Episode 551: A Visit To The Oracle
The Flying Cloud reached Jakarta the morning of the 23rd. As
capital of the Dutch East Indies, its air station was filled with traffic,
from lowly island blimps to a Dutch cruiser, the Leiden, from the
great Fokker yard near Amsterdam. In this crowd, the new arrival went
unnoticed, sparing Everett the need to pay a courtesy call on the
"I take it you intend to visit the Countess Zelle," Iverson remarked after
the ship was on the mast.
"That is correct," Everett told him. "Order Loris to prepare the
Transporter. In the interests of timeliness arrival, Jenkins and I will
employ the motor-bicycle rather than hire a motor."
A short time later, Jenkins was steering the machine they'd acquired in
Cairns up a road into the hills as Everett reclined -- to the extent that
this was possible -- in the sidecar. The motorcycle a perfect vehicle
for an expedition of this sort -- nimble enough to weave its way most of
the past oxcarts, wagons, and the stray water buffalo, and noisy enough to
frighten away those it couldn't. The absence of anything even remotely
resembling a suspension might have daunted lesser men, but members of the
Royal Navy Airship Service were expected to dismiss such things as
As the two men neared their destination, they spotted a motor on the road
ahead. "I say, "Jenkins shouted over the noise of the unmuffled exhaust,
"that appears to be another Adler Six."
"I believe you are correct," Everett shouted back. "This will doubtless be
more of our German nationalists. The seem somewhat unimaginative in their
choice of vehicles."
"Poor tradecraft," Jenkins noted. "Do you think they harbor some designs
against the Countess?"
"It's difficult to imagine what else could have brought them here," said
Everett. "Drop back to shadow them so we may see what they're about."
By now the Adler was approaching the drive that led to Countess's estate,
the Eye of the Day tea plantation. It pulled to a stop at the
entrance and three men wearing brown shirts and humorless expression emerged
to remove something from the boot. Everett and Jenkins stopped as well,
for their own vehicle, whatever its merits, was magnificently ill-adapted
"We will proceed from here on foot," said Everett. "This fellows seem
rather intent on whatever it is they're doing, so we should be able to
The captain's prediction proved correct. The Germans were too busy with
their work to realize they'd been observed. When the airmen reached a
convenient stand of trees, Everett called halt to study what was quite
obviously a weapon.
"That would be a Lanz 9cm trench mortar," he remarked to Jenkins. "I
recall those with some displeasure from the War. It wold seem they intend
to employ it against the Countess. We cannot allow this. I will distract
them while you deal with the matter."
He stepped from behind the trees, adjusted his jacket, and strode toward
the Germans' position. As he approached, he cleared his throat to draw
"Gentlemen," he announced sternly. "I must demand that you cease your
The Germans turned in surprise, then produced three of the ubiquitous
Parabellum pistols that seemed to be the nationalists' trademark. "It is
Kapitan Everett," the leader crowed. "This is a wonderful day. In
addition to removing an one irritant, we also capture another. You will
"I would not find this convenient," Everett replied. "Might I prevail upon
you to consider another source of action?"
"Nein!" the German said smugly., "Consider yourself our prisoner!"
The captain shrugged, and nodded to Jenkins, who'd circled to creep up
behind the nationalists without being seen The signalman laid them low with
three raps from his blackjack -- Signal Corps Issue SRA-47 -- and tucked this
away in his belt.
"That takes care of that," said Everett as they bound the Germans and heaved
them into he back seat of the motor. "Shall we continue?"
The butler emerged greet the Adler as Everett and Jenkins as they parked in
front of the mansion. Under his direction, the Countess's household staff
they locked the captives in the old servants's quarters -- the estate's
previous owner had an expansive definition of the word `servant' -- added
the mortar to the collection of weapons they accumulated from the previous
attacks, and sent out driver to retrieve the motorcycle. Satisfied that
these matters were in hand, he led the airmen to the sitting room where the
Countess was waiting.
She looked up as they entered -- a calm middle-aged woman with considerable
presence and the figure and poise of a dancer. "Captain Everett, " she said
Everett took her hand and bowed. "Mata. It is good to see you well."
The Countess chuckled. "I understand I have you to thank for preventing the
Fat Man's people from shelling my house. I don't understand those people.
You'd think they'd be grateful for... was it really that long ago?"
"You still have many admirers," Everett assured her. "Recent events suggest
those fellows were motivated by the concern you might know the location of the
Fat Man's secret base."
She raised an eyebrow. "I must admit I've sought this information, but
they've hidden it well."
"Their measures of concealment may have begun to fail," Everett observed.
"Commodore Michaelson was able to plot the movements of their
schnellboots to restrict its location to a region northeast of
"Poor Michaelson," she said quietly. "I take it he cannot forget."
Everett nodded sadly. "Matters could hardly be otherwise, for either of us."
She touched his hand. "You will not have to bear this burden forever,
Roland. Of that I am sure. No matter how dark the night may seem, the sun
always rises. But how did Michaelson come by this information?"
"My former Exec obtained some of it from the captain of an America
freighter. The Commodore must have obtained the rest from his contacts in
German Naval Intelligence."
The Countess gestured to her butler, who'd been waiting discreetly by the
door. He departed, to return bearing a ledger and a rolled up chart of the
Dutch East Indies. She directed the airmen to spread the latter on table
while she consulted the former.
"I too have been watching those vessels," she told them. "From their
cargoes, I've been able to narrow the possible location of the base to one
of several islands. It will be interesting to see how this list compares
with the one Michaelson deduced."
Next week: And Meet Interesting People Along The Way...
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