The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 412: Adventures In Resupply

Two incompatible hose fittings

The shipping records at Port Moresby did not prove as informative as MacKiernan and Miss Perkins had hoped. They were voluminous, comprehensive, well-maintained, and offered no clues regarding Miss Kim's movements, either recently or in the past. At last the two gave up on examining them and made their way back to the ship.

"It doesn't seem our guest passed through Port Moresby," MacKiernan observed.

"So it would seem," Miss Perkins said curtly. "We will forward the names of the ships that called here to Captain Michaelson so he can strike them from his list. What is our next move?"

MacKiernan gazed at the station, where the ship -- his ship -- rode from the mast. "Miss Kim's story suggests that the Fat Man's people took her to some island north of equator," he said. "It's possible this place is known to German Naval Intelligence. We'll call at Rabaul, speak with the Administrator, and see what he can learn from his contacts."

The air station at Rabaul was playing host to elements of the Imperial Fleet when they arrived: two L-130 class patrol vessels and one of the new Kleist class cruisers. MacKiernan studied the latter with envy. Five million cubic feet, six engines, 780 feet long, she was comparable to England's Drake class. Her visit must have placed heavy demands on the station's personnel, but even so, mooring went smoothly. Teutonic efficiency did much to compensate for the R-46's many shortcomings. Unfortunately, there were limits to what even Germans could accomplish, as MacKiernan discovered when it was time to take on fuel.

"I see you still have the old-style Royal Navy hose connectors," the crew chief said disdainfully. "We use the new German specification."

MacKiernan kept his expression neutral. On the Pacific Station, one learned to accept some things in stride. "Could you fabricate an adaptor?" he asked.

"Of course, mein Herr, but with the Fleet in port, this would take time. Their requirements have priority."

MacKiernan turned to Abercrombie. "Do you think we could find one in town?"

The Scotsman laughed. "I'll bet ye a shilling I'll have it before you're back from the Government House!"

MacKiernan grinned in reply. "And I'll bet you a shilling you can't do it without getting into trouble! Take Lieutanent Wilcox. The experience will be good for the lad."

Behind them, Miss Perkins cleared her throat. "Lieutenant Commander, were you planning to visit the Administrator yourself?"

"Is there some reason why I shouldn't?" MacKiernan asked in surprise.

Miss Perkins sighed. "We will want to avoid notice by our adversaries," she explained patiently. "We have every reason to believe the German nationalists maintain agents here, and your appearance is rather distinctive. I'll have to make the inquiry."

MacKiernan had to admit the secretary had a point. Red-haired Irish Lieutenant Commanders might not be all that common in this part of the world. "The Administrator of a German Imperial possession is hardly likely to receive an anonymous secretary," he warned.

"You'll have to send one of your lieutenants to accompany me. I believe Mister Smade will be available."

Abercrombie strolled along the road to Kokopo, whistling a bar from `Scotland the Brave'. Behind him, Lieutenant Wilcox glanced at their surroundings as if he feared this peaceful tropical setting might harbor some assailants. Shorlty after they'd passed Bob's Propeller Emporium, the rigger paused in front of a sign that showed some god or hero holding a mace in one hand and an adjustable crescent wrench in the other. A legend proclaimed this shop to be Hanuman's Hose Fittings.

"This should be what we're looking for," he told the lieutenant.

"Airman Abercrombie," Wilcox said nervously, "I think we're being followed..." but the rigger had already pushed through the door.

Inside, the shopkeeper was dusting a collection of T-junctions. He was a slender man with a dark complexion -- Southern Indian or Tamil, perhaps -- who seemed delighted by the prospect of making a sale. "How can I help you gentlemen?" he said politely.

"Can you find us an adapter to fit an RN H3-3/4 x 4 threaded fitting to an M95-BYN socket?" asked Abercrombie.

The man smiled and offered them a slight bow, "By your command."

Minutes later, the two airmen emerged from the shop with a hefty bronze casting done up in wrapping paper. The proprietor had even added a ribbon -- one of the many fine services he provided for his valued customers, perhaps. Wilcox seemed to feel it was his duty as an officer to carry this treasure. Abercrombie was happy to oblige. They hadn't gone far before they were accosted by a pair of thugs armed with truncheons.

"Nice-looking package you got there, squire," said one.

"It would be a pity if anything happened to it," said the other. "We'll just take it with us for safe-keeping."

Wilcox recoiled in alarm. "You can't do that!"

"Yes we can, squire," said the thug. "Hand it over."

Abercrombie sized up their assailants. They might have been armed, but he was sure he could take them. Wilcox was unlikely to be of much help in the tussle -- the lieutenant seemed to be quaking with fear. If only he'd get out of the way.

"You want me to give it to you?" Wilcox stammered.

"That's the idea, mate," crowed the thug. "Give it to us!"

Wilcox hefted the package, and rapped the two men over the head. They dropped in a satisfactory fashion.

"Very well, " Wilcox remarked to their unconscious bodies, "but it does seem an unusual request."

Miss Perkins and Smade had no difficulty negotiating the streets of Rabaul. They might never have traveled this route before, but the lieutenant followed their map as methodically as one of the automatons from Karel Capek's play. As they walked, Miss Perkins studied her companion. He was built along the lines of a brick, and seemed every bit as oblivious to his surroundings. It would have been difficult to imagine anyone more unlike the popular conception of an airman.

"Why did you join the Royal Navy Airship Service, Mister Smade?" she asked him.

It took Smade a moment to realize he'd been addressed. "I was looking for excitement and adventure," he confessed, as if he was embararsed by this admission.

"What do you think of it so far?"

The lieutenant glanced at their surroundings -- this exotic port on the other side of the world, thronged with visitors from a dozen different nations and cultures -- and shrugged. "Think of what?" he asked.

Before Miss Perkins could reply, a burly figure emerged from the alley ahead of them. "What have we here?" he said in a thick Dutch accent. "A young officer and a girl, walking without an escort. I think you will give me your money."

Once again, it seemed to take Smade a moment to notice the interruption. "Why should we do that?" he asked incuriously.

The man brandished a kris -- the wicked-looking dagger common throughout the Dutch East Indies -- and grinned. "Because if you don't, you get a taste of this."

Miss Perkins judged the distance. The man might not expect a swing from her handbag. He certainly wouldn't expect it to have a lead plate sewn into the bottom. If only Smade would get out of the way.

The lieutenant studied the knife with disinterest. Then, as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world, he reached out to pluck the weapon from the astonished thug's hand. "I would be happy to continue this conversation," he remarked in a bored voice, "but we must be going."

Next week: ...Check The Islands On His List...

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