The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 503: I'm Sure They Haven't Noticed

Three nationalist cards

The Commander gazed south, where the ridge loomed dark against the sky. On the highest peak, sunlight gleamed from the towers of radio detection system. He noted it and smiled. It was a triumph of technology -- testimony to the Land of the Rising Sun's scientific leadership. The ignorant round-eyes had nothing to compare with it.

He turned his attention to the air station. This had grown considerably over the past year, as the original German equipment was replaced by matériel from the hidden factories in Korea. The old facility had been comparatively modest -- a mast and supply depot guarded by a few aging 77's left over from the War. Now a battery of modern naval guns defended a barracks, machine shop, and warehouses, with a fuel depot and hydrogen plant large enough to resupply the mighty cruiser that rode from the mooring.

He studied the vessel with mixed feelings. Annoying though this might be to admit, she was not entirely a product of Japan. Her design had been copied from the Americans, the alloys from the Austrians, the engines from the Germans, and the fittings from the British. He consoled himself with the thought that these were all things his own culture could have developed if they'd spent the time.

Satisfied, he turned back to the parlor they'd pressed into service as a conference room. At the far end of the table, the Governor was enjoying one of the over-elaborate coffee preparations of which the French were so fond. He seemed comfortable in his role of a host -- an understandable attitude, given the profit this involved. On either side of the table, junior officers waited for the Commander to speak.

"Kaigun-daii Egami, " he demanded, "did you detect any other vessels with your equipment?"

The lieutenant bowed "Iye, Kaigun-dais. We noticed a faint reflection yesterday at the limit of our range, but we believe this was an American commercial flight to New Zealand."

"Kaigun-chusa Matsurra, have you confirmed the identity of the airship you brought down?"

"Hai, Kaigun-daisa. Material from the crash site shows that she was the L-147, a Veirzig class ship assigned to the East Asian squadron."

"Santōheisō Hagomoto, have we received any word from Rabaul?"

"Hai. It according to our agent, the mission was ordered by the Administrator."

"Do we have any idea why? The Administrator is a merely a bureaucrat. Such a man would never do such a thing on his own." The Commander knew this all too well. Japan had one of the most pervasive bureaucracies on Earth. This was one of the flaws the movement intended to correct.

"Iye," said the radioman, "but it appears that he issued the order after he received a visit by someone believed to be an agent of the Fat Man."

"So!" crowed the Commander. "It seems the Germans have set aside their differences to launch an attack against us. We shall return the favor. Rikugun-Chūi Wakai, have you found the people who struck down the guard?"

The lieutenant looked uncomfortable. As well he might. Only a limited n umber of failures were allowed in the service of the Emperor. "Iye, Kaigun-daisa," he admitted. "We sent a team to follow their trail, but they did not return."

The Commander nodded. This was as he'd expected. Japan was one of the most civilized countries on Earth -- a land of farms, villages, and cities. This was poor training ground for jungle fighters. But the same could also be said of Germany.

"It should not matter," he decided. "The Germans must also have perished in the wilderness by now, and even if they should somehow survive, they cannot escape this island while the Manzuru patrols the southern coast."

The Fat Man stood at the window, gazing at the air station that stretched to the south. It was an idyllic setting, surrounded by palm trees, with the harbor glimmering beyond. It was also a perfect place to hide. With thousands of islands in Dutch East Indies, the chances of their adversaries finding this one were minuscule. But he wondered if it might be too secure. Could the absence of any immediate threat allow his men to grow soft?

Unbidden, his mind filled with memories of an earlier purer time -- the shriek of wind in the wires, the roar of a six cylinder inline engine, the rattle of machine guns as he walked his tracers onto a hapless English two-seater. He smiled inwardly. If all went well, such times would come again, and these islands would also know the blessings of war.

"Mein herr, we have word from Rabaul," came a voice from behind him. He turned to see Baumannn standing in the doorway.

"What is it?" he snapped.

"The Administrator dispatched an airship to investigate the French island," said the radioman. "It reported an encounter with the cruiser, then contact was lost."

"That is curious," mused the Fat Man. "They must have known the Japanisch would intercept them. Why would they send a ship to its destruction? The Administrator is merely a civil servant. He would not take this initiative on his own."

The radioman grinned. Such enthusiasms were encouraged in the service of the Fatherland. "Our contact reports that the ship was sent after he spoke with the Japanese agent."

The Fat Man grinned in reply. "At last our enemies expose themselves! The Administrator must have sent that ship as a courier, to make common cause with our former allies. There will be a time of confusion as they conduct their negotiations. We must take advantage of this. Summon Kapitan Stein."

Bludge coughed to announce himself, then presented a salver bearing a message slip. Lord Warfield unfolded the paper, scanned its contents, and smiled.

"I take it this is good news," said the Baroness from where she was testing the balance of a throwing knife.

"Your plan was successful, my dear," the Baron replied. "We still have no idea why the Administrator sent that ship to its doom, but our agent was able to take advantage of the situation as you suggested. She informed the Japanese that he'd spoken with the German agent, informed the Germans that he'd spoken with the Japanese agent, and now they'll be at each others' throats."

The Baroness hefted her knife, then flung it at the target. It struck with a thunk, just left of the bulls-eye. She smiled. "I do so love it when things go well."

Next week: Just a Minor Annoyance...

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