Going Postal 2: The Naue a Pele Affair
(Author's Note: As with the previous entry in this series, Going Postal: The Fire and Ice Affair, Spikesgirl58 speaks for Napoleon, while Avery11 provides the voice of Illya.)
I need your help, old friend. No one else can help me with this. Think back upon your roots. Remember when you were a child and you told me you befriended a pack of gypsies. I need to you to concentrate and remember. Did they have any spells to stop torrential rain?
You're laughing now, but I'm serious. It's been raining non-stop on the Big Island for three days. Forget that this is the rainy season; if I were a religious man, I'd be gathering wood for an ark.
Downtown Hilo is holding its annual hula competition this week, and one of the locals told me that the chanting wakes up and angers the old gods. I don't know about anger, but they sure aren't happy. I watched a little bit of the dancing on the TV last night and I wasn't happy either. The women are totally clad from head to toe, although the men, who dance in loincloths, look pretty fit.
Hawaii—the word conjures up sun drenched beaches and lovely, bikini-clad women. So, I get here and it starts raining—all the time. Even the fish are donning water wings.
The new field office is coming together nicely, if a bit damp around the edges. Incidentally, we discovered an infestation of lizards in the Communications Room. Over here they call them geckos, and apparently they're welcomed because they eat the cockroaches. And the cockroaches are called B-52's because they fly, and are as big as airplanes.
The local agents want to call in—hang on, I wrote it down—a kahuna to bless the office. Apparently, it's a Hawaiian tradition here. I thought grass skirts and coconut bras were a tradition, too. Alas, they are not.
The THRUSH element over on Oahu seems either to be ignoring us or waiting to see if we're going to present any sort of threat to them. I'm told there is a sort of mutual tolerance policy in effect between our two organizations. Waverly wants to force THRUSH out of the Islands. I'm not sure how quietly they will go.
The rain continues, and the only place I'm dry is in the shower. If you could talk to your gypsy friends, I will dance at your wedding… which is probably as unlikely as the rain stopping.
P.S. You should be receiving your loincloth in another package. Don't eat all the macadamia nuts or you won't fit into it.
You sound bored.
Rain or no, it seems grossly unfair that you are posted to a luxurious Hawaiian resort hotel while I must remain here in Medical, enduring the ministrations of an interminable succession of UNCLE doctors.
My last assignment in Borneo was a living hell from the moment I arrived in Pangsuma. Now, it seems, I have brought back a few choice souvenirs from my mission there. For starters, I have three rather sizable parasitic worms lodged in my left calf muscle. They are called "geography worms," in deference to their tendency to migrate, a movement which creates raised, maplike patterns on the skin. The doctors tell me that the worms cannot be removed surgically, so I must wait several days for the albendazole to take effect. The wait is interminable, and the itching is bad enough to drive a yogi insane. I amuse myself by tracing the worms' nightly progress along my shin with a magic marker pen. But for these miserable parasites, I might be with you in Hawaii now. Alas, the worm turns.
The good news is that the scars from the leeches I picked up in the Kapuas River are fading. Less responsive is the unfortunate rash I acquired from the hours I spent, naked and covered in hyper-acidic mud, while trying to evade members of the Dayak tribe, a rather terrifying bunch of cannibals who seemed hell-bent and determined to eat my liver. Ah, well, as they say in Pangsuma, Tidak apa apa.*
I know of no gypsy spell that can stop your deluge—If I did, I assure you, I would have used it in Borneo. And the only grass skirts and coconut bras I can think of belong to Luther Billis of South Pacific fame. Or possibly that ridiculous dashboard hula doll stuffed with heat-sensitive M4, that we had to retrieve from the Sweet brothers before it exploded all over Manhattan.
Could THRUSH be influencing the weather? They have been far too quiet of late, and you know what that means. Perhaps they have eaten of the tree of Knowledge, and are aware of Waverly's plans to displace them from Paradise.
Thank you for the loincloth, Napoleon. It is, of course, too small.
I'm sorry to hear that you're still in the throes of those worms. As for the rash, I'm sure there are plenty of willing nurses to take pity on you and help you apply some calamine lotion, especially to all those hard to reach spots.
We did a little excavating, and discovered that there is a lava tube running underneath the foundation of the new office. Not only is the architect worried about the lack of structural integrity—now I'm concerned about it being a possible avenue for a THRUSH attack. If they could tunnel into this tube, they would be feet from us. That's enough to make me break out in a rash.
The problem is, as always, funding. Why is it that we have to scramble for money while THRUSH practically bathes in the stuff? It's frustrating. They say crime doesn't pay, but I'm here to say it pays better than being on the right side of the badge.
