Pan Am 617 Heavy
by Sean Monaghan
Chapter 4: Messerschmitt Dogfight
Dominic and Keyshaa attempt to recover documents and cash from Miterall in a dieselpunk world of propellators and atom smashers.
Keyshaa yelped and smacked into Dominic. They both tumbled to the floor. Distressed air shook around them.
“Come on,” he said, getting up and hauling Keyshaa with him.
It wasn’t far to the bunker. Keyshaa stumbled a little. Looking back, Dominic saw some of the lights winking out. The pipe creaked, but its vibrations had lessened.
Keyshaa limped and winced.
“Move,” Dominic said. He ran on with her arm over his shoulder.
They were nearly at the bunker when the water hit.
It was a low wave, but enough to knock them off balance. Splashing, he tried to get to his feet again. The water carried them forwards.
Dominic turned in the flow. It tried to drag him into the trench.
Then they washed out onto the bunker floor. The water spread out, slowing, and draining through the trench. In the darkness Dominic could just make out the stairway beyond the iron girderwork. The machine in the middle of the floor was sparking and grunting. Water washed up against it where it sat over the trench. A small fire broke out high on the machine’s side.
Slipping on the slick floor, Dominic got his feet under him and grabbed Keyshaa’s jacket.
“I’m okay,” she said.
Something down the tunnel broke with a wrenching sound like a car wreck.
They ran for the stairs, feet splashing through the water.
“That water was just from the table, coming through the cracked concrete,” she shouted over the thunder. “Now the tunnel wall has given way.”
He was nearly at the bottom of the ladders. “Among all the stupid stuff we’ve done,” he said, grabbing the railing, “this is definitely top five.” He ran up as water exploded from the tunnel.
Keyshaa followed, feet clanking on the steel.
The water slowed coming into the bunker, but it hit the machinery, sparking and crackling. The water swirled around in the flickering light, still rising fast, tearing at her feet, coming up her calves. “Dominic,” she called.
“Keep moving,” he said. “It won’t go above sea level. We’re nearly there.” He slowed and grabbed her hand as she stumbled.
The water reached her knees, but Dominic pulled her up. They kept moving, came up to the landing, the water splashing and rippling below.
The water surged up the ladder shaft, lifting them as it went. Dominic hoisted Keyshaa up, then got submerged. She grabbed him and pulled him after her.
Staggering to the main room floor, the water washed up, then sluiced away again, washing back into the shaft.
“They’re waiting,” Dominic said, pointing to the open door, lit by a blinding spotlight.
“Throw out your weapons,” someone shouted from outside. Dominic imagined a semi-circle of them, all with their guns trained on the door.
“Well,” Keyshaa said, “that’s it, then.”
Dominic glanced at the stairway above. “Maybe not.” He took his spent Luger and tossed it out the door. “Follow me,” he said and ran, squelching, up the stairway.
Another open room, with desks and cabinets and lamps, but with slot windows, and a bigger door. The floor had a big trapdoor similar to the one below, and a crane girder above, leading to a side door. This was how they got all the equipment down below.
“We can’t go out there,” Keyshaa said.
“Up.” Dominic pointed to a ladder, flush against the wall and leading to a smaller trapdoor in the ceiling.
“They’ll see us from the tower.”
“Then we’ll have to move fast.” Dominic shivered. Even though it was tropical, the sea water had chilled him. He started up the stair. “I’ll meet you at the hangar.”
“Okay.” Keyshaa hesitated for a moment at the table, flipping open her satchel.
“We should go.”
“Just a moment.” She began rifling through the stacks of papers, tossing filing boxes and folders aside.
Dominic flipped the trapdoor open. It clanged on the roof and he scrambled out into the periphery of the spotlight. He ran to the edge opposite the tower and lay flat, looking out. No one. They must all be watching the door. It wouldn’t take them long to realize, though, where Keyshaa and he had gone.
Keyshaa was still below. He scrambled back across the roof as she came up through the trapdoor. “Help me up,” she said.
He pulled on her arm. “Find what you were looking for?”
“Don’t know. But I got something.” She clambered up beside him and they slid to the edge.
“Clear,” he said and flipped himself around to hang from the roof’s lip. He dropped the fifteen feet to the sand and raced away. Keyshaa caught up to him at the hangar door. He opened it and they snuck inside.
“That Messerschmitt,” Keyshaa said, pointing to a small monoplane. “It’s fast in the air. Very fast to get off the ground.”
