The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 362: Red Star Over The Dutch East Indies

The 'Brotherhood of Workers'

The Brotherhood of Workers had lifted ship from Da Nang in the morning, bound for Pago Pago. This lay five thousand nautical miles to the east -- a journey that would challenge the vessel's capabilities. The Soviets might have embraced aviation every bit as enthusiastically as the Germans, English, French, and Italians, but airship development in the workers' paradise had taken a somewhat different path. Russian vessels were flawlessly streamlined, as would be expected from a culture famous for its mathematicians and chess players. Their engineering was less remarkable, and fuel consumption was always a concern.

Now Captain Loika sat at his desk, considering the problem of resupply. In this region of colonial powers unsympathetic to the communist cause, the options were limited. He was studying the Almanac, deep in thought, when Tsukanov knocked in the door.

"Comrade Loika, may I come in?" asked the commissar. This was hardly necessary -- a political officer's authority was as pervasive as it was ill-defined -- but it was a mark of the man's character that he offered the captain this courtesy.

"Da, Comrade Tuskanov," the captain replied cheerfully. "I assume you're here to produce some secret orders that will change the entire character of our mission."

The commissar chuckled. "Would that I were so important," he replied. "Operatives at my level are not entrusted with such things. But I did receive some direction from Comrade Yumashev. The Admiral provided us with a list of communist cells in the Pacific to contact if the opportunity permits."

Loika frowned. "How can `opportunity permit' if we barely have enough consumables to reach our primary destination?"

"Some of these cells are in places we could obtain resupply," said Tsukannov. "I call your attention to this one on Sumbawa."

"That's in the Dutch East Indies," Loika objected. "The imperialists are hardly likely to welcome us."

"That may be true," said Tsukanov, "but their subjects are jealous of the rights they retain, and they welcome the chance to defy their overlords."

Loika brightened and reached for a chart. "It's not on a direct line to Pago Pago," he announced after a moment, "but it's not too far off our course, and from there the distance to American Samoa is only seventy eight hundred kilometers. We shall give these people an opportunity to demonstrate their independence."

Captain Loika reduced speed for the flight to Sumbawa, timing their arrival for dawn of the second day after they left Da Nang. This would ensure calm conditions for mooring, conserve valuable fuel, and reduce strain on the engines. These had shown some tendency to overheat, the provisions against ice and snow so essential for operations in Siberia proving entirely useless here in the Pacific.

According to the Almanac, the island had two air stations. On a whim, Loika picked the one in Besa. This proved to be a small port to the west of the enormous bay that split Sumbawa almost in half. The presence of a mosque and subtle features of the architecture suggested a Malay influence, but otherwise there was little to distinguish the place from dozens of other small seaports in the Dutch East Indies. A modest Government House and an ancient a patrol boat flying a Dutch flag were the only signs of a colonial presence.

The other side of the bay was dominated by a massive caldera. Its flanks were covered with jungle, but the upper slopes had been blasted clean of life by some event of unimaginable violence. Tsukanov glanced through the Almanac and nodded.

"That must be Mount Tambora," he announced. "According to this entry, it was the site of a massive volcanic explosion in April of 1815. The blast was even bigger than the one in Siberia."

Loika gazed at the shattered peak. It looked as bleak and lifeless as the Moon. "Imagine what it would mean if someone could turn that power into a weapon against the capitalists," he suggested.

The commissar shook his head. "Comrade, you know as well as I do that this could never be acceptable on moral grounds. Too many innocent civilians would die. We have both seen war. We both know what it means."

Loika nodded. He and the commissar had been sounding each other out on issues of morality and politics ever since they'd left Kamchatka. It seemed they were in agreement on this one.

The Brotherhood of Workers's arrival in the Sultanate of Besa did not go unnoticed. If the airship's unusual lines hadn't been enough to reveal her nationality, the bright red stars painted on her hull and fins were something of a give-away. A small group of White Russian exiles gathered outside the air station to heckle the crew as they disembarked. The Sultan's constabulary watched in amusement, making no attempt to intervene.

"Why do these fools support a lost cause?" wondered Loika. "The will of the people has triumphed. The czarist regime is over forever."

Tsukanov frowned. "They could still represent some danger to the State," he observed. "We'll see what our contacts can tell us. According to the Admiral's information, they will be camping near Mount Tambora, pretending to be a team of scientists."

No cars were available for hire, so the two Russians chartered a fishing boat to take them across the bay to the village of Pekat, where they were able to obtain horses to carry them into the interior -- a certain amount of resourcefulness was expected from officers of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Airship Fleet. A trail led inland from the village, past a small coffee plantation, to a campsite next to what appeared to be an archaeological dig. Three brawny Scotsmen emerged to confront the approaching riders.

"Who are you an' what are ye doing here?" asked one.

"I am Captain Loika, Directorate of the USSR Airship Forces, and this is my comrade, Commissar Tsukanov," said Loika.

The Scotsmen grinned at this information. "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low, the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain!" exclaimed their leader. "Welcome to Sumbawa! I am Comrade Angus, and these are Comrades Calum, and Duff. How can we help you?"

Loika frowned inwardly. Enthusiasm of this sort was rather embarrassing. "What can you tell us about counter-Revolutionary activity in this area?" asked Tuskanov.

"The South Pacific is a hotbed of reactionary thought!" Angus told them. "The Grand Duchess fled here after she escaped from Yekaterinburg, and she has many followers. They were building some sort of giant bomb to use against the Party, but their organization was infiltrated by a group of German nationalists who stole the thing for themselves."

Loika and Tuskanov exchanged glances. They shared an opinion regarding weapons of mass destruction. "What became of this device?" Loika asked sharply.

"We believe they tested it in the Marshall Islands. There was an enormous explosion on the island of Ujelang last August."

"Has anyone else taken an interest in this matter?" asked Tsukanov.

"Perhaps," said Angus. "We received a visitor from the Royal Navy Airship Service yesterday: a captain named Roland P. Everett. He pretended to be asking about a Korean cultural mission that visited the island, but that was almost certainly a blind to hide his real intentions."

Next week: Whatever Were You Fellows Trying To Accomplish?...

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