Nathaniel Cannon and the Hunt for the Majestic No. 25

At the turn onto the Topside road, six black-clad figures spread out across the intersection. Two headed west, uphill; two went east, back toward the Long Tail. All four melted into the underbrush, machine pistols covering the road.

The other two found their way to a place where the road cut through a gully, then set to work with a hand auger produced from one of their satchels. One bored a row of holes into the hillside. The other slid a paper-wrapped cylinder trailing wires into each one.

They worked quickly, packing dirt into the holes to disguise them. Gathering the wires, they clambered up the hillside, then slipped away into the jungle.

The other four joined them.

“Detonator?” said the young woman, part of the returning western pair.

One of the sappers produced a small box wired to a large battery. He flipped a switch on its side and frowned. “That’s wrong.”

“What?”

He tapped a glass dome on top of the box. “There should be a green light. The radio’s broken.”

The woman shook her head, lips pressed together. “That won’t do. Do you have the backup?”

“The manual detonator? But—”

“Set it up,” said the woman. “Then get back to the airfield and tell Lecocq to get airborne. I’ll stay here and leave with the captain.”

A few of the others exchanged looks. “If you say so.”

“I do. Hop to it.”


 

“Do I owe you for the civics lesson?” Emma said, cutting Cannon off.

He rolled his eyes. For all her talent and sheer inventiveness when it came to a fight, she was still young. Cannon was not. Sometimes it grated on him. “You can just say, ‘I’m not interested,'” he pointed out. “Pirate society is your society now. Far be it—”

“I’m not in—”

“I worked that out, yes.” Coming to the door into the barracks, Cannon paused and looked to his left. The truck approached. “Ready?”

Emma smiled toothily. “Go in, ask questions, shoot anyone who tries to stop us leaving. My kind of job.”

Cannon gave her an approving nod, swung the doors open, and stepped through.

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Commentary, Hunt for the Majestic No. 25

Yes, it’s been another long delay. I’ve had a lot on my plate at work, and I’ve also been cranking out a bunch of RPJ Sci-Fi. It’s nowhere near release-ready yet, but it’s getting a lot closer to mechanically complete. RPJ Core and Police Cops both look pretty good now, and I’m inclined to move them into beta status shortly.

On the writing front, I’ve been getting behind again, as is my wont. I’ll have to turn my attention back here again soon, which is fine. I know where it’s going; it’s just getting it onto paper.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Hunt for the Majestic No. 24

The truck rolled to a stop at a T-junction. A three-story stone building faced them; past the buildings to their left was a large park. Emma leaned forward, looked to her right, then looked to her left. An endless arcade, the building’s facade went on for what could have been a mile.

“They call it the Mile-Long Barracks,” Cannon said, turning left onto the main street. Sheltered beneath the ground-level arches were a few market stalls, empty at present. “It’s only about fifteen hundred feet long, though.”

“Looks like they packed it in, too,” Emma observed, pointing at the arcade with her thumb.

Cannon nodded.

“They know something about the storm we don’t?” she wondered.

Cannon shook his head. “Not unless they flew up to the edge of it in the last few hours.” The truck ground to a halt.

“Only everyone seems a lot more concerned than you are,” Emma persisted.

Swinging the truck’s door open, Cannon stepped out. Choufeng slid behind the wheel. “Turn it around,” Cannon said. “Keep it running and be ready to pick us up.” Cannon closed the door and banged on it with a fist, and the truck clunked into gear and drove off.

Emma waited for the skipper on the sidewalk. Just in front of them, the barracks jutted outward; decorative patterns adorned the gables above the third-floor windows. “The Brotherhood’s in there, then?”

“The council, at least,” said Cannon. “I spent six months on the council, back before you signed on. Whenever the whole council’s in one place, they can’t escape. There’s always something on the docket.”

“Sounds like torture.”

“The worst part is, they charge dues for the privilege.”

Emma made a face.

Cannon nodded. “We still pay dues, too. You can find a fence for anything here, and it keeps the pirating community away from our prizes.”

“So would shooting down any zep that stole from us,” Emma said.

Cannon raised an eyebrow at her. “Are you volunteering to tell the crew we’re taking on work that doesn’t pay six months out of the year?”

“When you put it that way…”

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Announcing RPJ

“Where have I been this last month?” I hear you wonder. Well, I’ve been writing.

Yes, it’s true. I have been. I’m afraid, however, that I have not been writing fiction for you to read here. I’ve been up to something else, and I am pleased, today, to announce RPJ! RPJ is a free, open tabletop roleplaying game system using the offbeat 4d6 roll for most tasks, and is the official roleplaying game system of Many Words Press.

Right now, it’s available in prerelease, which means I can change the rules out from under you at any time. In the not-too-distant future, however, I hope to have at least the Core rulebook and perhaps the Police Cops module to a release state.

Now that I’ve finished the hard work on the RPJ front, I hope to return to regular content updates here. Look for more Nathaniel Cannon adventuring starting on March 20.

Thanks for your patience! I hope you enjoy what we’ve cooked up for you here.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Hunt for the Majestic No. 23

“Warm and welcoming,” Emma said.

