*This is the last in the free series from forthcoming Paul McGowan’s book Resurrection. Stay tuned for when the full book will be available for reading.
The plane crashed through the white fury and skidded across the sky. Then the bottom dropped out, and they were weightless, pressed hard against their seatbelts.
“Two thousand feet!” shouted the copilot.
“Yee-haw!” said Grimes sitting in his jump seat behind the pilot.
What little blood was still in Julia’s knuckles drained away, leaving them white where she clenched the armrest on the jump seat on the starboard side.
“Pull up. Pull up,” warned the plane’s automatic guidance system.
“Shut that thing off!” ordered the pilot.
The plane’s landing lights revealed a fusillade striking the windshield—tracer bullets of snow. The wipers thrashed, and the plane shook as if rattled by a giant hand.
“Eight hundred . . . seven hundred . . . ”
The pilot wrestled with the yoke, and the fuselage trembled again as the tailwing’s aileron slammed first left, then right. The four turboprops strained against the battering winds, and the wings stressed and flexed—actually flapped up and down more than Julia had ever imagined a plane was capable of without coming apart.
“Have you flown into anything this bad, Charlie?” She had to shout.
“Oh, hell yes, Doc.” He held his cowboy hat on with one hand; the other gripped the yoke. “We’re Hurricane Hunters—when we can get the work.”
She looked at Grimes, who nodded his approval. He’d told her this crew of two Texans could get them through anything.
How she had let Sam talk her and this crew of roughneck oil drillers into coming down to the South Pole in the dead of winter remained a mystery. This was beyond stupid and she knew it. But, stupid or not, the idea of uncovering what could turn out to be the greatest discovery in mankind’s history seemed too much to pass up.
A sudden updraft shoved the big Lockheed Orion P3 a thousand feet higher before an equally fast wind shear bounced them sideways. Charlie’s hat flew off and tumbled to the deck. Another side slam and the emergency medical kit went, too.
Yes, she thought, this was definitely a bad decision. The chances of them getting out alive felt slim to none.
“Pull up. Pull up,” droned the mechanical voice.
“Dammit!” The copilot mashed overhead switches to disable the warning system.
“Ride ’em, cowboy!” shouted Charlie. “C’mon, bitch, that all you got?”
As if in response, the nose lifted sharply. The copilot rammed the four throttles full forward, but the plane seemed to be standing still.
“Shit, Jimmy!” said Charlie to his copilot. “We gotta leave the beam and start crabbing.”
Julia knew they shouldn’t attempt a landing in zero visibility—not with an Antarctic winter storm pounding them with winds of 150 miles per hour and gusts of 200, and temperatures that had dropped to –50˚. Sam and the others knew it was crazy. She had told them in no uncertain terms. Now they understood. Or did they?
“We can’t leave the PTAG beam!” Jimmy shouted.
“We got a 200-mile-an-hour headwind. We gotta come at this like we’re crabbing into a hurricane’s eyewall. Hang on!”
Charlie turned the plane’s starboard wing into the oncoming blast by skidding the tail and reducing engine speed just enough to slow their forward motion. Julia’s heart pounded as the port wing dipped and it suddenly felt as if they were headed straight for the ground. She looked over at Sam. His eyes were squeezed shut, his teeth clenched tight. Grimes seemed to be enjoying the ride—his normally dour expression had turned to one of excitement, like a kid on his first roller-coaster ride. Andy and Kyle looked terrified and pale.
“Wind shear. Wind shear,” droned the plane.
“Jesus, Mother Mary!” Charlie stomped the rudder pedal.
The wings righted, and the tail swung back around. Then another downdraft took the crew’s breath away.
“Nine hundred feet!”
“Jimmy. Find the PTAG beam. It’s now or never.”
The P3’s massive silver wings seesawed, the plane’s tail swung back and forth, and the shaking fuselage seemed about to come to pieces.
“Five hundred . . . four hundred. Landing gear locked.”
With its wheels down, the craft bobbed and rocked in the maelstrom like a bucking bronco.
“Jimmy! Where’s that damn beam?”
“Two hundred . . . one hundred. Locked on beam.”
“Good. Let’s get this shitcan on the ground.”
“There!” shouted Julia.
The pilot, too, had seen it through the onslaught of white: The lights of the portable tactical approach guidance system flashing red in the distance. He pulled up the nose, throttled back the engines, and the plane began falling to what looked to be a hard landing.
“Wind shear. Wind shear.”
Julia held on as the plane rocketed back up like a breaching whale, along with the contents of her stomach—then came back down in a stall, tail first.
“Pull up. Pull up.”
Charlie again jammed the throttles to max, Jimmy slammed the yoke, and the plane righted itself just before its wheels hit the ice. Hard. Finally, they came to rest in Antarctica.