Hank looked at the Grumman Avenger where it stood for the last; how long, a decade? No one could measure time here.
A reflection of a man in his late twenties appeared in the panelled glass of the cockpit. Still dark haired and slightly tanned, he resembled a native of the Mediterranean.
Clouds were replaced by the pitch black of the deep sea. Something slowly drifted over the face of the dome five hundred feet aloft; another whale. It took some time to adjust to the appearance of sea creatures flying.
A young woman nodded on passing. The people were prisoners too. He had time to learn their history; Darnisians from some ancient world in another galaxy. They crashed into the Bermuda triangle by accident more than a millennium ago. Countless times they tried to resurface, but the repairs to the ship could not be made.
Artificial sunlight basked over the people and the buildings, enveloping him in its warmth, but no rays filtered down from above. They adapted, powering their city with an underground volcano. Science had evolved during their stay, channelled into the manipulation of magnetic fields. A turret resembling a radar dish lay inert but angled upward from the roof of one of the high rise buildings. The experiments were endless. They needed to lock onto something metallic to effect their exit, that’s how they brought him here, albeit unintentionally.
Hank looked at the tarmac. Planes and ships of every description lay as un-ageing reminders of a forgotten world above. All suffered the same fate, compasses swerving erratically and then pulled down.
Soon it might be different. The Darnisians claimed they found something in the sea bed to power their cells. Uranium he thought, although he didn’t know much about it. Maybe the new technology the air force used to bomb Hiroshima. Not that it mattered. The turret could have the power it needed; it had to. They would attempt another experiment today. No one bothered to keep it a secret from the populace as they had tried for over a thousand years.
Technicians made checks on top of the skyscraper, resembling ants on a tall mound.
Hank swallowed hard. What happened to Martha? Were the kids married by now? No word in all this time.
He slipped on his flight helmet and peered upward. This time they had to succeed.
“I’m coming home.” He whispered.
A hum emanated from the turret as he scrabbled over the wing and reefed back the cockpit. The engine started without incident. A rise in pitch filled the air from the turret. People in the streets covered their ears. Hank reefed back the throttle, not satisfied until he drowned out the sound with the drone of the Torpedo Bomber. Residents, spun to watch as he flitted past them, accelerating and lifting off from the black strip.
A shudder overtook the wings. The Avenger had never been designed for such a steep climb.
Across his nose shot a brief red beam, streaming up to the dome. A black circle opened in the sea barely wider than his wingspan.
Hank angled up and inside. Light showed at the end of the tunnel, sunlight; perhaps blue sky? Too far away to tell, his only aim; to fly for the light. Water dripped at odd points in the artificial tunnel. Not that it affected him. A peripheral glance reminded him of his only concern, to avoid the walls which loomed dangerously close to his wingtips.
“Citizen, return to the city. The tunnels are always unstable,” came a voice over his radio.
Water poured from the open mouth framing white clouds beyond. He wrenched back the throttle the remainder of the way and hurtled through. The plane banked steeply, giving him a view of the tunnel collapsing into a whirlpool and disappearing, resuming the uninterrupted surface of the sea. Land showed on the horizon.
His wireless still dangled from his seat by its leather strap. Once levelling out for the strip of land, he turned it on and tuned in the dial. Singers screamed, finishing a song played by instruments he found unfamiliar.
“I must have been gone longer than I thought.”
“And that was Screaming Queens’ latest hit! You’re listening to radio WYKZ, broadcast from Florida on May 12th 2011!”
“Sixty-six years.” He gasped.
Hank watched the roads slip beneath him dotted with traffic, wondering where he could land… and began to wonder if he wanted to.
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