124. NaNoWriMo Day 30

24

It all happened very quickly, and was all over in a terrible hurry.

As the muzzle flash lit up the space below the deck in a light that came as sudden as the lightning, the Swordsman and Rayna regained their vision for the briefest of moments, and the creatures lost theirs as their receptors were suddenly overloaded with stimuli.

The two adventurers saw, in startling and horrific clarity, the grotesque visage of the creatures that were hunched all around them, one blackened, bony knuckle shielding their eyes from the light, the skinny, gaunt jaw with yellowed fangs revealed behind the lipless mouths just visible through the gaps in the creatures’ impossibly thin fingers.

Then the light was lost, and once again they were plunged into darkness.

With a collective shriek of agony and a hiss of outrage, the creatures made their resolve. Unfortunately for them, the Swordsman and Rayna had already made theirs.

The Swordsman’s blade moved with masterful grace in his hands, and the sound of snapping bones and dismembered body parts striking the floor was heard. With her back pressed firmly against the Swordsman’s, Rayna had her dagger up and ready, and the edges of the blade seemed to glow with an increasingly intense blue light, accompanied by a sharp whine that was steadily rising to a shrill note.

To the average human ear, this whine that came ringing out of Rayna’s dagger was only a little more than the annoying ringing one might hear in one’s ear from time to time; but the creatures, who were as sensitive to sound as they were to light, the sound resonated within their skulls like a bullet ricocheting here and there, overwhelming their senses, turning their brains to mush. Their eyes might have watered if they had tear ducts left; but most of them simply fell over as they lost their balance, and then their sight to the bright noise.

There was a loud growl that came from directly ahead of her, and Rayna heard the sound of claws scraping against dry wood just in time to do an instinctive wide slash into the air before her. Any sooner, she might completely miss the lunging creature; and any later, the creature might have sunk its fangs into her throat; but her instincts did not fail her this time, and her blade cut the creature nearly in half across its middle.

A wet thumping sound was heard as the disemboweled thing fell to the ground.

The Swordsman continued to slash away in swift, powerful strokes, finding his targets within the confined space every time he did. His feet weaved their way across the floor, always keeping him on the move, and always keeping his balance and posture right.

I am a swordsman. I live by the sword.

Something came crawling towards him. He could feel it in the floorboards. In one fluid motion, he spun his blade around and brought it down in a downwards stab, impaling the creature by his feet through its brittle head. The tip of his sword, guided by the strength of his arms, broke through the creature’s skull and sank easily for another five centimeters or so; and then the Swordsman pulled it back up, and continued with the slashes that he had practiced ten thousand times before.

I will not hold back in a fight.

His next blow was swung with a deliberate increase in strength, and through the blade, he knew that three of these creatures have just lost their heads. He spun, giving another low slash, and his sword struck something new.

Wood.

By the light of the muzzle flash some ten seconds ago, the Swordsman saw all he needed to see: the positions of the impish creatures, their heights, the space that surrounded them; and most importantly, the way out of the room that they were caught in. Step by step, he had been maneuvering both him and Rayna towards a particularly weak spot in the wall.

With his sword finally resting for a moment, the Swordsman drew his leg up and inwards, and then delivered a strong sideways kick to the wall–

CRACK! The wood gave way, but not nearly enough. A tiny crack of light was visible through the damage in the wood. Behind him, Rayna swung her blade again, and its tip caught a lunging creature right underneath its jaw, tearing its throat wide open and sending it into a spin as it fell.

CRUNCH! The Swordsman’s second kick, off to the side of the first, tore a new exit out of the lower deck. Dust motes danced in the light that filtered in. The opening was small, not likely to be large enough for either of them to fit through. The Swordsman raised his sword, but this time not to use its blade.

He hammered the butt of the tough wooden hilt against the wooden boards on top of the opening, and when it did not budge, he hit it again harder. Harder. Harder still; and even the millennium-old wood had to give way.

‘Now, Rayna!’

Rayna had her dagger sticking into a creature’s face when the order came; and before she could be ready for it, the Swordsman’s hand came wrapping around her middle, and she was pulled with him as he plowed through the weakened boards.

25

They came tumbling out into the light of the late afternoon sun, and the hot sand burned their skin where they were exposed.

Rayna was the first between them to get to her feet, choosing to dust the sand off herself before picking her dagger up off the ground. She began to laugh a little – a giddy, incredulous laugh.