Currently, I am discussing our options. One would be to flood the tunnel with cement. Another would be to install a security gate. Before we do either option, we need to get down into the tube and see what's what. I'm not tremendously keen on spelunking, but I've been reminded rather forcefully by Waverly that a leader leads by example.
What do you know about lava tubes? I'm told they can stretch for miles, and that you can hide an entire army down in them. The local authorities started getting nervous when I mentioned our plans to investigate, and I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps THRUSH is more involved in the local government than I originally thought.
The social structure is an odd one here. There's a strong sense of Ohana that keeps them very tight lipped, especially when a Haole is snooping around. Even our own Hawaiian agents stay two arm lengths from us—accepting, yet wary of our every move. It's almost as if the islanders still fear the military might that stole their nation from them in the first place. I was reading a book last night -no date (yes, I know that's shocking!) It was written by Queen Lilioukalani and, Illya, the abuse these people took at the hands of Americans, it's enough to make me want to surrender my citizenship. Or perhaps it's just the rain.
Which continues without pause, although I hear it's worse on Maui than here on the Big Island. Did you know that if you took all the other islands, you could pile them onto this one and still have room left over for Massachusetts? Incredible. And they make a darn good cup of coffee here as well. A pack of Kona's best should be accompanying this letter. The beans cost an arm and a leg, but I figure I've owed you one of each over the years. Get after the mailroom if you don't receive it! I've sent them their own gift so that they'll leave yours alone. This place, Hilo Hattie's, it's a great place to souvenir shop, but it's nothing compared to the ABC stores.
P.S. Are you sure the loincloth doesn't fit? I thought I had a good eye when it comes to such things… not that I've been looking, mind you.
It depends on what you mean by "fit."
The worms have been vanquished at last, leaving me free to scratch my wounds with unbridled joy. Would that those unwelcome parasites at THRUSH might be defeated as easily. I thought that I might be allowed to join you in Hawaii, but the doctors insist on keeping me here in Medical for a few days longer, to be certain I have not brought any more "souvenirs" home with me. After seeing the size of the worms in my calf—the largest was nearly three inches long!—I am content to let the doctors have their way.
There is a lava tube running directly under an UNCLE field office? What imbecile is responsible for that bright idea, or should I guess? Do you know if the channel is an active one? If not, how long has it been dormant? This concerns me because the Hawaiian Islands are a geological hotbed, the Big Island particularly so. It would not do to have a sudden flow of lava surging beneath our facility, although such an event would undoubtedly reduce the heating bill. For the survivors.
Leaving the issue of imminent searing death behind for a moment, I will say that I believe you have cause for concern, Napoleon. These lava tube systems are often complex, with branches connecting to one another for miles on end. As you say, whole armies could hide in there. Some of the larger channels may even connect with the ocean, which would leave the field office vulnerable to attack from that quarter as well. THRUSH has been an active presence in the Pacific for at least twenty-five years. What you know, they know. In fact, they probably know more. It is a precarious situation at best.
Perhaps you could gain the trust of one or two of the Native Islanders or, ideally, their kahuna. With the right incentive, they may be willing to assist you in navigating the lava channels, and assessing any potential security risk to our field office. If THRUSH is allowed to gain a greater foothold in the Islands, the resulting power struggle could be utterly disastrous for the traditional Hawaiian community. Paradise would indeed be lost.
The doctors are here for more blood, so I had best sign off for now. By the way, thank you for the coffee—it is a welcome alternative to the thin, bitter swill they serve here in Medical.
In the spirit of Aloha,
Aloha right back at you!
I'm glad the coffee found you. It was a gamble, but it's nice to know the guys in the mailroom do their jobs.
Today was a long and frustrating day. We started to map out the lava tube beneath the new field office. Illya, it runs for miles. The work lights help, but the ground is so porous that, even underground, there was no escaping the rain.
The scientists from the Jaggar Volcano Observatory have come in to investigate. They're the resident experts on volcanoes, and we're awaiting their findings. The last big lava flow that headed in Hilo's direction was in 1935, and the US military dropped bombs to reroute it away from the city. However, you just need to go to any lawn and dig. Beneath the surface, there is lava. It's a reminder of what fashioned these Islands.
Following your advice (stop clutching your chest like that—occasionally, I do listen to you) I've been able to befriend one of our local UNCLE agents. He's a young man named Keoki Aholilani Dole. One of his great uncles was Sanford Ballard Dole, but that's another story. Anyway, Keoki and I went out drinking the other night, and he explained some of the local customs to me. He also took me to meet and speak with his kahuna, a mountain of a man by the name of Hanauhoulani Ka'eo Maluokeakua.
