The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 474: It's Wise to Plan Ahead

Outline of the 'Tranquility'

It was an awkward tableau. Everett, MacKiernan, and Miss Perkins sat on one side of the table, while Ritter and his lieutenant sat on the other, like delegates to some dubious peace conference. Untouched cups of tea stood between them. At the head of the table, Countess Zelle waited for them to begin. She seemed untroubled by her role as hostess. She would have learned this sort of balancing act during the War, Everett reflected. How would she manage today's confrontation?

Ritter opened the negotiations. "You suggested we have interests in common," he told Everett. "What is your proposal?"

"We both wish to prevent the Japanese or their allies in the British Union from getting their hands on that shipment of vacuum tubes," Everett replied. "To this end, we're both trying to determine where the British Union might try to intercept the freighter that's carrying it. I propose that we pool our efforts, following separate leads and keeping each other informed of our discoveries. That way we double our chances of success."

"What happens when one of us finds the shipment?" asked Ritter.

"They destroy it," said Everett. "In addition, if one of us manages to intercept the Warfields, they promise to free their two captives."

Ritter nodded. "So the victor would receive no spoils. Why should either of us agree to this arrangement?"

"Because those spoils are worthless without the plans for the refining apparatus," said Everett. "I'm willing to wager that you don't have access to these, since you and the Japanese are at odds, and you can hardly believe they've provided us with a copy -- our interactions have tended to involve violence."

"That may be true," Ritter admitted, "but why should we also agree to release your two young friends?"

Everett shook his head ruefully. "I very much doubt you'd want to keep them on your hands," he assured the German. "This would almost certainly be more trouble than it was worth. They're two overly-adventurous civilians with a regrettable habit of ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Ritter noticed his expression and frowned. "Do they really cause so much trouble?"

"Words are inadequate to describe their ingenuity."

"I will take this under advice," said Ritter. "But why should we trust each other?"

Everett met the other captain's gaze. "You were not always a merchant skipper," he said. "I imagine we served in similar capacities during the War. We may well have faced each other on the North Sea that day in May. And the Kaiserliche Marine has the same traditions of honor as does the Royal Navy."

"So it does. Would that they were more widely observed," mused the German. He sat for a moment, then turned to address Countess Zelle. "You have been silent throughout this discussion, Gráfin," he said politely. "What do you have to contribute?"

The Countess took a sip of tea, then set her cup aside. Her manner was brisk and precise, like a barrister explaining the conditions of a contract. "I know of several ports where the British Union maintain agents," she told them. "I can provide you with this information. In return, I would expect some appropriate consideration. From you, Kapitán Ritter, this would include a promise from your superiors not to attack my estate again."

"And if I cannot obtain from them such a promise?" said the German.

"Then you don't receive the information, and we discover whose resources are greater: the Fat Man's or mine."

Ritter inclined his head in respect. "Your reputation is well-deserved, Madam," he said. "I shall convey your message to our fuhrer and recommend that he never put it to the test. Kapitán Everett, you must have intelligence regarding the British Union. How closely can we expect them and the Japanisch to cooperate?"

"The alliance may not be a willing one," said Everett. "The Japanese seem to have forced it upon the Warfields when they surprised their airship on Ujelang earlier this year. This raises some questions about the Warfields' motives for trying to recover the vacuum tubes. They could be working for the Japanese, they could plan to sell them to the highest bidder, or they could want them for themselves."

"Such were my thoughts as well," said Ritter. "The Baron and his lady are... flexible negotiators." He paused as if to reflect, then spoke to his lieutenant. "Dedrik, return to the spáhwagen and tell the driver to prepare. I will conclude our business with the Countess, then join you."

The lieutenant rose and saluted. "Jawohl, Mein Heer."

Ritter waited until his subordinate was gone, then glanced at Everett. "This so-called Ujelang Device, you have seen what it can do?" he asked quietly.

"We witnessed the explosion from offshore, and we've visited the island to view the aftermath first-hand," said Everett. "It would be a formidable weapon. It would be particularly devastating against civilian targets. My service frowns upon such things."

Ritter nodded. "As does mine. I would see this tradition continue."

After the Germans had left, Everett sent MacKiernan and Miss Perkins to contact the Flying Cloud and arrange for pickup. The Countess ordered her butler to assist them, then came to stand by Everett.

"Do you think you can trust Captain Ritter to destroy the vacuum tubes?" she asked.

"I believe so," said Everett. "He and I may have different allegiances, but we seemed to share an understanding."

The Countess glanced in the direction MacKiernan and Miss Perkins had departed. "Your executive officer and Michaelson's secretary seem to share an understanding as well."

"Of a different form, perhaps," said Everett. "Unfortunately, they too are divided by their allegiances. I hope their story ends well, but I fear that Captain Michaelson may have the final say in the matter."

The Countess laid a hand on his arm. "Lawrence never forgets, does he?"

"How could he?"

She sighed, then her face brightened with a smile. "At least your signalman and Miss Wilcox don't face any obstacles of this sort."

"You know of their... friendship?" asked Everett.

"Of course!" said the Countess. "It is my business to know such things. What about the young lady's companion, Miss Blaine?"

Everett glanced at her. "Surely you're not suggesting..."

The Countess's denial was not entirely convincing. "Of course not!"

Everett chuckled. "You needn't have any fears on that score," he assured her. "Miss Blaine has made her opinion of the gentleman in question quite clear."

Next week: We All Live On a Wolesley Class Dirigible...

Comments about Episode 474? Start a new topic on the Forum!

StumbleUpon        submit to reddit Reedit