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Pan Am 617 Heavy

by Sean Monaghan

Chapter 1: Pan Am 617 Heavy

part 1 of 2

Dominic and Keyshaa attempt to recover documents and cash from Miterall in a dieselpunk world of propellators and atom smashers.

Dominic knew Keyshaa wanted Miterall dead. She wanted the money back, and the patent documents and plans, but first she would be putting a gun to Miterall’s head, to make him squirm.

Dominic prised the carry-on bag from her hand as the cab pulled up at the SFO terminal.

“How long has he been gone?” she asked.

“Less than a day.”

“It will go very badly.”

The airport authority had put new carpet down in the building, something patterned and dark, a little bit Paisley and a little bit Victorian leaf. It was littered with discarded, misprinted ticket stubs and luggage labels. A man towing a handcart and shovel limped around scooping things up.

Dominic and Keyshaa joined the Pan Am check-in line. A couple at the counter complained to the employee about their luggage limit. The woman smiled, stamped their tickets, tore off parts, clipped and stapled them and, still smiling, handed the tickets back. The luggage bumped across wooden rollers then clunked through a small door in the panelled wall behind. “Next please,” the smiling woman called.

Keyshaa pulled out their tickets and flicked through them. “Isn’t there a map?”

Dominic took the sheaf and flipped the paper wallet over. Pan Am — South Pacific Routes, it read across the top, with New Zealand at the bottom, a sliver of Australia to one side, North America on the other, all squished and distorted to fit in. A heavy arcing line indicated their three hops to Auckland, and a dotted line showed their connecting TEAL flight back to Rarotonga.

Keyshaa looked up at the time. “It’s going to take so freaking long.”

Dominic rubbed her arm.

She flinched. “Hey.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “We’ll make the plane, we’ll make the connections.” He glanced at the departure board. Lots of the beads were stuck, so some of the flights were hard to read. The authority spent all their money on flash and frills and not on fixing the stuff that’s broken, he thought. Their flight didn’t depart for another hour and a half.

“I hate waiting,” she said. “I get pent up.”

“Breathe.” Dominic held his hands in front of his chest and sucked air in through his nostrils, kept it for a moment, then released through his mouth. “Breathe, relax,” he said.

She frowned. “I’m gonna tear his eyes out.”

“That, of course, is a given.”

The line edged forwards. The woman smiled to a young mother and father while their swaddled baby howled and they dropped their passport billfold, couldn’t find their tickets and swapped the red-eyed baby back and forth between them.

Keyshaa breathed in hard. “Gonna tear them out slowly.”

* * *

They sat on the cast-iron framed seats at the departure gate. Last time they had come through everything had been foam and Bakelite, Dominic thought. Clearly the Art Nouveau crowd had come through to modernize. The flight clicked over as delayed. Fifteen minutes down.

“It’s okay,” Dominic told her. “We’ll still make it.”

Keyshaa bought a Chronicle and flicked through the pages, not reading, just bustling. They’d had to drive up the coast to San Francisco. Security at LAX had gone military since Free Wyoming Now had punctured an Airbus 90 over the city and its fiery belly landing had cut a swath through Compton.

SFO, on the other hand, hadn’t even installed the new metal detector units yet. Dominic had seen something about too many readings for belt-buckles, eyelets and glasses frames. The San Francisco airport authority was biding their time. That was good, because Dominic and Keyshaa had an arsenal in their carry-ons.

San Francisco was still backwoods. Over Keyshaa’s shoulder, Dominic read that there was another hold-up with the new freeway concreting. San Francisco didn’t know what it was in for when the connection was finally made between Stockton and Oakland. He’d seen what had happened to Albuquerque when the I-40 linked it to LA. Nothing good came out of LA. Miterall was a prime example.

Keyshaa went to one of the dispensing machines to get a Pepsi. While she looked the unit over, Dominic took out their hand-drawn map of Miterall’s compound. Keyshaa fed in a quarter, pulled the lever and watched the mechanism coil the bottle forward onto a slide behind the window. The bottle clunked into a brass receptacle as an announcement came over the Tannoy.

“At this time we would like to begin boarding our passengers in rows fifteen through twenty, and any passengers requiring assistance, including those with small children.”

“About freaking time,” Keyshaa muttered. She offered Dominic a swig of Pepsi.

Dominic drank and glanced at the rough map, studying the layout of buildings and approaches. Miterall’s complex was extensive. It was going to be challenging, but he knew they could do it. He tucked the page back into his jacket. They had plenty of time to plan once they were aboard. “First class passengers,” the announcement went on, “may, of course, board at any time.”

Dominic stood and Keyshaa snatched up her bag.

“Not bringing the newspaper?” he said.

“They didn’t even mention the theft,” she said.

“Well, what did you expect?”

“I expected more than just home baking competitions and local theatre. It’s as if the world ends at San Jose.”

“To our advantage, of course.” Dominic headed for the short line. “That’s why we’ve come here.”

“Rustic.” She smiled. “We can shut Miterall down, then come back here and modernise this whole terminal.” Then they were through the doors, down the stairs and out onto the tarmac into light drizzle. They scurried across to their plane. “Starting,” she continued, “with covered walkways on the airfield.”

“I thought we were more interested in planes,” Dominic said. He looked at their 7eve7. It was old, he thought. He knew plenty about airketches, not enough to identify variants, but enough to know that the newer versions didn’t have twin taillets. The worn propellator engines were Rolls Royce, not Pratt and Whitney, which probably meant retrofitting renewal. Boeing’s lawsuits with Pratt and Whitney had been in the headlines for months two years back, after three free-spinning blade incidents had brought planes down. “You know,” he said, looking at the intakes behind the slitted propellator blades. “Not infrastructure, but working up the ram and rocket ideas.”

Keyshaa stopped on the first step. “Yes. Assuming we get the documents back from Miterall.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s got. He just wanted the money.”

Keyshaa smiled. “He’s not that stupid. The money was a diversion. To keep the insurance and cops busy and distracted. He’s got my invention.”

“I know,” Dominic sighed. He followed Keyshaa up the stairs to the entry doors wiping drops of moisture from his jacket.

Seated they got drinks and hot towels while the rest of the passengers were still boarding. “You know,” Dominic said. “If your jetellator was already working, we could make it to New Zealand in two hops instead of three.”

“Yes,” Keyshaa handed the towel to the steward. “Maybe one.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “We do need a better name, though. Jetellator sounds too complicated.”

“We’ll think of something.”

* * *

To be continued...

Copyright © 2010 by Sean Monaghan

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