The Great Sandy Desert, in the heart of the Australian Outback.
Svenson, Fraser, Holden, and Blackburn are now stranded in the middle of it. About two hours ago, the helijet has let them there, free of any ties, with only two lugs of water. No food, no shelter. And the sun is shining implacably. They already have trouble bearing the heat, and aside from Fraser, they all have taken off their jackets. Holden has stretched on the ground, his elbow folded upon his eyes to protect them from the sunlight. No sense, he has said to the others, to tire needlessly. Better to take some rest for a little time. His coolness has impressed his companions and they have concurred.
While Holden seems to have slumbered, Svenson and Blackburn have started explaining to Fraser the little they knew about what was going on. If Fraser, who had come in late in that adventure, had thought they could learn him much more, he was highly disappointed. The relentless policeman is now pacing nervously, as Svenson and Blackburn sits next to Holden, apparently asleep in the overheat.
“Will you please calm down?” An irritated Svenson calls out to Fraser. “Watching you doing that is tiring me!”
“It helps me thing about all that non-sense!” Fraser snaps abruptly. “Why did I have to come to this forsaken continent, good Lord, that I will never know!”
“That continent happens to by my country!” Blackburn interjects, really annoyed by the remark. “So I suggest you’d be a little more polite when you talk about it.”
Fraser stops his pacing. “Hey, it’s true! You’re from down here! So you must know where we are.”
“Well, it’s quite easy! Blackburn cynically answers back. “We’re exactly smacked in the middle of one of our deserts in the outback. In other words: right in the middle of nowhere!”
“You would not be able to find your way out of this?” Svenson asks his old friend.
“What kind of an Aussie are you?” Fraser remarks dryly.
“If somebody dropped you out right in the Everglades, would YOU be able to easily get out of it?” Blackburn retorts with irritation. “What kind of a YANKEE that would make of you?”
“We can always evaluate our position, anyway.” Svenson ponders. “For starters, what kind of aircraft did we ride aboard?”
“It was a Rotar helijet.” Fraser responds, before any of the others could answer. “But not standard from the World Army Air Force. Brand new model. Probably built within the last year, if you ask me.”
Blackburn screws up his eyes to him with suspicion. “How do you know all that? Adam and I are in the WAS, it’s normal we have such details on that kind of crafts, but you…”
Fraser shrugs. “I’ve got one of the last models in my collection. And that’s not THAT model.”
“Your collection?” A curious Svenson asks.
“Drop it. It’s no time to explain this.”
“Okay.” Svenson nods. “You’re right. It really looked like a WAAF Rotar Jet, but like you said, not from standard edition. What more can you say about it? At what speed do you think it could go?”
“Let’s see…” A thoughtful Fraser ponders. “The standard edition can go up to 250 miles per hour. Not that one: I’d say it could speed up to 300 miles. And if I’m not mistaken, it was going full speed.
“Right.” Svenson says shaking his head. “I would say about the same. So, what did that take us?”
“Okay, I’ll give it a try.” Blackburn sighs. “We travelled for one hour and a half or so, from Perth. If we keep a straight line, providing that helijet didn’t turn in circles too often, that would have bring us right in the middle of the Great Sandy Desert… or Gibson Desert... or Victoria Desert.”
“And the difference is?” Fraser asks, suspicious.
“ ‘Bout five hundred miles north or south.” Blackburn shrugs.
Fraser grumbles. “That’s not helping any. Anyone of you has seen what direction we have taken when we have leave Perth?”
“Sorry.” Svenson scoffs. “I guess if I hadn’t had that bag over my head, I would have been able to actually see something.”
“We all had bags over our heads, Fraser, you know that.” Blackburn notes to the detective. “It was impossible for any of us to see where we were going.”
“Okay.” Fraser sighs. “So, what can you tell us about the outback? It is inhabited, isn’t it?”
“Oh, yeah!” Blackburn answers ironically. “Without knowing it, we may be near some inhabited place where it will be possible for us to take shelter.”
“Great!” Fraser says with a big smile.
