Magestic 2

Copyright © Geoff Wolak

Part 2

Living in a hotel

With the hotel taking shape, and growing ever skyward, Jimmy inspected the large boarding house that Bill had commissioned. It offered forty rooms, many in motel style offshoots, a dining area and a small bar. And it was packed, any spare rooms going to shift workers engaged in the construction of the new hotel. Bill had also built five houses, all-wood designs and modest, single storey, and they were all rented out already. Jimmy agreed another ten houses only, conscious of the fact that the workers building the hotel would disappear someday soon.

At the airfield, clear days were spent with Prototype Three taking to the skies and performing tests. It sought out mist clouds and rain clouds, and penetrated them at speed, noting any effect on performance. After one such cloud penetration the engine stalled, the pilot gliding into the airfield and hitting the grass with a thud. It was a good job the plane possessed a sturdy undercarriage, the pilot suffering a minor back injury.

Jimmy commissioned a control tower, and sent Bill’s people out to find the best radios that they could find, such radios still crude in this day and age. The scientists had them for a week, and they were less crude, the engineers now fitting a basic air-to-ground radio to the prototype.

A week later, the pilot requested permission to take off over the radio.

‘The pattern is clear,’ crackled back, Mister Marconi thanked.

With the radios in the hands of the scientists, they remembered Jimmy’s comments about the fridges, and suggested a commercial application.

‘Yes,’ Jimmy said. ‘Small radios for aircraft, powered from a dynamo connected to the engine, good transmitters and receivers for towers, then better quality radios for families to listen to the local music stations in the years to come. But, you must use commonly available valves and resistors for now, although you can make your own resistors without attracting too much attention. And, they should look similar to those of the period - wooden casings. I’ll ask Bill to create an offshoot company tomorrow.

‘Now, what I would really like for Christmas is a jeep, a military jeep. So, take a basic car engine, modify it, design a suspension suitable for desert and jungle – all weather, and a removable hood. You can find images of the standard US Army jeep of the era 1942 and use that as a model. The tractor factory will make them, and then ship them out to Africa.’

Jimmy gave Bill and Ted the news the next day, recruitment started for extra workers, the free bus service now five vehicles strong. Additional land was cleared, another factory commissioned as the weather turned cold.

The first few recruits to the Canadian Rifles had now been signed up, briefings and indoctrinations from the Canadian Army held in those buildings that were fit for use. Jimmy then addressed the Canadians officers and NCOs outside the main admin block.

‘Gentlemen, I’m Jimmy Silo, and I’ll be paying your wages for the next few years, or as long as you remain with this unit. If you perform well ... you’ll be rewarded well. Now, my men are all veterans of dozens of conflicts in Africa, and in various parts of the world, and they’ve all served in the British Army in various conflicts. They have each killed hundreds of men, some with their bare hands. Compared to them, you are but novices.

‘They’re familiar with all of the world’s weaponry, they’re very fit – and very tough. And they’ll be teaching you a thing or two about killing. Your job … is the paperwork and the compliance with Army law – where we decide we wish to comply. Starting tomorrow you will all be inoculated for work in Africa, where we’ll send you for short tours, and for training exercises. That then gives you the weekend to recover, because these inoculations make you sick for a few days.

‘Starting Monday, my people will teach you about many weapons that you’re not yet familiar with, and you’ll spend a great deal of time on the ranges; we have no shortage of ammunition. You will also start exercising, and you’ll take the attitude that you will never ask the men to do something that you wouldn’t, or couldn’t do, yourselves.

‘But it’s not all hard work. There will be a subsidised bar, and all of your meals are free in the base canteen. Nice quarters for officers and NCOs are being built, as well as a swimming pool and a sports hall, and you can attend my hotels and nightclubs, or make use of my hunting lodge. Your pay will be ten percent more than regular army pay, and overseas work comes with bonuses upon your return.

‘Now, one of your jobs will be to teach the new recruits how to march as you wish them to; my men are not ones for marching. The rest of the training will be down to my men, under your careful guidance. And gentlemen, we aim to grow this unit towards four thousand men, so there’ll be room for some promotions amongst you.’

‘Four thousand?’ the Colonel queried.

‘Yes, within five years. So, sharpen your pencils.’ He gave them each a wad of Canadian dollars, the equivalent of three month’s pay. ‘That’s beer money, and I won’t be telling anyone about it … if you don’t.’

The first twenty recruits soon got used to their new uniforms, their new boots - and a few blisters, all having been inoculated on day one. A time travelling spectator may have been forgiven for looking twice, as Canadian rookies in UK Army combats circa 1980 clambered over the assault course in the rain. The rookies enjoyed a newfound energy and fitness, quality food three times a day, and subsidised beer at night. At least they didn’t need English lessons. They did, however, start with geography and world politics during week two, moaning at having to study in the evenings. They moaned louder when the mathematics lessons began.

A Christmas hotel

The hotel builders had done a good job, and made themselves a great deal of money through bonuses. On December 23rd the gang moved over to the hotel, all heading to the top floor, views peeked at, bathrooms tested; they had hot running water and indoor plumbing. No guests would be allowed till spring, not that many would have wanted to visit the region this time of year. Jimmy did, however, allow a few engineers to take rooms at cheap long-term rates, and visiting salesman nominated by Bill and Ted were allowed in.

New Year’s Eve saw a party in the ballroom, most of the engineers and their families invited along, some five hundred people in attendance. The food and booze was free, and Jimmy even laid on a free bus or two for drunken revellers. They toasted in 1923, the year in which they thought they might sell a Trophy Mark One aircraft.

After the toast, a local man asked one of our black scientists for a drink, calling him “boy”. A white engineer, one of ours, floored the man. Progress was being made in race relations, if slowly, and in just this one isolated part of Canada.

And that progress was partly down to Jimmy, who encouraged the more religious white engineers to adopt the scientists. Our boys were too polite to refuse, and so were invited to houses for supper on a regular basis, friendships formed. Our boys even started tutoring white kids and helping with homework. African blacks were teaching Latin and chemistry to spotty Canadian youths.

With New Year out of the way, Big Paul and many of the bodyguards concentrated on the Rifles, Mac and Handy also kept busy. The recruits had sampled many of the world’s weapons, and Mac now presented them with the monster fifty calibre, the recruits soon hitting targets at eight hundred yards and beyond.

The gang remained at the hotel for the winter, all comfortable with their new surroundings, and Cookie and Sandra operated the canteen and bar on the top floor. Jimmy oversaw some two hundred new recruits absorbed into the Rifles, the base now alive with the sounds of boots on tarmac. Despite the weather, the Rifles took delivery of the first six operational half-tracks, detachable hoods fitted, and trips back and forth to the ranges were now both armoured and tracked, the recruits each learning to drive the noisy beasts.

The Rifles also received field radios, although they were as big as TVs and came in wooden boxes. To use them, a soldier had to operate a hand dynamo at a steady pace. Still, they worked well enough on the half-tracks, messages back to base given when a leg was broken or someone accidentally shot themselves in the foot. Still, it was progress.

Considering the black scientists, Jimmy arranged for them to travel to Vancouver on a Sunday morning and join a small church of black worshippers, suggesting they take wives if they wished to. Several were soon dating young ladies keen for a black man with some money and prospects, or any black man with some prospects. Our scientists informed the ladies that they were well paid, and that did the trick. Love was in the air.

