Episode 504: Just a Minor Annoyance
Captain Michaelson sat at his desk, reviewing the month's department
reports. It was well past midnight at the Cairns Royal Air Station, and
dawn was still two hours away, but paperwork knew no rest. He glanced up
in irritation as Fenwick knocked on his door. "What is it?" he
The aide accepted the reprimand without flinching. He was learning. "We've
received a wire from the American squadron headquarters in Sunnyvale," he
replied. "It appears that a commercial flight to New Zealand, N-98
The Spirit of Portland, has gone missing. Their last transmission
placed them near 28 47 S 160 46 W."
Michaelson set down his pen and rose to check the chart that hung from the
wall. "When did this occur?"
"Six hours ago. That would have been just after midnight, local time. Do
you think the Japanese nationalists on Sarah's Island were involved?"
"No," Michaelson decided, "that's much too far to the west. I imagine the
Americans have some mechanical trouble and are drifting without engines or
power while they wait for rescue."
"Shall I order McKiernan to the scene?" asked Fenwick.
Michaelson shook his head. "His Wolseley is unlikely to have enough
consumables. The order would only serve to alert our Japanese friends to
his presence. Even if he could make the flight, there's little he could do
until daylight. I imagine the USN has already sent a vessel from Pago Pago
to begin a search. Let us visit the wireless station to learn how this is
The grounds were quiet as the two men strode across the field. The clouds
had drawn away -- unusual during the rainy season -- and the moon hung low
in the west. Beneath it, Michaelson noticed a bonfire flickering in the
"I take it our guest workers are still at it," he remarked to Fenwick.
"Did you discover what this is about?"
The aide gave a tentative nod. "These islanders seem to believe the stars
are `right' for some noteworthy event. Their dialect is difficult to
interpret, so it's difficult to determine whether this involves the arrival
of a great ship filled with cargo, the return of an evil spirit from some
ancient city lost beneath the waves, or the arrival of some great ship
filled with cargo belonging to an evil spirit from some ancient city lost
beneath the waves."
"They're fortunate to see the stars at all this time of year," Michaelson
remarked. "We'll leave them to their entertainment and see what Snider has
The atmosphere in the wireless room was calm and businesslike, as befit
an establishment of the Crown. Lieutenant Snider stood next to one
of the operators, listening in on a spare headphone. He looked up as
"I take it you've come about the Americans, sir?" he asked.
"You are correct," Michaelson admitted. "Has there been any word from
"They've sent a Los Angeles class vessel to investigate. They
should be approaching the location now."
Michaelson nodded in approval at the Americans' choice. The
Los Angeles class had a long and successful history. They might
not have been the fastest or most powerful vessels, but their reliability
was proverbial, and they had long legs. "Put the signal on the
speaker," he ordered.
Snider nodded to the signalman. As tubes warmed up, a voice sounded from
"...ZR-57 Burbank, ZR-57 Burbank, this is NAS Pago Pago.
What is the progress of your search?"
"NAS Pago Pago, ZR-57 Burbank. We haven't spotted the missing
ship, but there's a new island at this location. It must have just risen
from the sea."
Fenwick raised an eyebrow. "Do you think this could this have any
connection with the missing vessel, sir?" he asked Michaelson.
The senior captain made a dismissive gesture. "We shouldn't be too quick to
see significance in what might just be a coincidence. These geological
upheavals happen all the time."
The operator at NAS Pago Pago seemed to be thinking along the same lines as
Fenwick. "Do you see anything to suggest the N-98 went down on this
island?" he asked,
"Negative," came the reply, "but it's clear the place was once inhabited.
It's a coastline of mingled mud and ooze, and weedy cyclopean masonry."
"Understand you have some weedy cyclopean masonry. Could this have been
some form of air station?"
"Negative, it seems to be the remains of a city. Something about its
geometry is abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and
dimensions apart from ours. We're overflying it now."
Fenwick frowned. "Didn't Captain Everett observe structures with
unusual geometry at several of the sites he's investigated?"
"It does seem to be common in this part of the world," said Michaelson.
"Perhaps the fellows who built this city copied some long-standing
architectural tradition. Let's hear what these fellows on the
Burbank have to say."
"We've spotted an enormous monolith ahead, composed of vast angles and
surfaces too great to belong to anything right or proper of this earth,"
came the voice from the speaker. "One side looks almost like a titanic
door. That's odd, some trick of the light makes it seem to be... Oh
my god! It's..."
The transmission stopped abruptly. The signalman fiddled with his
receiver, then looked up Snider. "I'm no longer getting a signal, sir,"
he told the lieutenant. "They must be having some trouble with their
"I wonder what that last bit was about," wondered Fenwick. "The man
"I wouldn't place too much significance on his outburst," said
Michaelson. "These Colonials always tend to over-react to minor problems.
