The World of the Flying Cloud
History, People, Places, Ships, and FAQs
The story of the Flying Cloud, His Majesty's Airship R505, takes
place in a world that might have been ours, had history taken a slightly
different path. Some of these differences, such as the earlier end to the
Great War and the development of airships in preference to aeroplanes, are
obvious. Others, such as the early creation of animated ducks, are more
subtle. These pages provide some background about the history, places, and
people of this world, and the ways it differs from ours. They also
describe some of the technologies, such as airships, that have shaped it.
These pages were created for you, Noble Readers, to provide answers to some
of your questions. They will change and evolve -- sometimes dramatically --
as I add more essays, graphics, and material, and make changes to the server,
so be sure to check back from time to time. And if you have any questions,
observations, ideas, or suggestions, feel free to post a comment on the
Flying Wire blog
or send me an
email. In particular, the
Royal Naval Airship Service welcomes any and all additions to the famous
Points of Departure List.
Last revision: 31 October 2016
Woodrow Wilson's Peace
Woodrow Wilson at his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Stockholm 1917
(New York Tribune)
By 1916, the world had been at war for two long terrible years.
Fighting stretched from the jungles of Africa to the islands of the Pacific,
had died on the battlefields of Ypres, Gallipoli, Verdun, and the Somme.
No one knew when the nightmare would end.
The German triumph at Tannenberg
and British victory at Jutland had done nothing to shorten the war. Some
pessimists predicted it might last until 1918, leaving Europe devastated,
with scars that would take generations to heal.
Alone among the Great Powers, America remained neutral. Protected by two
oceans, the United States was able to resist involvement with either side.
From this privileged position, President Woodrow Wilson worked tirelessly to
mediate an end to the conflict. It was a thankless task. The belligerents,
embittered by their sacrifices, emboldened or dismayed by the changing tides
of war, were unwilling to entertain any alternative short of total victory.
But as 1916 drew to a close two events happened to tilt matters in President
The first was the failure of the summer's offensives. As the stalemates of
Verdun and the Sommes ground to their bloody conclusions, responsible parties
on all sides realized that a military victory was no longer possible. The
second was the death of Germany's Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Arthur
Zimmerman, in an automobile accident that September. His replacement, the
industrialist Richard von Kuhlman, was a diplomat and pragmatist who was
willing to make compromises his more militant predecessor might have
disdained. His secret communiqué to American Secretary of State Robert
Lansing -- the so-called Kuhlman Telegram -- prompted a flurry of
negotiations between the two men and their English and French counterparts,
Sir Edward Grey (later Viscount Grey of Falloden) and Rene Viviani, who'd
replaced the ardently anti-German Theophile Delcasse as France's Foreign
These negotiations led to the Armistice of 11 November 1916, a document that
will forever be known as Woodrow Wilson's Peace. Under its terms,
the belligerents were to terminate hostilities six hours after signature and
return as expediently as possible to their pre-War borders. Armies were
allowed to withdraw in good order, with all of their arms and equipment,
with penalties for any units that despoiled the territory through which they
retreated. Cases where it was no longer possible to restore the pre-War
state of affairs, such as Germany's West African colonies and parts of the
former Russian, Austria-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires, were to be resolved
by international adjudication. The fates of the disputed former French
provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were to be decided by plebiscites to be held
among their people in 1927.
Not everyone was happy with the settlement. The governments of Austria,
Turkey, and Italy felt, quite rightly, that their interests had been
neglected in favor of England, Germany, and France. The Japanese, who had
benefited from the conflict, were reluctant to return some of the
territories they'd taken in the Pacific. In Germany and France,
nationalists felt they'd been betrayed, and extremist groups in both
countries denounced what they termed `appeasement'. But overall,
particularly among the soldiers in the trenches, the Peace was greeted with
a mixture of gratitude and disbelief. Airman James Morris described the
moment in his memoir, Silence Falls Over the Western Front.
"The Armistice was supposed to take at 1100 hours on the morning of 11
November. As the moment approached, Lieutenant-Commander Michaelson ordered
our ship out on patrol. It was stiff work, walking Number 23 from her shed
out into the chill, and those old Rolls-Royce engines were the very devil to
get started on cold winter morning. But at last we were aloft and headed
toward the front.
