Lucifer’s Semi-Final Conclave -- Part 41
Early Monday, Jim Belmont was motoring along in a rental car down the desert scrubland 95 south of Henderson on his way to Searchlight to claim his 2 week ’vacation’ package at Terrible’s Casino. Quite a name for a casino, that ‘Terrible’s’ he thought. If one was expecting Las Vegas style opulence, It would indeed live up to it’s name, though. There are actually two “Terrible’s” in Searchlight. One was a combination Casino and convenience store, the second Terrible’s was a road house style restaurant. It did have good food and friendly staff, though. The two were more or less within easy walking distance, but neither, he found had any rooms,… exactly.
The “package” included a room at the nearby BV motel. The ‘free gambling chips’ were for a partner casino in Laughlin, about a 17 mile drive. He was, at 30, young and adventurous, though. ‘Terribles” Casino was an old school casino, the partially ‘modernized’ building actually dated back to its days as a general store supplying prospectors and settlers the early west. It was old, but so was the town of Searchlight, actually. Quite nostalgic. After the first day, he kinda liked it‘s solitude, and the friendliness of most people he met. He explored th area, while the far flung Spaceforce crew were forming what plans they could, and just waiting for Old Goat to call the shots.
He was pleased to find that on the northern side of Searchlight, there was a GA airport. An airplane, he thought would be just the ticket to survey their Rocksense West target.
Jim did not have a Private pilot’s license, but he did have a LSA license, which he acquiesced to once the full pilot training became too expensive. He had became hooked on flying in high school and pursued it through community college, whenever he could spare the cost of an hour‘s training lesson.
A Light Sport Aircraft Certification limited him to VFR, Daytime only flights of less than 10000 feet altitude, and also limited him to certain special aircraft, which had total loaded gross weight of less than 1320 pounds. But, a sport pilot could legally carry a passenger. He thought of that as he looked at the sleek Van’s RV-12 tied down beside the only small building on the airport. There were also two conventional aircraft there. An older Piper Comanche and a Cessna 182 that obviously belonged to a couple of “$500 hamburger” pilots, who just lived to fly and thus often went to buy lunch at outlying places, and sightsee. And of course, had enough time and bucks to do it….
But, alas, there was no one there to talk to for information about who owned the Van‘s.
As he was just beginning to leave, he noticed a car coming in the short sand trace toward the airport. He waited until the driver had dropped her passengers at the Comanche, and flagged her down. She was a UBER driver, living in Searchlight. Sally said that yes, she knew about the Van’s and could help him, but right now she had two other fares waiting. She offered him her card, with instructions to call between 1 and 4 this afternoon, when business was usually less.
Well, wonder of wonders… Christy could not sweet talk Clive into borrowing his four runner to go to Searchlight for the day. Her smiles just would not do it. She had not talked to Jim after their introduction yesterday at the chopper, and she needed to brief him and to fill him in on what they had gleaned from Marcy yesterday, as well as Phil and Danielle’s previous visit with Hatalii.
Phil And Danielle had left in hussy early this morning, to talk again to Marcy and Hatalii. Buffy and Jennifer had gone to Henderson to shop, and Ken had long ago left for work. Buffy and Jennifer? On a shopping trip? Two Females?… That’s an all day trip for sure.
And Phil and Danielle? In a camper? Forget those two lovebirds… They can amuse themselves just fine after they attend to their business at Marcy’s. They even said they may stay overnight, depending.. She smiled within herself, actually I don’t know who is more fortunate, Phil or Danielle. Oh, well….
Clive was adamant that He and his four runner be available mostly 24/7 on the trace. He was needed here to watch out for his ‘parents’, the Wilks, who were in their 80’s. Their home was nearly 2 miles up the trace into the desert. With all others away now, he could need it at any moment. She realized then, that Clive was a man with a strong sense of duty and responsibility. Very unusual in today‘s society, she mused. Clive’s stock had risen even more with her in spite of his refusal.
Clive mounted his 4 runner, and patted the passenger seat.. Christy smiled and joined him. They went to Clive’s spread, and circled his trailer to a shed. In the shed was a Honda three wheeler… Ever drive one of these, he asked. A few times, she said. I used one for a week once as my only transportation, while on vacation in Key West. They are really tricky in sand, or even sharp turns on pavement, she said. Clive laughed, indeed they are… and pointed to the desert, then to a healed scar on his right arm. He picked a helmet from a nail on the shed wall and handed it to her.
You will be fine on the trace here and have no problems on the pavement of 95 and Searchlight... Just take it easy until you get familiar with these free spirits again. You are welcome to use it…
He watched as she went down the trace toward 95, her blond hair peeking out from the back of the helmet… He allowed himself to consider… That’s an interesting woman… and she surely appears to have a fairly complete package, that Christy…. Christine….
He will find out soon enough that this Christine Bales can surprise him in ways he had not suspected-- especially from a Cutie, a mere 128 pound female.
Clive mounted his four runner and returned to the Burns to visit with Yough, and just talk a bit… about Christy and his own late Christine, mostly. He knew that Yough will keep things close also…
George had declined the board’s offer to take #2’s former role back east. He had already done that once when he was younger. When #4 had given him the heads up on their coming offer, he convinced himself that he was too old to take another ride on the DC power-go-round. Besides, he hated being away from the familiarity of these surroundings that he had grown used to. As he thought more about it, he realized things would change enough for him anyway, since Anu was no longer around. He would miss his fix. His headache had mitigated somewhat, and he felt just tired. He stretched out on his office couch and tried to imagine the ’new plans’ prince Doubt would reveal to him, his mind went to Amok’s slice and dice of Bill Meacham. He drifted into a merciful sleep for a moment, but the ’merciful’ part departed, when he found himself on a large flat mesa, walking around with prince Doubt. The mesa was 2000 feet above the desert terrain. It’s surface was totally flat. There were fifty or so nearly identical flat topped mixed granite/obsidian boulders about 8 feet in diameter arranged in a circular pattern. Each boulder had four iron stakes beside it with ropes attached, and the ropes were loosely tied to each other, their ends meeting in the center of the boulder. As he and Doubt walked, they had to step over an obsidian nodule, placed between the boulders. Doubt said to him, George, Amok is planning our feast day. It will be a good party. These boulders are special. I will allow you to pick one out for yourself, if you like. Overhead 30 or so vultures soared, circling the mesa.
