Episode 512: Another Part Of The Equation
They gathered in the Flying Cloud's mess hall to examine the
document Pierre had spirited away from the Germans. This proved to be a
sketch of an island, with notes written in Cyrillic. After consulting the
Almanac and making some assumptions regarding the translation of local
names into Russian, Jenkins concluded that it represented Nendo in the
Santa Cruz Islands.
"Isn't that one of the sites Mister Cartwell visited with the
Philadelphian when he was looking for squidbats?" asked
Everett considered the source from which they'd obtained this information
and suppressed a sigh. "So we understood from Miss Wilcox and Miss Blaine.
Let us hope the place is still intact. What does it have in the way of
Jenkins consulted the Almanac again and frowned. "These do not appear to
be particularly extensive. We might not be able to expect resupply."
"Given the place's obscurity, this doesn't come as a surprise," Everett
observed, "Miss Sarah, what is the status of our consumables?"
The island girl didn't need to glance at her clipboard. "Gas cells are 71%
full, and we have 1900 gallons of fuel and 7,250 lbs of ballast," she said
Everett nodded. "That should serve. Mister Iverson, plot us a course
The Santa Cruz Island were not particularly noteworthy for the mark they'd
made on history. For many generations, the only Europeans to frequent them
had been whalers and blackbirders -- the notorious slavers who `recruited'
laborers to serve in the plantations, fisheries, and mines of the South
Pacific region. The Royal Navy had helped put an end to this scourge in the
19th Century -- an accomplishment of which it could be justly proud. Since
then, the islands had enjoyed benign neglect from a succession of Colonial
powers, most recently the Crown.
Lata, near the mouth of Graciosa Bay, was every bit as rustic as the
Almanac had implied. Its air station was clearly inadequate to handle a
vessel of the Flying Cloud's size, so Everett sent a party down by
Transporter, then stood offshore to conserve fuel and ballast. The airmen
stepped from the hoist platform to find that a crowd of islanders had
gathered to watch -- it seemed a visit from the Royal Naval Airship
Service was a significant event here.
A young man in tropical garb stepped forward to greet them. "Good morning,"
he said politely. "I'm Andrew Merrit, Junior-Assistant-Under-Administrator
for the Santa Cruz Islands. Is there some way I might be of assistance?"
"I'm Lieutenant Iverson, Royal Naval Airship Service, and these are my
companions, Jenkins and Pierre," said Iverson. "We're trying to locate a
site that may contain material of interest to the Admiralty."
The administrator seemed amused by the possibility. "It's difficult imagine
that anything here might be of interest to the outside world," he chuckled.
"Do you know where this place might be?"
"We have a map of the site," said Iverson. "If we've interpreted it
correctly, it points to this village on the southwest coast."
Merrit studied the sketch and nodded. "Of course," he said, as if to
himself. "This would be the village of Bwang."
"Bwang?" marveled Jenkins. "Is that really its name?"
Merrit shrugged. "One grows accustomed to these things. The local
residents speak of a haus same tamberan, which would translate to
something like `Science Spirit House'."
Iverson frowned. "The name seems suggestive," he said cautiously. "Do you
have any idea what it might signify?"
The administrator gave another shrug. "Not in the slightest," he admitted.
"I've seen the thing myself and it's nothing more than an abandoned
bungalow. I'll be happy to loan you my launch if you wish to pay it a
They reached Bwang shortly after noon. The village's inhabitants seemed to
be enjoying an extended lunch, but the airmen had no problem finding their
destination on their own. This proved to be an abandoned two-room bungalow
nestled beneath the palms. It was obviously of local construction -- the
design, materials, and craftsmanship all attested to this -- but somehow it
seemed out of place, as if it was a property from some entirely different
"You noticed it too, sir," Jenkins remarked to Iverson.
The lieutenant nodded. "Yes, though I can't put my finger on the anomaly.
Perhaps the interior will offer some insight."
The front room had apparently served as a living and sleeping area. Its
furnishings were rudimentary -- a hammock, wicker chairs, some chests of
drawers, and a few vanity items that suggested the occupant had been female.
Most of the personal items had been removed, but the ones that remained
were in some disorder, as if their owner had left in haste.
Pierre examined an article of clothing that had never been intended to see
the light of day. "Could this have fit our mysterious Natasha?" he
"It's impossible to say," Jenkins observed. "The fairer sex is privy to
secrets that even the RNAS Signal Corps does not understand."
Iverson noticed a familiar-looking poster of woman in bathing apparel
accompanied by the legend `You look better in a Ujelang'.
"What is this inscription in Cyrillic?" he asked, pointing to a scrawl at
Jenkins frowned. "It translates to something like
`this is ironic'.
I am at a loss to explain this. Perhaps the contents of the other room will
be more informative."
The back room had been adapted for use as an office or workshop. A desk by
the far wall was littered with the remains of what must once have been some
complicated electronic device -- a confusion of smashed chassis, broken
wires, and shattered valves. Iverson noted a hammer that lay amidst the
wreckage. "It appears that someone destroyed this equipment deliberately,"
he observed. "Could it have been a wireless set?"
"I very much doubt it," said Jenkins. "I don't see any sign of the
necessary coils or antennae connections."
Pierre had already begun removing the drawers to examine their contents.
Like the ones in the front room, these appeared to have been emptied by
someone in considerable haste to leave. After he'd finished his
inspection, he reached inside the desk to recover a set of papers that must
have fallen behind them.
"These are covered with equations written in a feminine hand," he observed.
"Can either of you determine what they mean?"
"Not immediately," Jenkins confessed. "I imagine they were left by Miss
Natasha. There cannot be an unlimited number of mysterious Russian woman
wandering about the Pacific. Let us see what else we can find."
A search of the rest of th bungalow turned up nothing, but as the airmen
left the building to make their way back to the beach, something caught
"Qu'est-ce que c'est?" he exclaimed as he crouched to examine something next
to the path. This proved to be a small notepad someone had dropped, then
trodden into the dirt. The passage of more than one rainy season had
reduced most of it to pulp.
Jenkins produced tools from his satchel and began to extract Pierre's find,
taking care to disturb it as little as possible. "I'm not sure how much of
this material can have survived," he told the others, "but we'll wish to
take it back to Cairns for examination."
Next week: They Were Both Incomparable Achievements...
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