Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 22

It was no use skulking around while the crew was cleaning up for the night, so Cannon set his alarm clock for the wee hours of the morning, reclined on the couch, and closed his eyes.

He woke a few minutes before the alarm went off—a talent he’d cultivated during the war—and prepared for the night’s entertainment. Iseabail’s thunderous snoring covered what little noise he made as he changed into dark gray trousers festooned with pockets, a turtleneck in the same color, and soft-soled shoes.

Into his pockets went his lockpicks, a penlight, and a handful of glass beads, individually wrapped in paper to keep them from rattling. They made the devil’s own racket when thrown at something hard, turning heads and usually leaving him enough room to get past the easily-distracted sort of sentry.

He caught sight of his Mauser, waiting in the bottom of his suitcase, but decided against bringing it. As it was, he had only an outside shot at convincing a curious crewman that he’d merely gotten turned around on a nighttime stroll. Carrying a pistol, he’d have no chance at all. To boot, if he shot someone, they’d have to deal with a body. He took a pocketknife instead, and slipped a blackjack into an extra pocket.

He opened the door and padded into the corridor, making his way aft and toward the darkened, empty portside lounge. He went to the aftmost door on the inboard wall and jiggled the knob. Locked, as he suspected it might be. He knelt, took out his pocks, and set to work. Soon enough, the door clicked open. Cannon slipped through and slowly closed the door behind him.

From this side, though, it was a hatch. As Cannon descended the companionway, the illusion of solidity which had him calling hatches ‘doors’ and bulkheads ‘walls’ shattered. Heavy bracing ram from the Red Banner‘s keep to support the passenger compartments, which, form this side, were duralumin skeletons supporting fiber panels. The crew spaces reminded him of Inconstant—bare catwalks ran between compartments made of the thinnest duralumin possible. Floodlights haphazardly placed cast pools of light at intervals along the ways. Past the compartments overhead, he glimpsed the zep’s gas cells. The throb of the engines and a subtle smell of diesel permeated the air.

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