At some point in the distant past, some earthquake or volcano had separated the island of Madoera from the island of Java, leaving a notch in the northwest Javanese coast. Tucked into that notch was the city of Soerabaja, stretching two miles inland from the sparkling sapphire sea. Whitewashed Dutch colonial buildings, bearing their hallmark steep, red-tiled roofs and curved, Oriental gables, shone brilliantly against the lush greens of the farms and jungles beyond. Soerabaja was a first-rate port, too, protected by the whole of Madoera and yet still easily accessible by broad channels to the north and east.
That was of little importance these days, and unfortunately, Soerabaja’s accommodations for zeppelins weren’t nearly as good. The Vliegveld Morokrembangan was hemmed in on the north and west by the ocean and an inlet, on the east by the railway station and the city past it, and on the south by rice paddies and farmland too soft for a docking mast. Fortunately, there’d been a berth open for Inconstant, and the zeppelin floated serenely amidst four others. She blended in well: with her gunports closed and her color the natural silver of her skin, the only thing to mark her as a pirate was the sign of the Long Nines gang, one old-fashioned naval cannon above another, emblazoned on her vertical tailplanes.
The fledgling Dutch Republic’s liberal attitude toward piracy against anything that wasn’t Dutch made her Southeast Asian colonies an ideal place for Cannon to drop anchor. The crew had forty-eight hours to do as they pleased, while Cannon and Emma made their way through the train station, across the street on the far side, into the Grand Hotel Republiek, and through the door into the bar.
Before them were a few dozen tables and the bar proper, all done in light tropical woods, and populated by the sorts usually found in colonial bars. Some wore practical clothing like Cannon’s khaki; others opted for suits in light fabrics. Emma, who fell into the first category, was the only woman present. The bare framing overhead and the refined rough-and-tumble crowd gave the place a rustic feel, which was ruined by the sparkling crystal drinkware and the polished brass hanging lights. The crew couldn’t afford the sorts of things served here, but when Lachapelle found hismelf in Soerabaja, he hardly ever left. After all, most of the news in the city that concerned the readers of Le Temps happened in this room.
“Just wait,” Emma said, as Cannon spotted the Frenchman at a table in the middle of the room and helped himself to a seat.
“Ah, Monsieur Cannon,” Lachapelle said, brightly but in a low tone that kept his voice from carrying over the background chatter. “And I see you ‘ave brought l’inappréciable Mademoiselle Fostair—”
“Second bloody thing out of his mouth,” Emma said, giving Cannon a satisfied smirk.
“Alright, I see your point,” Cannon said. “Afternoon, Lachapelle. Have the pictures?”