The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 533: A Clash of Cultures

Emily, Clarice, and pawns

Footsteps rang on the floor of the keel passage as the prize crew responded to their fellow's cry of surprise. Clarice and Emily found themselves surrounded by inquisitive Japanese airmen. Their hosts seemed astonished to see them. As well they might -- it couldn't be every day they came upon two young women in flapper outfits strolling through a captured airship. They chattered among themselves a babble of Japanese until their leader arrived.

The commander looked more like a clerk than a warrior, reminding Clarice of her aunt Tremendas observation that Japan had the most bureaucratic culture in the world. "Korehanandesuka?" he demanded of his men.

The airman who'd discovered Clarice and Emily pointed at them and shrugged helplessly. "Shirimasen."

The commander glared at the two young Aussies in annoyance. "Wer bist du?" he asked them, making the natural assumption they were part of the airships German crew.

"Sorry, mate. We dont understand French," Emily replied cheerfully.

This didn't seem to improve the commander's mood. "Who are you?" he tried again.

"G'day!" said Clarice, getting into the spirit of things. "I'm Clarice Blaine and heres my mate, Emily Wilcox. Whats your moniker?"

The commander seemed to struggle with this question, then dismiss it as irrelevant. "What you doing on airship?" he demanded.

"We stowed away!" Emily announced with some enthusiasm.

Their host might have had less trouble interpreting this announcement -- the expression was universal to many languages -- but it cannot have been one he expected. "You hiding in ship without crew knowing?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Dinki di!" said Clarice. "It was fun!"

This did not seem to help. "What are this dinkidi?" the commander asked suspiciously.

"Bob's your uncle!" Emily explained.

This too did not seem to help. The commander frowned as if mulling the matter over, then reached a decision. "We taking you place answering questions," he announced. "You no causing trouble or you getting... problems."

Since the L-103 had no compartment suitable for use as a guardroom, so the Japanese confined Clarice and Emily with the original crew in the section of keel passage that had functioned as their quarters. The Germans seemed every bit as surprised to see the two women as their captors had been. "Guten abend, meine Damen," said a stocky Bavarian who looked every inch the commercial airship captain. "I am Horst Krugman, master of this vessel until..." he gestured toward their guards. "Who are you?"

"Pleased to meet you," Emily told him. "Im Emily Wilcox and this is my mate, Clarice Blaine."

The German brightened "Ah! You are Kapitan Everetts friends!"

"You know us?" the blonde said in surprise.

"Ja!" Krugman said with a smile. "Kapitan Ritter warned me about you. You must have stowed aboard to learn where we were taking the Fat Mans weapons."

Emily and Clarice exchanged glances. This conversation was not developing in quite the way they expected. Clarice studied the captain's expression and noticed a frown.

"You do not seem to have been entirely happy with this cargo," she ventured cautiously.

"Nein," Krugman replied sadly. "These are tod werkzeuge. The War should have taught us all to reject such things, but with a vessel this old, we must take whatever cargoes we can get. Do not worry. I will keep your secret from the Japanisch."

The ancient S Class made poor time, and it was two days before the L-103 reached Sarah's island. The no-longer-quite-so-mysterious cruiser remained on guard overhead while the prize crew brought the vessel down to the mooring, then descended to moor at the mast beside it. This was Clarice and Emilys first glimpse of the famed air station where all the intrigue had begun two years before. The facility had been expanded since then, first by the German nationalists, then by the Japanese, and now boasted three mooring masts, a airship shed, a fuel depot, a hydrogen plant, and some very substantial defenses. The latter looked quite formidable to the Aussies untrained eyes -- strong enough to repel even attackers armed with the Germans new glide bombs.

They had ample time to examine their surroundings as the Japanese led their prisoners from the ship. The crew were marched off to a newly-constructed prison camp at one end of the field. The women were escorted to a mansion a short distant away. Here, guards in French uniforms took charge and brought them to a hall where an immaculately dressed Frenchman with steel-hard eyes held court, accompanied by a senior Japanese naval officer. This, Clarice guessed, must be the infamous Governor and the leader of the Japanese nationalists.

"Quest-ce que cest?" the Governor asked the other man.

"These are the stowaways my men found on the German vessel," the nationalist leader replied.

The Governor studied his guests thoughtfully. He might have executed spies out of hand, but he seemed prepared to offer two young women a different sort of treatment. "Bonjour, mademoiselles," he said, in a voice that must have served him well in encounters with the opposite sex. "Welcome to my island. I am Governor of this territory. Might I ask who you are?"

"Bob's your uncle!" said Clarice, which for all she knew might have been true. "Im Clarice Blaine and she's Emily Wilcox."

Either the Frenchman didnt recognize their names or he was a very good actor. "Alors," he replied suavely. "I understand that you secreted yourselves aboard l'Allemande vessel in search of adventure."

"Dinki di!" said Emily. There seemed no need to make things easy for the fellow.

"Je comprends," the Governor assured them. "I must approve, for I too was lured here by the romance of these islands. We shall endeavor to make your stay pleasant." He turned and nodded to a servant. "Les escorter jusqúà leur logement. Voyons ce que pensent le Baron et la Baronne."

Their `logement' proved to be a one-room bungalow -- perhaps the same one in which Iverson had been imprisoned two years before. Emily studied the chamber as if evaluating how difficult it would be to escape using the tools she carried in her handbag, then shruggged. It wouldnt be easy, for their captors had taken some pains to reinforce the place.

"That went better than I hoped," she said at last. "At least that nong didn't stick us in some dungeon."

"I reckon so," agreed Clarice, "but did you catch that bit about `Le Baron et la Baronne? That must be the Warfields. Once they see us, the game will be up."

"Dinki di," said Emily. "We need to bail out before they rock up."

Their conversation was interrupted by a voice from the door. "What are you two doing here?"

They turned, then glanced at each other in surprise. "Strewth!" exclaimed Clarice. "it's Natasha!"

Next week: When Irish Eyes Are Perplexed...

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