The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 551: A Visit To The Oracle

Mortar with parking ticket

The Flying Cloud reached Jakarta the morning of the 23rd. As capital of the Dutch East Indies, its air station was filled with traffic, from lowly island blimps to a Dutch cruiser, the Leiden, from the great Fokker yard near Amsterdam. In this crowd, the new arrival went unnoticed, sparing Everett the need to pay a courtesy call on the Administrator.

"I take it you intend to visit the Countess Zelle," Iverson remarked after the ship was on the mast.

"That is correct," Everett told him. "Order Loris to prepare the Transporter. In the interests of timeliness arrival, Jenkins and I will employ the motor-bicycle rather than hire a motor."

A short time later, Jenkins was steering the machine they'd acquired in Cairns up a road into the hills as Everett reclined -- to the extent that this was possible -- in the sidecar. The motorcycle a perfect vehicle for an expedition of this sort -- nimble enough to weave its way most of the past oxcarts, wagons, and the stray water buffalo, and noisy enough to frighten away those it couldn't. The absence of anything even remotely resembling a suspension might have daunted lesser men, but members of the Royal Navy Airship Service were expected to dismiss such things as unimportant.

As the two men neared their destination, they spotted a motor on the road ahead. "I say, "Jenkins shouted over the noise of the unmuffled exhaust, "that appears to be another Adler Six."

"I believe you are correct," Everett shouted back. "This will doubtless be more of our German nationalists. The seem somewhat unimaginative in their choice of vehicles."

"Poor tradecraft," Jenkins noted. "Do you think they harbor some designs against the Countess?"

"It's difficult to imagine what else could have brought them here," said Everett. "Drop back to shadow them so we may see what they're about."

By now the Adler was approaching the drive that led to Countess's estate, the Eye of the Day tea plantation. It pulled to a stop at the entrance and three men wearing brown shirts and humorless expression emerged to remove something from the boot. Everett and Jenkins stopped as well, for their own vehicle, whatever its merits, was magnificently ill-adapted for stealth.

"We will proceed from here on foot," said Everett. "This fellows seem rather intent on whatever it is they're doing, so we should be able to avoid observation."

The captain's prediction proved correct. The Germans were too busy with their work to realize they'd been observed. When the airmen reached a convenient stand of trees, Everett called halt to study what was quite obviously a weapon.

"That would be a Lanz 9cm trench mortar," he remarked to Jenkins. "I recall those with some displeasure from the War. It wold seem they intend to employ it against the Countess. We cannot allow this. I will distract them while you deal with the matter."

He stepped from behind the trees, adjusted his jacket, and strode toward the Germans' position. As he approached, he cleared his throat to draw their attention.

"Gentlemen," he announced sternly. "I must demand that you cease your enterprise."

The Germans turned in surprise, then produced three of the ubiquitous Parabellum pistols that seemed to be the nationalists' trademark. "It is Kapitan Everett," the leader crowed. "This is a wonderful day. In addition to removing an one irritant, we also capture another. You will surrender."

"I would not find this convenient," Everett replied. "Might I prevail upon you to consider another source of action?"

"Nein!" the German said smugly., "Consider yourself our prisoner!"

The captain shrugged, and nodded to Jenkins, who'd circled to creep up behind the nationalists without being seen The signalman laid them low with three raps from his blackjack -- Signal Corps Issue SRA-47 -- and tucked this away in his belt.

"That takes care of that," said Everett as they bound the Germans and heaved them into he back seat of the motor. "Shall we continue?"

The butler emerged greet the Adler as Everett and Jenkins as they parked in front of the mansion. Under his direction, the Countess's household staff they locked the captives in the old servants's quarters -- the estate's previous owner had an expansive definition of the word `servant' -- added the mortar to the collection of weapons they accumulated from the previous attacks, and sent out driver to retrieve the motorcycle. Satisfied that these matters were in hand, he led the airmen to the sitting room where the Countess was waiting.

She looked up as they entered -- a calm middle-aged woman with considerable presence and the figure and poise of a dancer. "Captain Everett, " she said with delight.

Everett took her hand and bowed. "Mata. It is good to see you well."

The Countess chuckled. "I understand I have you to thank for preventing the Fat Man's people from shelling my house. I don't understand those people. You'd think they'd be grateful for... was it really that long ago?"

"You still have many admirers," Everett assured her. "Recent events suggest those fellows were motivated by the concern you might know the location of the Fat Man's secret base."

She raised an eyebrow. "I must admit I've sought this information, but they've hidden it well."

"Their measures of concealment may have begun to fail," Everett observed. "Commodore Michaelson was able to plot the movements of their schnellboots to restrict its location to a region northeast of this island."

"Poor Michaelson," she said quietly. "I take it he cannot forget."

Everett nodded sadly. "Matters could hardly be otherwise, for either of us."

She touched his hand. "You will not have to bear this burden forever, Roland. Of that I am sure. No matter how dark the night may seem, the sun always rises. But how did Michaelson come by this information?"

"My former Exec obtained some of it from the captain of an America freighter. The Commodore must have obtained the rest from his contacts in German Naval Intelligence."

The Countess gestured to her butler, who'd been waiting discreetly by the door. He departed, to return bearing a ledger and a rolled up chart of the Dutch East Indies. She directed the airmen to spread the latter on table while she consulted the former.

"I too have been watching those vessels," she told them. "From their cargoes, I've been able to narrow the possible location of the base to one of several islands. It will be interesting to see how this list compares with the one Michaelson deduced."

Next week: And Meet Interesting People Along The Way...

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