Blackburn tosses him a mean look. “On the other hand, we could walk endlessly before finding it, and die of exposure, thirst, or starvation.”
“Great.” Svenson says in turn, with a gloomy tone.
“And it would surprise me very much if those distinguished gentlemen who had brought us here had let us near any inhabited place.” Blackburn continues.
Fraser mumbles and begins his pacing anew. Blackburn takes his head into his hands, feeling a headache coming. Svenson, thoughtful, looks over the horizon.
“I wonder why they have brought us here.”
Fraser stops his pacing again. “So we would die?”
“No, I think Paul was right.” Svenson quickly replies. “They do not want us dead. They would have shoot us before and spare themselves the trouble of bringing us here.”
“Right. So why are we here?” Fraser asks in turn.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” Svenson then adds, gloomily: “I hope Paul is all right.”
“Well, if those creeps really don’t want us dead, they won’t kill him either. He must be all right.” Fraser remarks.
“But he took a mean blow to the head, if you remember. He could be hurt.” Svenson frowns, pondering: “And was it just me, or have any of you have also noticed how the leader of those guys reacts when Paul was hit?”
“Yeah, he seemed furious.” Fraser agrees.
“And worried.” Svenson adds thoughtfully.
“Say… that doesn’t ring something to you?” Blackburn suddenly says.
“What exactly do you mean?” Svenson asks him.
“Well, it may sound crazy but… those guys were trained commandos, right? Exactly like Paul. And the helijet was WAAF’s. Again, like Paul. Could it be possible that… he could be with these guys?”
Blackburn hesitates. Svenson looks straight at him, puzzled for a second. Metcalfe has implied himself that there was a spy amongst them. He waves Blackburn’ suggestion away with a gesture.
“You’re right, it’s crazy.” He says. “I’d bet my life Paul Metcalfe is a regular, honest guy.”
But he’s still having questions of his own. If not Metcalfe, why not his old pal, Steve Blackburn? Maybe he’s trying to confound all of them, right this very minute.
“You’re right, it was a crazy idea from the start…” Blackburn sighs. “But I find it odd that the leader of those creeps should be so considerate about Paul’s health, after the way he had personally hit every one of us.”
“None of us has received a blow as serious as Metcalfe’s…” Fraser remarks. “Except Holden, maybe. The poor guy’s back must still be in real pain right now.”
“I’m quite all right, thank you.” Holden then says, with a soft voice.
The others look over to him; he has not move from his motionless position, his face still buried in the bend of his arm.
“You’re awake, Brad?” Svenson asks him, frowning.
“I’ve never really slept.” Holden responds, still very coolly. “It’s rather difficult with you three chattering about all the time.”
“How can you be so calm, at a moment like this?” A puzzled Blackburn asks.
“I was thinking.” Holden opens his eyes and gets on one elbow to stare at his companions. “Maybe we could wait for the night. Then we would be able to use the stars to guide us back to civilisation. I’ve been stationed in Australia when I was with the Navy… I knew my ways around this place by looking at the stars.”
“That’s an idea.” Fraser says. “But which direction should we take, then?”
“Maybe the one taken by the helicopter after it left us here?” Blackburn suggests.
“We’ll really see when the time comes.” Holden replies.
“You would be able to do the same trick here, in the outback?” A perplexed Svenson asks. “We’re not on the ocean, Brad!”
“The stars are the stars. At least, it will be better to try this than to stay here and wait to fry.”
“Which you happen to be doing right now.” A cynical Fraser notes.
“Do you have any other solution?” Holden says, frowning.
“I would concur with you, Brad, if not for one only tiny detail.” Blackburn sighs.
“It’s nearly three in the afternoon. The sun will have fried us all before it’s sunset.”
“Well, at least it’s the only option we’ve got.” Svenson says. “So I think we should give it a try when nightfall comes.”
“Provided we don’t get eaten, bite or stung by any wild creature around this place.” Fraser mumbles.
“In the meantime, what should we do?” Blackburn asks.
“Sleep a little.” Holden suggests quietly.
“Is that all you can think about?”
“No. I’d like to eat too. But I’ve got no personal taste for lizard or snake. Which is all we’re liable to find around here.”
