The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 448: So, Where Are We Now?

Cairns Royal Air Station

Rain drummed against the windows, streaking the panes, dripping from the frames, obscuring the view of the world outside. It was the first real downpour of the wet season, harbinger of things to come, and only a few sodden figures could be seen out on the field. Everett glanced at them with a certain amount of envy, for inside Michaelson's office, the mood was dark.

"It seems we were too late," the senior captain said sourly. "According to the officer on the scene, some Assistant District Superintendent named Eric Blair, our message didn't arrive until after Fuller was gone."

"Do we know the reason for the delay?" asked Jenkins. Everett nodded inwardly at his aide's strategy. This seemed like a good time for a distraction.

Michaelson was having none of it. "It seems there was some confusion in Rangoon about where to forward it, and we were too preoccupied with the inquest into the loss of the R-46 to make certain it was delivered."

Everett could recognize implied criticism when he heard it. "At least the inquest went well," he observed in a move to defuse it.

"Perhaps," said Michaelson. "Inspector Scott acknowledged that he'd taken command of the vessel, and accepted full responsibility for its loss, but the manner in which he did this raised as many questions as it answered."

Everett raised his eyebrows. "In what way?"

"He did this in the form of a report, in triplicate, with copies going to the Admiralty, Admiral Wentworth's office in Sydney, and us here in Cairns. This suggests that he mistrusted one or more of the recipients and wanted to make sure no one could suppress it."

"He could hardly be worried about the Admiralty, since that's where his authority came from," observed Jenkins.

"Quite," said Michaelson. "That leaves precisely two possibilities, one of which is cause for concern. Did he say anything that might shed light on his attitude towards us?"

Everett noted his adversary's use of the word `us'. "He suggested that you and I had been under suspicion due to our... connections... with the Warfields, but were no longer persons of interest," he replied. "What do we know about Admiral Wentworth's office?"

"The Admiral is a creature of politics, as any officer of flag rank must become if he hopes to actually receive a flag," said Michaelson. "These are waters in which it's dangerous to venture. I suspect this was the true subject of Scott's investigation, for he showed remarkably little interest in the events of the past year. In particular, he seemed unconcerned about the explosion that destroyed Ujelang."

Everett nodded in agreement. It was difficult to imagine anything aside from politics that might seem more important than a weapon that could annihilate an entire island. "Where does that leave us?" he asked carefully.

"With implied responsibility for preventing these renegade nationalist groups from recovering the secret of the Ujelang Device," said Michaelson. "We've received no specific instructions on the matter, but if they manage to reconstruct this weapon, the consequences are unlikely to bring us joy. Let us review what we know."

Anticipating requests of this sort was one of the marks of a good signalman. Jenkins had already dug into his satchel to retrieve his notes. "The original Device was built by the White Russian nationalists in their hidden laboratory on the coast west of Darwin. We've hypothesized that the necessary materials were produced at their other hidden laboratory in the Dutch East Indies. Shortly after the Device was completed, the German nationalists, under direction of an individual we know of as the Fat Man, raided both laboratories, stole the things for themselves, and brought it to Ujelang to test it. We had an opportunity to examine the Device before the explosions, and the mechanism seemed comparatively simple. This consisted of a pyrotechnic device that would slam two hemispheres of some unknown substance together at high speed. This matches the design of the non-functional duplicate we recovered from Rabaul harbor. It remains to be determined what the hemispheres were composed of or why their union should produce such a monumental explosion, but we believe this involves uraninite ore that has been refined in some special fashion.

"This suggests that the secret of the Ujelang Device involves the refining process. As far as we know, this information was the sole possession of the White Russians, and may only be known to one man -- the mysterious Karlov. The German and Japanese nationalists both seem to be trying to reconstruct this process. To this end, the Germans stole the equipment from the White Russian laboratory in the Dutch East Indies, while the Japanese have obtained duplicates of this equipment and kidnapped an American chemist who developed a procedure to separate something known as `isotopes'."

Michaelson's smile was anything but convincing. "An adequate summary," he replied. "This leaves us with four obvious lines of inquiry: the White Russians, the Fat Man's German nationalists, the Japanese nationalists, and the laboratories themselves. You have not managed to cover yourselves with glory during your interactions with the first three groups, so I believe you should handle the fourth task."

Everett nodded, noting how the Michaelson's references to `we' had been replaced by `you'. He also noted that the senor captain had made no mention of Lord and Lady Warfield and the British Union. Was this because the senior captain was reluctant to risk any inquiry that might suggest collusion, or that the collusion was real? How long must our past come back to haunt us? he wondered.

"What are your orders?" he asked, giving no hint of these thoughts.

"You have compiled reasonably complete inventories of the White Russian laboratory in Australia, and the Japanese laboratory in Burmah," Michaelson said curtly. "For some reason, you neglected to do the same for the White Russian laboratory in the Dutch East Indies. You will proceed to the island on which it is located, correct this oversight, report the results to me, and await further orders. Dismissed."

It seems we're to serve as a stalking horse, while Michaelson pursues his own schemes... again, Everett thought to himself. It was reassuring to know that some things never changed. He wondered what his other adversaries were doing.

Next week: Here Be Dragons...

Comments about Episode 448? Start a new topic on the Forum!

StumbleUpon        submit to reddit Reedit