The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 575: A Useful Discovery

The Scherbius Machine

It might have been an ordinary typewriter. The body and keyboard were entirely unremarkable and looked in no way out of place on Michaelson's desk. But in place of a roller and platen, it sported three disks, inserted into machine like slices of bread in a toaster. The Commodore tapped one with his finger, then turned to Jenkins.

"I take it this is one of the Scherbius Machines the Germans developed to encipher their communications," he remarked.

"The design is quite characteristic," said Jenkins. "It would appear that the Fat Man's nationalists have adopted them as well."

"So now we have the ability to interpret transmissions they believe are secret," Michaelson mused. "How did this device fall into the hands of the British Union's agents here in Cairns?"

"Commander MacKiernan and I wondered about that," said Miss Perkins. "We would have guessed the Germans gave it to them when the groups were still allied, were it not for this message we found with it."

The secretary unfolded a sheet of paper. Michaelson read it with a frown.

Our interests coincide. As token of my sincerity, I offer you this.

"Interesting," the Commodore observed. "Do we have any idea when he might have left this?"

"There's no way to tell," said MacKiernan. "The room seemed not to have been disturbed since the British Union abandoned it, and everything was covered by a layer of dust, but that tells us little."

"I understand this was not your only discovery," said Michaelson.

"This is correct," said Miss Perkins. "A set of maps was lying on top of the device, accompanied by a second message."

This was every bit as troublesome as the first.

It is I who am on your side. I leave these to show that you can trust me.

Michaelson nodded as if he'd expected this. "Mister MacKiernan, have you determined what these maps are of?"

"There are three of them," said MacKiernan. "The first is quite clearly a map of Sarah's island, with a route marked from the harbor to the top of the largest volcano in the central range. The second is a detailed map of this peak, with marks indicating entrances to some underground tunnel complex. The third is a map of the complex itself. One chamber is marked with the words `Karlov's Laboratory'.

"One wonders how she obtained this information," said Everett.

"One also wonders why she left us the maps, but didn't remove Karlov's gift to us," said Michaelson."

"Do you think they're working together, and their antagonism is only a pretense?" asked Miss Perkins.

Michaelson walked to the window and gazed out at the field. After a moment, he turned to face them. "I do not believe this matters," he observed. "Whatever game those two may be playing, we know where our own interests lie. We are now in a position to determine when the Germans and Japanese will attack the Warfield's stronghold. We can assume this attack will be successful. We also know where the Baron and his lady have hidden Karlov and his equipment -- information the Germans and Japanese may not possess. This will dictate our course of action."

Long experience had taught Everett how the Commodore's mind worked. "You suggest we should wait for the Germans and Japanese to reduce the British Union's defenses, then intervene, defeat their ships, and take the place so that we can destroy this uraninite refiner forever."

"Quite," Michaelson said dryly. "I trust you and Captain Manfred will be able to win the action."

"We have discussed our plans," said Everett. "But we'll still need some way to overcome whatever forces our landing party may encounter on the ground."

As Michaelson was his reply, Fletcher appeared at the door. "Sir," he said, "there has been a development at the harbor of which I felt you should be aware."

In the interests of speed, Michaelson ordered his touring car prepared for the trip to the harbor. There they found an island freighter unloading cargo at the same wharf where the vehicle has suffered one of its misadventures the year before. Before the Commodore could comment on this coincidence, a tall blonde woman -- quite obviously of Swedish decent -- stepped forward to greet them.

"It's the Everett!' she exclaimed in delight. "And you must be the Michaelson!"

Michaelson turned to the Captain. "I take it you are acquainted with this individual," he sighed.

"Quite," said Everett. "Commodore Michaelson, may I introduce Miss Helga, owner and master of the Viking Girl II. Miss Helga, this is Commodore Michaelson. To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?

The Swede grinned and gestured at two objects standing on the wharf behind her. "Lookie at what we found!"

They were hard not to notice -- two massive machines, each the size of a large shed, whose long sides were encircled by linked metal belts. One had the words `Waltzing Matilda' written on its prow, the other bore the name `Chekhov's Gun'.

"It's Mister Fullers Mark V tanks," MacKiernan exclaimed. "The last time we saw of them, the Fat Man's people were using them to attack the Japanese nationalist's secret base in China. Whatever are they doing here?"

"We were finding them in the warehouse in Saigon," said Helga. "The consignee never took delivery, so we bought them on speculation, thinking you might be having the use for them."

"The Japanese and Germans must have recovered the machines, then left them behind," suggested MacKiernan.

"I believe we can profit from their oversight," said Michaelson. "Miss Helga, would you be willing to undertake a delivery on our behalf?"

Emily gazed at the harbor, then glanced at Clarice and noticed a sigh. This seemed understandable, By now Cairns had lost much of its charm. The opportunities for shopping were limited to say the best, and they had no hope of getting carried off for another adventure -- by now the supply of potential kidnappers must surely have been exhausted. But Emily suspected that her companion's wistfulness had another cause.

"So," she remarked, "when are you going to tell me?

"Tell you what?" asked Clarice.

"What's happening between you and the Captain?"

Clarice frowned indignantly. "Oh, go on!"

Emily raised an eyebrow.

"Well..." Clarice admitted.

Emily grinned. "I win my bet with Jenkins!"

"You made a bet about us?"

"Dinki di!" said Emily. "He thought you two would take much longer to figure it out."

Clarice began to scowl, then allowed herself to smile. "I suppose it did take some time. But what will we do next?

Emily chuckled. "I'm sure Aunt Intimida explained this to you when we were young."

"That's not what I meant," Clarice protested. "What happens to you and me? The Captain and Jenkins will want keep us here for our safety, which means we'll miss all the fun."

Now it was Emily's turn to frown. She hadn't considered all the implications of this new situation. As she was considering her reply, Clarice grabbed her arm.

"Em,!" she exclaimed with glee, "Look what I see!"

Next week: We Will Advance Two Rooks...

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