“Should try it, anyway.” Svenson notes dryly. “Maybe it’s the only thing we’ll have to eat before coming back to civilisation.”
“Oh, really gross!” Holden grumbles. “Maybe I should have pass on the opportunity to come here.”
“And miss a marvellous adventure?” Blackburn mocks him. “Come on, Brad! Where is your love of excitement?”
“Not in the same place as yours, obviously. But I shouldn’t be surprised that a daredevil test pilot should react like you do.”
While they go on bickering, Fraser does not even listen to them. It seems to him he has heard something in the loneliness of the wild… A strange sound which does not have its place there.
The murmur of an engine coming from the distance.
Svenson watches as Fraser raises his head and appears to be listening instantly. Wondering what he is hearing right now, Svenson does the same. When he realises what’s going on, the blond American gets to his feet and walks to Fraser, leaving Blackburn and Holden still going at each other’s.
“All my friends call me Rick… Adam, isn’t it?”
“Yes… I take it your hear what I hear?”
“Yeah, but I don’t see anything yet… It seems to come from…” Fraser looks to the sky in the distance and them points to a tiny black point: “There!”
“Sound like a small plane. And it’s too far yet to see exactly… Too far to call, to.”
“If only it will come this way.”
As if on cue, the aircraft seems to change direction and goes directly upon them. Svenson grabs Fraser by the shoulder, suddenly all excited.
“It is coming this way!”
Behind them, Holden and Blackburn had stopped their bickering to come join them. They too watch as the plane approach their position.
They all wave at it and call to it, worried that the aircraft will change direction and go its way. Their fear is groundless: the plane does not alter course and continue directly toward them.
After a few minutes, it flies overhead the four stranded men and begins to make circles, obviously in search of a possible landing ground. It is a small craft, one engine, Cessna-type, not really young by the looks of it, but seeming to be well adapted to this part of the land. It even gets retractable skids for sea landing.
When it finally comes in contact with the ground, about a hundred feet away from them, the four men start to make a run toward it. Only Holden seems a little hesitant. Fraser turns to him after a few feet.
“What is it?”
Holden frowns. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Don’t you think it a little bit to convenient for that plane to found us so easily?”
“Easily?” Fraser shrugs. “My friend, we’ve been here two hours. Your brain is starting to fry, no doubt. We’ve been rescued. I’m not looking at a giving horse’s mouth. Come on!”
Holden lets himself be persuaded and follows up. He and Fraser come up to Svenson and Blackburn’s level. The pilot, still in his plane, is presently turning off his engine. The only propeller of the aircraft stops, as Svenson comes closer and opens the passenger door to welcome their providential rescuer.
He stops dead in his track.
Behind the control column, the man with black hair and dark shades looks at him with a mischievous smile, showing two bright lines of white teeth.
“Hello, there! Anyone of you need a lift?”
The others behind Svenson jump at the tilting sound of that Irish brogue and stretch their necks to see inside. Fraser’s jaw literally drops open:
“I’ll be damned. Donaghue!”
“Nice to see you too, mister Fraser!” Donaghue answers back, still very much happily.
“How the hell did you find us?” Svenson exclaims, coming back from his surprise.
“How the hell does he find HIMSELF here?” Blackburn replies.
“Hey, if you’re not happy to see me, I can just turn around, you know!” Donaghue remarks.
“It’s not that we’re not happy.” Svenson quickly answers. “It’s just… Well, it’s really astounding to see you here, fellow!”
“It’s the least we can say!” Fraser turns toward Holden: “Maybe you were right about that bad feeling, Brad.”
Holden shrugs. “Well, I’M not looking at a giving horse’s mouth. I’m just glad that he has found us.”
“Yeah, but like you said, it is a little too convenient…”
“Fraser, you’re starting to bug me real time.” Donaghue sighs. “You know it has cost me a fortune to freight that not-so appealing plane and convince its owner to let me fly it by myself up here? And it has taken me hours to find you out. You should be thankful, you know. But I’m in too good a mood to let myself be bothered by your lack of faith in me.” He jumps out of the plane. “I’ll be glad to tell you everything you want to know, but before I do that… Which one of you is Grey?”
