Last time Bill and Johns landed atop the mountain and rescued Philip.
Philip stood in the back of the helicopter, using the heavy wings to balance himself against the sides. Despite his brave face he was absolutely terrified. He didn’t believe for a second that these wings – beautifully crafted though they were – would have any effect on his fall. From what he’d heard from Sam not jumping wouldn’t be an option. The pilot’s mate was a hefty chap and no doubt his job would be to push him out if necessary.
He hefted one wing experimentally. It was reassuringly solid even though it was quite light. Yes, if he could manoeuvre himself he might just be able to serve the pilot’s mate a pretty good whack over the head. And then what? Well, the pilot couldn’t very well fly the ‘copter and push him out, could he. Philip had ideas of threatening to bash the pilot over the head too, unless he landed, but he would just have to play it by ear.
It was hard to be stealthy so he moved quickly instead and lunged at the man in the left-hand seat. At the last moment the pilot – who must have seen some reflection, the light gleaming on the golden wings, perhaps, – positively leapt out of his own seat and tackled Philip back.
The helicopter lurched alarmingly but Philip was too busy being grappled to the floor to see what was going on. He tried battering the man with the wings but he hardly had space to move. The pilot was heavy, lying right on top of him, and shouting in his ear. He was shouting back but in the din of the rotor blades neither could hear what the other was saying. Suddenly the pilot reached one hand up and knocked his hat off, revealing a bald head that gleamed in the moonlight. Then he yanked off his flight goggles. Philip was surprised enough by this to have stopped struggling, and his jaw dropped as he recognised Bill’s face.
“Bill!” he yelled, though he barely hear his own voice over the sound of the helicopter.
“How on earth…” he began but Bill, who was now sitting back on his haunches, held his hands up, then pointed to his ear, then down to the ground some way below them. Philip interpreted that as ‘wait until we land’, and grinning madly, shuffled himself into a more comfortable position as Bill went back to the controls.
Philip sat back, amazed at Bill’s magical appearance. He was a bit dazed and said to himself “It’s Bill, it’s good old Bill!” He was desperate to ask how Bill had happened to land a helicopter atop the mountain but he was aware that the two men wouldn’t be able to hear him, so he tried to calm himself until the helicopter landed.
The helicopter touched down with a bit of bump a few minutes later and Bill killed the engine. Blessed silence filled their ears for just a moment before Philip exclaimed, “I say, Bill! Where on earth did you spring from? I couldn’t believe it when I saw it was you. I thought I was in serious trouble there.”
Bill turned and looked at the boy, “You almost were! It has taken me an age to track you down! You got yourself into a sticky situation all right, Philip!”
“You mean David got us into a sticky situation!” Philip objected. “Did you know that he got us lost and then rode off and abandoned us?”
“I know something of it,” Bill said, his anger at David leaving the children stirring again. “However, any normal children would have stayed where they were left, made camp and waited for the adults to come and find them!” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Johns looked back and forth between the two as they argued but seemed unwilling to intervene. “That’s exactly what we did do!” Philip said indignantly. “I was hardly any distance from the camp at all when those fellows came out of nowhere and marched me off! And of course the others came after me, you would have done the same and you know it!” He tried to point at Bill but caught the end of one wing on the side of the helicopter. “Do you think you could help me out of these now? They look great, but I can’t do a thing in them!”
Bill had to laugh. “All right, Philip. Johns, come and give me a hand to get him out these wings will you?” Johns nodded and moved to Philips side to help Bill manhandle the boy out of the golden wings. “These are surprisingly sturdy,” he remarked as he struggled with a catch on one wing. “But as far as I can see, Boss, there’s no actual mechanics to them.”
“No,” Philip said as Bill suddenly looked very sober. “The King says that he has trapped some sort of anti-gravity rays within the wings. When someone jumps, all he has to do is press the button on each wing to release the rays and then glide to earth.”
Bill gave a snort of disbelief. “I should think he’s a very ill man, or a crazy one if he thinks that will work. I wish we could have discovered this sooner, I hate to think how many men may have lost their lives to this crazy fool.”
“That’s what Sam – he’s the paratrooper we met in the mountain – says. None of them men who jump ever come back. Meier says they’ve been well-paid and sent home… but…”
“Well, it stops now,” Bill said firmly. “First up, we need to get the others off that mountain-top. Then, once we’re back in civilisation I’m going to come down on that lot like a ton of bricks.”
Philip wanted to cheer Bill on, but he thought that this wasn’t the time or the place to do so. “How are you going to get the others off the mountain?” he asked curiously. “Do you have a cunning plan, Bill?”
“Well, that depends,” said Bill. “Where will the others be now that you’ve supposedly jumped?”
“They’ve been sleeping on the mountain-top the past few nights,” Philip said straight away. “The paratroopers are sometimes there during the day, but never at night. They’ll be on their own up there.”
Bill could sense that Philip had guessed his plan. “Excellent,” he said. “There’s just a few things we need to discuss, and then I’m going to take this helicopter back up there and whisk the other three away.”
To be continued…