The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 404: Oh Great... Scott

Everett, Iverson, and Scott of the Yard

Everett set down the maintenance report and reached for his pen. It seemed the overhaul had gone well. The Flying Cloud's engineering plant, gas cells, rigging, ballast tanks, bunkers, instruments, and controls had all been serviced, inspected, and were ready for flight. If only their other problems could be dealt with so easily.

He was signing the receipt when he heard a knock on the door. He looked up to see MacKiernan. "Have a seat, Lieutenant-Commander," he said cheerfully. "Has Captain Michaelson revealed what ship he's found for you?"

MacKiernan drew up a stool and settled onto it with sigh. "Not yet, captain. Knowing him, it's some raich uatásah that will fall apart as soon as we lift."

Everett gave a rueful nod. "This is all too possible. The man is not know for his generosity."

"What's he up to?" asked MacKiernan. "Is he deliberately trying to prevent us from rescuing our people?"

"I doubt it," said Everett. "There are limits to the man's iniquity. Still, I don't imagine he'd be upset if you suffered some mechanical failure, leaving him to take credit for completing the job. We shall have to make sure this doesn't occur. I can give you Abercrombie. He should be able to hold the ship together."

"Thank you, sir," said MacKiernan. "What about you? Do you have any idea what this Scott of the Yard fellow intends to do?"

Now it was Everett's turn to sigh. "I imagine we'll know soon enough. He'll be boarding in an hour."

Motors whined down as the lift slowed to a stop. It seemed unusually well-mannered this morning, as if fearful of offending its occupant. There was a brief pause while the operator secured his controls. Then the doors slid open and Scott made his entrance.

The man seemed incapable of arriving in any other way. His clothing was immaculate. His hair was perfectly coiffed. His hat was adjusted with a precision that would be the envy of a watchmaker. He glanced at the assembled airmen as if marveling at their quaint native customs, then handed Everett a folder.

"Good day, " he announced. "We will be investigating the piracy of the American liner. Captain Michaelson has instructed you to give me your complete cooperation. You'll find your orders here."

Everett leafed through the contents of the folder. It contained no surprises. "Michaelson's concept of `cooperation' seems rather comprehensive," he observed dryly.

"Quite," said Scott. "It's best to put these matters on a proper footing. You can give me a tour of the ship while my luggage is brought aboard."

Everett shrugged inwardly. There was almost certainly worse to come. He stepped aside to let Scott duck under the bow fitting -- predictably, the investigator managed to do this without inconvenience to his headgear or dignity -- then led the way down the keel passage.

It seemed Scott had traveled as an ordinary passenger on his previous flights, for he seemed bemused by this way of boarding an airship. "This descent is somewhat inelegant," he remarked. "Why is it so steep?"

Everett and Iverson exchanged glances. Could the man be serious? This did not bode well. "It must conform to the curve of the hull," Everett replied.

"So," said Scott. It seemed he wasn't impressed by this excuse.

They paused at the accommodation section so Everett could show Scott the stateroom they'd prepared for him and his aide. Weight was too precious on an airship to allow conceits such as an Admiral's Cabin, but Everett had taken advantage of MacKiernan's departure to assign the Exec's quarters to Scott and his valet. It was a major concession -- ordinary passengers on a naval airship could expect to bunk with the crew.

Scott glanced around the interior with the same expression a man might use when inspecting a rabbit hutch, then tapped the aft bulkhead. "This room is not unduly spacious," he observed. "Can we knock out this wall?"

Everett and Iverson exchanged another set of glances. "I'm afraid not," said Everett. "It might compromise the structural integrity of this compartment."

Scott nodded as he acknowledged their failure. "Then I suppose this will have to do. My valet and luggage can occupy the room next door."

The investigator made no comment as they negotiated the cargo hold. It seemed that mere cargo not worthy of his attention. He also showed no inclination to descend the ladders to the engine cars. This might have been due to disinterest or because gentlemen of his station didn't climb ladders. Everett greeted this development with some relief. The man might be obtuse, but he would be sure to notice the difference between the Flying Cloud's 12-cylinder supercharged diesels and the stolid 6-cylinder Beardmores that were the specification for a Junior Vickers.

Crisis threatened when Scott caught sight of Iwamoto. "What is this Chinaman doing on your airship?" he demanded.

Everett had anticipated this eventuality. "He's not Chinese," he replied smoothly. "He's a representative of a Japanese engineering firm the Royal Navy hired to improve the efficiency of our engines."

Scott's snort had clearly been honed by long practice. "That seems rather irregular."

"Not at all," said Everett. "Effective research always involves cooperation between the government and private sectors."

The keel passage climbed again as they approached the tail section. At last they reached the massive cruciform of girders that supported the fins. Scott studied the obstacle, as if wondering how he could negotiate it without compromising his dignity, then prodded the vertical access ladder with his foot.

"Where does this lead?" he asked.

"Going up, it provides the riggers access to the upper rudder control cables," said Everett. "Down, it leads to the emergency control station."

Like his snort, Scott's grunt was clearly a highly-polished skill.

The investigator insisted on concluding his tour with the bridge. Everett might have been within his rights to refuse, but he felt it wiser to save this ammunition for some future encounter. Scott came to an abrupt stop when he noticed Sarah. As well he might. Her smartly-tailored skirt and jacket showed off her figure in a way that would have been hard not to notice.

"What," demanded Scott, "is this... lady... doing here."

The island girl might not have been carrying her spear, but her glare was an adequate substitute. "I'm civilian auxiliary, serving as ballast officer in the Royal Naval Airship Service as a civilian specialist under RNR 247-632 subject to naval regulations and conditions subject the provisions of RNR 247-401 Clauses C and D with final pay grade and bonuses to be determined according to Clause," she replied sharply.

The two matched gazes for a while. At last Scott shrugged and turned to Everett.

"I've seen enough," he announced. "As soon as my luggage is aboard, you will lift ship and set a course for Manila. That's where we can expect to find the American liner."

Without waiting for their reaction, the investigator spun on his heel and strode from the bridge. Iverson watched him go with an expression of horror.

"Sir!" he said to Everett after the man was out of earshot.

The captain repressed a sigh. "Fortitude, lieutenant," he said. "We will make the best of the situation. And we shall hope MacKiernan can manage to do the same."

Next week: I Suppose Things Can Only Get Better...

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