‘What can I say?’ she said, breathing heavily. ‘Except that I’ll never want to–’

The inhuman howl came as suddenly as the creature’s appearance. Before Rayna had time to turn, her assailant had already crossed the distance between them, having braved the sunlight, and latched itself onto her shoulder, its claws sinking into her, tearing through the bandages and into her skin. Its mouth opened wide, baring razor-sharp sets of teeth against her face.

The Swordsman’s revolver was up in a flash–

BLAM!

The gunshot could be heard echoing through the graveyard of sunken ships long after the creature laid dead in the sand with a bullet hole in its forehead. Rayna stared dumbly down at the Swordsman, who had his revolver up and pointed at the space beside her head, its barrel smoking.

‘Holy Christ,’ was all she could say.

The Swordsman picked himself off the ground and kept his weapons away, his senses still ringing with alarm.

‘Time to go,’ he said.

Rayna nodded quickly; and before long, they were back on their dust scooters, riding out of the place and back to the HMS Clarent at top speed, both retreating into the inner world of their thoughts, pondering over what had just happened. Rayna considered her luck, only beginning to digest the number of times she had been close to death within the last few minutes. The Swordsman, on the other hand, had his mind on his weapons, and their performance in that final battle just outside Zheng He’s ship earlier. There was one thing that was deeply troubling about it all.

For the bullet which struck the creature earlier was not fired from his weapon.

123. NaNoWriMo Day 28

23

The afternoon sunlight did little to illuminate the insides of the ship, and when the Swordsman felt the cool, damp air that was trapped in the interiors that had been hidden away in shadow all this time, it began to sink in just how much trouble they were both in.

The back of his boot bumped against the unconscious girl’s body, and there it stopped. The Swordsman had kept his revolver away, and now both hands were at the ready by his sword.

There was barely a sound from the darkness all around, but still he could feel the hundreds of eyes that were set on him, waiting to see what he would do. On the ground behind him, Rayna stirred.

‘Rayna,’ he tried, keeping his voice low. From the shadows to his right, there was a quiet snarl, and the sound of dry bones scraping along the wooden floorboards as the creature advanced.

The Swordsman drew his blade, quick as lightning – and there was a hiss when the light caught the blade and was reflected into the darkness. To the human eye, there was barely any light to see by; but for these creatures that have stayed in the dark for so long, every pinprick of light was a dagger in their eyes.

‘Rayna!’ he said, voice still low but an urgency creeping into it. ‘Up, now!’

The girl stirred again, but this time there was a wakefulness that was coming back to her. ‘Gosh,’ she mumbled, ‘What in the world happened? It’s dark in here.’

‘Zombies,’ he chose the word that she could understand, ‘All around. You can’t see them, but there are hundreds of them. Ready your weapon.’

Her body stiffened as alarm filled her. He could feel it in the shifting of her energy. His only fear was that these creatures all around them could feel it too.

‘There’s no way out but through them, is there?’ Rayna said as she swiftly got to her feet. Now the creatures have gotten restless, and he could feel them tensing up, impatient. Tired of waiting.

‘I hope you’re adept with your blade, girl,’ he said, picking up his loaded revolver and aiming it into the darkness before him. ‘We have three seconds before they recover. Ready?’

‘Will anyone really be ready to fight for their lives?’ she laughed a little, then said with a sigh: ‘As ready as I’ll ever be, Stubs.’

The Swordsman steeled his gaze, and fired his hand cannon into the dark with a deafening crash.

122. NaNoWriMo Day 27

22

He dashed over to where the girl had been standing just a moment ago and looked down the hole in the wooden deck, body pressed flat against the dry boards.

‘RAYNA!’ he called into the darkness below, and no answer came.

The Swordsman began looking around for another, hopefully safer, way down; but before he could find it, there came a sound from the hole in the deck. It began faintly, and one might have mistaken it for the wind; but after his time spent in the desert, he knew better. He didn’t have to wait for them to begin gnashing their teeth to recognize the sound for their hosts.

He pulled the revolver from the holster and aimed it into the darkness, angling it off to one side, and prayed that the barrel wasn’t pointed at Rayna, wherever she had found herself.

If he did not do this, it would mean the end of her anyway.

