“This is no’ better than sneakin’ along the catwalks,” Iseabail groused.
Cannon unfolded the deck plan tucked in his waistcoat pocket and studied it. He pointed aft. “All we have to do is get to that catwalk.”
Iseabail squinted, then looked over her shoulder. “Tha’s further than we’ve already come.”
“And we’re already late,” said Cannon, tucking the map back into his pocket. “Come on.”
Emma undid her harness and doffed her flying helmet as Inconstant‘s forward skyhook drew her Kestrel up into the hangar. Past the caution striping, Joe was waiting.
Over Emma’s head, a transfer hook locked through her plane’s arresting hoop, then the skyhook let go. The Kestrel swung side to side as the transfer hook trundled along the overhead rails to clear the hole in the deck.
It jolted to a stop as soon as it was clear, and a ladder appeared against the side of the fuselage. Emma rolled the canopy back on its rails, clambered out of the cockpit, and slid down the ladder.
“Now what was so important you had to call me in?” Emma demanded, walking up to Joe and pushing her helmet into his chest. She had to raise her voice. On the big center skyhook, a twin-engined Albatross transport was warming up. “The only bit of fun I get to have today, ruined.”
“Wouldn’t say the only fun,” Joe replied. “Isea’s grapple gun is on the fritz. Have to do things the old-fashioned way.”
Emma’s glare turned into a grin almost immediately. “And you need me to make the shot.”
Joe spread his hands and inclined his head, raising an eyebrow as if to say, ‘Well? Will you?’
“Why didn’t you just say so?” said Emma. “It’s a way harder shot than anything I’d get beating up on the Reds.”
“The boss is still aboard. Didn’t want to give up the game, in case they’re listening.”
“Fair enough.” Emma glanced over Joe’s shoulder to the Albatross. It was an ungainly-looking, asymmetric thing. A long wing, nearly matching the skyhook’s forty yards of width, played host to two separate fuselages placed side by side near its center. The left-hand fuselage had an engine at its front, then swelled to the cargo hold and slimmed again to a point, decorated on the top and left by tailplanes. The right-side fuselage was much shorter, with a multifaceted glass nose, an engine aft, and a machine gun turret sprouting from the top. “Who’s flying?”
“Choufeng,” Joe replied.
“Just the man for the job.”