The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 293: The Next Time We Practice To Deceive, Results Might Not Be Quite As Satisfactory

Milady's hand, holding a dagger

It was obvious from Wasserman's grin that the Dutchman was delighted by some news. A poacher would have worn much the same smile after he'd discovered a rabbit in one of his snares.

"We have a message from Kwajelein," he told the Governor. "A Wolesely called at their station this morning, then lifted ship for Ujelang."

"I assume this was Michaelson's vessel?"

The Dutchman's grin widened. "How many other Wolesleys can there be in the Marshall Islands? We have him!"

"It was incautious of him to venture so far from Australia," the Governor observed. "We shall inform our friends. They will be happy to collect him."

Everett watched as the Flying Cloud finished her turn to the west. The maneuver had been cautious, diffident, and conspicuously lacking in flair. This was hardly surprising given the circumstances. After two long flights without resupply, the airship was perilously low on consumables.

"Do you think MacKiernan will have any difficulty making the rendezvous?" asked Davies.

"I'm sure he'll rise to the occasion," Everett replied, doing his best to hide his concern,. "Let us hope the fueler is on station when he arrives."

"We can rely on Commander Williamson," said Michaelson, in a tone of voice that suggested it really didn't matter if they couldn't. "When you're done with this idle chatter, would you care to get us underway? We have work to do."

Stifling a sigh, Everett seated himself behind the wheel of the launch. Experience had taught him not to argue with Michaelson -- the senior captain laid conversational traps the way modern navies laid mines. Instead he fired up the engine and spun the craft toward the east. Soon they were pounding their way into the westerly swell. Michaelson ignored the battering, as if unconcerned with mere physical discomfort, and Everett had faced much worse when he was stationed in the North Sea, but the others were not as stoic.

"How long will it take us to reach Bikini?" Pierre asked between impacts.

"At this pace, about four hours," Everett replied sympathetically. For all of its merits in commando operations, the launch had never been intended for open ocean passages.

"Si longtemps," mourned the Frenchman. "Could we not have deployed closer to the island?"

Michaelson glanced at him with impatience. "There was no help for the matter. We had to stay offshore to prevent anyone from spotting the airship."

"What are our plans after we arrive?"

The senior captain sneered, as if amused by this attempt to pump him for information. "We will go ashore, posing as yachtsmen, and wait for our quarry to arrive," he announced. "The British Union almost certainly has a presence on Kwajelein, given its strategic location, but they are unlikely to maintain agents in a place as insignificant as Bikini. This should give us an opportunity to ambush the fellows when they arrive hoping to ambush me."

Everett hid his reservations. Michaelson's plan seemed reasonable as far as it went. The timing was impeccable, and they should have no problem playing the part of tourists. But how would they fare if it came to a struggle? He hadn't dared bring along anyone essential to working the airship -- not with the vessel so low on supply. In particular, he'd had to leave Jenkins behind to manage communications. This left them with Davies, Pierre, and Rashid. Would this be enough to deal with whatever they might find on the island?

The best word Everett could think of to describe Bikini Island was `skimpy'. It was a low arc of sand, never more than eight feet above the surrounding waves, covered with groves of palms. The solitary village -- an unremarkable cluster of huts, accompanied by the usual store, copra warehouse, and Lutheran mission -- could not have held more than 200 inhabitants.

Like many German possessions, its public works seemed entirely out of proportion to the community they served. The wharf was a massive concrete edifice, suitable for a small European seaport, the mooring mast looked adequate to handle a liner, and some distant bureaucrat had seen fit to furnish the place with a wholly unnecessary post office.

Inquiries at the latter sufficed to establish that they were the only Europeans apart from the clerk, who doubled as the shopkeeper, his family, and the mandatory beachcomber -- a young wandervogel who'd come searching for the romance of the Pacific, and was now doubtless trying to find his way back to Germany. Even the missionaries were away on some other island, and Agent White, the Naval Intelligence operative who'd tried to betray Jenkins and Emily to the Fat Man's people the year before, had long since fled.

Michaelson seemed satisfied with this situation. "Matters are proceeding according to plan," he told the others. "Have you man Pierre engage these villagers to watch for approaching vessels. Then rwe'll find a place to wait."

They didn't have to wait for long...

"Malihini ho'okokoke," said the islander.

"Quel 'ao'ao?" asked Pierre.

The islander was not troubled by this unlikely combination of languages. "Komohama," he replied, pointing to the west, where the sun was sinking toward the horizon. Less than a day had passed since the party had landed.

"That was quicker than I expected," Michaelson observed. "We must give this woman's people some credit. Shall we go and apprehend the fellows?"

The others nodded assent, and soon they were making their way through the palms. In a matter of moments, they'd reached the other side of the island. Across the lagoon, a small motorized skiff, such as a yacht might carry as a tender, was making its way toward shore.

"That will be our agents," said Michaeson. "I can't imagine who else would choose just this moment to visit Bikini," said Michaelson. "Take your places, please."

"Do you think this 'She' will be with them?" asked Pierre, as they concealed themselves among the trees.

"I rather doubt it," said Michelson. "She would have had to be within two days' travel of the Marshalls. But given the bait, we can expect to bag some highly-placed minion -- a station chief, perhaps -- who can help us roll up her network."

Everett studied the approaching craft. It was too small to hold any substantial force, and its occupants cannot have had any suspicion of the ambush that awaited them. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. Why did he feel this twinge of apprehension?

A voice chuckled behind them. It was a voice he remembered all too well.

"Gentlemen, there was no need for you to go to so much trouble on my account."

He turned to see a slender dark-haired woman standing on the path behind them, accompanied by a party of gunmen, trimming her nails with a misericorde.

"Lady Warfield!" cried Michaelson. The senior captain seemed appalled by this turn of events. As well he might be.

"Tenera," said Everett. Somehow, he was not surprised.

The woman smiled. "Lawrence, Roland, how good of you to come."

Next week: It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Hijacks an Airship...

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