Forward, surrounded by the gas cells that kept the airship afloat, was the main hangar, its braced duralumin walls rising some fifty feet above the level of the catwalk. The roar of radial engines met Cannon as he opened the hatch in, and then faded as two Kestrel interceptors dropped from the skyhooks and out of the zeppelin. The hangar was longer and wider than a football field, a network of rails suspended from the ceiling running overhead. At the forward end of the hangar, in the parking section, twenty-one aircraft hung in neat rows. From there, the rails ran aft to the skyhooks, one large one in the center and two smaller hooks, one each forward and aft of the larger. From the hooks, the rail network ran aft to the repair bays, directly over Cannon’s head. A Française Impériale Constructions Aéronautiques A.IV C.1 ‘Faucon’ occupied one of them, its cowling removed, and Cannon spotted a familiar figure inspecting the bare engine.
“Joe!” he called. “Anything I should be worried about?”
Josiah Copeland took the control box from its harness next to him, and in a moment had lowered his mechanic’s platform to deck level. As he stepped off, the platform swayed gently on its cables. “Nope,” he said. “I figured I’d get some routine maintenance out of the way while I have the time.”
“Expecting a fight?” Cannon asked.
Copeland grinned, a brilliant white against the coffe-bean color of his skin. “Better to have ’em and not need ’em,” he said. “A few of the Kestrels are gonna need an overhaul in the next month or two. Those radials,” he said, shaking his head. “They’re fast, boss, but you got to put in parts as often as gas.”
“They are fast, though,” Cannon deadpanned, and Copeland gave him a look. “When we’re in Soerebaja I’ll cable my man in Darwin. Maybe he can get a line on the next shipment out to India.”
“If the British are gonna come after us anyway, we may as well give them a good reason,” Copeland said.
“We aim to please,” said Cannon jovially. “Have you seen Isea lately?”
“She and Emma came by half an hour ago,” Copeland said with a nod.
“That spells trouble,” Cannon replied, cracking a grin. “I’d better go see what they’re up to and tell them to cut it out.”
Copeland snorted. The crane overhead whined, pulling him and his platform back up. “Good luck, boss,” he called.