“If we have to leave this way,” said Cannon, “it’ll be warmer than the alternative.”

Emma pondered this and couldn’t find fault with it. The plan was to leave by the Albatross. If they couldn’t, well… Emma had heard better ideas. The skipper swore up and down it would work, which meant very little to her. Iseabail said the same thing, which carried more weight, but even so, she was doubtful.

The truck jostled over a narrow-gauge railway, then came to a stop at the outskirts of the village. Cannon hopped out of the cab. Emma blinked, then jumped to the ground and met the skipper at the back of the truck. He handed her a black kit bag and wheeled a heavy trunk off the bed.

Together, they trudged into the village. Cannon wheeled the trunk through an empty doorframe into a derelict house. Emma set the bag on top of it.

They returned to the truck. Cannon reversed, then turned around and swung a left onto the road up to Topside.

Bottom Side and the Long Tail were ruins and untamed wilderness. Topside could have been dropped in directly from London or Madrid. The border was abrupt; about a quarter-mile up the road and a few hundred feet above sea level, the dirt road suddenly gave way to cobbles, and wooden buildings whose second stories jutted out over the street crowded it on either side. The truck passed a few pedestrians, fewer than usual. Once or twice, a car squeezed past, pulling far to the other side of the road as Cannon nearly scraped the mirrors off against the buildings.

There were no side streets, though the occasional alleyway too narrow for an automobile cut between the buildings. That meant a street on the far side, Emma surmised, but she couldn’t see how to drive there.

She realized she was rubbernecking like some kind of tourist, and that the skipper was grinning. She stared straight ahead and said, “Where is everybody? Isn’t this place supposed to be bustling?”

Cannon shrugged. “Battening down the hatches, probably. Nobody wants to be outside for a monsoon.”

“Battening down? Dramatic,” said Emma.

“Appropriate,” Choufeng said, looking in her direction. “Topside is like a ship at sea. No land shelters it.”

Emma blinked. “He speaks!”

“Don’t expect much more out of him today,” Cannon put in. “Here we are.”


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Nathaniel Cannon and the Hunt for the Majestic No. 22

Lining up on the runway, Cannon pulled the throttles back. The Albatross settled slowly, descending beneath the jungle canopy, then touching down on the grass runway. Cannon left the engines at about half power, allowing the Albatross to roll nearly to the end of the runway before braking to a stop and cutting the power.

He ran the left throttle up halfway, turning the Albatross to the right. The cargo door slid open partway through the turn, and the pirates in the cargo fuselage disembarked, masked from view by the bulk of the aircraft. Cannon glanced to his left as the pirates dashed for the cover of the treeline, then turned the Albatross around and taxied up to the collection of huts at the edge of the landing strip.

He, Emma, and Choufeng disembarked through the crew hatch behind the pilot’s seat. A local, emerging from the nearest hut, met them. Cannon arranged to have the Albatross refueled and negotiated a more or less reasonable price to borrow the man’s truck. A few minutes later, the truck rattled away along the dirt road toward Topside.

 

A half-dozen pairs of eyes, white spots in grease-blackened faces, watched it bounce along the north road. They belonged to black-clad bodies, laid flat on a ridge ten yards back from the road. Each had a machine pistol and a rucksack. The truck passed. A minute or two passed before the sound of its engine was lost to the sound of the jungle.

“All right,” said one of the figures, a young woman. “Let’s go.”

The figures stood and marched off in single file, all but invisible from the road.


 

Emma leaned against the door of the truck and put her feet up on the dashboard.

“Cut that out,” Cannon said.

With bad grace, Emma sat up straight. Seated between her and Cannon, Choufeng didn’t say a word. That wasn’t unusual, though. If she didn’t count the tips he dispensed while throwing her around the sparring mat, he’d said maybe one hundred words in her presence total. The skipper said he didn’t get any more talkative.

The truck rounded Malinta Hill, revealing a ruined village to the left. Before the Americans left the Rock and the Brotherhood moved in, it had been home to servants, cooks, and other non-combatant members of the island’s garrison. Now, the buildings lay empty, whitewashed walls with only an occasional tile roof still intact. The jungle encroached on it from all sides but the south, where waves crashed at a sandy beach.

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New Year’s Eve update

Not a lot to report here in the halls of Many Words: there may still be a new address for Many Words Press World HQ, and I haven’t managed much writing since that news originally broke.

I do hope to get some done tomorrow, which suggests there may be some writing in January. As for the Soapbox fans, I’ll be sure to get on parvusimperator’s case about running some posts. (Also, I’ll be sure to write some.)

Thanks for your patience. We hope to be back on a reasonable schedule soon.

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A Christmas shilling

Not the coin, but rather the hawking of a product. For once it isn’t even my product. Instead, it’s from a family member. Mugs!

A quick review: they’re mugs. They feel sturdier to me than your ordinary white ceramic mug, they’re well-printed, and I find them funny. You can’t go wrong with a good mug. These are good mugs.

This concludes my Ron Swanson-esque review.

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