The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 394: Truk Parking Only

USN Sunnyvale on the mooring at Truk

It was still night as the Flying Cloud approached the vicinity of Truk. Since they couldn't call at the station without giving the game away, Everett ordered MacKiernan to maintain position to the east while they sent a party ashore by launch. In view of its delicacy -- and also its danger -- he'd decided to lead this mission himself.

Deployment was unusually challenging, for the sea was running high, the moon had waned to little more than a sliver, and they couldn't use lights lest they attract notice. Waves swept past below them, unseen in the dark, threatening to swamp their craft if they hit the water wrong. Even with Wallace on the elevator wheel and Abercrombie on the winch controls matters were touch and go, and Everett didn't relax until they were down and Loris released the falls.

The run to the west was almost an anticlimax. The 8-cylinder Liberty engine hammered out miles in a testimony American engineering as their craft rose to the swells. They raised land as the sun was climbing above the horizon, threaded a passage to the lagoon, and set a course for Weno.

Their destination was the archetypical tropical island, complete with volcano, palm trees, and maidens, but their previous visit had been anything but idyllic. Everett couldn't help but remember how one of those maidens had betrayed Notariello to the Fat Man's people. Still, the lady had proved loyal at the end. He smiled and shook his head. Would that he could say this of another.

No one paid any attention to their launch when they reached the eponymously-named village of Weno. It might not have made a convincing merchant vessel, but it was entirely in keeping with their disguise as tourists. As tourists they had every excuse to visit the Government House, where a bit of subterfuge on Jenkins's part got them to the Administrator's office.

The Administrator seemed delighted to see them again. "Kapitan Everett!" he exclaimed. "Welcome back to Truk. I assume from your civilian attire that you are here on some secret mission."

"Quite," said Everett. "We've discovered that the Fat Man's people plan to hijack an American cruiser, the USN Sunnyvale. We took liberty of inviting the vessel here under the assumption you'd be willing to help arrange a trap for these fellows."

The German beamed. "Of course! I've been waiting for what you English would call a `rematch' with those scwheinehunde."

It was late afternoon when the Sunnyvale reached Truk. This was their first visit to the lagoon, and Rosendahl was impressed by its size. "It's a lot more impressive than it looked on the chart," he remarked to his exec.

The other man nodded. "This could be an important anchorage if there was ever a war in the Pacific."

"I suppose so," said Rosendahl, "but who would be the combatants? The English are our allies, none of the other European powers has a major presence here, and Japan is a peaceful nation."

"What about those nationalists Captain Everett spoke of?" asked the exec.

"That's why we're here," Rosendahl replied. "We want to discredit them and their cause to make sure they never come to power."

By now the village of Weno was in sight. Rosendahl scanned the harbor through binoculars until he spotted the Flying Cloud's launch alongside a wharf. He nodded in satisfaction.

"It looks like Everett got here on schedule," he observed. "Signal the air station to request a handling party."

A vessel of the Sunnyvale's size presented a challenge even to the best ground crew, but the locals seemed to regard the mooring as a matter of honor, and they finished their work in a remarkably short time. When Rosendahl and his aide rode the lift down to the surface a short time later, a car was already waiting to take them to the Government House.

They found the Administrator studying a map of the island. "Welcome to Truk. Kapitan Rosendahl," he said cheerfully. "We had word of your approach." He nodded to a chair where Everett was leafing through an advertisement for some opera

Rosendahl nodded. "I take it our trap is ready?"

The Administrator smiled. "I've stationed native police in the jungle around the station, and guards will be hidden at strategic locations on the grounds themselves. These men will wait until the hijackers have started climbing the mast. Then they'll close in to cut off the hijackers' retreat while your men take them by surprise."

"This will require careful timing," Rosendahl remarked. "Are we sure they can handle it?"

"Ja," said the German. "The nationalists embarrassed them last year. They're hungry for revenge.

"I take it you don't mean that literally," quipped Rosendahl's aide.

The Administrator considered this question for a moment. "Perhaps," he observed thoughtfully. "I suppose this depends on their tribe."

Night came swiftly, as it does in the tropics. Lights still shone in Government House, but the village fell silent as soon as the sun was down -- for all of their undoubted allure, tropical islands tended not to have a scintillating night life. At the air station, all was quiet. A token contingent of sentries paced the field on widely separated and easily predicted rounds. The Number One Mast stood unguarded as the rest, for what need was there for vigilance in such a peaceful setting?

Atop the handling platform, the Sunnyvale's accommodation ladder yawned invitingly. Inside, Everett and Rosendahl peered from the darkness of the bow station. A squad of marines waited behind them with weapons at ready.

"I trust your men are ready?" whispered Everett.

"Of course," said Rosendahl. "They train for things like this."

Everett wondered what circumstance in the Americas could have inspired such a practice. Perhaps the Colonials were more unruly than he'd been led to believe. He discarded the question as irrelevant and returned his attention to the field below.

Hours passed uneventfully. From time to time, rigging creaked as the ship swung at her mooring, but otherwise the night was silent. Hijackers remained conspicuous by their absence.

As light brightened the eastern horizon, Rosendahl glanced at his watch. "Where are they?" he asked. "They should have attacked by now."

"They would have if they had any sense of drama," said Everett.. "An attack at dawn is one thing. An attack at mid-morning is something else. I wonder what this could mean."

"The Sunnyvale has called at Truk," said the radioman. "Our man on Weno reports that Everett is there as well."

The Fat Man's chuckle was dark with malice. "The fools," he gloated. "They've fallen for our trap."

"What if they realize what we mean to do?" asked the radioman.

The Fat Man made a dismissive gesture -- a carnivore brushing aside some petty annoyance. "It's too late for them to intervene. Still, we'll instruct our agents to disable the wireless station in Rabaul. That should keep from guessing our plans."

Next week: There's No Right Time To Make The Wrong Choice...

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