With a terrifying sound that struck like a lightning bolt, the revolver went off, gunpowder igniting and sparks flying; and for a moment, by the flash of the revolver’s muzzle, he could catch a still image from the space below:

There laid Rayna, sprawled out cold on the floor of the lower deck. The bullet had struck the ground a good foot away from her head, the hole it created a smoking black spot in the wood. Around the girl’s unconscious body, he saw glimpses of blackened, malnourished hands that seemed more like claws, the way the bone pressed against the skin in harsh angles. There was, too, a dull reflection of the muzzle flash that came in pairs all around her.

As the light went out, a hiss came rising out of the lower deck, along with the sounds of scuttling and scraping. The Swordsman wasted no time in chambering the next bullet, and then aiming it again right into the darkness and pulling the trigger.

Another crash, another series of hisses – this time they came with an aggressive edge to them. He could only rely on scare tactics for so long before the creatures decided to fight back.

‘The things I do,’ the Swordsman said with a sigh, and threw himself into the hole in the ground.

121. NaNoWriMo Day 26

21

Their shadows had grown longer by the time Zheng He’s ship came into view again. It appeared from behind the last ship like the sun breaking away from the silhouette of the moon after an eclipse. Rayna, ever enthusiastic, led the way, and the Swordsman followed behind, crunching loose sand underfoot with every step.

The closer they got to the colossal vessel, the more it began to dawn upon them that the admiral’s ship was much, much larger than it had looked from afar. When the size of the ship was first described to Rayna, she remembered asking if it was as big as a football field.

‘Yes, as big as a football field,’ Paps said in response, and that image had stuck. Now as she stepped towards it, she thought that two men could find themselves working on this very same boat for two years, and never see each other’s face, much less know each other’s name. “Big” would not even begin to describe the largeness of the ship: forget a football field, or even a block of houses; the deck, by Rayna’s estimation, was likely to be large enough to host a small town, buildings and all.

‘You’re seeing this, right? Stubs?’ she said breathily, gazing up at the massive seafarer.

Though the Swordsman offered nothing in response, he too shared her awe of the gargantuan ship. They continued to close in on the ship as they took in the sight of it, and the Swordsman only realized how close they had gotten when the shadow of the ship fell over him. His gaze dropped from the masts to the space before him, and alarm coursed through him when he saw Rayna already thirty paces ahead of him, heading deeper into the shadow and out of the protection of the sunlight.

‘Rayna!’ he called, his hands dropping to the sword at his hip. ‘Be wary!’

‘Chill out, mister,’ she waved without looking back at him, much to his chagrin; though it did offer him some marginal relief to see her pulling her dagger out of the sheath strapped to her thigh, the silver of the blade glinting in whatever light that remained.

The Swordsman held on tight to the hilt of his sword as they drew ever closer to the ship.

‘Can you believe how it managed to stay in one piece, after all these years?’ Rayna wondered out loud when she got near enough to touch the ancient wood. ‘I mean, being a sunken ship, you’d imagine that it’d look a lot more battered up than this.’

She was right. The ship was in remarkable condition, with only the weathering of time showing on the side that faced them. It looked as though the ship was built right here in the desert (though at that time this place would have been at the bottom of the sea), and the builders simply left it sitting there when the work was completed.

‘Well, after me, I guess,’ Rayna announced, then with her silver dagger dexterously held between her fingers, she reached up and began to climb on board Zheng He’s ship.

She was almost halfway up when the Swordsman parked his dust scooter next to where Rayna had left hers. He stepped over to face the blackened wood, and as he pressed a hand against it, thought that he felt a little tremor running through the material, as though the ship was alive with some form of energy.

His right hand found the rungs carved into the side of the ship, and his left hand reluctantly let go of the sheath that he might be able to pull himself up. He might have been about a quarter of the way up when he heard Rayna vault the last few steps and onto the deck above, the dull thump against the solid wood audible to his ears, though he could not feel it as he continued to climb.

While the Swordsman took his own sweet time to ascend, Rayna stood on the deck of the ship, the first living person to do so in a millennium. Through the maze of smaller masts ahead of her, she could see the low-hanging afternoon sun – not quite yellow yet, but at the same time not quite white either.

She drank in the view; and for a precious moment, the memories of the long years of difficult travel were forgotten; and even the invaluable jade that she had left in her vest was far from her mind. Right now, she was exactly where she needed to be, right at the place where everyone had worked so hard and so long to be. Behind her, the Swordsman lifted his weight up the final step and climbed onto the deck to join her, but she wasn’t paying any attention to that.

