Episode 390: Peculiar Dialectics
Loika and Tsukanov stood at the windows of the control car, gazing at the
wall of clouds behind them. From this distance, it might have been a low
line of cliffs -- this illusion was heightened by the lines of surf that
rolled toward the coastline below. There was no sign of their pursuers.
"We seem to have outdistanced the wolves," Tuskanov remarked.
"That's fortunate," said Loika. "I wouldn't have wanted to start throwing
passengers out of the sleigh."
The commissar chuckled. "Da. That would not have been in
accordance with communist principles. Still, I wonder at our good fortune.
Our escape seemed easy -- almost as if it had been contrived."
"Who would arrange such a thing, and why?" asked Loika
Tsukanov gave a helpless shrug. "I can't even begin to imagine. Perhaps
our guest might have some idea." He glanced toward Karlov, who was studying
the distant clouds with what might have been an expression of satisfaction.
The scientist noticed their gaze. "Thank you for rescuing me from the
English," he told them. "If it hadn't been for you, our cargo would
have fallen into their hands."
Loika noticed this use of the word 'our'. It did much to relieve his
suspicions. It seemed their guest had thrown in his lot with them. "Do
you still intend to destroy the artifact?" he asked.
Karlov paused as if in thought. After a moment he shook his head "Only
as a last resort," he replied. "This prize could be of enormous value to
Soviet science. Can we get it back to Russia?"
Loika glanced at the ballast board and frowned. The chase had left them
with little in the way of reserves. Dialectical materialism might predict
the ultimate triumph of communism, but for now, the capitalists had better
"Not immediately," he admitted. "First we need resupply. We'll have to
find some nearby port belonging to a neutral power."
"That doesn't leave many options," Tsukanov observed. "It will have to be
somewhere in the Dutch East Indies."
Kalov raised his eyebrows. "Surely this is a bourgeois colony."
"Perhaps," said Tsukanov, "but the Dutch have no reason to report us to the
Royal Navy. What does the Nemetskiy have to say?"
Loika leafed through their almanac of the Pacific until he found a promising
entry. "There's a commercial air station at Kupang. It should have the
facilities we need."
The Dutch settlement at Kupang was a confused warren of godowns, houses,
and shops. Urban planning was noteworthy by its absence. Retail
establishments stood cheek-by-jowl next to rubbish heaps -- where it was
possible to tell the difference.
It might not have been a glowing advertisement for the wonders of a market
economy, but its air station was host to shipping from all over the
The handler party picked up the Brotherhood of Workers' lines with
practiced efficiency, ignoring the bright red stars on her sides as if these
were nothing more than Christmas decorations. Mooring went smoothly, and
soon the ship was riding from one of the high masts, flanked by an
old Italian packet and a modern Argentine liner.
Tsukanov marveled at the locals' indifference.
"You'd think Soviet vessels called here every day," he remarked.
Loika studied the passers-by on the field below. Their diversity quite
unlike anything he'd seen in Kamchatka. They seemed drawn from a wide range
of different cultures, ethnic groups, and possibly species.
"In a place like this, we may not seem unusual," he said dryly. "We should
take advantage of this situation to gain some intelligence. Do you think
you could contact the local communist cell without attracting attention
from the authorities?"
The commissar chuckled. "I assume this is a rhetorical question."
Late afternoon found Tsukanov making his way through one of the fringes of
town. It was an unsavory neighborhood, where colonial houses on their way
down in the world met hovels on their way nowhere, and he had little fear
of being noticed. Like any political officer who'd come of age during the
Revolution, he knew how to blend in with the population.
Finding the local communist cell was a challenge, for Commodore Yumashev's
information hadn't covered this port, but the Cause made provisions for
such a circumstance. Tsukanov spoke the code words, made the recognition
signs, and waited. At last, as he was visiting one of the anonymous shops,
the proprietor glanced about to make sure no other customers were
present, eased the door shut, and gave the countersign.
"Greetings, comrade," he said, "I have not seen you before. You must be
from that airship."
"Da," said Tsukanov. "How is the revolution doing here on Timor?"
"Poorly," the man said bitterly. "The workers chafe under their colonial
oppressors, but the Administrator replies with repressive measures, and he
has powerful allies. They've eradicated most of our network."
Tsukanov raised an eyebrow. With one notable exception during the War, the
Dutch had not distinguished themselves as masters of espionage. "Who are
these people?" he asked.
"German nationalists, led by someone known as the Fat Man," said the
shopkeeper. "They seem to have some connection with Ernst Röhm's German
Worker's Party. In return for their aid, the Administrator turns a blind
eye to their activities. Last year they hijacked an airship from this
"Do you think our vessel is in danger?" asked Tsukanov.
The man made a helpless gesture. "I couldn't say, but they must know
you are here."
Loika sighed as Tsukanov finished his report. It seemed they'd escaped the
Royal Navy only to acquire new set of enemies. "This must be the same
nationalist group we heard of from our comrades in Darwin," he said glumly.
"We already have the British trying to intercept us in the air. Now we can
expect these Germans to attack us on the ground."
Tsukanov seemed unperturbed by this prospect. "We just have to lead them
"How will we manage this?" Loika asked skeptically.
"We'll rely on misdirection. We'll begin by filing an Advance Notice of
Arrival for the American naval base in Manila. After we lift ship, we'll
send a coded message to the Comintern in Jakarta instructing them to arrange
a bank draft to pay for resupply there. If our adversaries are as clever as
we believe, they'll notice the transaction, assume Manila was intended as a
blind, and arrange an ambush on Java. This will leave us free to head for
It took Loika a moment to think this over. "Why Sumbawa?" he asked.
"This will allow us to hand our cargo over to those Scottish socialist
archaeologists we met. If questioned, they can claim it was something they
found in their own excavations. Then we wait for the Royal Navy to
intercept us, invite them to board, and when they find nothing, allow them
to escort us back to Russia, in the process protecting us from the German
nationalists. In the meantime, the Scots can ship the artifact to
Loika shook his head in admiration. "How do you come up with these plans?
That one would never have occurred to me in a thousand years."
Tsukanov smiled. "That's why I'm a commissar and you're a captain."
Next week: It Is Possible To Be Too Clever...
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