The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 460: Many More Of Them Live Next Door

Emily, Clarice, Koshino, and thugs

The traffic in Kupang's harbor was bewildering in its variety, ranging from modern liners to vessels that might have been old when Sinbad was young. No one took notice of Fuller's submarine as they steamed through the confusion, and soon they were backing down to a wharf between an auxiliary steamer named the Batavia Queen and a yacht named the Minnow. Fuller escorted Clarice and Emily up to the dock and summoned a rickshaw to carry them into town.

"I'm afraid I must be on my way, if I'm to intercept the... uh... pirates," he told them. "I've instructed this gentleman to run you over to the telegraph station. You can speak to the Foreign Office representative there or send a telegram to arrange your passage home."

Emily leaned forward to give him a peck on the cheek. "Hooroo!" she told him. "Thanks for everything! Let's meet at the pub next time you're in Oz!".

The ride to the telegraph station was brief but colorful. The rains had yet to begin, and the streets were thronged with representatives of a variety of nations, cultures, and quite possibly species. The staff at the station were quick to offer assistance and soon Clarice and Emily were waiting behind a man with Asian features who was speaking with the clerk.

"I'd like to send a message to University of Chicago, reversing the charges," they overheard him say.

"If you wait, I'll speak with my superior," said the clerk. "May I have your name please?"

"James Koshino."

Clarice and Emily exchanged glances. Clarice raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me," Emily asked the man. "Are you Professor Koshino?"

He gazed at them with a puzzled expression. "That's right," he said. "Have we met?"

Clarice considered her reply. The situation might be difficult to explain. "We're reserve ballast officers on one of His Majesty's airships -- the Flying Cloud, R-505," she told him. "We've been looking for you."

Now it was Koshino's turn to look surprised. As well he might. On one hand, their story seemed unlikely. On the other hand, it was difficult to imagine what other reason two young Australian women in fashionable clothing might have for visiting Kupang's telegraph office.

"I got stranded here," he told them, misusing grammar in a way that was uniquely American. "Now I'm looking for a ride back to civilization. Have you got room on your ship?"

"Bob's your uncle!" Emily assured him. "We'll send them a wire."

"But we don't know where they are!" Clarice whispered to Emily.

"We'll send it to Darwin," Emily whispered back. "Captain Everett always seems to end up in Darwin."

"What will we use for a code?"

"We'll try the first letter of every word trick! This will be fun!"

Devising a suitable text took some time, and they ended up with a few extra letters toward the front, but at last the message was ready. While they waited for it to be sent, the professor described his adventures.

"I was aboard a liner, my way to join a research team from the university, when I got kidnapped by some guys on a mysterious air cruiser. They claimed to be Japanese industrialists, and took me to some secret laboratory, where they offered me a big sum of money to help develop a manufacturing process. I said yes -- you can always use extra cash -- but then my lab assistant learned they were really trying to build some kind of gigantic bomb. I didn't want anything to do with that, so she helped me escape."

Clarice frowned. Something about the professor's story bothered her. Before she could identify what it was, the clerk returned with a reply to their message.

Emily glanced at it and smiled. "Bonzer! They'll be here tomorrow!"

Everett wasn't surprised to see Clarice and Emily waiting at the foot of the mooring mast. He'd learned not to underestimate their resourcefulness. They brightened when he and Jenkins emerged from the lift.

"G'day!" Emily announced. "Welcome to Kupang Naval Air Station!"

"Miss Wilcox, Miss Blaine," Everett replied. "I trust that you are well."

"Dinki-di!" said Clarice.

Everett glanced at the two young women and repressed a sigh. "I suppose I shouldn't ask how you contrived to gain access to a Dutch military facility," he remarked.

Their smiles would have done justice to the sphinx. "I see you got our wire," said Emily.

Jenkins smiled back -- to the extent that this was allowed by his Signal Corps training. "That was a nice bit of cryptography," he told the blond. "I see no sign of the party you mentioned, so I assume he's in hiding."

Emily nodded. "He wanted us to make sure the `coast was clear' before he left the hotel."

Everett had no difficulty interpreting this rustic Colonial idiom. "I don't believe he'll have cause for concern, but we'll bring Abercrombie along in case anyone thinks to contest our passage."

The summoned the rigger, then set off for the hotel in question. It was pleasant-looking establishment, but they found no sign of the professor. Everett cornered a bellhop and passed the man a few coins.

"Excuse me," he said. "Would you have happened to notice a Japanese chemist?"

The bellhop scratched his head for a moment. "Would this be the Asian gentleman who a pair of Englishmen carried off in their motorcar?"

Everett sighed. "That would be the one"

"They left a few minutes ago, headed toward the harbor."

Everett had gotten a good look at the town from the air. He drew on this memory, then turned to his companions. "With their motor, our quarry will be forced to keep to the broader thoroughfares. I believe we have a chance to cut them off. If you two ladies wait here, we'll be back in a moment."

Clarice opened her mouth to object, but Everett was already leading his men off on the chase. A brisk stroll along what seemed like a maze of twisting passages, all alike, brought the airmen to a lane where a bottle-green Bentley was parked by what passed for a curb. Two well-dressed Englishmen were peering under the bonnet.

"It would appear to be a problem with the carburetor," they heard one say.

"That idiot!" grumbled the other. "He assured us he'd fixed it! What will we do?"

"Ye could surrender," Abercrombie suggested from behind them.

The men turned, raised their fists, and just as quickly dropped them when they got a good look at the Scotsman. "I have a better idea," one observed. "We shall flee."

The airmen watched their adversaries take to their heels, then made their way to the back of the car, where a blindfolded man seemed to be trying to figure out what was happening. A few moments' work sufficed to free Professor Koshino.

"I'm glad you showed up!" the chemist told them. "Who are you guys?"

"You're quite welcome," said Everett. "I'm Captain Roland P Everett, Royal Navy Airship Service, and these are members of my crew."

"You're the guys those two Australian girls told me about!" said Koshino. "Where are they now?"

"We'll find them back at your hotel," said Everett.

This prediction proved optimistic, for there was no sign of Clarice and Emily when they arrived. A brief conversation with the bellhop they'd spoken to earlier determined that the two young women had been carried off by a party of Germans in a `big black car'.

Everett frowned at this news. "I can't say we've acquitted ourselves well today," he observed dryly.

Next week: Did It Come With Instructions?...

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