The man speaks with the softest and most lyrical voice that I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. He told me all about the goddess Pele. Now there's a woman to reckon with, my friend. Hana—which is how he's known to his friends, and what I have been privileged to call him—says that, whenever anything's bothering me, I should speak directly to Pele and ask for her guidance in the matter. On Sunday, Keoki and I will head up to Volcano National Park to make an offering to Pele. Apparently, she's fond of gin and some little red berries called ohelo berries. It's probably a useless task, but you can never tell. With THRUSH running around, I'm willing to try anything.
As to who is responsible for the location of the new field office, you can look to the top floor of UNCLE HQ for that one. Mr. Waverly picked it out, mostly because it was cheap and available.
For you to acquiesce to Medical concerns me considerably. Are you telling me the truth, Illya, or trying to shield me from something? Remember, I'm your partner and friend. You can tell me anything.
He kehau ho'oma'ema'e ke aloha
P.S. I'm told that means, Love is like a cleansing dew.
Yes, I am fine, merely a bit tired. I have not been sleeping well since my return, and my stomach has rebelled once or twice—undoubtedly the consequences of readjusting to a diet that does not consist of raw fish, various types of larvae and unripe berries. I wish these headaches would go away. I have asked the nurse to lower the lights in my room, in the hopes that it will help me to sleep.
I am gratified to hear that the lava channel under the field office has been inactive since 1935. It would not do for you to be parboiled in my absence. As for Pele, I suggest—in the strongest terms—that you do not allow your affinity for a good story to cloud your judgment.
I am too tired to write more just now. Perhaps I will be able to sleep.
I think perhaps you need a bedtime story. Allow me.
There once was a man, a fairly good-looking and well traveled guy (or so I' told.) He had been to lots of places and seen many incredible sights.
He came to Hawaii on business and, as part of his mission, arranged to spend time with some of the locals. Among the many topics discussed was the legend of Pele, the Goddess of the Volcano. According to the story, one day Pele stumbled upon her sister in the arms of Pele's lover. Enraged, she poured down her hot anger upon the couple. Her sister called desperately to the other gods, begging for help. The gods, moved to pity, turned the sister into an ohelo berry bush. The lover was turned into a fern. Eventually Pele's anger abated, and she regretted her actions, but it was too late. And this is why, to make Pele happy, you go to the volcano and offer her ohelo berries wrapped in the leaves of the fern.
The guy thought the story was pretty unbelievable, but at the urging of his newfound friends, he agreed to go up to the volcano and make an offering. He prayed to Pele to give him a sign that he was on the right path, but nothing happened.
He got into his car and started back toward his hotel. It was a misty evening, and he was driving slowly to avoid an accident. Suddenly he noticed a pale white dog walking by the side of the road. There are many dogs in Hawaii, but this one struck him as odd because, no matter how he sped up or slowed down, the dog kept pace beside the car. At one point, he swore it even smiled, and seemed to nod to him.
This was all too much for the man, so he stopped the car in order to get a better look at the dog. Except the dog had vanished. Gone -yet there was no place it could have vanished to.
Confused, the guy got back in his car and drove away. Later that night, while waiting for his dining companion to arrive, he picked up a book about the Islands. In it, he read that Pele frequently appears to people as an old woman, a young maid or a white dog.
I hope you're sleeping now, Partner, because I'm still having trouble closing my eyes and not seeing that dog.
Dear Mr. Solo:
My name is Dr. Maurice Rousseau. I am UNCLE New York's new Chief of Medicine, and I'm writing this on behalf of your partner.
Mr. Kuryakin is suffering from a bacterial infection called leptospirosis. It's caused by an organism called a spirochete, a little something he picked up while in Borneo. There are any number of ways of contracting the illness—in Mr. Kuryakin's case, he probably ate some raw fish, or ingested contaminated water during his fording of the Kapuas River. The bacteria enter through the body's mucosa, the soft buccal membrane of the mouth for example, or the lining of the stomach. The parasite can also be contracted through an open cut or wound, of which, as you know, Mr. Kuryakin has more than his share.
Once the bacteria have found their way into the body, incubation can take anywhere from two to twenty-five days. Mr. Kuryakin's early symptoms—vomiting, headaches, chills, sensitivity to light—resembled the flu, which has been going around HQ recently, so we didn't think much of it. Unfortunately, your Mr. Kuryakin was not very forthcoming about his condition, so it wasn't until he began exhibiting signs of jaundice and his kidneys began to shut down, that we realized we were dealing with something more serious.
