Top Gun 2

Like they would ever make a sequel to that movie. Not even Hollywood is that foolish.

I’ve tried to explain how loud it is when n J-Lo is taking fire.  Nothing I’ve said is accurately able to convey the clamor.  Maybe if you put a couple ball bearings in an empty paint can, sealed it back up and then out it on one of those paint can shaker things – with a stethoscope attached to it directly into your ears – that might be close.  Turns out all that racket is a good thing – the ear-splitting means the bullets are being stopped by the armor.  On the other hand, the bullets hitting Martialla’s plane went through so easily they barely made any noise.  I heard the whistling of the wind through the bullet holes before anything else.   

The good news is that those holes didn’t seem to matter, I guess there’s nothing important in the middle of a plane.  I mean mechanically, in theory the people in the middle there have some intrinsic value.  Some more than others.  Martialla banked (that’s what it’s called when a plane turns right?) and climbed to get out of the line of fire and the other plane didn’t seem to be able to do anything about it.  Once I got a good look at it I could see why. 

I laughed at these mutant future rubes (internally, I’m not rude enough to laugh in someone’s face, usually) when they called Martialla’s plane a flying car, but this thing “chasing” us was close to looking like that flying Winnebago from Spaceballs more than any kind of plane I’ve ever seen.   I SWEAR that it looked like parts of the wings were garbage bags.  The damn thing had a turret on it, what is with these future people and their turrets?  Why do they put turrets on everything?  And the main body was bright yellow which made it look like a flying school bus.   

It couldn’t turn (bank I mean) for shit and it climbed like a wheezing old man who lives in a ten story walk-up, but on a straight away it was faster than us.  When we tried to get away it would pull into line to shoot at us and Martialla would have to bank and climb again to get out of the line of fire.  I still think we could have gotten away if Martialla had zigged and zagged enough but Lucien suggested another course of action.  Had I known how suicidal it was I would have told Martialla to ignore him.  But aerial combat maneuvers aren’t my forte.  I must have missed that day in college.   

We’ve all heard about kamikaze pilots in world war two, but what I didn’t know is that the Germans did something similar at the end.  You know when they realized they were screwed.  What you did if you were a German pilot was you tried to fly in real careful like behind a bomber and use your propeller to chop off the controls in the tail.  Unlike the kamikaze plan if you did it right you could survive.  According to Lucien this move was successfully pulled off exactly once.  Which sounds bad, but that’s once our of like six times because was hardly ever tried – for some reasons a ton of the pilots in the German chop squad returned to base without engaging the enemy because of “mechanical problems”.   

Well you can add Martialla’s name alongside that Oberfähnrich Hubert Heckmann because under Lucien’s direction she pulled off this move.  It seemed like we were back behind the giant flying yellow cab forever but there was nothing it could do as Martialla got in the right spot for the tail chop.  Which makes the turret even stupider.  Being able to shoot behind you as well is the one thing that a turret is supposed to be useful for isn’t it?

I knew that tails were important to aircraft but I didn’t know they were that critical.  Martialla dipped in for not even a second and then backed the fuck off and the thing on front us fell out of the sky like a concrete balloon.  I don’t know how high up we were when it hit the ground but the noise was audible.  That thing hit HARD.   

You see this is my thing about planes.  Once you’re going down in flames there’s nothing to do but wait for death.  There’s no moves you can make.  On the ground you have options.  You can delay, you can buy time, you can wait for a miracle, you can make your own miracle, you can plead for mercy.  But you can outmaneuver gravity.   Parachutes?  I mean sure, I guess but do you have a pattern for making your own parachute?  Because I don’t.   

Once we were on the ground Lucien was all up Martialla’s butt praising her courage and calm under pressure.  I think he told her that was the best flying he’d ever seen.  First of all what does that even mean, he’s an army engineer what fancy flying has he seen?  And second of all we had to land because the propeller is messed up so what good did she really do? 

Did she do an okay job?  Yeah, but this wasn’t the Apollo moon landing Lucien, get a grip.  Overpraising is ruining the world.  I mean it was ruining the world that I came from a hundred years ago, this world is being ruined by everything all the time.  I looked around at the seemingly endless plain we had landed in and asked how long repairs would take. 

Martialla had a temerity to respond with a sassy tone “I’m not an aviation mechanic Ela, and even if I was what would we repair anything with?” 

I scowled at her “Why did we come out here this far if there was nothing we could do if the plane gets damaged?” 

She held her hands up “Coming out here was your idea.” 

I scowled at her harder “Now is not the time for blame Martialla.” 

