After somehow bringing the World Traveler down without killing the passengers JP Jemison is stuck on American Samoa until the parts can be found to fix the plane. With WW2 looming island jumping to make some money and find the parts gets to be more dangerous all the time. It doesn't help that Mark McPherson is more than willing to make the wait more pleasurable, but when his past catches up with him going home is the only option. And then it really gets exciting.
“Mayday! Mayday! This is the World Traveler going down en route from Australia to Hawaii. Repeat the World Traveler! I’m down to one engine after two lightning strikes. 18 passengers and 6 crew. If anyone hears me, I’ve passed Wallis and Futuna, headed northeast. If I can find an atoll I’ll try and set down there. Look for us on that heading,” JP Jemison calmly repeated again into the radio. The B-314’s engines had gone out one at a time, damaged in the strike. First one engine smoked and flamed, another not as damaged kept running for a while before the strain soon defeated it. A second strike had been the end as it took out the third.
From the back, a muffled scream set off the crack of pure power when another bolt sizzled within sight. Rain pounded the cockpit windshield as more thunder shook the plane and sky. Even the sea below them seemed to shake in the onslaught. They were falling fast but an updraft in the storm pushed up suddenly giving JP the chance to slow their descent a bit. If they could just coax a little longer, a spot to land that wasn’t pure ocean might be found. Might keep them from losing everyone’s life. Getting the plane down wasn’t the problem, that was the easy part barring fire, but without shelter in that storm, keeping the plane from being tossed around would have been impossible. Even with the lifeboats on board it wouldn’t do any good if they were swamped on contact.
Static on the radio came suddenly like another faint roll of thunder. “Come in World Traveler. Come in World Traveler. This is American Samoa. If you can keep in the air a little longer you should be seeing the islands.”
“I can’t see anything with this storm,” JP replied. “Charlie, I’m trying to keep this bucket from falling out of the sky, go look out the side windows—maybe we missed it.”
“Your transmission is coming in strong—you have to be close,” the voice from the ocean abyss came back. Charlie scrambled out of his seat and rushed to the back.
“Then we’re off course after the lightning hit, we should be nearing Tokalau. The strike seems to have taken out my instruments,” JP called into the radio.
Charlie De Luca wasn’t much taller than 5’4”, but he made up for it in skill, he could get an engine fixed faster than a man with 6’4” worth of mass to force something in place. Finesse over brawn. The fastest way to his heart was Italian food, something he didn’t get often since he had started working on the World Traveler a few months before. It was a stripped down crew— clipper ships carried upwards of 11 or more—the World Traveler only held 6. They didn’t fly non stop though, and needed the extra to do the work in shifts. JP was captain, Russell the flight officer, Beau the navigator, Charlie the mechanic, and 2 stewards, Juan and Daniel, who saw to the passengers. Many of them could do double duty. “There JP to the right!” Charlie called from the back.
Hell, they were practically over the top of it. The storm hid the islands until they were almost there. “I see you I think.” JP called over the radio.
“If you find the smallest island, there’s a large natural harbor on the southern edge, it will keep you out of the weather if you can reach it,” the radio announced.
They were almost on top of one, which one there was no telling. Forested mountains rose from the sea, impossible to miss at that distance and yet they practically had. Damn, the storm was horrendous! How had they missed it? They had almost passed right by. “Hell, if I know which—we’re coming in either way. Hold on tight!” JP yelled. Turning hard, the plane strained against the punishment of the storm. The waves were dangerous as they descended close enough to see. They all depended on the plane not getting caught in one of the waves, it was going to have been hard enough before, with a straight landing. Turning—with the updraft lost—they were falling fast. A harbor appeared, lined with high cliffs—at least they could say where they were. Every muscle strained to keep the plane in a high enough glide as the plane skimmed just over the top of thatched huts on a spit of land at the harbor’s mouth. One Samoan woman came running out and they almost stared eye to eye. Ahead, calmer water finally appeared even as palms flew at the windshield. Screams from the back filled the air while the trees pounded against the bottom of the plane. When there was silence with being over water, JP pulled back hard on the controls. They were going too fast as water flew up and over the nose. More screams as it washed down over the cabin windows. JP gunned the remaining engine to keep it going before the water killed it too. Taxiing through the harbor, a whitewashed collection of buildings glowed out of the dark sky. There was barely a wide street worth of buildings sandwiched between water and steep cliffs.
Applause filled the cabin as they stopped at a dock bobbing from the waves even in sheltered water.
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