Episode 528: Among The Adversaries
"Spannen!" ordered the loadmaster.
On the airship above him, a winch drew the cable tight. The German watched
how the vessel rode from the mast, judging her position as she swung in
response to changes in the wind. When he felt the angle was right, he gave
a second sharp command.
Water gushed from the airships ballast tanks and the winch whined to life
again. Metal creaked as the strongback took up the load, lifting the tank
free of the ground. For a moment it threatened to swing -- a twenty nine ton
rhomboid wrecking ball. Then it was rising toward the hold of the L-92.
On the other side of the field, Lothar watched the operation from the bridge
of the Draken. As handlers swung the tank aboard the chartered
freighter, he nodded in satisfaction. The other vessel might be obsolete by
modern standards, but she was an enlarged version of the Afrika class -- ships
legendary for their range and cargo capacity -- and she'd only have to make
"What are Kapitan Werner's final figures?" he asked Lehman.
The aide consulted his notes. "He has 3,280 kilograms of ballast and 4,400
liters of fuel at 85% inflation."
Lothar nodded. "That will allow them to reach the resupply point. From
there it's only a short flight to the target. Is there any new word of the
"We have traced their movements here on Celebes," said the aide. "They
found the tanks and the training camp, but they do not appear to have
grasped their significance, for they made no attempt to identify or follow
the transport. Instead, they flew to Gilolo."
"They must be searching for the weapons shipment," said Lothar. "This has
"Yes, Freiherr. We accelerated the schedule and the L-107 took it aboard
The baron nodded and glanced around the bridge. It had been stripped of all
unnecessary equipment, Latin extravagance replaced by controls for the new
weapons. It was ready for the operation. As were his men.
"We will allow Kapitan Everett to investigate as he will," he said
smugly. "He has `missed the boat', as the Englanders say."
"What about the Japanisch?" asked Lehman.
Lothar smiled. "They will be anticipating an attack on their island base.
They will not realize our true intentions until it is too late."
The Governor glanced around the bridge of the cruiser. It was entirely
unlike the commercial vessels with which he was familiar. There were no
concession to comfort here, only the uncompromising efficiency that was
the mark the higher order of weapons. He smiled inwardly. If all went as
planned, this weapon would be pointed at the wrong target.
"Thank you for inviting me aboard," he told the Commander, giving no hint of
his thoughts. "This is a remarkable piece of engineering."
The Japanese gave a slight bow of acknowledgment. "Arigato. It is also a
place we can talk without interruption. Have you any new word of our
The Governor made a show of consulting the folder he'd bought. "The Germans
seem to have done nothing after sending their spies. Tthere have been no
ship movements to indicate they're preparing an attack."
The Commander smiled in much the same way Yoshinaka might have smiled when
the Taira fell into his trap at the Battle of Kurikara. "They conceal
their intentions too well," he announced smugly. "They hope to take us by
surprise, but we'll have a surprise for them. Our force is larger than they
expect." He gestured at the field below them, where engineers were adding
to the defenses and erecting a new row of barracks.
"Are you certain we can trust our friends from the British Union to fight?"
asked the Governor. "As your host, my position is also at stake."
"Hai," the Commander assured him "These Igirisuhito are
veterans of the War, and they spent several weeks training at their camp on
Woodlark Island. They will be prepared."
The Governor nodded. "Then you might be in position to take advantage of
the news I've received from an agent in Weda. " He produced a slip of paper
and handed it to his guest.
The Commander's eyes widened as he read the message. "You have located a
shipment of their new weapons!"
"Yes, and it is on its way to their depot on Celebes."
"We will not let this opportunity go the waste!" the Commander announced,
turning to his aide. "How long will it take us to finish resupply, board
our marines, and lift ship?"
"We can be ready by tomorrow evening."
"Yoi!" said the Commander. "We will have a second surprise for
Baron Warfield accepted a glass of wine from his butler and studied the
bridge of the Coup de Grace. It was a businesslike compartment --
Wollesleys did not have room to spare -- but he and the Baroness had taken
steps to make it more presentable. Teak veneer now framed the instruments
and aluminum control wheels had been replaced by ash and lignum vitae. The
new fittings were every bit as functional, and reflected their conception
of the vessel's purpose -- a poniard rather than a broadsword.
"The pieces are falling into place," he remarked to his lady. "The Germans
left Celebes as expected and the Japanese will have received the information
you planted by now. Everything is proceeding according to schedule."
The Baroness took a sip from her own glass, then held it up to the light.
"Let us make certain this continues," she warned. "We're making a fairly
substantial gamble, and have much to lose if it fails."
"I have no concerns on that score, my dear" said the baron. "Your plans
are excellent as always. If any details need to be attended to, I will
handle their execution myself."
Michaelson studied the reports and frowned. "This is all?" he asked
His aide nodded. "Yes, sir. MacKiernan found a British Union encampment on
Woodlark Island, but it was abandoned when he arrived, and there was no clue
where its occupants might have gone. Everett made a similar discovery on
Celebes involving the German nationalists. He determined that they'd had a
shipment of weapons ion Gilolo, but this too was gone by the time he arrived.
And there have been no recent sightings of the Draken , the Japanese cruiser,
or the Warfields' ship."
The senior captain gazed out the window. The sky outside was dark, but not
as dark as his mood. He remembered another day, another betrayal.
"Sir?" asked Fenwick. He might have been young, but he could tell that
something was amiss.
"I sense the Baroness's hand in this," said Michaelson. "She will be
planning some coup. Summon our people back to Cairns. We must review what
we've they've discovered and hope we can anticipate it."
Next week: Pieces of At Least One Puzzle...
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