Episode 500: Not Quite A Radio Drama, But Radio Does Play A Role
Everett stood at the head of the bridge, gazing into the night. To port, a
track of light led toward the setting moon. To starboard the sky was still
dark, for dawn was hours away. Ahead, hidden by the curve of the Earth,
lay Sarah's Island. What would they find there, he wondered?
They'd resupplied at Norfolk Island -- a lonely dot midway between
Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia -- then steered northeast. This
allowed them to approach their destination from the south, on its
uninhabited side. Would this be enough to hide them from watchers? The
Germans must have done the same, but it hadn't saved them.
He dismissed these worries as unprofitable. One didn't rise to command rank
in the Royal Navy Airship Service without confidence in one's ability to
deal with problems as they arose. "Mister Iverson," he said. "What is
The lieutenant had been busy with pad and pencil. "I put us 90 miles
offshore. The mountains should by coming into view any minute."
Everett glanced at the chronometer and nodded. This matched his reckoning.
"Very good," he said. "Tell Davies to keep watch for other vessels. We
will wish to avoid surprises."
Iverson gave a command over the intercom, then glanced at his captain.
"Do you think we'll encounter the mysterious cruiser?" he asked.
"Under ordinary circumstances I'd expect her to be at her mooring," said
Everett. "Her masters can hardly keep her on patrol without defeating the
purpose of visiting their supply base here, and it would take them some time
to lift ship in response to a report from some coast watcher. But they did
manage to intercept the L-147 and we must wonder how they accomplished
this. Jenkins, have you detected anything that might be a transmission
from a picket boat?"
The signalman looked up from the wireless station. "No, sir," he replied,
"But I'm picking up a faint signal I cannot explain. It's a short
unmodulated tone that repeats every few seconds, as if someone is testing
Everett frowned. The loss of the L-147 also remained to be explained.
Could these two mysteries be related? "Loris," he ordered, "Turn left to
The helmsman spun the wheel and the horizon swung until they were headed
toward the setting moon.
"Sir?" asked Iverson after they'd settled on their new course.
Everett gazed north, remembering something he'd read in the Gazette.
"We know that the Japanese detected the Germans in time to intercept
them. I wonder if this signal might somehow be involved. Jenkins,
wasn't there talk of some spotting instrument that involved radio
The signalman thought this over. "I believe you're correct. A fellow
named Christian Hülsmeyer offered the Admiralty something he called a
Telemobiloscope. If I remember correctly, this was supposed to detect
reflections from metal objects, such as the aluminum in our frames. The
First Lord's office evaluated the machine and rejected it as unreliable."
"If these pulses you detected originate from some analogous device, do you
think our Japanese friends know we're here?"
"Perhaps," said Jenkins, "but we should have detected their outgoing signal
long before they could detect any reflections. Those would have to travel
twice as far, allowing the inverse square law to work in our favor."
"And we picked up the transmissions when we were 90 miles away," mused
Everett. "Let us proceed as if that is the range of their equipment. We'll
continue towards New Zealand, circle back tomorrow evening, and send in the
launch from 100 miles offshore. It's a wooden vessel, which should be
harder for our adversaries to detect."
Launch deployments were always an adventure. At night, in the open ocean
with a swell running, they became even more so. But a combination of
skillful ship-handling and Iwamotos' hand on the winch controls brought the
operation off without serious disaster and now Iverson and Sarah were
motoring north with a following sea. Their craft's 12-cylinder Liberty
engine purred behind them as they climbed the back of each wave, balanced
on the crest, then plunged down the next face.
The sky was beginning to brighten when they reached the coast. There'd
been no sign of the cruiser and they'd trusted the darkness to hide them
from any watchers. Iverson hove to off the only possibly landing site --
the estuary they'd seen two years ago -- and studied the line of breakers.
They might have been the setting for a picture titled
"It could be something of a challenge to get past the bar," he remarked to
The island girl seemed unconcerned. "There's a place where the current
carves a channel," she said cheerfully. "Look for the white rock at the
head of the valley, then bear to port until it's below the tallest peak in
the ridge line. That should take us through."
Should take us through? thought Iverson. How did any of Sarah's people
survive to reach adulthood? But it wouldn't do to remain here until they
were spotted. He lined up the range marks his companion had described,
swung the launch to face them, and advanced the throttle.
Waves rose around them, cresting to become lines of surf. Their craft
lifted on one of the shoulders, surging toward what Iverson hoped was the
gap in the bar. Then they were motoring through the quiet waters of the
lagoon with the breakers behind them.
Iverson ran the launch up onto the beach, then hopped ashore to secure the
painter while Sarah cut branches for camouflage. After they'd concealed
the vessel to their satisfaction, they set off along the path Iverson
remembered from his previous visit. If there were any survivors from the
L-147, this seemed an obvious place for them to head. A brisk climb
brought them to the white rock they'd used for navigation. This had
obviously been placed here on purpose -- a waist-high column of coral
inscribed with carvings than had long ago faded into intelligibility.
"Who raised this marker?" he asked Sarah. "You told us that your people
never ventured to this side of the island."
She seemed amused by this question. "This isn't our work," she chuckled.
"It was left by the Dwellers From The Sea."
"Who were these Dwellers From The Sea?" asked Iverson.
"They fought the Great Battle of Fire with the Dwellers From the Sky in the
Age Before Time. My grandmother told me wonderful stories about it when I
Iverson frowned. This explanation did little to clarify matters. But before
he could ask for more information, Sarah had stepped past him and
raised her spear to a guard position. "Someone's coming," she warned.
Moments later three figures in dust-streaked field clothing rounded a bend
in the trail ahead. Their leader stared at Iverson and Sarah in surprise.
"Was is das?" he demanded.
Next week: He Seemed Trustworthy At The Time...
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