"I always felt a shiver when I looked down on the lines. No trace of green
remained -- everything had been ground into poisonous hues of grey and brown
by the ceaseless pounding of shells. Villages, forests, and fields, were
gone, with nothing left except an angle in the dirt that might have been a
foundation, shattered stumps of trees, and an endless sea of craters. Even
at this late hour, fighting still continued, and we could see flashes of
light from the trenches below where troops were firing at us.
"At the eleventh hour, the flashes ceased. From 6000' above the battlefield
we could feel the hush as the terrible guns fell silent. Below us, haggard
faces peered out from the trenches. Slowly, disbelievingly, they began to
emerge, taking timid steps into the world of the sun. They lay down their
weapons and began to move, stumbling across the ruined terrain, toward the
men they'd been trying to kill just a few minutes before. From the air it
was impossible to tell them apart -- two ragged lines of figures covered with
dirt and streaked with mud. As we watched, the lines met and mingled,
exchanging handshakes, embraces, and one imagines a few tears."
The World After the War
The world greeted the Peace with relief and celebration. No one wanted to
imagine what might have happened had the War continued another two years --
it might have been a disaster from which Europe could never have recovered.
Celebration was followed by an outburst of prosperity, as industry, which
had ramped up to meet the demands of wartime production, was suddenly
released to take advantage of the opportunities of peacetime. It was a
time of plenty, as returning soldiers provided a ready labor force as well
as a ready market for an unprecedented period of expansion.
It was also an unprecedented time of change.
The Austria-Hungarian Empire was gone forever, dismantled by the Treaty of
Trianon (1918) into a collection of independent nations with no desire to
be ruled by a central authority. The Ottomans had fared even worse,
ceding most of their possessions to Britain under the Mandate of
Palestine in 1917. In Russia, the Czarist government -- aging, decadent,
discredited by its many failures during the War -- was swept aside by the
October Revolution that placed Leon Trotsky in power.
In Germany the transformation was more subtle. The Kaiser remained as head
of a constitutional monarchy, but his power and will had been broken by the
War, Crown Prince Wilhelm was neither willing nor prepared to take his
place, and power devolved to a succession of Chancellors, beginning with
Bethmann-Hollweg. Across the Rhine, they faced a succession of French
adversaries, beginning with the wily George Clemanceau.
One big cipher was the Sleeping Giant, America. This nation had stirred in
its sleep toward the end of the War, giving a barest hint of what it might
do if awake, and then returned to its slumber. What might happen if it woke
fully, no one could say. Another cipher was Japan. Its armies had moved
with unexpected efficiency and skill to capture German colonies during the
War. The Japanese had returned these under duress, but the skill and
efficiency remained, along with a dangerous ambition.
Some people worried about the future, for the Armistice had left many
questions unresolved. For all of its success, it was merely a cease-fire,
not a formal treaty of peace. Hostilities might have ended, but some of the
belligerents -- most notably France and Germany -- were still technically in
a state of war. The Peace might have required nations to return to their
pre-War boundaries, but in some cases this was no longer possible because the
nations involved no longer existed. In other cases, such as the disposition
of Alsace and Lorraine, those boundaries were themselves a source of
contention. This particular issue was supposed to be resolved by a
plebiscite in 1927, but no one knew what France or Germany might do if they
were unhappy with the outcome.
There were also the disaffected. On both sides of the Rhine, ardent
nationalists felt they'd been betrayed by their own governments, and some
even advocated a return to hostilities. In Russia, Trotsky's
revolutionaries sought to extend the dubious 'benefits' of communism to
other nations. And in every nation, embittered veterans, unable to adapt to
a world at peace, provided ready fodder for extremists.
The Roaring Twenties
The decade the followed the War was a time of unprecedented growth. Spurred
by new technologies, such as wireless, the automobile, and advances in
farming, mining, and manufacturing, fueled by exciting innovations in
finance, the world's economies grew by leaps and bounds. This was the
setting for an era unlike any before: the 'Roaring Twenties'.
The Twenties were a time of prosperity. Freed from the shadow of war,
people were free to become wealthy, which they did in large numbers,
investing in stocks, inventing new technologies and new careers, and
bursting the confines of the old social order. Even the poorest did well,
and the richest did very well indeed.
