Saturday, 19 May 2012

Update on "A Dollar for The Ferryman."

Update on "A Dollar for The Ferrymn."

Another segment from the emerging novel... this time, concerning our heroine who is flying back to base in a fixed-wing airplane; having left her damaged helicopter at Da Nang, Vietnam, for major repairs. She is accompanied by Air America pilot, Alex Shepard... code-name "Sandman"... the pilot she has rescued under enemy fire... which had caused severe damage to her helicopter...


    The approximate distance as the crow flies from Da Nang to Vientiane was almost four hundred miles. According to Sandman's calculations, that meant that there was ample fuel provided nothing untoward came up on the flight.
    Stacey nodded and began a gentle turn onto her course heading of two-eight-five degrees west, as the sparkling aquamarine blue of Da Nang bay slipped from view beneath the starboard wing. She glanced at her wristwatch, and then across at Sandman.
    'Two and a half hours flying, Alex. Home for lunch. What do you want to do then?'
    He grinned, and squeezed her knee.
    'I reckon we'll figure on something.'

    The old Lao farmer, Xaikeo Phong was leading his water buffalo along the Nam Khong Leng river valley when he heard the approaching drone of an airplane. Apathetically, he glanced up towards the direction from which the sound was coming. He unslung the old MAS-49 rifle; a French relic of the First Indochina war, and waited. A small, silver, twin-engined airplane came into view; flying at what he estimated was about a thousand metres height.
    Casually, he aimed the rifle in the general direction of the airplane and squeezed the trigger. He glanced up again as the airplane disappeared over the tree-line, then stoically re-slung the weapon over his shoulder and ambled after his water buffalo. He usually fired a round at the passing airplanes just to pass the time. He never imagined that he would ever actually hit one of them. This time though, it was different. Had his view not been obscured by the trees, he would have seen a thin trail of something begin to stream back from one of the little airplane's engines.
    In the cockpit of the Beech twin, Stacey and Sandman heard a bang, followed by the port engine oil pressure gauge spinning back to zero. Quickly, Stacey punched the prop feathering button, but nothing happened. The engine temperature gauge was going off the clock and the port wing suddenly dropped; yawing the airplane across the sky. Sandman grabbed the copilot's yoke and, together with Stacey, heaved the airplane level. The port engine was smoking badly… the gills wouldn't work, and hydraulic pressure was dropping fast. He swore volubly.
    'Fuck! We've caught a Golden BB.  Brace yourself, baby-girl we're going down!'
    Stacey didn't need telling. She was searching for somewhere to try to land. Without hydraulics, the flaps and landing gear had dropped; the stall warning horn was warbling its "Peeyo! Peeyo!... Peeyo!" And there was nothing below except for triple canopy as far as the eye could see. She glanced at him.
    'Well, honey; it looks as though our love-life was short and sweet…'
    Sandman gave a wry grin.
    'You don't blow me out that easily, baby-girl. I've got one trick left.'
    The triple canopy was coming up fast. As the first treetops brushed the belly of the airplane, he chopped power to the starboard engine and, with his feet braced on the instrument panel, hauled back on the yoke. The Beech's nose came up imperceptibly and they hit the treetops tail-first, at an angle of about fifteen degrees. It wasn't much; but it was just enough to prevent the nose and cockpit from taking the major impact. The world dissolved into a cacophony of splintering timber and tearing metal, with a kaleidoscope of light and shade whirling around them as the fuselage plummeted down through the triple canopy. With a bone-jarring impact, the battered fuselage finally hit the jungle floor.
    Momentarily stunned; Stacey wondered if this was what it was like being dead. No; it couldn't be. She was gazing up through the shattered windscreen at the dappled sunlight lancing down through the trees. What was that damned clicking noise? She slowly turned her head and saw Sandman mindlessly going through the shut-down procedure; flicking off all the switches… resetting the throttle and pitch levers… She reached across and touched his arm.
    'Alex… what the fuck are you doing? Let's get the hell out of here. Gasoline is pissing out of the tanks. She might go up at any moment.'
    He looked blankly at her; then seemed to gather his wits.
    'Damn right, baby-girl. Let's go!'

    The fuselage was buckled to hell from about the fifth frame bay back. There was no way they would be able to reach the door or the emergency escape hatch on the opposite side of the fuselage. Fortunately, the pilot's side-window was big enough for them to squeeze through; although it was quite a drop to the ground. Stacey jumped first, followed by Sandman. They lay amongst the tangled undergrowth, hardly daring to move in case they discovered that they couldn't.
    Sandman turned to Stacey slowly and gingerly.
    'Are you OK, baby-girl? Not hurt anywhere?
    She shook her head
    Apart from aching all over, I'm fine. How about you?'
    'I'm fine… but this has really screwed it. We'll never make it back in time for Thanksgiving Day! Now, let's get the hell outta here!'

*************
Oops!... now what? More to follow later.

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