Hamilton Gode

by Luca

Chapter 5

They couldn't stay like that for very long, it was urgent to get out of there. Zachary could see more explosions a long way off, lighting up a nearby town or some strategic target. The sky was a blaze on the horizon.

He shouted out the window of the tanker. "We should go!"

They must have been filling the plane for ten or so minutes, it should have been enough fuel to get them airborne and hopefully out of the country.

"Shut off the engine!" Malcolm shouted back.

Zachary did just that and jumped down from the driver's seat. Malcolm and the co-pilot had detached the fuel line. Together they climbed on-board the jet. It seemed surreal to Zachary, a sleek white private jet sitting in the dark on a military airfield in the middle of a war.

"You're covered in blood!" Lowerstoff screamed, almost hysterically.

"Calm down, it's not mine," Zachary told him.

For a guy who had no problem launching a drone attack he looked in danger of completely losing it. The jet engines kicked into life and seconds later the plane was moving.

"There's nothing on the runway as far as I can see," Malcolm announced over the intercom. "Take a seat and we are getting out of here."

He manoeuvred the plane towards the end of the runway and swung it around ready to take off. As that happened, Zachary saw the long black stretch of tarmac and the sky a glowing red and orange panorama on the horizon. The jet packed a punch as it lurched forward picking up speed. Then... bang! There was a very loud sound from somewhere underneath. They lurched right and lifted off, touched back down on the opposite side, lurched back. The thing was wobbling at like two hundred kilometres per hour, but it lifted off. They were going up, quickly gaining altitude.

"That was hairy," Malcolm announced calmly. "Unfortunately, we hit some debris and exploded a tyre, I think. Jarvis is going to take a look. We don't have much fuel and I've just been told China has closed its air space. There are two choices, Tajikistan or Russia. We're going to Khujand. That's in Tajikistan and it's a modern airport. Plus it's close."

The plane banked left and continued to climb.

"One other thing," Malcolm announced. "We are in the middle of a war and hostile air space until we cross the border. So stay buckled up."

There was dried blood all over Zachary's clothes and they were flying to God knows where with some possible damage to the plane. He wondered what would happen, but strangely enough he felt very calm. Looking across at Lowerstoff, he had a strange expression on his face. An incomprehension which was at odds with his usual self-confidence. Zachary didn't attempt to say anything, he was exhausted, and collapsed into his seat falling asleep. The come down from the massive adrenaline high.

"This might be a rough landing so hold tight," Malcolm announced. He forgot to say that when Jarvis checked the undercarriage it appeared the right wheel was damaged.

The approach was normal, they gently lost height. Zachary had woken up and was hyper concentrated on the landing. He was the only one worried. He found himself gripping the armrests of the seat and gripping Lowerstoff's hand which had manoeuvred it's way over to his. The plane bounced down heavily on the runway, the right wing tipped dangerously close to the ground, but Malcolm brought it back level as they rocketed along, the ground racing beneath them, balancing on one wheel. It was an incredible relief when they came to a halt, the plane flopping to one side.

"Everybody off!" Malcolm said calmly, but firmly.

The stewardess had the cabin door open and Zachary followed Lowerstoff down the steps. With the urgency to disembark the plane he didn't notice where Emile was. There seemed to be only one small lit building and they headed towards it. It was strange no fire engines or anyone had come racing to the plane. In the movies it was always like that for an emergency landing, flashing lights and lots of action. It was oddly calm.

"Look at that!" Lowerstoff grabbed Zachary's arm firmly.

There, standing near the little terminal building was a plane like you see in a museum or something. It could have been straight out of Casablanca, that final scene. The way those aircraft look, with the nose up high and sloping down a little towards the tail. It was a double prop, and written across the side Zachary could just make out the words, Continental Airlines.

Now they were almost at the building and Zachary could clearly see a queue of passengers exiting onto the tarmac in the direction of the plane. Then it hit him! He stopped, pulling Lowerstoff to a halt beside him. Turning together they looked back at where the jet was, where they had just crash landed. There was nothing!

No jet, no Malcolm, Jarvis, the stewardess, or Emile.

"Gentlemen, we need to board," a smart uniformed man with a peak cap told them.

"What just happened? Lowerstoff asked him as they followed the people onto the plane.

"I don't know, except we're not where we were about fifteen minutes ago. It must be the same place, but it's definitely not the same time. Look at their clothes."

They took their seats, side by side at the rear, the last row. There was nothing to do. He sat back next to Lowerstoff as the plane took off.

"I keep thinking we should be in this war," the man from the seat in front had turned to talk to Zachary. "We were lucky to get this last flight."

Zachary nodded in agreement. His head was whirling around with a million thoughts. What war? Was he talking about where they had come from? He had clothes which looked like they were from a charity shop, a dark brown stripped suit, shirt, tie, and braces. Zachary noticed he had discarded the newspaper.

"Would you mind if I borrowed your paper? He asked him, smiling.

"Sure, here you are." He passed it across and turned back in his seat, as the aircraft bounced through a pocket turbulence.

The hum of the motors was a constant drone in the background and from time to time the whole shell of the plane vibrated and jerked. Zachary had experienced odd moments before. The garage enroute to Nice. He had even been confused about the date. Never, as far as he knew, had the scenario changed so that things, things and people disappeared.

He unfolded the paper and looked at the date on the top of the front page, Friday, 20 June 1941.

He passed it to Lowerstoff. "Look at the date," Zachary said, pointing with his finger.

"We can't be here," he frowned, "we haven't been born yet!"

The aircraft hit another air pocket and dropped. It kept dropping this time. He looked at Lowerstoff.

"Fuck!" Lowerstoff screamed, "look around," and Zachary did.

