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The Joy of Fathering
Importance of Fathers
Fathers & Sons
Fathers & Daughters
Second Wives -
Gender & Fathers
Custody & Divorce
Science Fair Project
Signs of Puberty
Muse ED Review
Child Support Policy
Child Support Math
Missing Child Money
Justin was a little nervous about the plane ride, too.
Chris had thought that he might be all excited at the idea, and
while Justin did want to go along, Chris could see he was
apprehensive. The boy had never been up in a small plane before.
It seemed best to make a trial run first, to get Justin
accustomed to the idea.
Houston has two airports. One is a new one far to the north
of the city, the other an old one near the city, now used mostly
by small aircraft. The old nearby airport was Chris' choice,
though it meant there would be more witnesses and thus more
complictions from curious onlookers. He decided to bring along a
few of the gang to be sure things didn't get out of hand.
They found a new looking Cessna 172 tied down by the Cessna
dealer's. The door to the waiting room was still locked; Chris
broke the glass to get in. It took them awhile to pry open the
metal cabinet which had all the keys to the planes. They found
it full of keys, all neatly labled with the respective plane's ID
number. On the wall behind the counter was a large rack of
sectional charts, and with a little effort Chris found all the ones
he needed for their journey. He thought it best to get them all now,
the place might ransacked or burned the next time they came by.
The cabinet of keys was put under the seat of the van.
Chris found the plastic-sealed checklist and handed it to
Justin. "These are the things we are supposed to check each time
before we fly the plane. On the back are the things to check
when we're landing."
Justin read the checklist as Chris went over the plane,
doing the checkout more thoroughly than he had since his first solo
flights. The tanks were full, so they didn't get any water out of
the taps, though the plane had been sitting for several weeks.
Then they sat and did a mock flight without starting the motor.
Justin learned what the important controls were and where they
were located, and he loosened up a bit just seeing how
comfortable and familiar with the plane Chris was.
The battery was good; the engine started right up. Chris
automatically turned on the radio and reached for the mike before
starting to taxi, then laughed at himself. He didn't bother to
taxi as slowly as he had been taught, but caught himself looking for
traffic before crossing a runway.
They turned upwind on the runway, ran the RPM's up
with the brakes locked, then released them. The motor felt
strong and smooth, and they were up.
They headed east towards Galveston in a steady climb. It
suddenly occurred to Chris that we were much safer out of gunshot,
in addition to it being easier to navigate from a good height.
Justin tried his hand at the controls with the plane trimmed
straight and level at 10 thousand feet. From up here everything
seemed so much more normal. Chris loved watching Justin at the
controls. Soon we were approching the Gulf of Mexico.
"Shouldn't we stay over land?" Justin asked. "I mean, in
case the engine quits or something?"
"We're high enough we could glide for miles. But you're
right, we'll stay within gliding distance of the beach."
" You're doing fine," complimented Chris, and after
they'd continued on for a few minutes had him turn back towards
Chris got out the large detailed sectional map of the
Houston area and unfolded it. Houston area. Radio navigation
was out of the question, so they would have to do the whole
trip by landmarks. Chris was trying to imagine what it would be like
over unfamiliar, flat and featureless terrain, but there didn't
seem to be any of that this close to Houston. He was so totally
engrossed that at first he didn't notice the motor.
They had been in a slow cruise; suddenly Chris noticed
that the motor was overrevving. He crumpled the map down into
his lap and looked first at the tach needle sitting in the red
zone; pulled the throttle back. Then he noticed the sound of
rapidly increasing windspeed and looked out the windshield.
There was no horizon, no sky to be seen, nothing but water! They
were headed straight down!
Chris began pulling back on the yoke, but the creaking of
the wings under stress reminded him to do it slowly and he released
a bit of his pull.
As soon as the airspeed dropped to a reasonable level Chris
put the power back on and soon they were climbing again.
"We really didn't come that close to getting wet," he said
in his most reassuring tone, but they certainly had lost
the height that made it safe to venture out from shore. Soon
they were crossing the shoreline.
Justin was still acting like he'd almost killed them; it was
several minutes before Chris could get him to touch the wheel
again, and then only if he promised not to open the map.
There seemed to be a dark cloud directly over Houston,
and from a distance it bore a curious resemblance to a funnel
cloud. Soon they could see that it was smoke coming from what
appeared to be the center of the city.
Chris let the altitude drop to about a thousand feet as
they neared town.
"Let's fly over it!" demanded Justin. "I want to see the
They could see an orangish glow from the base of the column
of smoke. It was the old part of the city just north of the
center, where there were a lot of wooden buildings. About two
square blocks were burning, and they could see a couple of
firetrucks on the street at one edge of the blaze.
