My first attempt at “dieselpunk” in 2012 went pretty well. Something about it reminds me of my dad. So, for your reading pleasure, here it is.
Love at the End of the World
by Stacy Bennett
The operation was a ‘go’ and I’d already silenced the five lucky Jerries in the control tower. I’m a real lady sometimes, giving them a clean death in the face of what was coming. The hangar was full of planes, silent and dark except for the eerie glow emanating from the nose of the biggest Messerschmitt ever made, the Amerika Bomber. I wondered if it was my team on board, or the Fremdblut. I shivered. I’d rather dance with Gestapo than meet one of the Others. Drawing my Steyr from its thigh-holster, I climbed in the half-open bomb bay door. Amerika was empty, except for a voice.
“Ilday jayso. Ayeshi ahdeeltahi nanijih.” Navajo by the sound of it. I lowered my piece and walked up behind the man in the borrowed blood-stained flightsuit working the radio.
“Nanijih, netah,” it sputtered back.
He clicked it off. “Fuckin’ banzai, my ass.”
“You seem to be missing a few folk.” My voice split the silence like a bomb blast. I was equally shell-shocked as he whirled to face me, a Mauser in each hand aimed at my heart. The heart he’d already broken once. Cagney himself had nothing on Maj. Jack Richards.
“Emily?” Disbelief washed across his face. I felt like Scrooge when Marley’d come a-haunting.
“Butterfly white she wore her wings.” My code phrase.
“But lost the sparrow to flight.” The correct reply. Gears turned as he decided whether to trust me. Jack had always been suspicious. And handsome. And stupid in a typically clumsy male way. “They said that you — ”
“I know.” I turned away, not wanting to hear the official cover. Only betrayal could have gotten me undercover this deep, deep enough to see the end. I steeled myself, cleared my throat. “They probably said lots of things, Major. Now, where’s my team?”
“Dead.” He must’ve decided I was on the up-and-up because he holstered his guns. I heard him approach and turned to find him close enough to dance with. Like that night in Casteau. “Our orders now are bang-and-burn, Em.”
I froze. All thoughts of the past blew away like cinders as I stared into the desolate future.
“Jack. They loaded Big Boy this morning.”
“The final prototype? But our orders– “
“Come from men who don’t know what they’re up against. With Los Alamos destroyed, Oppenheimer and Groves assassinated. We need this. This can kill them.”
“Remember those RAF boys Churchill said were liars? Well, they weren’t.”
“Are you saying—“
“It’s War of the Worlds. They’ve already taken the Fuhrer.”
“But he broadcast tonight.”
“A Fremdblut, doppelganger, whatever you call ‘em. Others might be compromised, too. Damn Jerries traded concentration camp inmates for the bomb.” I leaned against his solid chest, letting the scents of diesel and grease take me back to that place we’d felt safe. “Our world’s about to end, Jack.”
“Shit.” He pulled away, scrubbed his face and pinched the bridge of his nose, scowling like he’d pulled a six instead of an ace.
He looked ragged,tired, frayed at the edges like a faded old red-white-and-blue but there was still hero in him. I touched his cheek and forced his dark eyes to mine. Who would have thought he’d be the only thing that mattered to me when it all came down around our ears? “You could fly it out, Jack. The tower’s already down.”
“Timeout. I still don’t understand why you vanished. Roy was crushed.”
“Roy? You wanna talk about Roy?” I shoved him away with rusty anger.
“You two were– “
“Nothing! We were nothing. I came to Casteau to see you.”
“Then that night…” Jack’s face went blank. Like I said, man-style stupid.
“And when you didn’t want me, I requested transfer.” I gestured around me. “Hel-lo, Germany.”
“Didn’t want you?” His dark eyes blazed. “Like hell I didn’t!” He scooped me tight against him as his lips crushed mine with triumphant ferocity. And I relished the late taste of victory thinking it’d be okay if the world did end right now.
But Jack Richards had other ideas. “For you, Em, I’d fly us through Hell itself.”
Pilot photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures, 2004, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; plane courtesy of Wikipedia.