It’s my birthday this week, so I’m taking said week off from posts. We should be back on the 25th. Furthermore, you can expect a special edition of the Crossbox Podcast over at the Soapbox come Thursday.
A pegboard, corporate IDs hanging from nearly every spot, suggested I’d been right, as did the high-end computer sitting by the desk, and the stacks of data disks on most of the flat surfaces. I couldn’t legally take any of it—I’d have to present Wilson with a seizure order before I could—but I could find more than enough to justify coming back to kick the door in down the line. I set to work, looking through the ID cards, and said to Sam, “Go have a look around the rest of the place.”
He left, and thirty seconds later, I heard footsteps behind me. “You can’t have finished already,” I said.
The voice that answered me did not belong to Sam. “What are you doing in here?” It was cool and measured, but hard. I turned around.
Isaac Wilson stood in the room with me, two meters away, aiming a pistol at my chest. I thought about going for my sidearm, but he’d caught me flatfooted. He’d get his shot off before I could get mine in. “Police business,” I said. “You’re a person of interest—”
“I know,” he replied. He was on the verge of saying more when Sam appeared in the doorway behind him.
“Don’t move,” Sam said. Wilson tensed, and tried to look over his shoulder. “I said, do not move,” Sam repeated. He was holding something and pointing it at Wilson—not a gun, I knew, since I hadn’t given him one. “The whirring you hear comes from the gyroscopes built into my sidearm. They hold it precisely on target, which is, in this case, the back of your skull.”
“I’ll kill your partner,” Wilson threatened.
“No, you will not,” Sam replied. “My sidearm is also watching you. Tense to shoot, and it will see. You’ll be dead before you realize you were going to pull the trigger.”
Wilson’s eyes darted to one side, trying to catch sight of Sam. After a moment, he held up his hands and began to turn around. The moment I was out of his sight, I took one running step and launched myself at him. He snapped the rest of the way toward Sam and leveled his pistol. That was when I left my feet and hit him in the back with a flying tackle. (When you’re my size, you don’t go in for half measures when it comes to bringing someone down.) The pistol went flying. Sam dropped the threevee remote he’d been holding and caught the pistol neatly out of midair. I scrambled onto Wilson’s back and grabbed his arms while Sam covered me.
“Quick thinking,” I told him.
“I learned from the best.”
I showed him a toothy grin, closed the cuffs around Wilson’s wrist. “Are you aware of your rights?”
Wilson nodded, not speaking.
“Very well.” I stood, dusting off my hands. I sighed, and Sam raised his eyebrows at me. “I was just thinking,” I said, glad Stein wasn’t there to hear me, “that if you’re to be doing this sort of thing very much more, we ought to see that you’re properly armed.”
Before I dive into the actual story, a quick introduction: I’m behind on my normal writing trying to get one story out the door to magazines, so I’m dipping into the unpublished vignette archive a bit. I mentioned, in planning posts before Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol began to air, that I wanted to revisit the world of Sam Hill and Amber Brighton, inspectors in the City of Nexus, in the same sci-fi universe in which We Sail Off To War is set. This is a step in that direction. I find myself in the unenviable position of wanting to make dramatic changes after having already published a story; fortunately, it isn’t published in any particularly immutable format, so I can do that.
Amber Brighton, freshly minted as an Inspector-Lieutenant, takes the narration this time around.
Rain drummed on the roof of our unmarked car. Sam and I had been sitting outside Wilson’s building for hours. This was late in 345, soon after my promotion. Sam had pitched in on a handful of cases—four or five, maybe—before then, but it took Stein longer to come around to his value than it did me, and this case was the first I’d brought Sam in on under my own authority. It would have been Sam’s first stakeout, then. Stein hadn’t thought unarmed backup merited the name, but with Carpenter and the rest of the lot off raiding a warehouse across the dome, nobody else was at hand to keep me company during my case, and as a young, fresh-faced Inspector-in-Charge, I thought I didn’t need to let myself be bound by my old commander’s hidebound ways. I’m putting the cart before the horse, though.
Sam and I had chatted for a few hours to start the morning. We’d made our way through the typical stakeout topics, and were just about to run out of things to say when a figure wrapped in an overcoat and huddled under an umbrella left the building. I glanced down at the dash clock—1315—and nudged Sam. “He’s on the move.”
“We have a look around.” We ran through the rain to the awning over the building’s entrance. I showed my badge to the doorman, and he let us in. Sam shook the water off of his jacket. We took the elevator up to Wilson’s floor and found his door. I’d gone with the full breaking-and-entering kit, fortunately. Wilson’s electronic lock yielded to my police override code, and the mechanical deadbolt he’d added fell to the pick gun I’d brought along. Sam and I put on our gloves and went inside.
“It seems to me a more subtle mode of entry than usual,” he remarked, looking about the place aimlessly. Sam’s a people person. Nosing around for evidence is more my game than his.
I replied, “This isn’t Violent Crimes anymore. I can’t risk bringing Wilson in only to have to cut him loose, if this fishing trip comes up empty.”