The others look at him without understanding. Svenson frowns, perplexed. “Grey?”
“Yes. As in ‘the colour grey’.”
“There is no Grey amongst us, Donaghue.” Blackburn replies. “I thought you knew all our names.”
“Oh no!” Donaghue quickly says. “It’s not a name. It’s a code. A codename, to be precise.”
“What are you talking about?” Fraser mumbles.
“I’ll explain in a moment. Please, all of you, search yourselves. Empty your pockets.”
“To what purpose would we do that?”
“Please, Fraser, don’t be difficult. Do as I say or I’ll do it for you. Contrary to what you may think, I would not like it. If I’m right, you will understand what I’m getting to.”
Sighing, the four men comply. All there is in their pockets is taken out and thrown to the ground, before each one of them. Papers, money, wallets, keys, pens… Donaghue scrutinizes everything, but does not seem to find what he’s looking for. The others are a little bit perplexed. As for Fraser, he’s rather impatient. And upset. Especially when he sees Donaghue crouches and lingers above his things.
“Would you mind telling us what you’re looking for, anyway?” He asks.
Donaghue raises his eyes to him. “I told you: you will understand when I find it.”
Holden finishes to empty his pockets. He gets a handful of coins out of his jacket and checks them out in the palm of his hand. Svenson sees him frown, as he takes a minuscule object, no bigger than a button, between his thumb and his index.
“That wouldn’t be that, by chance?” Holden then asks.
Donaghue gets up and goes the WASP commander. He takes the object and looks at it carefully.
He smiles contently.
“Yep. That’s exactly that.” He looks in Holden’s eyes. “It’s yours?”
“No. I first thought it was a button. The one missing from my uniform, maybe… but the colour’s not right.”
Donaghue is still examining the object. “It was in your pocket?”
“In the jacket, yes.”
“What is it?” Svenson asks.
Donaghue hands him the “button”. Svenson frowns deeply when he recognizes what it is.
“So, this is really a bug, right?” Holden says.
“Yes, it is.” Donaghue nods. He smiles at Holden. “So that makes you Grey.”
Holden is a bit irritated. “Look, mister, my name is Holden, and if you’re implying…”
Donaghue interrupts him swiftly. “I’m not doubting your identity, friend. Grey is the codename that these guys, who brought you here, used to refer to you.”
“Yes. I’m Magenta.” Donaghue smiles gingerly to Svenson: “And I think you’re Blue. As for the two of you… I don’t know yet. But I would rather think they call you Yellow, Fraser.”
Fraser frowns. “What is all this about, anyway?” He turns to Holden. “And how come you have a bug in your pocket?”
“I wish I know!”
“It comes from those creeps, then?” Svenson asks Donaghue.
The later nods.
“They must have slipped it in Brad’s pocket at some point.” Blackburn remarks.
“Yeah, well, they had plenty of opportunities to do it.” Holden agrees.
“They wanted to keep tabs on you.” Donaghue explains. “To know exactly where you would be all the time.” He gives them a wry grin. “So they would know where to take you when they’d come to take you back.”
The others jump. They look at Donaghue with uneasiness.
“What?” Fraser exclaims. “When?”
“Oh! Not right away.” Donaghue reassures them. “They’d figure they’d let you simmer in your own juice for a two or three before that.”
Svenson sighs. “Well, what do you know!”
“Okay, that tears it!” Blackburn points at the bug. “Let destroy that thing!”
“That wouldn’t be wise.” Svenson replies.
“Why not?” Fraser asks him. “They’re probably hearing all we’re saying right now!”
“No, they don’t.” Donaghue says. “I know a lot about this sort of toys. I… er… manufacture a lot of those.”
Fraser sniffles derisively. “I bet you do!”
“Anyway, that’s not a mike. More like a beeper, sending a beacon signal to a receiver source.”
Svenson smiles to the others. “He’s right, you know! I know of these things too. If we destroy this thing, we’re likely to draw those creeps’ attention… And they will send somebody right away to know why their bug has ceased to emit its signal. We’ll just let it here and go our way… in your plane, mister Donaghue.”
