Pan Am 617 Heavy
by Sean Monaghan
Chapter 2: Avoid the Spikewire
Dominic and Keyshaa attempt to recover documents and cash from Miterall in a dieselpunk world of propellators and atom smashers.
The last red of the sunset echoed across the sky as Keyshaa pointed ahead. They’d been following the running lights from the glider, and beyond, Dominic could see brighter lights lower down, glinting on the surface.
“A ship?” Dominic said. He was cold. He guessed that they were already below three thousand feet. That didn’t give them much glide room before they splashed into the dark ocean.
“Maybe the atoll.”
They carried on for a few minutes with just the sound of the rippling flitter fabric. As they came closer and lower, Dominic saw that the lights definitely weren’t from a ship. There was a concentration in one area, with twin lines of regularly spaced blue lights but also a ring of dim lights that sometimes winked out. An airfield and perhaps a road around the atoll. The concentrated lights would be Miterall’s compound. Already the glider ahead was angling around for landing.
“Think we’re about a mile out,” Keyshaa said.
“Yeah. I guess we’ve got enough height. Where do you want to put down?” Dominic watched the glider dip and turn.
“Left, over there.” Keyshaa pointed. “See where the lights curve back around? We can come in across the road and flare.”
Assuming there is a road, Dominic thought. And no vehicles to run us down. And we don’t get caught up in the palm trees. He realised that was why the lights winked. The atoll would have lots of palm trees, higher than the lampposts, waving and blocking them out.
“You should go in first,” Keyshaa said. “I’m more experienced.”
Dominic could see arguments either way. Perhaps since she was better in the air she should go first and he could watch what she did. He’d done about fifteen parachute jumps, and some solo spinner flights, which were unpowered on the way down, but he hadn’t flown a flitter before. He was sure it would flare just like a parachute. He asked.
“Sure,” Keyshaa said. “Just tip back, pull on the cords here.” Her silhouette jiggled the cord.
Dominic glanced back towards the sunset, now just a thin deep red line where the clouds met the horizon. Nearer, on the ocean surface he could see tiny bright flames where the plane had come down. Surely it ought to have sunk. As he watched, the flame vanished, all trace of the 7eve7 gone.
“Heads up,” Keyshaa said.
Dominic looked back around and saw the atoll coming up fast. Off to the right, about a half mile away, was the brightly lit compound. The runway was obvious, two parallel strings of lights, and a tall control tower with lights on top.
“I’m dropping back,” Keyshaa said. “Can you see the road okay?”
Dominic tried to get a sight on it. There were trails in his eyes from the compound’s spotlights. Then he picked it up and saw the road and light. There were trees. He was moving forwards, but coming down faster than any parachute jump he’d done.
“I’ll shout out to you when to flare,” Keyshaa said.
“Don’t shout,” he said. “They’ll hear. I’ll be okay.”
He tried his best to line up on the road.
“Get ready,” Keyshaa said.
He only just heard.
Dominic was lined up. Perhaps ninety feet from the ground. The trees swayed. Wind carried him away towards the right. He pulled the cords to draw himself left. The ground rushed up.
Watch the horizon, he told himself. Not the ground, the horizon. Everything was dark.
“Flare!” Keyshaa called.
He yanked the cords.
The flitter snapped back, hauling him up. His feet smacked sand and he tumbled forwards. Pain jabbed through his ankle. The flitter buckled and cracked, falling beside him. Keyshaa touched down just ahead of him, releasing her flitter. It drifted away to the right, splashing into water.
“We missed the road,” she said coming over, helping him to his feet.
Dominic looked around. They were on a narrow beach. Keyshaa’s flitter was sinking into the sea. No, he thought, not the sea. The lagoon.
Keyshaa grinned at him. “Not bad.” She held out a small hand gun. The Luger.
“Thanks.” Across the dark water he could see the glow from the compound. Nearby, partly obscured by leaning palms, he thought he could see the silhouette of a steamer moored at a jetty. It had a short mast.
“Probably a hundred and forty, hundred and fifty people on that plane.” She handed him some extra ammunition.
“And we were the ones he was trying to kill.”
Keyshaa clicked a clip into her own gun and cocked it, checking the load. “He has no idea, does he?”
Dominic watched her for a moment. In the darkness, lit just by the distant compound lights glinting on the lagoon, and the nearby dim streetlamp, she seemed evil, her eyes pools, her lips thin.
“Probably not worth it,” Dominic said. “We should have stayed in California and let the cops deal with it.”
Keyshaa’s eyes widened and she jammed the gun into a holster. “This...” She took a breath. “This man is a monster. I knew him before and this kind of thing is minor compared to what he is capable of. I should have killed him long ago.”
Dominic frowned. What did she mean ‘long ago’?
“Let’s reconnoiter,” she said. “Then figure out what we’re going to do. Have you still got that map of the compound?”
