The arrival of piracy had done much to improve the city’s standing. The city had grown upward, now playing host to an honest high rise or two. The farms had gone further inland or further northeast along the coast, and now the skeletons of zeppelins littered the space between the mooring masts and miles beyond. Some had just arrived, resting on the ground rather than floating serenely above it. Others were in more advanced states of decay. Here was a zep with its skin missing in great gashes. There was one whose keel had broken, ripping apart its dorsal skin and leaving duralumin bracing rings leaning outward one against the other, God’s own dominoes. Over there, what had once been an airship was now but stacks of girders and folded fabric.
As Inconstant drew nearer, those aboard could see teams of men on the ground, along with the actinic glare of cutters. These were the Darwin breakers: rough men with a rough job. Zeppelins came in. Nobody asked too strenuously from where. Sometimes, the breakers might choose to fix up one up and resell it. Usually, they took it down for parts and sold those parts along. Either way, they took a healthy cut before settling up with the interested party.
Inconstant stayed well clear of the mooring masts. Majestic‘s prize crew brought her in to land, and shortly after, an Albatross departed Inconstant‘s hangar. It lined up on a rutted patch of dirt, what passed for a runway here, and touched down in an enormous cloud of dust.
Cannon emerged. He haggled briefly with a dirt-stained man in a broad hat. Eventually, the two shook hands. That was enough. No breaker would dare cross a pirate captain, for obvious reasons. No pirate captain would aim to cheat a Darwin breaker. There was nowhere better to sell.
Cannon and the Long Nines prize crew, fifteen in all, boarded the Albatross. After a few minutes, its engines coughed to life. The ungainly transport taxied in a tight circle. The engines’ rattle grew to a steady thrum, and the plane bounced down the runway, then clawed its way into the sky. Inconstant turned south, and the Albatross followed.