The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 174: The Importance of Names

Goldfish and Cthulhu

Asau, the capital of Savai'i, lay on the coast near the island's western tip. There was little to distinguish it from any other village in Western Samoa. The only signs of its role as a seat of government were a mooring mast, a post office, and a burned-out wireless station -- a relic of New Zealand's largely bloodless invasion during the War. The island had since been returned to the Kaiser, but hard feelings remained among the German population, as Iverson and his party discovered when they sought news of the Professor.

"Excuse me," Iverson asked a passing missionary, "could you tell us if you've seen..."

The cleric glared at him. "And who might you be?"

Noting the man's expression, the lieutenant decided it might be best to deemphasize his Royal Navy connection. "I'm John," he said, "from..."

The missionary gave a derisive snort. "Well, John From, you look like an English spy. I won't tell you a thing. And I'll warn my parishioners about you."

"These fellows don't seem particularly friendly," Iverson observed after several such encounters.

'It is often so in these oublié corners of the Pacific," said Pierre. "Isolation can breed paranoia."

"Let's ask the islanders," Sarah suggested helpfully. "They should know if there are any strangers about."

"How do we know they'll answer our questions?" asked Iverson. "The last natives we dealt with accused us of stealing the 'secret of cargo'."

Sarah hefted her spear and smiled "I'm sure these people will be happy to co-operate."

The island girl might have been correct about the locals' emotional state, but getting answers from them proved more difficult than the trio expected. The collision of several different and mutually unintelligible languages -- Polynesian, Spanish, German, English, Tagalog, and Pidgin -- led to a considerable degree of linguistic confusion. At last, with some effort, the investigators located an old shopkeeper with whom they could manage something that resembled a conversation.

"We're looking for an archeaologist," said Iverson.

"Que?" asked the islander.

"Un archéologue," said Pierre.

"Kung ano?"

"Isang arkeologo," said Sarah.

"Ein was?"

'Ein Archéologe," replied Iverson, striving to control his exasperation.

"You ken fella savy ruins?"


"No need to shout, lad. There's a fine set of ruins in the Palauli district, near Letolo. You might find your man there."

"Ruins," grumbled Iverson. He wondered if they were ruins of a tower -- Babel, perhaps.

The Palauli district lay on the southern side of Savai'i, on the shores of the eponymous Palauli Bay. It was substantial distance from Asau, but the trio were able to hitch a ride with a young Swedish plantation owner who didn't seem to share his neighbors' prejudice against England. His accent -- and exuberance -- brought back memories of Helga. Iverson wondered if these were common to all Swedes or just ones who'd emigrated to the South Pacific.

"We are having plenty of ruins!" the man said cheerfully. "Stone walls, ancient temples, even the pyramid. You welcome to looking!"

"Does anyone ever come here to study them?" asked Iverson.

"Ya, all the time we getting the scientists. There one there now."

Iverson's perked up. "Would he happen to be an archeologist?"

The Swede shrugged. "He a something-oligist. All those ologists are sounding the same."

"What do you think?" Iverson asked his companions.

"C'est possible," said Pierre.

"It must be our man," announced Sarah. "What other kind of scientist would be interested in ruins?"

Iverson had his doubts. This seemed too good to be true. After so many frustrations, what were the odds that they'd just happen to hitch a ride with someone who knew where to find the Professor?

The lieutenant's doubts remained as they made their way inland. Their trail ran next to one of the many streams that descended the slopes of the improbably-named Mount Silisili. It did not seem much-used. The only huts they passed were temporary structures, abandoned by hunters who'd moved on as game became exhausted. There were certainly no signs of any substantial Western expedition.

At last they came upon a campsite. "I say," observed Sarah. "It appears someone got here before us." A neat field tent stood beneath the trees, accompanied by a chair and table. The latter was strewn with what appeared to be scientific apparatus.

"This is Royal Navy issue," said Pierre, examining the tent. "Could this belong to our Professor? He might have purchased it at the same place he acquired the blimp."

Iverson found this hypothesis doubtful -- if nothing else, it would have required considerable resourcefulness on the part of the outfitter involved -- but he was too polite to say so. "Perhaps," he replied. "Let's see if we can find the fellow."

A faint path led north from the campsite to a jumble of grass-covered mounds -- presumably these were the ruins the Swede described. It continued on through the jungle to arrive at a place where the stream had broadened to form a still and tranquil pool. An educated-looking European, quite obviously a scientist of some sort, was standing on the shore, fishing through the shallows with a net.

Iverson hid his disappointment. This did not look promising. "Excuse me," he asked politely. "Would you happen to be an archaeologist?"

"Goodness, no," said the man. "Why would you suppose such a thing? I happen to be an ichthyologist."

"An ichthyologist," said Iverson.


"Whatever are you doing up here?" asked Iverson. "I thought you fellows studied fishes."

"So we do," said the scientist, "but our interest extends to transitional species, such as amphibians. I've been investigating reports of something called a `squidbat'."

"You wouldn't happen to know anything about these ruins?"

"No. You'd have to ask Professor Otkupshchikov about it the next time he visits Savai'i. The man's quite generous with his time. He even gave me a ride here on his blimp! But I have no idea where he's off to now."

The party's spirits were subdued as they rode back to Apua. They arrived to find the Flying Cloud moored at the village's rudimentary air station. Her crew's mood seemed to mirror their own. The only exceptions were MacKiernan and Rashid, who both seemed unaccountably cheerful, as if they'd scored some sort of coup. The Persian wore a bandage about his ribs, but offered no explanation of his injury.

"I'm afraid we didn't have much luck, sir," Iverson told Captain Everett. "We found circumstantial evidence that suggests Professor Otkupshchikov did visit Western Samoa at some time in the past, but he doesn't appear to be in the islands now."

"You did the best you could," Everett replied consolingly. "And that's more than the other party was able to determine. I gather that the inhabitants of Upolu were not particularly cooperative."

"Do you think Lieutenant Murdock will find news of the fellow on Tuvalu?"

Everett sighed. "We can always hope so, but this seems unlikely. Nothing much ever happens on American Samoa."

The clouds had parted to reveal patches of blue. Out on the field, ground crews had taken advantage of this break in the weather to move one of the Beardsmores from her shed -- the handling trolleys rattled over their rails like a pair of switching engines. Michaelson stood at his window watching the operation while sunbeams slanted down on the ocean to the east. For a moment, a ghost of a smile flickered across his face. On a day like this, it was almost possible to forget.

A knock sounded on the door behind him. He turned to see his secretary enter carrying a folder. "Good afternoon, Miss Perkins," he said briskly. "What do you have for us today?"

"I managed to track down specifics of the letter of credit that was used to purchase that yacht, the Make A Good Fist," she replied. "The buyer seems to have gone out of his way to remain anonymous, but with some effort, I was able to obtain a name. You'll find it at the bottom of page four."

Michaelson flipped through the report, came to the entry, and froze.

"Sir?" asked Miss Perkins when she saw his expression.

"Summon Phelps. Tell him to bring the codebook. We must get word to Everett immediately."

Next week: Disquieting News...

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