The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Two

Episode 87: Live and Let Fly, Part I

Abercrombie opening a door in his unique fashion

The surf muttered to itself in the night. In the clearing ahead, the fale was dark and silent. It seemed deserted, but Captain Everett knew otherwise.

"This is the nationalists' hideout?" he whispered to the Administrator.

"Ja," his host replied, eyes bright with excitement. "Last night we received the word. Now we have them!" He issued a soft-voiced command.

"Nicht schießen, wenn es nicht sein muss."

His men -- a motley collection of Truk islanders and German colonial police -- grinned, put away their guns, and produced a surprising assortment of melee weapons.

"Gut," said the Administrator. "Los geht's!"

The raiders dashed across the clearing, swift as hunting panthers. In a matter of instants, they'd reached the hut and taken positions on either side of the entrance. Everett followed with Jenkins and Abercrombie. At a nod from the captain, the Scotsman raised his axe, kicked down the door and charged inside. They heard a cry of anger.

"Ach! Nae agin! Thaim fashious wratches!"

"Abercrombie?" asked Everett.

"It's the same as before, sir," came the Scotsman's reply.

The captain adjusted his jacket -- in view of the informality of the occasion, they were wearing Number Threes -- and entered the hut. It was empty except for a table. Upon the table was a note. Everett examined this by the light of his hand torch.

So, Captain Everett, once again you are too late. Give us the Trapezohedron and we will return the singer. Otherwise, we cannot be responsible for his safety.

He frowned. "I'm beginning to dislike these fellows."

"They do have an unfortunate tendency to gloat," observed Jenkins.

This was not the first time they'd missed their quarry. They'd spent the better part of two weeks following leads, questioning informers, and tracking down the nationalists' hiding places, only to find them empty. By now, tempers were growing short. They were also running low on fuel and ballast.

"What's this Trapezohedron?" asked the Administrator. "What can the nationalists possibly want with a dual polyhedron of an n-gonal...?"

"We dinnae ken!" growled Abercrombie.

"The problem is that launch of theirs," observed Jenkins. "It's faster than our host's government craft..." he nodded politely to the German, "...and when we travel by airship, they can see us coming in plenty of time to escape."

"Could you fly at night and approach under cover of darkness?" asked the Administrator.

Jenkins shook his head. "These tropical nights are too bright. They'd still see the airship silhouetted against the sky."

Everett set down the note and squared his shoulders. "Brace up," he told the others. "The game isn't over yet. And the race goes to the persistent as well as the swift."

They rode the Transporter back up to the Flying Cloud in silence. When they arrived, they found MacKiernan waiting at the hoist controls, as if he wished to be the first to deliver some unpleasant news.

"There's someone here to see you, sir," he told the captain.

"Is it anyone we know?" asked Everett.

The Irishman looked uncomfortable. "Perhaps it might be best if you saw for yourself. I instructed our guest to wait in the mess hall."

They followed the Exec up the keel passage and through the crew section until they reached the spacious compartment where the crew of the His Majesty's Airship R-505 took their meals. Inside, two islanders stood guard over a familiar figure. Everett's expression hardened when he saw who it was.

"It's the lassie from the bar!" exclaimed Abercrombie. "The one who betrayed Notariello! What's she doing here!"

"I don't know," said MacKiernan, "but according to our friends," he nodded the islanders, "she approached the Transporter platform and asked to be brought to the Captain."

Everett studied the woman. Whatever her plans might be, they could hardly include violence. Her attire offered little scope for concealment. Of anything.

"Let's see what she has to say for herself," he said curtly. "Mister MacKiernan, if you would be so good as to summon Miss Sarah, we may be able to benefit from her knowledge of native customs."

The woman gave her name as Hupai. Her understanding of verb tenses was eccentric, and her prepositions were noteworthy for their absence, but otherwise her English was much better than Everett might have expected for the inhabitant of a German possession. Her story was somewhat harder to credit.

"Germans offer cargo, hire me betray Antonio," she announced. "I betray, then sadness. His songs is brave. Their songs is bad. I find you, ask help. They plan take him fast boat, make him cargo freighter. You stop." She stared at Everett with wide pleading eyes. He gazed back unmoved.

"It sounds like they're planning to smuggle him out of the islands aboard some merchant vessel," mused Jenkins.

"So it would seem," said Everett. "Which will give them the entire Pacific to hide in."

"Can we believe her?" asked the signalman.

"I can't think of any reason for her to lie," Everett said dryly, "but she has not given us any particular reason to trust her. Miss Sarah, what do you think of this woman's story?"

Sarah's eyes narrowed. It occurred to Everett that the island girl had a significant score to settle with the nationalists. How would this affect her judgment?

Some invisible communication seemed to pass between the two women. After a moment, Sarah's features softened. "I believe she's telling the truth," said the girl. "Songs are very important to these people. More important than power and wealth."

Everett rose, walked to the window and stared out to sea, remembering another place and time. It occurred to him that more was at stake here than just their struggle with the nationalists. The judgment he made today would also be a judgment on himself. Did he mean to hold every woman responsible for the deeds of one?

"Very well," he said. "Miss Hupai, can you tell us where they've taken him?"

The woman brightened. "They go Totiw!"

"Mister MacKiernan?"

The Exec unrolled a chart and indicated a small triangular island on the other side of the archipelago. "It's here, five miles west of Fefan."

"Yes!" said the woman, pointing to a beach on the western side of the island. "They hide here!"

"Interesting," mused Everett. He produced a set of dividers, measured some distances, and nodded. "I believe it's possible. We should be able to catch them by surprise."

"How?" asked MacKiernan. "They're sure to have watchers on every coast, ready to warn them if the Flying Cloud gets within a dozen miles of the place.

"That's what I'm counting on," said Everett. He keyed the intercom. "Airman Fleming, please report to the mess hall."

MacKiernan's eyes widened as understanding dawned. "You're not thinking what I think you're thinking!"

"Why not?" said Everett brightly. "We do have another aircraft at our disposal."

Next week: Live and Let Fly, Part II...

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