It was an era of innovation, where Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in
physics for his work on electromagnetic radiation while D. H. Lawrence
shocked the world with his controversial novel Women in Love. In
nightclubs, flappers and their beaus swung to the jazz of Count Basie, Duke
Ellington, and Lois Armstrong. In sports, Babe Ruth broke the home run
record. In academia, Hedigger reinterpreted Western philosophy
with Being and Time. In cinema, Rudolf Valentino set women's
hearts athrob in The Sheik while Charlie Chaplin made the whole
world laugh with his silent comedies.
The Twenties were a time of massive social change. At its root lay a
profound change in people's attitude toward Authority. Prior to 1914,
people accepted authority without hesitation, following their leaders
with unquestioning respect. But the War had exposed those leaders as men
like themselves, with human foibles and failures, and a dangerously human
incompetence. As some pundits put it, "God died in the trenches." In the
vacuum that this left, people had to learn to think for themselves -- a
difficult task, but one that most handled well.
Among these changes was the new position of women. Women had joined the
work force in large numbers to run their countries while their men were
away at war. Many continued to work after the War was over. With salaries
came freedom and demands for equality. In some of the more progressive
nations, such as Austria, Denmark, England, Germany, and Hungary women even
demanded, and won, the right to vote -- America followed their lead in 1920
when Congress ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. Women's new-found freedom
extended to their personal lives as well, in ways that somehow failed to
bring about any of the disasters that conservative critics and religious
The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was best summed up by financier Harold
Vincent in his commencement address at Wheelman College.
These past ten years have been a time of optimism, when anything seems
possible. Science and industry run at full blast, turning out a
never-ending stream of wonders. The miracle of electricity powers our
factories, lights our homes, preserves and cooks our food. Modern medicine
has triumphed over age-old killers such as diptheria and cholera. Fleets of
airships link the nations of the world, traveling in hours distances that
might have required days by ship or train. Commercial radio brings music
and entertainment to everyman's home, and may soon transmit pictures as
How long can this astounding progress continue? A few nay-sayers suggest
that financial markets may come under pressure in the unlikely event of
some unforeseen strain on the banking system. But most intelligent people
agree that in our New Economy, the old rules no longer apply, and
prosperity will continue forever!
Sarah's island is part of the New Caledonia chain -- an archipelago of half
a dozen large islands and numerous smaller ones that lies 900 nautical
miles east of Australia and a similar distance north of New Zealand. The
nearest major island groups are Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomons to the
north. New Caledonia is often subdivided into two parts: the main island,
Grande Terre, with its satellite islands, and the Loyalty Islands to the
east. Sarah's island is considered part of the former, and lies
approximately 100 miles southeast of Grande Terre at Latitude 22 36' S,
Longitude 168 57' E.
Geography, Geology, and Climate
Sarah's island is roughly diamond-shaped, 10 miles long and 5 miles wide,
with its long axis running east-west. A chain of mountains runs along the
long axis, forming a central spine that rises up to 3500' above sea level.
The south coast of the island is rugged and inhospitable, with a row of
limestone cliffs, 50-200' tall, exposed to the prevailing wind and swell.
The north side is more clement, with lagoons, estuaries, and rich fields of
soil that provide a favorable environment for fishing and agriculture.
Like many islands in the New Caledonia chain, Sarah's island has a complex
geology that combines coral formations, sedimentary and igneous terrain,
and some metamorphic features. As a result, it has extensive mineral
deposits that would not be found on a typical Pacific atoll.
The island lies in the region of the southeast trade winds (the Tropic
of Capricorn), so its climate is tropical, with a dry season that lasts
from April to November and a rainy season that lasts from December to March.
