Cannon waited for Joe to cross the line. Together, they passed through Inconstant‘s bow platform hatch. The airship’s engines thrummed to life, her propellers reversed to push her away from Swiftsure aft end. At Swiftsure‘s bow, the Devil’s Daggers aboard Majestic tossed lines between the two zeppelins.
“Did I lay it on too thick?” Cannon wondered.
Joe shook his head. “Just right. Can’t have people thinking they can take what’s ours.”
“I’m with Joe,” said the third bodyguard.
“All right, if you say so,” Cannon replied. “Thompson, you’d better get back to the hangar. We’ll be turning around the cover flight in a few minutes.”
“Aye, sir.” Thompson slung his machine pistol and headed down the companionway ahead.
When Cannon walked the quarter-mile of Inconstant‘s length, he took the ventral catwalk. It ran past Iseabail’s lab, held into the zep by shackles which could drop it at a moment’s notice, if whatever the mad Scot was playing at got too hot. From experience, he knew it was a good idea to walk by and check on her when he got the chance.
The catwalk proceeded forward through the hangar, past the von Rubenstein machinery—Cannon could feel its hum even from here, a different tone than the engines, as it pulled helium from the air—and the pilots’ ready room. Along its length, side catwalks led up under the gas cells to the engine cars and broadside gun positions. The crew spent most of their working hours along the ventral catwalk. Walking its grating, Cannon could keep his thumb on the crew’s pulse. More than once, he had sniffed out trouble brewing before it came to a head.
The dorsal catwalk was, however, a more relaxing walk. Unlike the ventral catwalk, which ran level from Iseabail’s lab to the control gondola and crew spaces forward, the dorsal catwalk arched gently to follow the zeppelin’s curved topside skin. Inconstant‘s gas cells rose to chest height on both sides of the catwalk, near enough to touch. Much further aft from where they stood, at intervals of a few dozen yards, the catwalk sprouted a small platform to port, each at the base of a ladder which ran to the topside machine guns and lookout positions.
From the bow platform, though, the gentle arc was more of a steep climb. Fifty yards ahead, the catwalk ended in a hatch set a bulkhead, thin but covered in bare triangular bracing. Hidden behind the gas cells, below the compartment ahead, were five more decks, mostly cabins and galley: the crew spaces.