She took a step forward, walking across the wide open deck-

With a dry splintering sound, the ground beneath her suddenly gave way, and Rayna was only beginning to register the familiar sense of weightlessness that came with freefall when the light disappeared into darkness.

‘Rayna!’

Her hand shot up, but only managed to cut itself bloody against the sharp edges that were left behind on the broken wood.

Without so much as a scream, Rayna dropped into the inky blackness below the deck of Zheng He’s ship.

120. NaNoWriMo Day 25

20

You may have heard this one before, said in a different way by a different man in very different circumstances, but when it came to the outlaw hunting another outlaw, many things stayed the same; so here it is again:

The Swordsman ventured through the maze of ancient ships, and the bounty hunter followed.

The bounty hunter and his companion, the soldier, had wrap-around shades on to protect their eyes from the blinding light of the sun that reflected off the desert floor. Damien loved them for how snugly they fit around his head, and how the lenses were close enough to his eye that he could still use his iron sights comfortably. Sonny loved them for how cool they looked.

Before they left the HMS Clarent lying in the sand, Damien located the panel at the bottom of the console in the pilot’s cockpit, opened it, and pushed a button that fired off a distress signal into space. Even in the age of lightspeed information transfer, the bureaucracy of the Royal Air Force meant that it would be probably three hours before anyone got around to doing anything about the distress signal; and Damien would sooner shoot himself than to just sit around and wait for those three hours.

He had time, and he intended to use it efficiently. When he saw the man with the hundred-thousand pound bounty on his head (double that, if the man was brought back alive) lying facedown half dead in the sand, he figured that it would be a cakewalk to keep the man alive for a few more hours, and then drop him off at Kowloon for a hundred grand – charity, considering that he was the one to do all the work. The girl, whom he had found in a similar manner at the base of a sand dune in the middle of a dust scooter wreckage could probably net him another twenty thousand. Enough to shut Sonny up about “his share of the money” or whatever nonsense that man had ready on his tongue.

They were his captives. His products. It wasn’t about revenge, or some similar petty thing that sent him out into the desert to hunt them both down. This was a matter of professional pride. He was a bounty hunter, and a bounty hunter was nothing if he couldn’t be counted upon to get the job done properly. If he could not get them alive (the man, at least), he would have them dead, plain and simple.

The desert air was still and stifling; but that also meant that there was no wind to cover the two’s tracks. A twin trail, left behind by the dust scooters, traced the way all the way into the horizon and disappeared behind it. So the bounty hunter and the soldier followed these tracks, trudging along at a steady, determined pace towards their targets, stopping for the briefest of moments every half-hour or so for Damien to look into the sights of his sniper rifle to check their surroundings.

‘Do you think she was telling the truth?’ Sonny spoke up after an hour-long silence, a golden time that Damien was enjoying quite immensely, unfortunately. ‘About– About Eric and the rest, being…’

“Dead,’ Damien completed his sentence. ‘Yes.’

‘Yes?’

‘Yes, I think that she was telling the truth,’ he replied wearily. ‘In fact, I don’t think that she was telling the truth – I am certain that she told us the plain truth.’

Sonny shook his head, making the sign of the cross as he did. ‘Bless their souls,’ he said sadly. ‘They were good men. Maybe not honest men, but good men.’

Damien, who couldn’t have cared less if one of those men were the second coming of Christ, simply grunted in response. Sonny was a good soldier, if not a little dull. If he had a cattle prod attached to his back that would administer a little shock into his body every five minutes or so, Damien imagined that Sonny could be a lot sharper.

‘It’s why we’ll have to get them, and get them good,’ Sonny resolved. ‘Put a bullet nice and clean in between their eyes, then another one through the eye, just to be sure. That’ll be a lesson to anyone who messes with us!’

Damien’s face made an involuntary, microscopic twitch.

‘Sonny?’ he called.

‘Yeah?’

‘Shut up.’

119. NaNoWriMo Day 24

19

The ship of Zheng He stood like a monument, surrounded by the sunken ships around it in an area wide enough to be a city. To Rayna, it reminded her of a place that she had heard of called Chernobyl. To the Swordsman, it reminded him of stories that he had heard only in whispers and hushed conversations about a place called Gunkanjima.

They stayed out of the shadows most of the time, and when the sun got too hot to bear, they only dared to step within the outer edges of the shadows of the enormous ships all around them. There were things that hid in the shelter and cold of darkness, and these things were usually either hungry, rabid, or both rabid and hungry. Only the harsh heat of the desert kept them from roaming about while there was daylight.

