The clock in Inconstant‘s map room read just past midnight. Joe stood behind the landing controller, watching two planes on approach through the windows at the back of the gondola. A few hundred feet away, spotlights shone upon the center skyhook as it swayed in the wind. Just a little further off, an Albatross flew toward the skyhook on the landing controller’s instructions.
“Ten yards to contact.”
Joe rubbed at his chin and tapped his foot. Nobody liked night flying—besides Choufeng, who had just landed his Kestrel on the forward hook without so much as a word of help—but Joe had heard nothing from Cannon after Rule Britannia stopped blanketing the airwaves. He hadn’t had much of a choice but to sent a flight to El Balyana to nose around. Choufeng had made it away cleanly, but Marcel Lecocq in the Albatross had taken a few hits.
“Two yards. Up a hair.”
The Albatross nosed into the light. It shouldn’t have been buffetting half as much as it was, and Joe thought he could make out some damage to the rought wing.
Lecocq goosed the throttles, and the Albatross’s arresting hook slammed into the skyhook and clamped shut. The skyhook rocked fore and aft, absorbing the plane’s excess speed, then settled down and began to lift Lecocq into the zeppelin.
“Good job,” Joe said. “Tell the hangar I’m on my way.”