The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 431: I'm Sure They Won't Notice Us

Chianti and kimchi

Fenwick and Peters studied the Japanese air station from the control car of the Salgari. It was a modest facility, with only two masts and a single shed. The fuel depot and hydrogen plant seemed somewhat larger than necessary, but it was common for contractors to enrich themselves by inflating the size of contracts in out-of-the-way places such as these. The vessel riding from the Number One mast was more difficult to explain.

"I do believe that's the R-46," said Fenwick. "Whatever are they doing on Iwojima?"

"I imagine we'll be in a position to ask, provided we can find some reason to call here," Peters observed.

"This should not be un problema," Vincenzo said cheerfully. "Mario has provided us with an excuse. We are delivering an illicit supply of carboxcylic acid."

"What would they need that for?" asked Peters.

"It is a corrosion inhibitor for diesel fuel," the Italian explained. "It's also used as a food additive, though I imagine the first application is more likely."

"Quite," said Peters.

With only 700,000 cubic feet of enclosed volume, the Salgari did not present any particular difficulties to the local handling parties. The station might not have had mechanized handling equipment, but the Imperial Japanese Navy was notorious for its discipline, and soon the ship had been walked to the mast. A supply officer was waiting when they emerged from the lift. He studied their cargo manifest with a smile.

"Arigato!" he told Vincenzo. "This is much useful! Are you needing resupply?"

"Marat has a list of our requirements," Vincenzo replied, gesturing at his sergeant. "Now my men and I must pay a courtesy call on that English vessel."

"Hai," said the officer, who like most members of his culture had been trained to respond in the affirmative to the imperative form of the verb.

A short time later, Fenwick, Peters, and Vincenzo were seated in the R-46's mess hall, across from MacKiernan and Miss Perkins. The Irishman and secretary seemed somewhat breathless, as if they'd just been summoned back to the ship.

"Welcome aboard, Captain Vincenzo," said MacKiernan. "I remember you from Tahiti."

"Si," said the Italian. "I have brought two of your countrymen."

"Fenwick and Peters!" MacKiernan said in surprise. "Whatever are you doing here?"

"It's a long story, sir," said Fenwick.

This observation proved to contain some truth. By the time the signalman had summarized the chain of events that had led him and Peters to Iwojima, several cups of tea had been consumed. MacKiernan's experiences accounted for several more.

"It seems we've both traced Miss Kim's movements back to this island," MacKiernan mused after they'd finished exchanging stories.

"We gathered that she escaped from this island," said Fenwick.

"So it would seem," said MacKiernan. "Let us see what the lady has to say about the matter. I'll send Abercrombie to fetch her."

The rigger arrived a few minutes later with Miss Kim. Vincenzo stood as they entered. "Anyonghaseo, Signorina Kim," he said with a bow. "I see you made it to Cairns."

A trace of a smile seemed to flicker across the woman's face. "Anyonghasimnika, Seonjang Vincenzo," she replied quietly. "These people have helped me."

"You could help us in return," MacKiernan told her. "Can you describe the place where the German nationalists were holding you?"

The woman gazed out the window at the weathered bulk of Mount Suribachi, as if she expected it to provide an answer. At last she turned back to the Irishman. "It is below mountain," she said, pointing to the spot she'd indicated as they approached the island. "I can take you there."

"That should serve," said MacKiernan. "It seems the mysterious cruiser was making flights between this island and the Japanese nationalist's secret base. The Germans will have kept records of these flights while they were here -- that's the sort of thing Germans do. If we can find them, they might give us some idea where the base is."

"Surely the Japanese will have destroyed them after their alliance with the Germans ended," Peters objected.

"Not necessarily," said Miss Perkins. "Leaving things alone unless given specific orders to act is the sort of thing Japanese do. But we'll need some way to draw their attention away from the place if we mean to search it."

"This also should not be un problema," Vincenzo announced. "I shall host a party. Everyone will come!"

The crew of the air station welcomed the idea of a party with some enthusiasm. The Imperial Japanese Navy might have been notorious for its discipline, but remote Pacific islands were equally notorious for leaving their garrisons desperate for novelty -- particularly if that novelty involved copious quantities of chianti. No one noticed Fenwick and Miss Kim leave the station disguised as common laborers, and soon they were making their way through the brush.

Fenwick had mixed feelings about the expedition. Sneaking about a strange island at night to burglarize some office for which they didn't have a floor plan while trying to elude hostile guards seemed like asking for trouble. On the other hand, it also seemed rather sporting. He kept the latter thought in mind as they crept along the slopes of Mount Suribachi to approach their destination from above. The moon was little more than a sliver in the western sky, but tropical nights were bright, and Miss Kim had no trouble picking out some half remembered trail. At last she called a halt. On the other side of a fence, two buildings bulked in the starlight.

"Here is where I sneaked out," she whispered. "Barracks is to left. Office is to right."

Fenwick studied the right-hand building. It would have been easy enough to approach, were it not for the sentry who stood by the door. Fenwick supposed he should commend the man for his diligence, but he would have preferred some less substantial indication that the building contained something worth guarding.

"We'll have to find some way to get past that fellow," he mused.

"I could distract him while you sneak up behind and knock him out," Miss Kim suggested.

"That would rather give the game away," Fenwick observed. "We need some strategy that doesn't leave unconscious bodies strewn about the premises."

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of voices raised in song. Glancing to their left, Fenwick and Miss Kim saw a trio of workers approaching from the direction of the station, bottles in hand. As the workers neared the sentry a pantomime ensued, with the former acting out the role of, "Why don't you join us for a drink?" and the latter one of, "Can't you see I'm on duty!" The former played their parts with more conviction, and soon four figures were striding off into the night.

Fenwick watched this development with some approval. "I must say," the signalman remarked. "That Vincenzo fellow is a genius."

Next week: Not Quite The Encounters We Were Hoping For...

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