Lucien stepped between us, an annoying habit he has when we’re bickering “We may just have to continue on foot.” 

I grunted sourly and looked over at some shaggy hill-like creatures that were slowly grazing our way lilke swaying land-ships “Paul, what the hell are those things?” He looked at them for a long moment and then said that he didn’t know.  I shook my head.  “Jesus dude, you’ve been here all your adult life and you don’t seem to know anything.  You are just spare parts aren’t you?” 

He looked over at Martialla for a moment and then back to me “I don’t understand what you mean.” 

Rawr! Dinosaur!

Dinosaurs are back.  That’s the headline.  Not that stupid sitcom on ABC, actual dinosaurs.  Martialla, being the buzzkill that she is, says that they’re “not really” dinosaurs.  She says that they’re likely birds that have evolved into something like what we think a dinosaur looked like.  Like she’s a friggin’ archeologist.  When I looked to Lucien for support he just shrugged like a cowardly Canadian.  I knew there was no point in asking Paul since he only cares about murder and stacks of girly magazines. 

I don’t care what Martialla says (I mean ever) if it looks like a dinosaur and walks like a dinosaur and, well we didn’t hear what sound they made, but you get it.  Remember a few (and a hundred) years ago when scientist were all like “hey, dinosaurs have feathers” and everyone went “What, that’s dumb, dinosaurs are dumb now” and then they tried to walk it back by having some artists draw T-Rexes with rainbow feathers to try and make them look “cool”?  Being an archeologist must have been a great job because you could be wrong about everything and no one would ever know.

Now that you have the important information let’s backtrack a little.  Since there’s barely any room in Martialla’s little plane we had considered taking all the supplies we could stuff in there and heading out just the two of us, but somehow ended up doing the opposite – jamming both Paul and Lucien in the back and taking very few supplies.   Maybe if (when?) Paul goes nuts Lucien will stop him.  Or at least get killed first.  So that’s something.

I happen to know that in the olden days a flight from Sacramento to Boise was barely more than an hour (don’t ask).  I don’t know how much slower this little plane is from a commercial number but we were three hours in when we saw the dinos and I have no idea how much longer we have to fly. 

I spotted them first because I guess Martialla was busy looking at clouds or whatever you look at when you fly a plane and there are no windows in the back where Lucien and Paul are squashed together.  They don’t have feathers (I think) but I did think at first that they were ostriches based on their shape and the way they were running around.  Aside from humans you don’t see too many two-legged animals running and they have a particular stride about them.  Not that I’m an ostrich expert, but that’s the impression that I got. 

A flock of ostriches in America is interested enough on its own that I took a closer look and saw that instead of dumb tiny bird-heads they had more muzzle-y noggins on them with what looked like big scary dino-teeth but I realized later were just some kind of markings on their faces.  Those would have had to have been huge teeth to see them from a plane.  They were smooth and lizardy but they did have some kind of spiney-things on the backs of their “arms” and around the rump that were kind of feathery.  I give the scientists partial credit there. 

I said something along the lines of “Hey, are those dinosaurs down there?”  I didn’t notice for a while that they were running around because some other beast was chowing down on one of them.  It looked like a giant sloth-bear-wild boar.  Martialla, being a pill again, said that he thought that it looked like some kind of predatory wombat.  Because she has to ruin everything.  A wombat?  Get a life. 

I don’t know if it had killed the one it was eating.  It looked lumbery and too slow to catch one of them so maybe it was scavenging, but whatever had happened it was enjoying a nice meal of dino-ribs Fred Flintstone style while the rest of the flock ran around it in circles.  What were they doing?  Trying to scare it off?  Just freaking out because of what was happening?  I feel like normally when a member of herd goes down in the clutches of a predator the herd just keeps going.  Isn’t that the whole idea of grouping together – maybe the lion will get someone else and you can forget about it? 

Even with all the crazy stuff I’ve seen lately this was pretty crazy.  Martialla circled the plane around several times so we could watch, mostly me since as I said Paul and Lucien couldn’t see much.  Martialla was annoyingly nonplussed by god damn dinosaurs.  Although she must have been at least somewhat interested because she was distracted enough that she didn’t notice the other plane until it started shooting us.

All out of love

Martialla said to me that air power rests at the apex of the pyramid of military something or other.  The aforementioned pyramid of course consisting of the doctrines of mobility, flexibility, and initiative.  As we all know.  These are the kinds of things she says to me now.  I think she’s read far too many books about World War Two and she’s become deranged.  The point being that she was far more interested in the plane than the ground vehicles even though they have armor and weapons and this bird looks like a hard sneeze would blow it apart.  I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but I find her enthusiasm vaguely distasteful.  Martialla was straddling the engine like a wanton I watched on dubiously. 