I have to confess, we were pretty concerned two nights ago. His fever spiked, and his condition began to deteriorate. The nurses resorted to giving him sponge baths in an effort to bring his temperature down. Nellie, one of our nurses—you know her, I believe—tells me that he was delirious, kept rambling on about love being "a cleansing dew," or something like that. Oh, and Hoa Kua—whatever that means—on some beach. Probably just his fever talking—hallucinations are fairly common with a temperature that high. His temperature is normal this morning, which means that he's past the worst of it, thank God, and responding to the medication at last.
I want to emphasize that Mr. Kuryakin is strong and healthy—frankly, the man has the constitution of an ox. And the stubbornness of an ass, but please don't quote me. With time, he will recover completely. Unfortunately, he'll be out of commission for the next month or so. Waverly says to contact him if you want a temporary partner in the interim.
When Mr. Kuryakin wakes up, I'll let him know you were asking for him. Try not to worry, Mr. Solo—your partner is receiving the very best of care.
Maurice Rousseau, MD
Chief of Staff
I am fine. Still tired, but awake and on the road to recovery. Dr. Rousseau is an alarmist.
I had thought to join you in Hawaii, but that will have to wait for now, as the Medical staff seems determined to keep me here for the foreseeable future. At least the nurses are happy—they get to bathe me twice daily.
Regarding your experience with the dog—seriously, you cannot be so gullible as to believe the mongrel actually was Pele? Oh, Napoleon, what have you gotten yourself into now? Next, you will be telling me that you had lunch with the menehunes.
I've given up trying to talk to you in person. Every time I call, you're either asleep or indisposed. If Dr. Rousseau was a woman, I'd accuse you of stepping out on me. Still, Waverly assures me that you're recovering nicely, and slated to be sent to an UNCLE spa to regain your strength. Even with all the semi-clad women and healthy food at your spa, somehow, I wouldn't trade them for the thrill of a good mission.
The sun has finally come out, and I now can see why people fall in love with Hilo. When the sun shines, so does the city. Yesterday and today have been jewels of days, but rain is in the forecast again for tomorrow.
We did some additional exploration of the tunnels, and discovered a couple of skeletons and artifacts. We're on hold while the Bishop Museum sends out an expert to authenticate them. Hana, my kahuna friend, came in and said some prayers, and the local halau performed a hula for the bones of the dead. It was eerily beautiful, watching them dance to just a gourd and small rocks that they held in their hands.
Mr. Waverly tells me there's an expert on Oahu with whom he's consulting regarding THRUSH's presence here on the Big Island—a fellow by the name of Mikala Kaha'i. Any help in a storm, I suppose.
Keoki turned up yesterday, looking like he'd been worked over by a steam roller. He couldn't give us much detail, but I'm willing to bet THRUSH is sending us a warning. It would seem that our presence is to be tolerated—as long as we know our place.
My new partner is a young woman, Kapualani. She's lovely, and has a right cross that would rival yours. Our plan is to go undercover as a honeymooning couple over on the Kona side to see if we can uncover any suspicious activity. Heaven only knows if that Oahu agent will come up with anything useful.
In the meantime, I've started background checks on the city council and the mayor, just to be on the safe side. There's a cement company standing by as soon as the Museum guy gives us the thumbs-up to go ahead with our plans. They're going to dump as much concrete as it takes to fill up that damned hole. If THRUSH ever tries to invade, it won't be through a lava tube.
Get some rest, and know that I think of you often. I could have sworn I saw you yesterday, but it was just wishful thinking.
P.S. If you can come up with a reasonable explanation of how a dog can keep pace with a car doing fifty, I'd love to hear it. In the meantime, I like to think I've got a goddess on my sixes.
T'voyu mat! If Dr. Rousseau would only leave me be, and go take care of his other patients, I would be free to get well. The man is a pit bull, Napoleon. "Stick out your tongue, Mr. Kuryakin. Take this pill, Mr. Kuryakin. Pee in this cup, Mr. Kuryakin." Chyort vos mil! If I have to endure much more of his endless fussing, I may have to kill him. Fortunately, I am scheduled to be transferred out of here soon—the resulting peace and quiet cannot come quickly enough for me. Prokl'atyj durak! Glopyj, bespechnyj, vysokomernyj svoloch'! Der'mo!*
Stepping out on you? How can I step out on you when you are so frequently out—stepping?