Donaghue is literally bursting with satisfaction. “Please, call me Pat.”
Fraser sighs. “All right, ‘Pat’! Now I have a couple of other questions for you.”
“How come you know all that? You knew where to find us, you knew about the bug, you know about those… ‘Codenames’… You came here and you offer to take us back to civilisation. What’s your angle in this?”
“Guess I just want to play hero?”
“Craps.” Fraser responds with incredulity.
“Come on, Rick, give it a rest.” Svenson says to him. “Don’t you think the Selection Committee had a reason to choose him as well as to choose you?” As Fraser does not respond, Svenson turns to Donaghue:
“However, it would be nice of you to tell us how you came across that information. Last time we’ve seen you, you were merrily going your way without even looking back.”
“Well, I did look back.” Donaghue answers, still smiling. “As you can see, I’m here. Oh, before I forget…”
He goes back to the plane and takes a basket behind the pilot seat, to hands it over to Holden, nearer to him.
“Here. I suppose you’re all starved, considering the time it is now.”
“Well… It’s true I didn’t eat since very early this morning.” Svenson says.
“And I am famished!” Holden agrees.
“What’s in there?” Blackburn asks.
“Wait a minute!” Fraser comes in. “You’re ready to trust that guy? You don’t want to learn HOW he happens to know all of this?”
“Let’s eat first.” Holden replies. “Ask questions after.”
“No. Let’s ask questions while we eat.” Svenson suggests. “I’m starved, yes, but I also want to know everything, Pat.”
“All right, then. But let us stay in the shades of the plane, will you? It’s mighty hot out here, and I’m sure you’d want to be comfortable before I begin to tell you my story…”
* * *
Sitting on the ground, Svenson, Fraser, Holden and Blackburn have dine on the picnic basket brought by Donaghue. The later has eat as well, but wasn’t as famished as his four companions. While they were all stranded in the desert, he have had tome to eat something, during his flight in his freighted Cessna.
Donaghue has related his story to the others. How he had intercepted the radio transmissions between Black and his superior on his specially designed computer. That’s when he learned approximately how to find them: ten miles north of Liberty Point Mines, in the Great Sandy Desert. It wasn’t very difficult for him to freight a plane and, asking around some questions, to find out WHERE in Sandy Desert was Liberty Point Mines. Then there were nearly three longs hours of fly to the place. When he had reached it – it happened to be a very old abandoned mine, with a couple of shakes all around – he just had to fly straight north, at low altitude. About a half hour of research has sufficed him to find them.
“Well, that’s quite a story, Pat.” Svenson says as Donaghue finishes his story. “It’s really a stroke of luck that you had that computer with you.”
“Luck has nothing to do with it. I’ve brought that computer with me because I had the feeling it will be useful. After all, I didn’t really know what I was going to get myself into, when I decided to answer the Committee’s… invitation.”
“Anyway, we WERE lucky you did answer the call.” Blackburn notes.
“Yes, if it hadn’t bee for you, we would have stay stranded in that desert for a couple of days…” Holden adds. “Thanks, fellow.”
Fraser is staying very quiet. Svenson elbows him in the side.
“Have you nothing to say, Rick?”
Fraser is still hesitant. “Yeah, well… only one word, maybe.” He looks at Donaghue. “Thanks… Pat.”
Donaghue smiles with obvious satisfaction. He gives Fraser a strong pat on the shoulder.
“So maybe the cop isn’t so bad after all!” He says.
“And maybe the crook has something in him.” Fraser replies. “ After all, there was nothing to force you to come to our rescue.”
“Like I said earlier: I aim at becoming a hero.”
“In the meantime, have any of you any ideas why theses guys take the trouble to bring us here if they want to take us back after a few days?” Blackburn asks. “Why am I having the feeling that that doesn’t make any sense?”
“I’m sure it does make sense to them.” Holden interjects.
“To Black, anyway.” Svenson turns to Donaghue: “You’re sure it’s not the guy real name?”