So the two kept close to the light, never wandering too far into the dark, no matter how comfortable it felt to be out of the sun.

‘How long more d’you think till we reach?’ Rayna looked up at her companion. ‘You look like a guy who’s used to walking around. Me, I’m more of a scooter kind of person. It’s different – difficult to tell how fast you’re going without a speedometer, see.’

The Swordsman nodded. ‘It may be an hour before we arrive at our destination,’ he said, ‘If we keep this pace. The sun is still high and bright, so there may still be time for your explorations.’

‘Sweet,’ she said, and they kept on walking, pushing their dust scooters along beside them. It would have been easier, of course, to simply travel over to Zheng He’s ship on their scooters; but with the limited fuel that they had with them, it just seemed unwise to ride the scooters while nothing was chasing them.

‘Place gives me the creeps,’ Rayna laughed a little as she said, but could not help but feel a chill run down her spine and an icy-cold feeling from building in her guts. ‘I mean, I know I said we’ve been looking for this place in ages,’ she continued on, ‘But that was while paps and the rest of ’em were still around, y’know? The more the merrier, makes up for more noise and less creepiness. I mean, I’m not saying that we should go back – I’m in this all the way to the end; but just… Yeah. This place is seriously creeping me out.’

‘I can understand that,’ the Swordsman said, and that was all. His mind was far away – not thinking about Zheng He’s ship, or the fuel for their airship that they still have not found, and not even the airship named the HMS Clarent. His mind wandered off to New Britain, and he thought about the things that he had heard about it, wondering how much of those things were true, and how many of them were mere myths.

When he thought he felt a tingle by his ear, the Swordsman stopped and looked back the way where they had come from. Rayna, sensing his rest, also stopped to look back at him.

‘Anything?’ she asked.

He looked up into the sky and saw nothing but an immense brightness. There were not even clouds in sight. He took a sniff of the air and wondered if he had only imagined what he had felt.

‘I don’t think so,’ he said, but remained still.

Rayna walked over to where he stood, giving him a concerned look. ‘Trouble of any sort?’ she pressed. ‘I mean, even if it’s just a gut feeling. You can tell me.’

‘Trouble,’ the Swordsman repeated, as though trying the word out. ‘Yes, trouble indeed. I sense it coming, but I cannot find proof that it is. I believe we should be on our guard, just to be safe.’

‘Better to be safe than sorry,’ Rayna agreed. ‘It reminds me of Pascal’s wager.’

Now the Swordsman looked at her inquisitively. ‘Pascal’s wager?’

‘Yep,’ she said, ‘A man from a time long ago. He had this idea, see, that regardless of what you think, it’s always a better choice to believe in God. Coz’ if you spend your life believing in Him and in the end He doesn’t exist, you’ve lost a little part of your short life to silly superstitions, nothing more. But if you spend your life living as though He doesn’t exist, and at the end of the road find out that He does… There’ll be hell to pay. I mean literally.’

He thought about this for a moment, but before he could say anything, Rayna had already began talking again.

‘So it applies to us, see,’ she said, looking back where the Swordsman had been looking earlier. ‘We can go on being careful, believing that there’s trouble coming our way; and if there isn’t anything to worry about, then whoopee-do, we’ve just slowed ourselves down a little, no big deal. But then, if we shrug off the feeling, and it turns out that there had been trouble all along that’s been racing towards us like a dead freight…’

She stopped there. There was a pause, and then the Swordsman just looked at her and said, ‘I understand.’

Far behind them, emerging from the cargo hold of the HMS Clarent and into the open desert, Damien and Sonny held their weapons ready, their minds on high alert.

They were out for blood.

118. NaNoWriMo Day 23

17

‘God damn.’

That was what Damien said when he descended into the secondary cargo hold, and by the illumination of the soft blue light found the dust scooters stripped of their fuel tanks. Two scooters were missing, leaving ten behind, which made sense to him.

Deciding that there was nothing left for him in the dusty space, he climbed the ladder up and out, and the place darkened as he left.

‘Damien,’ Sonny pleaded from his cage, fumbling with the lockpicks, ‘You gotta help me, man. I know jack about working this thing, look – I’m not even sure if I’m holding them properly!’

Completely ignoring him, Damien punched the button by the side of the cargo bay entrance, then with a hiss and a groan, the door came open and lowered out into the desert as a ramp. A sudden wind rushed in as the air pressure equalized between the two spaces, sending fine sand flying inside.