“I can’t fly that. It’s a fighter.”
“I can fly it.”
“It’s a single-seater.”
“You could fly the top-wing over there.”
“Sure it’s slower but they’re easy to fly.”
“Yeah, I’ve flown one before. Ten years ago.”
“No problem then. I’ll get off the ground first. While they’re distracted you come.”
“Not much of a plan.”
Behind the hangar someone shouted, then fired a machine-gun burst into the trees. Then the sound of Miterall’s men running by.
“Maybe we should wait until daybreak and find a boat?”
Dominic imagined Keyshaa flying off, then himself struggling to get his stolen plane onto the tarmac while the soldiers ambled over to shoot him. “At least a diversion.”
“I’ll get in the air,” she said. “That’s all the diversion you’ll need.” She turned and kissed him. She released after a moment. “See you in Papeete.” She thrust the satchel into his hands, then sprinted off to the little plane.
Dominic almost called for her to wait but heard movement from the door behind. He ducked under a plane, lying on the concrete hangar floor. Three men rushed in, ran across the hangar, heads looking, guns held up. They exited through the big main doors. Dominic realized that meant Miterall had checked the bunker and knew they were gone.
He watched Keyshaa pull herself up into the Messerschmitt. He visualized her running through the pre-flights, but then the engine spluttered. The propeller spun and the plane lurched ahead. She gunned the engine and the little craft whipped out of the hangar and disappeared.
Dominic turned, heading for the SeaBee, but ducked as a dozen men came from the hangar’s side door. He crouched behind a wooden crate. Over the men shouting, he could hear Keyshaa throttling up the Messerschmitt’s engine, speeding along the tarmac.
He peered across the top of the crate. Miterall’s men scrambled up into planes, while others stood at the main hangar doors. There was no way Dominic could make it to the floatplane now.
Leave the compound, light the flare on other side of the island and hope that there was enough space and time for Keyshaa to land, pick him up and take off again.
He would have to blow the bridge. Which meant more explosive.
Then he had a better idea.
He slithered away from the crate, out towards the door they’d come in through. Keeping low, he scampered across to one of the trucks. It only took a moment to bypass the lock and get it started. The engine grumbled and he shunted it into gear, hoping that no one would really notice over the sound of all the aircraft now making their way out of the hangar.
Keyshaa’s best plan would be to hightail it out of the vicinity and not worry about him at all. If she stuck around, she was going to find herself in a dogfight. Multiple fights, outnumbered five to one. She needed to gun the engine and head back for Papeete, trusting that he would figure out his own way out of the situation.
Dominic drove slowly to begin with, keeping an eye on the mirrors. There was no one at the guardhouse and he crunched out to the atoll road. He tried to remember how far it was to the bridge. He glanced back once he was clear of the compound and put his foot down. The truck accelerated slowly, rumbling and groaning.
Then he was bathed in light. They’d swung the spotlight around. He looked back again and saw another vehicle coming out of the compound’s gate. Ahead he saw the bridge. He kept his foot on the gas.
Dominic parked the truck sideways across the bridge. He leapt to the concrete surface and hauled the toolkit out from under the seat. It was dark, but there was enough light from the distant compound to see what he was doing. Dumping the tools on the roadway, he found out a spanner and a roll of oilcloth. No flint or anything to strike a spark with.
Two planes flew low overhead, angling around. He didn’t know where Keyshaa had gone.
He clambered back into the cab and rifled through the glove compartment and felt around the floor. He found what he was looking for up on the dash, nearly jammed against the windshield. Matches.
Another plane went over. High in the distance he heard gunfire.
Quickly he got the fuel cap off and tied the spanner to the oilcloth. He stuffed the spanner into the fuel pipe, then stepped back, holding the other end of the oilcloth. He struck a match, lit the cloth and ran. If it didn’t wreck the bridge, at least it would make the truck undriveable and block the way around the island.
He made it to the far end of the bridge and veered right towards the lagoon, into the trees. The oilcloth spat and sparked, burning slowly. Dominic squinted. He should have lit it closer to the tank, it was taking too long.
Above he heard more gunfire, and saw glows from the planes. Most of them had their main lights out but were given away by the high white taillight and the port and starboard wingtip lights. They were moving fast and shooting. Dogfighting. Keyshaa hadn’t left, she was engaging them.
Then the truck blew.
Copyright © 2010 by Sean Monaghan