Episode 295: No One Goes to Ujelang Anymore, It's Too Popular
Miss Perkins looked as prim and neatly dressed as ever. No one would have
guessed she'd just completed a swift ocean passage to a remote Pacific
island as part of an urgent last-minute rescue operation.
"Kurt and Dietrich spotted me on Kwajelein," she said, indicating a pair of
Germans who'd arrived to help collect their captives. "I must have been
careless. When they explained their plan, I volunteered to accompany them.
It seemed the quickest way to regain communication with Captain Michaelson.
"We reached the atoll two days ago, hid our vessel off Eneu island, and
paddled here on a native canoe to make contact with Marco. He'd already been
sent to Bikini under Heinrich's instructions. I gather he established his
cover here shortly after the attack on Cairns." The beachcomber raised his
pistol in salute. "After that, it was just a matter of waiting for Lady
Warfield to appear. She was so certain she'd outwitted your trap for her
trap that it never occurred to her we might have laid a trap for her trap
for your trap for her trap.".
Everett nodded cautiously. He wanted some time to think this one over.
"What were you doing on Kwajelein?" asked Michaelson. "Your last report
placed you in American Samoa."
"I arrived on the 14th with Sigmund's people. They were following the
American airship, believing your agents to be aboard."
"Agents?" Everett asked sharply. He did not like the sound of this.
"Your two young companions from Darwin," Michaelson replied. "The Fat Man's
people had reached the mistaken conclusion that they were working for me.
It seemed a pity not to take advantage of their misapprehension. Knowing
who they were after, it was easy for us to follow their movements and
trace their inquiries. This has allowed us to identity much of their
Everett struggled to contain his indignation. It was one thing to send
military personnel on a dangerous mission. This was part of their job.
Placing innocent civilians in harm's way, merely for the sake of strategy,
was another matter entirely.
"What became of them?" he asked, as calmly as he could.
Miss Perkins glanced at Michaelson. "The Germans took the vessel just
before I left," she said. "I believe they're heading for Ujelang."
The senior captain seemed unconcerned by his secretary's implied accusation.
"Everyone seems to be heading for Ujelang," he mused. "I suppose we should
go and apprehend them."
"And just how are we to accomplish this?" asked Everett. "The
Flying Cloud won't be available until MacKiernan has a chance to
resupply, and we couldn't fit everyone on our launch even if it did have the
Miss Perkins offered one of her rare smiles. "I believe we have a solution."
Michaelson adjusted the fit of his jacket, then glanced around the deck of
the Todstalker. The schnellboot's lean warlike lines seemed
entirely out of place in this peaceful island setting. "It was thoughtful
of Sigmund's men to leave this vessel behind for you," he observed.
"It would have been even more thoughtful if they hadn't disabled the
wireless before they left," said Miss Perkins.
Michaelson shrugged. "We can't have everything. Captain Everett, I trust
you can navigate us to Ujelang."
Everett bit back a retort. The senior captain could hardly have forgotten
that he'd once commanded a destroyer in the North Sea during the closing
months of the War. "We have a party of nine, including Miss Perkins, Marco,
and their companions," he replied. "That should be enough to manage the
craft, if we have enough fuel."
"We sounded the bunkers after we arrived," said Deitrich. "There were
8000 liters left."
"That should suffice," said Everett. "But if this boat is like the last one
we took, the passage will take at least twenty hours. I suppose there's
no help for it. Let's hope we arrive in time."
"Quite," said Michaelson. "I wonder what we'll find."
Emily and Clarice gazed down at Ujelang from the windows of the
Philadelphian's control car. This was the first chance they'd had
for a good look at the island. Previously, they'd only seen the place from
a distance, and that had not been under the best of circumstances, for it
had been obscured by large mushroom-shaped cloud.
Now they could appreciate the magnitude of the cataclysm that had engulfed
it. The eastern end of the island had been burned flat by some unimaginable
blast of heat. In one spot, the sand glittered as if it had been fused to
glass. Clarice guessed this where the tower that held the so-called
`Device' had stood. Some distance away, a pulverized foundation marked the
place where the German nationalists' laboratory had been. No one could
possibly have survived.
Immediately west of the burned area, the jungle had been flattened by the
force of the explosion. Trees lay in rows, their trunks pointing toward the
center of the region of destruction like accusing fingers. Farther to the
west, the vegetation had survived, but it seemed strangely altered, as if
by some lingering malignity. The effect seemed more pronounced on the
downwind side of the island. Clarice wondered at this. Hadn't that blimp
captain on Kwajelein remarked that the place was unhealthy?
Sigmund exalted at the spectacle.
"This is wonderful!" he announced. "A weapon such as this could destroy
an entire city. Once it's in the service of the Fatherland, no one will
dare to stand against us!"
The two women weren't so sure about the `wonderful' part. They couldn't
help imagining what would have happened if the Device had exploded in
Darwin. It would have reduced their home town to ashes. But this didn't
seem the appropriate moment for a debate.
Somehow the island's jetty had survived, sheltered by some freak of
geography. A neat row of tents stood nearby, next to a portable mooring
mast surmounted by the flag of the rising sun. Clarice guessed these were
the Japanese scientists the professor on Guam had told them about. They'd
assembled a handling party to help with the mooring, unaware what a snake
they'd be clasping to their bosom.
A short time later, the Philadelphian was riding from the mast and
a party of Sigmund's men was descending the ladder to the ground. The
skirmish that followed was entirely one-sided. Unarmed scholars, taken by
surprise, were no match for a team of trained commandos. Sigmund watched
with approval, then turned to his captives.
"Your friends were unprepared," he observed. "They will regret this
mistake. Let us go down to examine what you Englishers would call
"Our `friends'?" Clarice whispered to Emily as the Germans marched them
forward to the bow station
"These drongos do seem to be leaping to conclusions," Emily whispered back.
"Can you think of any way to use this against them?"
"No," admitted Clarice, "but we should mention it to Mister Cartwell.
Perhaps he'll have some idea."
Next week: The Pause That Regasses...
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