Episode 41: Kupang
Everett had ordered the Flying Cloud back aloft after they
recovered the longboat. Now they were maintaining station with engines at
idle as the sun sank behind them. Somewhere below, the wreckage of the
pirates’ latest victim drifted in the waves.
"Those fellows have been busy," remarked Lieutenant Iverson.
"So it would seem," said MacKiernan. "Captain, do you have any idea where
we should look next?"
"The other airship headed north to lead us away from the Duck’s
latest victims," noted Everett. "Perhaps they were trying to lead us away
from the Duck as well."
"So we head south?"
"No," said Everett, "we will follow the airship north. They'll have
reasoned that if we found the wreckage, we’ll know they were trying to lead
us away from something, so they’ll head towards whatever they're trying to
hide to throw us off the scent."
"No one can be that complicated," protested MacKiernan.
"You wanna put some money on it, Irishman?" said Abercrombie.
"Yer on, ya lunatic Scot."
"What about our orders?" asked Jenkins, before this exchange could get out
of hand. "Will we have time?"
This was a good question. Their orders from Captain Michaelson, commander
of the Royal Air Station in Cairns, had specified a rigid itinerary. They’d
gotten away with their recent excursion because their ship was faster than
the senior captain suspected, but they couldn’t keep this up forever.
"We’ll need to justify a diversion," said Everett. "Prepare to send a
message to Cairns and Sydney."
"Which cipher, sir?"
Everett was under no illusions that the standard cipher was secure. Indeed,
he made a point of using it when he wanted a message intercepted. This
case was different. "Use a one time pad," he replied. "I believe we want to
keep this one secret. Send the following: ‘Discovered wreckage from pirate
attack following encounter with suspicious airship approximately 200 miles
WNW Darwin. Airship departed course N. Request permission abandon patrol and
The signalman encrypted the message, powered up the transmitter, and worked
the key. In a surprisingly short time, they received a reply.
Message acknowledged. Proceed N after suspected pirate. Return 5 days
Cairns. CIC Cairns, confirmed Sydney.
"That was fast," said MacKiernan. "Michaelson must have been awake late.
Indigestion, I hope. Or perhaps a row with his missus."
"Perhaps," mused Everett. "I’ve begun to wonder about our senior captain.
What ports lie to the north of us?"
The Exec studied their charts. "The biggest seem to be Waikabubak on
Sumba and Kupang on West Timor."
"Waikabubak?" marvelled Lieutenant Iverson. "Is that really its name?"
Jenkins sighed as if he found this combination of syllables an affront.
"I'm afraid so. According to the Almanac, it’s the capital of the West
Sumba Regency. The entry also notes that it’s the second largest city on
Sumba Island after..." he grimmaced, "...Waingapu."
"Do they say anything else?" asked Everett.
"No. For which I imagine we should be grateful."
"And the other port?"
"Kupang is the provincial capital of.... oh dear... East Nusa Tenggara. It
was a major trading hub during the Portuguese colonial era, and it remains
an important administrative center for the Dutch today, though I believe
they’ve had some trouble with nationalists and communist groups in recent
years. The colonial government maintains an air station there. And oh yes,
it appears that Kupang was the final destination of William Bligh in 1789."
"The Captain Bligh?" asked Everett, raising an eyebrow.
"The very same."
"Kupang it is then. As officers and men of the Royal Navy, we have a
tradition to maintain. And that air station will simplify our operations."
"Should we rename our vessel?" asked Jenkins. "The Flying Bounty,
"I don’t believe that will be necessary."
Once again, Iverson bumped into Helga on the way back to accommodation
"Where we going?" she asked.
"Kupang. I understand it’s a Dutch port in Indonesia."
"Ja!" she said cheerfully. "That exciting place! Maybe you and
Helga find something to do there. Something exciting!"
What? thought Iverson. While he was fumbling for a reply, Sarah
stepped through the hatchway ahead and noticed the Swede. Her face
hardened in a glare. Helga gazed back at the island girl with a smug
expression. Sensing something was amiss, Iverson hurried forward to
intervene, but Sarah had already stepped back and slammed the hatch shut
between them. When he glanced back, he saw that Helga was gone as well.
He shook his head in bafflement. Nothing in his curriculum at the Naval
College seemed to offer an explanation for their behavior.
The sun was rising with tropical swiftness when Kupang appeared on the
coast ahead. It was a low-lying city, surrounded by vegetation an
eye-grabbing shade of green. On its outskirts, the mansions of Dutch
administrators spread along an exclusive stretch of beach. In the city
itself, the residences of businessmen and houses of merchants lay cheek
by jowl with the apartments of craftsmen and slums of hired laborers.
"A good landfall, Mister MacKiernan," said Everett as he stepped onto
"Thank you, sir. I believe Jenkins has already arranged for a mooring."
"They’ve given us Mast Number One," said the signalman. "It’s the usual
way to honor a visiting man of war from a foreign Power."
"It’s also exactly what I’d do if I wanted to keep a visitor under
observation," Everett noted. "I expected as much. We’ll have to move
quickly, and make our investigations before they realize what we’re
Mooring was routine. Kupang may have lacked the automated equipment of
the Royal Air Station at Cairns, but the handling party made up for this
in efficiency, and soon the Flying Cloud was swinging to a tall
mast near the harbor. After the engines were shut down, Everett ordered
shore watches and dismissed his bridge crew. Sarah glared at Iverson from
her station at the ballast board, slammed down her clipboard, and stormed
out of the control car in a huff. The lieutenant watched her go with a
hurt expression, then followed.
"The lass looks troubled," said Abercrombie, after both of them were gone.
"It’s Helga," said Everett.
The rigger looked taken aback. "You know about..."
"Of course," Everett replied sternly. "I’ve been doing my best to ignore
her exploits, but do you think I’m not aware of what’s going on aboard my
"You could order a stop to this."
The captain sighed and studied the rising sun. "In my experience, this
never helps. They’ll have to work it out on their own."
Next week: Long Dispela Warafran...