Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 4

Leaving their bags, Cannon and Iseabail made their way to the portside lounge. Though the Red Banner was smaller than Inconstant, she didn’t need so large a flight deck. Freed from that constraint, she had a much greater amount of space for accommodations. The zep could carry some three hundred passengers. All of them could fit into her lounge without crowding. It stretched on and on, just over half the length of Inconstant‘s hangar. From the windows at the hull in to the inner wall, it was some thirty yards across, divided into two tiers. Coming from the centerline, Cannon and Iseabail arrived on the higher tier; staircases ran down to the lower tier at intervals.

The lounge had the same aesthetic as the cabins: bare metal, simple furniture, and, more unusually, bamboo flooring. The only other nod to style—indeed, the only splash of color in the whole of the lounge—came from the inboard walls. A massive red banner bearing a golden hammer and sickle hung at the forward and aft ends of the lounge, and in between, murals depicted scenes from the glorious people’s revolution, Chairman Trotsky front and center.

Iseabail and Cannon descended the nearest staircase to the lower tier, settling in at a brushed aluminum table for two with a view out the windows. “I wonder if our Mr. Volkov has boarded yet,” Cannon said, back in character. “I simply cannot wait to meet him.”

Per the plan, they’d do a lot more than just chat. After the stop in Hawaii, Cannon would knock Volkov out, tie him up, and take the item. Then, they would await the Long Nines and head to an engine pod. An Albatross would pull up next to them, and Emma would launch a line across.

Iseabail elbowed Cannon. “Look,” she said.

A short, mousy man pushed open the door to the cabin forward of the lounge. Porters wheeled a large crate in behind him. “How come they didna help us wi’ our bags?” Iseabail asked.

“So much for the dictatorship of the proletariat,” Cannon agreed. He flagged down a passing steward. “Pardon me, my good man. I heard Artiom Volkov is taking this flight. Has he boarded?”

The steward looked at Cannon as though he’d grown a third arm, but answered nevertheless, in a thickly-accented baritone. “Artiom Vladimirovitch,” he mused. “Ah. There he is now.” He pointed, then scurried away before Cannon could ask anything else.

“Rude,” said Cannon, turning to Iseabail. “Wouldn’t you…” Her mouth hung open. Cannon followed her gaze.

Volkov was a mountain of a man, the largest Cannon had ever seen. He stood nearer seven feet tall than six, and must have weighed well north of two hundred pounds. Muscles bulged through his ill-fitting suit. He opened the door to the forward cabin, only barely squeezing through, even though the door stood wide open.

Iseabail leaned over as Volkov slammed the door behind him. “I still think you can take him.”

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