The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 526: Best-laid Plans

Glide bomb with message

Clarice and Emily had little difficulty leaving the air station without being observed. Their experience outwitting their aunts gave them an insurmountable advantage over the hapless Dutch sentries. They reached Weda to find Everett and Jenkins gone, but it was easy to determine what they'd been up to, for the airmen had seen no need to cover their tracks.

"It seems they've hired a boat and set off to look for those secret weapons," said Emily. "That could take them some time."

Clarice grinned. "I reckon we should give them a hand."

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" asked Emily. Normally the more adventurous of the two, she felt some qualms about where this enterprise might lead.

"She'll be apples," Clarice assured her. "Let's find a boat for ourselves."

The only remaining vessel for hire in Weda was an ancient steam launch named the Lightning. The name might have been appropriate in some entirely different universe where electromagnetic processes were more lethargic, but it seemed optimistic for this one. Its hull was the antithesis of sleek and its archaic single-cylinder steam engine entirely failed to be the promise of speed.

"Are you certain you jonge vrouwen can handle her machinery?" asked the owner.

"Dinki di!" said Clarice, rummaging through her handbag to produce a document

The Dutchman examined it in surprise. "You're certified to as a First Grade Steam Engineer?"

The brunette raised an eyebrow. "Of course! Isn't everyone?"

Raising steam took little time, and soon they were chugging eastward along the north shore of Weda bay. The coast to the north they passed was a richly varied tapestry, as long as one's concept of variation was limited to `jungle', but their vessel's speed left something to be desired. This raised questions of strategy.

"According to that fellow with the proa, there are three places he might have unloaded his cargo: Kobe, Dolo, and Patani. We'll never have time to search them all." said Emily.

Clarice considered their competition. "The Captain's certain to begin with the closest," she decided. "Let's try the farthest one first."

The decision to begin with Patani didn't preclude examining the other ports through binoculars along the way. Kobe proved empty of commerce -- an unremarkable village, with nothing in port larger than a fishing boat. As they neared Dolo, several hour later, they passed another launch heading in the opposite direction.

"That must be the Captain and Jenkins," said Emily. "I wonder if they found anything."

"I rather doubt it," said Clarice. "They'd have stayed to keep an eye on it. They must be heading back to Weda and calling off their search for the day."

"That means the secret weapons must be in Patani," said Emily. "Won't they be chuffed when we find them!"

Clarice was less certain of this. As the day progressed, she'd begun to have second thoughts about their mission. "Yes," she hesitantly. "I reckon so."

Day was drawing to a close when they reached their destination. This was even more rustic than Weda -- something of an accomplishment since the latter could hardly be numbered among the world's major metropolises. But it did host a small air station, where one of the ubiquitous S Class ships -- Germany's counterpart to the Armstrong Whitworths -- rode from the single mast. Her number, L-107, suggested that she was a commercial vessel of some antiquity.

No one paid attention to Clarice and Emily as they brought their vessel alongside the village's creaky wharf, for everyone seemed to be gathered at the station. A stealthy reconnaissance determined that the villagers were in the final stages of moving a load of crates from a warehouse to the station and loading them aboard ship

"Those must be the secret weapons," said Emily. "Someone must have gotten word of the Flying Cloud's arrival in Weda and decided to clear them out."

"And they'll be gone before the Captain can possibly get here," Clarice observed. "Is there any way we can send him a message?"

Emily glanced at the station's radio shack. It seemed unlikely such an important facility would not be guarded. "Not without being caught," she said. "We'll have to stow aboard and find away to send message later."

"They'll notice us when they weigh off," objected Clarice, remembering their experience in Darwin.

Emily gestured at the crates. In their haste to move them, their adversaries had abandoned any significant effort to maintain a watch. "Not if we take place of some of the cargo," she said brightly.

This proved easier than they hoped. The crates were stenciled by weight, presumably to help ballast officer, with doors whose hinges yielded readily to the hand tools every sensible girl carries in her handbag. The one they selected contained some form of winged projectile nestled on a dolly. It was moment's work to roll this out, hide it behind a shed, and take its place.

"How will our people know what we're up to?" whispered Clarice as they bolted the hinges back in place.

"I left them a note," said Emily.

"Energize," ordered Everett.

Iwamoto flipped a switch, engaged a clutch, and the Transporter began its descent. As it dropped, Everett considered the village below them. His people had worked hard through the night, preparing the Flying Cloud for flight. As soon as it was light, they lifted ship and set a course for Patani. Had they arrived in time?

As soon as the platform touched down, Everett set off for the wharf, followed by Jenkins and Davies, who he'd brought a long in case of trouble. As he suspected, they found the Lightning tied up alongside.

"Do you have any idea what became of the passengers of this vessel?" he asked a passing villager.

The islander gazed at the launch as if he'd only just noticed it. "Nee," he replied. "It must have come in last night, when we were busy loading a cargo onto that airship."

Everett suppressed a ighed. "I take it this airship left some time ago."

"Ja!" the islander said cheerfully. "They lifted ship last night!"

Everett sighed and gestured to his companions. "Let's have a look at the station. Perhaps they left some clues behind."

The station was empty, like dance hall the morning after a party. There was no sign of the staff, who seemed to have retired, exhausted by their labors. It was clear that the mystery ship had taken its aboard cargo in haste, for the field was scored with ruts and divots where workers had dragged crates into position for the hoist. Davies poked at the ground glumly, then glanced at the corner of the field, where something had caught his eye. "I say," he remarked, "what's that all about?"

This proved to be bulky object someone had dragged behind a shed and covered with a tarp. The airmen pulled this off to discover what appeared to be a winged bomb -- quite possibly a copy of the weapon that had sunk the Japanese destroyer. At any other time, they might have paused to examine it, but now their eyes were drawn to a message someone had scrawled in lipstick on its nose.

Look what we found!
We're on the L-107.
Emily and Clarice

"Sir?" asked Jenkins. "What shall we do?"

Patience was on of the requirements for command rank. Everett drew upon his now. "We will decide upon this in due time."

Next week: What Was He Up To Here?...

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