So, you have fallen in love with Paradise, have you? A sunny jewel of an island filled with all the semi-clad women you could possibly want, and a lovely new female partner to boot. Enough women for a hundred rainy days, I will wager.
As regards the lava channel—sealing the entrance in concrete would seem to be the best solution to the problem, but are you certain the construction company supplying the concrete can be trusted?
There has been a growing yakuza presence in the Islands since the War and, historically, they have infiltrated the culture through groups such as the longshoremen and the construction industry. If the yakuza, with their millions of dollars in annual income, were to form an alliance with THRUSH, it would be a dark day for the Islands, and for UNCLE. You may want to add the construction company to your list of background checks, just in case. Also, keep an eye out for workers with large, Asian-style tattoos—dragons, Japanese kanji, that sort of thing. The yakuza traditionally adorn themselves with tattoos to represent their individual clan loyalties. By the way, there are female warrior yakuza as well, so choose your dalliances with care.
I will be interested to hear what the authenticator from the Bishop Museum has to say about the skeletons you found in the lava tube. And by the way, you should probably check that fellow's credentials as well. Given what happened to Keoki, you cannot afford to be careless.
I am certain that there is a logical explanation for the incident with the dog, Napoleon. Do not trouble yourself further about it.
Ah, the orderlies are here with my walking papers—well, wheeling papers, as I am not allowed to walk just yet. At any rate, I am getting out of here at last! I shall write you from the steam room at the UNCLE spa.
Enjoy your honeymoon in Kona.
I'm hoping you don't write from the steam room—the paper will never hold up.
I haven't seen any yakuza around here, although it hasn't been from lack of looking. I did get into a bit of trouble with 'the wife' from constantly eyeballing the guys on the beach. Told her I was looking for suspects, but I'm not sure she bought it. Agent Kapualani has a tattoo, not of a dragon though—it took me three martinis and a bottle of wine in order to check. The woman can drink nearly as much as you. She's clean.
The Bishop Museum representative came and left with the remains. They weren't royal, thank our lucky stars for that, and the project is back on course. I ran the concrete company through the files back home and it came up clear. I'm not sure for how long, though. The same day the report came back, the owner was offered a large amount of money for his business. Being an honest man, he fulfilled all his contracts prior to giving his answer. By the time you read this, the tunnel should be nicely filled in. If THRUSH attacks, it won't be that way. Hoisted upon their own petard!
I've noticed that three 'for rent' signs around our building have gone, and we're checking on the identities of our new neighbors. All three have Japanese connections. You might well be on to something, my friend.
Keoki is out of Medical and back on light duty. I can't say I will hate being partnered with him again. Kapualani is a fine agent, but when her back gets up, she can put Angelique to shame. Remind me to tell you what happened in the bar. It's nearly time for the last mail pick-up and I want to post this letter.
Continued good thoughts for your full recovery,
P.S. That 'expert' from Oahu is becoming one very large pain in my backside. Every time I take a step, Mikala Kaha'i questions my actions. He makes me feel like a first class rookie at times. I'd like to get him alone in a dark alley for a few minutes.
So Agent Kapualani has come and gone, has she? And so soon after the honeymoon. Tragic, how many marriages end in divorce these days. Had you asked me, I could have told you that she wasn't your type.
It sounds as though THRUSH is quietly surrounding the field office, buying up the adjacent properties using yakuza-run shell companies as intermediaries. Why all the subterfuge? Why not merely blow up the facility and be done with it? Something more is going on, I feel certain.
You mentioned in an earlier letter that Mr. Waverly arranged for the purchase of this particular property because it was cheap. I wonder, were there other parties interested in the listing? If so, the real estate agency should be able to give you the names and contact information of the prospective buyers. Perhaps what THRUSH wants is not our field office, per se, but the land on which it is built. Which begs the question: Why? What is it about the property that so interests them?
You seem to dislike this "expert" from Oahu with a mighty passion. What is it about Mikala Kaha'i that sets your teeth on edge? Stubborn arrogance, perhaps? The need to be in charge? Or is it something else entirely? Whatever the problem, Napoleon, the fellow has been thoroughly vetted by Waverly, and that is a rare endorsement indeed. He sent the young man to you for a reason—I suggest you listen to what he has to say. The two of you can resume your macho posturing when the mission is over.
Sven is here to give me my massage, and I mustn't keep him waiting. Take care of yourself, Napoleon. I leave you to your ogling.
Sven? Massage? Sven?
I think Mikala Kaha'i means well, and some of his suggestions do have merit. It's just, well, it would be different if it was you. Does that make sense? When you make suggestions, I know it's because you have the Affair in mind. This guy, well, I'm just not sure. Still, he IS one of us.
