The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 458: And Our Friends Are All Aboard!

Clarice and Emily aboard Mister Fuller's submarine

Clarice and Emily crouched in the lifeboat, peering through holes in the boat cover. The novelty of their adventure had worn off quickly, for their refuge was hot, humid, and uncomfortable, and its bilges had never been designed for repose. It also lacked certain essential facilities -- the bucket Emily had brought was hardly an adequate substitute. Worst of all, there was also little for them to do.

"I'm bored," whispered Emily.

"So am I," Clarice whispered back.

"Maybe we can wait for nightfall and row to shore," Emily suggested.

Clarice wasn't certain her companion's plan was practical. They'd have to swing out the davits by themselves, lower a two ton lifeboat, cast off the falls while underway, and vanish into the night without being noticed. "I don't reckon that's a goer," she remarked.

"Strewth," Emily agreed glumly.

With a sigh, the two women returned to watching the strangers who'd hijacked the freighter. These fell into two groups. One was Japanese -- Clarice and Emily might not have understood the language, but they recognized it from overhearing pearl fishers in Darwin. These men went about their duties with an efficiency that would have done credit to the Royal Navy. The other seemed composed of deckhands hired from the docks of the Dutch East Indies, and was quite clearly subservient to the first. The relationship was not harmonious, with the one party issuing harangues the other seemed determined to ignore.

At last this demonstration of poor management skills was interrupted by a cry from the starboard lookout. Clarice and Emily edged to the other side of the lifeboat, taking care not to set the craft swinging, and peered east in time to see a long sleek shape rise from the waves. As they watched, two stubby funnels extended from its deckhouse and began to belch smoke.

"What the devil is that?" exclaimed Emily.

"It looks rather like a submarine," Clarice remarked.

"I can see that, you ocker," said the blond, "but what are they doing here?"

What they were doing, it seemed, was calling on the tug to surrender. A hoist of "ID", followed by a shot across the vessel's bow, left little doubt about the matter. A second hoist of "AB" -- "Abandon ship as fast as possible" -- was unnecessary, for the tug's crew was already scrambling to comply.

On the Viking Girl, the prize crew was also rushing for the lifeboats. Recognizing that further concealment was impossible, Clarice and Emily flung off the cover from their erstwhile refuge, then helped cast off the pendants, swing the boat out, and slack off the falls. A short time later, they were bobbing on the waves in the company of several puzzled hijackers.

"Sumimasen," said the man who seemed to be in charge. "Who you?"

"Don't mind us," Emily replied artlessly. "We're glad we could help."

"Arigato," the man said uncertainly, "but how you here?"

"Oh, we were just passing through," said Clarice.

The man frowned. "Hai," he said, "but that not tell why..."

The two women were saved further explanations when the submarine opened fire with its deck gun. A few smartly-aimed shots sent the tug and freighter to the bottom. Then the raider was pulling alongside their own craft. A voice called down from the conning tower.

"Ahoy there! You are now our prisoners! Your officers are to surrender and come aboard our vessel! After they have done so, the rest of you will be free to go! Make no attempt to resist or... I say... sir, you might want to have a look at this."

The stateroom of the submarine was even less spacious than the lifeboat. It was considerably better appointed, however, with furnishings that might not have seemed out of place on a yacht. This impression was heightened by appearance of the owner -- a middle-aged man in trim nautical apparel, complete with a peaked cap. Clarice recognized Mister Fuller, one of the British Union's former agents in Darwin. This presented her with a dilemma. If she admitted knowing who he was, this might seem suspicious. But if she pretended ignorance and he recognized them, this might also lead to trouble.

"Mister Fuller!" Emily exclaimed with evident delight. "I remember you! You're the bloke who bought those tanks! Those were a real corker!"

Clarice glared at her companion. Did she mean to give the game away? The blond affected not to notice.

Fuller seemed taken off balance by this unexpected praise. "Thank you," he replied bashfully. "They were meant to defend Darwin against foreign aggression. Machines such as these represent the future of warfare. We stand upon the threshold of a new epoch in the history of the world -- war based on petrol, the natural sequent of an industry based on steam..."

"And they were brilliant!" Emily interrupted. "No one's attacked our town since you brought them!"

"Quite," Fuller said with a cough. "May I inquire as to your names? I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage."

The blond affected a giggle. "I'm Emily Wilcox and this is my mate Clarice Blaine. Is this your submarine? She's a bewdy!"

Clarice gave her companion a credit. Praising a man's vessel was always good strategy. "She's a K Class fleet submarine, steam-powered, with a top speed of 20 knots," Fuller told them. "I picked her up at auction when the Royal Navy decommissioned these boats after the war. I considered naming her the Nautilus, but this seemed presumptuous, so I settled on the Proteus. Captain Boyd had quite the fantastic voyage bringing her here from England."

"And you maintain her as yacht?" asked Clarice, getting into the spirit of the thing.

"For that, and to rescue fair maidens from pirates," Fuller said gallantly.

"It's kind of you to assume..." Emily began before Clarice could elbow her in the ribs. "We're glad you rocked up!" she told their host. "We were wondering how we'd get clear of those wankers."

"May I ask how you came to be aboard their prize?" asked Fuller.

"Their prize?" Clarice said indignantly. "That tub was ours first! Our aunt was salvaging it, fair dinkum, when they came along and nicked it."

"I suppose I owe your aunt an apology for sinking the vessel," mused Fuller. "I shall have to make this up to her. Do you have any appraisal of its value?"

While they were thinking of an answer, a radioman appeared and handed their host a message. He read it and frowned, like a man forced to resort to some unwanted prevarication.

"I'd hoped to convey you directly to Darwin, but it seems we must make haste to the Dutch East Indies to... deal with another pirate," he told them. "I have no wish to inconvenience you with a wait while we pursue the fellows, so I shall drop you off in Kupang. The Foreign Office maintains a representative there. You should have no trouble getting back to Australia."

Next week: Follow That Submarine!...

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