“So what, we throw bombs out the door, like with our it with our hands or something?  Or drop sacks of rocks?  That doesn’t seem very effective.” 

“It isn’t, that’s why I wouldn’t get this thing anywhere near a battle.  Aerial recon Ela.” She patted the side of the craft like a treasured horse “That’s what this beauty is for.” 

“Aerial Recon Ela, is that like Live at the Improv Barbie?” 

She poked her head up from the other side of the fuselage where she was clinging like a gangly gecko “Whatever happened to that creep who kept saying he wanted to make a Barbie doll of you?” 

“I don’t know, but you saw that mannequin at Dildopolis, it looked just like me.  Where’s Paul?  Doesn’t he want to watch you work on this flying hay bale?” 

Martialla gave the surroundings a quick scan “He’s skulking around somewhere, like a new cat.  He’s afraid of you Ela, you’re too direct with him.  I’m not sure he spoke more than a handful or words to anyone for years before I started talking to him.  You come on too strong, you have go slow and steady.” 

I grunted “Or he could stop being a baby.” 

Martialla nodded “Sure, he was just frozen in a tube as a teenager during the end of the world as he knew it and woke up in this shitshow with everyone he ever knew dead, left to scavenge and murder his way to adulthood, he could just get over it.”  

“Exactly.  Do you know how to fly this thing really?” 

She frowned slightly “Of course, I wouldn’t say I could if I couldn’t.  You’re the liar, I’m just the killer.” 

“It takes two to lie Martialla, one to lie and one to believe it.  When did you learn to fly a plane?” 

She crawled into the cockpit and started fiddling with the panel in a way that I found very unreassuring “When I was in the coast guard.  What did you think I did there?” 

“I don’t know, what did that Tailhook woman do?  I figured you did whatever she did, filing or shorthand or something, I didn’t know they let women fly planes.  Or they the Coast Guard had planes.” 

“Tailhook was the Navy, not the Coast Guard, and there were more than eighty women involved in that scandal not just one.  Plus a couple men as well, people never talk about them.  Think about how hard you have to get molested as a man to speak up about it in the service.” 

“I think about it all the time.  Huh, wasn’t Gail O’Grady in a movie about Tailhook?  Was she playing a composite character?” 

Martialla sniffed “Never heard of any Gail O’Grady, sounds made up if you ask me.  Are you ready to take this thing for a spin or what?” 

I hung in the doorway like a gibbon on a fig tree “Don’t planes need special gas?  You can’t just land your Cessna at the local Shell station and fuel up can you?” 

She shrugged far too carelessly for my liking “Ideally you’d use aviation fuel for a plane but this one can run fine on normal gas.  Well, not fine, but . . . anyway.” 

My eyes widened “What do you mean by that?  I don’t like the way you just trailed off there.” 

“Aircraft engines don’t have knock sensors so it’s possible for them to blow up if you run them on normal gas.  Also normal gas can corrode the lines.  There are also issues if you fly too high with normal gas but we’re not going to be going anywhere near enough to make that matter.” 

“How comforting, so all we need to worry about is the engine exploding.” 

She winked at me humorlessly “Exactly, so mount up and let’s get this baby in the air.” 

I crawled into the passenger seat reluctantly “I have the strangest sensation of DeJa’Vu, it’s like a memory of a memory or a dream or something.   I feel like we were in a helicopter and we were trying to get away from an angry mob or a bunch of monster people, it didn’t go well.  I think we were in Florida?  Why would we be in Florida?” 

“When does anything ever go well for us?  That would never happen anyway because I don’t know how to fly a helicopter Ela.” 

I shook my head slowly “I don’t think you knew how to in my dream either.  That was the problem.  Do you believe in past lives Martialla?” 

She snorted “No.  The population keeps increasing so it makes no sense for there to be past lives.  If you go back far enough was one caveman a million different people now?  Besides, all those past life people claim to be kings or famous historical figures in their past lives, if past lives were a thing almost all of them would be someone boring or a kid that died before they were six.  It’s almost like people use the concept of reincarnation as an ego trip.  Gautama Buddha would be pissed if getting pissed wasn’t against his whole thing.” 

I randomly threw in a direction “Hey Paul, we’re going up, you want to ride in a plane with us??” 

From somewhere I heard a crash like a raccoon jumping off some garbage cans and then some faint rustling noises. 

Martialla raised an eyebrow “See, like a new cat.”