Jimmy attended a quicky wedding just two weeks later, the lucky lady moving into the hotel. Jimmy was not happy with that, and so arranged a house nearby for the couple. Jimmy also spoke to the neighbours, who seemed a little put out at blacks living so close by. And the lucky bridegroom, he had a wife and four kids back on our world, something that he kept quiet.

Jimmy would sit in the top floor study most days, reading the world’s newspapers, plotting and scheming, sending Sykes a message now and then; someone to be killed, a company to be bought into or wrecked.

The hidden facility to make molecular acid was now ready, the first innocuous grey paint tested; it stuck aluminium or its alloys like superglue on human flesh. Jimmy took the first tin into the plane factory and called people around.

‘This, gentlemen, is a type of very strong glue – so don’t get any on you, it burns. The fumes would also make you very sick.’ He held up an Aluminium joint. ‘This was glued together. Try and break it.’

They each tried, the pieces stuck fast.

‘Using this strong glue means that we don’t need rivets as much, so we can save on weight, but the surface areas need to be checked first, cleaned, and in some places made thicker. This stuff eats away at the metal, maybe one or two tenths of a millimetre.

‘Now, while we’re here, I would like more access panels designed for the aircraft, clip on and clip off. We rivet everything down, and now we can glue it down, but we need to be able to get inside every once in a while and check for damage and corrosion. So, more panels in the skin that can be opened with a key and removed. Now, where are we with reliable engines?’

‘We have a new batch that we think are better, lighter as well,’ an engineer informed Jimmy.

‘Make up a sled, bolt them to it, and run them hot and cold all night. Then we’ll see. And let’s make the engine coupling easier, to swap engines if need be. If the engine is damaged, but the airframe is good, then we keep the airframe. That goes for wings and tails. If a wing is damaged we swap it, we don’t scrap the damn plane. Now, what’s going to happen if I shoot holes in the latest prototype?’

‘We’ve put a metal plate behind the pilot’s seat, and around the edges,’ they explained. ‘That keeps the pilot alive longer, but it does add to the weight. The fuel is now in rubber sacks, and they close up when shot; that seems much better. And we’ve armoured the fuel lines and control wires.’

‘Good. That’s as much as we can do for now. How’s flight testing going?’

‘Stability and turns at high speed needs looking at, maybe a larger tail.’

‘Fine, experiment with it. And next … I want twin fifty calibre machineguns in the wings. If we want to sell it to the army, it has to be able to shoot down an enemy plane. Mac will be working on those weapons, they’ll be ready soon, but they will add at least two hundred pounds to the plane. So, from today onwards I want two hundred pounds of lead weight added to the wings, and the flight handling tested – weather permitting. What’s the maximum range?’

‘It stands at two hundred miles at a fast speed, three hundred at a steady cruise.’

‘I want that improved. I want you to load lead weight in and see how much the plane will take, increments of fifty pounds. Thank you, go to work, people.’

Someone raised a hand. ‘Mister Silo, sir. I attended all of the air shows this year, many down in the States, and … I think our plane out-flies the lot of them.’ Others agreed, looks exchanged, nods given.

‘I’m not building it to impress the crowds; kids and women. It has to impress the hell out of a few army generals, who will want to know about dog fighting, how far it can fly, how fast and how high. And ... how reliable it is. I want to be able to take their breath away, not just get them mildly interested.

‘Don’t be in a hurry, because I’m not. That plane is excellent, but if we send it off to fight in a war too soon we may regret it, and we’ll only have one chance to impress the world. You’ve all done an excellent job, but I’m the one that has to be pleased, not the kids at the air show. Besides, I have a few drawings for a second aircraft you’ll get soon enough. What I’m waiting for … is for us to produce our own engines, ones that can fly for a month without failing. Then, when we have those engines, the aircraft is truly ours; we’re not dependent on anyone else.’

The next day he gave them the new design for a separate aircraft, looking like a four seat Cessna 172.

‘It’s a spotter plane for the army,’ Jimmy explained. ‘It flies slowly over the battlefield while the people in the plane look down and draw maps.’

After describing the plane to the engineers, he took Bill and Ted to one side. ‘This new plane: I think we could sell it here, locally, and in the States. If we make it simple to maintain, reliable, and not too expensive, then people can fly town to town in it. In fact, if we wanted to, we could offer to fly them, even Vancouver to Seattle and back. I could see a time when we’d have dozens of these planes flying paying passengers around Canada. Hell, it’s a lot quicker through the mountains.’

They were keen, the new variant started. But that week the first Trophy Mark One crashed into the inlet, the pilot killed. The wreck was fished up, and the body, the plane examined in detail to see what had gone wrong. A bad fuel mix would eventually be blamed. It was a setback, the mood a bit off for a while.

In the weeks that followed, Jimmy made sure that the engineers concentrated on making the plane’s various components detachable; after all, he wanted them shipped to Africa and re-assembled.

With the time considered to be just about right, Jimmy sent a note to Abdi, who then sent his men to train a resistance to the Italians in Libya, the Italians having invaded and held the coastline in 1923, although they had slowly crept into the country over many years. Abdi’s men were soon integrating with local fighters, the Italians not knowing why so many of their men were disappearing.

With casualties mounting, the Italians sent in more men. So did Abdi, his men disguised as local Bedouins. In one month alone the Italian overlords lost a thousand men, and many of their administrators and citizens, European papers puzzled by the news, the British Government quietly amused at the Italians suffering in North Africa.

Italy had to save face, and hid the true figures, sending in even more troops, despite their recent exit from Somalia. Those troops had hardly got off the transports when they started tripping grenades, sniped at from six hundred yards. Most of the new arrivals wanted to get straight back on the boat. The Italians dug in, occupying houses near the ports, and were unable to venture out, a slow daily tally of wounded or killed accrued. It was embarrassing.

Abdi’s men, not content to sit around, moved house to house with grenades, clearing them. No word came from Tripoli when the Italian Government sent Morse Code radio telegrams, the Italian infrastructure and business community devastated, their embassy burnt to the ground.

Dispatches from the area became rare, foreign correspondents often killed on sight. Jimmy read the foreign papers each day, a five week time delay at best, but the detail was thin on the ground. Jimmy then sent Rudd a telegram, and the details of the Italian losses were sent around the world via Cairo: four to five thousand men dead. Some elements of the Italian Government blamed the Turks, the previous colonial power ruling Libya, but no one really believed that. The Turks had never really gotten off the coastal strip either.

The League of Nations sent a delegation, with a suitably large white flag, Abdi’s men long since since departed back through Sudan and towards home in Somalia, leaving the Bedouin with basic bolt-action rifles and plenty of ammunition. As well as a few hundred grenades. Powerful Italian warships cruised offshore, but there was little they could do. The Italians had been publicly humiliated, Jimmy not sure how they would react next. He was, however, sure that Abdi was doing a good job of training his men, some of whom had devastated Italian positions with AK47s. Ngomo would never live this down.

