Episode 82: Rabaul
Until he reached the Pacific, Captain Everett had never imagined there could
be so many variations on the theme of ‘tropical seaport’. Some, like
Darwin, were isolated outposts in the middle of a jungle. Others, like
Jakarta, were substantial settlements, surrounded by extensive tracts of
farmland, and home to significant populations. Even from the air, it was
obvious that Rabaul was German. Its streets were clean and well-organized
-- to the extent that this was possible in the South Pacific, its harbor
looked as modern as anything in Europe, and its airship station rivaled the
one at Cairns.
The surrounding countryside was in dramatic contrast with the town itself.
Neat colonial houses gave way to fields that looked straight out of the
Stone Age. Beyond them, the jungle lacked only dinosaurs to complete the
illusion of a land before time. To the west, two conical mountains rose
above the coastline, trailing plumes of smoke from their summits.
"Are those active volcanos?" asked Emily, fascinated.
"I believe they’re called Tavurvur and Vulcan, after figures from
mythology," said Jenkins. "They make a bit of noise from time to time, but
experts agree there is no danger of an eruption."
"It still seems an unnecessary risk," said Emily. "Why don’t the Germans
move the capital somewhere else?"
"The only suitable alternative was Kokopo, and no one could tolerate the
The brunette flinched, appalled by the prospect. "I dare say."
Mooring operations went as smoothly in Rabaul as they’d gone awkwardly in
Noumea, and soon Everett and his company were riding down the elevator of
the mooring mast.
"We’ll do the same drill this time," said the captain as they stepped onto
the field. "Abercrombie, Rashid, and Pierre, you will investigate the
harbor. Miss Sarah, if you could accompany them, your knowledge of this
part of the world might prove valuable. Jenkins and Miss Emily, you will
check the port records. Davies and I will pay our respects to the Governor,
then check the records at the air station."
"I’m coming with you!" announced Clarice.
"Whatever for?" asked Everett, taken by surprise.
"You’ll want help with those records. And I’m not letting you put one over
on us, Captain Everett!"
The captain raised his eyebrows. The blond stared back at him defiantly.
Everett reflected on the various measures, ranging from verbal reprimands
to capital punishment, that the Royal Navy prescribed for dealing with
civilian specialists, and decided that none seemed appropriate for this
"Very well," he sighed.
The Germans had never really grasped the concept of exploiting the native
populations of their Pacific colonies. They maintained their empire for
prestige rather than commercial advantage, and spent far more money on
administration than they could possibly recover in trade.
As a result, Rabaul was as neat and trim as any village in Bavaria.
But the population was decidedly non-European.
"There seem to be quite a few Japanese tourists here," observed Sarah as
they made their way along the waterfront. "Whatever could have brought
"Perhaps they like the architecture," suggested Rashid, to whom Western
styles were still a novelty.
"I dinnae ken why they should," said Abercrombie. "It’s too clean and
neat. There's no life in this place."
"It seems lacking in business opportunities," observed Pierre, "but these
are not entirely absent. This fellow, for example, looks like a dealer in
"You have something for sale," said the man, glancing at Sarah.
"No," said Pierre, before the girl could reach for a weapon, "but we might
be interested in buying information. There were two men: Karlov and
The man shrugged dismissively. "I knew this Yakov. He was nothing. But
this Karlov... many people are looking for him."
The Frenchman reached into his pocket and passed the man a few bills. His
informant inspected them, glanced around for eavesdroppers, and leaned
"Associates of the Fat Man," he said in a low voice. "You should beware.
They will know that you have been asking questions."
The Residence was an imposing structure, built from the finest materials,
and decorated with impeccable taste. It was also entirely lacking in
warmth, as if it had been designed by engineers rather than architects.
The Governor was an older man, quite obviously a veteran of the War. His
manner was reserved, as if he suspected his guest’s motives. Everett,
for his part, was unwilling to say anything substantial until he could be
sure of his host’s allegiance. The two men fenced for a time, exchanging
empty platitudes, until chance provided an opening.
"You were at the Sommes?" asked the Governor, in response to some comment
"Aye, with the Royal Navy Division at Ancre. They had a big push scheduled
for November. Could have been nasty business. We were just getting ready
to go over the top when they announced the Armistice."
The Governor shook his head in amazement. "My unit was stationed at Beaucourt!
You might have been fighting us! It’s good the Peace came when it did. And
to think that some of these nationalists want to repudiate it. This
‘Deutsche Arbeiterpartei’... these ‘Steel Helms’..." His voice trailed off.
Everett studied the Governor’s face and read sincerity in his eyes. This
man's sympathies did not lie with their enemies.
"We’ve been searching for an airship," he ventured, "one of your government
packets that was taken by pirates. She was last seen north of Cairns,
slightly more than a week ago."
"That would be the L-137," said the Governor. "A terrible outrage. I know
something of this matter. We may share an acquaintance, Korvettencapitan
Everett nodded in understanding. If the Governor was in communication with
the head of German intelligence in this part of the Pacific, he could be
"They haven’t called in Rabaul," continued the Governor. "If they had,
they would have been apprehended instantly. But I can’t guarantee that
they didn’t resupply at some hidden base here in Kaiser Wilhelmsland.
These nationalists have many sympathizers here."
"We’ve learned of another vessel that might be involved in this affair,"
said Everett, "a freighter named the Inselmädchen, registered in
The Governor's eyes lit up. "This could be a valuable lead! I do have a
few men I can trust. I'll see what they can discover about the vessel. I
have some information in return. We rounded up a cell of White Russian
conspirators here in port. It may not have any bearing on this matter, but
under interrogation, one of them revealed that they were trying to find
something called the Trapezohedron. We've assumed this is some sort of
code name, since it's hard to imagine why anyone would be interested in a
simple geometric solid."
"Interesting," said Everett. "We encountered a Dutchman in Noumea who
was looking for the same thing. I wonder what it could be."
Next week: I'm Afraid the Honeymoon is Over...
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