The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 523: I Suppose We'll Have To Determine Where They Came From

A crate that once held a rhomboid tank

Everett called a meeting in his stateroom to review Iverson and Sarah's discoveries. It might not have been the most spacious compartment on the ship, but it offered a measure of security while they discussed the pair's report. This was subject to several interpretations.

"It would seem that the German nationalists maintained a rifle range, an armory, and a tent encampment on their plantation," said Everett. "They also brought the two Mark V tanks here from Gilolo and rearmed them. This suggests they were assembling a force for some military exercise. The question becomes what this might be."

"Perhaps they intend to establish another secret base to support that big new ship of theirs," Sarah suggested.

Everett thought this over. The island girl most certainly had a point. The Drachen was too distinctive to call at a major air station without being recognized -- the information they'd recovered from Kupang proved as much -- so the nationalists would want places they could resupply the vessel in secret. The Japanese faced a similar problem.

"This is possible," he mused. "An infantry force supported by tanks could defend a station against any conceivable assault. But we must also consider the possibility that the Fat Man plans some offensive action."

"Do you think he means to attack the Japanese base on Sarah's Island?" asked Jenkins.

"It would be an obvious move," said the captain. "Their former allies will be vulnerable to attacks on their supply now that they've lost their secret air station in Western Australia. Losing the foothold on Sarah's Island could drive them from the Western Pacific."

"Do you think this was Natasha's intention when she arranged for the site in Australia to be destroyed?" asked Iverson.

"We cannot be certain she was responsible," Everett observed. "For all we know, this might have been Karlov's work, and I suspect that both have a hand in the current affair. Jenkins, have you been able to determine where the Germans took the force they'd assembled at the plantation?"

"They left no clues," said the signalman. "It was only a matter of chance that anything remained at the plantation for Iverson and Sarah to find. I spoke with the workmen after they got back to town, and it seems they were supposed to dismantle the place earlier, but another job delayed them until we arrived."

"The plantation didn't have any mooring facilities, and they cannot have found enough wagons and teams in this town to move a company by land," said Iverson. "This suggests they left by sea. Surely the customs or shipping offices would have some record of this."

The signalman shook his head. "These offices only concern themselves with cargo. It's rare for them to take any notice of passengers. But it does appear that our friend the Inselmädchen was in port at the right time to take the Germans aboard. They also called around the time the tanks appeared."

Sarah brightened at these words -- the very picture of a young pirate queen. "Can we look for them?"

Everett calculated speeds and distances in his head. "This is unlikely to be profitable, given the lead Kapitan Ritter has," he decided. "We'd have too much area to cover. It might be more productive to check where they've been."

"Surely they also have taken steps to cover their tracks in Gilolo," said Jenkins.

"Perhaps," said Everett, "but it's difficult to imagine how they could have driven tanks down to the harbor in Weda and loaded them aboard a freighter without someone taking notice. We'll give the place a visit."

Weda was every bit as rustic as it had been the year before -- a small island port whose principal export might have been insignificance. After his ship was on the mast, Everett had Davies lead him and Jenkins to the place the marine had found the Chekov's Gun the year before. The machine was long gone, but they found the lot strewn with lathing boxes of nails -- more than seemed necessary to crate a 29-ton tank for shipping. Everett thought for a moment, deciding upon a strategy, then hailed a passing villager

"Excuse me, sir," he said politely. "I am a collector of armored fighting machines. I understood that a fine example of this genre was available here in Weda but it seems to have vanished. Would you happen to know what became of it?"

The islander glanced at the lot as if it had never held anything remarkable. "The infidels carted it off several months ago on a freighter -- the Instill Mad Chin, I believe."

"Would you happen to know who these infidels might have been?" Everett asked.

The islander shrugged. "Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Germans, does it make any difference? None of them are believers."

Everett controlled his impatience. "There is some truth to this observation," he replied. "Surely they deserve our sympathy. Do you happen to recall any distinguishing feature by which these particular infidels might be recognized by someone who wished to bring them the word of the Prophet?"

"No," mused the islander, "except for that bit with the crates of secret weapons."

The airmen exchanged glances.

"Secret weapons?" said Everett..

Emily and Clarice sat in their quarters, gazing out the window. Outside, the village of Weda. looked every bit as uninteresting as they'd been led to believe -- an unprepossessing collection of shacks, warehouses, mission, and mosques whose builders seemed to have lost interest halfway through their work -- but this did little to improve their mood.

"Who'd have guessed the Captain would be so upset?" Clarice said glumly.

"No worries," said Emily. "He's really a dear. This is just an act he has to put on for his crew. "

"Do you really think so?" asked Clarice.

Her companion considered the matter and sighed. "No."

"And he's ordered us to remain aboard and miss all the fun.

Emily gestured out the window. "I doubt there's much fun to be had here," she observed. "And I'm certain he'll change his mind when he realizes how helpful we've been. If it hadn't been for us, he never would have have found those tanks, or whatever it was he sent Iverson and Sarah to investigate."

Clarice brightened at this observation. "Bob's your uncle!" she announced. "And I know how to get back into his good graces."

Next week: This Is A Baron-free Workplace...

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