Timkins, Sykes and Jack had observed the crisis with interest, unsure that the Italians were suffering at Jimmy’s hands till the details of the massacre came in. Then, bold as anything, Sykes and Jack walked into the British Colonial Office and made it clear what had happened, suggesting that Jimmy had paid a Somali warlord to attack the Italians. And … they were welcome. The British Government were now aware of Jimmy, and damn glad that he was on their side in Africa.

Timkins was now a member of parliament, and seen to be learning the ropes, although he knew more than the rest. He was making friends and acquaintances on both sides of the house, often debating across the chamber with Tories that he would dine with later. It wasn’t long before the Colonial Office came calling, a discreet chat about this Silo fella. They were amazed by the fact that Jimmy had built Nairobi General Hospital, and that he was laying track to the hinterland at his own expense. They had heard rumours from colonial staff in the area, but most sounded like tall tales after a beer. When they asked about the train track into the Congo, Timkins shocked them rigid.

‘He knows where diamond mines and gold mines are, and he’s going to steal them out from under the Belgians and … well, use the money to build up Kenya and his businesses, as well as to protect the interests of the empire. That campaign in Libya would have cost him a king’s ransom in gold and diamonds.’

‘It was a massacre…’

‘He doesn’t like Italians, or Germans, and most definitely does not want to see them get a foothold in Africa. Our naval vessels: he’ll fuel them at half the going rate for us, off Zanzibar Island.’

‘And does he have any interest ... in Somalia?’

‘He assisted the local tribes to oust the Italians; he did not wish them close to his businesses in Kenya in case of future conflict. He aims to run rail track right up through Somalia and into Somaliland – at his own expense.’

‘At his own expense?’

‘Yes, and once completed, the track would be available to us.’

A week later, the labour Prime Minister called in the back-bencher that was Timkins, for a personal briefing on this Silo chap, amazed by the tale of the blood-brothers raised in the jungle by tribesmen. The British Government feared any desire on Jimmy’s part for independence for the colonies, but Timkins reassured them. He also pointed them towards Jack and Sykes, close personal associates of Jimmy.

Sykes was then called in. With a small rebellion going on in Sudan, could he lend a hand? A telegram was sent to Abdi, who then killed every last rebel, and their horses, dogs and camels – all done quietly, no bodies found. It was as if a giant hand had just wiped the rebels off the face of the earth, and it had not cost the British Government a penny. Timkins was called back by the sitting Prime Minister, this time for dinner and cigars, and talk of socialism in England. A junior appointment to the Foreign Office was offered, and taken. Timkins would advise on East Africa.

The League of Nations report into the Libyan massacre was inconclusive, but pointed towards Bedouin tribes uniting in their fight against the Italians, and that they may have been armed by “outsiders”.

Spring, 1923, saw a new plane on the tarmac at the airfield in Trophy, the workers competent these days at building airframes; they had made a Cessna 172 lookalike. Jimmy was pleased, the initial test flights positive. He arranged for it to be tested to destruction, ordering five prototypes in total. It held up well in the thermal room, and the pilots agreed that it was easy to handle. It was slow and ugly, buy easy to handle.

Jimmy then built a grass strip at the Rifles barracks, and allowed people to fly back and forth, Mac given his own plane – but then made to share with Big Paul. Creating grass strips at three nearby towns, nearby in Canadian terms at eighty, a hundred, and two hundred miles, Jimmy started an airline, Columbia Airlines. When the weather permitted, passengers were flown cheaply back and forth, tickets subsidised at the moment. Calgary was a prime route, Edmonton a target for the years to come.

A logging company’s rich boss then took a ride, and bought an early production Cessna; his operation was out of the way, and a pain by road. With permissions rushed through for cross-border flights, a service from Vancouver to Seattle was soon launched, subsidised to start with, but just the one plane. The next five production aircraft were ordered, pronto.

The factory workers were happy, many taking rides in their creation, and it took their minds of the Mark One fighter aircraft. That was still being improved and refined, its pilots now shooting up the inlet with twin fifty calibre machineguns. Those guns had been aligned so that trajectories of the rounds fired crossed each other’s path at five hundred yards, and the weapons came with clever dampening springs to protect the airframe. With that box ticked, Jimmy handed the scientists their next project: a rudimentary parachute.

A hangar was appropriated, silk and thread bought, the various strengths tested, the suppliers contacted about production levels. While that was going on, Jimmy ordered a dummy made, weighing two hundred and fifty pounds, and ordered that the next production aircraft came with a door missing.

A basic parachute had taken the scientists little more than a week. With it ready, a static line release was fashioned, the dummy attached, a curious group of workers stood watching as the Cessna took off and climbed. At six hundred feet the dummy was pushed out, the parachute deploying as expected; it was not a great shock, since rudimentary chutes were available in 1923. The dummy drifted down and landed. Re-packed, it was thrown out a dozen more times without incident. It was then weighed down with extra lead, now three hundred pounds.

Day after day it drifted down, hitting the airfield, once damaging a parked car. Big Paul then said it was time. He strapped in without Jimmy’s OK, and jumped, landing without incident.

When Jimmy found out about Big Paul’s stunt he simply shrugged and made a face, commenting, ‘It’s his life.’

Big Paul made ten jumps before work started on a reserve shoot. Jumping over the inlet, Big Paul cut away his main shoot and pulled the reserve at five hundred feet. It opened, but he came down in an undignified horizontal position, the straps needing adjusting. Most of our bodyguards had a go, some of the Canadian Rifles officers observing – and horrified, Mac and Handy throwing themselves out as well.

With the static line chutes satisfactory, they needed a free-fall chute for pilots abandoning a burning aircraft. A release was fashioned, the reserve checked, and one sunny day Big Paul leapt out at eight thousand feet, a crowd of engineers gathered below. He had no altimeter yet, but managed to pull the cord at two thousand feet, landing without incident. Combat parachuting was now on the cards for the Rifles.

Each pilot was required to complete ten static line jumps and, when they consider themselves ready, they jumped in tandem with Big Paul, counting to ten before pulling the cord. Each pilot made it down safely, now secure in the knowledge that they could escape a burning plane if need be. Parachutes would now be worn during all test flights. The logging operator, the man with his own plane, then wanted a parachute for himself, a natural progression. He received lessons, completed ten static line jumps, and tried a free fall, loving it. They could hardly keep him away from the airfield after that.

It was another milestone, the fighter aircraft yet to be sold, or even to be shown. That milestone was followed by another, that of drop-tanks. Two tanks of fuel were fitted to the wings of the fighter, released when empty. The aircraft’s range had been greatly extended, thousands of hours logged, the company pilots now experts. But the engine was still a problem, Jimmy nudging the scientists to “accidentally” improve the engines that our factory workers were building.

Late summer of 1923 saw sight of the first prototype engine, smaller and lighter than those commonly available, as well as more powerful. It was tuned to perfection, and its fuel had been modified. Its engine oil was advanced, its cooling system subtly changed. They slapped it into an airframe, fittings adjusted for its smaller size, and the fighter prototype took to the skies. It broke its own previous speed record, and now topped two hundred and sixty miles per hour straight and level fully fuelled. In a dive it topped three hundred and ten miles per hour, a fact kept secret.

