“Not normal, flying a helicopter through a storm like this, at night,” Lieutenant Commander Williams said from the copilot seat of the HH-3F Pelican, which was really a Sikorsky S-61R twin engine helicopter the U.S Navy and Coast Guard used for search and rescue missions, such as they were on. His voice coming through Jennings headset, sounding sarcastic, and Williams had deliberately made his southern accent sound stronger than it normally was.
Sitting in the pilot seat, Jennings smiled as he did his best to keep the aircraft stable in the buffeting wind, while the divers below did their job.
“Who said we’re normal,” Jennings asked Williams?
“No one,” Williams replied. “But don’t tell my ma’ma that. She thinks I’m a normal respectable shoe salesman.”
“Shoe salesmen?” Jennings grinned at that as the helicopter shimmered and jerked in the gusting winds that swept around them.
The squall had come up out of nowhere, as they will on the ocean, and took a couple of day trippers out for a pleasure curse on their sailboat off guard. They had tried to turn the boat around and head back in, but the storm had turned out to be worse than they had expected, cracking the main mast like a dry twig, and judging by the way she was listing to starboard, she was taking on water, and fast.
Jennings and his rescue crew had arrived just in time, and while the captain of that boat down there being thrashed around by the waves had been beaten by the storm, Jennings, who had learned to fly on the East Coast of the U.S and had gotten his wings flying through tropical storms as well as Hurricane Lloyd, which had been a Cat 4 storm, had yet to feel the white knuckle terror as he had felt while flying around in Lloyd. Although he had to admit, in the short time they had been out here on the scene, the winds and rain had picked up enough to keep him more than a little hyper alert.
Through the static over his headset he then heard the crew in the back saying that the basket was on the way up, so he did his best to keep the helicopter for jerking and bobbing to violently in the wind. They had already brought up the two children who had been on the boat, so Jennings assumed this was the mother. From what the divers had reported, there had only been a husband and wife onboard the boat, along with their two young daughters.
That jerked at Jennings’s heart a little as they had rescued the girls, he had kept thinking of Aoki . When they were onboard the Pelican he had relaxed a little and had heard himself say in his mind, not leaving them behind.
“Wind picking up, Commander,” Williams’s voice came over the headset.
Jennings nodded his head, remarking, “If I was back on the east coast, I’d swear this squall had the makings of a tropical storm.”
“Hold her steady,” another crewmember shouted over the headset.
Then a moment later, “got her.”
Jennings felt himself relax a moment as he looked out of the side window, down at the ocean below him. The sailboat was almost completely on her side now, the waves crashing over her. Through the rain smeared glass he could just make out the diver down there bobbing in the water, with another figure in an orange rescue, floatation vest. Both lit by the helicopters spotlight, and he noticed that the ocean water around them looked as dark as a void of nothing, laced with white, churning waves.
“Mother is onboard and secured,” someone said. “Sending the basket back down.”
That just left the father and the two divers in the water.
“Bad a storm like this, coming up this fast and getting this strong so sudden,” Williams then commented. “Could be a bad season for us.”
“Could be,” Jennings agreed as he fought the controls, doing is best to keep the helicopter safe in the wind that was becoming more violent by the minute.
It seemed like it took an age and a day, but probably was only another half hour, maybe a little longer, before the father and one of the divers were back aboard the helicopter. The only really white knuckle part came for Jennings when they were attempting to get the last diver up out of the water and a very strong gust of wind had sent the helicopter sideways. Jennings had wrestled control back from the storm and had to circle around the sinking boat, twice before he was in a good position for them to retrieve the last diver.
The entire time that had been happening he kept thinking to himself, I am not leaving anyone behind.
It seemed like another age had gone by while he and Williams kept the aircraft from the clutches of the storm, when finally, over his headset he heard, “diver up. All accounted for, Commander.”
“Commander, can we get back now,” Williams then asked? “Before this storm totally messes up the rest of my night.”
“Roger that,” Jennings replied. “I didn’t get to finish my dinner.” With that he began to bank the helicopter around over the sinking boat, watching as she went down by her bow, her stern stick straight up in the air for a heartbeat of a moment before the waves pulled her down into the cold, crushing darkness.
“Dinner,” Williams asked as the rescue helicopter turned back toward home? “Where you going to try the seafood bake surprise they were serving in the mess hall for chow tonight?”
“I said I was crazy doing this type of work, Williams, not stupid.”
Williams laughter over the headset put him at ease as he flew home.
There was a crack of lightning ahead of them that split the dark sky like a jagged glowing slash, illuminating the boiling clouds over the dark sea, and in that instant Jennings saw a giant, winged shape swooping out of the clouds and flying directly at them, something that was as large as they were, with a huge wingspan and a large head that ended in a point at both ends.
Before Jennings could remark on that, Williams shouted, “what in God’s good name is that!”
It was coming right at them!
“Jeeezusss,” Jennings shouted and quickly banked the helicopter to the right, and just in time. Moving fast, the huge winged creature flew right by their left side, and vanished into the storm twisted night.
“Holy shit, what was that,” someone shouted over the headset?
“Did you see that,” another shouted.
Jennings knew what that was; there was no doubt to him that it was a winged dinosaur of some type. They must be close to the island. It was somewhere out there in the dark storm. He then looked over at Williams, who nodded his head. He had seen it all too, and clearly. “Let’s get home and get these civilians to the hospital.”
Jennings nodded his head, “Roger that.” His heart was beating fast with a mix of terror and excitement. But Williams was right, he was not going to put the lives of those little girls in danger, rushing off in a dangerous storm to look for that island.