The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 294: It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Hijacks An Airship

The Philadelphian crusing over the Marshalls

The leader of the hijackers was a hard-faced German with the bearing of an officer in some particularly merciless army. His age was impossible to determine. Perhaps this was due to his complexion -- a pale icy blond that spoke of biting winds and harsh Prussian winters. Perhaps it was because evil was ageless.

"So, Fraulein Wilcox, Fraulein Blaine," he said, "you led us a merry chase, but at last, we meet. My name is Sigmund. You know who I serve."

Emily glared back defiantly. "What are you going on about, you drongo?" she demanded.

The man smiled. "Have it your way... for now. There will come a time when you will be happy to tell us all you know. Let us see the documents this man is carrying." He plucked the folder from Mister Cartwell's hands. The American, wisely, made no attempt to resist.

For several minutes, the only sound was the shuffle of pages as Sigmund studied the papers they'd obtained on Guam. At last he nodded. "An amusing deception," he observed, "but it is obvious why you are heading for Ujelang. You will order your crew to continue as planned. Make sure they don't try to lead us astray. We may not be airmen ourselves, but we do know how to navigate."

"And if we refuse?" Mister Cartwell asked calmly.

"Then we will have no use for you," Sigmund told him. "The ocean is large. No one will ever find your bodies."

The Germans marched them to the Philadelphian's salon, which they'd pressed into service as a brig. While it might not have been possible to lock someone up inside something as lightly built as an airship's passenger accommodations, one could certainly guard all the exits to a compartment if one had enough people, and their captors had enough to man a small warship. This might have strained the limited lifting capacity of a Wolesley, but these did not seem the sort of people who'd have qualms about jettisoning cargo... or bodies.

"Well, Em, do you have any ideas?" Clarice asked after they were inside.

The brunette gazed out the window, then shrugged. "Not yet," she admitted. "Maybe Captain Everett will come to our rescue."

Everett had never imagined he'd see Michaelson at a loss for words. Under ordinary circumstances, he might have taken some delight from this prodigy, but these circumstances were far from ordinary.

"How did you know we'd be here?" he asked Lady Warfield.

The baroness's smile was deceptively innocent. "I know how both of your minds work. It was obvious Lawrence was trying to set a trap, with himself as bait, by pretending to head for Bikini aboard the R-87 while you took the Flying Cloud back to Cairns. Knowing when your ship left Guam, it was a simple matter to calculate when you'd get here."

That means she knows the Flying Cloud's real top speed, thought Everett. This must mean something, but what?

"You must be enjoying your triumph," Michaelson said bitterly. "What do you intend to do with us now?"

Lady Warfield studied her dagger for a moment, then returned her attention to them. "In long run, this remains to be determined. For the immediate future, you will accompany me to Ujelang."

"Pourquoi?" asked Pierre. He seemed mesmerized by their captor, like a bird in front of a snake.

"As currency," the baroness said lightly. "The island seems to be a popular destination these days. This suggests it holds something of value. I will want something to trade for this. Clement, Gilmore, please show our guests to their lodgings while we send for the yacht. "

Lady Warfield's men locked the airmen in a cell inside the post office; it seemed the postmaster was one of the baroness's confederates. It was not clear why the German government had seen fit to equip a small rural mail facility with provisions for holding prisoners -- perhaps this was a manifestation of some Teutonic passion for order -- but those provisions were more than adequate.

"It's a substantial bit of workmanship," Michaelson said after he'd inspected the bars. "It's a pity you neglected to bring your man Jenkins along to pick the lock."

"I assumed this was all part of your plan," Everett said dryly.

"One must never leap to conclusions," Michaelson replied. "Still, this excursion has not been entirely without value. We've learned the identity of this `She Who Must Be Obeyed'. We can also conclude that she's reached some understanding with the German nationalists."

"Why would they trust her?" wondered Everett.

"You did... once," said Michaelson.

"As did you... once," Everett shot back,

"Monsieurs," interrupted Pierre. "I gather that this lady meant something to both of you, but this dissension will not help us escape. Please set your differences aside."

"Very well," said Michaelson. "We will forget the past, for now."

"Do you have a plan?" Everett asked him.

The senior captain glanced at the bars of their cell and shrugged. "Not at the moment. But if we get a good night's sleep, perhaps something will occur to us in the morning."

"Rise and shine, gentlemen!"

Everett opened his eyes to see a ruddy-cheeked figure unlocking the door to their cell. He recognized Peters, one of the British Union agents who'd been so singularly unsuccessful at hijacking an airship from the French. For a moment he felt a flicker of hope. If this was the quality of Lady Warfield's personnel, they might have a chance to escape. Unfortunately, the man was accompanied by several companions with large-calibre Webley revolvers. They gestured at the airmen to precede them to the beach.

They found Lady Warfield standing next to a skiff, gazing toward the lagoon, where a sleek motor yacht lay at anchor. She turned as they approached and brushed back her hair with the gesture he knew so well. Against his will, he found himself remembering another meeting on another shore, back when the world was young.

"That's the Make A Good Fist II," she announced cheerfully. "Lord Warfield liked the first one so much he commissioned a copy, with some modifications, of course. I'm sure you'll like it too."

Everett studied the yacht. It seemed unarmed, but he imagined hatches would open and guns rise into place at the tug of a lever. "Where is the Baron?" he asked.

"That," said the baroness, "is no concern of yours. Peters, get these gentlemen aboard the skiff."

"Freeze," ordered a precise German voice behind them. "If you make any attempt to resist, I will shoot your mistress."

They looked back to see the young beachcomber they'd noticed the day before covering Lady Warfield with one of the ubiquitous Parabellums. The baroness's men glanced at each other, estimating their chances, then let their pistols fall to the sand. The German nodded at Everett and his companions to collect the weapons.

With a cry, Peters flung himself at their rescuer. "Run, milady!" he shouted.

The German brushed his assailant aside and raised his pistol, but Lady Warfield had already leapt aboard the skiff. As they watched, it backed away and roared off toward the yacht.

"Bloody..." muttered Michaelson. "We almost had her!"

It took a moment for Everett to grasp the implication. "You planned all this?" he asked incredulously.

"With the help of our friend Heinrich," said Michaelson. "We share an interest with the German Intelligence services in this matter." He turned to their rescuer. "Marco, do you have a way to contact your superiors? We might still be able to intercept her."

Before the ersatz beachcomber could reply, a second figure emerged from the trees behind him. Somehow, Everett was not surprised to see Miss Perkins.

"Gentlemen," she said urgently, "we have more immediate concerns."

Next week: No One Goes to Ujelang Anymore, It's Too Popular...

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