Following YOUR suggestion, I've started doing title searches of the surrounding buildings. There's a common thread—a single company, buying up the property around us using various fronts. I think you may be right—they aren't interested in the building as much as the property beneath it. The branching of the main lava tube was quite extensive, and I'm beginning to wonder if there's a more insidious plan in the works. You see, in World War Two, lava tubes were used as bomb shelters. For some reason, my mind keeps drifting back to my previous mission and those missile silos.
I visited the tiki bar where Keoki was ambushed. During the day, it attracts a large number of tourists and serves watered down drinks. At night, the drinks become stronger and they're running numbers in a back room. I tipped off the local police, anonymously, of course, and they were raided—the next day. Naturally the police didn't find anything. Imagine that. I passed the information on to my little ray of joy in Oahu so that they can start an investigation into the matter.
Hana reminded me that King Kamehameha used to move his armies through the lava tunnels. I wonder if THRUSH is considering the same sort of attack, although with the exception of the sudden rash of real estate purchases, they have been very quiet. Almost too quiet, if you know what I mean. When they get like this, I start to get nervous.
Keoki and I are going to head up to Volcano House and make use of their spa. They have one that's powered by the volcano itself. There's also another series of lava tunnels up there, and we intend to do a little exploring beyond the barricades.
Enjoy your massage,
P.S. Just exactly what IS my type, Partner?
You tell me.
It was a Swedish massage. One must occasionally take what one is offered, don't you agree?
I am glad you have decided to trust the expert from Oahu. The fellow may be annoying, but he comes highly recommended, by Mr. Waverly himself, no less. I would be inclined to trust such a man. And of course, you have Keoki to watch your back in my absence.
Missile silos—ah, yes, I had forgotten about that. Do you mean to suggest that THRUSH is planning a airborne assault of some kind, intending to follow up with an attack from beneath our facility? Napoleon, that makes no sense. First of all, the tunnel beneath UNCLE's facility has been sealed, so there can be no attack from below ground. And secondly, it is a field office we are talking about, not a major Headquarters. Why would THRUSH go to all that trouble for so insignificant a target?
And yet, your suggestion that the missiles are somehow involved in all this strikes a chord of truth with me -
Bozhe moy, Napoleon! Could there be an underground launch site inside one of the lava tubes—one located, not under our facility, but under one of the adjacent properties? You have sealed the main channel, but THRUSH could be set up in one of the branch tunnels. From an underground site, they could launch their missiles toward any nation of their choosing—the Soviet Union or North Korea, for example—and everyone would think UNCLE was to blame for the attack! Our credibility would be ruined. We would lose our funding. THRUSH could assure the demise of UNCLE with a single, crushing blow.
And only Waverly's chance purchase of that property stands in their way. Thrush must believe that we know their plan—that is why they have been buying up the adjacent lots, and why Keoki was attacked. Napoleon, If I am right about this, you must find that launch site and destroy it! There is little time to lose!
P.S. The National Seismographic Institute reports an upswing in tremor activity in your area. They believe that an eruption is imminent. Perhaps you should skip the spa.
You hit it right on the head when you mentioned that the seismic activity is on the upswing. The Oahu agent, Mikala, has been conferring with several of the guys from the Volcano Observatory, and something is definitely going on with the Kilawea Crater. The scientists have been picking up swarms (their word for mini-earthquakes) for the past three months. The quakes are getting stronger, and the lava cap fro the Halemaumau Crater is starting to shrink. They think the eruption might be centered around the Byron Ledge area. Coincidentally, that's precisely where the lava tube beneath our field office originates.
The adjacent buildings show no sign of tenant activity, confirming our suspicion that it's not the building, but the land itself, that is of interest. We've completed the pouring of the concrete -it's rock solid—and the field office opened without fanfare. The last thing we want is to draw more attention to ourselves. Apparently this is THRUSH's desire as well, as they have moved their base of operation to Mountain View, a small town about halfway up the side of Mauna Loa. Meanwhile, Keoki and I have relocated to Volcano House. It sits on the side of the Kilawea Crater. We take turns going into Mountain View, where Keoki visits with friends at an anthurium farm and I play tourist, feigning an interest in the bakery and the local theatre.
I'm even starting to dream in Hawaiian. Last night, I dreamed that I was walking along a lonely stretch of road. I didn't recognize it, but somehow I knew it was somewhere on the island. An old woman walked up to me. She wore a white mu'u mu'u and a lei of ohia blossoms. I greeted her, and she looked at me for a long moment.
