Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 54

Cannon undid his belt and handed it to Iseabail, ducking out from behind the engine to remind the remaining Russians what a bad idea it would be to come any closer. “Get across,” he said.

“An’ wha’ about you?”

“I have a plan.”

“Oh,” Iseabail said, shoulders drooping. “I thought ye migh’ have had somethin’ likely tae work.”

Cannon swatted her on the shoulder. “Go. I’ll see you in a minute.”

Iseabail fastened the belt around the line, locked her arms through it, and jumped. Her whoop of delight faded quickly. Cannon leaned out from behind the engine, fired a few shots at the Russians, and ducked away as bullets sparked off the block.

Quickly, Cannon reloaded, moving aft along the engine and taking up position beneath the stream of smoke still flowing out the shattered window behind him. After a few moments, the engine car’s hatch flew off its hinges, and Kopeikin stormed in, aiming his pistol at the forward end of the engine. Cannon rose from his hiding place to Kopeikin’s right and said, “Drop it, comrade.”

The chopper man behind Kopeikin swung his gun toward Cannon. Promptly, the pirate captain shot him in the leg. The Russian staggered backward toward the hull of the zeppelin.

“That goes for you, too.” Cannon swung the Mauser back toward Kopeikin as a pair of pistols clattered against the deck. Kopeikin’s eyes narrowed, shining with an inner fury. Cannon added, “Now give me your belt.”

“Pardon?” Kopeikin said, all the wind going out of his sails.

“You heard me. Off with it.”

Slowly and deliberately, Kopeikin unfastened his belt. As he did, he found his way back to his earlier rage. “You are not an archaeologist.”

“Pirate,” Cannon said.

“Thief,” Kopeikin corrected.

Cannon shrugged. “Six of one, a half-dozen of the other.”

“In the old days, we branded the word on their foreheads. For you, I think, we will bring the tradition back.” Kopeikin dropped his belt on the deck and held his hands up.

Cannon waved him out of the engine car with the muzzle of the Mauser. “Is this the part where you tell me I’ve made a dangerous enemy?”

Backing up, Kopeikin said, “You have made—da. Yes. When I find you, pirate, I will kill you.”

“Back of the line, comrade.

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