“Well, I can’t be sure of anything. But as I said, theses guys seem to be using colour codenames.”
“You said you were Magenta.” Fraser recalls.
“And Brad was Grey, since Grey was the one with the bug in his pocket. Svenson supposes to be Blue. The leader of that bunch of commandos at first called himself Zorro and his superior Great White Chief. But I’m pretty sure that was implied as a joke. When he cut communication with his superior, he called himself Black. And the other would be…”
“White, maybe?” Blackburn suggests.
“Well, if we follow the graph, I would say, yes.” Donaghue says. “And there’s Scarlet.”
Fraser frowns. “Who’s Scarlet?”
“Colonel Metcalfe. It seems that Black keeps him as a prisoner because he was beginning to know a little too much about what these guys are doing. The White guy has even said ‘Too close to soon to the truth’.”
“Now what that’s supposed to mean?” A perplexed Holden says. “That’s cryptic enough!”
“I don’t see what he means by that either. But I know this…» Donaghue looks at Svenson. “You may be dangerous to them too, Adam.”
Svenson frowns. “Me? How so?”
“Black said you may prove to wise for them. Whatever he meant by that.”
“Better be careful, Adam.” Blackburn warns his old friend. “You can be their next target.”
“Well, I don’t intend to be here if they come back for me.” Svenson mumbles. “I would rather go after them myself.”
Holden suddenly sounds worried. “Are you crazy?”
“Not at all.” Svenson replies. “They won’t be waiting for us. They think us stranded here, remember?”
“Black could be right about you, you know.” Holden sighs. “You could be too wise. For your own good.”
Svenson only smiles, then turns his attention back to Donaghue. “Anything in what they said on the radio about where theses guys were going after leaving the warehouse?”
“Yes, you’re really crazy.” Holden notes, gloomily.
“No, they didn’t give any lead in that sense.” Donaghue answers to Svenson. “But…» He smiles: “…I do know where they send colonel Metcalfe.”
“They had not kept him with them?” A puzzled Svenson asks.
“As far as I can tell, no. Wherever Black and his men were going, Metcalfe didn’t follow them. Black has arrange that he’d be send somewhere else, where he would be kept safe, under the surveillance of only two guards.”
“What’s that place?” Fraser asks.
“Black called it Koala Base. And there supposed to be something or someone there named the Angels.”
“Angels?” Fraser repeats, frowning. “What could that be?”
“Don’t know. But by the name of the base, we could only assume that it’s still situated in Australia.”
Svenson and Blackburn are not saying a word; they have stiffed at Donaghue’s words and are now looking at each other’s with interrogated stares. Holden is watching them, puzzled at their strange behaviour.
“What’s up, you two?” He asks, suspiciously. “You look like you know something we don’t.”
Svenson shakes his head. “Well, that may be the case.”
“It’s highly classified, Adam.” Blackburn reminds his friend.
Donaghue frowns deeply. “Confound it, man! Metcalfe’s life may be at stakes here! Don’t you think that should come on top of anything else?”
Svenson sighs. “You’re right. But I’ve got to tell you: this is high rank restricted information we’re talking about here.”
“We’re dealing with classified business ever since the beginning of this story, it seems to me.” Holden notes. “So what’s one more?”
“I didn’t know you were so high ranked in the WAS, Adam.” Fraser says.
“I am one of their top security agents, remember? Anyway, here it is: about a year ago, the World Government has passed a special request as the WAS best engineers. They were to conceive three new models of aircrafts; for a purpose so classified that even WAS high brasses didn’t get to be in the confidence. Those three aircrafts has that in common that they would be able to climb up to 40,000 feet.”
Fraser sounds interested. “What kind of aircrafts?”
“For starters, a new model of helijet, based on the WAAF Rotar. If I’m not mistaking, we may have seen the finished product, back at the warehouse…”
“The helicopters those commandos used to get to us?” Holden says.
