Episode 529: Pieces of Some Puzzle
"Finished with engines," ordered Everett.
"Finished with engines," said Murdock as he reached for the telegraphs.
Bells rang and the diesels fell silent. As the echoes died away, Everett
gazed across the field. They'd been given Mast Number 6 -- the second
least-desirable mooring at the Cairns Royal Air Station. The worst was Number
9, on the other side of the grounds. This was half-hidden by the row of
airship sheds, but when he squinted through the rain, he could make out
weatherbeaten outline of MacKiernan's R-83. He doubted these assignments
were accidental. No matter how urgent the business that had led Michaelson
to recall them, the senior captain had taken this opportunity to send them
"Very good," he told the lieutenant. "Order the crew to mooring stations.
We will keep everyone aboard until we've learned what Captain Michaelson
has in mind for us. Jenkins, if you'd accompany me."
Michaelson held the meeting in his office. This was considerably smaller
than the schoolroom he also used for this purpose but it was also more
secure. Everett reflected on this as he and Jenkins squeezed into a row of
chairs next to MacKiernan and Miss Perkins. It was not a good sign.
The senior captain studied them like a headmaster contemplating some
disciplinary measure. "Lieutenant-Commander," he ordered, "your report,
This lack of preamble also did not bode well, but if the Irishman was
fazed, he was careful not to show it. "We proceeded to Guadalcanal as
instructed and investigated the attack on this decommissioned destroyer
the Japanese nationalist had been representing as a fisheries patrol
vessel," he replied calmly. "The Germans destroyed it from the air with
some long-range secret weapon. The details remain to be determined, but
circumstances suggest this was some form of air-to-ground torpedo."
Michaelson glanced at Everett. "I gather that you recovered something of
this nature from Gililo."
"Yes, sir," Everett replied. "We brought it back to Cairns for analysis."
The senior captain made a dismissive gesture. "As well you should.
MacKiernan, if you would continue."
"While we were in Honoria, the German nationalists appeared with their
airship, which they've renamed the Drachen," said the Irishman.
"They deployed marines to make off with the shopkeeper we saw in
communication with their agents on our previous visit. We were not in a
position to intervene, but it seemed reasonable to assume they'd take the
man to the Santa Cruz Islands to locate his informant. We took position
to the east, intending to intercept and shadow their vessel upon its
The senior captain nodded. If he recognized the audacity required to
confront a warship with a courier vessel one third its size and four
fifths of its speed, he gave no sign of this. "I take it this was not a
"Our efforts were compromised by the failure of our Number One engine. I
understand that unit has had a long history of trouble. This forced us to
guess their destination, so we flew to Namatami on the island of
Neumecklenberg. We found no evidence of the German vessel there, but we
did find the Warfield's airship moored at the station. Circumstances
became somewhat confused at that point, but we determined that they've
begun communication with the Germans with the intention of switching sides."
Michaeson nodded, as did Everett. Both had some experience with the
Baroness' `flexible' attitude toward alliances. "So what was all this
business with Woodlark Island?" asked Michaelson.
"It seemed unwise to remain on Neumecklenberg, but we needed resupply, and
Woodlark's obscurity made it an attractive alternative. The Warfields must
have felt the same, for we discovered they'd been there before us and
maintained an encampment for a sizable company on the site of an abandoned
"And that's where you met..." the senior captain drew a deep breath,
"Yes, sir," said MacKiernan. "It seems he'd been informed of the temple by
Karlov, with whom we gathered he's had a long history."
"And he's been under our nose all this time, along with those fellows on the
Tranquility," muttered the senior captain.
"So it would appear, sir."
Michaelson didn't bother to hide his frown. "We'll cry over spilt milk
later," he observed. "Captain Everett, please give your report."
Everett did his best to keep his expression neutral. Some details, such as
Miss Wilcox and Miss Blaine's involvement, would require some finesse to
explain. "We proceeded to Kupang to pick up the trail of the Drachen and the
L-137. Since the Administrator appears to be in league with the Fat Man,
we employed a ruse to gain his cooperation, then compared the information he
provided with shipping records we pilfered from his archives, reasoning he
might leave out places he wished to hide.
"Among these was Manado on Celebes. We visited it and discovered that the
Germans had chosen the place to store two Mark V tanks. Further inquires
determined that they'd encamped a company at a plantation outside of town.
The camp had been struck down by the time we arrived, but we were able to
secure photographs of the site.
"Considerations of timing suggested they'd taken ship with our old friend
Captain Ritter aboard his Inselmädchen. We backtracked his
vessel to Weda on Gilolo. Upon or arrival, we learned that the Germans
had shipped out a cache of secret weapons just before we arrived. We were
unable to catch up with this ourselves, but we managed to attach two
intelligence assets..." this seemed the safest way to describe the two
young women's intervention, "...to the shipment before it left the island."
Michaelson's expression suggested that he hadn't been fooled. "I see," he
said dryly. "We will defer discussion of your actions for now. Our
immediate concern would seem to be these two camps. Your descriptions
suggest these were training camps. The question becomes, what were they
"I imagine the Fat Man plans to attack the Japanese nationalist base on
Sarah's Island," MacKiernan speculated. "The two groups are most certainly
at odds, the Germans have assembled the necessary armory, and these new
weapons of theirs could allow the Drachen to destroy the Japanese
defenses from beyond the range of their guns."
"This is possible," mused Michaelson, "but it doesn't explain the tanks.
Those hardly seem necessary fro an assault on a small island. And where
does the British Union fit in?"
Everett nodded. It was hard to imagine the Warfield's accepting a role as
lowly spear-carriers. "Perhaps they intend to plunder some treasure
comparable to this Nui Mana Karlov made off with last year
while everyone was preoccupied."
Michaelson allowed himself an uncharacteristic sigh. "This too is
possible," he said, "but we both have learned not to leap to
conclusions when the Baroness is involved. We need more information.
Lieutenant-Commander MacKiernan, you will pick up the trail of the
British Union. You're still comparatively unknown to them, so you may
have the best chance."
"I'm not certain the R-83 is up to the task," the Irishman observed
carefully. Michaelson would have no qualms about setting giving an
impossible job, then penalizing them for failure.
The senior captain's face twisted as if he'd eaten something sour. "I
suppose this is true," he admitted. "I will give you the R-87. You will
take proper care of the vessel. Captain Everett, we will assume the
Germans intend to use this arms shipment you discovered in whatever
operation they have planned. You will employ these... intelligence
assets... of yours to track it to its destination. Dismissed."
Next week: About Those Assets...
Comments about Episode 529? Start a new topic on the