Cannon turned the radio’s volume knob to its loudest, then put the canvas cover back over the unit. Joe sighed and heaved it back onto his shoulder. Emma’s plane roared past overhead, wings rocking back and forth, and then banked to the northwest to rejoin the others.
Cannon, Joe, and eight of their men set off for the rendezvous, moving along a wide boulevard. Time had taken its relentless toll upon the dark gray stone road. Debris from the crumbling buildings to either side littered it, and roots, stretching like splayed fingers from the trees scattered between the buildings, had snapped the paving stones in half and flung the pieces aside. The pirates passed defensive positions, piles of sandbags and wooden crates of ammunition stamped 7.92×57 MAUSER, all hastily abandoned as the Nazis scurried to deal with Ground Two’s attack.
Soon, Cannon heard the crack of small arms fire over the growl of aero engines, and a few minutes later found Choufeng and his fifty men waiting at the edge of Pitu’s central square. They were a ragtag bunch, armed with everything from machine pistols to a few aero machine guns dating back to the Great War. A couple nursed hastily-bound gunshot wounds. Cannon spotted Choufeng tending to one of them and went over.
Choufeng stood, his long white queue pinned to the back of his khaki tunic. “Young Cannon,” he said, in his usual thin voice. He had an upper-class British accent, something he’d learned in Hong Kong, on top of his native Chinese. “Seven wounded, one in the leg. None are dying. The Germans are falling back to the eastern part of the city.”
“Well, we only need them out of the way.” Cannon pulled an aerial photo of the city from his pack and looked it over. “Take half your men and push east to here, then take that street north and cover the flank while we search for valuables. If you come under attack, put up a red flare. If you need reinforcements, put up red then green. When we’re ready to scram, we’ll put up a white one. If we need to rush, it’ll be two red.”
“I understand,” Choufeng said, bowing his head briefly. He pointed to the pirates he wnted with him, then nodded politely to Cannon and marched them off down he eastern road without another word.
“Alright, boys,” Cannon said, turning to the rest of the gang. “Inconstant will be here any minute. Let’s go find some loot.”