Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 2

For his part, Cannon leaned back and stretched his legs. Finally, after two years, he was mere days from putting the whole ugly affair in Panama behind him. He had mixed feelings about the place—no, that was wrong. He had deeply negative feelings about the whole country. He had lost crew, his friends. He had nearly lost his zeppelin, all on a mountainside not far from here. Fortunately, he didn’t plan to stay long.

He and Iseabail had tickets to board a Soviet zep, the Red Banner of the People’s Crusade, which awaited their arrival in Panama City. It would soon depart for Vladivostok, by way of Honolulu and Yokohama. Traveling with them would be one Artiom Volkov, a Red archaeologist who had recently excavated the temple complex in which Cannon and his crew had nearly met their ends. Volkov had in his possession a particular item, a statuette that Cannon had promised to deliver to a particular client. At last, he could make good on his word. They would board the zep, gain Volkov’s confidence, and then abuse it to gain their target. After that, the rest of the Long Nines would attack the Red Banner after she left Hawaii, and retrieve Cannon, Iseabail, and the item.

Simple. Too simple, in Cannon’s estimation. A plan that easy had no room to improvise when things went wrong, and something always went wrong.

The train ran alongside the Rio Grande for a few miles, then turned away through a valley and a small village, and past a sign beside the tracks labeled ‘Corrazal’. The train pushed on, the jungle on both sides nearly close enough to touch. Through the open windows, the birdsong and an occasional monkey’s cry vied with the rattle of the wheels, the chug of the engine, and the whir of the electric fans pushing a humid breeze through the carriage. A steward stopped by their compartment with iced lemonade, which Cannon gratefully accepted.

They rounded a bend, and suddenly, Panama City and the Pacific Ocean stretched out before them. The azure sea faded into the infinite distance, dotted here and there with whitecaps. Somewhere in the haze, it became the sky, filled with cotton ball clouds.

The train’s near-constant descend eased as it reached the coastal plain. They would be in Ancón, Panama’s sister city here on the isthmus’ southeast coast. Just before the Ancón wharf, where stevedores worked to load the rail freight onto waiting ships, the train turned down a siding and came to Panama City Station.

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