23. Crustaceans and Cats (part 1)

When he'd seen The Black and White Assassin's ship, Tarin's spirits had perked up remarkably fast, like a wild dog upon discovering the trail of its prey, and he'd rushed away to the armory. Perplexed, Elden had had no choice but to follow him, and now she stood there in a poorly ventilated, walk in closet stuffed with weapons of all natures. Spare firearms lined one wall, and swords hung from another; an island-countertop in the center of the room held mountains of miscellaneous parts including decapitated arrows and their heads, iron maces, a worn rope ladder, and a peculiar crate that appeared to be full of crustaceans. From the box, the prince removed one of the lifeforms, no bigger than his fist, and set it on the table top along with a compact computer screen.

“What is that?” asked the baffled captain.

“This, my dear captain,” he pressed a hidden button on the side of the creature, causing a small green light to blink on and the screen to light up beside it, “is a CGTD, a covert global tracking device. It’s just a prototype, though; Marcellian technologists haven't even put them on the market yet.”

“So it's a homing beacon disguised as a barnacle?”

“Well, yes, but it's not just a barnacle, no ma’am. It is a crustatum caelum, a sky crustacean. Over a century ago, when airships were first invented, the frames of old sea­-sailing ships were used, and once the vessels finally took to the air, they brought all of their sealife growth with them. The barnacles eventually adapted to their new, almost waterless environment by using the oxygen in the gaseous form of the life­-giving liquid found in clouds, and though they were discovered about a half-century ago, scientists are still raving about this creature’s evolutionary breakthr─”

I know all that! I learned about it the same day you did back at the academy, sire. What I want to know is what it’s for.”

“Ah, now you see, with this nifty contraption, I can track any flying vestal that I wish. All I have to do is place it on the side of the ship and follow the blip on this screen, here. It's easier than child's play, and the most beautiful part of it is that no one will ever find it because it's hidden in plain sight!”

She contemplated this, then stipulated, “So, you want to put it on Kronos' Return?”

“That's right,” he smiled brightly with excitement.

“Mmmmhmm,” Captain Stirling glanced at him with skeptic unbelief. “And who do you suppose is going to go and place the gorbellied thing on a ship full of dangerous pirates?”

            Hoisting the rope ladder from the table and draping it over his shoulder, the prince stopped short, shocked that his friend had not caught on to his plan by now. “Why, we are, of course.”

The End

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