The whole fabric of the plane was vibrating, wobbling, undulating. It was like watching a television when you are losing the picture. It was all pixelating, the aircraft and everybody on it, except Lowerstoff.

They were still dropping, falling. Zachary wasn't even sure they were in the plane anymore.

Blackness flooded his vision. Nobody existed now except Lowerstoff. He blinked and heard voices.

"He's coming round."

Zachary looked up into the face of Malcolm, the pilot. He turned to see Lowerstoff lying on the tarmac beside him. There were flashing lights and flames.

"You'll be okay," Malcolm was saying, but it was like he was speaking from the far end of a tunnel.

He must have known Zachary was suffering concussion. He came closer.

"Your hearing will come back, but we'll get you examined."

Now they were both being placed on stretchers.

"It was the blast," Malcolm said, as Zachary was stretchered into the back of an ambulance.

It all went black again. All he could hear was a constant hum. How long he was out Zachary had no idea, but he woke up with a headache in a very white hospital room. A room with another bed, which was occupied by Lowerstoff.

He sat up and looked at him. He stirred, and a minute or two later was awake.

"You okay?" Zachary asked.

He did that thing of touching his body. "Seem to be all in one piece."

"I didn't imagine what happened, did I?"

Lowerstoff sat up in bed and turned towards Zachary. "You mean the old plane and the newspaper?"

"Yeah, the date. That guy who gave me the paper, who said something about a war. The epoch."

"Nineteen forty-one," Lowerstoff confirmed.

"I zoned out as you said we can't be there, we haven't been born yet."

"Yeah, me too. Maybe I shouldn't have said that," he smiled mischievously. "But you know when we sort of slipped into 1962 with Hamilton, you didn't suddenly become twelve years old."

"No, but this was different."

"I don't see how. It was another time slip."

"How does that even happen? And, with you each time?"

"I hate to repeat what I told you the first time we met, but I'm not exactly real."

"Lowerstoff!" Zachary shouted at him.

"Keep your voice down," Lowerstoff made a sign with his finger.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Zachary spoke quietly.

"Sure I exist, we both do. Only I don't exist here. Well, I think it's like that. I only exist here, with you. I'm sort of keeping this... this timeline... this existence... alive."

This was difficult to follow. At this point Zachary had no idea what was going on and he wasn't certain he believed Lowerstoff's off the wall explication. Which, even were it true, what did it mean? It didn't explain anything about what they were doing.

There was a knock at the door and in walked Malcolm, dressed in his uniform and carrying his captain's hat under his arm.

He smiled, looking from Lowerstoff to Zachary. "Well, you're both fine and you can get dressed and leave when you are ready. I couldn't find a plane to hire, but I've booked you on a scheduled flight for Tokyo. It leaves in ten hours time, so plenty of time yet. Here are your tickets."

Malcolm handed over two tickets. "Someone will meet you when you arrive. I'm sorry I have to leave you like this, but I, myself and the crew, are booked on another flight which leaves," he looked at his wrist watch, "in a little under an hour."

"Thanks for getting us down safely," Zachary returned his smile.

"Yeah, thanks," Lowerstoff added.

As Malcolm left, Emile appeared, he was waving his own ticket. "You didn't think I'd let you leave without me?" He came over and sat himself in a plastic covered chair that was between the two beds. "We've got a lot to talk about."

Lowerstoff and Zachary both turned to regard him.

"I've had some news from Baragsen who's been in contact with my mother, but that's another story. What is important here," he looked first at Zachary, then Lowerstoff, and back to Zachary, "is Hamilton. He has engineered a rift in the multiverse. Don't ask me how he did that."

Zachary stared at him. "Emile, I don't even know what you're talking about."

Emile stood up and positioned himself at the foot of the bed. "You ever noticed a few odd things happening?"

Zachary nodded.

"Well then?"

"Emile, you aren't making any sense. Well then, What?"

"I should start with a basic state we all take for granted. Time."

He started moving around the room, which was a little annoying and made it harder for Zachary to concentrate.

"Time does not really exist. We think it does. Because it seems logical. We grow up, grow old, that's time. But, no it isn't. That's biology. A biological clock, if you like, but you can't measure everything by your biological clock. For one thing it's not regular, not the same for each of us. And anyway every living thing has a different time, from butterflies to trees, short to long. Trees live for centuries. Barring accidents and fires."

"Emile..." Zachary kind of whined at him. "Get to the point."

"The point is that there are an infinite number of existences and we are each in a number of different ones and that's where we should stay. But Hamilton has engineered a breakthrough from one to another. I mean he didn't do that himself, but he's using it."

"Exactly!" Lowerstoff suddenly chipped in. "I don't exist here. That's what I've been trying to tell you all along."

"You're here aren't you?" Zachary told Lowerstoff, feeling annoyed he was bringing that up again.

"Only because you are."

"Shut up and listen," Emile interrupted. "We have to shut down Hamilton, what he's doing, and whoever is helping him. If not it will end in chaos and disaster, but like all good movies we won't let that happen, will we?"

"What do you expect us to do?" Zachary asked.

"The most important thing is to protect Lowerstoff, because Lowerstoff..." Emile was now looking directly at him, "you are the key. If he kills you, this all collapses and Zachary here falls under his control and that would be a disaster."

"Kills me?" Lowerstoff sounded perturbed.

Well, who wouldn't be? If you had Hamilton out to kill you.

"Why didn't he kill me in Paris, or Nice, or anywhere before we got here?"

"I'm guessing either he didn't know he needed you out of the picture, or more likely, he needed you to get Zack here to some point that would be pivotal. I think the second idea is it, actually. It makes sense. He needs Zack to be somewhere specific."

"None of this makes any sense to me," Zachary told him.

"It might do if you remembered back before Paris. Whatever, he needs you at this pivotal point."

"And where is that?"

"We don't fucking know!"

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