He reached into his jacket and unzipped the inner pocket, pulled out the cellophane bag with the folded map inside and passed it to her.
“Okay,” she said, unfolding the page and tipping it to catch the light. “I figure we’ve come down less than a mile from the fence. Easy to get there, just follow the beach then come in from here.” She pointed at the map then laughed a little as Dominic squinted. “Let’s get onto the road and under that light, study it properly.” She headed into the trees, moving for the light.
Dominic heard something nearby, grabbed her arm. A vehicle, on the road. The atoll here was probably only a couple of hundred yards across. He vaguely remembered the whole map he’d checked, two wide areas, one where the compound was and the other almost opposite, three miles across the lagoon, where there was an old village.
There was one gap in the circle, where the sea mixed with the lagoon, crossed by a concrete bridge built by the Japanese before their war plans had been scuttled. “Let’s just follow the beach here.” He pointed. “We can see well enough.”
The chugging diesel vehicle approached, heading towards the compound.
“Okay,” Keyshaa said. “Ready to improvise?”
“Sure,” Dominic said, watching the truck’s taillights through the trees. “Have you got your breath back? We’ll take the road.” Dominic started running through the trees, towards the truck, his ankle sore. Not broken, but forcing him to limp a little. It only took a moment to reach the road and pass through the pools of light cast by the lamps. The road wasn’t sealed, but had been graded and rolled with cinders. The truck crunched along faster than he could run, but he sprinted anyway.
Keyshaa raced up beside him and kept up as he ran. She didn’t say anything. Dominic could hear his feet crunching on the stones, but doubted they could hear him over the loud engine and the crunching of their own heavy tires.
Dominic grabbed the high tailgate, hopped, and used his momentum to swing over onto the wooden tray. There were some crates and tarpaulins tied down, and other pieces of heavy machinery. Keyshaa swung up beside him. Dominic found a toolbox and he rummaged through spanners and oilcloth, looking for tape.
“We’ll have to move fast,” Keyshaa said. “There’s two of them.”
Dominic pulled out a roll of venttape and glanced at the compound’s lights. “I’ll take the driver.”
They clambered over the crates, to the back of the cab. With the racket from the engine, the driver and passenger hadn’t heard them.
Dominic peeled off a length of tape as they passed under one of the streetlamps. He looped the roll over his wrist, keeping both hands free.
“Onetwothree... Go,” Keyshaa said and jumped around into the cab.
Dominic went too, grabbing the driver’s door. The startled man yelled, swinging the wheel. Dominic slapped tape across the driver’s mouth then shoved him down. The man struggled, throwing his fists. Dominic caught the flailing arms with more tape, binding the man up.
Dominic grabbed the wheel and pressed the brake, shoving the driver’s legs aside.
“Keep going,” Keyshaa said. She’d subdued the other man with a series of blows. “We’re almost at the compound.”
Dominic shifted around into the seat, steered back onto the road. “You stole that line from some Kirk Douglas movie.”
“Yeah, Douglas and Redford, Butch Carrington and the Kidface Kid. Good line, huh?” Keyshaa stuffed the two men into the small gap behind the seats.
“Sure, only it didn’t go so well for them. Butch and Kidface.”
“Yes, yes. We’re coming up on the gate.”
Dominic concentrated on looking ahead. It was a tall chainlink fence topped with spikewire. The gate was open, but there was a guardhouse by the uprights.
“If they try to stop you, just floor it.”
“They crunched on over the road. Ahead, Dominic saw a big hangar and a number of smaller outbuildings inside the compound. Along the lagoon side was a row of parked yellow earthmoving machinery, graders and bucketloaders.
Dominic slowed coming to the cage. A man with a rifle slung over his shoulder stepped from the guardhouse.
“Keep going,” Keyshaa said.
Dominic began pushing his foot down on the accelpedal, but the guard lifted his hand, waving them through.
Breathing out, Dominic headed towards the hangar, then heard a scrabbling from behind.
“Crap,” Keyshaa said, turning.
The driver was free, struggling with her.
Dominic grabbed for him, but the man got his foot up and kicked Dominic against the door. The truck lurched.
“Get out,” Keyshaa said, punching the man in the neck. “We’re already inside the fence. Let me handle this.”
“Let me.” Keyshaa stared at him.
The man swung again, but Keyshaa ducked back. Dominic pushed the door open and dropped to the ground, tumbling with the momentum.
He got to his feet, trying to orient himself, then ran diagonally, towards the main buildings in the compound. Reaching a wall, he stopped, breathing hard.
The truck rumbled on, bumping over the blue airfield lights. Some people ran from a doorway just a few feet from him, chasing the truck. Dominic tried to see inside the cab, but the light was wrong.
Someone had a megaphone and called for the truck to stop. It was almost across the tarmac now.
Dominic leaned against the hangar, keeping low. Miterall’s soldiers were fanning out, guns levelled, following the truck. What was Keyshaa thinking?
“Hey,” someone said.
Dominic flipped around, Luger drawn.
“Sure,” he said. “Hey, yourself.” He looked back at the truck. It bumped off the runway, crushing one of the blue lights.
“Distraction,” she said.
“Uh-huh. Next time tell me. I thought you’d lost your mind.”
“Lost my mind?” She grabbed his chin and squeezed. “That happened long ago.”
“I knew that, just all the pent-up rage and so on.”
“Saving most of it.” She grinned. “But the driver is never going to be my friend.”
Dominic glanced over. The truck hit the fence, breaking through towards the seaward beach, such as it was beyond the runway tarmac.
“I weighted the pedal,” she said. “Anyway, what do you think next?”
Dominic looked at the map of the compound again. Beyond the hangar was the main bunker Keyshaa had circled in Biro. The control room. “Over here.” He ran to the corner of the hangar and peered around. All the compound lights had been activated now, which meant it was easy to see where to go, but also that it would be very easy for anyone to spot them. Keyshaa came up at his shoulder.
Dominic pushed a door open and they slipped into the hangar. At least a dozen planes were lined up along the walls, from mid-sized freighters to retro-fitted single-seater interceptors. Even a small SeaBee float-plane.
“Guess we’ve found our way off the island,” Keyshaa said. She kicked open a crate and pulled out some flares, stuffing a handful into the gun satchel.
“Mmm-hmm,” Dominic said. Squinting at the float-plane he realised that the silhouette he’d seen in the lagoon wasn’t a steamer at all. It was a big flying boat. Maybe one of the old Pan Am Sunderlands. The ones that had the small fold-down masts.
“Let’s keep moving.”
They crossed the floor, exited on the far side. Outside the door, Dominic pulled out the layout map again.
“That one?” Keyshaa said, pointing.
“Yes.” The building was a low concrete bunker, next to the tall control tower. A guard on top of the tower pointed a spotlight around the ground in front.
“How do we get in there?”
“Well, if it was quiet, we probably could have just snuck up.”
“Yeah, well, I blew that.”
“Have you still got that Eagle-Eye sight, and the rifle?”
“I’ve got the rifle.”
“You think you can hit that light?”
Keyshaa pursed her lips. “Not from here, but any closer and we’ll be too exposed.”
“Follow me.” Dominic turned and sprinted to the left, in the light, but heading into shadows from the palms. When the airfield had been built, trees had been cleared, but here at the edges there were still some dotted around. He slipped through, then stopped against a trunk, in the shadow. A moment later, Keyshaa joined him.
“This is your crazy plan?” she said.
“You’re in no position to call plans crazy.” Dominic pointed through the trees. “See there, about three trees over? At the edge of the sand? It’s about halfway between where we were and the main bunker.”
“Easy shot from there.”
“And we can take out some of the other lights at the same time.”
“They’ll think an army’s invading.”
“Perhaps,” he said, and ran again, stopping at the tree he’d indicated.
Keyshaa followed and dumped her bag on the sand. She unzipped quickly and pulled out the AM18 and a smaller Wesson. She passed the small gun to Dominic. “Take out those fixed four sodiums on the roof of the first building, I’ll do the stairway spot.”
“On three,” Dominic said, already sighting on the nearest of the lights.
“One,” Keyshaa said. She winked.
“Two,” he said and smiled back.
“Three,” they said together and fired.
The orange sodium lamp exploded. Dominic heard Keyshaa’s shot but didn’t look. He turned his aim on the second, fired and missed. The space between the hangar and bunker darkened suddenly.
“Come on cowboy,” Keyshaa said. She fired again and the third sodium light went out.
Dominic fired again, hit the second, then swung and hit the last one the first time. “Better?” he said.
Keyshaa was already up and running, the bag slung across her back. Dominic followed.
There was shouting from across at the airfield. The other soldiers running. There was no way they could make it to the building. Even with killing off those lights, there was still too much ambient light around. They’d be picked off before they got within thirty yards of the door.
Keyshaa kept running, heading left of the cylindrical building stairs, into the dimness at the edges of the low light, where she would be almost lost in the shadows. She stopped against the concrete, just ahead of Dominic.
“This isn’t going to work,” he said.
Dominic glanced up. “Over the roof? It’s only twenty, maybe twenty-five feet up there. If we had the grappling hook and rope.”
He saw Keyshaa smile in the dull light. “Yes, more inventory lost on the plane.”
“What about that?” Dominic said, pointing to the raised fuel tank near the hangar.
“Assuming it’s got any fuel in it.”
The shouting from Miterall’s men increased in volume as they came around the side of the building. They were carrying big flashlights, shining them around.
“Okay,” Keyshaa said. “Cover me.” She lay down on the ground and balanced the middle of the rifle on her left hand, sighting along the barrel. “Get ready to run.”
“They’ve seen us.”
A shot kicked the sand up between them.
Keyshaa clicked off the safety.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2010 by Sean Monaghan