19. Crustaceans and Cats (Page 1)

Like a wild dog rediscovering the trail of its prey, Tarin’s spirits lifted at the sight of The Black and White Assassin’s ship, and he scampered away to the armory with his perplexed friend right on his heals. 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, 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?

“This, my dear captain,” he pressed a hidden button on the side of the creature, causing 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 put them on the market yet.”

“You and your prototypes…” she muttered, “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. About 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 environment by using the oxygen in the gaseous form of water found in clouds, and though they were discovered over a half-century ago, scientists are still raving about this creature’s evolutionary breakthr─”

I know all that! What I want to know is what it’s for.”

“Ah, now you see, with this nifty contraption, I can track any flying vessel 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!”

“So, you want to put it on Kronos' Revenge?”

“That's right!” he beamed brightly, and Elden’s heart almost skipped a beat. That was his real smile ─ not the agreeable, plastic grin he used while speaking with diplomats or the provocative simper he used when he flirted with wealthy, young women. It was the true smile that she only saw when he was practicing his swordplay or talking about wonders of science and the future of technology. The captain, herself, had very little interest in such topics, yet she could listen to him for hours if only to see his delighted dimples. It was her favorite smile, but she would never tell him that.

“Mmmmhmm,” she 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, arching his eyebrow, “Why, we are, of course.”

~ ~ ~

“Remind me why I'm doing this again, why I'm scaling down two lengths of rope and a hand full of logs to put a piece of untested technology on the enemy's ship ─ without any weaponry protection. I still can’t believe you made me leave my sword up there,” the captain complained as they dangled from the side of the Azure Conquest above Kronos' Revenge.

“I told you already, El─”

Captain Stirling!

The End

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