Temperatures are moderate, ranging between 60 and 70 F during the dry season
and reaching as high as 80 F during the wet. Rainfall averages 60" per
year. The central mountain range is not extensive enough to produce a
significant rain shadow, so conditions are fairly uniform across the island,
though higher elevations do tend to be slightly cooler and wetter. The
island can be subject to typhoons during the rainy season, but these are
rare. Local tradition also tells of a vast fire that swept the southern
half of the island at some time in the distant past, but in view of the
island's high precipitation levels, this legend is almost certainly
Population and Culture
Because the northern side of Sarah's island is so much more hospitable, most
of the population lives north of the central mountain range. They may
venture south to hunt, or in search of herbs and minerals that can't be
found elsewhere, but they do not establish permanent settlements on the far
side of the mountains, and parts of this region are considered
'tapu' or forbidden. The people themselves are the usual mixture
of Polynesian and Melanesian strains found elsewhere in New Caledonia --
the product of successive waves of colonization between 1500 BC and the
present -- but some ethnographers have identified the presence of an alien
element that either predates the first waves of colonization or arrived from
elsewhere. Certain words in the local vocabulary resemble elements of the
Finno-Ugric group. This has prompted K. Solovyov of the University
of Odessa to suggest that some ancestors of the present-day population may
have arrived from the Baltic. Most investigators dismiss this notion as
The political and social organization of the islanders is comparatively
unsophisticated, consisting of separate villages, each ruled by its own
chief. Tradition tells of a time in the distant past when the entire
population was unified into a single nation, but now each village is
independent, except for short-lived alliances forged by unusually powerful
leaders. Interaction with the rest of New Caledonia is minimal, for the
voyage to the island, against the prevailing trade winds, is regarded as
particularly difficult and dangerous. For this reason, it has never been
incorporated into the system of alliances that spans the other islands, and
its people are regarded as alien -- perhaps even supernatural -- in some of
the more rustic corners of the archipelago.
Legends and Prehistory
Like its inhabitants, the legends of Sarah's island contain a mixture of
Polynesian and Melanesian elements. The former include the mythical union
between sky and earth and a powerful god of the sea. The latter include a
number of origin myths -- not all consistent -- that describe how mankind
arose from the earth or originated in the heavens. There are also the usual
tales of elder gods who filtered down from the stars before the dawn of
recorded history, created mankind as a game or a joke, sank beneath the
waves, and will eventually return to destroy us. Scholars have noted a
similarity between these and Indo-European folktales, such as the original
Finno-Scandinavian versions of Jack and the Beanstalk and
Little Red Riding Hood. They are at a loss to explain this
Little is know of the prehistory of the island. The presence of ruins on
its southern half suggests an earlier period of habitation -- some have
suggested this may be the source of the alien element in the population --
but these hypothetical people, if they ever existed, have long since been
absorbed by later settlers. Since the south side of island is no longer
inhabited, these ruins have not been systematically investigated, so it is
not possible to formulate any meaningful hypothesis regarding their origin.
New Caledonia was first sighted by Europeans in 1774, when British explorer
James Cook sighted Grande Terre during his second great voyage of discovery.
The French took possession of the islands in 1853 as part of Napoleon III's
attempt to rival the British Empire. During the late 19th Century, attempts
were made to develop Sarah's island as a source of minerals -- most notably
nickel and chromium -- but difficulties of transport and the availability of
higher grade ore elsewhere brought these efforts to naught. From 1864
onwards, the French government used New Caledonia as a penal colony. This
practice officially came to an end in 1922, and the government denies rumors
that it may continue in remote parts of the archipelago.
At the time of the Flying Cloud's visit in the 1920s, Sarah's
island was a substantial body of land, with an area and population
comparable to that of a small English county. If you look at Google Earth
today, you will find an island at the same location, but this is a low
windswept rock, less than a mile across, with little vegetation and no
permanent inhabitants. What is the relationship between the two? Life is
full of mysteries...]
The Royal Naval Airship Service
The Royal Naval Airship Service was formed during the Great War to meet the
threat of German submarines and mines. Prior to the War, the Admiralty
scorned the effectiveness of these new underwater weapons. The loss of the
HMS Pathfinder, Aboukir, Houge, and
Cressy in the opening weeks of the conflict taught them the error
of their ways. In search of countermeasures, they turned to aerial
reconnaissance. Initial experiments were encouraging. Submarines and mines
that might have been invisible from surface ships were plainly visible from
the air. But the primitive seaplanes of the day lacked the range and
endurance needed to accompany a fleet, and England had little experience
with rigid airships, so the Navy was forced to rely upon blimps.
Dozens of these craft were built during the course of the conflict.
They scored several notable successes, such as the destruction of two
German U-boats in 1916 by the 'Coastal' Class ship, C-9. But blimps had
serious limitations. With top speeds of 40 MPH or less, they were simply
too slow for many missions, and it was not unknown for airmen to find
themselves traveling backwards, even with engines at full power,
in the kind of winds that prevailed in the North Sea.
