Japan, Pan-Asian Empire
Sunday, July 27th 1940
silver gong rang out in the stillness of the Imperial Palace. Half a dozen of men of various races and ages had assembled in Fu Manchu’s private quarters, where no prying eyes could reach.
‘The Council of Seven is in session. Gentlemen, as should be apparent to you all, I’m quite alive. Putting the rumour of my demise to rest is one of the two reasons I’ve called this extraordinary meeting of the Council of Seven. The other is no less important; As every one of you is well aware, one Council Seat stands empty. It belongs to the Lady of the Si Fan, my once favoured daughter Fah Lo Suee. I put to the Council that she should be formally stripped of rank and position. Those in favour?’
‘Aye!’ Six throats spoke almost as one, and a sardonic smile parted Fu Manchu’s thin lips.
‘Well! It’s not often one has the privilege of seeing such unanimity in this august body. As for the matter of her elimination, I’ve arranged for that personally, and with that I regard this matter as closed.’
‘Hardly!’ objected Dhondu Pant, haughty Indian Prince, Master of Thugees and Pharsigars, centenarian heir to the throne of the Maharatta. ‘The matter is not closed until a replacement for her can be found! I move that…’
‘No.’ Fu Manchu refused flatly. ‘Now you will all try to place some stooge under your control on Fah Lo Suee’s seat, all of you will vote against the candidates of the others and the discussion will take hours, days and weeks and will degenerate into fighting. And all the while, the damage caused by her defection will worsen. No, this ends here and today, with the candidate I propose. I dare you all to find one more suitable to our immediate needs.’
‘And what in the name of Melek Talus are those needs, Revered Fu Manchu?’, asked Sheikh al Jabal, head of the dreaded devil-worshiping cult of Assassins of Tabaristan.
‘Shut up and my father will tell you!’ growled Siwan Khan, the Viceroy of the American Provinces, drawing many an annoyed look. The vicious Princeling was gaining too much standing with his father lately. That gained him no popularity.
‘Indeed. Don’t you all realise what it is that we have lost with Fah Lo Suee? She organised and ran our spy network! When she betrayed us, she virtually gutted our intelligence service. Oh, the spies remain and continue to report in, but how do we know which ones are loyal to us, and which ones now receive their reports from His Majesties Secret Service? What we need, immediately, urgently, is a new Spy Master, if possible with a working network already in place. And it so happens I have found just such a man.’
‘What a surprise!’ Dhondu Pant said, his voice heavy with irony. ‘Well, Revered Doctor, do not keep us waiting any longer! Please, introduce YOUR stooge then!’
‘By all means.’ Fu Manchu clapped his hands and a black clad servant pushed aside a door to admit the candidate.
‘My name is Ernst Stavros Blofeldt, and I am nobody’s stooge!’ he declared in dark rich voice, fit for grand proclamations. Blue eyes stared defiantly out of a smooth, square face crowned by cap of brilliant black hair. Despite the full lips, drawn into a sneer of cruelty and disdain, the large straight nose and prominent Slavic cheekbones left little doubt the newcomer was Caucasian. The members of the Council of Seven jumped to their feet in fury.
‘What is the meaning of this?!’ shouted Dhondu Pant. ‘This man is white, one of the oppressors! What stake does he have in the overthrow of the white empires and the liberation of all Asians?’
‘Well, Mr Blofeldt?’ Fu Manchu asked, raising an eyebrow and stretching one corner of his mouth in amusement. ‘How about it?’
‘My stake in this venture is very simple – working from my base in Istanbul, I’ve spent what fortune I possessed setting up spy rings in the Axis and Allied countries. My networks are VERY well connected, and were not cheap to set up, but when war broke out, as I knew it would, I intended to sell information to both sides and make a fortune. And then the war ended before it really began. Oh, they still throw me a bone, now and then, London and Paris, Rome and Berlin. They trust each other only as far as they can check and verify each others actions. When Russia was invaded, I offered my services to the NKVD, to capitalise at least on my investment in the Reich, but it didn’t take me long to figure out the Si Fan could pay for my networks much better, and His Imperial Highness here seems to have reached the same conclusion. As for the Asians… they can drown in their own filth as far as I am concerned!’ Blofeldt concluded. ‘I expect to make a profit, a very substantial profit!’
‘A mercenary?’ Sandokan III, Prince of the Malayan Pirates asked, frowning and shaking his head. ‘Dr Fu Manchu, I don’t know about this… so far, the Si Fan has been an organisation of freedom-fighters. This man is a common criminal!’ Sheik Al-Jabal and Dhondu Pant nodded to that, sending hateful glances at the arrogant European.
