Episode 277: Questions, Some Answers, and a Fateful Decision
Murdock and Sarah's would-be assailants had been imprisoned in the brig at
Fort Stosenberg. Since their misdeeds involved members of the armed
forces of a friendly power, Captain Arnold felt this was a military rather
than a civil matter, and Acting Governor-General Gilmore had been only too
glad to wash his hands of matter. This gave Everett an opportunity to
interview the prisoners himself.
The brig was a legacy of America's struggle against Filipino
revolutionaries after the Spanish-American War, so its accommodations were
reasonably humane. Unlike their Spanish predecessors, who might have
subjected detainees to torture or held them indefinitely without trial,
Americans prided themselves on following English legal traditions. These
included habeus corpus, the right to confront one's accusers in
court, and a certain standard of decency. Everett followed a guard to the
clean well-lighted cell where the leader of the attackers was being held.
They found the prisoner studying his surroundings with a sullen expression.
Something about the man's attitude suggested he would have preferred a
"Listen up," announced the guard. "This here's Cap'n Ev'rett, commander of
the crew you attacked. He's gonna ask you some questions. If you know
what's good for you, you'll give 'im some answers."
The prisoner seemed unconvinced by this speech. Everett had some doubts
about its effectiveness himself, but there was no help for the matter. He
drew himself up and fixed the man with his most authoritarian stare.
"Why did you attack my people?" he demanded. "Was this on your own
initiative or were you acting under orders of another?"
The prisoner did not deign to reply. Everett thought he detected a hint of
contempt in the man's gaze. He wasn't surprised by this. As an officer in
the Royal Navy Airship Service, he had some knowledge of the traditions of
other Powers, and self-sacrificial loyalty to one's superiors seemed to be
a consistent thread in Japanese history.
"Very well," he observed. "I will pose this same question to your
companions. If one of them answers, he may receive clemency, but matters
could become harder for the rest of you."
The prisoner gave a derisive snort. "You try Prisoner's Dilemma," he said.
"That not work with Japan people."
The guard gave Everett a glance of sympathy. "Don't you hate it when they
do that?" he muttered.
Everett stifled a sigh. "It was worth a try."
"I take it the fellows were not very informative," Jenkins observed later.
"We should hardly have expected otherwise," Everett observed. "Their
culture still labors under the misapprehension that unquestioning respect
for Authority is a virtue."
There was no need for him to elaborate. The terrible conflict of the
previous decade had taught Europeans the folly of such an attitude.
Authority might deserve attention, and even benefit of the doubt, but
respect was another matter. Respect had to be earned. And it could be
forfeited by an unnecessary war.
Still, there was no point in dwelling on lessons others had yet to learn.
"Mister MacKiernan," Everett asked, "what is our status regarding resupply
Like any good exec, MacKiernan had this information at his fingertips.
"We've finished regassing, brought aboard a full load of fuel and ballast,
and Pierre has restocked the commissary," he replied. "Abercrombie is
still installing the new ballast valves, but he reports this work will be
done by 0600 tomorrow. Iwamoto took this opportunity to overhaul the
lubrication system on the Number Two engine."
Everett nodded. "We must commend his initiative. I believe I'll go aft to
see how he's progressing."
The Number Two Engine Car was a narrow streamlined shell located beneath
the keel, 177 feet forward of the airship's stern cone. Its interior was
dominated by the gleaming mass of the twelve-cylinder supercharged diesel.
Like the ship itself, the engine's origin remained a mystery. It bore a
sufficiently exact resemblance to a Maybach VL-3 that parts were
interchangeable, but subtle details of workmanship made it clear this
machine had not come from any factory in Germany. They had no reliable
way to measure its maximum power output, but this almost certainly
exceeded 800 horsepower.
Iwamoto was sitting on a stool next to the oil pump housing. The engineer
had unbolted the cover, removed the impeller, and was busy replacing the
bearings. In spite of the inherent filthiness of this job, his overalls
and hands looked spotless. Apparently he was a member of some social class
that did not get dirty, no matter how demanding the circumstances.
"At ease, Mister Iwamoto," said Everett, forestalling the man's impulse to
snap to attention. "How is your work going?"
"Konichi wa, Captain-sama," said Iwamoto. "Work going well.
Finished inspected oil lines and fittings. Now perform service interval of
Had this choice of words been intentional, wondered Everett? It furnished a
ready opening for the questions he meant to ask. "I take if you're familiar
with the plant's service history," he observed.
"Hai," said Iwamoto. "I come with engines."
"I appreciate your diligence," Everett told him. "I also appreciate your
coming to the aid of Lieutenant Murdock and Miss Sarah yesterday. It's
fortunate you happened to be in the vicinity. I imagine you were visiting
some acquaintances in the Dilao district."
Iwamoto replied without hesitation, as if he'd anticipated this observation.
"Many people having friends in Dilao," he said. "Different friends."
Everett had no trouble recognizing the implication. "Might these different
groups of `friends' be associated with different factions in Japan?" he
"This possibilities," said the engineer. "Some possibilities I cannot
Everett studied the man's expression. It gave nothing away. Or did it?
"When we found this vessel, she belonged to a group of German nationalists,"
he observed. "I've wondered if she might have been built by some comparable
group of Asian nationalists with whom the Germans later had a falling out.
This hypothetical group might also be connected with our friends on the
Was that a hint of a nod?
"I cannot speaking," the engineer said carefully. "But different factions
may have strifes, and one faction might taking steps to..." he paused for a
moment, as if trying to remember how prepositions worked, "...stopping bad
"I understand," said Everett. "It would be interesting to know what these
`bad plans' might be."
"Hai," agreed the engineer. "Other people also interesting to know
Wasserman scowled as he handed the Governor the report. His resources
combined with those of his host gave the two men an extensive network of
agents throughout the Pacific, but the information this network provided was
not always cause for joy. "It seems our allies made another attempt to take
some of Everett's people in the Philippines," he said. "They failed."
"We should not be surprised," said the Governor. "The Americans spent the
better part of a decade fighting the Moro insurgency. They would hardly
allow someone to kidnap visiting naval personnel from under their noses."
"Perhaps," grumbled Wasserman, "but if our vreiden continue these
attempts, it's only a matter of time before they `give the game away' as the
Englishers would say."
The Governor's smile was not the expression of a man with scruples. "They
seem to have recognized this fact," he replied. "Everett has been trying to
find this packet, the Shiratori Maru. Our allies have decided to
stop interfering with this search, and take more direct measures to ensure
that it doesn't succeed."
Next week: They Converge With Unerring Imprecision...
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