The fledgling rays of the early morning sun shimmered across the still waters, turning faded pewter into brilliant translucent shades of opal, silver and bronze. The strengthening shafts of light stretched across the harbor to a battle scarred ship that was waiting in silence for the sun to warm her decks and playfully dance along shimmering brass fittings. She came to this anchorage to heal the wounds suffered during a desperate encounter with the elusive Japanese destroyer, which was sent by a merciless conqueror to destroy the last British citizens who fled Singapore. She waits now, in silence, to feel the pulse of oil pumping life into her array of pipes and tubing, as her engines—her heart—come to life and beat in a steady rhythm. Soon her human masters will breathe new life into her and she will experience the pleasurable taste of salty spray streaming across her sleek newly painted hull.
Her name is Mariah.
Katrin Lee Albright stood alone on the tree-covered hill that overlooked Surabaya Harbor. She and her father, Joseph Albright, an Anglican missionary priest sent from England before the 1929 world financial crisis, went into hiding when the Japanese began their lightning-quick offensive through the small island state. Two nights ago, they witnessed the brutal flashes from dueling ships across the horizon in the distant Java Sea. The few returning ships gave witness to the lopsided battle of failure and defeat.
Her twenty-two-years on Earth had not prepared her for the increasing fear she experienced, as the Japanese Army relentlessly pushed closer to her childhood home. Brushing long, golden-brown hair away from her face, she anxiously watched the remaining Allied ships while sailors scurried about, preparing them to sail.
Katrin hoped her father would return before darkness fell, and relieve her anxiety. She knew he believed God would protect them, and he prayed with her to place them in His hands. He told her to believe it was already so and it would be—just as Jesus had promised so many centuries ago. She had to trust the lessons of the Bible that her father taught since early childhood, but fear of being discovered made her tremble.
Katrin felt a shaft of fright penetrate her soul, when a sudden rustling in the undergrowth caught her attention. The sound was coming closer, and Katrin held her breath when she could see movement coming toward her hiding place. She waited after hearing the low whistle her dad used to announce his return from searching for lost or wounded Allied soldiers near the Japanese lines. A sigh of relief came when she saw his face emerge from among the trees and recognized the uniform of the tall man following him as American.
“Kitten, are you here?” Katrin heard her dad call before she ran to meet him.
“Dad, thank goodness! All the ships look like they’re getting ready to leave. I was afraid the Japanese Army was near
“They will be soon, Kat. Captain Logan said the Allies are being overrun; Captain, my daughter, Katrin.”
“It’s going to take years to push them back to Japan,” said the lanky dark eyed lieutenant, and second in charge, from among the small group of soldiers. “It’s like an exploding ant farm, the way they’re infesting the East.”
“You’re right there, Russ.” Turning to Joseph Albright, Logan said, “Father, we should move on before long, in case a patrol sees signs of our presence in the area.”
“We have two choices, Captain. We can go to our base camp—a day’s hike from here, but well hidden; or, the abandoned farm we’ve used for two nights. I don’t think any of the invading forces have gotten close yet, but I can’t be sure. I’m afraid a dash to the harbor is too risky with Japanese snipers between us and the town.”
Logan ran a hand over his sweat-covered face before answering. “I guess we better go for the closest and move on at daybreak. I’ll have Sergeant Ledowski take point. He’s the best scout around. The two British rangers that are with us are pretty bad off, and Private Adams needs a Doc soon.”
“Katrin, please let Sergeant Ledowski know where our campsite is located,” Father Albright said before turning to help the injured soldiers.
Five minutes later, the ragged group of soldiers moved out, with their unlikely rescuers along the tree-lined ridge. Sergeant Ledowski would move out of sight at times, and then double back to let Captain Logan know that no one was around to trouble them. Katrin thought it looked like a boy playing hide-and-seek. But this is real. She shivered at the unpleasant thought.
The group stopped several times to help the four wounded soldiers and the two British rangers suffering from malaria, before reaching the abandoned pig farm. At least the dilapidated buildings still had a usable house and fresh water. Father Albright had found a small unopened can of axel grease, which he used to grease the hand-pump in the tumble down shed so it wouldn’t squeak, when he and Katrin had first arrived. “God will protect us,” he had said, “but sometimes He asks us to help ourselves as well. He is somewhat busy with more urgent matters than us, at the moment.”
Katrin listened that evening while Captain Logan and her father discussed their next move. Will we ever be really safe again? she thought.
“Captain, I think we need to get these men in better shape before we try to move any father. We can see the surrounding country-side and would have ample notice if the Japanese were to come this far. They’ll most likely be interested in securing the towns and villages before they go exploring these remote areas,’ Father Albright said.
“I’ll have Sergeant Ledowski post some guards, Father, and we’ll see how things look tomorrow. I’m anxious to see if your short-wave will reach any of our forces to evacuate you, your daughter, and our wounded from Java.”
“I understand. We’ll see what God brings us in the morning.”
“Lieutenant Crammer, have guards posted, and tell them to keep alert,” Captain Logan ordered the dark eyed young man he had come to rely upon.
The few able-bodied men rotated the night duty, carefully listening for any unusual sounds beyond the wind rustling the trees. Captain Logan stepped onto the sheltered porch, as a hint of light touched the sky the next morning, to confer with his trusted sergeant about the approaching day. “Sergeant, all quiet?”
“Yes sir. The birds ain’t even makin’ much noise.”
“Good. Be ready to move out within the hour,” Logan ordered. “I’m not sure the good Father realizes how dangerous things are.”
“Yes sir; we’ll be ready to move.”
“Carry on,” Logan stated, returning Ledowski’s salute.
Before the small hand of the clock reached the approaching hour, the ragged group of survivors vacated the worn buildings and moved into the jungle, after meticulously erasing any sign of their presence. Sergeant Ledowski covered the rear, while Father Albright pointed the way to their last chance for sanctuary.