Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 23

Cannon found himself on a catwalk which crossed the zep’s beam. Across the centerline was another companionway which led up to the dining room. Far forward was yet another, which led up to the main central corridor. Unless he missed his guess—the deck plan in his pocket unhelpfully failed to note which room he was looking for—they’d have put the cleaning closet far forward, near the most convenient access to the passenger cabins.

Unfortunately, the deck plan revealed that the forward companionway met the ventral catwalk directly above the gondola, and Cannon didn’t like his odds sneaking past the bridge watch. Much better to take the longer route, where all he had to contend with was sleeping crew and the slim chance of lookouts coming back from the engine pods, even if it meant he would have to come back with a heavy load.

He made his way forward, passing the galley on his left. He made a note to nab a pot on his way back, if he had the chance. He was still a little foggy on Iseabail’s plans, but something big to mix in wouldn’t go amiss.

Ahead was his biggest obstacle: the crew’s lounge. The deck plan had it as a large compartment, fifty feet long, flanked on both sides by bunkrooms and showers. The catwalk ran directly through it; it was too wide to go around. He sidled up to the hatch and cracked it open, peering through and listening for a moment. He then pushed it further, enough to fit his head through, and had a look around the lounge. For the moment, it was dark, quiet, and unoccupied. The low lights on the permanent circuit revealed a few threadbare sofas and armchairs, a long table in the middle of the space, and two bookshelves half-full of battered volumes.

He went inside and pulled the door closed. A chime sounded three times. On instinct, Cannon dove behind the nearest sofa. Happily, it had been placed in a corner, shielding him from easy view. He heard stirrings in compartments to either side, as grumpy Russians rolled out of bed. They filtered out to the lounge in ones and twos, and after five minutes of what sounded to Cannon like heated argument, seemed to agree that all had arrived. They left through the hatches fore and aft.

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