The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 401: Unwanted Interference

Scott of the Yard's badge

Everett waited patiently while Michaelson shuffled through some paperwork. His face gave no sign of his thoughts. The senior captain had been going to some lengths to make their lives unpleasant, but this was hardly a novelty. There was no need to let the man know how well he'd succeeded.

At last Michaelson deigned to acknowledge the presence of his subordinates. "I trust you and your crew have found this past week edifying," he remarked lightly.

"Quite," said Everett. It had not been a pleasant week. Iverson and Murdock still labored on some punitive maintenance tasks, Jenkins had been set to work in the archives, and MacKiernan had spent it compiling a summary of the station's library of ancient charts -- a sorry misuse of his navigational skills. Everett had been placed in charge of training flights. This shot might have missed its mark, for Everett enjoyed teaching, watching other's skills blossom under his guidance, but one rule of the game was that you didn't let your opponent know he'd lost.

"Have we learned anything noteworthy during this time, sir?" he asked Michaelson.

The senior captain seemed unfazed by the implied challenge. "Not yet, but it's only a matter of time until we do. The German nationalists have gone to the ground after their coup. They'll have taken their prize to whatever secret air station they used as a base for the L-137 while they recruit a new crew from Europe. There is every reason to believe we'll be able to track some of these people as they arrive in the Pacific."

Everett nodded. In addition to the Admiralty, Michaelson would be calling on his contacts in German Naval Intelligence. How had this latter arrangement come about, he wondered? To whom did the senior captain owe his allegiance?

"What about masters of the mysterious cruiser?" asked MacKiernan.

"They also have vanished from view," said Michaelson, "but they've left us an important clue regarding their plans. The American shipping line will be sending as a curriculum vitae for this passenger the fellows kidnapped. It seems he's a scientist of some sort."

"A scientist," mused Jenkins. "Could he be another player like Karlov?"

"This seems unlikely," said Michaelson. "He's more likely to be a pawn with which the Japanese nationalists hope to recover the secret of the Ujelang Device."

"Have we learned anything more from the model we recovered?" asked the signalman.

"The mechanism seems simple enough. It's an instrument to assemble some critical volume of special material as quickly as possible. The secret has something to do with the material itself -- this `uraninite' ore that keeps cropping up in association with the Device. It seems this must be prepared in some way to concentrate some essential principle."

"Could Karlov know how to do this?" asked Jenkins.

"I suspect he may be the only one who knows," said Michaelson. "The question becomes how much information he left behind, and why?"

Fletcher chose that moment to arrive with a message. Michaelson unfolded the flimsy, read its contents, and frowned. Everett felt a twinge of apprehension. The news must have been bad if the senior captain made no effort hide his displeasure.

"Admiral Wentworth's office is unhappy with the way they've been handling matters," Michaelson told his audience. "He's sending an investigator to look into the kidnapping. The man will be arriving on the afternoon flight from Sydney."


They adjourned to the field to await the investigator's arrival. There seemed little point in making plans until they knew what they'd have to deal with. Soon they spotted a Wollesely class courier approaching from the south. The Wolleselys were one of Barnes Wallis' earliest designs -- a trim streamlined shape that bore the mark of the master -- but the sight brought them no joy. What was this one bringing them, they wondered?

The mooring operation went unusually smoothly. The Wolleselys' small size made them easy to handle, and it seemed the captain of this one felt some need for additional precision. In a very short time, the vessel had been brought down, walked to the mast, and riggers were securing the bow fitting. There was a brief pause while the accommodation ladder was lowered -- this process was hidden from the ground -- then the lift was making its descent. The door slid open and their visitor emerged.

His suit must have come straight from Savoy Row -- a cut so severe it might almost have been a uniform. His hair was immaculately coiffed, his choice of accessories impeccable, and he carried himself in a way that made mere ramrods look bent and crocked by comparison. He might have been only a civilian, outside the chain of command, but he bore himself like someone who knew that his every demand would be backed by some higher authority. Everett had noted this attitude before in certain schoolteachers, policemen, and the more unfortunate class of cleric. This, he thought, does not bode well.

The man glanced around like some anthropologist studying the quaint native costumes, then gave Michaelson the most cursory of nods. "I'm Inspector Daniel M. Scott: Scott of the Yard!" he announced. "I take it you're Captain Michaelson."

"You are correct," said the senior captain. His manner also did not bode well for the future.

The inspector handed him a folder. The man's gestures were crisp and precise, as if they'd been drilled. "I've been sent to get to the bottom of this matter," he told Michaelson. "The Admiral's office has instructed you to give me every cooperation. You'll find your orders here. As soon as you're prepared, I'd like a briefing on what you've discovered."

The man gave them a nod that clearly did not suggest he regarded them as equals. Then he pivoted neatly on his heels and marched off toward the visiting officers' accommodations, followed by a servant. The airmen stood with open mouths, watching him depart.

Michaelson was the first to recover. "This is an unfortunate development," he observed.

"I daresay," Everett ventured. There was little point in rejoicing at an adversary's discomfiture when that discomfiture might easily become your own. No one else spoke for a moment.

At last the senior captain shrugged. "We can console ourselves with the thought that matters are unlikely to get worse," he said. "What else could go wrong today?"

The answer arrived in the form of a bicycle messenger. The man braked to a stop, dismounted, and gave Michaelson an apprehensive salute. "Excuse me, sir," he announced. "It appears there has been some trouble at the motor pool."

Next week: My Previous Visit Was So Much Fun I Just Had To Return...

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