Episode 227: You May Not Need A Weatherman To Tell Which Way The Wind Blows, But It Helps
Everett studied the shirt his men had recovered from the laundry in Rabaul.
It was a plain utilitarian garment, devoid of any marks or insignia, in an
unattractive shade of brown. There was no maker's label. A faint line of
stitching showed where this had had either torn away or been removed.
"We're certain this came from the N-109?" he asked.
"That's what the... uh... lady... at the cleaning shop claimed," said
Loris. The airman seemed somewhat out of sorts.
"It does look like the sort of thing the Fat Man's men might wear,"
Jenkins observed. "They seem to favor that particular hue."
Everett nodded. He recalled that one of the major nationalist groups in
Germany was known for the color of their shirts. He set the garment aside
and unfolded the receipt Loris had found in the front pocket. A heading at
the top proclaimed Rabaul Flugreisen Wettervorhersage Gesellshcaft.
Below this were several numbers. These seemed to correspond to some of the
weather reports Jenkins and Emily had recovered.
"This seems like an unusual stroke of luck," said Iverson. "Is there any
chance the nationalists planted this to lead us astray?"
"It's difficult to see how they could," observed Jenkins. "They would have
had to know we were following them, anticipate that we'd inquire at the
weather office after our arrival, and guess exactly which laundries our
agents would investigate."
"That is my conclusion as well," said Everett. "Thank you Loris and
Wallace." He nodded to the riggers. "You may return to your duties.
Jenkins, Mister Iverson, Miss Sarah, let's see what these numbers can tell
An hour later, the four sat back and studied their notes.
"There is most definitely a pattern here," said Jenkins. "These fellows
purchased a short term departure forecast for Rabaul, medium-term regional
forecasts for New Guinea, the Banda Sea, and the Dutch East Indies, and a
long-range arrival forecast for Jakarta. That would seem to establish their
intended route beyond any reasonable doubt."
"It also suggests an objective," observed Everett. His expression was
"You're referring to the Countess?"
"We must consider the possibility," said Everett. "We've assumed the Fat
Man's people are trying to find Karlov, and we know she was in communication
with the man. They might know this too."
"What shall we do, sir?" asked Iverson.
"It's a difficult problem," mused Everett. "We can't send a radio message to
warn her of their approach, for there's every reason to believe it would be
intercepted. They same applies to wire. Can we get to Jakarta ahead of
Iverson applied a pair of dividers to their small scale chart of the Pacific,
jotted down some figures, and shook his head. "The great circle distance is
approximately 3150 miles. At cruising speed, with the trade wind on their
quarter, they'd make good 50 knots. That works out to a travel time of 63
hours. At our top speed, with the same wind, we could manage the trip in 42
hours. This is almost a day faster, but unfortunately they have a three day
"We will make the attempt anyway," said Everett. "The odds may seem to be
against us, but I believe Tennyson had something to say on the subject. Miss
Sarah, how would this leave us for consumables?"
The island girl flipped through her records. "Our gas cells are at 80%, and
we're currently have 3000 gallons of fuel and 12,000 lbs of ballast. Forty
two hours at full power will consume 2000 gallons. We could also expect to
expend 4000 lbs of ballast. That would leave us with 1000 gallons of fuel,
8000 lbs ballast, and 70% hydrogen."
Everett nodded. "That should be acceptable, provided that we resupply as
soon as we arrive." He stepped to the intercom and keyed the mike. "All
hands to flight stations. We lift ship in an hour."
At full power, the drone of three supercharged airship diesels echoed through
every part of the Flying Cloud. Forty two hours at these RPMs would
place some strain on the ships' plant -- Iwamoto, Cameron, and Crowley could
look forward to a sleepless night. Up in the control car, the vibration set up
unexpected resonances in some of the fittings. Everett set down his pen, then
frowned as it began to skitter across the top of the chart table. He glanced
about to make sure no one noticed, then snatched it up and returned it to his
"Upper Lookout to Bridge," came Davies's voice from the intercom. "We have a
freighter to port, bearing one nine zero, range three miles."
Everett raised his binoculars and focused them on a small steamship that was
plodding along the coast of New Guinea. Through the glasses, he could just
make out the name Tranquility.
"I remember those fellows," he remarked. "They were the ones with the beer."
"Do you think they recognize us?" asked Sarah.
"It's doubtful," Everett replied. "We're up-sun of them. They might not
even have seen us. I'm more concerned about our German competitors."
"You really think they mean to speak with the Countess?" asked the island
"It's difficult to imagine what else they could be seeking on Java," said
Everett. "And one cannot help what measures they might intend to prevent
her from retaining a record of this interview. They've shown a notable lack
of scruple when it comes to taking human lives." The captain sighed.
"We'll have to hope she's prepared to defend herself. This is certainly
possible. She did manage to survive the War."
"Is there any chance we can get there first?"
"This seems doubtful," said Everett. "Mister Iverson's calculations are
sound. The lieutenant has the makings of a good navigator. Unless they
divert from a direct course, they'll arrive two days ahead of us."
Sigmund descended the ladder to control car and saluted his captain. He had
to shout to make himself heard over the clamor of the forward engine.
"Mein Herr," he reported. "Klaus has finished his inspection of the Number
"What did he find?" asked Ernst.
"One of the main bearings has failed," said the marine. "That can be
replaced, but there was also some damage to the crankshaft. It will have to
be reground. He cannot do this on board."
Ernst thought this over. An S Class airship could be handled with one engine
out of action. He'd done this several times during the London raids. But
there would be a cost in speed and efficiency, and loss of another engine --
always possible on a vessel this old -- could lead to serious problems.
"How long does Klaus estimate the repairs would take?" he asked.
"Two days, in a proper machine shop."
The captain nodded. The delay was acceptable. "We will call at Hollandia
for repairs," he announced. "One can find anything there. We might even
find some shirts to replace the ones Bertold left behind at that
Next week: A Simple Java Program...
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