Episode 557: It Has Become A Different Game
Michaelson's face was expressionless as he studied the reports from Everett
and MacKiernan. The Commodore did not do expressions. But Fenwick noted
that his hands were unusually still. "It seems the German and Japanese
nationalists have renewed their alliance," he remarked, as if this was a
matter of little import.
"Could they be planning an attack on the British Union?" Fenwick ventured --
anything to head off what might be a storm.
"I imagine so," Michaelson replied with what might have been a sigh. "We
should have anticipated this, for their interests are not so very much at
odds. They will be seeking the uraninite refiner Karlov is constructing for
the Warfields. With this in hand, there is no reason why they each couldn't
build a copy of the Ujelang Device for themselves."
"What would they do with the weapons?" Fenwick asked.
"Destroy their nations' governments, of course, to replace these with their
own," Michaelson said curtly. "But the timing of this alliance seems too
fortuitous to be a matter of chance. I suspect the hand of Karlov's
adversary, this Natasha woman,"
"What game are those two playing?" asked Fenwick.
"That is what we must determine, and must determine it now. We have allowed
this to go on long enough," said Michaelson. He picked up his pen, jotted
down two quick messages, and handed them to his aide. "Transmit these to
Captain Everett and Commander using a one time pad."
The Transporter platform set down with a thump. Iverson alighted with as
much grace as he could muster, followed by Jenkins, Pierre, Clarice, and
Emily, and examined their surroundings. The clearing was much as they'd
left it the year before. Vegetation might be reclaiming the circle blasted
by the German nationalist's bomb, but the steam tractor was still where the
Fat Man's people had abandoned it, and the warm Australian sun still
glimmered on the river to the west.
"Why are did Commodore Michaelson order the Captain here?" Clarice asked.
"He's determined to learn something of Karlov's plans, and wonders if the
man might have left something behind in the White Russians' secret
laboratory," Iverson explained. "We know he had a hiding place here."
"Dinki di..." Clarice began, "...and oh look, it's Wallis Stevens general
purpose traction engine!"
"Why are they here?" Iverson whispered to Jenkins as the brunette
rushed off to join her companion.
"They wanted to come, and I believe the Captain felt it might keep them
put of trouble," the signalman said wryly.
Iverson raised an eyebrow. "What trouble could they possibly get into
aboard an airship..." He paused. "Right. Forget I asked."
After collecting the two young women from where they were examining the
steam tractor, the party set off for the cave where the White Russians had
hidden their ill-fated laboratory. It didn't seem anyone had visited the
place in their absence, for there were no footprints in the dust, and the
floor was still littered with spent cartridge cases. Clarice and Emily
examined the walls in the light of their hand torches.
"These rock paintings resemble the ones in the caverns below the secret
Japanese air station in West Australia," Emily remarked. "Here's the same
image of a musician clashing a pair of symbols next to what look like a
Jenkins nodded. "I've begun to wonder about those. According to Miss
Sarah, they match her people's legend of something called the Instruments
of Joy. These were supposed to have magical powers of creation and
destruction. I might have discounted this as myth, but that Italian opera
singer, Antonio Notariello, used the same name for the Ujelang Device, and
this `tree' looks much like the tower of smoke and fire raised by the
The blonde pauses as if reflecting on this coincidence, "Is this where the
White Russians built the Device?"
"So we believe," said Iverson, indicating the drag marks where the Germans
had dragged the thing to the surface. "They locked it in a vault when the
Fat Man's people attacked but the Germans returned with tools to force the
door and take the thing away."
"Where did Karlov hide during the attack?" asked Clarice
"I will show you mademoiselles," Pierre said graciously. He led
the way down the passageway to the anomaly of geometry that hid the
entrance -- an angle that seemed obtuse but acted as if it was acute.
Emily studied this with interest. "This is just like the symbols on that
pendant Clarice found," she remarked. "How does it work?"
"Qui sait," the Frenchman said with shrug. "What matters is what it
Like the clearing where they'd deployed, the hidden chamber was much as
they'd left it. Some animal seemed to have made a nest in the trash Karlov
had left behind, but no one else seemed to have visited it. Satisfied it
was unchanged, they returned to the main cave complex and began to inspect
this for other hidden entrances. This was a time consuming process.
"We haven't found a thing," Clarice complained several hours later.
Iverson finished examining a final section of wall, then lowered his torch.
"So it would seem. Still, Karlov's friends in the Tranquility did
visit this place after we left. That suggests it's of some significance.
What could it be?"
Pierre frowned as if struck by a thought. "I wonder if we have neglected
the obvious. If you would follow me."
Without further explanation, the Frenchman led them back to Karlov's hiding
place. Iverson examined the walls and nodded. "You think there could be
another hidden passage here?" he asked.
"Peut-etre," said Pierre. "It is the only place we haven't looked.
And the man might have left these papers to make us believe there was
nothing more here to find. It is the sort of thing he does."
It was Clarice who found the entrance -- another trick of geometry like the
one that led to the chamber they were in. They negotiated this to find a
harrow corridor -- apparently the work of hands -- marked with more
petroglyphs. These were more abstract than the ones in the main passages,
reminding Iverson of the carvings on the Nui Mana artifact Karlov
had stolen from them in Tahiti. The corridor ended in a room someone had
furnished for habitation, with an electric lantern, a rack of wet cell a
batteries, a cot and bedroll, and a small writing desk. A mechanical
calculator stood on the latter, next to a slide rule and a shelf of books
and journals. Gaps showed where some of these had been removed.
Iverson thumbed through one of the journals. It was filled with numbers
and equations and, some crossed out as if they were in error. By now,
they recognized the handwiring.
"This must be Karlov's work," he observed. "I can't imagine who else
might have come here. But how did he managed to find and furnish this
place without the White Russians knowing?"
"A more important question may be what he was trying to accomplish,"
said Jenkins. "I suggest we take this material back to the ship for
Next week: The Other Player...
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