Meanwhile, the German Army and Navy had been scoring successes with their
growing fleets of zeppelins. Their rigid structure and larger size made
these craft significantly more capable than blimps. Recognizing this fact,
the Admiralty commissioned Vickers to build a succession of rigid airships,
in imitation of their adversary.
Their first products, HMA 1 Mayfly and HMA 9,
were experimental vehicles with no practical utility, but by the end of the
year, they'd begun to produce vessels comparable to the smaller German
Several of these ships, including the HMA 23 -- a predecessor of the famous
R33 Class -- saw limited service on the Western Front during the final
months of the War.
The Great War demonstrated that aviation is here to stay. Different
nations have responded to this challenge in different ways. In Germany and
France, the airship arm is constituted as a separate service, the
Luftschiffwehrflotte and Service De L'Aviation,
respectively. The British, ever respectful of tradition, organize their
airship arms as branches of the regular Army and Navy. In the Army,
airships are used primarily as transports, but the Royal Naval Airship
Service functions in a variety of roles, ranging from reconnaissance and
patrol, to transport and communications, to bombing and anti-shipping
missions. It also serves the cause of diplomacy, carrying envoys and
showing the flag throughout the world, and the RNAS motto,
'Si Vis Pacem Pare Volatum',
has become a comfort, reassurance, and source of inspiration to subjects of
Plan and Technical Specifications for the Flying Cloud, R-505
The Flying Cloud, His Majesty's Airship R505, is a medium-sized
patrol vessel of 2.6 million cubic feet volume, comparable to America's
Los Angeles class or Germany's post-war L-71. Like all rigid
airships, she consists of a set of hydrogen-filled gas cells enclosed in a
streamlined duralumin frame covered with a fabric envelope. Propulsion is
provided by three engine cars fitted with 12-cylinder supercharged diesels.
Steering and control are accomplished through use of control fins mounted at
the tail of the ship, and by releasing hydrogen and ballast. The bridge is
located in a control car mounted beneath the hull near the bow while cargo
holds, fuel bunkers, and accommodations for the crew are located inside the
The Flying Cloud is a 'third generation' airship, with a fully
streamlined control car and hull and engines of high efficiency. In many
respects, she is unusually advanced, with features such as four-bladed
reversible propellers that would not ordinarily be found on a vessel of
this class. The vessel's origin remains a mystery. In appearance, she
resembles the Junior Vickers class: the smaller version of Barnes
Wallis's famous R100 that was commissioned in 1926. Her engines appear to
be based on a German design by Maybach. But there were no papers, flight
manuals, serial numbers, or builder's marks onboard to indicate where she
was made. For this reason, there is some uncertainty regarding the vessel's
performance and specifications. Approximate figures are provided below.
||Unknown, but resembles a Junior Vickers class
||Three 12-cylinder supercharged diesels, approx 800 hp each, manufacturer unknown
||2,788,000 cu ft
|Volume of gas cells:
||2,580,000 cu ft (100% inflation)
||2,193,000 cu ft (85% inflation)
|Main frame spacing:
|Number of gas cells:
|Max gross lift:
||175,493 lb (100% inflation)
||75,462 lb (100% inflation)
|Typical gross lift:
||149,169 lb (85% inflation)
||49,138 lb (85% inflation)
||37,731 lb (5,167 gal)
||17 regular, 67 max
||Unknown, in excess of 72 kt
||5,400' (85% inflation)
|Theoretical max alt:
||15,500' (57% inflation)
|Max range, stnd:
||10,314 nm (167 hrs)
|Max range, cruise:
||12,672 nm (244 hrs)
Points of Departure Between Captain Everett's World and Ours
The world of the Flying Cloud differs from our own in many ways,
some subtle and others profound. The table below lists some of the points
of departure we've identified. The Archives Department of the Royal Naval
Airship Service welcomes any and all additions to this list! Noteworthy
discoveries --- these must involve events that take place prior to or during
the time of the story -- will win one of the coveted
Precocious Animated Duck Awards!
Arthur Zimmermann, Germany's fire-breathing Foreign Minister, dies
in an automobile accident in September 1916. He is replaced by a
pragmatist, Richard von Kuhlman.
