Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.
The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.
Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in, and because of it, he has now been roped into what might be called a suicide mission.
We flew north at low altitude, crossing the border into the Sudan, then ran along the border, heading back to the landing field we’d arrived on in Uganda.
It was basically a two-hour flight that in the end was eventless. After everything that had happened over the past 24 hours, it wasn’t hard to doze off, leaving Davies to get us back.
I was woken suddenly by a thump on my arm.
“Need your help landing this crate,” a squeaky voice in my ear said.
I could feel the plane losing altitude, and the engines not making the same noise as they had just before I’d dropped off to sleep. It seemed like it was only a few minutes ago we were taking off.
She leveled the plane at 1000 feet, and flew over the airfield, the landing lights on, and I could see the strip from start to end. It looked a lot longer than the one we’d taken off from.
Turning sharply, I could hear the landing gear being activated and saw green lights come on one the dashboard. Down and locked I assumed.
She then went through a series of landing checks and told me what she wanted me to do to assists, and then everything seemingly OK, we came in to land.
This landing was a lot bumpier than that in the C130 earlier, but she got us there, throttled back, and slowed the speed before heading for the terminal buildings.
Once there, she let the engines run for about a minute or so before switching them off.
Once the propellers stopped turning, the silence in the cockpit was strange. At the rear, the door was opened, and everyone was getting off, the Colonel first to make sure none of his men shot anyone by mistake, and then the rest of the team.
Davies and I were the last to leave. I got the impression she would have stayed, just a little longer, and it was telling that she patted the dashboard in what I would call a loving manner, thanking the aircraft for its service.
“I can see you like flying these old planes,” I said, still seated and taking in the moment.
“There’s something about them. You have to fly them, they don’t fly you, not like the F15’s or any of those other jets that have autopilots. No, this comes from the days of real flying.”
“You said your Dad has one?”
“Then the art of flying is not lost on you. Perhaps one day when I get lost, somewhere where this plane lives, you can take me up.”
She dragged herself out of the left seat and headed towards the rear of the plane. I took a moment longer, then followed her.
Maybe she could teach me how to fly.
Or maybe not.
I keep forgetting I hate flying in planes.
As I stepped off the plane onto terra firma again, I could see just inside the range of my peripheral vision, some activity by the terminal building.
Suddenly, a man was running towards us. He was also yelling out, words to the effect, ‘they’re coming’.
The Colonel looked up just as the man, almost hunched over out of breath, reached him.
“They’re coming. A helicopter, heading towards us.” Several more huge breaths, then, “An hour at best.” He looked at me. “You have to go.”
Then he handed the Colonel a sheet of paper, and he quickly scanned it.
Then he said, “Your friendly militia decided the ransom wasn’t enough and they’re coming to take them back.”
“How is that possible? Can they just cross borders like that?”
“This is Africa. Anything can happen. By the time their mission is done, it’ll be too late for us to scramble anything to attack them. You need to go.”
Davies had come back, assuming it had something to do with the plane, and after taking in what the Colonel had to say, said, “We need more fuel. Not much, but it’ll take time.”
The fuel truck had already come out and begun the refueling.
“Go tell the driver how much you need. You’ve probably got a half-hour, a little more before you take off and go before, they get here.”
She headed towards the fuel truck, muttering under her breath.
I yelled out to Monroe, “Round up everyone and get them back on the plane. Wheels up in half an hour.”
I could see her mouth the word why.
“Seems we’re about to get a visit from some very unfriendly people.”
© Charles Heath 2020