The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 535: Just Like An Island Paradise, Only Different

The launch approaching Sarah's island

Clarice and Emily stared at their visitor. "Natasha!" they exclaimed in surprise.

The other woman eased the door shut behind her. "Emily Wilcox and Clarice Blaine," she said. "What are you doing on here?"

"We stowed away aboard the L-103," said Emily, gesturing out the window, where the hapless German airship could be seen riding from the mast. The mysterious cruiser was no longer present, having departed on some new errand. "Those Japanese chappies intercepted the ship and brought her to this station. What are you doing here? The last time we saw you was at their base in Western Australia before destroyed. Do you plan to destroy this one too?"

Natasha seemed to take this question seriously. "That might not be as easy," she observed. "The nationalists have enlisted help from the British Union to enlarge their garrison. You can see the new barracks next to the fuel depot."

Clarice and Emily looked across the field. Now that Natasha had been pointed this out, they realized that the station had two groups of guards -- one decidedly Asian, the other decidedly not -- united by an appreciation of tea, love of authoritarian regimes, and the fact that both came from island nations.

"That still doesn't explain why you came here," said Emily. "I don't reckon it was to rescue us."

This prompted a rueful smile. "No, I'm trying to discover what my counterpart is up to."

"That would be Karlov," said Clarice.

Natasha nodded. "I've determined it was him who prompted the Warfields to offer reinforcements to the Japanese. Given this island's importance, I thought it best to investigate."

This revelation suggested a host of questions, but one loomed particularly large. "This Karlov," asked Clarice. "Who is he? You told Lieutenant Iverson that you were his wife, then that you were his sister. What is the relationship between you?"

The other woman paused. Fora moment her expression seemed utterly bleak. "You couldn't possibly understand," she told them. "But he and I are at odds, and I'm trying to prevent the Japanese nationalists from acquiring something they shouldn't."

"That would be this refiner they need to extract the destructive principle from uraninite ore?" said Emily, who shared her companion's inordinate love of machinery.

"That's one of its uses," said Natasha. She seemed glad to have someone to talk to. "When I learned that Karlov was aiding the Japanese, I passed the location of their secret laboratory in China to the Fat Man's people. Karlov tried to counter this move by informing the Japanese about the weapons shipment aboard the L-103, but the Germans already have enough weapons to mount attack the place without it. He must have realized this, and warned the Japanese to send the cruiser to its defense, but the ship can't possibly arrive in time. We have to get you off this island before he realizes that he's lost this round. I know where to find a boat."

By now Clarice and Emily's heads were spinning. Moves... counter-moves... what was this all about? But they approved of the phrase `off this island' and followed meekly as Natasha led them toward the harbor. They hadn't gone far before they heard an outcry ahead. The dove for cover as a party of Englishmen rushed past to fall upon the Japanese who guarded the perimeter of the air station.

Emily watched this development with interest. "Those chappies seem to be having a barney," she remarked. "Whats that all about?"

Natasha's eyes widened in dismay. "Karlov was one move ahead of me!" she cried. "He must have planned to betray this place to the British Union and used my threat against the base in China to drain it of defenders."

Clarice frowned. This sounded like so much nonsense. And could it possibly matter? She gestured ahead, where their path to the harbor was blocked by swarms of fighting men. "Be this as it may, I don't think we can get past that lot," she observed. "What should we do?"

Natasha had recovered her composure and pointed back the way they'd come. "We'll circle around the field in the other direction and slip past the field to the east."

This proved easier than Clarice expected. From time to time, men rushed past on their way to fight, but chance -- a flurry of falen leaves, a shout from another direction, a fortuitous place to hide -- always intervened to protect them. At last they reached the spot where the prison camp bordered the air station. Here their path was blocked by a trio of sentries the British had posted to guard the entrance.

"Those chappies look a bit too keen," Emily said glumly.

"Strewth," Clarice said glumly. "We aren't slipping past them without a bit of luck."

Iverson pretended to remain calm as Loris steered the launch toward the breakers that loomed ahead in the night. Even the Transporter would have been preferable, but the Japanese would have spotted them with their electronic detection apparatus if they'd approached Sarah's island by airship, so this was the only way they could land a party. The craft surged forward on the face of a wave. Then it was foaming through the shore break to run up on the beach. Moments later, he was scrambling ashore with Jenkins and Sarah as Loris waited for a lull between sets, backed the launch away, then steered it out to sea. They'd call him back to retrieve them after they'd rescued Clarice and Emily. They hoped.

"I understand there's a trail from this beach to your village?" Iverson asked Sarah.

"Yes, but it's too faint to follow in the dark," said the island girl. "This western end of the island has always been tapu. The only people who came here were priests when they wanted to sacrifice captives to the elder gods who filtered down from the stars in the dawn of time before and will rise again when the stars were right to sweep the Earth clean of humanity. It's unlkely that the Governor or the Japanese know about this place."

This conformed with Iverson and Jenkins' understanding of French and Japanese religious practices, so they made camp and settled down to wait. Morning found them following Sarah along a faint track leading east. They might have thought it a only game trail, but here and there they came upon small stone tikis that looked much like lawn gnomes might look if they were covered with tentacles. Like the temples they'd seen on the southern side of the island, these were glazed as if by intense heat. Iverson remembered seeing a similar phenomenon on Ujelang after the explosion that had destroyed the island, but dismissed the coincidence as irrelevant.

The trail climbed into the hills, then wound its way down through the jungle to a emerge just south of the air station. For some time, the trio had been hearing what sounded ahead. This was now explained.

"There appear to be two groups fighting for control of this place," Iverson observed as they studied the spectacle before them. "One is quite clearly our friends the Japanese, the others appear to be Englishmen."

"I imagine they would be the British Union of Fascists," said Jenkins. "This does seem the sort of thing the Baron and his lady would do."

Iverson nodded glumly How were they to complete their mission in this confusion? Meanwhile, Sarah had been watching the course of the melee. "I say!" she remarked, pointing to their right, "Is that who I think it is?"

Next week: Perhaps They Won't Notice...

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