Jimmy threw a party, and everyone received an extra day off that weekend, free beer delivered to many barbeques. He then adjusted the design a little, a more swept wing and tail. As requested, the scientists added a super-charger that had been planned for - a high-octane fuel would be used, and enlarged air intakes were fitted. The exhaust pipes were angled back and now enclosed. The undercarriage was already aerodynamic, but was streamlined, the next project to be able to retract them, advanced hydraulics to be employed.

With the modifications made, but the undercarriage still immobile, the plane climbed at a much greater rate, the pilots warned to stay below three hundred mph for fear of breaking off the undercarriage. Normal flight-testing continued, the super-charger tested and refined as the best people worked on a retractable undercarriage and locking mechanism. Everyone complained that it would make the plane heavier, but also agreed it would be faster as well. Designs pencilled during the day were worked on at night by two shifts of forty workers, those experimental systems fitted overnight being tested the next day.

With a prototype suspended from the roof of a hangar, its engine was revved up, hydraulic pressure achieved, the undercarriage lifted up and down repeatedly. They jammed a lot. The pressure was altered, leaks plugged, the approach refined. The scientists could have just designed the whole thing, but that was not allowed by Jimmy; they had to coax it out of the engineers themselves.

A major redesign was soon underway, the hydraulic system to be bled off the engine. A counter balance and leverage system was then tried, oil pressure pushing on a piston. One way would be pushed for up, alternate direction for down, a simple switch controlling which piston received the pressure. It worked well enough. Then came a locking system, a click-into-place system adopted, pull release; if it failed, it failed with the undercarriage down. And, if the engine stalled, there was enough reserve pressure to get the wheels down. Just to be safe, a hand crank was fitted to the cockpit, a minute’s pumping securing a locked undercarriage – assuming you had a minute with the ground rushing up.

With all of the best teams working on it, they had a working undercarriage by early October of 1923. The best pilot took the plane up, and in a dive topped four hundred and ten miles per hour. The RAF’s Spitfire would later top four hundred and sixty in a dive in 1938. The engine still needed work, and the wings had not yet been swept back.

The milestone marked a sharp tightening of security, armed guards hired - many of them, fences checked and more laid, passes shown. The poster in the canteen said, ‘Don’t let our competitors know what we have, safeguard your jobs!’ Jimmy then reduced the number of people working on the fighter and gave them a drawing for a new aircraft. It looked like a Dash-7; high wing, twin props, supports struts. He called the senior men together.

‘What I’m thinking with this new aircraft, is a passenger service over a longer distance, and carrying more people – starting with Edmonton. If we can make this plane take … say eight or ten people, and have it fly five hundred miles, we can offer a service from Vancouver to Toronto, stopping to refuel along the way.’

They were keen, buoyed up and excited like schoolboys taking a ride in a plane. The Cessna lookalike was given a production target of just six a month, Jimmy ordering ten for Kenya, the main thrust now being the larger aircraft. But the Cessna lookalike soon received floats, and became popular around the bay and up the coast in Alaska. After some nagging, Jimmy increased production, and all were sold before being made, now eight a month.

One fateful day, a US Army General took a quick flight from Vancouver to Seattle in one of Jimmy’s planes, most impressed by it and enquiring after it. A month later he came and stayed at the hotel, turning up at the factory and keenly shown around by Bill. Jimmy was called over. After a half-hour chat, Jimmy offered the General two aircraft on assessment, with pilots, for a month. The General took the offer, and left without seeing the fighter. The planes were delivered a week later, and would be assessed for the potential use of aerial observation over the battlefield.

The US Army ran the planes for a month, every assessment made proving excellent, the planes very reliable. But no order came; Uncle Sam was a slow moving individual.

With six aircraft ready for export, they were sent to Kenya by ship, with two pilots that fancied a year in “warm” Africa. They were inoculated before they departed aboard the freighter. The planes eventually arrived at Mombasa docks, were shipped to a field made ready by Cosy, and put together from the instruction manual. Cosy was soon testing one, astounding the pilot with his knowledge.

Two aircraft were destined for Steffan, to spot ahead the jungle layout, the remaining four to be used as part of a new air service, Mombasa to Nairobi. Nairobi Airways had just been borne, three paying passengers at a time. The next four Aircraft were delivered to the British Army in Kenya for assessment, pilots on loan. Driving down to Nairobi one day, Skids almost crashed, halting and looking up and what he thought was a modern day Cessna flying past. He went and found Rudd, who laughed, explaining the aircraft.

Canadian Rifles

With winter coming on, and with the first batch of the Canadian Rifles considered now to be fit - and well trained, Jimmy received permission to send them to Kenya for practical training. Half the soldiers packed their gear, boarded a liner, and set off for Kenya aboard two large freighters owned by PO, a two week voyage. Their tutors went with them, the recruits studying each day on deck as the weather improved, the men keeping fit by running around the deck.

In Mombasa, the Canadians were met by the Kenyan Rifles Colonel and some of his senior staff. They boarded a train chartered just for them, and steamed up to Nairobi in the heat. They were billeted in barracks vacated by African Rifles working on the railway, the Canadians on a dusty live-firing range the next morning and being barked at by black NCOs. Some of the British guards had gone along, letting the pale Canadian recruits know just how good the Africans were – well in advance, save there being any racial problems. Still, three Canadians were badly beaten by Ngomo’s men on the first day, the lesson learnt.

A week later the recruits found themselves up near Mawlini, trekking across the sand to the border with Ngomo and some of his men. They came across a large tented city, echoes of gunfire in the distance. Abdi stepped out to Ngomo, out of earshot of the recruits.

‘I brought you some pale white Canadians to torture,’ Ngomo said as they shook.

‘Canadian? Jimmy created them?’

‘Yes. When they are older they will fight in the Second World War.’

‘Ah. Come, some tea. Let these whites cook in the sun a little.’ They settled in a dark tent, tea arranged, sitting on a carpet. ‘So, what news of the jungle?’

‘We are in as far as Forward Base. Maybe … six months to reach the gold.’

Abdi nodded. ‘The new British Governor now adopts me as a long lost son.’

Ngomo laughed. ‘They know it was you in Libya, and probably know it was you in Somalia as well.’

‘They court me like a virgin before a wedding.’

‘Don’t bend over till you are married,’ Ngomo laughed.

‘And what of Mister Jimmy?’

‘He is in cold windy Canada, making aeroplanes, tractors, half-tracks -’


‘We have some.’

‘You … have some? I am the one in the desert!’

‘I’ll ask for the next batch to go to you, save you walking – old man. But what will your British father make of half-tracks?’

Abdi took a moment. ‘He would wish the wedding sooner.’

‘So maybe wise to hide them from him.’

Abdi nodded.

‘And now we have small aeroplanes like the old Cessna, a small airline from Nairobi to Mombasa.’

‘I will come and visit by ship; I miss the green jungle some times. And the rain!’

‘We were attacked in the Congo by spears and arrows,’ Ngomo reported with a smile.

‘And the Belgians?’

‘Are lied to … like the British.’

‘I met Mister Sykes and Miser Jack a few months ago. They play the spy on the Germans and Italians, but we will not fight the Germans for many years.’

‘You killed every last Italian – and their dogs!’

‘It is what Mister Jimmy wanted, to drive them all out and leave none alive.’

