Episode 78: Meanwhile, Back at the Secret German Base
Outside his cell, Iverson could hear thuds and bumps as the
Inselmädchen was made fast to a pier. The noises stopped and the
sound of the engines died. Moments later, the door was thrown open and
someone tossed in a bundle of clothes.
"We are here," came a gruff voice. "You will wear this."
Wondering where `here' was, Iverson unrolled the bundle to discover his
uniform. This was in poor shape, for it had suffered during his plunge down
the cliff and it didn't seem any attempt had been made to wash or mend it.
Still, it was preferable to the hospital gown. After he was dressed, his
captors ordered him out on deck. The lieutenant blinked in the unaccustomed
sunlight, then blinked again in surprise. This was Sarah's Island!
The Inselmädchen had tied up to the same wharf where the
Duck had been moored a month ago. Behind him, the crew were using
one of the ship's cranes to swing cargo ashore. Ahead, a line of convicts
was carrying loads up to the village. This looked much as it had before --
a cluster of native huts and a row of prison dormitories surrounded by
fields hacked out of the jungle. The ostentatious bulk of the Governor's
mansion rose beyond it, dwarfed by the encircling hills. To the west, the
L-137 rode at the mooring mast, casting a long dark shadow across the land.
This was Iverson's first good opportunity to study the captured German
packet. She was an older design than the Flying Cloud, narrower
and more angular, with an externally mounted control car. Even from this
distance, he could detect some of the measures her builders had taken to
save weight. The vessel's engine cars looked much smaller than the nacelles
that housed the R-505's massive 12-cylinder supercharged diesels, and her
frames were spaced farther apart. A ship like this would need careful
handling, but with an experienced crew, she could carry enormous loads... or
climb to altitudes that would give her an insurmountable advantage in any
The illicit air station had undergone significant changes since his previous
visit. The rustic wooden mooring mast was gone: replaced by a modern steel
tower imported from some unknown factory. A small hydrogen plant now stood
among the trees, a safe distance away from the field. Closer at hand, a
substantial wooden barracks suggested that the Germans were here to stay.
The nationalists had raised earthworks around the perimieter to accommodate
a battery of field guns. These appeared to be 77's -- the feared
`whiz-bangs' of the Great War. They would provide a formidable defense
against an airship, or any surface vessel small enough to negotiate the
entrance to the harbor.
"Enough looking," said one of his captors, prodding him with a rifle for
The sailors marched him up the trail to the Residence, past curious
villagers and incurious convicts. There they handed him over to two
humorless gendarmes armed with the venerable Model 1873 service revolver.
Could I take them? wondered Iverson. He studied their
expressions, their posture, the way their hands hovered over their weapons
waiting for him to try, and decide that the answer was no.
A short time later, he was standing in a lavishly-furnished chamber
somewhere inside the mansion.
It was obvious that the Governor did very well for himself.
Crystal chandeliers cast a rich yellow light on fine native craftsmanship
and an elegant Louis XVI salon set that must have been imported at
considerable expense from Europe.
Three men sat at the far end of the room, examining him as if deciding his
fate. One was a corpulent figure with a stern military bearing and cold
hard eyes. Iverson recognized the Fat Man -- a leader of the nationalists.
Another was Wasserman, the unscrupulous Dutch merchant captain who seemed
to do their bidding. The third was a immaculately-dressed civilian who
made the Dutchman look like a miracle of rectitude. Iverson guessed this
must be the Governor.
"So," said the Fat Man, "it is our young lieutenant. He seems to have a
talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You were trying to
protect the Italian?"
"Yes," admitted Iverson. There seemed no point in denying it, and a
concession now might gain him some breathing room later.
"A useless gesture," said the German, "for it seems that your Navy had
already warned the lodge of our approach. You English never did know how to
manage an operation. It's a wonder your nation survived the War."
It must have been Sarah who sent the warning! exaulted Iverson.
That means she's alive! He held his tongue, afraid that his voice
might give him away.
"If you knew about the singer," continued the Fat Man, "you must know
about Yakov and what he possessed. We will let you live... if you tell us
where to find the Trapezohedron."
The what? thought Iverson. "I don't have the slightest idea what
you're talking about," he replied, unable to imagine what the German could
possibly want with a dual polyhedron of an n-gonal antiprism.
"He's lying," snarled Wasserman. "Let my men beat the truth out of him."
It was obvious that the Dutchman had been nursing a grudge against the
people who'd taken his vessel and would welcome a chance for revenge.
The Fat Man considered his minion's proposal. "This is possible," he
observed, turning to the Governor. "What is your opinion?"
The Frenchman had been watching the proceedings with an expression of
world-weary boredom. Now he leaned forward to study Iverson. For a moment,
his eyes seemed to probe deep into the lieutenant's soul. Iverson felt
his skin crawl. He did his best not to shudder. Satisfied, the Governor
"I theenk not," he observed lightly. "This man lacks guile."
"Then it must be on their airship," mused the Fat Man. "Perhaps the
signalman has it. He's the clever one. I wonder: shall we kill this man?"
Iverson felt his life hanging in the balance. As he waited to learn his
fate, he noticed Wasserman and the Governor exchange glances. What was
that about? he wondered.
The Frenchman shrugged. "He might be of some value as a hostage."
"Very well," said the Fat Man. "Do as you will with him." He gave the
lieutenant a disdainful glance, rose, and left the room. Wasserman
followed with an enigmatic expression on his face.
The Governor waited until the two were gone, then gave an order to his
"Nous avons fini avec cet homme, pour le moment. Mettez-le dans la
prison avec la femme."
Iverson knew very little French, but it didn't take much understanding of
the language to recognize the word for `prison'.
Next week: Hut One! Hut Two! Hike!...
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