At this statement, Nag Po Lama, leader of the Monks of the Black Temple of Tibet made his first and last comment of the day, a sinister and scornful laughter, earning annoyed looks from the other Councilmen.
‘If anyone of you can find an Asian-born freedom-fighter with his own spy network in place in both Britain, France and the Axis countries, then by all means, let’s recruit him instead!’ Fu Manchu challenged. ‘Also, we know who Mr Blofeld will back in this council, namely the highest bidder. That’s a nice piece of stability enhancer for you, wouldn’t you say?’
In the end, the vote was unanimous.
As the Councilmen were leaving the Devil Doctor's quarters, Fu Manchu with Dr No in tow walked up to Sandokan and placed a long-nailed hand lightly on the younger mans shoulder. The Pirate Prince could not help a mental shudder of discomfort at the contact. There was something vaguely spider-like about those long, thin fingers.
‘Sandokan, I have a mission for you. It involves setting up a secret base of operations in the Dutch East Indies, ideally around… Oh, Rupat Island should do nicely. Lot’s of swamps, many inaccessible places along the coast. Are you up to it?’
‘Of course, I know that delta well. Our ships often hide there. What is the purpose of this base?’
‘Tell me, have you ever heard of the Hindustan incident?’ was the Devil Doctor’s only answer.
The Malay shook his head slightly. ‘No, but I’m not that well versed in the history of India.’
Fu Manchu gave a short laugh, hard and bitter. ‘No, no, I’m talking about the incident concerning the battleship HMS Hindustan
in the spring of 1914. The British have classified it and I for one am just as happy to let it be forgotten. It was one of my greatest failures, and most bitter defeats! I had captured Nayland Smith AND Dr Petrie, and I had laid a deadly trap for that ship as it passed off the coast of Wales, carrying the Prince of Wales, the future Edvard VIII. But my plans were thwarted in the last instant by a man you will no doubt have heard about, Sherlock Holmes.*’
Now Sandokan nodded. ‘Oh, everyone has heard of HIM! So he trumped you, did he?’
Fu sighed. ‘It was most galling. The means of destroying the Prince, as much as the choice of victim, were carefully selected to shake British confidence to its foundations, fore it was a device FAR in advance of anything they, or any other power on this world could field, then or now. In fact, it was not until three years AFTER the event that that German Jewish scientist, Albert Einstein, published the theoretical underpinning of my machine with his “Principle of stimulated emission”. Oh, never mind, Sandokan,’ Fu said, seeing the Malay’s confused frown, ‘there are but ten men in the world who could even begin to understand the science involved.’
‘But this… device of yours, it would have sunk a British Dreadnaught?’ the Malay asked eagerly.
‘Sunk? Ha! It would have slagged it! But anyway, the device was carefully calibrated to fire automatically when the English battleship interrupted a weak coherent beam in the optical spectrum that was bounced off a mirror on a Chinese ship that I had anchored further off the Welsh coast. This was necessary because aiming the device was next to impossible – it was too large and had to be carefully tuned to the micron to work properly. And Holmes, curse him, shifted the alignment of the mirrors, causing my device to unload all it’s energy, collected from weeks of harnessing tidal power, into the ocean! To give you an idea of the weapon’s power, it atomised enough water to cause a giant tidal wave which destroyed my machine, my base, most of my men and nearly enough myself!’
‘But… but why have you never built this fantastic device again? You could have wiped out the British Navy with it!’
‘Didn’t you listen? It’s useless as a weapon! It can’t be aimed, and it consumes so much power that with a modest tidal plant, weeks of charging were needed to power its accumulators… until now, that is. Now, I believe Dr No can provide a more reliable power source, isn’t that so?’
The Sino-German scientist nodded. ‘Yes. We have an experimental pile running, and over a period of time, it could easily load all the accumulators you could require.’
‘Hmmm… they would then have to be transported to the site and plugged into the assembly already loaded… this is extremely dangerous, but it could be done. I will consider this.’
Sandokan shook his head hard enough to make his long locks fling back and forth. ‘I still don’t understand… are you going to ambush the British fleet as it sails for Singapore?’
Fu shook his head. ‘That would scare them off after only slight losses, and nothing would prevent them from quickly spotting and destroying our base with naval gunfire. No, I intend to use this device to cut off the Royal Navy’s retreat through the Strait of Malacca after it has been defeated and is running for the safety of India. I’m not content with merely defeating the Royal Navy – I will see it annihilated!’
*“Ten Years Beyond Baker Street”, by Cay Van Ash