The smelling salts woke me with a start; it took a while for my head to clear. We were still in the air, the clouds had cleared, the ocean below a welcome sight.
“How long was I out?”
“About ten minutes. I was worried, worried, worried that you weren’t going to wake up and I started to read the landing checklist.”
“How far are we from the rendezvous area?”
“We cleared the coast ten minutes ago, it’ll take another thirty minutes before we set up for our landing. Can you hold out that long?”
“I dun’ know, in a lot of pain, I feel weak.”
“I have the pain medicine, it is very strong, I don’t want to give it to you, it may put you to sleep before you can make the landing.”
“I can hold out for a while longer. Am I losing any blood?”
“There is blood on the patches on your side, some blood is oozing out. A pool of blood is on the floor under your seat. I can’t see your shoulder; the blood has stopped running down your face. I have the Adrenaline ready if you need a boost.”
I sat stunned by the events and the pain.
“I better get set up to land when we get in range of the GPS coordinates.” I could barely concentrate on the GPS, the instruments, everything looked out-of-focus as if I was living in a dream world.
A vision of Nikki’s naked body appeared again in my mind. How I love her, if only I could get her back.
“The only chance you have of getting her back is if you stay alive,” Angel said to me. “You can do this if you don’t give up. It will be easier when you land us on the ocean. The Savant can relieve your pain, we can sit and wait, just keep her in mind. I will do my best for you before we can be rescued.”
“Can you save me?” I asked Angel.
“I can’t bring you back from the dead. Once you die we will fly together to a new place. I can give the Savant the inspiration and intuition to help you stay alive. Hold out, miracles happen all the time.”
Now what? I thought to myself. So, I land. Do we just sit in the ocean? How long will we sit there? Who is going to find us? How will they pick us up, how will I know if they are our friends or our enemies? How do I hold my position, what if the weather changes?
“We’re here,” the Savant’s voice brought me back to reality. “Land now before it’s too late?”
In the time it took me to react, we had flown over the GPS position point.
“I’m going to turn around and set up for a landing parallel to the swells. That should bring us back. Tighten your shoulder harness and seat belt, see if you can tighten mine.”
I turned on the fuel pump. The belly tank had enough fuel for a safe landing, the other tanks were full, we could sit at idle in the ocean for a long time.
I turned on the carb heat, reduced the throttle, and pushed the prop lever to high. I set the mixture to rich and slowed up to 65 knots. I lowered the flaps to fifty degrees and slowed to 55 knots, I retarded the throttle, we descended to an angry ocean below.
“Go through landing checklist?” I asked the Savant.
“Put the water rudders down; that’s all that’s left.”
“Will you do that? I have my hands full here, I’m getting confused.”
The Savant moved the water rudder control to the down position.
I kept a nose-up flight attitude and operated without thinking, strictly by reflexes. Guess all those landings paid off, like playing the piano because I was unconsciously aware of what I was doing.
The initial contact with the ocean was a hard one. I held the control stick back to keep floats from plowing into the waves. After the second contact, I chopped the throttle to idle. The ocean was wild, we rocked from side to side as we plowed down the furrows of the swells and up over the crest, then came to stop in a spray of seawater.
“Damn,” I muttered. “You both okay?”
“I am but why do you talk as if there is more than the two of us in the plane?”
“I have an Angel,” I exclaimed.
“Lucky for us you do. That landing was rough, rough, rough.”
In my ear, Angel barked.
We sat on the surface of the ocean rocking from side to side. I used the throttle to keep us in position and to give us some steering authority.
“How was Michael going to be picked up?” I asked the Savant, hoping he knew and noticing that his speech improved when he wasn’t nervous.
“I thought it out. The Cause must have inserted Michael into Cuba at the last moment. They had to get the thumb drives out of the meeting in case you weren’t successful plus the acceleration of the timing of the meeting probably threw them off,” the Savant answered. “It is likely they had a plan to get Michael out of Cuba with the thumb drives and meet him by submarine or seaplane out here in the ocean.”
“Did you think the Cause knew you were going to be at the meeting? What did the Government expect to gain by showing they had you?”
“The General had me, hoping I could understand the information you had for his own purposes. He would have the money and knowledge to sell at an auction to the highest bidder,” the Savant paused and took a deep breath. “Michael probably didn’t know I was at the meeting. He didn’t kill you because he knew you had a chance to get me out. The Cause thinks I know as much as you do about crossing the Vail. I don’t, I have no idea what the Vail is. All I know is I hope you have the special powers, or all of this is for nothing.”
“How long do you think we are going to wait? The next storms arrive sometime later today, I don’t think I can hold out that long,” I groaned.
“I figure Michael is in contact with the Cause, he probably has a team in place by now, and a way to get us out of here. Michael mentioned he had some mercenaries lined up, the Cause is going to jump through hoops to pick us up.”
I turned on the Emergency Locator Transmitter. A satisfying red light indicated it was broadcasting. “If I die, someone will find you. It’s in the hands of the Universe now.”
I held our position close to the GPS point, steering and using the throttle to keep us on point. Then I saw it. A Martin Mars painted in black circled low overhead in front of our position.
“What a miracle!” I exclaimed. “It has the Phalmne logo on the tail. Set 121.5 in the radio and listen for them.”
The Savant dialed in the frequency; the waves around us increased as the moments passed.
A voice came over the radio. “Hold your position, we are going to land beside you and send a rescue crew to extract you. Stay off the radio and turn off the ELT.”
I heard Angel clapping her wings.
A huge seaplane landed and taxied up to our left side. Spray was everywhere, I saw the waterline door on the Mars open, four crew members in wet suits jumped into the ocean, followed by a raft in the process of being inflated. The crew climbed in and began paddling over to us.
“Cut your engine,” a voice commanded over the radio.
I closed the mixture control, the engine died within a few revolutions. Almost instantly our rear passenger door opened. A big guy in a wet suit climbed in. I heard him yelling to the crew outside.
“TCO is alive, I have the thumb drives, get the triage doctors ready, we’re bringing him and the Savant over. I’m going to sink the Beaver.”
The Savant scrambled out between the seats and was helped into the inflatable raft. Another crewman came inside the cabin and released my harness, with one painful move he had me out of the pilot’s seat and down on the cabin floor. Both men deftly maneuvered me out the door and into the hands of the crew waiting in the raft.
Angel slipped out behind them and fluttered above me.
“Here is your chance to save the mind, don’t screw it up by dying.” I didn’t have the strength to acknowledge her words; she knew I heard them, she knew also that there was love behind their harshness.
There was furious paddling. Soon the hull of the Mars loomed above me.
Hands came out from the door and eased me into the hull of the flying boat. The Savant came in next; the hull door closed and latched.
A huge explosion took place where the Beaver had been.
“Get him on the table. Get an IV in him, get some meds into him.”
“I’ve got a vein and have a port in him, start the drip and help me get his clothes off.”
Everything was turning white, I was getting cold. A crew member came up to me. This one was a woman.
Leaning over me, she said softly, “Soldiers don’t cry.”
“We are losing him! Get the paddles! He’s flatlining!”
The sound in the triage room went quiet; I could hear the pulse tone of my own heartbeat.
Beep, beep, beep, bee, bee, be, eeeeeeeee, silence.