Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 51

Emma settled a headset over her ears, bent the microphone into place, and plugged the cable into a box on the fuselage. “How are we supposed to find the skipper?” she wondered.

“He will signal,” Choufeng replied.


There was silence over the intercom.

Emma cradled the elephant gun and peered out the windows. The Red Banner loomed large, a mile or two distant. The Soviet gunners had finally made it to their battle stations, and lines of tracers reached out from the zep toward the pirate fighters buzzing around it.

Four sleek, black shapes dropped away from the Red Banner‘s underbelly. “Fighters,” Emma said.


There was a sudden din of aero engines on top of the drone of the Red Banner‘s diesels. “Fighters,” Cannon said.

Iseabail nodded, slipping past Cannon to open a hatch in the zeppelin’s skin. Over the roar of the airstream, she said, “Sounds like. They cannae have arrestin’ gear on a zep this size, can they?”

“I doubt it.” The crate carefully balanced on his shoulder, Cannon stepped out onto the catwalk to the engine car, leaning forward against the hurricane-force wind battering him. Head down, he sidestepped his way to the hatch. Iseabail flung it open, and the two of them pushed into the gondola.

It was easier to stand inside, but scarcely any quieter. Twelve cylinders of diesel engine beat a steady rhythm, turning at maximum revolutions as Red Banner fled.

“Make some smoke!” Cannon shouted, setting down the crate and drawing his Mauser. He flattened himself against the bulkhead by the hatch, ready to turn the corner and shoot.

In the toolbox sitting against the aft bulkhead, Iseabail found a heavy wrench. She swung it through the window at the back of the car, then ran it over the frame to knock out the shards still clinging to it.

Fuel lines ran into the engine car through a conduit overhead. Iseabail followed one to the motor, then yanked it free. The sharp smell of fuel filled the gondola before she pressed her thumb over the end of the line to stem the flow. She pointed the line at a nearby exhaust pipe and let the fuel flow.

Thick white smoke immediately billowed from the pipe, flowing out the back of the gondola in a stream. “How’s tha’?” she said, pleased.

“It’ll do,” Cannon replied. He flung the hatch open, leaned out through the frame, and fired his Mauser down into the zeppelin. “Not a moment too soon, either.”

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