The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 557: It Has Become A Different Game

Journal and slide rule

Michaelson's face was expressionless as he studied the reports from Everett and MacKiernan. The Commodore did not do expressions. But Fenwick noted that his hands were unusually still. "It seems the German and Japanese nationalists have renewed their alliance," he remarked, as if this was a matter of little import.

"Could they be planning an attack on the British Union?" Fenwick ventured -- anything to head off what might be a storm.

"I imagine so," Michaelson replied with what might have been a sigh. "We should have anticipated this, for their interests are not so very much at odds. They will be seeking the uraninite refiner Karlov is constructing for the Warfields. With this in hand, there is no reason why they each couldn't build a copy of the Ujelang Device for themselves."

"What would they do with the weapons?" Fenwick asked.

"Destroy their nations' governments, of course, to replace these with their own," Michaelson said curtly. "But the timing of this alliance seems too fortuitous to be a matter of chance. I suspect the hand of Karlov's adversary, this Natasha woman,"

"What game are those two playing?" asked Fenwick.

"That is what we must determine, and must determine it now. We have allowed this to go on long enough," said Michaelson. He picked up his pen, jotted down two quick messages, and handed them to his aide. "Transmit these to Captain Everett and Commander using a one time pad."

The Transporter platform set down with a thump. Iverson alighted with as much grace as he could muster, followed by Jenkins, Pierre, Clarice, and Emily, and examined their surroundings. The clearing was much as they'd left it the year before. Vegetation might be reclaiming the circle blasted by the German nationalist's bomb, but the steam tractor was still where the Fat Man's people had abandoned it, and the warm Australian sun still glimmered on the river to the west.

"Why are did Commodore Michaelson order the Captain here?" Clarice asked.

"He's determined to learn something of Karlov's plans, and wonders if the man might have left something behind in the White Russians' secret laboratory," Iverson explained. "We know he had a hiding place here."

"Dinki di..." Clarice began, "...and oh look, it's Wallis Stevens general purpose traction engine!"

"Why are they here?" Iverson whispered to Jenkins as the brunette rushed off to join her companion.

"They wanted to come, and I believe the Captain felt it might keep them put of trouble," the signalman said wryly.

Iverson raised an eyebrow. "What trouble could they possibly get into aboard an airship..." He paused. "Right. Forget I asked."

After collecting the two young women from where they were examining the steam tractor, the party set off for the cave where the White Russians had hidden their ill-fated laboratory. It didn't seem anyone had visited the place in their absence, for there were no footprints in the dust, and the floor was still littered with spent cartridge cases. Clarice and Emily examined the walls in the light of their hand torches.

"These rock paintings resemble the ones in the caverns below the secret Japanese air station in West Australia," Emily remarked. "Here's the same image of a musician clashing a pair of symbols next to what look like a big tree."

Jenkins nodded. "I've begun to wonder about those. According to Miss Sarah, they match her people's legend of something called the Instruments of Joy. These were supposed to have magical powers of creation and destruction. I might have discounted this as myth, but that Italian opera singer, Antonio Notariello, used the same name for the Ujelang Device, and this `tree' looks much like the tower of smoke and fire raised by the explosion."

The blonde pauses as if reflecting on this coincidence, "Is this where the White Russians built the Device?"

"So we believe," said Iverson, indicating the drag marks where the Germans had dragged the thing to the surface. "They locked it in a vault when the Fat Man's people attacked but the Germans returned with tools to force the door and take the thing away."

"Where did Karlov hide during the attack?" asked Clarice

"I will show you mademoiselles," Pierre said graciously. He led the way down the passageway to the anomaly of geometry that hid the entrance -- an angle that seemed obtuse but acted as if it was acute.

Emily studied this with interest. "This is just like the symbols on that pendant Clarice found," she remarked. "How does it work?"

"Qui sait," the Frenchman said with shrug. "What matters is what it concealed."

Like the clearing where they'd deployed, the hidden chamber was much as they'd left it. Some animal seemed to have made a nest in the trash Karlov had left behind, but no one else seemed to have visited it. Satisfied it was unchanged, they returned to the main cave complex and began to inspect this for other hidden entrances. This was a time consuming process.

"We haven't found a thing," Clarice complained several hours later.

Iverson finished examining a final section of wall, then lowered his torch. "So it would seem. Still, Karlov's friends in the Tranquility did visit this place after we left. That suggests it's of some significance. What could it be?"

Pierre frowned as if struck by a thought. "I wonder if we have neglected the obvious. If you would follow me."

Without further explanation, the Frenchman led them back to Karlov's hiding place. Iverson examined the walls and nodded. "You think there could be another hidden passage here?" he asked.

"Peut-etre," said Pierre. "It is the only place we haven't looked. And the man might have left these papers to make us believe there was nothing more here to find. It is the sort of thing he does."

It was Clarice who found the entrance -- another trick of geometry like the one that led to the chamber they were in. They negotiated this to find a harrow corridor -- apparently the work of hands -- marked with more petroglyphs. These were more abstract than the ones in the main passages, reminding Iverson of the carvings on the Nui Mana artifact Karlov had stolen from them in Tahiti. The corridor ended in a room someone had furnished for habitation, with an electric lantern, a rack of wet cell a batteries, a cot and bedroll, and a small writing desk. A mechanical calculator stood on the latter, next to a slide rule and a shelf of books and journals. Gaps showed where some of these had been removed.

Iverson thumbed through one of the journals. It was filled with numbers and equations and, some crossed out as if they were in error. By now, they recognized the handwiring.

"This must be Karlov's work," he observed. "I can't imagine who else might have come here. But how did he managed to find and furnish this place without the White Russians knowing?"

"A more important question may be what he was trying to accomplish," said Jenkins. "I suggest we take this material back to the ship for examination."

Next week: The Other Player...

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