Episode 247: Wending Their Ways To Weda
The AT-38 reached Kao's air station as the day was drawing to a close.
The handling parties assembled unusually quickly and in less than half an
hour the ship was on the mast. After the vessel was secure, Marty and
his boys rode the elevator down to the surface.
"Ya think there's anything useful in this dump, Boss?" asked Craig.
"Naw," said Marty. "But we can lay low here 'till that Royal Navy ship
"That ground crew was better than I expected," Al remarked. "I wonder if
they've handled another S Class recently."
"They're sure giving our ship the old fish-eye," said Jake. "What's their
Marty shrugged. "Who can tell with these natives?"
The elevator car struck bottom and the door rattled aside to reveal a
familiar figure. "Vlad!" exclaimed Craig. "Whatcha doin' in Kao? We
thought youse was in Dorosago!"
"You're back!" cried the Russian. "I thought you'd left without me!"
"Back?" said Al. "What do you mean? We only just got here!"
Marty held up his hand for silence. "Hold on, boys. Something ain't
right. Vlad, what's the caper?"
It didn't take the Russian long to puzzle out this idiom. "Starbuck and I
arrived this morning, looking for Anna and Nettie," he replied. "We
learned that the ladies had been seen in town, so we split up to search for
them. Towards noon, I saw your ship call at the station, but you left
before I could get here. I didn't see Starbuck after that, so I assumed he'd
gone with you."
Marty frowned. "That wasn't us. Al, you know any ships that look like
The skipper shook his head. "There might be a few old German packets based
on the same design, but I can't imagine what they'd be doing in the Mollucas."
Vlad's face paled. "An old packet? That's the Fat Man's ship! He
must have learned of Anna's plans and come to capture her!"
"Who's this 'Fat Man'?" asked Marty.
"Bad news," said Vlad.
"Well, if he's got the dames, that's bad news for him," the gangster
announced. "Al, how are we fixed for fuel and stuff?"
"We resupplied in Tobelo," said the skipper/
"Then let's lift ship. We're goin' after those clowns."
"How are we gonna find 'em, Boss?" asked Craig.
"We'll find a way. But we ain't gonna do it standing around here."
Books looked up from the radio as they entered the control car. "Boss,"
said the bookkeeper, "we just got a coded message from Nettie. She's on
some German ship heading for a place called Weda."
Marty beamed at his henchman. "See, boys, what did I tell ya! That's my
At last Everett was forced to admit that the L-137 couldn't be saved. The
Germans had managed to land the vessel in one piece, even with their engines
crippled, but the heavy swell had proved too much for the airship's fragile
structure and she'd started to break up almost as soon as she was down.
With no way to rescue the ship, he d turned his attention to rescuing her
crew. This hadn't been easy, for he couldn't land his own airship lest she
suffer the osame fate. Instead, he'd sent in the launch to ferry the
nationalists clear of the wreckage, then brought them up by Transporter to
be secured as prisoners.
Fortunately his people had acquired a substantial supply of handcuffs during
their visit to the Zelle estate.
Now Everett sat in the Flying Cloud's mess hall, finishing an
entry in the log.
21 April 1927. 2°27'N 126°45'E. Engaged and took the L-137 after a
three hour chase. Chase climbed to altitude, but was forced to surrender
after their engines failed. Their ship was damaged beyond recovery during
landing, so we sank the wreckage to prevent it becoming a hazard to
navigation and took the crew prisoner. They have refused to talk. We are
now interviewing their passenger.
He capped his pen, set the volume aside, and turned his attention to their
guest. Around him, his crew shifted nervously in their chairs. The only
one who didn't seem affected by the tension was Natasha...if that was
really her name.
Everett studied the woman. She'd changed her hair from blonde to brunette --
one of those feminine mysteries men were never meant to understand -- but
otherwise looked much as she had on Ujelang. Her role had been just as
"Miss Natasha," he said politely, "unless you'd prefer some other form of
Her smile would have done credit to DaVinci. "Natasha will do for now."
"Fleming has given me a summary of your recent activities. They raise
certain questions about your loyalties and agenda."
"I should think the former would be clear," she replied. "I just disabled
the L-137 for you. If I hadn't, you might never have caught them."
"Perhaps," Everett observed, "but this does not answer the second question.
Can you tell us why you acted as you did?"
"No," she said brusquely, "I cannot."
The captain nodded to himself. He had expected this. "Then can you clarify
your relationship with Karlov?" he asked. "It's clear you're more than just
"I cannot tell you that either."
"'Cannot' or 'will not'?"
For an instant, the woman's face looked bleak. "Cannot," she replied. "But
I can tell you that he's in Weda."
"What do you think, gentlemen, and lady?" Everett asked his companions after
Davies had escorted their guest to her quarters.
"I'm inclined to trust her," said Iverson. "She did help us on Ujelang.
Without her aid, we might never have gotten off the island."
"I'm not!" said Sarah. "She's been involved in two attempts to kidnap our
people. It's true that she turned against the kidnappers in both cases, but
she might just have been picking the winning side."
The signalman shook his head. "I'm sorry, sir. She guards herself too
well. I am quite unable to form an opinion."
Everett glanced at the chart while he thought this over.
"I doubt she's told us more than a fraction of the truth," he observed, "but
we'll need resupply anyway, and Weda is near at hand. This will also give
us a chance to offload slightly more than a ton of prisoners. Jenkins,
contact Commodore Clark and inform him of our intentions."
When they reached Weda the next morning, they found the
Cottswold riding from the station's Number One mast. Commodore
Clark received them in the administration building, which he'd commandeered
for his own use. MacKiernan and Miss Perkins were with him, looking
perplexed by this latest turn of events.
"Good morning, Captain Everett," said the Commodore. "We received your
message. That was good work with the L-137."
"Thank you, sir," said Everett. "I trust Mister MacKiernan and Miss Perkins
have acquitted themselves well."
"They have," said Clark. "Who is this lady who accompanies you?"
Everett had considered keeping Natasha's presence secret, but with no way of
knowing how much the Commodore knew, he'd decided it would be safer to play
this particular card and see how the man reacted. "Her name is Natasha," he
replied. "She was a prisoner aboard the nationalists' ship. She appears to
have some association with this Karlov everyone's been trying to find.
According to her, the man is here in Weda to visit the mines."
The Commodore seemed unimpressed by this news. "Is that so? Did she offer
any evidence to support this claim?"
Before Everett could reply, Davies appeared in the doorway. "Sirs," the
marine said urgently, "I found something rather disturbing down near
"What is it?" asked Clark.
"I think you'd better see for yourself, sir."
They followed Davies past the docks, where crates of equipment stood waiting
to be hauled to the mines. At last the marine halted in front of a
massive machine covered by a tarpaulin. Everett felt a twinge of
apprehension. Something about the thing's shape looked familiar. He
lifted the canvas to discover an olive-green bulk with the words
Chekov's Gun scrawled across its prow.
"Oh dear," said Jenkins.
"Oh no," said MacKiernan.
"That's a Mark V tank," Clark said wonderingly. "Whatever is it doing in the
Dutch East Indies?"
Everett did his best not to grimace. "It would take too long to explain,
sir," he replied, "but it means someone else is here ahead of us. We'll
have to move quickly if we hope to beat him."
Next week: Tanks, We've Already Got One...
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