Episode 448: So, Where Are We Now?
Rain drummed against the windows, streaking the panes, dripping from the
frames, obscuring the view of the world outside. It was the first real
downpour of the wet season, harbinger of things to come, and only a few
sodden figures could be seen out on the field. Everett glanced at them
with a certain amount of envy, for inside Michaelson's office, the mood
"It seems we were too late," the senior captain said sourly. "According
to the officer on the scene, some Assistant District Superintendent named
Eric Blair, our message didn't arrive until after Fuller was gone."
"Do we know the reason for the delay?" asked Jenkins. Everett nodded
inwardly at his aide's strategy. This seemed like a good time for a
Michaelson was having none of it. "It seems there was some confusion
in Rangoon about where to forward it, and we were too preoccupied with the
inquest into the loss of the R-46 to make certain it was delivered."
Everett could recognize implied criticism when he heard it. "At least
the inquest went well," he observed in a move to defuse it.
"Perhaps," said Michaelson. "Inspector Scott acknowledged that he'd
taken command of the vessel, and accepted full responsibility for its
loss, but the manner in which he did this raised as many questions as
Everett raised his eyebrows. "In what way?"
"He did this in the form of a report, in triplicate, with copies going
to the Admiralty, Admiral Wentworth's office in Sydney, and us here in
Cairns. This suggests that he mistrusted one or more of the recipients
and wanted to make sure no one could suppress it."
"He could hardly be worried about the Admiralty, since that's where his
authority came from," observed Jenkins.
"Quite," said Michaelson. "That leaves precisely two possibilities, one
of which is cause for concern. Did he say anything that might shed light
on his attitude towards us?"
Everett noted his adversary's use of the word `us'. "He suggested that
you and I had been under suspicion due to our... connections... with the
Warfields, but were no longer persons of interest," he replied. "What do
we know about Admiral Wentworth's office?"
"The Admiral is a creature of politics, as any officer of flag rank must
become if he hopes to actually receive a flag," said Michaelson. "These
are waters in which it's dangerous to venture. I suspect this was the
true subject of Scott's investigation, for he showed remarkably little
interest in the events of the past year. In particular, he seemed
unconcerned about the explosion that destroyed Ujelang."
Everett nodded in agreement. It was difficult to imagine anything aside
from politics that might seem more important than a weapon that could
annihilate an entire island. "Where does that leave us?" he asked
"With implied responsibility for preventing these renegade nationalist
groups from recovering the secret of the Ujelang Device," said Michaelson.
"We've received no specific instructions on the matter, but if they manage
to reconstruct this weapon, the consequences are unlikely to bring us joy.
Let us review what we know."
Anticipating requests of this sort was one of the marks of a good
signalman. Jenkins had already dug into his satchel to retrieve his
notes. "The original Device was built by the White Russian nationalists
in their hidden laboratory on the coast west of Darwin. We've hypothesized
that the necessary materials were produced at their other hidden laboratory
in the Dutch East Indies. Shortly after the Device was completed, the
German nationalists, under direction of an individual we know of as the Fat
Man, raided both laboratories, stole the things for themselves, and brought
it to Ujelang to test it. We had an opportunity to examine the Device
before the explosions, and the mechanism seemed comparatively simple. This
consisted of a pyrotechnic device that would slam two hemispheres of some
unknown substance together at high speed. This matches the design of the
non-functional duplicate we recovered from Rabaul harbor. It remains to be
determined what the hemispheres were composed of or why their union should
produce such a monumental explosion, but we believe this involves uraninite
ore that has been refined in some special fashion.
"This suggests that the secret of the Ujelang Device involves the refining
process. As far as we know, this information was the sole possession
of the White Russians, and may only be known to one man -- the mysterious
Karlov. The German and Japanese nationalists both seem to be trying to
reconstruct this process. To this end, the Germans stole the equipment from
the White Russian laboratory in the Dutch East Indies, while the Japanese
have obtained duplicates of this equipment and kidnapped an American
chemist who developed a procedure to separate something known as `isotopes'."
Michaelson's smile was anything but convincing. "An adequate summary," he
replied. "This leaves us with four obvious lines of inquiry: the White
Russians, the Fat Man's German nationalists, the Japanese nationalists, and
the laboratories themselves. You have not managed to cover yourselves with
glory during your interactions with the first three groups, so I believe
you should handle the fourth task."
Everett nodded, noting how the Michaelson's references to `we' had been
replaced by `you'. He also noted that the senor captain had made no mention
of Lord and Lady Warfield and the British Union. Was this because the
senior captain was reluctant to risk any inquiry that might suggest
collusion, or that the collusion was real?
How long must our past come back to haunt us? he wondered.
"What are your orders?" he asked, giving no hint of these thoughts.
"You have compiled reasonably complete inventories of the White Russian
laboratory in Australia, and the Japanese laboratory in Burmah," Michaelson
said curtly. "For some reason, you neglected to do the same for the White
Russian laboratory in the Dutch East Indies. You will proceed to the island
on which it is located, correct this oversight, report the results to me,
and await further orders. Dismissed."
It seems we're to serve as a stalking horse, while Michaelson pursues
his own schemes... again, Everett thought to himself. It was
reassuring to know that some things never changed. He wondered what his
other adversaries were doing.
Next week: Here Be Dragons...
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