Calm, steady, and tranquil – he walked back into the cargo bay and began examining the crates column by column, and then row by row; and when he found what he was looking for, Damien began methodically removing the crates that were piled on top until he got to the one that he was looking for.

CRACK! The lid over the crate came open with a hard yank on the crowbar that he had found lying nearby. Damien dipped his hands in and pulled out a shiny new bullpup.

‘GAH!’ Sonny groaned from inside his cage as the lockpick came loose again. ‘Damien!’ he yelled. ‘For God’s sake, man, drop that thing and help me get the hell out of this damn thing! Damien, do you hear me?’

The bounty hunter, however, was moving on to another crate – CRACK! – and pulling out another weapon, this time a sniper rifle with a barrel that looked at least a meter long. He clicked the electronic sight on and tested it, aiming the rifle out into the open desert; and when he seemed to be satisfied, he slung the rifle over his shoulder and picked up the bullpup again, then bending down to pick up ammunition.

‘I swear to God,’ Sonny said through gritted teeth as he tried the lock again, ‘If I have to bust my way out of here myself, it’s not those two lunatics you’ll have to worry about. Do you hear me? Hey! I’m talking to you, Damien! Do you hear me?!’

Damien loaded a fresh magazine into the bullpup and turned to look at the soldier. ‘Get back,’ he said.

‘What?’ the soldier frowned – then furiously backpedaled in his cage when the bounty hunter aimed the weapon up, and-

BANG!

There was a sharp sound as the bullet lodged itself firmly into the keyhole of Sonny’s cage and broke the lock inside. He still sat trembling inside when the gate swung open lazily, and Damien lowered his weapon, still smoking at the barrel, with a lazy look of disinterest upon his face.

‘God dammit, man!’ Sonny shouted, scrambling out of the cage. ‘Christ, was using the lockpick again too much work? You could’ve taken my head off!’

‘Get your weapons,’ Damien said. ‘We’re going hunting before the trail goes cold.’

‘Not like anything’s getting colder out there,’ Sonny muttered, but got on with what Damien told him to do. As the soldier busied himself with the selection of his arsenal, the bounty hunter’s gaze wandered over to the crowbar that laid upon the floor.

That’s a handy tool right there, he thought.

18

‘Storm’s coming,’ the Swordsman said, sniffing the air.

Rayna, who was stuffing her utility vest with carefully selected jade discs, stopped to look at him. ‘The air’s dry as them Britons, Stubs,’ she said. ‘What are you talking about?’

He glanced at her and blinked several times. ‘There is a storm coming,’ he said. ‘I can smell it in the wind.’

‘Wind?’ the marauder gave him an incredulous look as she squeezed the last of the jade discs into her vest and closed the button over it. ‘If there’s a wind out here, I’m the mayor of Zimbabwe. I’ve been living out in this desert for the better half of my life; if there’s a wind, I’d feel it.’

The Swordsman felt no need to contest that, so he just nodded.

‘At any rate,’ she said, unbuttoning her vest down the middle to reveal a plain white t-shirt underneath, ‘It’s still best that we get on back to base. Y’know, the airship. Won’t wanna be caught out here when the sun goes down, do we?’

‘We still haven’t found any fuel for the airship.’

‘Relax, Stubs,’ she said, hanging the vest onto the handle of her scooter. ‘You’ve seen that basement the ship has. It’s got enough to last us what, a whole year out over here? Besides, I’ve been thinking about it: it’s an RAF ship. They’ll definitely be coming looking for it. They probably have some tracking device on it, you know how they go about these things.’

‘Do you suggest that we wait for them to come and find us?’ he asked her.

She shrugged. ‘Why not?’ she said. ‘We load these beauties up on that nice shiny airship of theirs, and we split some of our loot with them when they show up. They’ll be more than happy to give us a ride over to Hong Kong, I think.’

He thought about this and decided that it did make sense.

‘You’re right,’ he said, ‘But we should leave mid-afternoon. This weather will be the death of us.’

‘That’s the spirit,’ Rayna flashed him a smile. ‘I’ve got some more pockets left to be filled, and I won’t be able to sleep tonight if we don’t check out the main man’s ship. We go over and check it out, and we leave when you say it’s time to leave. Sounds good?’

‘I do not find fault with that,’ the Swordsman said.

‘Let’s go then,’ she said, and led the way towards Zheng He’s ship.