Snider, see if Samoa is still in contact with the vessel."
The lieutenant glanced at the signalman, who reached for his
microphone. "NAS Pago Pago, NAS Pago Pago, this is RAS Cairns. We've
been monitoring your QSO with ZR-57 Burbank. Are you still in
contact with your vessel?"
"Negative, RAS Cairns," came the reply "They seem to have dropped off the
air. We're trying to reestablish... That's odd, we just had a earth slight
tremor. I wonder if the volcano is acting up again. Hold while I check."
Over the speaker, the Englishmen heard shouts, screams, and calls of alarm.
The operator came back on the air, his voice distorted by some terrible
extreme of emotion.
"There is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorable lunacy,
such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order!" he
cried. "A mountain walks or stumbles! God..."
Once again, the transmission stopped abruptly.
"I say," Fenwick remarked,
"that didn't sound promising."
"They did seem to be experiencing some difficulties," said Michaelson.
"Snider, contact USN Pacific Squadron headquarters at NAS Sunnyvale to
determine if they know what's going on."
The lieutenant nodded to his underling. The signalman worked his key while
he adjusted his dial to scan through the frequencies. After a moment he
looked up. "They aren't answering my calls," he reported, "but I am
receiving a general broadcast from NAS Sunnyvale relayed through Howland
Island. Shall I put this on the speaker?"
"Please do," said Michaelson.
"...also destroyed by the earthquake," came a voice from the set. "Colonel
Lewis reports that the creatures have overwhelmed defenders at Redwood City.
He's falling back to establish a defensive line at Dumbarton Point until we
can..." The voice paused. In the background, the Englishmen heard gunfire,
followed by the sound of collapsing masonry. "Oh no! They're here!
There was a loud crashing noise, followed by silence.
Fenwick frowned, then glanced at his superior. "I believe I detect a
pattern here, sir" he remarked apprehensively.
"Let us hope it is not too widespread," said Michaelson. "Mister Snider,
see if there's any mention of this affair on the news."
The lieutenant led them to the end of the room, where several off-duty
radiomen were already clustered around the big commercial set. The calm
voice of BBC World Service, Sydney, came from the speaker.
"...in Washington DC, the world collapsed early Sunday morning. An army of
these creatures have jumped the barricades and are attacking from the sea.
The government has been moved to Pittsburgh, while the army hopes to hold a
line at the Appalachians.
"In Germany, sappers are digging a system of trenches from Bremen to
Hamburg while Krupp Arms ships batteries of their 420mm 14L/12 light naval
cannon to deal with the invaders. In France, Paris has been overrun by
massive congeries of formless protoplasm that emerged from the Seine. In a
series of brave charges reminiscent of the Marne, French infantry held the
creatures off while the government and citizens were evacuated to Limoges.
"There is still no word from Italy, Russia, or Turkey. The last message from
our correspondent in Rome was quest non è buono. Farther to the east,
we've received reports that a giant monster is destroying Tokyo. We've
contacted our office there for clarification.
"Meanwhile, England remains an island of order. The King has urged Britons
to keep calm and carry on while our constabulary rounds up these piscine
hooligans and sends them packing. The Home Office expects to see this
accomplished by mid-week."
Michaelson, Fenwick, and Snider listened to the broadcast with varying
degrees of interest, concern, and appreciation of the work of a fellow
professional. "It appears we may have a busy time ahead," Michaelson
"Quite," said Fenwick. "At least Australia hasn't been attacked,"
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," said Snider. The lieutenant pointed out
the window, where some great cosmic entity, miles high, was rising from the
waters of the Coral Sea. Lightning played about its features as flocks of
lesser beings wheeled through the skies below it. As they watched, it began
to stride toward shore, shaking the ground beneath its feet.
Fenwick stared at the apparition in horror. "Sir?" he asked Michaelson,
"Whatever should we do with it?"
"Whatever should we do with it, sir?" asked Fenwick.
Michaelson set down the manuscript and gave the pages a tap. "It's
comparatively imaginative, as such things go, but it may not be suitable
for presentation at this month's Australia Day festivities. Contact the
author -- some Greek fellow, as I recall -- and inform him that it doesn't
meet our requirements."
"Shall I add anything else, sir?"
The senior captain thought this over. There was no point in alienating
writers. Someday one might feature him in a story. "Yes," he decided.
"Advise him that he might wish to consider offering it to the American
audience as one of their famous `April Fools' jokes."
Next week: His Ship Should Be Easy To Find...
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