Episode 359: We'll Stop Here for Java
"What do you think of our lieutenant?" Everett asked MacKiernan after
Murdock and Jenkins had delivered their report.
The exec shook his head in wonder. "He seems to inspire confidences
from the ladies. He also seems entirely unaware of this fact."
"The gods bestow this talent on some individuals, for reasons we may
never understand," Everett observed dryly. "We will trust him not to
"Aye," muttered MacKiernan. "What are our plans now?"
"We've determined that Miss Kim visited this..." Everett took a deep
breath. "...Hunminjeongeum Society on Buton. We will wish to
learn more about this organization. We also need to determine the
origin of the prints you found at the depot. To this end, we'll need
some source of information here in the Dutch East Indies."
"The Countess Zelle?" asked MacKiernan.
Everett nodded. "We will set a course for Java."
Resupply on Ambon had left them with plenty of consumables. Everett took
advantage of this to avoid Jakarta and approach the Countess's plantation
from the south. The southern coastal plains were a patchwork of cropland
and villages -- one of the most densely populated landscapes in the world.
As they flew north, these gave way to jungle-covered hills that seemed
almost untouched by man. Here and there, the ruins of some ancient
Buddhist temple rose above the trees. Abandoned since the founding of the
Mataram Sultanate, centuries ago, they seemed like relics from some
North of the highlands, the terrain fell away in a succession of fertile
slopes, given over to coffee and tea plantations. They had little
difficulty picking out the Zelle estate from among them. Everett brought
his vessel to a halt some distance away and ordered Jenkins to make their
signal. The last airship to visit the plantation had dropped troops.
The Countess might well have added anti-aircraft defenses since then.
"Is this the same Countess Zelle who had such a reputation in Paris during
the War?" Miss Perkins asked while they waited for a reply.
Everett wasn't surprised Miss Perkins knew of the Countess's history. The
two women shared some professional interests. "Yes," he told the secretary.
"She retired to her ex-husband's estates after the Peace, but she continues
her old avocation. She has helped us in the past."
A signal lamp winked from the roof of the mansion. Jenkins flashed an
acknowledgement, then turned to his captain. "The Countess would be glad
to receive us," he said. "She requests we land our people on the polo field
to avoid damaging the crops."
"Very well," said Everett. "Loris, all engines to one quarter and bring us
left to 310. Wallace, take us down to 2000'. Miss Sarah, prepare to weigh
off once we're in position."
"I will be accompanying the landing party," Miss Perkins announced.
"Michaelson gave instructions that I was to be present during any meeting
with the Countess."
Everett didn't bother to raise an eyebrow. He'd expected as much. "As you
wish." he said. "Report to the Transporter Room in ten minutes."
The wind was gusting, making hoist operations a challenge, and the
Transporter platform was swinging as it approached the ground. Everett and
Miss Perkins disembarked without incident -- officers of command rank were
expected to take such things in stride, and secretaries were immune to the
laws of physics. When they reached the mansion a servant escorted them to
the salon where the Countess was waiting to receive them.
"Mata," Everett said graciously, "you look the same as always."
She smiled. "Ah, Roland, would that this were true. I see you brought a
"This is Miss Perkins, Michaelson's secretary. Miss Perkins, may I
introduce Countess Zelle."
The Countess's eyes sparkled. "Even better, you brought an adversary. What
brings you here today?"
"We're investigating a Japanese nationalist group that's been active here in
the Pacific. I assume you're aware of the fellows?"
"That would be the Amur River Society. They date back to sometime before
the Russo-Japanese War, but they've recently taken an interest in events
here. They're said to have an airship the size of a large cruiser, though
how they manage to supply it remains a mystery."
"Those rumors are correct. We found and destroyed an air station of theirs
in Western Australia. Its personnel had a characteristic taste in art. We
recovered these from their barracks."
Countess examined the prints and chuckled. "I'm familiar with the genre,"
she said. "It had its enthusiasts in Paris. I also know this particular
printer. They're a shop on Sumatra that specializes in cheap reproductions.
I'll provide you with the address."
"Thank you," said Everett. "We're also trying to locate a Korean agent who
turned up at Cairns Royal Air Station last spring. We have no idea who she
was working for, but circumstances suggest she's at odds with the Japanese."
"This is hardly surprising, given the relationship between the two nations,"
observed the Countess. "I take it you have some leads."
Everett nodded. "We have reason to believe she traveled with the Korean
cultural mission on Buton Island."
"That would be the Hunminjeong," said the Countess. Everett
marveled at her ability to pronounced the name without any hesitation. "I
don't know much about them, but I do know something about their movements.
They've been traveling about the islands, trying to set up schools. Last
year they were on Sumbawa."
"Do you have any idea why they're so determined to teach people their
The Countess shrugged. "Some people collect stamps, some people seek out
erotic Japanese art, some people spread writing systems."
It was evening when the A-121, Brotherhood of Workers, reached
Da Nang. A year ago, they might have resupplied in China, but the
Kuomintang's attitude toward its erstwhile allies in Trotsky's government
had cooled after Borodin's ill-advised support of the left-wing movement
in Wuhan. Instead, the ship had to continue to the Kingdom of Annam,
where the French welcomed the Soviets as an enemy of their enemies in
The head of the local Comniterm, slightly-built man named
Nguyẽn Ái Quôc, met them in a cafe near the Han River.
"How is the Revolution faring here in Indochina?" Captain Loiko asked
"The situation is complicated," said the man. "We were working with the
Nationalist Party, but now that they've allied with Kuomintang, we've
found it expedient to make common cause with the colonialists against
them. We're doing better in Burma. We have sympathizers among the
British aristocracy, and we've also made contact with the Tcho Tcho."
"Who are they?" asked Commissar Tsukanov.
"They're one of the hill tribes. They're an Austraneasian people,
noted for their skill at small-scale agriculture and the cultivation of
yams... no, wait, maybe that's the Cia Cia, in the Dutch East Indies.
Burma... Buton... it's a mistake anyone could make."
"Good," said the commissar. "Our network in the Pacific continues to
grow. Comrades as far away as Australia will be chafing to act."
Next week: It's A Popular Destination This Time Of Year...
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