Episode 95: Ujelang
Iverson felt a sense of déjà vu as he studied the room. It was bigger than
his cabin on the Inselmädchen, brighter than the hut on Sarah's
island, but it was every bit as much a prison. His captors had taken him
from the bar on Kwajalein at gunpoint, forced him aboard a powerful-looking
motor yacht -- almost a small patrol boat -- and brought him here. He
imagined this was Ujelang, the objective of all their travels, but he was
hardly in a position to take advantage of this fact.
Why had Natasha betrayed him, he wondered? Had she been acting under duress
or had she been working for the nationalists all along? He wanted to
believe the former. If nothing else, it would make him feel less of a fool.
But when he looked back at her behavior -- the peculiar questions, the odd
slips of the tongue, the slight inconsistencies in her story -- he couldn't
help but suspect it had all been an act. Still, if this had all been a
deception, what were her motives?
Footsteps sounded outside. A lock rattled and the door swung open. A guard
peered in, hefting a truncheon, then spoke with someone behind him. "I can
give you five minutes, Fraulein. If he causes trouble, you call, we come
and handle it."
"He won't cause any trouble," said a second voice. "Will you, Iverson?"
The lieutenant kept his expression blank as Natasha entered the cell. She
crossed the room and sat down beside him. "Just like old times," she
remarked, "back in New Caledonia."
"Did you come here to gloat?" he asked. It might not have been the
gentlemanly reply, but there were limits to his training.
"No," she replied gently. "You were just an innocent victim, caught up in
someone else's plot. And it was all a plot, you know, from the very
beginning. Did you ever wonder how Ritter's men could have overlooked that
saw blade, or how that boat just happened to be waiting for us on the
"The attack by that cruiser, was that part of the plot as well?"
"No," said the woman. "That came as a surprise to us, as did Wasserman's
betrayal. It appears that he and the Governor have allied themselves with
a third party. But we'll take care of them soon enough."
"Who's behind all this?" asked Iverson. "And what does he want?"
"The Fat Man," said Natasha. "As I'm sure you've guessed. He believed you
had access to something he wanted, so he let you escape in hope that you'd
lead him to it."
"This so-called Trapezohedron that everyone seems to be after? I don't have
the slightest idea what the thing might be."
"I know," she said sadly. "But it's the only thing keeping you alive.
You've seen the Fat Man. You know what he's like. Be careful what you tell
him. Once he realizes you're of no use to him, he'll order you killed
without a second thought."
Iverson glanced at the woman, struck by the tone of her voice. "Why are you
telling me this?"
"Because..." she hesitated, then shook her head. "You men are such idiots!
You have all your great causes and plans, but you never see what's under
your noses!" With that she rose, crossed to the door, called for the guard
Iverson was still wondering what she'd meant when the door opened again.
The same guard stood in the entrance, accompanied by several companions.
"You will come with us," he announced. "It is time for your interview."
This was Iverson's first good look at Ujelang Island. It was every bit as
flat as Kwajalein, but its soil seemed to be more fertile, for it was
covered with a dense forest of palms. He imagined this was why the
nationalists had chosen it -- the vegetation would conceal their base from
prying eyes. There was no hiding the place now, for the L-137 rode from a
mooring mast that rose above the trees. A shorter tower, topped by a dull
metal blockhouse, stood some distance away. He wondered what it was for.
The center of the grove had been cleared to make room for a set of low
buildings built in a severe modern style. The guards marched him to one
that was more substantial than the rest -- the only one with a trace of
ornamentation. Inside, a corridor led past several closed doors to a large
room furnished with a luxury that seemed quite out of place in this tropical
environment. Three figures studied him from the other side of a table.
Iverson dismissed two of them as unimportant. The third was all too
"So," said the Fat Man, "it is our young lieutenant. You lead us a merry
chase, but it was a chase that could have only one end. Now you will tell
us about the Trapezohedron."
"It's... part of the Device," said Iverson, stammering out the only reply he
could think of. One of the Fat Man's lieutenants leaned forward to mutter
something in his ear.
"This is true," said the German darkly, "and what do you know about the
Device?" His henchman gazed at Iverson expectantly. Glancing the man, the
lieutenant had a sudden flash of insight.
Could it be they don't know what the thing is either? They stole
it from the Russians, but they might not have found the Russians' notes!
Maybe that's what was hidden in the secret tunnel at the laboratory!
He wracked his brains. What would Captain Everett do in this situation?
The trick, he decided, would be to come up with a story that was internally
consistent. If it was wrong, the nationalists would conclude he was no
threat. If it was right, they would want to learn more. Either way they
might keep him alive.
"It's a weapon," he said, remembering Sarah's tale of magical musical
instruments. "It produces a sound -- a unique combination of tones that
will destroy anyone who hears it."
The henchman leaned forward to exchange more words with his superior. The
Fat Man listened, then leaned back with a sinister smile. His eyes were
cold as death.
"How did you learn these things?"
"Notes," said Iverson, trying to keep his voice steady. "The Russians left
a set of notes behind at their laboratory. We found where these were
"And where are these notes now?" asked the Fat Man dangerously.
"On the R-505," said Iverson. It was the only possible reply.
The Germans conferred again. Iverson sat, waiting to learn his fate. At
last the Fat Man turned to the guards. His face gave nothing away.
"We will let this one live, for now," he announced. "Take him back to the
As the door slammed shut, Iverson breathed a great sigh of relief. He
hadn't expected to survive. He had no idea how much time he'd purchased
with his wild fabrication, but perhaps it would be long enough to find some
way of escape.
He was examining the walls, searching for some sign of weakness, when the
door opened again. He was not surprised to see Natasha.
"You did well," she said after the guard had left. "You might have a chance
Iverson studied her expression. "Thank you," he said, reaching out his
hand. "I think I understand now."
She struck it away. "Don't patronize me!"
The woman glared at him, then relented. "It's all right," she replied. "I
know that your heart belongs to someone else."
"What about you and Karlov?" asked Iverson. "I know he isn't your husband.
I suspect that he isn't your brother. What is he to you?"
Someone coughed behind them. The lieutenant turned to see Howard Phillips
standing in the open doorway, brass knuckles in hand, an unconscious guard
at his feet. Beside him stood a man Iverson didn't recognize.
The stranger gave a sardonic smile.
"Why don't you ask me yourself?"
Next week: Varieties of Seamanship...
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