"I know you," she said. "You work for your uncle. You help people."
"I do," I replied. "May I help you?"
"Help Hilo. Tell them Pele is coming. Tell them to prepare themselves for her arrival." And then she was gone.
Illya, I don't mind telling you that I woke up with a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yet there is something in the air. Something is coming. I told Hana about my dream, and I could see that it unsettled him. He took his halau up to the crater, and the two of them performed a series of chants and dances to Pele. It was really beautiful in that setting, and a bit surreal.
The longer I spend here, the more I'm beginning to understand about the Hawaiian culture—it's so much more than what tourists see. It's thrilling and a bit unnerving to watch events unfolding around me. On the one hand are the scientists with their facts and figures, and on the other, Hana with his spiritual convictions. I seem to be trapped in the middle with Pele.
As I write this, an earthquake made my lampshade sway and the shutters rattle. Wishing you were here now, more than ever,
I, too, have had a dream.
I saw a volcano rising ut of the earth, lava spewing from the open caldera. The lava shot high into the sky and, even in sleep, I could feel the blast of heat upon my face. I made to turn away when suddenly a woman appeared, rising up from the center of the flames. She was very beautiful. "I am Pele," she said, and her voice was like thunder. "I am the flame of passion, and the power of purpose. I devour and I create."
I held out my hands, and saw that they were filled with reddish-purple berries. "For you," I whispered, and bowed low.
She smiled. "For you," she answered, and spread her arms wide. As I watched, the land around her blossomed, the hills and valleys filled with flowers of every kind. Groves of trees sprang up where the lava had touched, growing green and tall, their branches heavy with ripening fruit. Everywhere I looked, there was life abounding. It was glorious, a paradise. A sanctuary. "For your service and your suffering," she said. "Save my Island beloved Hoa Kua." And then she was gone.
When I woke, my face was wet.
Napoleon, you know that I have always maintained that superstition is born of ignorance. Yet something about this dream touched me, deep in my soul. I do not know what to think.
For now, I shall take refuge in what I know best. An eruption is imminent, Napoleon. That much is certain. Yet THRUSH has moved its base of operations closer to the caldera. Why? Surely they know what is coming. Could they be planning to use the power of the eruption for some sinister purpose, as yet undiscovered? You must find out before it is too late.
Events are coming to a head. Whatever THRUSH has planned for the island, it will be soon. In my absence, trust your newfound friends to assist you.
It begins to feel like the end of the world, and yet there is hope in my heart as I write this. If a garden can spring forth from the mouth of destruction, what other miracles might be possible?
P.S. You didn't answer my question.
Your dream is similar to one Mikala had. He was very upset when I spoke to him about it. Fnny, but it was the first time I felt a connection with him, as opposed to the annoyance that usually accompanies his calls. Guess it just shows that if I can put up with you, I can put up with anyone.
THRUSH has definitely moved its base closer to the magma chamber. The question, as you so succinctly put it, is why? We've seen the earthquake machine—why not one to harness lava? Could they have found a way to engineer an eruption, not randomly, but generated at a specific target? Imagine the damage if they could trigger an eruption at the United Nations, or the Vatican. THRUSH would be able to hold the world hostage.
I wonder about the yakuza connection. Japan has developed some of the most advanced theories with regard to harnessing the energy of volcanoes. If some of those scientists have elected to work for THRUSH, we could be in dire straits, Partner.
We've called in all available agents, and are monitoring the crater twenty-four hours a day. The earthquakes are nearly non-stop now, and a couple have been violent enough to crack pavement. The park is closed to all non-official personnel but, thankfully, our little gold cards are enough to permit us to stay. It's getting a little insane here and, looking down into the crater with its steam fissures, I'm reminded of what Mark Twain said: "The smell of sulfur is strong but not unpleasant to a sinner."
I suspect this affair is drawing to a close, with or without our help. I can only hope that Pele is on our side. I think she is. It feels as if she is.
I know you're an atheist, Illya, although I have the feeling that something in you may have changed recently. A 'ohe pau ka ike I ka halau ho 'okahi —all knowledge is not taught in one school.
Pray for us. Pray for me.
You paint an alarming scenario. Sudden eruptions in places like the Vatican and the United Nations would kill untold thousands of people. With such a weapon, THRUSH could ask for any amount of money, demand any ransom, and get it. World governments would have no choice but to comply.