“Exactly. The second aircraft was to be a Passenger Jet, based on the TVR 24 of the Universal Aero Engineering… About one of the finest models of Passenger Jet ever conceived. And then, there’s the third aircraft, and certainly not the least. That’s because of that one that the whole operation was to be covered with such confidentiality and secret. It was to be a brand new combat interceptor jet. The finest there was to be in the whole world, build with new components, such as a fuselage made of a secret hardened allow, and a new brand of fuel powered engine.”
Fraser snorts. “The best fighter jet in the world presently is the WAAF Viper.”
“The Angel aircraft has been based on the Viper.” Blackburn says at that moment. “But it’s by far better than it is.”
“If it is so highly classified, how come you too know about that?” Donaghue asks him.
“I’m WAS chief of Test Division.” Blackburn answers. “First test pilot. Classified aircrafts are for me to flight. The Angel’s a real knock out, I tell you.”
“And it IS highly classified.” Svenson nods. “So, in fact, that not one factory, but several around the world, were contracted to each built a different piece of equipment. And neither of theses companies has the entire set of blueprint of the Angel fighter.”
“I would think that such secrecy is frequent when building such a new aircraft.” Fraser remarks.
“At that point, it was a little far stretch, even for a prototype.” Svenson replies. “But even after that, as the World Government officials have declared themselves satisfied with the Angel prototype, they ordered more to be built and test with the same kind of secrecy surrounding them.”
“Strange, yes.” Holden muses. “But what makes you think that theses Angels has anything to do with what’s at Koala Base?”
Blackburn is continuing his explanation, like he doesn’t seem to hear Holden’s question: “A young WAAF test pilot came for the Angel prototype not long after I had performed the initial flying test in it. In fact, she wasn’t with the WAAF anymore, but she had all the authorized papers allowing her to test the plane herself and then take off with it.” He shrugs. “The best damn test pilot I ever saw, let me tell you. I would had thought it would take her a week or so to handle that craft… she had it well in hands the day after and then she just… take off.”
Holden hesitates. “But that don’t tell us…”
“Wait.” Blackburn interrupts him. “The authorized papers she had showed me had the name of the place the Angel aircraft was to be flown to. And that name was…”
“Koala Base.” Holden Fraser and Donaghue say together.
Blackburn smiles. “Exactly.”
“That’s not all.” Svenson continues. “I have seen the delivery papers of the other aircrafts: the helijet and the Passenger Jet. After the prototypes, like for the Angel, others were built afterwards. And like the Angel, they all been sent to Koala Base, shortly after tests. As for the new Angels, they were taken much in the same fashion as the first one.”
“Yes.” Blackburn nods. “After the test had been completed on two new Angels, I saw my beautiful test pilot coming back for them. In the middle of the night, no less. She wasn’t alone, that time: another girl were with her. Another WAAF pilot, as I know. Papers in hand, they claimed the crafts, signed the delivery papers, and… just take of with the Angels, exactly like the first time. Except they didn’t test them.”
“I’m sure WAAF personnel don’t usually work in that fashion.” Holden remarks.
“They sure don’t.” Blackburn agrees.
“They have signed the delivery papers, you said?” Fraser asks.
“Yes, mainly a formality, in fact.” Blackburn answers. “The first girl who had come for the prototype was one flight lieutenant Magnolia Jones. I’ve already heard of her, actually. She had quite a reputation as test pilot at the WAAF.”
“And the second one?”
“Squadron leader Juliette Pontoin.” Blackburn struggles against the accented name, much to his companions’ amusement. “A French woman. Very beautiful one. And who wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
“How so?” Donaghue asks.
“Well, I didn’t want them to take off in the middle of the night with highly classified aircrafts. But then she just told me that was exactly because they were highly classified that they had to go that way.”
Fraser sighs. “Okay, now. So, off they’d go to Koala Base. And those creeps at the warehouse have something to do with Koala Base.”
“It seems to be the case, yes.” Svenson nods. “Seeing as they were riding in that brand new helijet ordered by the World Government…”
“I don’t get it.” Holden interjects. “What is the link between a bunch of hooded creeps and some top-secret aircrafts?”
“If we knew that, we would probably hold the key of all the mysteries surrounding this whole affair.” Fraser grumbles.