‘In Nairobi now, Rudd has a very nice hotel, a tall hotel with a rooftop bar.’

‘I will come and stay, since the British Empire is so fond of me. You live there?’

‘No, I have a nice house in the base, many wives. All my men live there now.’

‘When my tribal elders want my help they bring their daughters along. I find a new one each day.’

Ngomo laughed. ‘Do the British bring daughters?’

‘No, they offer pocket watches and clocks. I always know what time it is now!’

One of Abdi’s men stepped in. ‘Sir, there is a raiding party of a hundred Ethiopian men, twenty miles north.’

They stood. Ngomo said, ‘Let’s use the pale Canadians; see what they can do.’

Thirty Canadians were selected and armed with AK47s, just one magazine each allowed, two water cans, and the British bodyguards would go along for the “blooding”. The Canadian officers were not sure about the exercise, but were overruled. The Canadian soldiers walked all day in the heat and the sand, reaching the raider’s camp at nightfall, but hiding and sneaking closer inch by inch through the dark. At dawn they opened fire, killing all of the raiders with some very accurate fire, before marching back again.

‘They did OK,’ their instructors reported. ‘And they brought ammo back.’

That week the Canadians received desert training, live firing exercises in the dust and the flies, and long distance navigation exercises. At night they would listen to tales of the Somali attack on the Italians, tales around the campfires, camels killed and eaten. Bidding their new Somali friends farewell, the Canadians hiked for five days to the train stop. After a month at the Kenya Rifles base, getting an appreciation for sand, flies - and dodgy food that went straight through them, they jumped on a train and arrived in the Congo three days later, soon introduced to some nasty jungle – and its nasty inhabitants. Small unit patrols were sent out each day and each night, tactics practised, survival techniques learnt. Despite the men’s concerns, none fell ill, and the moist jungle was a welcome relief after the sand and dust.

They would return to Canada for March, having gained a great deal of experience for the future.

Jimmy, meanwhile, had advertised for more staff for the aircraft factory, and had hired three mathematicians, two young physicists, a chemist, and a guy who knew all about metal alloys. An office was set aside and labelled as “Research”. Jimmy addressed them after they had been shown where everything was.

‘Gentlemen, welcome to Trophy Aircraft. We make aircraft, engines for those aircraft, tractors, and military trucks. Oh, and munitions. You’ll touch upon each, lending your weight of expertise to the problems that the engineers face. Your job is partly to try and improve existing products, partly to sit down and think up new ones.

‘Where we have problems and issues at the moment is mostly around the engines. We need to make them lighter, more reliable, and we need to cool them down more efficiently. We need to see if eight cylinders are better than six, or are twelve better for performance. We need to experiment with the chemical make-up of the fuel to see if that helps.

‘But, most of all, we need to develop new metal alloys, alloys that are stronger, lighter, and more heat resistant. That … is your key area of work. We also have a basic plastics moulding factory -’ He picked up a mould. -’ and I reckon this stuff is what the future holds. It’s light, strong enough, but it melts. So, maybe we can add some chemicals to the oil to make a plastic alloy that is better.

‘You will respond to requests from the engineering managers, and see if you can’t figure out things that they miss. You maths guys, you can help on stress and loading calculations, some of which are very complicated. Go through them, check them, and feel free to suggest improvements. Basically, we want to know how much force we can apply to a metal strut before it bends or breaks.

‘Feel free to work with other researchers around Canada and America, and scour the technical journals for new-fangled ideas and directions. And, welcome to the team.’

In little more than a month, the team had an alloy that was heat resistant, resistant to a much higher temperature than steel. It was incorporated into the engine exhausts and mountings, some talk of it now being moulded to make the cylinder heads themselves. The one young guy had taken to Mac, and worked out muzzle velocities, effective ranges, and he even improved a recoil mechanism slightly. The black scientists were a puzzle to the newcomers, not least because they were so smart, a little jealousy evident. As with the other engineers, the scientists dropped hints and directions – but slowly.

One evening, Jimmy called the scientists together after evening meal. ‘I want you to accidentally nudge the research guys towards tungsten and titanium, and advanced copper alloys. But slowly. Invent a stepped process whereby they’ll discover the benefits.’

‘Such metals would not be needed for a petrol engine,’ one man noted. They waited.

‘I’ll want a rudimentary jet engine to be started in a year or two. But, whilst we’re on that subject, something has been worrying me. Call the rest of the gang, please.’

With everyone assembled, Jimmy began, ‘The fighter … is being delayed, because it’s developed much faster than I would have thought possible. The unknown factor in the mix is our clever scientists here. There are no particular wars that we could use the planes in yet, so there’s no need to get them ready in a hurry. The danger … is that they’re seen and copied by the Germans or Japanese. The Jap Zero was designed to compete with what they knew of existing American aircraft. If American aircraft are better, the Japanese will just go back to the drawing board. Now, we have the question of developing aircraft in secret – and where?’

‘How about Kenya?’ Mac said.

‘It’s under British rule, and British prying eyes. Besides, there’s no skilled workforce. The Congo has the isolation, but not so much as running water or electricity; Canada had a good technical workforce. Canada, west Canada, also gives us sea lanes to Hong Kong and Kenya and, when the time comes, a direct flight path to Japan.’

‘Fly … to Japan?’ Handy queried.

‘We will, in the future, develop aircraft capable of reaching there. The problem will come ... in the form of the Canadians not wanting us to start a war with Japan, hence the secret nature of things.’

‘If the aircraft are built here,’ Big Paul said. ‘Then they could be deployed elsewhere. An island maybe.’

‘That’s one idea. But who would get the blame for an attack on Japan?’

‘They’ll be the ones doing the attacking!’ Mac stated.

‘I may alter Pearl Harbour,’ Jimmy suggested. ‘So, at that date, the Japanese will have attacked the Chinese and the British.’

‘Could always stick RAF roundels on the side,’ Big Paul commented.

‘At thirty thousand feet, I doubt the Japs will see them!’ Jimmy pointed out.

A scientist raised his hand. ‘We are assuming … that the various governments will not know who we really are, or our mission, at that date.’

‘If we told someone in 1960 they might accept it; space craft and UFOs aplenty. But now? 1920s Flash Gordon? No, they’d have a hard time with it; we may need to strike at Japan whilst still working in the shadows. The British won’t have a problem with us assisting to hit Germany after they’ve been attacked, but may not like the idea of carpet bombing to start with. I see no problem with us basing aircraft in the UK after 1940, but what of the Japanese invading China in 1937 and threatening Hong Kong?’

‘The British and Canadian Government are very close,’ a scientist pointed out. ‘The British King has many pictures on walls here and a civic function. Such an attack on British interests in Asia may see a Canadian response, especially with a little … nudge.’

‘Canadian troops were in Hong Kong during the Second World War,’ Big Paul said. ‘When they’re attacked by the Japs, the Canadian public would be behind us.’

‘And we can work some propaganda,’ Mac suggested.

‘This location was always the best choice,’ Jimmy said. ‘Close to America, but not subject to its laws, and with a British influence – a direct flight path to Japan. But given that a war will drag in the Americans, they wouldn’t be too happy if we provoke Japan early.’

