Episode 570: An After Action Report
Norfolk Island was obscure even by the standards of the South Pacific.
Located precisely in the middle of nowhere, 400 miles north of New
Zealand, it had been neglected by successive waves of Polynesian
voyagers as devoid of anything needed for colonization. Would-be
settlers from New Caledonia may have visited the place sometime prior
to the 18th Century, but they recognized a bad job when they saw one, and
returned the way they came, leaving the place empty when Captain Cook first
spotted it on 10 October 1774.
The Europeans who followed the great explorer should have taken a hint
from this. Attempts to cultivate flax for use in cordage and sailcloth were
a failure, local timber was of too poor quality for use in spars, and spars,
and the lack of anything remotely resembling a harbor posed a challenge for
would-be entrepreneurs. Desperate to find some use for the island, the
British Government tried using it as a penal colony, but this enterprise
was not notably successful, perhaps because those responsible tended to
forget about the place.
At the end of the 19th century, the Crown threw up its figurative hands and
handed Norfolk Island to the Commonwealth of Australia. The reaction of
Australia's Parliament to this ambiguous gift is not recorded, but there was
no rush to settle the place, and it only inhabitants were a few incurably
optimistic speculators, a junior administrator who'd been unwise in his
choice of patrons, and descendants of Pitcairn Islanders who were used to
living in forgotten corners of the world.
For some reason -- a need to dispose of surplus equipment, perhaps -- the
island did have an air station. Its three masts were quite sufficient to
accommodate the Flying Cloud, the Geschwader, and the
R-129 after Michaelson had sent the R-87 back the Cairns. Now the Commodore
held court in the small bungalow that served as the Government House, which
he'd appropriated for his own use.
"I've invited you here to pool our discoveries," he told his audience.
"Kapitan von Richtofen, thank you for joining us. I understand
that you oppose Ernst Rohm's nationalists."
Manfred studied Michaelson for a moment, then offered a nod that might also
have been a salute. "As would any man who cared about out country," he
replied. "This ‘fascist' ideology they imported from Italy is the path of
shadow, suspicion, and hate. Germany is better than that."
"I also understand that you conducted a recent sortie against their base on
"Ja," said Manfred, "With the infiormation provided by your two
young friends, we attacked on the dawn of the 27th, hoping to catch their
ship on the mast. Unfortunately it was gone, so we had to content
ourselves with inflicting minor damage to their hydrogen facilities, fuel
storage, and arms depot."
"The latter may prove more important than you realize," Michaelson
observed cryptically. "We intend to act against these fellows ourselves.
May we count on your support if we do?"
Manfred's smile was fierce. "Ja!"
"Then if you'll step out for a moment, I would like to consult with my
The German offered another nod that might have been a salute. As he left
the room., Michaelson turned to Everett. "Captain, did you learn anything
useful on Aneityum?"
"Perhaps," said Everett. "I spoke with the Grand Duchess and her associate
regarding Karlov. They recalled that he arrived in 1924 to join the effort
to build the Ujelang Device. His bona fides were good enough that no one
thought to question how he'd learned about the effort. They also don't
seem to have realized the extent of his contribution, or how many crucial
pieces of information were known only to him, until after he was gone. They
have since begun to wonder about his motives and agenda, but they have no
more clues about these than we do."
"Have they had any encounters with this woman Natasha who seems to oppose
"They're aware of her existence, but nothing more."
Michaelson seemed unsurprised by this information. "What is their
association with Manfred?" he asked.
"I inquired about this in some detail," Everett told him. "They both share
the same enemies, but it seems to be one of mutual interest than a formal
alliance. They knew nothing of his plans for the sortie."
"Can we trust the man?" asked Michaelson.
"I believe so," said Everett. "It was a significant risk for him to attack
the Fat Man's base with a lightly armed commercial vessel. I suppose this
could have been staged to place him in our confidence, but it seems proof of
his sincerity. He also seems unaware of the Device, and it's difficult to
imagine how he could profit from it even if he was."
Michaelson turned to MacKiernan. "Commander, what is your report?"
"We proceed to New Zealand as you instructed, and met with your contact in
Christchurch, who directed us the the British Union of Fascist's agent
there," said MacKiernan. "This man seemed somewhat vagues -- more in the
nature of a hobbyist than a Believer In The Cause -- but he it seems he
facilitated communication between the British Union and William Bridgeman,
First Lord of the Admiralty."
There was a moment of silence as everyone absorbed this bombshell. At last
Michaelson nodded. "This should hardly come as a surprise," he remarked.
"It would explain Admiral Wentworth's reluctance to become involved in this
"Do you think he's one of Bridgeman's confederates, sir?" asked Jenkins.
"Quite the contrary," Michaelson observed, "I suspect that he's doing his
best to avoid getting caught in middle of some contest between between
powerful men. He's a political animal, and knows not to meddle in the
affairs of such people, for they are far from subtle, and may be quick to
anger. He'll leave the risk of any investigation to us, then side with
"Who might these people be and what are they after?" asked Everett.
Michaelson rose, walked to the window, and gazed out to sea. It was the
very picture of serenity. Perhaps he sought comfort from it. "I took
steps to discover this," he announced.
This could only mean one thing. "You spoke with the Warfields, sir?"
Jenkins asked with concern..
"It was the obvious thing to do, provided one took suitable precautions,"
the Commodore replied. "It appears that the Baron and his lady plan to sell
the Device to some faction in Government, just as we have guessed. Whether
the First Lord is part of this or utterly apposed to it remains to be
"What about Karlov?" asked the signalman. "What is his role in this?"
"This also remains to be determined," said Michaelson. "The Warfields kept
the man hidden. But there is an additional mystery. It appears he's
practiced some slight upon them to convince them he can alter the laws
This prompted an exchange of glances. "Do you have any idea why?" asked
Miss Perkins, voicing the question that was on everyone's mind.
Michaelson shrugged. "I have no idea what he hopes to accomplish. The
man seems to make a specialty of misdirection. We must strive to ensure
this doesn't work to our disadvantage."
Next week: Others May Reach Different Conclusions...
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