The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 487: All Roads Lead To Danang

The Stalking Herring, Flying Cloud, K CLass Submarine, and Tranquility en route to Danang

Captain Everett studied the remains of the German import-export agency's warehouse. It could not have been an appealing building to begin with, and small arms fire had done little to enhance its aesthetic appeal. Beside him, Abercrombie was toying with the ram the Japanese nationalists had used to force the entrance. It was a substantial object -- a length of piling with cast iron grips that must have required four men to wield it. The Scotsman balanced it in one hand, hefted it for a moment, then flipped it into the rubble.

"It looks like the nationalists hae aw shot a craw," he observed. "What should we do now, Captain?"

"We'll wish to prevent the fellows from making contact with the Tranquility to take delivery of that shipment of vacuum tubes," said Everett. "They may have removed each other from play here and in Saigon, but that still leaves Danang."

"I suggest we combine our efforts to secure the place," said Fuller. "I could take my submarine offshore to watch for the freighter while you investigate the port in person."

Everett glanced at the other man. He still hadn't decided how much faith he could place in the scholar's claim to be working for Naval Intelligence. "That would require a measure of mutual trust," he observed.

"This is true," Fuller admitted. "You cannot be certain of me, and I cannot be certain of you, particularly since you're working for Captain Michaelson. But what alternative do we have? If we dog each other's tracks, the nationalists will be certain to take advantage of our preoccupation."

Everett hid his surprise at this mention of the senior captain. There'd be time to consider its implications later. "Very well," he said. "Let's shake hands on the matter and get to work."

Danang lay on the southern shore of a bay where the Han River emerged from the narrow corridor of land between the Annamite mountains and the South China Sea. To the north, a spur of hills formed a peninsula that guarded one side of the entrance. To the east, the 2200' peak of Son Tran mountain guarded the other, and served as home to a bewildering collection of pagodas, monastaries, and temples.

Like many settlements in this part of the world, Danang was a place of some antiquity, dating back to the Champa Kingdom in the Second Century. The French had taken possession of the town during the reign of Napoleon III, using the convenient excuse of protecting Roman Catholic missionaries. Colonial administrators had attempted to change its name to Tourane, for reasons that were never entirely clear, but this effort had not won universal acceptance, and the old name still predominated, except on public buildings, civic monuments, and sites such as the air station.

The latter was a thoroughly modern facility, with a dozen mooring masts and their associated handling equipment spread along a field next to the beach. To Everett's critical eye, it was exposed to artillery fire from the neighboring heights, but he supposed this was unlikely to be a concern except in the unlikely event of some nation-wide insurgency. Their arrival was uneventful, and by time the Stalking Herring made port, they'd determined that neither the Tranquility nor the nationalists were in evidence.

"It seems that neither the Germans, Japanese, or British Union of Fascists has a strong presence in this ville," Pierre reported when they met in the Flying Cloud's mess hall to plan their next move. "There are rumors that each maintains a safe house, but if these exist, they're well-hidden."

"So we need Captain Ray to rock up with the Tranquility and draw these chappies into the open," Aunt Prodigia observed sourly.

"So it would seem," said Everett. "We will cultivate patience while we wait."

They didn't have to wait for long. Sometime the next morning, Fuller reported sighting the freighter on a course for the port. "It appears we were right to trust the fellow," Everett observed. "We now have several hours to prepare for the vessel's arrival."

"Who do you have in mind for the party?" asked MacKiernan.

Everett considered the matter. They would want to set out in force, given the possibility of a confrontation with our adversaries. "Aunt Prodigia must be represented, of course," he observed. "I will also take Lieutenant Iverson, Miss Sarah, Abercrombie, Davies, Rashid, Loris, and Pierre."

MacKiernan frowned. "Will this be sufficient if you encounter an armed party?

Across the table, Abercrombie snorted, "I'll bet ye a shilling we can take 'em!"

No one paid any attention to the airmen as they crossed the Han River on the bridge at the old French fort. From there, they worked their way north along the Son Tra peninsula, identifying piers where the freighter might dock.

"Regarde," said Pierre, as they passed the mouth of an alley. "Someone has struck down a party of stevedores and dragged them off into this passageway."

"Whatever could have been the motive?" asked Iverson. "They can hardly have been carrying anything worth stealing."

"That is true," said Everett. "Theirs is not a profession that lends itself to affluence. Keep your eyes open for anything else out of the ordinary."

A block later, they came to second group of unconscious figures. These were quite obviously Japanese. Like their predecessors, they were dressed as dockworkers.

"One suspects there was some connection between these fellows and the first group we saw," Sarah remarked.

"I daresay you're correct," Everett observed. "I imagine these are nationalist agents who ambushed the first party to assume their identity as a disguise."

"Then who struck down these fellows?" asked Iverson.

"We still have two nationalist organizations unaccounted for," said Everett. "They would seem to be the most likely candidates."

The next block brought evidence to support the captain's hypothesis. This took the form of a party of unconscious Englishmen. Their disguise as dockworkers was less convincing than their predecessors', for they'd been unwilling to surrender their pith helmets, walking sticks, and neatly tailored tropical suits.

"These must some of those British Union blokes," Davies said dryly. "There seems to be a pattern developing here."

Everett nodded. "Their presence in this condition suggests that a group of the Fat Man's people is somewhere ahead of us. I trust that you gentlemen... and ladies... are all prepared to meet them."

Sarah hefted her spear, Rashid fit a stone to his sling, Abercrombie flexed his muscles, and Aunt Prodigia rolled up her sleeves. "Bonzer!" said the matron. "Time for another blue!"

They found the Germans making an unconvincing attempt to pretend they were ordinary dockworkers as they watched the Tranquility back down to the pier. The ensuing encounter was brief, one-sided, and undoubtedly won Abercrombie a shilling. By the time Captain Ray strolled down the gangway, events had reached a conclusion.

"What was that all about?" asked the skipper, gesturing at the unconscious Germans.

"It would take too long to explain," Everett told him. "I am Captain Roland P. Everett of the Royal Navy Airship Service. We understand that you've been carrying a shipment of vacuum tubes. This was destined for enemies of the Crown. We wish to take possession of it on behalf of His Majesty's Armed Forces. You will, of course, be compensated for the value of the contract."

Ray didn't seem entirely surprised by this announcement. "Right, those vacuum tubes," he said. "A funny thing happened on the way from Singapore..."

Next week: Well, Almost All Roads Lead To Danang...

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