George jerked awake in extreme terror, sweating and gasping for breath. He felt weak, and it seamed to himself that he had aged 10 years in the past 10 minutes. He called to an orderly for water and coffee. When he had finished half the coffee… Doubt materialized through his plexiglass office wall.. Doubt said, come with me a moment, George, I have appointed a temporary replacement for Anu, and I wish for you to meet him…
Five miles south:
Marcy, Phil and Danielle had just completed the walk up the trail and emerged into the glen. As they looked toward Hatalii’s dome hut, they saw the smoke was still issuing. They went to the long house where Sarah had prepared a pot of herb tea and a platter of fry bread, which they all shared as they talked. Jim went to work this morning, after finally being allowed to proceed with the solar system in the table mountain wilderness. It will be interesting to talk nwith him when he returns, said Marcy, to see if he had anymore information. Hatalii had not been available for nearly 48 hours now. Marcy had taken food and water to him, but he would not accept it. She was concerned, she said. No one can remember such a thing. Marcy said I hope Great Spirit allows him to return to us soon, she said. Danielle was returning up the trail from the necessary room, and she stooped down to closely examine a clump of new spring flowers. As she did so, her amulet shifted into an uncomfortable position between her breasts. As she reached in to readjust it, she experienced a strange vision, of sorts. She saw two split shields battling 3 spears. The spears were winning, until the shields somehow repaired themselves. Then the spears retreated. She looked, but the thing that had united the shields, was not visible. She felt momentarily woozy, as she returned to the others. Marcy was waiting for her, Grandfathers smoke had just ceased, she said, happily…
Christy had arrived at Jim’s motel room 45 minutes ago. She had finished briefing him, and they were discussing different approaches to proceed with.. When Jim mentioned the possible use of a private aircraft to get a closer look, she brightened up… Great Idea, Jim…how?
Jim mentioned that he had talked to a Uber driver, and she had said that the Van’s was owned by Craig Avery of Laughlin, NV. He had left his number with Blinky, the owner of Dot’s Dot who was really the closest business to the airport, in case of emergency.
I know about Dot’s Dot she smiled… lets go. They loaded in Jim’s rental car… In 35 minutes they were parked in front of Craig Avery’s house in Laughlin. Blinky had told them that Craig was nearly 80, and was a retired Commercial Pilot. He had flown 42 years for 5 different airlines. And after he retired he had continued flying with his own bird until he lost his medical due to heart problems. That didn’t stop his flying though. The Sport aircraft like the Van’s does not require any medical. You only need a state driver’s license and an FAA certificate of training. Finally, though he had to quit flying, because the state would not renew his driver’s license due to extreme vision problems. He could not pass the vision test for renewal. He has some sort of weird uncorrectable optic nerve problem. I see him every couple of months when he gets his kids or uber to bring him to the airport so he can start it up. Does no good at all for engines to sit around and rust.
Craig was sitting on his porch, wearing dark glasses. As they walked up, they saw that the dark glasses covered ’regular’ glasses, with lens the thickness of pop bottle bottoms.
He saw them when they had came to within 20 feet. Yes? He said. Can I help you?
Mr Avery, We are Christine Bales and Jim Belmont. We work for a company who needs to inspect a parcel of land over near Wheeler pass. We have done all we could by road, yet there is much else we need to look at there. We would like to talk to you for a moment about your airplane, if you have time. Time? I have nothing but time, lately. What’s on your mind? Well, sir, would you consider renting it to us for a couple of flights? He shook his head No. Why not just rent a Cessna 150 or something like that?
Sir, Jim said, a 150 is too underpowered to fight mountain wind up and down drafts and simultaneously maintain camera stability. The Van’s has a greater power to weight ratio than the fully certificated ones, as well as having less fuselage area to be affected by drafts.
We had considered hiring a professional company, but they are both expensive and too busy to handle our needs in the 2 weeks we have to get it done. Who would fly it, he said? I would, sir, Jim stated. Just then, an 18 year old girl, who had been listening, came out. Grandpa, Rent it to them.. You know the engine is due a work out now anyway. Just yesterday, you said we needed to do that in the next few days. He was quiet a moment. Then said, are you certified? Only for Light Sport Aircraft he said. I have 47 hours in the Van’s… 19 hours and two solo’s for the private in a Piper 140. I am still working on the private when I get the spare bucks. I would be willing to pay for a check ride with any instructor you select. The old man smiled. I cant rent it to you, because I don’t have rental insurance, and that would cost many times more than any rental income I could earn. Not many people are interested in learning to fly, around here. His grand daughter looked at Christy, because she knew her grand dad well.
Crap, he said, I can tell whether or not you can fly as good as anyone. Tell you what. I haven’t been up for nearly 6 months now. I miss it bad… I can see pretty good enough for 500 hundred feet or so. I’ve landed a thousand IFR flights where the visibility was worse than that…
You need to fly? I love it. So.. Lets go for a ride.
If we get the bird back down in one piece five times in a row, you can take your lady friend here flying a time or two…..
To be continued:
The Previous Part 40 is here: