Pan Am 617 Heavy
by Sean Monaghan
Chapter 5: Pan Am Historic Flight
Dominic and Keyshaa attempt to recover documents and cash from Miterall in a dieselpunk world of propellators and atom smashers.
Dominic ducked back in as a cloud of cinders and soot blew into the cabin. He looked out again. Keyshaa hadn’t moved. Tying the rope to the door handle, he dove into the water, letting the big plane cruise off alone.
“Keyshaa,” he called when he surfaced. She wasn’t far away, still leaning on the floatvest. He grabbed the sinking rope and kicked for her. His hands burned as the plane dragged the rope away. Not far. “Keyshaa!” If only she would wake up and swim for him. “Keyshaa.”
He reached her. The end of the rope came up and nearly brained him with the hammer.
Keyshaa was bleeding from her jaw, but breathing. He nearly lost her as the rope jerked away. Clinging on to her, he wedged the hammer under his armpit. Water sprayed up around him as the plane dragged them on. He yanked the life vest onto her and clipped it closed.
He looked ahead. The spotlight was still trained on them, and he could see the end of the lagoon less than a mile off. He would never be able to drag her back into the plane and take off in time. They would hit the beach before he could even get to the door.
He saw them, back at the compound, getting a speedboat into the water from a winch. They weren’t letting him go easily.
Barely able to hang on he managed to stuff the hammer through the back of her vest and tie it off. He let her go and she bumped along in the water, head up, dragged by the plane.
She would be okay for a minute. He hoped. Hauling himself hand over hand along the rope, Dominic made his way towards the flying boat. Their speed had probably dropped below fifteen knots now, but it was still like climbing a greased pole up a waterfall. Checking on Keyshaa over his shoulder as he went, he gradually came up to the door, hands bloodied and thighs pummelled in the water. She kept rocking along behind.
Dominic reached the lip and hauled himself up. He looked ahead again, trying to judge if he had time to drag Keyshaa aboard, realizing that they wouldn’t even slow enough to avoid the beach. He looked back at her, still bouncing in the water, and beyond at the speedboat, moving in at twice their speed.
Cursing, he left the rope and ran for the cockpit. With soaking shoes, he slipped halfway up the stairs and tumbled to the cabin floor, smacking his elbow on the mast clamp.
His arm sparkling and numb with jittery electricity from a crushed nerve, he clambered up the stairs again. He raced to the cockpit. The palms loomed, barely a hundred yards away. Without sitting, he stomped on the rudder pedal. The plane began to turn to starboard.
Shaking his arm, trying to regain some feeling, Dominic pulled back on the starboard throttles and opened up the port engines. The propellers hummed and the plane turned faster. The trees loomed.
The spotlight flared through the cockpit again as the big machine turned to face the compound. He heard the wingtip smack into the fronds. The plane shuddered, dipping down. Looking out, he saw a palm toppling, falling forwards into the lagoon. The plane jerked and kept moving around.
The speedboat was almost on them now. Dominic lined up on the spotlight, pushed the starboard throttles up with the port and shoved the rudder back to center. The turning slowed. Their speed had dropped below five knots. The speedboat was about to be hidden by the plane’s high nose.
Arm still sparking, Dominic grabbed the satchel and rushed back through the cabin and down the stairs, tipping out the papers as he went.
At the door he grabbed the rope and began pulling before he’d even seen Keyshaa. She was still upright, still unconscious. His left arm was useless so he had to pull with his right, then stand on the loop and pull again.
The speedboat came under the wing, turning to match the plane’s speed. Another few pulls and he would have her in the plane.
“Dominic,” Miterall shouted from the boat. His face was clear in the bright distant light. “Dominic.”
“Let me get her,” Dominic shouted over the engine roar. The speed boat bounced over the plane’s wake as both their speeds increased.
“I want the documents,” Miterall hollered.
“You can just about have them.” Another two pulls. She was behind him now, dragged up against the narrow part of the flying boat’s hull. Miterall better hope that she was okay.
Dominic hauled again. Stood on the rope, then pulled again. His left arm was still a little numb, but he used both to pull her out of the water. Together they tumbled to the floor.