Zimmermann survives, and remains in office to send the infamous
telegram that brings America into the War on the side of the Allies.
American President Woodrow Wilson negotiates the armistice, Woodrow
Wilson's Peace, that brings the Great War to an end in November
The First World War drags on until 1918 at untold cost in human
suffering, ending in a settlement, the ill-conceived Treaty of
Versailles, that will ensure the start of another great conflict
a generation later.
Vladimir Lenin remains an obscure bookseller in Switzerland.
The Germans smuggle Lenin into Russia in an attempt to disrupt the
Imperial government. The results are somewhat more than they bargained
Woodrow Wilson receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending
the global conflict.
Woodrow Wilson commits American troops to fight in the global conflict.
Freed from the burden of war, the world's nations have the resources to
develop airships to their full potential.
Impoverished by war, the nations of the world forsake expensive airships
in favor of cheaper but less capable aeroplanes, which benefit from
two additional years of military development.
Two brilliant American artists, Bennet Flynn and Melrose ('Buck')
Stott, delight the world with their animated cartoons of zany
Cpl Flynn and Pfc Stott are killed during the Ludendorff Offensive in
1918. Because of this tragedy, Donald and Daffy must wait until 1934
and 1937, respectively.
Walther Müller and Hans Geiger perfect Geiger and Rutherfords's
design for a radiation detector to develop the Müller Counter
Hans Geiger and Walther Müller perfect Geiger and Rutherfords's
design for a radiation detector to develop the Geiger Counter
Frederick Urquhart, Administrator of Australia's Northern Territory,
Administrator Urquhart remains in office until 1926.
The North Australia Railroad completes the long-planned extension of the
line from Darwin to Birdum, originally proposed in 1918, to link Darwin
and Alice Springs.
In 2000, the Austral/Asia Rail Corporation completes the long-planned
extension of the line from Darwin to Birdum, originally proposed in
1918, to link Darwin and Alice Springs. ("Made a good fist of it.
Took a bit longer than we reckoned.")
Tokarev introduces the TT26 automatic pistol, based on a
Browning design, to replace the Russian Army's aging but venerable
Nagant 7-shot revolver. This is later replaced by the TT29.
In 1930, Tokarev introduces the TT30 automatic pistol, based on
a Browning design, to replace the Russian Army's aging but venerable
Nagant 7-shot revolver. This is later replaced by the TT33.
Poverty and disease are eradicated, the world is at peace, robots do all
the work, humanity has learned to live in harmony with its environment,
and science has discovered a simple inexpensive treatment that will
promote healing, raise intelligence, restore youth, confer immortality,
make every man handsome, and make every woman beautiful. Also... we
have Flying Cars!
Well, at least life is interesting.
Cast of Characters
It has been said that a ship is like a story, touching many different lives
as it travels across the world. This is true of airships as well. Below
is a list of some of the people who've played parts in the ongoing story of
the His Magesty's Airship R-505, the Flying Cloud.
Current and Former Crew
Captain Roland P. Everett, Commander of the Flying Cloud.
Born in 1886 in a quiet rural shire in southern England, Everett received
his commision in 1908. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Commamnder after
serving in the Dardanelles campaign and commanded a destroyer in the North
Sea during final months of the War. After the Peace, Everett transferred to
the Royal Naval Airship Service, where he made Captain in 1923 at the
comparatively young age of 37. In 1924, he was given command of a fleet
patrol vessel: His Majesty's Airship R-212, the Flying Lady.
Unlike most Royal Navy officers, Everett received his education from a
public school rather than the Naval College. This may account for his
unusual career path, as well as some of his eccentricities.
Ensign Jenkins, Ship's Signalman. As a member of the Royal Navy's
Signal Corps, Jenkins served as Everett's aide during the final months of
the War and again in the RNAS. He was also Fleet bareknuckle champion at
Liverpool. His other talents remain a mystery, for members of the Signal
Corps have secrets that are not for such as you and I to know.
Lieutenant-Commander Fergus MacKiernan, Executive Officer. Born near
Belfast in 1896, MacKiernan emigrated from Northern Ireland in 1910 to enter
Dartmouth Naval College at the traditional age of 14. He received his
commission towards the end of the War and transferred to the RNAS after the
Peace. He and Abercrombie met several years ago, and the two men have been
involved in a friendly rivalry ever since.