“These two ladies pilots were WAAF, is that right, Steve?” Donaghue asks.
“Well, Lieutenant Jones was not anymore, but has been for a time, yes. As for the other, I suppose she still was.”
“That would explain one of the Great White Chief remarks.” Donaghue muses. “He was concerned that some of the pilots at Koala Base would recognized Metcalfe, because he was a renowned WAAF colonel.”
“So that would imply that the pilots don’t know about Black’s activities.” Svenson notes.
“That could be that, yes.” Fraser says in turn. He frowns. “Now I’ve got one interesting question for you, gentlemen.”
“Where the hell is Koala Base?” Donaghue suggests, shaking his head.
“It is definitely in Australia, that’s for sure.” Svenson muses. “But aside from that…”
“You don’t know exactly where.” Holden grumbles with a disappointing tone.
“Sorry. And I really mean it.”
There is a moment of silence. Now the five men are really feeling down. After discovering that much, it was rather frustrating to not be able to go forward… and not finding the one information that could have tell them where their missing companion was held captive.
Then, a big conniving smile begins to stretch over Fraser’s face.
“We could still find out.”
“You have a lead?” A puzzled Svenson asks him.
“Maybe. These men have used helijets, right? And there was that heavy transporter that Donaghue has seen. And last but not least, these Angels fighters have flown over the Australian skies at one point or another. If only to get to that Koala Base, anyway. They must have had some flight authorisation of some kind… especially if they don’t want to stir too much attention over them.”
“You’re thinking about flight traffic authorisation.” Blackburn remarks.
“And if those creeps didn’t get any authorisation, as you imply?” Holden notes.
“I’m pretty sure they did.” Fraser insists. “Beside, they must have been spotted somehow. They HAVE landed in Perth, haven’t they? They could not have done so without being seen by civil radars. As for the Angels…”
“The flight ceiling of those crafts is of 40,000 feet, you know.” Blackburn interjects. “And they could fly at 3,000 miles per hour. No civil radars could spot them, if they don’t want to be spotted.”
“Travelling over the world at 40,000 feet and at 3,000 miles per hour is one thing, but they have to get down for landing… especially at Koala Base.”
Fraser stops, smiling. The others look at each other’s.
“Right.” Svenson muses. “And even if the whereabouts of the Angels are restricted military information…”
Fraser smiles more broadly. “You’re following me. They still have to get civil authorisation from Australian authorities to land in this country.”
“But the military could have informed the civil authorities of the classified nature of the Angels and asked them to keep it secret.”
Fraser waves away Blackburn interjection. “That’s a technicality. I’m sure I can squeeze the needed information from the proper authority officials.” He smiles again. “I’m still commander detective at the World Government Police Corps and I carry a lot of weight…”
“Especially since you’ve been presumed to take over after the present Supreme Commander.” Donaghue retorts.
“I think we can work well together, mister Donaghue. How’s that special computer of yours doing at transmitting radio messages?”
“As well as receiving them, mister Fraser.”
“So, what are we waiting for? A couple of well-placed transmissions to the right people and I bet you all, I’ll know where to find Koala Base.”
A feeble sound makes the five men raise theirs heads. They see, only at a few feet from them, a pair of long ears, attached to a little furry head that’s looking straight at them with curiosity.
“A hare.” Svenson sighs. “Now that’s one lucky little fellow. An hour ago, we would have made it our dinner.”
“Right.” Blackburn says. “No need for it now. I’m quite full.”
But Donaghue is looking insistently at the little beast with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Maybe we ought to catch it, anyway. Any of you know how to do it?”
Svenson frowns. “I do. But there’s no way I’m going to kill that innocent rabbit if I’m not going to eat it.”
“What is it, Pat?” Holden asks the Irish American. “Is there no end to your appetite?”
Donaghue laughs. “I don’t want it to be killed, least of all eat it!”
“Well, what do you want with it?”
Donaghue gives a mischievous smile as he takes from his pocket the bug he has taken from Holden earlier.
“Let’s just say I want to show a certain fox how far a scarred rabbit really can run.”
The others look at him, as they have not a single idea what he is talking about.