Episode 445: Cleaning Up After The Party
The Flying Cloud's arrival tilted the conflict overwhelmingly in
favor of the forces of the Crown. The airship might have only carried a
single marine, but she also mounted a modern quick-firing cannon, and
possessed what could only be described as an insurmountable advantage in
height. Bludge, Sigmund, and Saito vanished into the brush -- a considerable
accomplishment in Bludge's case. The other defenders surrendered without
too much fuss.
Helga and her men rounded up the prisoners and incarcerated them in the
stockade Burmah Oil had been considerate enough to provide. If the air
station personnel appreciated the irony, they gave no sign, but the dacoits
and hillmen seemed relieved to have a sturdy chain link fence between them
and the Swedes. They'd remain there until transportation could be arranged
to carry them elsewhere, for the R-46 was no longer in condition to provide
Now Everett, MacKiernan, and their companions stood in the mooring circle
contemplating the wreckage of MacKiernan's command. In the bright light of
day, this no longer bore any resemblance to some elf hill out of legend.
It was merely a monumental tangle of aluminum and fabric. A broken propeller
lay nearby like some discarded toy.
"It's not my fault," Wilcox said after a moment.
"No one suggested that it was," Everett assured the lieutenant. "The
responsibility would seem to lie with this gentleman."
He turned to face Scott and allowed himself a frown. "I see that you made
a dramatic entrance, with all the advantages this might have provided in the
way of surprise," he said. "Did you reflect upon the consequences
MacKiernan might suffer after you destroyed the vessel for which he was
Scott seemed unperturbed by this indictment. "My authority covers matters
like these," he said lightly. "It will absolve your executive officer of
any culpability. Here is my warrant. A copy is on file in Admiral
Everett examined the document. It was brief, but alarming in its scope.
The bearer, inspector Arthur V Scott, also known as Scott of the Yard, is
authorized to direct units of the Royal Navy Airship Service for the
good of the Crown, subject to final review by my office.
-- William Bridgeman, First Lord of the Admiralty
He raised an eyebrow. This bore an uncomfortable resemblance to Cardinal
Richelieu's warrant to Milady de Winter, "By my hand and for the good
of the State, the bearer has done what has been done."
"What is this Yard of yours, and why does the First Lord allow you this
latitude?" he asked Scott.
The inspector made a dismissive gesture. "It would not be to your advantage
to know. Suffice to say that certain parties back in England heard rumors
about an alliance between these Japanese nationalists and Burmah Oil. They
decided to investigate, and if necessary, to put an end to the matter."
"So that was your mission all along," said Jenkins. "We assumed you'd been
sent by allies or foes of Churchill, looking for evidence that would absolve
or implicate him further in the scandal of 1923."
"It was useful cover story, should anyone have questioned my public mission
to investigate the piracy of the Grover Cleveland," said Scott.
"These two layers of misdirection gave me excuses to investigate both the
Japanese and Burmah Oil without either party suspecting that my real purpose
was to determine the nature of their association."
Jenkins nodded in admiration -- the respect of one craftsman for another --
but MacKiernan seemed to feel this answer was incomplete.
"Why this sudden concern about Japan?" asked the Irishman. "Surely they
were our allies during the War."
"That was an act of expediency on their part, for which they did not reap
the rewards they expected," said Scott. "Instead, they were forced to
return their conquests to Germany under the terms of the Peace. This has
bred resentment among militarist factions in their government. There was
also some concern about the British Union. Baronet Moseley may be more in
the nature of a hobbyist than a serious threat to public order, but Lord and
Lady Warfield are another matter. They seem to have taken over Moseley's
organization in the Pacific, and their association with Burmah Oil is hardly
a secret. An alliance between well-connected members of the peerage with
their own private army and hostile factions of a foreign government would
not be something to take lightly."
"Whatever the original situation, it would seem the Warfields are now at
odds with the Japanese," Everett observed. "Their butler was leading one of
the parties of attackers."
"So he was," Scott said dryly. "It also seems that neither you nor Captain
Michaelson are guilty of complicity in this affair. You were both under
suspicion due to your... personal connections... with the Baron and his
Everett nodded. He had expected as much. "What are your intentions now?"
Scott glanced toward the rail line, where the train they'd summoned from
Bhamo was coming into view. "My work here is done," he told them. "I
will accompany the prisoners back to Rangoon, where we will offer them an
opportunity to cooperate with our inquiries. I will leave it to you to
put matters to rights here. Farewell, gentlemen."
The inspector tipped his hat and departed. Everett and his companions
watched him go with varying expressions and amazement and annoyance.
It was several moments before anyone recovered enough to speak.
MacKiernan was the first to break the silence. "I say, the man didn't grow
any more pleasant on extended acquaintance," he remarked.
"I'd assumed his arrogance was an act he assumed to disguise a more sociable
personality," said Everett. "Now I suspect that it was an act he assumed
to hide a more sociable personality that he assumed to hide his arrogance."
"I am struck by the subjects Scott didn't discuss," said Jenkins. "These
include the kidnapped American chemist, and whether he might have knowledge
that could be used to recreate the Device that destroyed Ujelang. One would
think this would be of some interest to the fellows who run this mysterious
"Quite," said Everett. "Either they don't know about the Device, they
instructed Scott to pretend disinterest, or they have more serious concerns.
The first seems unlikely, the second is most certainly possible, the third
would be cause for alarm."
"Where does that leave us?" asked MacKiernan.
Everett glanced back toward the laboratory, where crewmen he'd feared lost
with the wreck of R-212 were rejoicing at their liberation. Beside them,
Lieutenant-Commander Forsthye and Miss Kim were gazing into each other's
eyes, oblivious to their surroundings. He turned back to his companions
"That is a matter for another day, gentlemen," he told them. "We have won
an unexpected victory. Let us take this moment to enjoy it."
Next week: The Ninth Flying Cloud Christmas Special... ...
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