Warrant Officer Dougal Abercrombie, Chief Rigger of the Flying
Cloud. Born in some nameless village in the Scottish Highlands in
1894, Abercrombie lied about his age to join the Royal Navy in 1908. He
served on a succession of His Majesty's warships throughout the world before
he transferred to the RNAS after the Peace.
Lieutenant John Iverson, junior flight officer. Born in 1905,
Iverson was a child during the War. He entered the Naval College in 1918,
joined the RNAS immediately after graduation, and passed for Lieutenant at
the age of 21, shortly before this story began. Iverson's sheltered
upbringing has left him ill-prepared to deal with some of the things he has
encountered in the Pacific... such as Sarah.
Sarah, civilian specialist and acting ballast officer. Born 1907 in
the archipelago of New Caledonia, Sarah is the daughter of a native chief
who abandoned the worship of the Elder Gods to become an agnostic and a
Presbyterian missionary who found ways to reconcile the beliefs of her faith
with some of the more alarming aspects of local cuisine. Well-educated,
with a flawless accent and the finest English manners, Sarah is also a
Sergeant Winifred J. Davies, Gunner. A career marine, Davies was
born in 1886, the same year as Captain Everett. He served with Everett in
the Dardanelles campaign, and met the Captain again in the Pacific. Like
Everett, he has no illusions whatsoever about war.
Peter Fleming, Airman. Age 21. A native of Australia, Peter Fleming
is also a skilled pilot of Lilienthal gliders, and was New South Wales
regional Champion in 1924. He conspired with Davies to smuggle his glider
aboard the Flying Lady. Since then, it has come in handy several
Edward Wallace, Airman. Age 27. A native of London's East End,
Wallace has encountered the seamier side of human life. In the process, he
also encountered the judge who gave him a choice between prison and joining
the Royal Navy. He chose prison, but was expelled to the Navy for bad
Rashid, Airman. Born in 1898 in the Zagros Mountains, Rashid has
never revealed why he left his native Persia to join the Royal Navy. Soft-
spoken, dark of demeanour and spirit, Rashid is also a highly skilled
Pierre, civilian specialist and acting Pursor. Age, late 30s to
early 40s? Pierre was an independant businessman who found himself taking
an unplanned sabatical on Sarah's Island as a 'guest' of the French
government. Next time he'll be more careful about how he disposes of those
Iwamoto, civilian specialist and acting Chief Engineer. Age,
mid-30s? Everett and his men found Iwamoto inside the Number Two Engine
Car overhauling an injector pump after they took the Flying Cloud
from the renegade German nationalists who were the vessels original owners.
No one is quite sure what a Japanese engineer was doing aboard a German
airship, since the two countries were at odds during the War, and Iwamoto
has never volunteered an explanation.
Fletcher Loris, Airman. An experienced airman and former athelete
who joined the ship in Cairns. At one time, Loris seemed to be Iverson's
rival for Sarah's affections. He may also be the only person aboard His
Majesty's Airship R-505 who has ever kissed an armadillo.
Clarice and Emily, civilian specialists and acting ballast officers.
Bored with their lives as file clerks in Darwin, Clarice Blaine and Emily
Wilcox persuaded Captain Everett to take them aboard the Flying
Cloud in exchange for information they'd discovered about the German
nationalists. Everett has had mixed feelings about this bargain.
Nathan Cameron, Engineer's Mate. An English airman who joined the
ship in Cairns. He doesn't drink on duty, but once he's in port, he can
really tie one on.
Angus Crowley, Mechanic. A Scottish airman who joined the ship in
Cairns. He only drinks when someone drops an exhaust manifold on his foot
and knocks his best 5/8" box-end wrench out the window.
