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The Sea of Tranquility 2.0, Book Three
When Sikandar’s homeland is invaded, he must return to defend his people. Monica defies him, refusing to stay behind, insisting she will not lose him again. The two of them, plus the Gang of Four, set off for the remote and desolate outback of Alcina Sahar, where Sikandar is certain his people have taken refuge.
From Chapter Five
“Four minutes,” the navigator said into his mic.
The pilot clicked his intercom button twice.
In the cargo hold, the loadmaster hit a red button on the firewall, opening the cargo door and dropping the tailgate into place. The interior of the hold was dark, except for the headlamp on the loadmaster’s baseball cap.
After the pilot and co-pilot lowered their night-vision goggles over their eyes, the pilot slowed the aircraft to 150 knots as he descended toward 200 meters altitude.
The three cargo pallets were strapped together in train fashion, one behind the other. A drogue chute attached to the cargo would be released at a signal from the navigator. The small drogue would then pull two large parachutes out the back of the aircraft. When these chutes caught the slipstream of the aircraft, they would pop open and jerk the cargo from the back of the plane.
“Landing gear down,” the pilot said.
The co-pilot lowered the landing gear. Even though they had no intention of landing, the wheels were lowered as a precaution.
“Thirty percent flaps.”
The co-pilot lowered the flaps. “100 meters altitude.”
“Thirty seconds,” the navigator replied.
The loadmaster didn’t hear the gunfire, but he saw the bright streaks of light from the tracer bullets arcing behind the aircraft.
“Gunfire! Port side.”
“Roger.” The pilot jerked his head left to see the machine gun muzzle-flashes. He turned his attention back to his instruments. “Five meters altitude.” Then, a second later, “Two meters.”
Glancing out the front windshield, with his night-vision goggles in place, the pilot had a fuzzy green-tinged view of the terrain ahead. In front of him, ghostly dunes rose fifteen to twenty meters high.
“Ten seconds,” the navigator said.
“We’re hit!” the co-pilot leaned forward to see past the pilot. “Port side, outboard engine. Can’t see it.” He raised his goggles. “There it is, on fire.”
The pilot had to keep his full attention on his instruments and the onrushing dunes. “Extinguish and kill the engine.”
“Roger.” The co-pilot lowered his night-vision goggles back in place and flipped a switch to open a canister of HFC gas in the port outboard engine compartment.
“Three,” the navigator reported.
The loadmaster hovered his thumb over the release button.
The drogue chute whipped out into the slipstream, pulling the main chutes behind it.
The two large chutes popped open, yanking the three pallets off the tailgate.
Feeling the aircraft lift a few meters from the release of the two tons of freight, the pilot said, “Full power. Raise landing gear, ten percent flaps.”
He climbed the C-130 at a slow rate of ascent, not wanting to turn until the airspeed hit 300 knots. Turning too soon would cause a loss of altitude and maybe catch a wingtip in the sand.
He glanced at the feathered left engine. He could fly on three engines, or even two, if he had to.
The C-130 skimmed away, just above the dunes.