Episode 492: Perhaps Not The Outcome We Hoped For
Everett had lifted ship the day after the hijacking to take Aunt Prodigia
and her nieces back to the Stalking Herring. Now the
Flying Cloud's three supercharged diesels were driving the airship
north at 60 knots -- a speed calculated to bring them to Danang in the
morning. To port,
the sun was dropping toward the hills of the Malay Peninsula. To starboard,
the South China Sea was a dark blue mirror that did little to reflect the
captain's thoughts. He contemplated it for a moment, then opened the log to
make an entry.
5-December-1917, 1800 hours, Lat 1 19' N, Long 103 55' E. Cleared
Singapore Royal Air Station at 1700. While in Singapore, we located the
British Union of Fascists' organization, apprehended its principal members,
and rescued two citizens of the Commonwealth they'd abducted. Now we're en
route to return an intelligence asset to Danang.
Should he add more, he wondered? He decided against this. There was an art
to recording some minor victories without making it too obvious that one was
avoiding mention of a fairly substantial defeat. Michaelson was certain to
notice the omission, of course, but the senior captain could hardly call
them out on it without drawing attention to his own machinations... whatever
those might be.
Jenkins knocked on the door behind him. "I have the report from Singapore
regarding the freighter Wasserman left behind," said the signalman. "It
seems the vessel wasn't his, but was chartered from an owner in Hong Kong by
some American firm called the Marsh Refinery."
"This will almost certainly turn out to be a front," mused Everett. "We're
unlikely to learn more from that line of inquiry. What did you think of last
"They may not have been an unqualified success," Jenkins observed honestly.
This was one of an aide's duties. "It's a pity we couldn't follow the
Make A Good Fist from the air."
Everett nodded. The Dutchman had timed his move well. Even with the moon
approaching full, they'd have found it impossible to pick the yacht out from
other nighttime traffic in the Straits. "I take it there's also been no sign
of Miss Natasha," he said.
"No, she vanished as thoroughly as Karlov did, assuming he was present."
"I imagine he was," said Everett. "She indicated as much to Miss Blaine and
Miss Wilcox, and events do suggest that someone was working against her. We
know she freed Koshino from the Japanese, and she claimed she was trying to
prevent them from getting hold of the vacuum tubes. Wasserman would seem to
have put a spoke in her wheel."
"Could the two of them have been working together?" asked Jenkins.
"I doubt it," said Everett. "It's difficult to imagine why they'd have freed
Miss Blaine and Miss Wilcox to alert us to their plans when they could just
as easily have kept the young ladies prisoner and made off with the yacht
without us being the wiser. Also, this succession of apparent coincidences
that combine to hand us a defeat has been one of Karlov's trademarks."
"At least Michaelson can't fault us for not finding the yacht in time," said
Jenkins. "We had no way of knowing where it was until Miss Blaine and Miss
Wilcox were available to tell us."
"I imagine he'll contrive to blame us for something," Everett observed
philosophically. "But we'll deal with this eventuality when it arises. I'm
more concerned about the identity of Wasserman's employer. The man may have
a reputation for appropriating other peoples' belongings, but he wouldn't
have gone to so much effort to steal a shipment of electronic valves that
would be worthless to almost anyone unless someone had commissioned the
"Surely this would be Karlov." said Jenkins.
Everett shook his head. "There's no reason to believe he had the resources
to charter that freighter. Also, he's tended to work behind the scenes,
manipulating other players to achieve his ends."
"That reduces the possibilities to the Japanese, the Germans, the White
Russians, the Red Russians, the Warfields, or some new party who remains
to be determined," Jenkins observed.
"So it does," sighed Everett. "If it's any consolation, our adversaries
must be every bit as much in the dark as we are."
The radioman watched apprehensively as the Fat Man studied the report. His
section had drawn lots to determine who'd deliver it, and he had lost. At
last the Fat Man smiled. It was not a comforting smile,
but the radioman took comfort from the
fact it didn't seem aimed at him.
"So our operations in Manila, Haiphong, and Saigon have all been eradicated,
along with those of our adversaries," said the Fat Man.
"Ja, mein Herr."
"This will be the work of the British Union," the Fat Man announced. "It's
confirmed by the disappearance of their yacht. They must have learned of
the vacuum tubes' importance and faked the hijacking to steal these for
themselves and mislead their adversaries. We will find a way to take
advantage of this."
The aide bowed and handed over the report with the same practiced movements
he might have used to handle a sword. He hoped he wouldn't be required to
atone for its contents with the same unquestioning efficiency. The commander
read it as if weighing the possibility, then nodded.
"It seems the Germans have made their move," he said. "These
simultaneous attacks on all of our bases cannot be the work of the Royal
Navy. The Igirirsuhito seemed as surprised as we were."
"What about the British Union?" the aide risked asking. This was one of an
The commander made a gesture of dismissal. "Those gaijin lack the
necessary subtlety. As long as we tempt them with promises of power, we can
be certain of their loyalty."
Bludge had volunteered to deliver the report for the radiomen. Not only was
he more familiar with the Baron and Baroness's whims, he was also less prone
to breakage. He watched impassively as Lord Warfield finished reading.
"So," chuckled the Baron, "our agents have all been apprehended, the
Australian women escaped us, and that Dutchman hijacked our yacht. What do
you make of this, my dear?"
His lady glanced through the pages and smiled. "This cannot be the work of
the Germans. They may have employed Wasserman in the past, but they lack
the imagination. It also can't be the Japanese, for they have no reason to
suspect us yet. If the Royal Navy was involved, Mister Fuller would have
informed us of their plans. That suggests the presence of another party,
with whom we might make a deal."
The Governor glanced at the air station, where a mighty cruiser rode
from the mast, then poured a glass of wine for his guest. "Did our
current allies notice your cargo?" he asked.
Wasserman snorted in derision. "We disguised it in the delivery of food,
as you recommended. De Japanners are too proud to examine items
"And the yacht?"
"We sold her in Haiphong. That will throw our adversaries off the scent and
also bring us some money. May I ask what all this was for?"
The Governor's expression was deceptively mild, but Wasserman wasn't
deceived. This man had betrayed his previous allies without a thought.
"No, you may not," he said. "But as long as you continue to play your part,
you will continue to be rewarded."
Next week: The Tenth Flying Cloud Christmas Special...
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