We went down the hallway toward the apartment’s main living space. Sam gently pushed open a door as we passed, then stopped me with a tap on the shoulder. “It looks as though you have a nibble.” He moved out of the way, and I went into the room. It was an office, and what had caught Sam’s eye immediately caught mine.
Isaac Wilson was a person of interest in a number of corporate and network espionage cases. The only evidence we’d found to date was circumstantial, at best—Wilson was in the right place at the right time a little more often than I thought could be coincidental. State prosecutors want a little more than a hunch, though, so we’d decided to have a little look around Wilson’s place.
Wailani jolted upright as though he’d grabbed a live wire. “I did not. You have a copy?”
“Where did you find such a thing?”
“Ye dinnae get very far in our line of work if ye dinnae ha’ connections, and ye dinnae get much beyond tha’ if you blab tae anyone who they are,” Iseabail said. A moment later, she added, “No offense, of course.”
Wailani smiled. “None taken.”
“A state of affairs with which you are no doubt familiar,” Cannon continued. “I have not one copy, but two: one for your collection, and one for your country’s royal library. With your name attached to the donation, of course. And only if you’re sure we’ll see an invitation.”
Wailani sat back, deep in thought. Eventually, he said, “You do really want to meet Mr. Volkov, don’t you?” He tapped the table. “I think this deal is to my liking. Where are your books?”
Cannon cleared his throat. “Australia, I’m afraid.” Wailani raised his eyebrows. “This, I’m afraid, is the part of the negotiation where I must beg you to accept my word as a gentleman that I am in good faith.”
Again, Wailani was silent. He turned a penetrating stare upon Cannon, and the pirate had the uncomfortable feeling that Wailani saw right through his mask.
“No,” Wailani said at length. Cannon opened his mouth, but Wailani held up a hand. “No, not your word as a gentleman. Mr. Smith, I perceive that there is more to you than most see. I will therefore accept your word as a man of action.” He looked thoughtfully into the distance behind Cannon’s ear. “Provided you also grant me a favor.”
“My word as a man of action, then,” Cannon agreed. “What is the favor?”
“I don’t know yet. I may keep hold of it for now.”
“Mr. Wailani, I cannot abide being put in debt.”
Wailani smiled. “This, I’m afraid, is the part of the negotiation where you have no choice.”
Cannon thought about it. They could always just break into Volkov’s room right before Inconstant was due to show up, take the idol, and run for it. Then again, there was too much that could go wrong, going in blind on a tight schedule. Iseabail seemed to agree, if the mounting kicks to the shin were any indicator. Cannon supposed that settled it. “Very well, then.”
“It appears, Mr. Smith, we have a deal. Please wait here. I will fetch the item.”
Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.
We’re wrapping up this week with community fun!
If you could choose any other work to mashup with your own, which would it be?
Obviously, it has to be the fine folks over at Decoder Ring Theatre. Their particular brand of pulpy radio drama would be a perfect fit for the Skypirates universe. Cannon and company in cahoots with Jack Justice or the Red Panda would make for fun reading. (Or listening, as the case may be.)
Shoutout to this work’s most encouraging fan!
I have a few names to name: my pal Rob, who plays tafl with me under the name Nasa (have a look at our annotated tafl game!), and who may be publishing some translated Old English literature here in the coming months. (Look for a formal announcement later.) My wife/editor gets a mention here, for her support (and red pen), and everyone else to whom I’ve sent pre-release stories for feedback, too.
Does your work in progress contain any inside jokes?
Only the usual references to Panama. I waffle on whether I’ll actually decide what happened there to any great level of detail.
Share a line that made someone feel FEELS
This one is hard: Skypirates stories to date have not had a lot of negative emotion in them. Maybe someday.
For things you can read today, my editor still hasn’t forgiven me for a certain crucial passage in my already-released e-book We Sail Off To War. You can find a link to buy that, at a reduced price of 99 cents this week only, behind the ‘books’ link on the page header.
Shoutout to writer friends who inspire you.
My dear wife, for one: the current better-than-average pace at which I find myself writing these days is due to her example.
What’s your work in progress about again? And what are your favorites elsewhere from WIPJoy?
Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair is a tale of daring and enterprise set in the skies over southeast Asia. Thrill, as our heroes, the Long Nines gang, face off against an old foe—and a new one they never saw coming.
As for my favorites, I’m sorry to say I haven’t been paying very close attention. Getting a story ready for magazine publication, as well as keeping up here, plus writing most of these posts on my Thursday (or Friday, as the case may be) lunch breaks means that I’ve had very little time to follow the rest of the community working on WIPJoy posts. That said, I just poked around at the synposes on Twitter from today’s question (the very last one), and I saw a bunch of fascinating ones. You should do the same: go have a look!
Finally, thanks to the regular readers here for your ongoing support, and to Bethany Jennings, the mind behind WIPJoy, for a nifty event. I’m looking forward to the next one!
You can look forward to two things through the day, as I have time: the next Nathaniel Cannon post, and WIPJoy Week 4. Stay tuned!
Wailani seemed to find this funny, and the conversation moved on. Eventually, it came around to literature, and Cannon seized his chance. “I had the opportunity to spend some time in the ship’s library this afternoon, and I must say, it was a singular pleasure.”