‘When they see us flatten Tokyo they’ll be nice as pie,’ Handy suggested, others agreeing. ‘As well as asking to buy a few fucking planes!’

‘I would make them aware of our capabilities before then,’ Jimmy explained.

A scientist asked, ‘What type of aircraft would strike at Japan?’

Jimmy took out a folded piece of paper and showed it around.

‘Fuck me,’ Mac said. ‘This’ll cause a stir in 1941. How the fuck we’d develop that without anyone noticing?’

‘With great difficulty,’ Jimmy sighed.

‘How about a secret base in the interior,’ Cookie suggested. ‘There’s nothing there but moose!’

‘That would seem like the best course of action,’ Jimmy agreed. ‘At least a testing ground there, far from prying eyes; we could test aircraft over the Arctic. But, testing it over the sea would be even better.’

‘There’s no way the fucking Germans of Japs could copy it!’ Mac stated.

‘The Germans, Mac, went from cloth-covered aircraft to ballistic missiles in six years. If they’re desperate … they’re a resourceful people.’

‘Still,’ a scientist began, ‘the research would take decades for an aircraft of this nature. They will never catch up in time.’ Others agreed.

‘OK, we’ll look for a facility nearby to make them, then build a large airbase in the middle of nowhere. Start scouring the maps, people.’

‘Area 51 available?’ Mac asked with a smile, people laughing.

‘We’ll call it … Moose Base 51,’ Handy suggested. And the damn name stuck, for now.

Following the meeting, flat land in a valley was purchased, ten miles east of Trophy, the roads to reach the valley improved, new ground cut where the factory would be. A large double fence was erected, armed guards everywhere. Still, in this day and age the men were very cheap. Maps of Canada’s interior were studied, an area of great isolation agreed upon, to be used in summer only. Unfortunately, it would need a train track. Thinking on, the planned Mouse Base 51 was moved closer to an existing spur, that of an old abandoned mining area. It would do.

The regional train company was duly asked to inspect the track and repair it, a nice little earner for them. They replaced sections and extended the line, the Canadian Government fully believing that the area would be use for munitions testing. Well, in a way it would be. They gave over the land for free, under license.

The spring thaw saw the first batch of hardy Canadian loggers venture into the new area by train. Their remit was a simple one: clear the trees and use the logs to make cabins, lots of cabins, all in neat rows not too far from the train spur. The busy little beavers were also tasked with imitating the native beavers, and asked to make a small water reservoir or two. Day after day the steam trains would chug in, dumping their load on the side of the track. After all, there was no one around for two hundred miles in any direction, so no one to pinch the goodies.

Once a week, ready-made wooden huts were lifted off the trains, placed in a row, the architects and builders moving in as the weather improved. They levelled the ground with bulldozers that had been brought in – and that would stay. Drainage ditches were dug, pipes laid, toilets fixed. A large cookhouse has erected next, the hungry builders eating in comfort. The first concrete was used to lay a basic road either side of the train track, the road leading towards the cabins and beyond, to what would be hangars and a control tower someday.

Jimmy then met with a Seattle company that produced concrete, and ordered more than they could produce in a year. The problem for the secret airfield was that cold winters would be followed by warm summers, and the new runway would need regular maintenance. The scientists suggested additives to the concrete, and those additives would be mixed-in on-site.

The first batch of Canadian Rifles had now returned from Africa, all tanned, the second batch sent out and towards a similar training scenario; heat, dust, and flies. The first batch were now veterans, tough and keen, but their training continued on at a pace, now to include parachute training down in New Mexico. Groups of forty were dispatched through the winter, to a private airfield. Two of our Cessna lookalikes had been flown down, a long old flight, and the local biplane owners were stunned to see people falling from planes, surprised when the parachutes opened. They soon wanted to have a go themselves. Jimmy had anticipated such a reaction, two-dozen parachutes sent down to be sold, instruction offered. The Canadian School of Parachuting had been borne, in New Mexico, the sign a puzzle to passing locals.

With more of the Cessnas being shipped to Kenya, a hundred parachutes were also dispatched, the Kenyan Rifles to receive training. When Abdi heard he was not a happy bunny, at all, sending down groups of thirty men at a time for training. And “could he have some planes, please?” Four Cessnas were duly directed towards Abdi, with spares, and loan pilots for six months. Most of Abdi’s men, those from the future, could handle a Cessna and a Huey, so conversion was very quick.

Unfortunately, the local British Governor was most put out to see “wogs” flying planes, when he himself had three old biplanes to call upon. Abdi did the surprising thing, and offered the Governor use of one for his private journeys and general scouting around, complete with a “wog” pilot.

Word then reached the Foreign Office of the simmering row of “wogs” in planes in East Africa, Timkins smiling when he read the note. He persuaded the Prime Minister to buy a dozen Cessnas for “East African diplomatic duties”. That became two-dozen by time all the various interested parties had complained. The next twenty-four aircraft were duly dispatched to Kenya, Somalia, and Somaliland for the British Diplomatic Corp to potter around in. Since the distances were vast, the planes would be a great benefit.

Jimmy then did an odd thing, and suggested to Timkins by telegram that he would accept land in the British Mandated Palestine in lieu of payment. Timkins sat in a quiet corner for an hour by himself, thinking, before passing on the message.

It’s a big plane

Summer, 1924 saw the first prototype of the new aircraft, which the gang labelled “the Dash-7”. Production was quick, since it consisted of two of our standard engines, two of our fighter aircrafts wings at the ends, a new section in the middle, and a scaled up version of the Cessna body. The undercarriage was that of the fighter - since it was tough as old boots, but made fixed; there was no requirement for lifting the undercarriage. The plane had been cobbled together from existing parts, but well cobbled.

They stuck it in the wind tunnel and blew smoke past it, noting vortices. Then they stuck it in the thermal room for a day, and alternately baked it and froze it. Nothing broke, and the engines didn’t fail; the teams knew their stuff these days. It was hoisted up with eight people inside, and dropped from two feet. They survived, the dampeners helping. Ten people were tried next, a bit of a jolt for the would-be test dummies. Twelve people cracked the undercarriage, so they had a limit. The Dash-7 would offer a ten person maximum, with pilot, for now.

With the broken undercarriage swapped - plenty of them lying around, the engineers powered the prototype up and down the runway, taking a first gentle hop on a fine July day. Jimmy gave the OK, and the pilot took off - with a parachute on, plus six heavy bags of sand in the rear. The aircraft lifted her nose, and she climbed steadily, a circuit made, flaps tested for effect. She handled well. The pilot landed, powered up, and took off again, completing six circuits. The final circuit involved a trip down the inlet to Vancouver, just to show off, the citizens of the city glimpsing the new aircraft.

Jimmy threw a party, a barbeque on the grass in front of the hangars, everyone sent home early and given the next day off to go fishing, or to spend time with families.

Columbia Airlines now operated twelve aircraft, penetrating as far as six hundred miles east, and with the potential for passenger numbers growing they could see that they would soon cover the whole of Canada. The conquest of America would come next.

But odd news arrived, news of two planes being stolen, the sale price being forwarded to the company by the thieves. The buyers were having their planes, whether Jimmy said so or not, and were not happy to wait. Production was increased to twenty a month, and the fighter took a back seat to the commercial considerations of air transport.

