The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 318: We Will Avoid The Obvious Pun

Broome sign

They'd headed west along the coast, stopping where they could to inquire about the freighter with the unwieldy name. Miss Perkins had identified the language as Japanese, and translated it to mean something like `Maiden of the Islands' Circle -- the last word seemed to be some Japanese convention for merchant ship names. Several of their informants remembered seeing a vessel that could have been their quarry pass offshore, but the they still had no clue where it was headed or who might want a such large cargo of diesel fuel.

Not many people lived in this part of Western Australia. The climate was arid, the countryside barren, the soil noteworthy for its lack of fertility. A few small towns had sprung up along the coast during the Kimberly Gold Rush, flourished for a few years, then just as quickly dwindled, but there was little to attract settlers now that the dreams of wealth were gone. Somewhere among the maze of estuaries and swamps they'd passed lay the secret laboratory where the White Russian exiles had built their infamous Device, but Clarice and Emily had no idea where this was hidden, or any reason to believe it might be their quarry's destination.

At last, after a week of motoring, they trio arrived at Broome. This was a small coastal fishing village -- like Darwin only less so -- that occupied a narrow peninsula at the west end of Roebuck Bay. Unlike most settlements in the Kimberley region, Broome did not owe its existence to gold. Instead, it had been established in 1883 by the Surveyor-General of Western Australia, as a center to support the pearling industry. For some unremembered reason, the developers had named it after Sir Frederick Broome, then Governor. It was not known whether His Honour appreciated the compliment.

Since then, Broome had enjoyed modest prosperity. The telegraph station near Cable Beach had catapulted the town into the 19th Century. Now, an air station and resorts were attempting to drag it into the 20th.

Clarice, Emily, and Miss Perkins docked the Drudge alongside a pier in Roebuck Bay, then went ashore to make their inquiries. It didn't take them long to determine that their quarry had not called here to unload her cargo. In a community this small, people would have noticed if someone transshipped several hundred tons of diesel fuel. Lacking any better alternatives, they split up to see what they could find -- this might have been a formula for trouble in radio dramas, but in a place as nonthreatening as Broome, the procedure seemed quite reasonable.

Some time later, Clarice was standing in a shop, ringing the bell to attract the attention of the proprietor. At last, an old island trader emerged from behind the counter, where he'd been polishing some unprepossessing piece of bric-a-brac. "How can I help you Miss..." he began, as he took in the age and gender of his customer.

"Blaine," said Clarice, "Clarice Blaine. I was wondering if you knew anything about a freigter called the..." she paused to consult the notes Miss Perkins had given her on the correct pronunciation, "... Shima No Shōjo Maru."

The shipper glanced around nervously, as if concerned they might be overheard. "Are you from the Kaninchen?" he asked in a low voice.

What's a `Kaninchen'? wondered Clarice. The word sounded vaguely Chinese.

"No," she replied, "I'm from Darwin."

This revelation did not seem to reassure her informant. "I can't tell you anything," he said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'll have other business to attend to."

Clarice watched the man leave, then shrugged and headed out the door. The inhabitants of these Western Australian fishing villages did not seem remarkable for their courtesy. She emerged to see Emily approaching down the street.

"Did you learn anything useful?" the brunette asked as she drew near.

"No," Clarice said in disappointment. "How about you?"

Emily held up a small poster she'd torn from some wall. "I found this," she replied. "I'm not sure what it's all about, but I've never seen anything like this writing. Do you think Miss Perkins would be interested?"

Clarice studied her companion's discovery. It appeared to be an advertisement for a jar filled with some disturbing reddish substance. "No," she decided. "It doesn't seem to have anything to do with fuel or freighters. Let's leave it here and get back to the Drudge."

They reached the boat to find Miss Perkins waiting. "I've tracked down our quarry," the secretary announced breathlessly. "A pearl fisher recognized them from my description. It appears they've been making deliveries to a secret harbor some distance to the west."

The flight from Kupang to Buton had proceeded without incident. In particular, there had been no additional reports of the Americans. It seemed that Marty and his `Boys' had indeed departed for New Guinea, where Everett hoped they'd abandon their unprofitable raids on shipping for some more honest endeavor.

Bau Bau seemed unchanged from their previous visit. The only other airship at the station was an Armstrong Whitworth, the R-67. Everett recognized Captain Sanders's City of Brisbane en route back to Australia after a charter. A brief search of the town turned up more posters in Hangul -- these ones advertising some tea-like substance brewed from barley. No one seemed to know precisely who was responsible for them, but there seemed to be some general agreement that they came from Cia-Cia territory, on the eastern side of the island. After overcoming their amazement at the juxtaposition of the concepts of 'barely' and 'tea', Captain Everett and his crew decided to fly across the island to pay a visit to their old acquaintance, Albert Fall.

Fall did not seem happy to see them. "What brings you back to my station?" he asked defiantly.

Everett glanced at the man. "I imagine you assume we're here about your dealings with some fellows back in America," he observed.

"I don't know what you're talking about!" the man replied.

"Perhaps," said Everett, "but this is not our concern today. We want to know where these advertising flyers came from."

Fall studied at the posters with a mixture of surprise and relief. "Oh, those," he said. "They're put up by the Hunminj... the Himumnj..." he gave up trying to pronounce the name and shrugged, "...some society in Korea that's trying to spread their alphabet to unwritten languages of the world."

"Why ever would anyone do such a thing?" asked Iverson.

The American shrugged. "Some people collect stamps. Others build model railroads. Or It might be part of some secret plan for world conquest."

"Do you think the man's information was reliable, sir?" asked Iverson as they rode the Transporter back up to the ship.

"I believe so," said Everett. "The man would have no reason to mislead us about so obscure and mundane a matter."

"Do you think this has anything to do with our Korean guest?"

"One cannot help but wonder if this society with the unpronounceable name was the agency by which she found her way to the Pacific, but it is dangerous to speculate with so little information. We'll see if Jenkins might have any light to shed on the matter."

They reached the Transporter Room to find the signalman waiting.

"Captain," said Jenkins, "I have some disturbing news. It appears that our American friends just attacked the resort on Thursday Island."

Next week: Thursday's Child Has Far To Go...

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