There is, however, a more unsettling possibility. Such wanton intervention in the rhythms of the planet could have a catastrophic effect upon the world's topography. Allow me to illustrate:
The magma that flows beneath the Earth's crust is in a constant state of motion. It has currents, just as oceans do, and it carries the Earth's continents along with it as it moves, rather like items on a conveyor belt. Tamper with those geothermal currents and you create a cascade effect with far-reaching consequences. Imagine tectonic plates crashing into one another, driven off-course by the shifting currents of magma. Whole continents could break apart, sinking beneath the waves like fabled Atlantis.
THRUH is about to open Pandora's Box, Napoleon. They think only of making themselves rich and powerful, but they are quite literally "playing with fire." They must be stopped, before they do something irretrievably foolish.
There was a geophysicist named Takahiro Fujishima, working at the Center For Geophysical Research near Mount Kuchinoerabujima in Japan, who did extensive research in vulcanology. He was interested in harnessing the thermal properties of volcanic energy as a possible fuel source for energy-starved cities. His ideas were scorned, and he was roundly ridiculed by the scientific community. Eventually, he left Japan in disgrace. I heard that he committed suicide several years ago, but possibly someone from THRUSH has appropriated his research. It would be worth checking.
I do not believe the yakuza are involved in these deeper machinations. The clans seem content to reap their ill-gotten gains in the construction, real estate and prostitution rackets. THRUSH is merely using them as a front for the time being. The yakuza will most certainly be discarded once they have outlived their usefulness.
What course of action does Mikala suggest? And what about the missiles? How do they fit in?
It is the Eleventh Hour, Napoleon. You know that I would be with you in Hawaii if I could. In my heart, I am standing beside you, saving the world as we always do. Trust your friends; save the day. We will drink a toast to anything you wish when this Affair is over.
P.S. You still haven't answered my question.
We barely got our last team out of the area before the entire face of Kilawea-iki exploded. It was an incredible display. The explosion is what Mikala calls a "pyroclastic event," very unusual for the Islands. With most volcanic eruptions in Hawaii, the lava oozes out and spreads like cake batter. The current eruption, on the other hand, would be considered "stratovolcanic"—explosive rather than oozing. Mikala explains it as sort of, well, constipated, and when it blows, it does so with such explosive force that it heaves superheated rock and ash for miles, as poor Pompeii discovered when
The explosion at Kilawea sprayed lava miles-high, and the forets surrounding the volcano has been stripped bare. It's covered with something Mikala called "tephra." Illya, it looks as if we're standing on another planet. The air is so thick with ash and fumes that we have to wear gas masks, and cover every little bit of skin to avoid being burned. Keoki discovered the hard way that the scientists weren't kidding—he's in Medical again, being treated for his burns. Were we ever that young and stupid?
The volcano continues to spew out an amazing mount of magma, and the lava fountain is both beautiful and awe-inspiring. Last night while I was watching, I swear I saw the same old woman dancing in the flames. As I watched, she became a beautiful woman, and I knew then that it was Pele. Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I just can't bring myself to lie about what I've seen.
Because we had so much warning, we were able to get the residents living downwind of the volcano to safety. I don't have the same hopes for the THRUSH agents. When our scouting party came back, they reported that THRUSH had set up a makeshift camp in one of the lava tubes. Unfortunately for them, that same lava tube is now carrying hot lava to the sea. No one could have survived. Whatever their grand scheme was, we can only hope that it died with them. Mikala thinks that whatever they were building down there is what caused the pyroclastic explosion. Again, we won't know more until conditions are safe enough to allow our teams back into the area.
As for the real estate buying spree—for some reason, all the financing abruptly fell through. The surrounding buildings are back on the block. Perhaps we'll have a better class of neighbors in the future.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm about to drive into Hilo to pick up Mikala. I have to admit, I'm actually looking forward to meeting the guy. In some ways, he reminds me of you. Then again, I wish it was you getting off the plane.
Waverly has granted me a week's vacation on Maui. Even though it's currently pouring outside my room at Volcano House, I feel a sense of peace and belonging here that I rarely get to experience. I think I'll skip Maui and remain here. Any chance your handlers will let you jin me?
Hana taught me a new saying today—Ua ola no I ka pane a ke aloha. There is life in a kind reply. Though one may have no gift to offer a friend, a kind word or a friendly greeting is just as important.
P.S. What was your question?
Oh, Napoleon, must I explain everything?
(Author's Note: On May 24th, 1959, Kilawea-iki erupted in a rare and spectacular pyroclastic explosion, the only time in recorded history that it has done so. For the sake of our storyline, we moved the date of the eruption forward into the late 60's. Stay tuned for the next entry in our Going Postal series.)