Short Story – Icarus Air
This week, I started with the thought I was going to write a modern story about the mythological character of Icarus. And I sort of did. At least I did in the sense that the main character of the piece is named Icarus.
I kind of veered off course from there. Things got kind of post apocalyptic and a tiny bit steampunk-y.
As with all of my stories, I hope you read, comment, and share. This is an important exercise for me and it really helps to have people read and react. Thanks!
“This is your Captain speaking: we are currently cruising at 30,000 feet but there’s a bit of weather up ahead so we’re going to see if we can get above it. For your safety, I’ve turned on the fasten seat belt sign.”
Icarus turned off the intercom and turned to his co-pilot.
“Another five thousand feet should do it,” he said.
“I don’t know, Ick, you think we’ll be getting too close to the sun?”
Bob thought he was hilarious. He made the same joke every time the plane gained altitude. Every damn time.
Icarus wasn’t sure who he hated more, Bob for making that joke, his parents for his name, or himself for deciding that he should be a pilot. After very little thought, he decided it was Bob. If only due to his proximity.
The storms were getting more severe and harder to avoid. Operating a solar powered airplane made that a big problem. The batteries only lasted so long. And you had nights to worry about.
One of the flight attendants knocked on the door. Bob reached back and let her in.
“What can we do for your Denise?”
“Well,” she sighed, “we’re running short on food and water. We haven’t landed in over a week, Captain.”
“I know,” Icarus nodded, “but the storms are blocking all of the landing platforms. I can’t land in a storm, it uses more power than I have stored. I need sunlight.”
“Ironic, isn’t it,” Bob laughed.
Given the situation, Bob should have been commended for maintaining such a positive disposition. Icarus wasn’t in a particularly forgiving mood. He’d been eating granola bars for three days.
“Shut up, Bob.”
Denise ignored their exchange and continued. “How far to the next platform?”
Icarus checked his chart. “About two hours if we’re lucky. There’s one that’s on the other side of this storm. If the storm doesn’t slow down unexpectedly, I should be able to land there.”
Denise nodded. “See if you can get us a new movie or two. They are sick of Jesus Christ Superstar and Dune.”
She closed the cockpit door and went back to playing cribbage with her co-workers. Maybe, she hoped, they could trade the board and cards for backgammon or Settlers of Catan when they finally landed. At least they might be able to find a deck of cards with more than two sixes.
“I’m going to radio ahead and see if they have any room on the platform,” Bob offered helpfully.
“Yes. Do that.”
“Platform Delta Six, this is Icarus air requesting permission to land, over.”
A static filled response crackled through the radio.
“This is Platform Delta Six. What kind of fuel you using?”
“We’ve got a big storm here. Don’t think you can land.”
“We’re on the other side of it now. Our radar says it should be past you by the time we fly over it.”
“Don’t fly too close to the sun, boys!”
Hilarious. Fucking hilarious.
“Good one, Delta Six! You have a berth for us?”
“Yeah, we have three open berths for Solar.”
“We also need supplies. Food, water, maybe a couple of movies.”
“Got anything to trade?”
“Been using the scoops to gather photons.”
“Sounds good. We had a couple guys come back from the surface yesterday. Should be able to fill you up.”
“Great! See you in a couple hours, Delta Six! Over and out!”
Bob smiled as he hung up the radio. “That was easy!”
“Yeah,” Icarus mused, “way too easy. Make sure Denise uses some of those photons to charge up the pistols.”
“Oh come on! Delta Six has always been a good stop for us!”
“If we waste photons on the pistols, we won’t be able to get as much food.”
“Bob, we’ve been in the air for two years now. How often have I been wrong about this sort of thing?”
“All right then, tell Denise and Karen to get armed up. Scratch that. I’ll do it. I’ve gotta stretch my legs for a little bit.”
He stepped out of the cockpit and looked down the aisle at his passengers. Forty eight left. Not bad for two years. He hadn’t lost any of the children and still had most of the parents.
Most of them were napping or playing handheld video games. One of them was in the back strapped into an exercise machine trying to keep her muscles from atrophying.
Denise looked up from her cards. “What’s up?”
“Nothing,” he said loudly, “just need to move around a bit.”
He leaned in close and whispered “something’s up at Delta Six. Charge up the pistols.”
“Can we spare the photons?”
“Doesn’t really matter if we can or not, does it?”
“No. I guess it doesn’t.”
He checked in with the passengers. They were bored and hungry. He reminded them that they were also alive unlike most of the rest of the human race. Over the last two years, he’d grown less tolerant of complaints. When you are operating a monopoly in survival, he told himself, you don’t worry about comment cards.
After dealing with as much as he could stand, he went back to the cockpit to check on the storm. Before he went inside, he told Denise to show them Dune if they wouldn’t shut up.
Radar showed the storm hadn’t changed speed or bearing so a landing at Delta Six was still looking good. He grabbed the intercom and gave them the good news.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Captain speaking. We will be making a stop on platform Delta Six located high above the remains of Rome. We plan to stay overnight so we can conserve battery power for take off. There should also be an opportunity to negotiate transfer to other transportation or possibly a work stay on the platform. Weather permitting, there may be tours available on the surface but such tours are to be conducted at your own risk. We should be safely on the platform in thirty minutes.”
Bob was getting a little agitated. He had a terrible sense of humor but a good sense of when it was time to take things seriously.
“Should I radio the platform again, Ick?”
“Delta Six, this is Icarus Air. Over.”
“Good to hear from you, Icarus Air. Glad to see you didn’t melt your wings.”
Bob laughed again. What a jackass.
“Good one, Delta Six! We’ll be landing in just under thirty minutes.”
“You boys aren’t armed are you? No weaponry on Delta Six.”
Bob looked at Icarus, who shook his head.
“Negative, Delta Six.”
“Good. You’re cleared on dock eight. Security will meet you when you arrive.”
“Understood, Delta Six. Over and out.”
Bob put the radio down and finally looked a little bit worried.
“No way they believe we aren’t armed.”
“Of course they don’t, Bob. That’s why Karen and Denise have the pistols.”
“I thought it was because they were better shots.”
“That’s another reason. You and I will get off and they’ll search us.”
“Then they’ll probably try to kill us.”
“Let’s hope they don’t have the training we do. Gotta try to keep these families alive for another decade.”
“I’m going to get punched in the face, aren’t I?”
Bob cracked his knuckles.
“It’d be good to have our own people running one of these platforms.”
“My thoughts exactly.”