R505: the Flying Cloud

Episode 49: Almost Exactly Like Ragnarok, Only Different

Helga and Sarah in warrior poses

"Odin!" The cry split the night like the cry of a valkyrie. Which Everett and his companions knew was not far from the truth.

"Was ist das?" asked the fat man.

"Verdammt!" snarled the captain of the Duck. "Ist das verucktfraulien ein das `Viking Girl'! We must..." Whatever the man was going to say next was drowned out by a roar of voices from outside.

"Wasserman," snapped the fat man. "Take care of our prisoners while I see to this matter." He slipped out of the room with surprising speed for one of his girth. Everett moved to follow, and stopped as Wasserman's sailors raised their rifles.

"Shoot them," said the Dutchman, "now."

At that moment, a burly Viking smashed through the door. Before either rifleman could react, he grabbed their heads, one in each meaty fist, and slammed them together with a thud.

"Nighty night!" he bellowed. The sailors dropped like sacks of potatoes.

"Are you one of Helga's crew?" Everett asked the brute, speaking slowly and enunciating his words with great care. "I am Captain Roland P. Everett, Royal Naval Airship Service."

"Quite," said the fellow, offering a bow. "Helga informed me you might be aboard. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Now if you'll pardon me, I have an image to maintain." He snarled self-consciously until he was foaming at the mouth, then screamed a battle cry and charged back out the door.

"Where did he come from?" asked Iverson.

"I thought we might encounter difficulties," said Everett, "so I instructed Helga to rendezvous with the ship and return with Sarah, Abercrombie, Rashid, and Loris. They were to bring the launch here and raise a party of warriors from Sarah's people. It appears they found Helga's crew as well. Where did Wasserman get to?"

"He escaped while that gentleman was subduing his men," said Pierre.

Everett sighed. "I suppose we should try to bring the fellow to justice. If you'll follow me."

They emerged on deck to find themselves in the middle of a wild melee between the crew of the Duck and a mob of New Caledonian islanders, French convicts, and Vikings. Two sailors charged them, brandishing knives. Pierre laid one out with a savat kick while Everett performed some quick motion that caused the other to fly over the railing.

"Kodokan?" asked Pierre.

"Greco-Roman," replied Everett, straightening his jacket. "The instructors at my school felt that a gentleman should be able to defend himself. Our quarry seems to have lost himself in this confusion. We'll have to split up if we hope to find him. You take the port side, I'll take the middle; Iverson, you take starboard.

Everett and Pierre moved off, leaving Iverson to fend for himself. Feeling that the Captain had over-rated his unarmed combat skills, he edged his way past the brawl, looking for the Dutchman. What he would do if he found the man he wasn't certain.

'Daar!" someone shouted. "Het is ´┐Żn van de officieren! Douw'm onder de zoden!"

Iverson looked toward the shout and saw a pair of crewmen, armed with crowbars, closing in for the attack. He raised his fists, determined to make an account of himself, but then a slender figure sprang from the shadows and sank the butt of her spear into one sailor's stomach.

"Take that, you ruffian!" she cried as the man folded.

"Het is een vrouw?" the other began. Before he could finish, Sarah had laid the shaft of her spear alongside his head.

"John," she asked in a voice filled with concern, "are you all right?"

"I... uh..."

"Good! Let's go help the others!"

The girl checked to make sure her earrings were in place, then charged back into the fray. Iverson moved to follow and stumbled on some unseen obstacle so that the sailor who'd chosen that moment to attack tripped over his outstretched foot and went flying over the rail.

"Whoopsies!" cried a familiar voice.

"Well done, lad!" called another.

Helga and Abercrombie emerged from the melee, axes in hand. The woman's face was flushed with excitement and the Scotsman's usual dour expression had given way to a grin. He gave the lieutenant a hearty slap on the back.

"Ah, lad, I ken ye know how tae fight!"

"What's happening," gasped Iverson, when he'd recovered from the blow.

"We winning!" said Helga cheerfully. "These Dutchmen not very strong."

"Have either of you seen Wasserman?"

"Nae," said Abercrombie, "but that looks like his first mate. What's the fellow up to?"

He pointed forward, where a Dutchman, somewhat better dressed than the ordinary sailors, was tugging at the lashings that secured a large crate to the foredeck. The man heaved this aside to reveal a deck gun, a pile of explosives, and a detonator.

"Englishers!" he cried. "This is a bomb, the same sort that we put on the Tualua's Dream! If you don't give yourself over, I let it go off!"

Abercrombie lowered his axe in disgust. "A bomb," he growled, "why do they always have a bomb!"

"It's always that way in radio dramas," observed Iverson.

"That," said the Scotsman, "is why I don't listen to radio dramas."

Around them, the melee had come to a halt. Across the deck, Iverson saw Sarah raise her spear for a throw. The Dutchman shook his head. "Try it, vrouw, and I push the trigger."

There was a whistle, a crack, and the detonator went spinning out of the man's hand. As he stared at his fingers, trying to comprehend what had happened, a second stone took him in the temple. Eyes swung to the foredeck, where Rashid stood with his sling.

"Gentlemen," the Persian announced. "This fight is over."

The crew of the Duck offered no further resistance. Everett directed Helga's men to bind them -- a task they undertook with relish -- and lead the way to the bridge. By now, the airship had dropped her mooring and was rising into the night sky. "It looks like our mysterious host is making his escape," said Pierre.

"Unless he means to bomb us," observed Iverson.

"We'd do well to get underway before the question arises," said Everett. "I instructed Loris to secure the engineering plant. Let's hope he's had time to raise steam." He examined the speaking tubes until he found the right one. "Engine room, what is your situation?"

"Everything ready," came the reply.

"Iwamoto! I thought I ordered you to stay with the Flying Cloud."

"Hai. But my job here. I..."

"... come with engines," recited several people in unison.

Everett sighed. "I suppose we must admire the man's dedication."

Next week: No Job is Finished Until the Paperwork is Done...

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