The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 306: The Origin of Specie

Channel wih moneybags

They'd gathered in Dabney's office. This was as unprepossessing as ever -- little more than a shack with the word `Administration' scrawled above its sagging wooden door -- but it provided them with excuse to discuss their plans and a measure of privacy in which to hold this discussion. The space was somewhat cramped -- in addition to his officers and section chiefs, Everett had brought Clarice and Emily along to take advantage of their local knowledge -- but members of the Royal Navy Airship Service were expected to take such things in stride.

"When did all this construction begin?" said Everett, turning so he could gesture out the window without elbowing their host in the nose.

"A tad over a month ago," said the Aussie. "I have a copy of the plans here." He edged past his guests to the battered piece of furniture that served him as a desk and unrolled a set of blueprints. The airmen studied these with considerable interest.

"That's quite the facility," MacKiernan said after a moment.

"Dinki-di," Dabney replied. "It's supposed to have a new hydrogen plant, a new passenger concourse and adjoining hotel, a separate freight terminal with a direct line to the rail station, and a complete set of automated handling equipment like you have in Cairns."

"There must be a fair bit of money behind this proposal," Jenkins observed. "I imagine your police chief is involved."

"Bob's your uncle," said Dabney. "He's one of the biggest promoters, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of that motza was finding its way into his pockets."

"Knowing the man, I imagine you are correct," Everett mused, "but is this his only motivation?"

"You reckon this could all be cover for something else?" asked Dabney.

"It certainly possible," said Everett. "Channel has been quite the entrepreneur. We know he was working with those three fellows from the British Union of Fascists, Fuller, Becker, and Leese, when he purchased those tanks, and we have every reason to believe he sold information to the German nationalists last May when they were searching for Karlov. Do you have any idea who his latest associates might be?"

The Aussie shook his head. "He's got contacts with every exile and dissident group in Darwin -- Bosche, Poms, White Russians, Red Russians, Italian Monarchists, Chinese republicans, Indian nationalists, Finnish cultists, Vatican investigators, smugglers, thuggees, trade union activists, encyclopedia salesmen, you name it. No telling what game he's playing."

"Then we make some inquiries before he has time to set a watch on us. We do have one potential source of information here in Darwin: this Mister Andrews. We know he was an associate of Fuller, Becker, and Leese."

Emily and Clarice exchanged glances. "Mister Andrews?" giggled Emily. "Watch out for that one!"

Everett raised his eyebrow. "Does he represent some hazard of which we should be aware?"

"Maybe not to you," said Clarice, "but he does have a reputation."

Everett nodded. "I understand. We will assign Pierre to speak with the fellow. As two men of the world, I am certain they will find much to discuss. Meanwhile, Jenkins and I will pay Channel a visit."

Darwin's police station as bleak as ever -- a grim relic from an unfortunate period in European colonists' relationship with the continent's original population. It was no wonder the police chief was so unscrupulous, thought Everett. Architecture of this sort bred contempt for one's fellow man.

Channel received them in his office with the barest pretense of civility. "It's a pleasure to see you again," he announced, in a voice that was quite at odds with the sentiment expressed.

"We reciprocate your feelings," Everett said quite honestly. "I trust life has been quiet here in Darwin."

"Of course," Channel replied, as if no other condition was possible. "We don't tolerate disturbances here. I understand you're en route to the Dutch East Indies."

Everett raised an eyebrow very slightly. "The movements of His Majesty's Airships are generally not a matter for public discussion."

"It is a reasonable deduction," said Channel. "Darwin is a natural stop on the way from Cairns to the Java Sea."

This was a plausible explanation, thought Everett, but was it just a fortunate guess or was the man warning them that he had friends powerful enough to pass him this information? "I see that you're expanding the air station here," he observed, changing the subject.

The police chief smiled. "Yes!" he announced. "It's an excellent investment opportunity! Air travel is the wave of the future, and Darwin is strategically placed to provide a link between Europe, Asia, India, Australia, and the Pacific! The White Star Line could make excellent use of these new facilities!"

Everett noted that the man didn't say he had an actual contract with the line. "I understand there is also some talk of a resort."

"Indeed there is," Channel said smoothly. "The Northern Territory offers many recreational opportunities. Would you be interested in buying stock?"

Everett reflected on the possibilities Emily and Clarice had enumerated. Swamp wading seemed unlikely to attract throngs of tourists. "This might be inappropriate given my position as an officer in His Majesty's Navy," he replied. "Where will this resort be located?"

"I'm afraid that this information is proprietary," Channel replied, suddenly guarded.

"Proprietary?" said Jenkins. "Surely your customers will wish to know where they are going."

"And we will provide this information when the time is right," said Channel. "In the meantime, we don't want to reveal our plans to potential competitors."

Everett could not imagine much competition for the swamp wading business, but he could recognize a clue when it was this obvious. Was this a red herring? This seemed unlikely. Channel might have many skills as a conspirator, but misdirection of this sort was not one of them. "I quite understand," he said graciously. "Thank you for your hospitality. We wish you the best of luck in these new commercial endeavors."

"What did you think of our Mister Channel, sir?" Jenkins as they made their way back to the ship.

"He's most certainly up to something. I cannot help but wonder about that resort. But we still have no idea who he's working with. There are too many possibilities."

"You caught his threat about allies in Sydney?"

"Quite," said Everett. "If he has some confederate in the Admiral's office, we must tread cautiously."

The signalman nodded. "Speaking of caution, isn't this roughly where we you, Abercrombie, and I were attacked last year?"

"I believe you're correct," said Everett. "It would have been across the street from that party of surly louts, roughly where those thugs are standing. We might wish to keep an eye on those fellows."

The two groups to which he'd referred looked up as they approached.

"Get them!" yelled someone in the first group.

"Saada heidät!" yelled someone in second.

"They're our prey!" yelled the first man.

"No," yelled the second, "they're ours!"

"We saw them first!?

"We've been waiting here longer!"

Moments later the two parties were locked in furious combat. Everett and Jenkins watched the fray, then glanced at each other.

"This is an interesting development," Jenkins observed.

"So it is," said Everett. "Let us leave these gentlemen here to resolve their differences while we make our way back to the ship."

Next week: Reports From the Field...

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