Helga, onetime Owner and Master of a tramp steamer, the Viking
Girl. Variously described as 'statuesque', 'unrestrained', and 'a
force of nature', Helga's background remains a mystery, but it appears she
was born in Sweden during the 1890s. She joined the Flying Cloud
as a rigger after her own vessel was plundered and wrecked by the renegade
German nationlists. Once aboard, she cut a swath through friend and foe
alike before departing aboard the Duck -- a captured steamer that
Everett awarded her as a prize. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
Passengers, Friends, and Enemies
Captain Lawrence Bates-Shelby Michaelson, Commander of the Cairns
Royal Air Station and acting CIC of the RNAS Detachment, Queensland. Born
in 1882, Michaelson entered Osborne Naval College (the predecessor of
Dartmouth) in 1896 and received his commission in 1904. He transferred to
the newly-formed RNAS in 1912 and commanded a succession of patrol blimps
during the War. Michaelson is Everett's bitter enemy. He also made Captain
in 1921, which places him two years ahead of Everett on the seniority list
-- a fact neither man is likely to forget.
Miss Perkins, Captain Michaelson's secretary. Age, 20's?
Like Lieutenant-Commander MacKiernan, Miss Perkins lost family during the
She has also displayed remarkable skills as Michaelson's agent.
Prim, proper, and reserved, what secrets is she hiding?
Korvettenkapitan Johan Heinrich. Age unknown. An officer in His
Imperial Majesty's Secret Service, sent to the South Pacific to track down a
party of renegade German nationalists that the Kaiser's government views as
Reserve Lieutenant Dabney. Age 25. Commander of the Royal Air
Station, such as it is, in Darwin. He is also a skilled handyman and
avid competitor, and is expected to do well in the upcoming Northern
Territory Plumbing Championships.
Drew and Loretta McIntyre, ranchers. Mid-40s? Drew and Loretta own
the cattle station and uraninite quarry at Enterprise Creek. They
are also Abigail's parents, though they are somewhat more taciturn than
Abigail McIntyre, daughter of Drew and Loretta. Age 17? Abigail
appears to be romantically interested in Fleming. She also has alarming
taste in clothes and the ability to talk at great length about some of the
more unsettling aspects of animal husbandry. Fleming fears her. You would
George Channel, Darwins' chief of police. Age, late 40s. Mister
Channel used the confusion surrounding the change in Administrators for
Australia's Northern Territory to feather his own nest. He appears to be up
to no good, but no one is quite sure what.
The 'Fat Man'. Age, late 30s? A leader of the renegade German
nationalists, the 'Fat Man' is rumored to have been a pilot during the War.
Jacob Wasserman, original Owner and Master of the Duck. Age,
mid-40s? Wasserman is a Dutch sea-captain noted for his lack of scruples.
Spurned by his own countrymen, he joined with the nationalists.
Karlov, a Russian scientist? No one knows who 'Karlov' really is.
No one is entirely sure who's side he's really on. It appears he was
working with a team of White Russian exiles to build something known as the
Device. He disappeared on the train back to Darwin after he'd
purchased a shipment of uraninite ore at Enterprise Creek.
Natasha, age, 20's? A mysterious woman of Eastern European origin,
Natasha seems to be searching for Karlov. She has claimed to be his wife,
but the true nature of the relationship between them remains a mystery.
Lieutenant Blacker. Born 1903, Blacker served Captain Everett aboard
, His Majesty's Airship R-212, before he was revealed
as a traitor. No one know how far back his treason extended.
He appears to be distantly related to Sir Oswaly Mosely.
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats. Born 1896. Sir
Oswald is the founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists -- an
organization that has not been quite as successful as its counterparts on
the Continent. He is also a Member of Parliament, currently serving as
Minister for Smethwick.
Mister Fuller. Age, late 40's. One of Mosely's lieutenants, Fuller
was a high-ranking staff officer in the British Army during the War. Noted
for his innovative thinking and imaginative use of technology, he left the
Service when his peers rejected his ideas as impractical. Subsequent events
suggest that they may have been right.
Dan Straight, Private Investigator. Age, 30's? What serial drama
would be complete without a hard-bitten private eye? Though it's not
immediately clear what such a person is doing in Pago Pago.
The Cassowary, a large flightless bird. The Cassowary is
New Guinea, Northern Australia, and nearby islands. A member of the
ratite group, which also includes ostriches, emus,
and the extinct elephant bird and moa, cassowaries can
reach 6' in height and weigh as much as 130 lbs. Because of their large
size, excellent camoflage, aggressive behavior, and razor-sharp claws,
cassowaries may be the one species of bird dangerous to man.
As far as anyone knows, they do not taste like chicken.