Episode 369: Conclusions Worth Leaping To
"More tea, sir?" asked Fenwick.
"I believe I will," said Michaelson.
The two men sat in the R-87's tiny mess hall, gazing out the starboard
window. As the sea breeze filled in, the airship had swung at her mooring
to give them a view of the other mast, where the
Brotherhood of Workers rode like a five million cubic foot puzzle.
Some time ago, a party had left the Russian vessel and headed into town.
Fenwick suspected it had contained two more members when it returned.
"I imagine those fellows have rescued their captain and commissar from
that bar," he remarked. "It's a pity they didn't leave us more time to
conduct our inquiries."
"The investigation was not entirely profitless," said Michaelson. "We
learned that the communist cell in Darwin didn't have a chance to send a
report about last year's events. This suggests that Trotsky's government
has yet to learn about the Device. We can anticipate a reaction when they
"I daresay!" Fenwick agreed. "But if the Soviets didn't know about the
White Russian plot, why did they send an airship here?"
Michaelson tapped the report they'd just received from Sydney. "We may be
able to draw some conclusions from their movements," he observed.
"According to the Admiralty, they lifted ship from Vladivostok at the end
of June and called at Da Nang to resupply. Their next port of call was
Besa, on Sumbawa. What does that suggest to you?"
Fenwick glanced at their small-scale chart of the Pacific. "It's on a
direct line from French Indochina to American Samoa," he replied. "This
would be a good place to replenish their consumables if they were bound for
the US Naval Air Station at Pago Pago. It's also where Captain Everett
encountered that party of Scottish socialists. We can assume those fellows
"Quite," said Michaelson, in the same tone of voice a schoolmaster might
use to encourage a particularly slow student. "But the Russians didn't
continue on to Tutuila. Instead they diverted to Darwin, as if they'd
learned of something important here."
"Do we have any idea what that could be, sir?"
Michaelson studied the other airship for a moment, as if hoping this would
provide some clue, then shook his head. "Not yet," he admitted, "but I
wonder about the timing. Their decision to change destinations occurred
after Captain Everett's visit to Sumbawa."
"Do you think there's a connection?"
"We should not leap to conclusions," Michaelson said with a smile. "We
will allow our adversaries to make this error on our behalf."
"More tea, Comrade Loika," asked Tsukanov.
"Da," said the captain.
The two men stood in the common room of the Brotherhood of Workers,
gazing out the port widows. To the west, the R-87 gleamed in the afternoon
sun. She was smaller than their own airship -- an elegant example of
British engineering -- but her graceful lines gave no clue as to her
Loika studied the vessel, then shook his head. "So that was Caption
Michaelson," he remarked. "He thinks very quickly, that man. I can
understand why the cell here tried to eliminate him."
"It's unfortunate they didn't succeed," grumbled Tsukanov. The commissar
was still smarting from the treatment they'd received in the bar before
they'd managed to establish their bona fides.
"Perhaps," chuckled Loika. "Still, it's better to have an adversary you
can see than one who remains hidden. Now that the man has revealed
himself, he is no longer a threat. I wonder what brought him to Darwin."
"We found him questioning members of the local cell," Tsukanov observed.
"He must have been investigating the assassination attempt."
"We should not leap to conclusions," chided Loika. "According to the
bartender, the British Union has been active here. They would be natural
allies for a British naval officer."
The commissar frowned. The implications were obvious. "You think the
Royal Navy is trying to discover the secret of this weapon the White
Loika nodded. "If this so-called `Device' is powerful enough to destroy an
entire island, I wouldn't like to see such a thing in the hands of the
"I wouldn't like to see such a thing in anyone's hands," said
Tsukanov. "We must take steps to prevent this."
The Governor held the glass up to the light and sighed in resignation. It
was a näive Australian wine, with notes of eucalyptus that seemed entirely
out of place in a red, but he supposed it could have been worse. At least
it wasn't Chateau Rennel.
He was reflecting on the disadvantages of life in the Pacific when a henchman
knocked on the door.
"We have received word from Cairns," said the man. "The assassination
"I suppose we should have expected this," the Governor replied
philosophically. "Michaelson is a formidable adversary. Where is he now?"
"He departed the station two days ago aboard the R-87. We have no idea
where he went, but we did receive a report from Sola. The
Flying Cloud called there yesterday."
"Alors," mused the Governor. "They must have learned our
friends les Japonais have used the place for resupply."
"Could they be trying to find the cruiser?"
"We should not leap to conclusions," said the Governor. "Captain Everett
would not be so foolish. His ship is no match for the vessel."
"Then what was he trying to accomplish?"
The Governor shook his head. "That is not the right question. We must
ask ourselves how the Anglais knew to investigate Vanau Lava.
They could only have learned of the place from our friends' erstwhile
The aide raised his eyebrows. "The English have joined with the Fat
"So it would seem. We must take steps in response."
The Fat Man set down the report he'd been reading and glared at his
aide. "How hard can it be to kill a glorified clerk?" he asked
"Michaelson was lucky," said the man. "According to our agent, someone
stumbled upon the assassin before he could act. We'll get him next time."
"We will not make the attempt," said the Fat Man. "Now that he's
forewarned, he will guard himself carefully. What did he do after the
assassin was caught?"
"He ordered the Flying Cloud out on a sortie. We have yet to
determine where the vessel went. Then he departed for Darwin aboard the
R-87. He must have learned of our arrangement with the chief of police."
The Fat Man indicated the paper in front of him. "We should not leap to
conclusions," he chided his aide. "According to our agent at the air
station, a Soviet naval vessel called there yesterday."
"The Russians!" exclaimed the aide.
"Ja," said the Fat Man. "This cannot be a coincidence.
Michelson must have gone to meet them. We must take steps to oppose this
Next week: The Big Sheep, Part I...
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