‘You know what,’ Jimmy said to Bill and Ted. ‘I reckon ... that if we had a four-engine plane, bigger again, with floats, it could go across the Pacific.’

Bill and Ted exchanged looks, their grey matter fired up.

Parachutes started to sell well, Uncle Sam finally on the case. Not for the Cessna, but for cheap and reliable parachutes for their biplane pilots. Jimmy sold almost a thousand, and reserves, American pilots offered parachute training in New Mexico. The British Government, rather the Diplomatic Corp in Africa, had taken to throwing themselves out of perfectly serviceable aircraft on weekends. Word spread, and Timkins arranged a thousand parachutes for Britain and its flying service, the RAF. France followed suit and ordered parachutes, Jimmy refusing orders from Italy. The Canadian Air Force, what it was, received them free of charge.

With an air show in Seattle imminent, the Cessnas and the new Dash-7 prototype were dispatched, along with Big Paul and his mates, free-fall chutes taken for a display. The crowd peered up as four men jumped – they gasped – the men holding hands in formation. Breaking formation, they landed in the intended circle, amazing the crowds, as well as a few US Army officers.

The hot Canadian summer days provided good weather to test-fly the aircraft, but also for the Canadian Rifles to practice jumping around the region. Jimmy ordered the second prototype Dash-7 to have no seats for passengers and a large hole at the side, behind the undercarriage. That variant flew in late August, six Canadian Rifles on board. They jumped at nine thousand feet without oxygen, now with crude altimeters fitted to wrists, but still with leather headgear and flying goggles from the First World War. They landed safely, hid their chutes, and pretended to survey an enemy stronghold in the hills. Airborne insertions had been borne.

The first week of September saw US Army officers paying the factory a visit. Big Paul strapped them into static line chutes and threw them out at two thousand feet, over a mown field. They landed without incident, an idea planted into their heads as to just how much fun this parachuting lark was. As well as how practical. Uncle Sam was now on the case, since spotter planes could be used to drop men into remote areas, twenty-four Cessnas and their parts ordered for advanced testing. They already had the parachutes, but a dozen were thrown in along with the planes.

Jimmy focused on Columbia Airlines for a while, putting most teams onto Dash-7 production. The first prototype was seeing just how high it could fly, and how fast, and – most importantly - how far. With a pilot and six passengers it could climb to ten thousand and fly five hundred miles. Jimmy ordered the fuel tanks enlarged and improved, the aircraft soon taking four passengers on an eight hundred mile journey. It was enough, more than enough.

In late September, the third and forth production aircraft were handed to Columbia Airlines and used to transport passengers from Vancouver to Toronto, refuelling as they went. Jimmy now applied for permission to operate in America. He received permission from the State of Alaska almost straight away, planning on conquering the market there. Well, he planned on conquering the market everywhere, but Alaska was a close first step.

As the production of Cessnas and Dash-7s increased at a pace, Jimmy drew a picture of a four-engine seaplane. It didn’t offer floats, it was the float; a boat with wings. And he may have pinched the idea. Bill and Ted were keen, keen to conquer the Pacific. Columbia Airlines was making good money for the time, and the sale of aircraft was starting to make money, at least to cover costs. Even the parachutes were making money.

Po, meanwhile, had long since received fridges from Kenya, and copied them - with a little help. He was selling them around Hong Kong and doing a roaring trade, also selling them via Han into China and Singapore. Reading the telegrams, and smiling, Jimmy asked the scientists to develop fridges here in Canada, and to conquer the American market, starting with Florida. A fridge factory was planned in chilly old Vancouver. Rudd, by now, had conquered the East African fridge market and was making good money; every hotel had at least one.

The oil sales from Zanzibar were stable, but the train track was a drain on resources, most of the spare cash going towards it. The track transported paying passengers to Uganda and further to Goma, and through Tanzania to Rwanda, but they just about covered the cost of operating the train services. The track had reached what would be Forward Base and stopped, that was as far as Jimmy wanted to go with that leg. The southern leg, through Tanzania and Rwanda, had been slowed by the building of numerous bridges, but now penetrated into the southern regions of the Eastern Congo, which was Belgian controlled, and pointed southwest towards the gold, only some three hundred miles of mosquito infested swamp and jungle to go.

Steffan had organised Doc Graham for inoculating workers, or he would have lost half of them to disease or insect bite. With the inoculations, productivity improved greatly. Still, it was hard going to cut through virgin jungle, ridges and gorges, building bridges as you went. Steffan’s spotter planes made life much easier, the lay of the land scouted weeks ahead of any planned track laying. Hard up against the Tanzanian border, the British Army built a base next to the track, a small town growing from nothing. Local missionaries, who knew nothing of the track, were delighted to stumble across it, the odd train flagged down on occasion.

The Belgians were still suspicious of the British, and just could not believe that Jimmy would build a track right across Africa and towards what would become Angola. The cost would have been prohibitive to a government, let alone a businessman. Still, the British Army halted at the Tanzanian border and did not cross into Rwanda, which was under Belgian control. Month by month Rudd sold more diamonds, sending them to Europe and America, and the expensive track pushed ever onwards.

The British Empire then leant a hand, in a roundabout sort of way. The Admiralty diverted its ships to the new small Somaliland port that Rudd and Abdi had built, the location not far from where the future joint naval base would be, and not far from the British operated port of Aden in Yemen. The port offered a long concrete birth, just the one, and a resident oil tanker. Like a strange mating ritual, British warships would pull alongside the tanker, take on oil, and move off. Once every few weeks, another oil tanker would stop, and top-up its companion. The Admiralty now owed Jimmy a few quid.

Knowing about the train track – and probably its cost, the British Government diverted ready-made track lengths from several sources to the Mombasa Steam Company, the value of which was well over that of the oil. Jimmy smiled, understanding the message: push the track further in, and to hell with the Belgians!

Thinking about the future, Jimmy ordered a spur line from the Sudanese line, to snake across Chad and up past the rear of Libya, and towards Tunisia, right across the worst parts of the Sahara. He requested British engineering officers to assist in planning the line. The Foreign Office puzzled it, Timkins called in to see the Prime Minister.

Timkins began, ‘Prime Minister, we saw the Italians land in Libya. And, should they – or anyone else land again – that track could place British East African soldiers into their rear, an area they would not expect to be attacked from.’

The British Government could now see the benefit, although they questioned the cost of such a speculative venture.

Sykes and Jack returned to Canada before the snows fell, the last leg of their journey west made in a Dash-7. They met Jimmy in the diner, drinks arranged.

‘Christ, Jimmy, those planes are great for this day and age,’ Sykes said as they met. ‘I sure as hell wouldn’t risk flying in anything else.’

‘I’m going to conquer the airline business, and the flying boat business, and … well, a few others.’

‘Like fridges!’ Sykes noted. ‘We found them in Cairo and Alexandria. There’s even a couple in London, brought up from Kenya. And I saw some chap parachute from a biplane at a Biggin Hill air show in the UK. One of yours it was, probably from the batch you sold to the UK Government.’

‘I’m making flying safer ahead of time,’ Jimmy commented. ‘So, how’s our lad?’