Justin was all excited. "They won't get any water from the
fire hydrants," he said. "I wonder if there's a pond or stream
around. Then they could get a pumper truck going." But from the
air no water could be seen nearby. There wasn't much wind, at
They dropped down to about 500 feet and circled back
around to the two firetrucks; now it was apparent that they were
parked by a supermarket. One firetruck was apparently a tanker,
and it sprayed what looked like a tiny stream of water on the
side of the building that was smoking while a line of kids
emptied the store into a ladder truck.
"I guess they're getting all the bottled liguids," observed
Chris. These were the only good source of drinking "water." "I
hope they know when to quit."
It was obvious that their feeble stream stood no chance of
delaying the fire for long. After the young firefighters
exhausted what water was in the tanker truck, all they could
really do was wait for the fire to burn itself out.
The airplane was attracting quite a bit of attention, and
a few kids took time to look up and wave their arms. As the
Cessna swung around again and headed back towards the airport,
Chris wondered what would it would be like as food and drink got
scarcer. Cities didn't seem to stand much chance.
As they left the fire Chris wondered again if he should
be doing more. It seemed as if it were his responsibility to try
to take on the impossible task of trying to organize the whole
world. But these children began dying as soon as they reached
puberty. Chris reminded himself that if he had any
resposibility, none could be more important than to find what
role he had had in starting the Death. He could only hope that
the answer would somehow lead to a way to stop it.
"Every adult on earth couldn't stop the Death, so how can
you, Mr. Tilman?" It was the question that occured to him
without his wanting to hear, the doubt that weakened his efforts.
"Ah yes," he answered, "but I'm the one who started it.
Here I stand at beginning and end of a ring of death that goes
around the globe. But there's a gap; the circle hasn't quite
closed. There's one left."
As they turned for final approach, Chris knew why he
couldn't waste time becoming king, no matter how much order he
might bring to the chaos. He would be king of a dying nation, a
nation with no one of reproductive age. As they touched down,
Chris just wanted to get his things together and get back up into
the air as quickly as possible.
"Are you coming?" Chris looked into Justin's green eyes.
Chris wanted him to so much, but wasn't convinced it would be the
best for either of them.
"I won't go anywhere without Carey," said Justin. "But I
won't let you go alone. You might need help. Who's going to
hold the wheel while you read the map?"
Chris tilted his head back and laughed; then he saw that
the boy wasn't smiling. "You're not joking, are you? Are you
sure you want to try it again?"
"No way, I hated it." There was nothing but cold
determination in those green eyes, and Chris knew the boy really
was frightened. "But who is going to do it?"
The plane would fly straight and level with very little
attention as long as there weren't any kids pushing on the yoke,
thought Chris, but he couldn't bring himself to say it. And he
made up his mind. The boy really would would be as safe with him
as in a dying city.
"If Carey comes, then we need someone else, too, to help
take care of him."
There was a sudden flash of anger in Justin's face. "I
can take care of Carey better than anybody! He turned and kicked
a dent into the side of the van.
Chris opened his mouth to explain, but Justin was too busy
talking to listen. "How can you say that?" he said in a voice
shaking with rage. He was drawing his foot back for another kick
when Chris grabbed his shoulders and spun him around. His face
was streaked with tears.
"Wait, wait, wait! That's not what I meant." Chris put
a hand on each side of the wet face, and the boy stood still, but
he still looked ready to explode. "You can take better care of
Carey than anybody on Earth, I know that, really. But this is no
picnic; there will be times when I will need serious help. We
will have to fight, maybe, for food or fuel. We may have to do
things we can't even imagine yet, things where Carey can't be
involved. And we can't leave just leave him unattended for a few
hours or maybe a day or two." Chris could see that he
had touched upon an area where Justin had bottled up feelings.
"So we have to decide who's going to come with us." Chris
pressed him for an answer. "We have to get going soon, there
isn't a lot of time. Who's Carey with now, while we went
"With Tony Graham. He was going to take Carey with him
to the shop."
"How about Tony then? He seems nice enough."
"Yeah, he likes Carey okay too. But I don't know if he
would leave the shop that long, in case something might happen to
it. He even sleeps there now, you know. And he and Travis are
really close. Besides, Carlos thinks Tony is really important
to have around."
"Well, maybe you should ask him, anyway."
"How long are we going for?"
Chris thought for a moment. "We have to stop once for fuel
on the way; if that isn't a big problem, and if we leave before
dawn, we could be there before dusk. If we can find the place
okay, well, I think if we find any answers at all we'll get them
within a day or two. We refuel again on the way back, and even
if we break up the trip with a sleep somewhere along the way, we
should still be gone no more than a week. Do you think he would
go for a week?"
"It doesn't seem like so long. Maybe if he can get
someone to watch the shop. Let's go ask him now. Besides, it's
time to pick up Carey anyway."
The Gene Institute
Touch and Go
Copyright ©1995 R. Verner