The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 578: Rooks Take Pawns

The 'Drachen' approaching Sarah's island

The Warfields were not in the habit of waking to greet the dawn. Indeed, their usual practice made the title character from Bram Stoker's novel seem an early riser. But squidbats were in season -- according to island legend, when the stars were right, their ancestors had risen from the deep to sweep the world clean of some unspecified prey -- and promised to be good sport. The Baron was checking his shotgun -- a Purdey side-by-side with the baronial arms engraved in gold on the stock -- when Bludge approached bearing a telephone on an embroidered cushion

"A call for you, sir, from the radio detection station," the butler announced.

The Baron raised his eyebrows, set his gun aside, and picked up the receiver. After a moment he nodded.

"What is it, my dear?" the Baroness asked idly,from where she'd been inspecting the edge of a knife.

"It appears we have two airships approaching, bearing 340, at a range of range 50 miles," the Baron replied. "According to our man, they'll be here in three quarters of an hour."

"These would be our former allies, the Japanese and German nationalists?" wondered the Baroness.

The Baron nodded. "I believe you are correct. Our agents reported that they called at Buka Town for resupply and lifted ship yesterday morning, so the timing would be right."

"They can hardly hope to take us by surprise or overcome our defenses," the Baroness observed. "The Japanese built the instrument we used to detect them, so they're well aware of its capabilities, and the Germans cannot have forgotten that they left us four of Mister Krupp's very substantial L56 anti-airship cannons."

The Baron shrugged., then glanced toward the field, where the Coup de Grace was riding from one for the masts. "Perhaps they hope to divide our fire," he speculated. "They are unlikely to profit from this plan. We'll instruct Captain Atherton to lift ship so he won't get caught in the cross-fire, then invite the Governor to join us for a Zeppelin shoot."

Lothar studied the air station through binoculars. It was still too distant for him to make out any figures, but he imagined crews were rushing to man the guns his own people had installed to defend the place two years ago.

"Those Herren will be preparing a reception for us," the watch officer remarked from beside him.

"This will not avail them," Lothar observed. "From this altitude, our gleitbomben have longer range than their cannon. Slow to half power to give our aimers more time to engage and inform the Japanese of our intentions."

"Half power on all engines," acknowledged the helmsman.

Signal lamps flashes as the sound of the engines dropped in pitch. To starboard, the cruiser slowed to match their speed. Lothar watched to be sure the two vessels remained in formation, then turned to the intercom.

"Bombenschütze, do you have a firing solution?" he asked.

"Jawohl Kapitän," came the reply. "Ready on Numbers One through Four. Our targets are coming into range now."

"Very well," sauid Lothar. "Los!"


One after another, four sleek projectiles dropped from the weapons hold, fell away to pick up speed, then leveled out for the long glide to the distant station. In the fire control room, aimers would be hunched over their viewfinders, steering the weapons with deft touches at the controls. The bombardier counted off the seconds.

"Eins zwei drei vier..."

At einhundredtelf, four clouds on smoke and debris blossomed in quick succession around the distant field. The observer called down from the upper lookout station.

"Oberer Aussichtspunkt to Bridge, direct hits on all four guns."

"Good work," Lothar announced. "Ahead three quarters on all engines. Bombenschütze, be ready to engage any additional cannon our adveeraries might have hidden. Main battery, engage any targets you identify."

The Warfields and the Governor stood by the eastern gun emplacement -- the one closest to the Governor's mansion -- and watched the approaching airships. From this distance they seemed entirely innocent, like a pair of children's balloons ."

"It would seem they've chosen line abreast so they can both fire once they're in range," the Baron remarked.

"This will not avail them," observed the Governor. "Our cannon have much longer range than any weapon they could carry. Several minutes must pass between the time we engage them and the time they can reply. Gunner, how long before we can open fire?"

The gunner looked through his range finder, jotted down some figures, and compared these with ones he'd recorded earlier. "Six minutes," he replied. "They seem to have slowed."

"How curious," the Baroness remarked. "Have you any idea why?"

The gunner shrugged. "Perhaps the headwind has increased at their altitude."

Behind the party, Bludge cleared his throat. "Milord, Milady, might I suggest the view would be better from the veranda?"

The Warfields exchanged glances of understanding. "I believe you may be right," the Baroness replied. "Instruct the cook to prepare some tea."

With a nod to the Governor to wish him good shooting, the Warfields set off for the mansion, followed by their butler. As they left they field, they heard a swoosh behind them, like a flock of enormous birds. They turned to see the gun emplacements consumed by explosions.

"Interesting," the Baron observed to his wife. "Did you anticipate such a development, my dear?"

"Not in quite this form," she replied, "but our adversaries' peculiar behavior did suggest they intended to present us with a surprise. Have you a suggestion how we should respond?"

The Baron gestured at the motorcar parked by the track that led up into the hills. "We will retreat to the laboratory on top of the volcano. We can hold out there much longer than they can possibly afford to press an attack. Bludge, instruct the chef to prepare a picnic hamper to accompany our tea."

The action that followed the destruction of the anti-airship guns might have been the posted chld for `one-sided'. Taken by surprise, under fire from the air, the ill-trained defenders were unable to prevent the airships from deploying troops by parachute. Soon they'd been driven back to the tree line. Lothar watched with disinterest as their fire began to slacken.

"That was easy," he remarked. "Signalman, Instruct Sergeant Walther to accept their surrender, then interrogate the prisoners to determien where they have hidden the refiner. I would like to complete this operation by nightfall."

The rating lifted a signal lamp, but before he could to flash a message, a call came down from the obsrever.

"Oberer Aussichtspunkt to Bridge.."

Next week: Knights vs Rooks...

Comments about Episode 578? Start a new topic on the Forum!

StumbleUpon        submit to reddit Reedit