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Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 46

Out the pane of bulletproof glass in front of her, Emma could just see the Red Banner running at full speed due west. Inconstant tailed the Soviet airship by a good five miles. Southwest of both zeppelins, the sun sank behind a towering wall of cloud, casting golden rays through its ramparts, leaving both airships in shadow. Well above Inconstant, the fading light caught circling planes as they formed up for the attack.

Emma had launched an hour ago to take up position a hundred miles northeast of Inconstant, at the far end of her scouting line. Just as she reached her place in the formation, the call came over the radio: Inconstant had herself stumbled across the Red Banner. With a good deal of swearing she had managed not to transmit, Emma had turned around. Now, she only hoped to make it back before the party was over.

Her radio crackled. “That you, Green Four?” Joe’s voice.

She thumbed a switch on the flight stick. “What’s the word, Home Plate?”

“Come on in. You’re needed for something.”

Emma raised her eyes to the heavens, then rubbed her glove over her microphone and said, “You’re breaking—”

“Seen that one before, Green Four,” said Joe. “Land as soon as you can. That’s an order.”

This time, before the cursing started, Emma made sure her thumb was on the microphone switch.


 

With great care, Cannon walked along a four-inch aluminum girder, part of the skeletal framework supporting Red Banner‘s skin, arms held out to his sides to aid his balance.

Cannon took three more steps, then gratefully looped his arm around another girder, part of a ring descending from above and looping away down toward the keel. He swung around it to clear the way for Iseabail. Looking miserable, she shuffled along the girder from the previous ring, twenty-five feet away.

As Inconstant‘s attack begun, they had kicked in the hatch from Volkov’s suite down to the crew deck, raced down the companionway, and jumped the railing on the beam-to-beam catwalk at its base. The crew was scrambling frantically to what passed for their battle stations, and Cannon and Iseabail would never have made it aft to the baggage room sneaking along the catwalks.

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