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19. A Cocktail Party

September 2008

Lana twisted around in the passenger cockpit of Daniel's plane to watch Vi's plane fall behind as it dropped away.

“I hope they'll be okay,” she said.

“It's us you should be worrying about, said Daniel. “All according to plan, we'll be drawing all the fire.”

“Well, yeah,” said Lana, “but they're the ones going right in there. We might not even have to leave our plane.”

Our plane?” Daniel raised an eyebrow. “You planning to buy in on my run?”

Lana blushed a little, then grinned. “I dunno… make me an offer.”

“You know, you better be careful. I think your usual pilot is already missing you; she might not be too happy with me if I did bring you in on the run.”

“Nah, little sister's just protective of me, is all. Although…” Lana paused, “I think she was hoping she wouldn't have to buy her next plane all by herself.” She puffed her cheeks, then blew her breath out. “She'll be okay.”

“I think,” Daniel said, “that our destination might be just over that ridge.” He was pointing ahead; Lana could see the road. It crossed the dam over the lake, travelled down along the base of the hills that formed the valley the lake filled a part of, the rose up and over a ridge into a bowl beyond.

“The old quarry, right? You think there's anything there?”

“Everyone else seemed to think so. Besides, what are we going to do if it's not?” Daniel shrugged.

Lana didn't. She pursed her lips. “If it's not, we brave the missile launcher and attack directly, like we decided last night.”

“Yeah, but –” Daniel spluttered a little. “Don't be so cavalier about the whole thing. This is my plane we're talking about!”

“And my life; but maybe you care more about your plane?” She shot Daniel a warning look.

“Come on, don't be silly. I just meant that, well, if the plane goes down, so do we. I'd rather that didn't happen.” Lana looked back, and could see him looking at her, eyes questioning.

“Okay, I know. See anything yet?”

Daniel.” The radio hissed into life. “Trucks, below, heading towards the dam. See if you can stop them.

“Roger,” said Daniel. “Lana, you got those toys ready?”

Lana pulled a bag out from from under her seat as Daniel pulled the plane sideways and down, looping around and back towards the road. She opened the bag. “Grenade, or a cocktail to start with?”

“Let's see if we can get a cocktail through a windscreen, huh? How's your throwing arm?”

“My throwing arm is fine,” shot back Lana. “How are your piloting skills? How close can you get?”

“Just watch, you just watch.”

They'd caught up with the trucks, three of them in a convoy heading up the road towards the dam. They overtook, shooting past only meters above, and Lana saw the trucks rock in the air currents created by the plane. Daniel let the plane carry on for another five hundred meters or so, then pulled the plane out and around in a tight banking turn. Then they were back over the road, meters above the seal, heading directly towards the trucks.

“Ready, Lana? Just lob it over the side – don't throw it through the prop, remember.”

“Yeah yeah, I got it old man. Just relax and concentrate on your flying.” Lana lit the rag sticking out of the bottle.

They shot in towards the trucks, flying eye-level with the truck drivers. At the last minute Daniel yanked the stick back, pulling the plane hard up in the air, as Lana gently dropped the bottle over the side. The gentle movement was deceptive; the bottle was still travelling forward at the same speed as the plane, and the trucks were doing a similar speed in the opposite direction. There was a sharp crack as the bottle punched through the truck's radiator; a sudden burst of flame and a plume of smoke and steam, and the truck twisted sideways, tires squealing. It tipped up on two wheels as it slid, then thumped back down onto all four as it came to a rest, sideways across the road.

The second truck was too close behind to have any real chance to avoid the now-flaming truck lying across the road; the driver saw the danger and swerved as far right as he could, and the second truck ploughed through the rear of the first with a screech of fracturing metal. The first truck spun with the impact; the second truck rocked, its windscreen shattered, but it shook off the collision and kept driving.

The third truck had more room; it swerved wide, into the gravel off the side of the road, yawing in the soft surface and kicking up a great plume of brown dust. It passed the wreck, pulled back onto the seal, fishtailed a little as its tires gripped the road, then picked up its lost speed and tucked in behind the second truck.

“One down, two to go,” Lana said. “Care to go another round?”

“Hold tight,” Daniel said, “this'll be a tight one.” He whipped the plane around on its tail, dropped the nose back down, tail up, and pushed the throttle forward. The little plane roared as it chased the two remaining trucks.

“I say we roll grenades under them from behind,” Lana said. “More chance of hitting them if we're all travelling in the same direction.”

“Okay, let's do it. We're catching them up.”

Lana grabbed two grenades from the bag. She dropped one in her lap, and pulled the safety from the second, holding it out over the side of the plane. As they flew over the back end of the rear truck Lana popped the pin and gave the grenade a gentle lob forward. She held her breath as they passed the truck, counting 1… 2… – a ball of flame erupted from under the center of the truck, lifting it up and throwing it sideways off the road in a pile of burning wreckage.

Lana grabbed up the second grenade, yanked the safety out, and lobbed it as they overtook the second truck, but she rushed the throw, and felt the grenade slip out her hand sideways. As she looked backwards she saw the grenade bounce out to the side of the truck before exploding, rocking the truck sideways and causing it to sway. The canvas side of the truck was torn and flapping, and she saw a crate drop out the side of the truck and shatter as it bounced along the seal, but the truck carried on at full speed.

Daniel looked back. “Got another one in that bag of yours? It'd be a shame to let him get away.”

“Yeah, a few more.”

“Great.” Daniel pulled the plane up, almost to the point of a stall, and throttled back. He let the plane lurch and flutter on the edge of a stall, then pushed the nose down a little, gliding more than flying. As they lost speed, Lana could see the truck rolling back in underneath, now travelling faster than the plane.

Daniel blipped the throttle a little, lowering the nose some to gain a little speed. He juggled the pitch and power to best match the truck's speed, and gradually lowered them towards the top of it. “About ready?” he asked.

“Go for it!”

He pushed the throttle forward, and they pulled over the front of the truck. Lana just had time to see the occupants of the cab staring up, wide-eyed and white-faced, before she tossed the flaming bottle downwards. It smashed at the base of the truck's windscreen, throwing a sheet of flame across the windscreen. The truck swerved off the road, bumping through tussock before dragging to a halt. The men through the doors open and jumped out, dashing to a safe distance away, and shaking their fists at the plane. Lana saw one of them yelling into a walkie talkie, then Daniel turned the plane back towards the quarry, nose down as he and Lana sped to join the main battle.