The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 478: I Suppose It's Our Turn To Try

Deployment operations

Everett studied the islands to port, took the bearings of several landmarks, and marked these on the chart. Satisfied, he plotted a course from the place they intersected, made a correction for the quartering tailwind, and gave an order to the helmsman. "Mister Murdock, please give us a turn left to 350 degrees."

"Aye, sir, left to 350," the lieutenant replied smartly.

Everett watched the evolution and suppressed a sigh. He had been a lieutenant once himself. "No, Mister Murdock, your other left."

"Sorry sir."

Beside him, MacKiernan seemed to be struggling not to smile. "I take it we're bound for Singapore," he said, gesturing at the plot.

"You are correct," said Everett. "I'd intended to head for Saigon, where we'd be in a position to intercept either the Warfields or the Tranquility as they made their way north, but Miss Perkins just decoded this order from Darwin." He passed a message slip to MacKiernan, who read it and frowned.


"Michaelson remains cryptic as ever," grumbled the Exec. "Do we have any idea what this is about?"

"I gather he's learned of a possible connection between the Warfields and some local automobile merchant," said Everett. "It remains to be determined what this might have to do with our missing vacuum tubes."

"I'd give a lot to know the source of the man's intelligence," said MacKiernan. "He seems to have eyes and ears everywhere."

"So he does," sighed Everett. "And some of those are sure to be watching us to see if we comply. We'll send a party ashore in the launch, as the captain has requested, but we'll keep the ship offshore, so that we can take the Warfields by surprise if they make the appearance he's warned us about."

MacKiernan was the obvious choice to lead the shore party -- Everett could hardly go himself if there was prospect of an action, and Lieutenant Murdock didn't seem quite ready for the challenge. Miss Perkins had to accompany the party to handle communications, and Everett sent Abercrombie and Rashid along in case of trouble. Deployment was routine, and soon the Flying Cloud's launch had slipped past the King's Dock and tied up to a wharf in Keppel Harbor.

The Crown Colony of Singapore did not have an overwhelming number of automobile dealerships, and Malay Motors proved comparatively easy to find. It was a modest establishment in what appeared to be an old barn, not far from Fort Canning. The reason for Michaelson's order became clear as soon they stepped inside.

"I say," MacKiernan remarked, "is that an Adler?"

"Yes, sir," said the manager. "It's one of the new Standard 6's they exhibited at the Berlin Motor Show -- a marvel of modern engineering!"

"However did it end up here in the Pacific?" asked MacKiernan.

"Life is full of mysteries," said the manager. "I acquired it from a passing merchant skipper, but I have no idea where he got hold of it."

"Do you happened to recall the name of his vessel?"

"This would have been the Lethargy... Apathy... Serenity... something like that."

MacKiernan and Miss Perkins exchanged glances. "Could it have been the Tranquility?" asked Miss Perkins.

"Yes, that was it! Some fellows from that secret society were asking about it as well."

MacKiernan and Miss Perkins exchanged another set of glances "Secret society?" they asked in unison.

"They aren't very secret if you ask me," said the manager. "They're always running about, going on about some `new order' and world conquest. You'd think the Ordinance of 1890 would have put an end to that sort of thing."

"This must be the British Union of Fascists," MacKiernan whispered to Miss Perkins. "I can't imagine who else would be plotting world conquest."

"They'll have informed the Warfields that the freighter was here," the secretary whispered back. "We'll have to find some way to track them down."

The manager was too well-brought-up to listen in to prospective customers' private conversation. "They made a deposit on the Adler," he remarked. "They'll be dropping by this afternoon to pick it up."

It took but a moment to summon a cab. The driver -- an expatriate American with a partiality for radio dramas -- was delighted by the prospect of what he called a `tail job', and had no difficulty following the Adler as it left the dealership. The chase led north, then east, past the waterworks, the golf links, and the race course, to a converted Masonic hall near the market. It seemed the manager of the automobile dealership hadn't exaggerated this particular society's lack of secrecy.

"I imagine they may outnumber us, but we have the initiative," said MacKiernan as they disembarked from the cab. "Abercrombie and Rashid, you'll take the back and side entrances while Miss Perkins and I take the front. On my signal, we'll burst in and overwhelm these fellows before they have chance to react."

Abercrombie seemed to have misgivings about this plan. "Dae ye think we can take them sae easily?"

"I'll bet you a shilling we catch these British Union fellows entirely by surprise."

The Scotsman grinned. "Yer on!"

No one raised an alarm as the airmen took their positions -- it seemed that security was also not one of this particular society's strongpoints. MacKiernan waited until he was certain his companions were ready, then blew his whistle and threw his weight against the door. It flew open with a crash, revealing a congregation of robe-clad figures facing what appeared to be an altar, topped with one of the quaint tentacled idols common to this part of the Pacific. Their leader -- a stoop-shouldered individual wearing a gold tiara of strange alien workmanship -- turned and raised an eyebrow.

"What's all this then?" he asked politely.

"Members of the British Union!" cried MacKiernan. "You are now prisoners of the Royal Naval Airship Service! Cooperate and you'll be released unharmed! Resist and it will go badly for you!"

The leader frowned, then gestured at the chamber around them. "Whatever are you going on about?" he said indignantly. "This isn't the British Union. This is the Esoteric Order of Dagon."

"You aren't a renegade nationalists group, committed to the violent overthrow of the Crown?" MacKiernan asked hopefully.

"No, we just worship elder gods who filtered down from the stars before the dawn of time, sank beneath the waves, and will rise again when the stars are right to sweep the Earth clean of humanity."

MacKiernan paused in embarrassment. "Oh," he said. "That's all right then."

Beside him, Abercrombie was scratching his head. "Who won this bet?" he asked MacKiernan. "You or me?"

Next week: Surely They Couldn't Get Into More Trouble...

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