Cannon and his crew skulked upslope. Behind them, the sun rose over Pitu. From this vantage, Cannon could see most of the city. Much if it lay in ruins, the dark, volcanic stones scattered, leaving only low walls amidst piles of rubble. The tall buildings, steep-sided, flat-topped pyramids built in tiers, stood out starkly against the jungle and the sky. A mile further down the slope, the Nazi zep struggled to claw its way into the wind, but to no avail: every time her captain got her nose turning to windward, the steady breeze caught her broadside and pushed her further down the mountain.
Overhead, Emma’s fighters buzzed in lazy circles, diving on the Nazis as they dropped back to the east. Judging by the pattern of their runs, some Nazi stragglers were still to Cannon’s west. Cannon didn’t hear the planes firing, though he did hear the pop and rattle of distant small arms. Emma was marking them for Choufeng, Cannon thought. That was initiative worth encouraging. He made a note of it.
To the west, Inconstant cleared the ridge, engines already running in reverse to take off her speed. Cannon’s party gave a ragged cheer.
“Easy. We haven’t pulled this off yet,” Cannon said. “Break up by fours and search the buildings northeast and northwest of here. That walled complex ahead is the palace. The groups of towers there and there are probably temples. Look for anything with metal, anything with jewels, and anything ornate. Pack it carefully—it’s worth a lot more if it isn’t dinged up. Grab anything that looks like it could be valuable. We don’t have the time to be picky. If you bump into any goons, hide if you can’t get the drop on them. Put up a red flare if you’re under fire and you can’t handle it. I’ll use the usual flare code when it’s time to scram, or if we have to get out of here in a hurry. Any questions?” He looked around the half-circle of pirates. “Good. Get to it. Copeland, Burr, you’re with me.”
They picked their way over the broken paving stones, headed almost due east toward an imposing building, the only intact flat roof Cannon had seen so far. He thought it could be a storehouse; when Pitu had become the capital, whatever crafts its people practiced almost certainly grew more refined. If there was anything left, it would be worth something.
Suddenly, Burr held up a hand. Cannon ducked into the shadow of a thirty-foot building, and Burr whispered, “Voices. German.” She looked expectantly at Joe.
Joe closed his eyes. “Patrol,” he whispered. “Headed east with the rest of them.”
Cannon heard the voices now, and they were getting louder. “Inside,” he mouthed, pointing to the yawning darkness of the building’s doorway. He burst in, Mauser in hand, and growled, “Snavely!”