle still raging to the east, the sentries were on the alert.

"This isn't necessarily the case," Jenkins observed. "They can hardly be aware of our presence on this island. If they're approached by a party of their countrymen, they'll naturally assume these to be allies."

Iverson considered this proposal. The Royal Navy had a reputation for audacity that the Airship Service felt it important to improve upon. "Let's give it a go."

The guards moved to raise their rifles as Iverson and the others approached, then relaxed when they saw that two of the newcomers were quite obviously English.

"'Ey," said one. "What are ye at 'ere?"

"We're taking these ladies to safety until the fighting is over," Iverson explained. "I trust that this area is secure."

"Aye," said the guard, "but why is that lady carryin' a spear?"

Sarah glanced down at the weapon as if puzzled to find it in her hands, then rapped the man on the head with the butt. Iverson and Jenkins took this opportunity to lay their adversaries low as well.

"It's a stroke of luck there were only three of them," Jenkins observed as they dragged the unconscious bodies out of sight.

"I'll take all the luck I can get," Iverson replied.

"That's a wise attitude," Natasha observed.

Jenkins made short work of the lock on the door to the barracks and soon they were swinging it open to reveal a long room with a row of bunks down the center. The occupants were peering out the barred windows to north in an effort to determine what was going outside. An older man turned to face them. Stocky and capable-looking, he was every inch the commercial airship captain.

"Why, it is the two frauleins from Australia!" he exclaimed. "But who are these people with you?"

"G'day Captain Krugman," said Emily. "These are our mates Iverson, Jenkins, Sarah, and Natasha."

"Gutentag," Krugman said to Iverson. "From your uniform, I see that you are an airship officer. Is your ship here?"

"Not at the moment," Iverson admitted, "but yours is. We have a proposal..."

Their luck continued to hold as they crossed the field. Three of the Germans had taken the guards' uniforms and rifles to maintain the pretense they were marching the others to some new location, but the British Union's attention seemed concentrated on the Governor's mansion, where the Japanese nationalists were making their final stand -- whether to defend the place or take its occupant as a hostage was impossible to tell from this distance.

A sentry stood at the foot of the mast, but went down before he could finish his challenge. The small mooring watch the British had placed aboard the L-103 posed little more difficulty and soon the vessel was theirs. Iverson, Sarah, and Jenkins squeezed into the control car along with Krugman and his bridge crew as the Germans prepared to lift ship.

"Our hosts were kind enough to resupply the ship," said Krugman. "They have left us with 80% hydrogen, 20,300 kg ballast, 6200 litres of fuel."

"They've also left an obstacle," said Sarah, pointing to the gun emplacement to the north of the field. Now that they were sure of their victory, the British had sent a crew back to man it.

"Could we use one of your new weapons against it?" Jenkins asked Krugman.

The German shook his head. "This is is a cargo ship, not a warship. Even if they were unpacked from their crates, we would not have the fittings to release them."

Iverson thought back to a day at Cairns he preferred not to remember. "This might not be necessary," he said cautiously.

Clement turned in surprise at the sound of the diesels. Behind them, the captured airship was starting its engines. "What's that all about?" he asked Peters. "It looks like they're lifting ship."

"I didn't hear anything about that.," said the gun captain. "Get on the wire to headquarters and find out who gave the order!"

Clement made the call and frowned. "No one did. The Japanese must be trying to hijack it. We're ordered us to bring the vessel down."

Peters had already given the command. Beside him, his crew loaded a shell into the 77, closed the breech, and began cranking the the elevation and train wheels to bring the cannon to bear. By now, the airship had dropped its mooring and was climbing on a course that would take it directly overhead.

"That was a bad choice of headings," Peters announced smugly. It would make for an easy shot.

Engines thundered above them as the gunners prepared to fire. Something else thundered as well. Then a ton of ballast water plummeted onto their position, sweeping the crew from their stations and knocking the cannon askew on its mounts.

Clement struggled to his feet in time to see the airship vanish to the north. That, he thought, was a bad bit of luck.

The L-103 rendezvoused with the Flying Cloud at Norfolk Island. As soon as she saw Everett, Clarice gave the captain a kiss. "You sent Iverson to rescue us!" she said witha smile.

For once, Everett was temporarily at a loss for words. "I felt he would benefit from the experience," he said at last.

She grinned. "Dinki di!"

Seeking safer ground, Everett turned to Captain Krugman. "Thank you for your assistance in this affair. I understand that you may have other loyalties, but you are welcome to accompany us to Cairns."

The German met his gaze. "That loyalty was forced upon us by circumstance. Our circumstances have changed. We will accept your invitation.".

Next week: Taking Stock...

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