Episode 401: Unwanted Interference
Everett waited patiently while Michaelson shuffled through some paperwork.
His face gave no sign of his thoughts. The senior captain had been going to
some lengths to make their lives unpleasant, but this was hardly a novelty.
There was no need to let the man know how well he'd succeeded.
At last Michaelson deigned to acknowledge the presence of his subordinates.
"I trust you and your crew have found this past week edifying," he remarked
"Quite," said Everett. It had not been a pleasant week. Iverson and Murdock
still labored on some punitive maintenance tasks, Jenkins had been set to
work in the archives, and MacKiernan had spent it compiling a summary of the
station's library of ancient charts -- a sorry misuse of his navigational
skills. Everett had been placed in charge of training flights. This shot
might have missed its mark, for Everett enjoyed teaching, watching other's
skills blossom under his guidance, but one rule of the game was that you
didn't let your opponent know he'd lost.
"Have we learned anything noteworthy during this time, sir?" he asked
The senior captain seemed unfazed by the implied challenge. "Not yet, but
it's only a matter of time until we do. The German nationalists have gone to
the ground after their coup. They'll have taken their prize to whatever
secret air station they used as a base for the L-137 while they recruit a
new crew from Europe. There is every reason to believe we'll be able to
track some of these people as they arrive in the Pacific."
Everett nodded. In addition to the Admiralty, Michaelson would be calling
on his contacts in German Naval Intelligence. How had this latter
arrangement come about, he wondered? To whom did the senior captain
owe his allegiance?
"What about masters of the mysterious cruiser?" asked MacKiernan.
"They also have vanished from view," said Michaelson, "but they've left us
an important clue regarding their plans. The American shipping line will be
sending as a curriculum vitae for this passenger the fellows kidnapped. It
seems he's a scientist of some sort."
"A scientist," mused Jenkins. "Could he be another player like Karlov?"
"This seems unlikely," said Michaelson. "He's more likely to be a pawn
with which the Japanese nationalists hope to recover the secret of the
"Have we learned anything more from the model we recovered?" asked the
"The mechanism seems simple enough. It's an instrument to assemble some
critical volume of special material as quickly as possible. The secret
has something to do with the material itself -- this `uraninite' ore that
keeps cropping up in association with the Device. It seems this must be
prepared in some way to concentrate some essential principle."
"Could Karlov know how to do this?" asked Jenkins.
"I suspect he may be the only one who knows," said Michaelson. "The
question becomes how much information he left behind, and why?"
Fletcher chose that moment to arrive with a message. Michaelson unfolded
the flimsy, read its contents, and frowned. Everett felt a twinge of
apprehension. The news must have been bad if the senior captain made no
effort hide his displeasure.
"Admiral Wentworth's office is unhappy with the way they've been handling
matters," Michaelson told his audience. "He's sending an investigator to
look into the kidnapping. The man will be arriving on the afternoon flight
They adjourned to the field to await the investigator's arrival. There
seemed little point in making plans until they knew what they'd have to
deal with. Soon they spotted a Wollesely class courier approaching from
the south. The Wolleselys were one of Barnes Wallis' earliest designs --
a trim streamlined shape that bore the mark of the master -- but the
sight brought them no joy. What was this one bringing them, they
The mooring operation went unusually smoothly. The Wolleselys' small
size made them easy to handle, and it seemed the captain of this one felt
some need for additional precision. In a very short time, the vessel had
been brought down, walked to the mast, and riggers were securing the bow
fitting. There was a brief pause while the accommodation ladder was lowered
-- this process was hidden from the ground -- then the lift was making its
descent. The door slid open and their visitor emerged.
His suit must have come straight from Savoy Row -- a cut so severe it might
almost have been a uniform. His hair was immaculately coiffed, his choice
of accessories impeccable, and he carried himself in a way that made mere
ramrods look bent and crocked by comparison. He might have been only a
civilian, outside the chain of command, but he bore himself like someone
who knew that his every demand would be backed by some higher authority.
Everett had noted this attitude before in certain schoolteachers, policemen,
and the more unfortunate class of cleric.
This, he thought, does not bode well.
The man glanced around like some anthropologist studying the quaint native
costumes, then gave Michaelson the most cursory of nods. "I'm Inspector
Daniel M. Scott: Scott of the Yard!" he announced. "I take it you're
"You are correct," said the senior captain. His manner also did not bode
well for the future.
The inspector handed him a folder. The man's gestures were crisp and
precise, as if they'd been drilled. "I've been sent to get to the bottom of
this matter," he told Michaelson. "The Admiral's office has instructed you
to give me every cooperation. You'll find your orders here. As soon as
you're prepared, I'd like a briefing on what you've discovered."
The man gave them a nod that clearly did not suggest he regarded them as
equals. Then he pivoted neatly on his heels and marched off toward the
visiting officers' accommodations, followed by a servant. The airmen stood
with open mouths, watching him depart.
Michaelson was the first to recover. "This is an unfortunate development,"
"I daresay," Everett ventured. There was little point in rejoicing at an
adversary's discomfiture when that discomfiture might easily become your
No one else spoke for a moment.
At last the senior captain shrugged.
"We can console ourselves with the thought that matters are unlikely to get
worse," he said. "What else could go wrong today?"
The answer arrived in the form of a bicycle messenger. The man braked to
a stop, dismounted, and gave Michaelson an apprehensive salute. "Excuse
me, sir," he announced. "It appears there has been some trouble at the
Next week: My Previous Visit Was So Much Fun I Just Had To Return...
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