The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 434: Yes, It Was Who You Thought It Was

Scott of the Yard meets Helga

The crew of the Flying Cloud had spent several days following up reports of vessels that might have been the baron's blimp. This search had brought them to the port of Akyab, on the eponymously-named Akyab Island. Once little more than a fishing village, the settlement had been propelled to importance as an administrative center after Burmah's conquest of Arakan in the late 18th century. The British had established it as a provincial capital when they returned the favor during the first Anglo-Burmese War, fifty years later.

The Rahkine Provincial Air Station was a substantial facility, with a mast reserved exclusively for elements of the fleet in addition to its commercial moorings. The station's manager met them at its base. He was a slight figure with fine features, apparently of Tamil descent. "Welcome to Akyad, sahibs," he announced as they emerged from the lift.

"Thank you," said Everett. "Could you lead us to the station manager?

The man bowed politely. "By your command."

They found the manager poring over the inevitable pile of paperwork. He smiled at the sight of guests, as if he welcomed the interruption.

"Good day, gentlemen," he said cheerfully. "How may I help you?

"I am Captain Roland P. Everett, Royal Navy Airship Service, and this is my signalman, Jenkins," said Everett. "We're investigating the movements of a blimp that called here on the evening of the 6th. We have reason to believe they were carrying... contraband."

"Ah yes, those fellows," said the manager. "They unloaded a large crate with a customs declaration from Burmah Oil. The documentation looked legitimate, but their manner was quite furtive."

"Do you know what became of this crate?" asked Everett.

"It was loaded onto a freighter named the Kyawann Meinkalayy, which left port on the morning of the 7th."

Jenkins looked pained. "The Kyawann Meinkalayy?"

The manager nodded glumly. "The name does display a certain lack of originality. She's a small freighter that frequents ports between here and the Straits of Malacca."

Everett suppressed a sigh. "That could make them something of challenge to find."

"Under ordinary circumstances that might be true," said the manager, "but the vessel returned here yesterday under the command of her chief engineer. It appears her captain, officers, and two passengers elected to transfer to another ship whose identity remains a mystery."

"Do you have any idea why?" asked Everett.

The manager shook his head. "The crew's story wasn't very coherent. It seemed to involve a blond woman with an ax."

The two airmen exchanged glances.

"Oh dear," said Jenkins.

Murdock pressed his ear against the cabin door to listen. Outside, he could hear shouts interspersed with the sound of blows. This could not have been have been normal operating procedure for a small island freighter.

"I say, there appears to be some sort of altercation going on. And why did 'omeone just yell �Odin'!"

Inspector Scott glanced over from the mirror where he was adjusting his cravat. "There's no point in getting excited about the matter," he chided the lieutenant. "I imagine we'll learn what it's all about in short order."

Moments later the latch rattled and the door swung open to reveal two burly men with Scandinavian features. Between them stood a remarkable individual. She was tall and lean, with the build of an athlete. Long blonde braids framed the face of a warrior maiden from Viking mythology. A battleaxe completed the picture of a figure that might have stepped straight from some version of Viking mythology where warrior maidens wore tight silk dresses slit up the sides -- presumably to allow freedom of movement.

"Ho ho! What haves we here?" she exclaimed when she saw the Englishmen.

The inspector drew himself up smartly. "I'm Scott," he replied, "Scott of the Yard!"

The woman seemed unimpressed by this proclamation. "What yard are you Scott of?"

The inspector did not seem to have anticipated this reaction. While he struggled to formulate a reply, the woman noticed Murdock.

"Ho ho again!" she said, reaching out to pinch the lieutenant's cheek. "Who this cutie?"

Murdock flinched, uncertain how to react. Was this some form of Scandinavian greeting, he wondered? Should he pinch the woman back? He concluded this might not be wise.

"I'm... ah... Lieutenant Murdock, Royal Navy Airship Service," he stammered in reply.

"An airman!" she exclaimed. "I like the airmen! Some are real strongbodies!"

"May I ask your name, madam?" Scott interrupted, in what sounded like desperation.

"Hah!" she snorted. "I not madam! I Helga, captain of the Viking Girl II."

"I say, that name sounds familiar..." Murdock began, but the inspector seemed determined to gain some control of the situation.

"Thank you for rescuing us," he told the woman. "May I ask what you are doing aboard this vessel?"

"Capturing it!" she said gleefully. "They steal my cargo from warehouse in Rangoon before I can picks it up. Now I make fair's fair and steal they cargo back! Come see!"

Without giving them a chance to reply, she turned on her heel and led the way out to the deck. There they found the freighter's officers and crew huddled in a dejected group in the waist of the ship, guarded by more burly Scandinavians armed with capstan bars, fire axes, mallets, and other heavy objects. Some had metal ventilator covers slung across their backs like shields.

Helga addressed the leader of the guards. "What you find in the holds, Hrolf?"

"Nothing but old paving stones, Skeppare," the man said glumly. "They were traveling in ballast."

Helga turned to the freighter's captain and scowled. "Where my cargo?" she demanded.

"I take it you're referring to those centrifuges?" said the captain.

"Yes!" said Helga. "Spinny thingies!"

The captain attempted to look smug. "You're too late," he informed her. "We unloaded them some time ago. You might have gotten away with taking our cargo in reprisal, but if you take our ship, the Royal Navy will pursue you as pirates."

The woman tapped the blade of her weapon. "Suppose we just chop you up, feed you to the sharks, and claim we found your ship abandoned on high seas?"

"Uh..." the captain began, but Scott intervened before he could finish.

"Perhaps these gentlemen could lead us to their employers so you could take up the matter with them," he suggested.

"Whyever should we do that?" asked the captain.

"Because if you don't, I imagine this lady might chop you up, feed you to the sharks, and claim that she found your vessel abandoned on high seas." Scott observed.

"You'd be kidnapping us," the captain objected. "That's almost as serious a crime as piracy."

"Under ordinary circumstances, this would be correct," said the inspector. "But since you kidnapped us first, I can draw on my authority to invite you to assist in our inquiries."

Helga scratched her ear with her battle axe. "Does that mean what I thinks it does?" she asked him.

Scott hesitated for a moment, as if unwilling to leap to any conclusions regarding her cerebral processes.

"I believe so," he ventured cautiously.

She grinned. "Good!"

Next week: And What Shouldn't We Conclude From This Information?...

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