Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 7

“Then perhaps,” said Wailani, “you’ve heard of our most distinguished passenger, Artiom Volkov?”

Cannon didn’t need to feign his excitement. “I have. He has advanced the state of Central American archaeology by decades.”

Wailani nodded. “He is also a three-time heavyweight champion in the Soviet Union.”

Cannon blinked. “How unexpected. He seems a fascinating fellow. I should like to meet him.”

“You may have the chance,” Wailani said. “You asked for tips? Flying aboard a Soviet zep is certainly an experience—there are no classes. Odds are you will come across Mr. Volkov at dinner at least once. All but the captain’s favored few dine as equals.”

Cannon raised an eyebrow. Iseabail said, “Tha’ sounds like classes ta me.”

Wailani laughed. “Don’t you see? The Soviet Union is a classless society. The captain is, of course, a good Soviet. Therefore, the captain dining with his friends among the wealthy and famous cannot be evidence of separate classes.” He lowered his voice and leaned in conspiratorially, eyes gleaming. “Don’t let the Russians catch you talking like that.” Straightening, he added, “Nor should you expect much service from the stewards.”

Cannon leaned back, momentary speechless. “What, then, do they do?”

“Deliver meals, and sometimes help with cleaning. If you want more, you may hire one.”

“Haven’t they already been hired?” Cannon said, then held up his hand to forestall further comment. “Never mind. It is too bizarre.” He smiled regardless. “Thank you for your advice, Mr. Wailani. Perhaps we will meet over dinner.”

All three of them stood, and Wailani grinned. He offered his hand, and Cannon shook it. “Undoubtedly.”

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