Getting in might be easier than getting out.
December 21, 2013
A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental
“We’ve landed!” Nigel announced with a hearty laugh. Buziba chattered mysteriously. “Everyone okay?” Nigel turned in his seat to check for himself.
Angus and Skeeter looked up. The windshield was intact, not even cracked, but they were staring straight into tree leaves and limbs.”
“Oh my God,” groaned Skeeter.
“Are you alright,” Angus asked with real concern.
“Are you both okay?” Nigel asked, again.
“Oh, I am fine. Just shook up,” Skeeter answered.
“Yeah, we are good,” Angus answered, but he was wondering how many days this fiasco was going to cost them.
The engines that had not died had been cut by Nigel. He and Buziba unbuckled and stood up. “I’m going out to check things over. Why don’t you all just stay inside for now.”
The airplane was on a slant from side to side making the door hard to open. It was also on about a thirty degree pitch from front to back. Buziba tried to help Nigel open the door, up and out. Angus got up to help. A blast of super-heated air whooshed through the cabin when it came free. They could not lower the stairs. Nigel lowered himself down with a rope.
Skeeter looked out the window and occasionally saw Nigel hopping about through the dense leaves and vines like a kangaroo.
“Everything is good—not losing any petrol, no gas leaks—the wings are fine,” Nigel explained as Angus and Buziba pulled him back up through the door.
“Nigel, your plane…what in the hell are you going to do?” Angus felt sorry for the guy.
“Actually it has happened a couple of times before. I don’t run a ritzy outfit, as you can tell, but I do carry enough insurance to cover mishaps such as these. If I ever have a total loss of the plane, then I would be out of business for good—would have to work for someone else.” Nigel explained, his disgust at that, apparent.
“How do you take care of a problem like this?” Angus asked
“The solution will seem unbelievable to you, probably. What I do is call people at the nearest airstrip, they gather up people with regular old farm tractors, we put chains on her, and we pull her out and tow her. There is a list of people who always need extra money and are glad to come help. It just takes awhile sometimes, to round them—and their tractors—all up. When I see something like this about to happen, I make sure the landing gear is down and locked into place. That way we can tow it—if we live through it. It is one of those things you learn with experience.” Nigel chuckled.
“What now?” Skeeter asked.
Nigel and Buziba had gone to the back of the plane and were rooting around. “I am getting these machetes, and I will hack away enough brush to get the stairs down sufficiently.”
“Got another machete? I’ll help.” Angus would do anything to speed this whole thing up.
Skeeter stayed in her seat and watched as the two men hacked away at the brush and tossed debris off to the side. Buziba stood close by the door.
“Okay, Buziba, lower down the stairs,” Nigel shouted. The stairs went down smoothly but were unlevel at the bottom because of the brush and the tilt of the plane. Nigel tested the steps with his foot and he and Angus both came back up into the cabin. Rivulets of perspiration rolled off of them.
After Angus caught his breath, he asked, “What I don’t get is this, Nigel. After you haul your plane to the nearest landing strip by tractor, or whatever—then what do you do? How do you get it back to Kinshasa?”
“Well, what we do is, work on the plane. The whole back end of her is filled with special tools.”
“You work on it?” Angus prodded.
“Yeah, Buziba and I analyze what is wrong—we order parts if we need to. We take a little vacation until we get the part—‘til it comes in. Then we put it on and keep working on it until it will fly.”
“What are we going to do, now?” Skeeter asked.
“We are a little ways up one of the smaller mountains. I will try to make contact with the airstrip at Meru and we will wait for them to come. We will hack our way down to the flat savannah, below. If we think it will help them find us quicker, we will start a fire to give our exact location.”
“Do you think we will be coming back into the plane?”
“You probably won’t need to. You can ride in one of the cars that comes with the crew. Buziba and I will bring the machetes back up to the plane later and may need to get some long chains out of the back, if they don’t bring any with them—I keep some on hand.” He winked. “But there would be no reason you would need to come back up here.”
Without saying anything, Angus and Skeeter went to their carry-on bags, got their shoulder holsters out and strapped on their guns.
Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.