“Mmmph,” Keyshaa said.
“It’s okay honey,” Dominic said. “We made it.”
“Ow,” she said.
Dominic stood and saw Miterall climbing up from the speedboat through the door. Grabbing Keyshaa’s floatvest, he hauled her along the aisle towards the cockpit.
Miterall sighed. “Just give me the documents.”
“They’re in the cockpit.” Dominic said.
“A likely scenario,” Miterall said, looking around the cabin at the scattered papers. “I think you were planning to toss me an empty satchel?”
“Something like that.” Dominic knew he needed to get to the cockpit to take off, but he had to get Miterall off the plane first.
“Okay,” Miterall said. “Let’s just go to the cockpit. You can power down and taxi us into the jetty and we’ll gather the papers up.”
Dominic was aware of the holstered gun at Miterall’s waist. “Okay.”
“Ow,” Keyshaa said. She moved her legs, trying to stand.
Miterall held his hands up. “It’s okay,” he said. “By all means, tend to her.”
“I can stand,” Keyshaa whispered. “Get us in the air.”
Miterall laughed. “Till the end.”
“Always. Get in the cockpit, Dominic.” She got to her feet, but stumbled, grabbing at a seatback. Dominic steadied her.
“Yes,” Miterall said. “Throttle down and put in at the jetty like a good boy.”
“You don’t steal my designs, my ideas, without paying for it.”
“This is an old argument,” Miterall said.
“Dominic,” Keyshaa said.
Dominic knew their speed was increasing. He would have to power down or adjust the flaps for take off pretty soon. “Going up,” he said.
“See you at the jetty,” Miterall shouted.
Dominic let Keyshaa go and she slipped around into one of the seats, groggy. “Go,” she hissed.
Dominic turned and rushed up the stairs. In the cockpit the searchlight was blinding. He couldn’t get a range on how much take off space he had. The speed was up to eighty-five knots. He clicked the throttles up to takeoff revolutions and wound out the flaps. Eighty-six knots. Eighty-seven.
He glanced over his shoulder, wishing he could see back into the lower cabin. He touched the throttles again. Perhaps it would be best just to turn into the jetty. If he took off, Miterall would kill Keyshaa. She was in no state to defend herself. Then Miterall could just gather up the papers and parachute out. Crazy.
Dominic heard a gunshot from within the plane.
He pulled back on the yoke, adjusting the tailplane and felt the boat come away from the water. The searchlight stayed on them and he turned to the right, making an arc for Papeete. For a moment he expected gunfire, but realised that they wouldn’t shoot, not with Miterall on board.
Adjusting the trim, he pulled back the throttle and let the plane ease itself into a gentle climb. He wound the flaps in and the plane rode smoothly into the sky.
Dominic sat for a moment, looking up at the stars, still a little flashblind from the searchlight. He had to go and check, see what had happened, but he was stuck, couldn’t move. He breathed, tried to relax. The plane would be okay for a few minutes. He tightened the ratchet on the yoke to lock their attitude and direction, inched the throttles back a little, then stood. Wind whipped in through the missing windshield pane.
He shoved the cockpit door closed and made his way through the upper cabin, then down the stairs. Keyshaa was still in the seat eyes closed, but he couldn’t see Miterall. Papers were skittering around as wind vortexed in through the open rear door.
He went to her, touched her wet cheek.
Keyshaa blinked. “Hey, you,” she said. “Thanks for bringing my papers.”
“Where is he?” Dominic imagined that Miterall had got what he needed and jumped with a chute. Not that they had enough height to jump from yet. Not really.
Keyshaa nodded across the aisle. Miterall was lying across the seats in the next row back, clutching his knee. “Shot him,” Keyshaa said.
“Are you going to tear his eyes out now?”
“Nah,” she said, standing and starting to gather the papers. “Much too messy.” She stood and smiled at him.
Dominic moved to close the rear door, but she grabbed him and clicked their rings. “Thanks, mister.”
“Sure,” he said and kissed her back as the documents spun around them.
Copyright © 2010 by Sean Monaghan