Episode 244: Her Evil Twin
Everett and his men sat in the closest thing Galela had to a café Since
there was no way to keep their visit secret in a village this small, he'd
opted for the alternative of overwhelming potential eavesdroppers with
"What have we learned so far?" he asked Jenkins.
"Karlov arrived here aboard our old acquaintance, the Tranquility,"
said Jenkins, "One cannot help but wonder at this coincidence. He then took
passage on a boat heading south. I was unable to determine its destination,
but the only two villages of any size in that direction are Tobelo and Kao.
He was followed by an airship registered as the N-109. By all accounts, the
crew were quite obviously American, which suggests this was the AT-38. They
had a rather public encounter with some evangelical organization in this
village, then they headed south as well."
"Have we heard any word of them since?"
The signalman nodded. "An `N-109' called in Tobelo later that day. One
assumes this was the same vessel. They made some inquiries about a `German
mission', remained overnight to effect some repairs, and departed the next
"A German mission," mused Everett. "What does the Almanac have to say?"
"There are two here on Gilolo," said Iverson, "one at Dorosago, another at
"We will investigate Kao first," Everett decided. "It's closer."
Ernst gazed out the window of his cabin, remembering other sorties on an
entirely different type of aircraft. Zeppelins might be the wave of the
future, but he missed the snarl of radial engines, the whistle of wind
through the wires, the feeling of triumph when you rolled into a bank and
pulled back on the stick to line up your sights on some unsuspecting foe.
He did not, however, miss the terrible conflict of which those experiences
had been a part.
"Mein Herr?" came a voice behind him, "you look thoughtful."
He glanced over to Sigmund standing in the doorway. "The memories," he
The marine nodded. "Ja, the memories," he said sadly. "Do you
think those times might return?"
"Not if we have the secret of the Device. Then no one would dare attack
us, or so the Fat Man claims. But I wonder if that's his only..." Ernst
caught himself. There was little privacy aboard an airship, "... no
"Do you think this English commodore will take the bait and waste his time
flying to Tobelo?" asked Sigmund.
"This seems likely," said Ernst. "I have read the man's dossier and he
does not have a reputation for brilliance. That should leave us plenty of
time to reach Kao, resupply, and conduct our investigations. I wonder what
we will find."
Anna trudged up the hill toward the mission. The boat trip to Kao had
been uncomfortable, for the accommodations had not even begun to
approach the standards she'd grown accustomed to during her childhood in
Russia, but at least she'd had a companion to share her woes.
"That was fun!" gushed Nettie. "Just like a Douglas Fairbanks movie!"
Well, perhaps `share woes' isn't the proper expression, thought
Anna. "I suppose it was," she replied with as much grace as she could
muster. "Let's hope these people have word of Karlov."
"A young Russian, with straight blond hair and a serious expression?" said
the abbot a short time later. "I remember this man. He visited us earlier
this week to ask about the old native ruins."
"Native ruins?" asked Nettie. "What are those like?"
The abbot shook his head. "They are relics of a pagan past, which we have
done our best to eradicate."
Nettie's expression fell. "Does that mean they're all gone?" she asked,
in much the same voice a child might use to ask about Halloween candy.
The abbot raised his hand to chide the girl, then relented, defeated
without even realizing he'd been in a contest.
"There are still some near the old mines," he told her. "Metal is rare
here in the islands, so deposits of ore had special significance in native
culture. There's a shrine up near Mount Talasoho with carvings that look
almost like reindeer."
"Is that where my countryman is now?" asked Anna.
"No," said the abbot. "He left to visit the ruins near Weda."
"That's some distance to the south," said Anna. "Is there any way we can
get there quickly?"
Their host thought this over. "It's a long way by boat, but you might be
able to find a blimp down at the station."
There was only one blimp at Kao's air station: a small 60,000 cubic foot ship
that seemed to be the Dutch equivalent of a Sea Scout class. The captain
gave Nettie an appreciative glance, then looked Anna up and down as if
calculating payload capacity. "The Vandervecken is not one of
your big liners," he informed them. "I can only carry one passenger. Will
that be you, jongedame"?" he asked Nettie hopefully.
"I will go," Anna said curtly. "When can we depart?"
The man's disappointment was obvious. "As soon as you're aboard," he
Anna gave Nettie a hug. "Thank you for your help," she said. "Will you be
all right until Marty gets here?"
Nettie smiled. "Of course," she replied. "I'll find something to do while
Fleming and Vlad disembarked from the launch that had carried them to Kao.
It had been a slow passage, which had done little to ease Vlad's impatience.
"Where will we find this mission the ladies were seeking?" he asked Fleming.
Fleming pointed up the hill. "I imagine that's it, next to that bell tower
with the cross on top."
"Da," said Vlad. "I knew that. I was just checking to make sure
you were paying attention."
Soon they were speaking with the abbot. "More visitors," marveled the
cleric. "Our little town has become very popular. How might I help you?"
"Do you recall two young women, one Russian and one American?" asked Vlad.
The abbot nodded. "They were here just this morning. They left to visit
the mining office."
"They might still be here!" cried Vlad. "We must move quickly! Starbuck,
you search the village while I check at the office!"
Fleming's route back to the village swung past the air station, where a
small blimp had dropped its mooring and was heading toward the south. He
gave the vessel an incurious glance, wondering what on this seemingly
worthless island could be worth the cost of transport by air, then
continued on his way. Near the edge of town, he overtook a familiar
"Strewth!" he exclaimed. "It's Nettie!"
The woman turned at the sound of his voice, "Mister... Starbuck," she
replied coyly, "whatever are you doing here?"
"I came with Vlad to look for Anna," said Fleming. "I think those two are
sweet on each other."
For some reason, Nettie seemed to find this amusing. "Are they?" she
said. "If only they knew. Where's Marty and the ship?"
Fleming frowned at her. "We left them in Tobelo but they must be underway
by now. What's going on?" he demanded. "Who are you, Nettie, and what kind
of game are you playing?"
A shadow passed across the woman's face. "You couldn't possibly understand
the answer to any of those questions," she told him. Then her mood seemed
to brighten, "You were right!" she cried, pointing toward the north. "There
they are! Let's go meet them!"
Fleming turned to see an old-fashioned airship, clearly based on an S Class,
rounding a bend in the coast. The number `N-109' was plainly visible on the
vessel's side. He looked back at Nettie, but she was already rushing toward
the station. He shrugged and set off after her.
They arrived just as the handling crews were dispersing.
Fleming followed Nettie toward the mooring mast, where the airship was
shutting down her engines. As they drew closer, he began to feel
a sense of unease.
He looked up at the vessel, taking in subtle details of design that he'd
missed during their rush to the station, and stopped in alarm.
"Wait! Nettie!" he warned. "That isn't our ship, that's the..."
"Da schau her," came a harsh voice behind them. "What have we
Next week: A Brush With Fuller...
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