The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 466: Beware Of Her Wrath

The plank

As an officer in the Royal Navy Airship Service, Iverson had confronted many challenges. He'd endured stress, trials, difficulties, hardship, and moments of peril. None of this had prepared him to face Aunt Prodigia.

"Right, you wankers!" she growled. "Where are my nieces?"

"Urk," Iverson managed to choke. The fact that the matron had hoisted him aloft by the collar prohibited a lengthier reply.

Beside him, Sarah leveled her spear. "We had nothing to do with their abduction!" the island girl cried. "Now set my companion down or prepare to face the consequences."

Aunt Prodigia glanced at her and grinned. "A lady after my own heart!" she chuckled. "Here, have your mate back!"

Iverson stumbled as the matron released him. "Don't let that other fellow go," he gasped. "He may know where your nieces were taken."

"That's what I reckon," said Aunt Prodigia. She planted her feet and gave her remaining victim a shake. "Tell me where they are!" she demanded.

The German glanced around for his companions, but they had wisely chosen the better part of valor. "You cannot force me to talk," he protested. "The rules of civilized behavior..."

"...may not apply to angry Australians," Sarah observed brightly.

The man's shoulders sank, to the extent that this was possible for someone in his position. "Ja," he admitted, "that is so."

"Strewth!" said Aunt Prodigia. "Now come along and don't give me any hassles."

The matron set off for the harbor, dragging her prisoner by the ear. Iverson and Sarah followed with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. A crew from the Stalking Herring was waiting to row them out to the tug. Once they were aboard, Aunt Prodigia ordered the German to stand by the rail, then hefted a spanner in much the same way a housewife might heft a rolling pin as she confronted an erring husband.

"Well?" she demanded. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

The German studied her expression, then glanced down at the water as if wondering if he might be safer among the sharks. "I am a servant of the Vaterland," he replied hastily. "Our fuhrer, der Große Mann, sent us to Kupang to apprehend an American professor named Koshino. Unfortunately, the Royal Navy found this person first. We didn't dare go back empty-handed, so Schnieder ordered us to capture two Australian frauleins who'd been seen with him. I understand that these were your nieces?"

"Bob's your uncle," said Aunt Prodigia, investing the colloquialism with an aura of menace Iverson hadn't realized it was capable of possessing. "Where are they now?"

"Schneider took them away in the Adler," said the German. "He is driving to the Portugese territory, where we have a verstehen."

"He won't make good time over these roads," Aunt Prodigia observed to Iverson and Sarah. "If we head for Motaain, we can cut him off at the border. We'll take this chappy along in case he's giving us the raw prawn."

Aunt Prodigia ordered her prisoner clapped in irons -- the fact that she maintained resources for such an eventuality spoke volumes about her personality -- then got the Stalking Herring underway. Steam had not been suffered to go down, and soon the tug was pounding eastward through the waves. To port, Timor was a irregular wall of green indented with a succession of small bays. To starboard, an endless line of swells rolled in from the horizon.

It was a beautiful vista, but the novelty of travel aboard a salvage tug soon paled, for the vessel's designers clearly hadn't had comfort in mind and her motion in a seaway was anything but easy. Sarah seemed to take this in stride -- islanders without cast-iron stomachs must long ago have been eliminated from the gene pool. As an officer in the Royal Navy Airship Service, Iverson was expected to do likewise.

Their prisoner seemed somewhat less satisfied with the situation. "This vessel is no more than a spielzeug!" he complained. "My old ship could have blown it to flinders."

"I take it this was naval vessel," said Sarah.

"Ja!" the German said proudly. "I was an obermatrose aboard the SMS Thürigen when our navy fought you to a standstill at Jutland."

Iverson raised an eyebrow at this comment. It seemed to involve a novel interpretation of `standstill', which included such concepts as `one contestant is no longer standing'. He made a remark to this effect.

"Pfagh!" the German replied. "Scheer was ready to resume the contest at any time. Meanwhile, our army had shattered the Russians, and we were winning the war in the trenches. One more big offensive would have brought us victory, but our leaders were too timid and allowed von Kuhlman to throw this all away.

Once again, Iverson felt it appropriate to raise an eyebrow. Two years of trench warfare had taught both sides the inevitable outcome of `one more big offensive'. But the German, lost in brooding, seemed not to notice.

"Our country was betrayed by the Peace!" he continued angrily. "Now those criminals in the Weimarer Nationalversammlung, collaborate with this treason! But Ernst Rohm and the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei will make our country great again! They will assure Germany her place in the sun!"

Sarah also seemed to regard the man's treatise with some skepticism. "Germany has prospered since the Peace, to become one of the world's greatest industrial powers," she observed. "What's wrong with the place in the sun it has now?"

Aunt Prodiga timed their arrival at Motaain for morning so they'd wouldn't have to enter the harbor at night. As they approached the port, they spotted a small freighter steaming south. Examining it through binoculars, Iverson made out the name Tranquility. He dimly recalled seeing this name somewhere before, but dismissed the matter as unimportant and turned his attention to the village.

It could not be numbered among the world's major seaports. A single rickety pier was all it boasted in the way of harbor facilities. Beside this, a few small warehouses were testimony to the place's lack of industry. Some distance to the east, a modern-looking mooring mast seemed entirely out of place, and suggested that someone back in the Netherlands had benefited from a lucrative government contract. Aunt Prodiga brought the Stalking Herring up to the wharf and hopped ashore while her crew made fast. Spotting an elderly Dutchman fishing from the end of the pier, she stalked over to question him. Planks creaked beneath her weight.

"Goedenavond, Mevrouw," the man said politely. "How may I help you?"

Aunt Prodigia was not one to beat around the bush. "Have you seen any German nationalists about?" she demanded.

The man seemed puzzled by this question. "I understand these people are all in Kupang," he replied. "The only Germans here recently were those two juffrouw with the automobile."

Aunt Prodigia's expression underwent a peculiar transformation. "Two sheilas in a motorcar?" she asked.

"Ja," said the Dutchman. "They arrived last evening and sold their vehicle to Captain Ray in return for passage to Darwin. He set sail this morning. You only just missed him."

The matron glared south, in the direction they'd watched the freighter vanish. At last she gave what might have been a laugh for members of her species. "Oh well, at least they're on their way home," she observed philosophically. "That should keep them out of trouble."

Next week: Dauntless Damsels of Darwin...

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