The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 461: Does It Come With Instructions?

Two folders with parts lists

"D'ye ken `twas the Fat Man's minions who kidnapped the two lassies?" asked Abercrombie.

"I imagine so," said Everett. "There cannot be an unlimited number of German thugs who drive about the Dutch East Indies in large black motorcars."

"Shall we give chase?" asked Jenkins.

Everett considered the matter, then shook his head. "The fellows will almost certainly have made their escape by now," he observed. "They seem somewhat better organized than our friends in the British Union. We'll wish to get Professor Koshino to safety in the event they decide to return in force."

No nationalists appeared to contest their passage as they made their way back to the Flying Cloud. As soon as they were aboard, Jenkins headed to the radio shack to dispatch the day's position report while Everett met with his officers to decide on a plan. The airmen faced something of a dilemma. On the one hand, it seemed imperative to get Koshino to Cairns as expediently as possible so that the Navy could benefit from his intelligence. On the other hand, chivalry demanded they begin some effort to rescue Miss Wilcox and Miss Blaine from the Germans.

They were still debating how to resolve it when Jenkins returned with a message. Everett read it and frowned.


"It appears the matter has been taken out of our hands," he observed to the others.

"This mention of a `courier' can only refer to Koshino," marveled Iverson. "How could Michaelson know we'd found him?"

"He might have learned this from his contacts with German Naval Intelligence," MacKiernan suggested. "We know they've been watching the Fat Man and his people, and they knew Koshino was here. Though I suppose the captain could also have some contact with the Japanese or the British Union."

Everett's expression hardened. "I believe we can discount the latter possibility," he said curtly. The others glanced at him, but he offered no explanation for his comment.

"What will we do now, sir?" Iverson asked.

"We don't seem to have many alternatives," said Everett. "We must bring the professor back to Cairns. But can leave a party here to track down the Germans. This will have to include someone who knows their way around the islands, and someone who can command cooperation from civil authorities if necessary."

"Who do you have in mind?" asked Iverson.

Everett noted the lieutenant's apprehension and allowed himself a smile. "I will think upon the matter," he replied.

They made the flight back to Cairns with all three engines running at full power. This might reveal something of their vessel's performance to Michaelson, but it seemed unlikely the senior captain hadn't gained an inkling of this by now, and the quicker they made the passage, the less of a lead their adversaries would gain. Koshino spent most of his time in the mess hall, enjoying the ever-changing view form the windows. "I didn't get to see much of my previous two airship rides," he explained. "I was cooped up in a cabin for the first and hidden in a crate for the second."

"How long did the latter flight take?" Everett asked him, hoping this might provide some clue as to where the Japanese nationalists' new base was hidden.

"I seem to have slept through the whole thing," Koshino confessed. "It must have taken several hours. Judging by the position of the Sun, my captor's secret laboratory was north of the equator at roughly the same latitude as the base they abandoned in Burmah. I understand Kupang is some distance to the south."

MacKiernan glanced at the captain. "That's more than two thousand nautical miles," he whispered. "The flight would have taken at least two days. He could hardly have remained asleep so long."

Everett nodded. This was hardly the only mystery associated with the professor's adventures. "How did you contrive your escape?" he asked.

"That was Nadia's doing," said Koshino. "She snuck me into the air station where I hid inside a crate that was part of an outbound cargo. When I woke up and kicked my way out of the box, I found myself in a warehouse in Kupang."

The airmen exchanged another set of glances. "This Miss Nadia," asked Everett. "Was she a tall slender woman with blond hair and Eastern European features?"

"I suppose she was," the professor said in surprise. "Why did you ask?"

The ability to keep one's expression neutral under any and all circumstances was one of the requirements for command rank. "It's just a routine question," Everett explained. "The Royal Navy Airship Service likes to keep track of such things."

They reached Cairns Royal Air Station late the next day. A handling party waited in the rain to walk them to the Number Two Mast -- an indication of the importance Michaelson placed on their passenger. When they descended the lift, a marine driver and a motor were standing ready to take them to the senior captain's office.

Michaelson seemed in an unusually curt mood. "I see you finally got here," he said. "Greetings, Professor Koshino. I am Captain Michaelson, commander of this station. I understand you were kidnapped by a group of Japanese nationalists, who wanted you to build a machine to refine a particular type of ore."

Everett was disturbed by the implications of this statement. Just what does Michaelson know, and where did he learn it? he wondered. But the professor took it in stride.

"It wasn't refining in the conventional sense," he began. "They wanted to separate something known as isotopes..."

"I am familiar with the concept," the senior captain interrupted. "How does this machine work?"

Like all professors, Koshino seemed genetically predisposed to lecture. "It involves a hypothesis hypothesized by a Louis de Broglie. He suggested that under some conditions, matter will behave as if it was composed of waves rather than particles. My machine takes advantage of this to increase the probability that stochastic processes will proceed in a desired direction."

Everett's ears perked up at the mention of the word `probability'. Hadn't the Warfields been seeking a device that could influence chance?

Michaelson appeared not to notice. "How long will it take them to complete it?" he asked.

"The prototype was finished when I left, and only needs to be calibrated," said the professor. "But they'll need more machines if they wish to do any large-scale production."

Michaelson smiled, like a chess player who's noted some weakness in his adversary's position. "Am I correct in assuming this will require specialized components that might be difficult to acquire in the South Pacific?"

The professor thought this over. This question didn't seem to have occurred to him. "Why yes," he replied. "I suppose it would."

Michaelson's smile broadened. "Could I trouble you to compile a list for us?"

Next week: We're Making A List...

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