Episode 556: Fond Reunions
Everett had ordered Iverson and Sarah to bring Clarice and Emily back to
the ship. If the Fat Man's
no-longer-quite-as-secret-as-he-might-have-wished base was located near
Malunda, it was only a matter of time before his agents recognized the
Flying Cloud's launch. Now the two young women faced him in the airship's
mess hall, apparently oblivious to the trouble they might have caused.
"Am I to understand you took it upon yourselves to investigate Darwin's
chief of police after Commodore Michaelson had departed?" he asked them
"Dinki di!" Clarice replied. "Someone had to give that drongo a squiz."
Long experience in the Australian Squadron might have accustomed Everett
to the Colonials' novel reinterpretation of the English language, but that
didn't mean he had to approve of it. "Did it never occur to you that this
enterprise might involve an element of risk?"
The brunette seemed mystified by his argument. "That's all the more reason
to give it a go, innit?"
Everett exchanged glances with Iverson and Sarah. The former was wise
enough to make no reply. The latter seemed all too unlikely to take the
matter seriously. "I suppose I should not fault your courage," he told
the Aussies, "but you did force Iverson and his party to abandon their mission."
"Which was to find the German nationalist's base," Emily observed. "Clarice
and I saved you the trouble. I should think you'd be chuffed."
"Perhaps," said Everett, unwilling to make any concessions. "But we also
meant to put the place under observation."
"To learn where their cruiser might be off to, which we also found out for
you," said the blonde. "And you did leave Jenkins behind to keep the place
Years of service in war and diplomacy had taught Everett that there were
times one must admit defeat. This was one of them. "Right," he admitted.
"What else did you happen to discover?"
"A fair bit!" said Clarice. "It seems Channel nicked some of that Karlov
chap's dunnage from the train to Darwin two years ago. He had several
crates of swag locked away on his yacht."
"You're quite sure this belonged to Karlov?" asked Everett.
"Have a look!" Clarice replied with a wink. Ignoring her host's reaction,
she reached into her blouse to fish out the pendant she'd appropriated
from the police chief's luggage. When Everett was sure that it was, in
fact, safe to look, he examined the object she held
in her hand. It was small -- the size of a pound sterling, perhaps -- and
intricately machined. As much work of art as machine, its purpose was
entirely impossible to decipher.
"It does seem the sort of thing Karlov seems to favor," he conceded.
"Mister Iverson, Miss Sarah, what do you make of it?"
"These engravings remind me of the artifact Lord and Lady Milbridge were
searching for -- that so-called Nui Mana," Iverson mused. "I would think
this a coincidence were it not for the number of things we've encountered
that turned out not to be coincidences at all."
"Such as my thought as well," said Everett "Do you or Miss Wilcox have any
idea what it does, Miss Blaine?"
"We reckon it's a lucky charm," Clarice said brightly. "It did bring you
and Jenkins here to rescue us!"
This too seemed like a good time to admit defeat. "We must suppose we
must acknowledge this possibility," Everett sighed. "Thank you for
assistance, ladies. Mister Iverson and Miss Sarah will show you to your
"Did Miss Blaine wink at the Captain?" Iverson asked Sarah after they'd
installed the two young Aussies in their cabin.
Sarah chuckled. "I saw that too. It did seem to catch him off-guard."
"Whatever was she trying to accomplish?"
The island girl seemed amused. "I don't have the slightest idea, and I
doubt she does either."
Iverson glanced back toward the accommodation section, then shrugged. "Be
this as it may, I imagine we'll have other things to occupy our attention
Lothar rose to his feet as Sigmund brought the launch to a stop. A few
meters to starboard, the Japanese nationalists' launch rose and fell to the
same gentle swell. The Japanese had deployed first, lowering their craft
by hoist. The cruiser had then withdrawn, allowing the Drachen to
deploy its party nearby.
A figure on the other vessel rose to face them. Lothar recognized the
Japanese captain. "Kaigun-daisa Matome," he said curtly.
"Kapitan Richtofen," the other man replied.
"You wished to parley," said Lothar.
"As did you," said Matome. "That is why you launched your second aerial
torpedo without closing the range."
Lothar smiled. He hadn't overestimated his adversary. "We have been at
odds because each of us sought the Ujelang Device for our own use. The
British Union took advantage of our rivalry to betray both of us and seize
the secret of the uraninite refiner for themselves. It would appear we now
have interests in common."
The other man was quick to understand his meaning. "You wish to use the
weapon to replace your government with one that recognizes your nation's
interests. We wish to do the same to ours. These two goals need not be
"Ja," said Lothar. "If we knew how to reconstruct the uraninite
refiner, we could make two of the weapons as easily as one. I propose that
we renew our alliance to extract this information from the Warfields."
The Japanese smiled as well. "I intended to propose the same. I will have
to contact the Commander, but we both can guess what his answer will be."
Everett woke to a knock on his cabin door. "Sir, "came Iverson's voice from
outside. "We've received a message from Jenkins. I believe you'll want to
Everett had already pulled on his uniform. It was a captain's job to
anticipate these things. "You may enter."
The message was brief, and disturbing in its implication.
J AND G CRUISERS OBSERVED RETURNING G BASE 2115 STOP SHIPS IN FORMATION NO
SIGN BATTLE DAMAGE STOP. BOTH MOORED STATION WITHOUT INCIDENT STOP.
Iverson looked him in concern "Sir" he asked. "Could this mean what I
think it means."
Everett nodded,. It was a captain's job to anticipate these things too.
"Our adversaries have resumed their alliance. I feared this might happen.
Deploy Loris in the launch to retrieve Jenkins and send a message to
Michaelson to inform him of the situation."
Next week: It Has Become A Different Game...
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