“Indeed?” Wailani replied. “I would have thought its charm limited for those who speak no Russian.”
Cannon tilted his head by way of acknowledgement. “Perhaps the English selection is a bit on the light side, but to see such a library on a zeppelin is nothing short of astounding. The captain must take a great deal of pride in it.”
Wailani nodded. “It is one of the crown jewels of the Soviet fleet.”
“No surprise.” Cannon took a deep breath. “Mrs. Smith and I thought we might make a contribution, in the hopes of meeting Mr. Volkov at the captain’s table. Of course, we have nothing of interest to a collector of Russian literature. We were hoping you might.”
Wailani’s eyes narrowed. Cannon hoped he hadn’t overplayed his hand. Wailani spoke. “I do have something of that nature but I certainly cannot just give it away.”
That was the opening Cannon had wanted. “Certainly not,” he agreed hurriedly. “I would hardly presume so much. Rather, I propose a trade.”
Wailani’s mood brightened considerably as the conversation returned to his home turf. “What do you have to offer?”
Cannon looked from side to side, then leaned across the table. “Do you know of the great Dutch explorer van der Hoek?”
Wailani nodded, unconsciously leaning forward himself. “I have heard the name.”
“Did you know that he wrote a three-volume set by the title, The Histories and Migrations of the Peoples of the South Pacific?”
Tomorrow’s update will be coming later in the day: I spent my evening on getting email sent from the Many Words webserver properly authenticated (Google has been bouncing them lately, it turns out). Less productively, I also watched the Presidential debate, and am strengthened in my convictions that nobody is qualified. C’est la vie.
This sale has now ended.
The royalties from my first quarter of e-book sales landed the other day, and in celebration, We Sail Off To War is going on sale for the low, low price of 99 cents! If you want in at that price, you’ll have to act fast. It’ll only be available at the sale price for one week, through the end of Sunday, October 2. After that, it goes back to the long tail price of $1.99. Don’t miss your chance!
If you’re one of my highly-valued early buyers, thanks! You’re free to kick back and relax this time around: you’ve already done your bit. If you want to do more, though, you can do a few things to pitch in:
- Vote at TopWebFiction, using the link over to the right
- Review Many Words Press at Muses Success and Web Fiction Guide, links in the same place
- Review We Sail Off To War at your e-book retailer of choice
Do any one of those, and you’re a cool person. Do all three, and you’re a Many Words Press hero.
Anyway, you can find We Sail Off To War on sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords, as well as all e-book stores to which Smashwords distributes. (If you’re reading this early on Sunday, September 25, the new price may not have reached all retailers yet. The changes should show up soon. Similarly, if you’re reading this early on Monday, October 3, you may be able to sneak in at the lower price for a little while longer.)
And so they did. They watched the liner pass, leaning over the railing above the bank of windows and waving, though Cannon doubted the passengers below could see them. Later, they found half of a game of bridge and joined in with enthusiasm, if not skill.
Before they knew it, the clock chimed seven, and over the intercom, the captain called them to the dining room. Cannon looked around for Wailani, and found the Hawaiian just sitting down at the captain’s table. Wailani caught his eye, smiled sheepishly, and shrugged.
Cannon and Iseabail dined instead on the lower level. The food was more plentiful, the service less attentive, and the people different, too. It wasn’t that they were uncouth—the uncouth couldn’t usually afford to travel by zeppelin—but they were Alaskans, or Russians from the Far East, or wealthy frontiersmen from Central America. It was no surprise that they were more rugged than the usual zeppelin traveler. The vodka did not surprise Cannon, and the folk songs surprised him only a little.
This sort of person, the rough and ready entrepreneurs and high-end scoundrels, was more Cannon’s speed, and although he could communicate with most of them only by way of one Russian’s astoundingly poor French, he still found he was enjoying himself. All too soon, the stewards took away the final course and shooed them away to the lounge.
“No’ tae ge’ in the way of yon diplomatic progress,” Iseabail said, as they ambled that way, “bu’ shouldna we ha’ a talk wi’ Mr. Wailani about wha’ we can give the cap’n?”
Cannon held up a hand to the Russian to his right and nodded to Iseabail. “You’re right, of course. We shall drop in on him in the lounge.”
They passed through the lounge door, and to their left, Wailani, at his customary table, waved to them. Cannon made his excuses to the Russians, and he and Iseabail joined Wailani.
“Good evening,” the Hawaiian said, directing them to the seats across from him. “Your French—you have an exceedingly unusual accent. I could swear I have heard it before.”
Cannon laughed nervously. Lachapelle always gave him a hard time about how bad—and how distinctive—his French was. He tried to remember if he’d ever crossed paths with Wailani before. Covering for himself, he said, “Just what’s to be expected, when an Englishman marries a Scot, then learns a new language.”
“Wha’s tha’ supposed tae mean?” Iseabail demanded, turning a glare on him. She held it for a few seconds before the first giggle escaped. “Ach, I cannae keep a straigh’ face for anythin’.”