The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 422: A Surprising Inspector

Outlines of the scientist and the inspector

Everett set down his pen and studied his latest entry in the ship's log

21-September-1927, Rangoon Royal Air Station. Arrived with 80% hydrogen, 3200 gallons fuel and 11,300 lbs ballast remaining. Mister Scott has left the ship to continue his investigation. I have sent men to gather information to assist him.

He nodded to himself. It was accurate as far as it went, but vague enough to protect them from censure in the event of an inquiry. In particular, it skirted the fact that his men might also be gathering information about Scott.

Satisfied, he returned the volume to its shelf and made his way aft. When he reached the access to the vertical fins, he slid down the ladder to the auxiliary bridge, where he'd summoned the shore parties to a meeting. The venue might have been inconvenient, but it would afford them a measure of privacy if Scott returned to the ship early.

"Captain on the bridge, such as it is," Jenkins announced.

"Thank you gentlemen, and lady," said Everett as his people came to attention while ducking to avoid overhead beams. "I believe it's time we reviewed what we've learned about our guest. Mister Iverson, what did you and Miss Sarah discover at the Office of Antiquities?"

"They did not have any contact with the inspector," said Iverson, "but they did receive a visit from the American archaeologists. It seems the fellows paused in Rangoon on their way to investigate some site in Kachin province."

Everett had taken the precaution of bringing a set of aeronautical charts. He unfolded the one for Burmah. "Do we know its location?"

Sarah leaned forward to trace the line of the Irrawaddy River with her finger until she reached a settlement near its head. "It's somewhere here, near the town of Bhamo."

Jenkins raised an eyebrow. "Bhamo?"

The island girl was too well-brought-up to snort. "I'm not responsible for these names."

"Do we know the purpose of this investigation?" asked Jenkins.

"It seems they're trying to trace the origin of the civilization that occupied parts of the Southeast Asian Peninsula and Java Sea during the Third Century," said Sarah. "They hypothesize that it was established by refugees from some servant caste in Ceylon, fleeing in aftermath of some failed rebellion."

"That seems unduly complicated," Jenkins remarked. "Surely it would be more reasonable to assume the culture was indigenous."

"That's the way these archaeologists are," said Everett. "One can hardly blame them. No one would pay much attention to a headline that read, `Scientists Discover That Ireland Was Settled By The Irish Instead Of The Lost Tribes Of Israel'. I suppose these Ceylonese... or Ceylons as the case may be... planned to counter-attack their erstwhile masters using some terrible weapon that could be connected with the Ujelang Device."

"No," said Sarah. "They seemed quite content to remain here and occupy parts of the Southeast Asian Peninsula and Java Sea."

"That's a relief," sighed Everett. "We still don't know why these archaeologists were interested in a chemist from Illinois, or why he was kidnapped by the Japanese nationalists, but I suppose we must defer this question for now. Pierre, how did your inquiries go at the offices of Burmah Oil?"

The Frenchman smiled. "I was able to find an informant," he replied suavely. "She was most cooperative. Our discussion lasted for some time, and we were both quite satisfied with the outcome."

Everett was not surprised by this report. "I understand," he said. "Did you learn anything relevant to our investigation?"

"Oui. It doesn't seem that Inspector Scott visited the oil firm, but the manager here did have contacts with the British Union of Fascists."

"The British Union?" asked Everett. "Are we sure of this?

Pierre nodded. "According to my informant, the manager was proud to be associated with them. He believes they'll make England great again."

"That hardly seems necessary," Jenkins remarked. "We're already the dominant world power."

Pierre shrugged. "These fascist movements make a practice of suggesting their country is in some dire peril from which only they can save it. In this case, salvation involved sales to a Japanese firm named the Divine Thunder Corporation. This occurred some time after Lady Warfield fled Ujelang on the Philadelphian, pursued by the mysterious cruiser."

"That is most certainly suggestive," said Everett. "We've already assumed that the baroness reached some understanding with her pursuers. This is one of her talents. Were you able to take a photograph of the contract?"

"Of course," said Pierre. "The cabinets in which these records were kept had locks of a notoriously poor design. But I wonder if my informant might have revealed her information too readily."

"You believe she was an agent of the British Union?"

"Perhaps. She did cry out Baronet Moseley's name at an incongruous moment."

Everett decided not to pursue this particular line of inquiry. "Jenkins, I assume you were able to track Scott into the city."

The signalman nodded. "It took care, for the man might have some skill at the game, but I contrived to follow him to a mansion belonging to one Eugene Morrison, a retired industrialist from Bombay. It seems Scott was using this as a venue for a secret meeting with Governor-General Wood."

"Lord Irwin, The Viceroy of India?"

"Quite. There was no way to determine the substance of their conversation, but one would imagine it occurred at the bequest of whoever sent the inspector on his mission."

Everett didn't even try to suppress a frown. "The possibilities are unsettling," he observed. "The Viceroy is appointed by the Crown, so we can be certain that Lord Irwin has powerful connections in the Cabinet. One of its members, Winston Churchill, was involved in the Burmah Oil scandal, as were Lord and Lady Warfield. Now we find the British Union here in the Pacific conspiring with the Burma Oil office in Rangoon -- presumably under Lady Warfield's direction."

The compartment fell silent while the others tried to assemble these pieces of information into something that resembled a puzzle. In the distance, some girder creaked as the vessel shifted position at her mooring. At last Jenkins ventured an observation.

"It's possible that Scott is investigating these matters on Mister Churchill's behalf, but he could just as easily have been sent by the chancellor's enemies as part of some calculated plan of betrayal. Either way, we would seem to be caught between two greater powers, like Belgium at the onset of the War. How can we extricate ourselves?"

Everett had given the matter some thought. "Captain Michaelson placed us in this position as part of some game for unknown stakes with opponents whose identity remains a mystery. It's time for us to raise those stakes, so that he's forced to reveal some cards. We'll send him a summary of recent developments... in the ordinary cipher."

Next week: Meanwhile, Back In The Hidden Lairs...

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