The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 297: Not Mad Scientists, Perhaps, But They May Be Slightly Annoyed

The return to Ujelang

The Flying Cloud maintained station above the Todstalker, breasting the trade wind with engines at quarter power. With hydrogen cells at 85% capacity, bunkers full, and ballast tanks topped to the brim, the cost was inconsequential. Inside her mess hall, her officers and section chiefs gathered to discuss their next move.

As senior person present, Michaelson took charge. "As I'm sure you've guessed by now, your movements for the past several weeks were part of a plan to capture this She Who Must Be Obeyed," he told the others. "We would have apprehended her if one of her men hadn't intervened. Who would have imagined she could command such loyalty?"

Everett reserved comment. They both knew the answer to this question.

"Where is this She now, sir?" asked Iverson.

"I would not care to hazard a guess," said Michaelson. "Let us hope the lady has slunk off to nurse her metaphorical wounds. Our concern becomes the Fat Man's people: Sigmund and his lot. We allowed them to escape so they could serve as a stalking horse. It's time to return them to durance vile. To this end, we will wish to conduct a reconnaissance of Ujelang to evaluate their position."

"I assume that's why we held onto their vessel," said MacKiernan. "Surely they'll recognize it if they see it again."

"Not necessarily," said Everett. "These people appear to have a substantial supply of the craft, and one fast motor torpedo boat looks much like another. But we will also need their watch words, identification codes, and the like. How will we obtain these?"

"By taking advantage of some earlier foresight," said Michaelson. "Would you be kind enough to summon your guest?"

Everett nodded to himself. After all of the recent revelations, this one was hardly a surprise. He gave the necessary order to Lieutenant Murdock.

When the lieutenant returned with his charge, Michaelson did not mince words. "Miss Kim," he told the woman. "I know that your command of English is greater than you would lead us to suppose. I also know you're working for the German nationalists."

"How you..." the Korean hesitated for a moment, then realized the game was up. "How did you find out?"

"By process of elimination," Michaelson said dryly. "You could hardly have been working for the Japanese, given the relationship between your two nations, the Red Russians would have no plausible reason to send you, the White Russians lack the resources, and the British Union already had an agent in Cairns in the form of Phelps. The Germans would have wanted someone to keep an eye on him."

Her shoulders slumped in resignation. "What will you do with me now?" she asked.

"That is up to you," Michaelson told her. "Until now, you have merely been an observer. You have not taken sides, either for or against us. This is a luxury you can no longer afford."

They'd sent down a new wireless to replace the equipment the Germans had disabled. They'd also sent down a box of spare light bulbs. Now Michaelson and Everett stood in the Transporter Room, waiting for the hoist to return.

"Are you quite sure about this, sir?" asked Everett. "Given who's involved...."

If Michaelson noticed the other man's concern, he gave no sign. "Someone has to command the operation, and you can hardly leave your ship at this juncture," he replied curtly. "I will be taking Miss Perkins, of course, and I'll have the two Germans to help manage the vessel. I will want your Lieutenant Murdock to keep an eye on Miss Kim. I'll also need a navigator, a competent boat-handler, and a skilled rigger."

"I could give you MacKiernan, Loris, and Abercrombie," Everett suggested. "The latter may come in handy if you need to lift heavy things."

The senior captain's expression might just possibly have been a smile. "You realize they will be under my orders," he announced. "I will not tolerate any `special instructions'."

"Of course, sir," said Everett.


MacKiernan glanced at Miss Perkins as the Transporter began its descent. The secretary looked troubled. It wasn't hard for him to guess her thoughts.

"Do you think Michaelson planned all this?" he asked.

"For the most part, I imagine he did," she replied. "The captain is very good at keeping secrets. But I doubt that he and Everett expected to see Lady Warfield again."

"Just what is their relationship with the baroness?" asked MacKiernan. "I take it they're more than casual acquaintances."

"You didn't know?" Miss Perkins said in surprise. "She was Captain Everett's fiancé during the War, but then she left him for the baron."

"Good lord! She was the one? I'd heard some rumors about a broken engagement, but I never dreamed... What about Captain Michaelson? Were the two men rivals?"

The secretary shook her head. It seemed she'd given this matter some thought. "I doubt things are that simple," she replied bleakly, "but the captain is very good at keeping secrets. "

The passage to Ujelang was uneventful. They used the time to good effect, moving stanchions, changing rigging, and rearranging ventilators to alter the schnellboot's appearance. A search of the holds disclosed an impressive collection of armaments, which they mounted to improve the disguise. They also changed the vessel's name to Krieg Mädchen -- this seemed appropriately martial.

They arrived to find a familiar shape riding from a temporary mooring mast where the German nationalists' laboratory had once stood. "That's the N-187," Miss Perkins said in relief. "We've caught up with them."

"And they can hardly have failed to spot us if they're keeping a good watch," Michaelson observed. "Now we shall test Miss Kim's reliability. Mister Murdock, send the challenge."

The lieutenant worked the signal lamp. A reply winked back from the airship's control car.

"That's today's countersign," Kim told them. "They want to know our intentions."

"Tell them we'll anchor in the lagoon and send a party ashore to receive their report. That should keep them from asking too many questions."

The Korean began jotting down a string of characters. Miss Perkins watched her for a moment, then turned to Michaelson.

"What are your plans now, sir?" she asked quietly.

The senior captain frowned. "These remain to be determined. First we need to learn just who's on that island."

Professor Nakamura was an elderly gentleman with a faint American accent. He gave the impression of a man who'd witnessed a significant amount of history. Clarice wondered at this. Like many Australians, her knowledge of the outside world was somewhat less than complete, but she understood that Japan might have experienced some changes between the middle of the 19th Century and the dawn of the 20th.

"I take it these Germans are not friends of yours," he told Mister Cartwell.

"No," said the industrialist. "I take it they aren't friends of yours either."

The professor studied the small warship that was threading its way through the channel to the lagoon, then shook his head. "There are some people like them back home, who feel that Japan was cheated by the terms of the Peace, but they are..." he struggled for a word, "...ijōna. We are peaceful scientists."

"What brought you to Ujelang?" asked Mister Cartwell.

"We've been trying determine what happened here. We still have no idea what caused this destruction."

"It was a volcano, which sank back into the sea after eruption!" said one of his associates.

"It was tsunami... followed by a forest fire!" said another.

"It was an earthquake! An extremely localized earthquake!"

"It was a large bolide that exploded above the island with the force of ten thousand tons of TNT."

"It was an alien ether-flier, which crashed before its crew could carry out their plans for world conquest. This would explain those strange creatures we discovered."

"Strange creatures?" asked Mister Cartwell.

Professor Nakamura glanced at the last man who'd spoken and sighed. "Come to the laboratory tent and I'll show you."

Next week: Ia, Look at That...

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