The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 464: And The Band begins To Play...

Grand Theft Auto?

Clarice and Emily stood in front of the hotel, hands on their hips, glaring in the direction Everett and his party had departed. At last Clarice shook her head. "It seems rather selfish of them to leave us behind and deprive us of an adventure," she announced.

"Bob's your uncle!" Emily agreed. "How dare they keep all the fun for themselves!"

The brunette was about to reply when a large black motorcar careened to a stop in front of them, doors slammed open, and three Germans emerged to drag them inside.

"I say..." Emily began to protest.

"Remain quiet, fraulein, and you will not be harmed," said one of their abductors.

The two women glanced at each other and grinned. This was more like it! They settled back and made themselves comfortable as the automobile sped away. It was one of the new Adler Standard 6's that had made its debut at the Berlin Motor Show. Its 152 cubic inch engine delivered an astounding 44 horsepower via a sophisticated three speed transmission. Hydraulic brakes, on all four wheels, could actually bring the vehicle to a stop -- an important improvement over earlier mechanical systems that merely suggested a vehicle slow down. The Fat Man's people must have commanded significant resources to bring this marvel of modern engineering all the way to the Pacific.

The motor's operators seemed somewhat out of place in this tropical environment. They were quite obviously German, with haircuts and clothes straight out of a recruiting poster for some Aryan youth organization, but Clarice and Emily were surprised to hear them speaking English. It seemed they'd lived in the islands long enough for their command of their native tongue to deteriorate.

"Why do we bring these two?" one asked his companions. "We were sent to take the professor."

"The man was gone," said another, "and the fuhrer is unlikely to reward failure. We need to offer him a success. These frauleins were seen in the man's company."

"Ja," said the third man -- a scarred veteran who might have been the leader. "Let us hope he will be satisfied."

The other men shuddered. Clarice considered the implications and decided it was time she and Emily established themselves as artless chatterers. This strategy had served them well in the past as a means to deter unwanted attention.

"Oh look," she said, pointing out one of the windows, "there's a monkey!"

"No, I think it's a marmoset!" said Emily, getting into the spirit.

"Are you sure?"

"Dinki-di!" said the blond. "Or maybe it isn't. It might be a lemur."

"What's the difference?"

"I'm not sure. I think it has something to do with the shape of their noses."

"Whatever it is, it's adorable! Do you think our aunt would let us have one?"

The strategy was a resounding success. As the day wore on, their captors began showing distinct signs of distress. The leader in particular was staring out the window with an expression that suggested he wished he was back in the trenches. They were also showing signs of frustration. Their motorcar might have claimed 44 horsepower, but on what passed for roads in Timor, 43 of those were of little use. Obstacles such as wagons, washouts, herds of water buffalo, and the occasional fallen tree also slowed their progress.

By afternoon the Germans must have concluded that they wouldn't reach their destination on schedule. They halted atop a hill, switched off the engine, and opened the boot to remove a wireless set. While one man stood guard -- a task for which they seemed to have drawn lots -- the others set off to find a suitable tree, string an aerial, and radio their superiors for instructions.

Clarice had made good use of her time studying the vehicle's controls. The Germans hadn't secured these, for it didn't seem to have occurred to their captors that women might be capable of operating a motorcar. She glanced at the guard, who'd been careful to take a position some distance away, then grinned at her companion.

"I think I've got this lot sorted out," she announced. "Shall we give it a go?"

Emily indicated the sentry. "How will we crank the engine without that fellow noticing?"

"No need. These chappies were kind enough to park their machine on a hill."

There seemed no reason to wait, so Clarice vaulted over the seat, adjusted the mixture and spark advance, and pumped the throttle to prime the engine. After a quick glance to make sure the guard was looking the other way, she depressed the clutch, put the machine in gear, and released the parking brake. This was the moment of truth. Had she operated the controls correctly, would the hill be steep enough to get them rolling, and would the sentry notice?

The answers proved to be `yes', `yes', and `not until they'd picked up a fair bit of momentum'. The German gave a shout and sprinted after them, but the Adler was already bounding down the hill faster than he could run. As they left the man behind, Clarice eased out the clutch. The vehicle lurched, throwing them forward in their seats, then, with a roar, the engine came to life.

"Bonzer!" cried Emily. "Where will we go now? Those chappies are sure to radio ahead to their mates, and they'll be waiting in case we turn back."

"We'll take a side road to some coastal village."

"How will we know which road leads to the shore?" asked the blond.

"I imagine they all do," said Clarice. "Where else would someone build a road to around here?"

The brunette's prediction proved correct. Evening found them entering a small village near the border between Dutch and Portugese Timor. Ahead of them, a small freighter tied up to the settlement's single wharf. A tall mooring mast, currently unoccupied, rose from a field to the east. They drove the Adler onto the pier, parked next to a stack of crates, and hopped out to greet the vessel's master, who was supervising the loading of cargo.

The captain seemed surprised, as well he might, but recovered his poise quickly. "G'day, ladies! How may I help you?" he asked.

"We'll sell you this nice motorcar if you give us passage to Darwin!" Emily said brightly.

The captain glanced at the Adler for a moment, then smiled. "Dinki di!" he told them. "You've got a deal!" He turned and shouted to his derrick operator. "Cleaner, forget that last load of coffee! We have a change of plans!"

Next week: The Vacuum Tube Pirates of Melbourne...

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