‘He’s a Junior Minister in the Foreign Office still, and liking it. And he annoys his superiors because the PM asks him instead of them.’

Jimmy smiled. ‘Good.’

‘They’ve adopted Jack and myself as unofficial spymasters around the globe, that works well enough.’

‘The Italians?’

‘Their government fell after the debacle in Libya, they’ll think twice now. As we speak they’re slightly less fascist in their policies; they just needed a good punch on the nose.’


‘Right on cue, Hitler about to leave prison.’

Jimmy nodded. ‘Next year, when the Social Democrats rally, I’ll arrange a little something for them.’

‘Will that … have an effect?’

‘By a year or so,’ Jimmy responded. ‘I’m kind of hoping to synchronize them with Japan.’

‘Any interest from the Americans?’

‘Only for parachutes and planes. And the fighter we’re developing - I’ve slowed that down in favour of conquering the airline business.’

‘Why not sell the fighter to the British?’

‘Too soon; the Germans may get ideas from it.’

Sykes eased back. ‘But you’ll make sure that the RAF is well equipped in 1939?’

Jimmy nodded. ‘Over … equipped. But … but I’m hoping that some shock and awe will end the war in weeks. You see, I don’t want the Russians attacked by the Germans. If Russia is left alone, well … at the moment its army is crap; if they don’t fight a war they’ll not modernise it. The Russians grabbed the east European states as a buffer, as a result of the German war. If there’s no war with the Germans, then the Russians should remain quiet.’

‘But for how long?’ Jack challenged.

‘The Cold War Russian mentality was a direct result of the war with the Germans, and the losses they took. If they don’t take the losses, then they’ll display less of an aggressive attitude.’

‘But if the Germans invade Poland, Hitler will offer half of Poland to Russia. The Russians would need to be pushed out later.’

‘That could be done by force … or by threat,’ Jimmy said. ‘Even a little diplomacy.’

‘And Palestine … now that the UK Government has allocated you land there, quite a bit of land?’ Sykes nudged.

‘Part of me would like the Jews to stay out of Palestine, for that whole Middle East problem never to get started. But, some of that problem was down to the Russians arming Syria and Egypt and giving them a nudge. If Russia doesn’t do that, then we may just get away with a begrudgingly accepted Israel in the Middle East. But … but the Germans will persecute the Jews, and we can’t let that happen given that we know about it. So, I’ll buy some land in Palestine and move a few Palestinians out.’

‘An enclave?’ Jack asked.

‘Is a distinct possibility,’ Jimmy mentioned. ‘But not ahead of time. I want you and Timkins to allow more Jewish refugees into Britain, and to nudge them on towards America. Use some money.’

‘You in the stock markets here?’ Jack asked.

Jimmy shook his head. ‘I’ll get involved after the 1929 crash, buying up a few bargains.’

‘Will gold be out of the Congo by then?’ Sykes asked.

‘Some of it,’ Jimmy answered. ‘That’ll be a long process.’

‘And the reason for involving the UK Government so soon?’ Sykes broached.

‘Positioning and posturing for 1939; they have the largest navy right now, the farthest reach, and the most influence. What I introduce to the British system will spread far and wide - like fridges. So I need them sweet on me, and cooperative. And, when the Belgians are being distracted by Herr Hitler, we’ll grab the Congo, and the British will have a role to play in its development. And, right now, Churchill is arguing in Parliament the need for greater defences of the empire.’

‘We’ve listened to a few of his speeches from the public gallery,’ Jack enthused. ‘It’s marvellous to see him in the flesh. And he and Timkins hit it off straight away, tales of Africa swapped.’

‘We’ll need Churchill on the team around 1935,’ Jimmy told them.

‘I’ve joined his club, and we meet often,’ Sykes reported with a smile. ‘We see eye to eye on most things, and I’ve started to provide him with intel on events around the world.’

‘The current government may not like that; he’s in opposition at the moment.’

‘I’m discreet,’ Sykes insisted.

‘Not some sort of spy … are you?’ Jimmy teased. He showed the guys around the new hotel, Cookie making a meal that night and catching up on gossip, the gang drifting in and saying hello, each describing their projects.

The next day Sykes had a go in a Cessna, a quick circuit, a view over the inlet taken. He and Jack visited the Canadian Rifles and tried the half-tracks, firing a few weapons on the range. After a few days fishing, and a thorough briefing from Jimmy, they set sail again for Hong Kong, Kenya and Cairo.

The prodigal son returns

I stepped back through the portal covered in dust, dressed in my faded pink desert combats, a pistol on my hip. My skin was heavily tanned, a beard turning grey.

‘Welcome back, Mister Paul,’ a technician offered. ‘They are all waiting outside.’

‘Marvellous,’ I complained. ‘No chance of a quiet beer.’ I moved past the man, ignoring the other technicians, and into the sunshine, my men following behind. The control room would need a sweep afterwards.

Outside, I found a line of reporters, cameras rolling, beyond them a long line of tables laid out on the side of the runway, US Army officials sat awaiting their men, laptops ready to log them in. Beyond the tables stood a crowd, quite a crowd, Helen and the girls in view. I stepped up to the press, hoping to get this over with quickly.

‘Ladies and gentlemen … of this world. We knocked back The Brotherhood, and the world that Jimmy started out in is now safe. Anti-radiation drugs are being used where needed, farms and houses rebuilt, hope restored.’

My men trailed past me and to the tables.

‘We landed a decoy unit in Senegal, and they diverted the attentions of The Brotherhood whilst we landed in South Africa. We fought our way through Africa, liberating Zimbabwe, where we raised an army of Rifles ... as well as fixing the farms and increasing crop yield. Those farms now feed Africa, and much of the liberated world.

‘We took the Congo and began to extract ore and oil, then recaptured Kenya, raising a Rifles regiment there. With the support of food from Zimbabwe, and oil from the Congo, we fought our way into North Africa, destroying The Brotherhood there. We then attacked and surrounded Mecca and Medina, knowing that it would bring out The Brotherhood. There we fought and held for many years, the deserts red with the blood of the enemy fighters.

‘The Brotherhood abandoned Europe and Africa, Russia and China, even Turkey, and tried to dislodge us from Saudi Arabia. That fight is still going on, but The Brotherhood are beaten, discredited, and they’ve lost face with their own people, large areas of that world now starting to rebuild. And the people of that world know that we’re time travellers, they know the story. An international government of unity was set up, contact maintained by working satellites.’

I took a moment. ‘Of the ten thousand men I took, six hundred were killed, mostly by indiscriminate nukes. Another five thousand have elected to remain and fight, many helping to rebuild America. It was their wish, and we will respect that wish. Now … I need a cold beer, a bath, and a shave. Kindly give my men some peace for a while, they’ve earned a break.’

I walked through the reporters and hugged Helen.

‘You do need a bath,’ she whispered.

Shelly hugged me.

‘I missed you more than I thought I would,’ I said.

‘Charming,’ Shelly responded.

‘Don’t be like that, you know what I mean.’ I greeted their husbands, and a few of the grandkids, Helen leading me towards the RF hotel, where she indicated I had a room booked. As well as a change of clothes waiting, Helen showing me the stuff laid out in my room.

‘Listen,’ I said. ‘It’s been a very long while and … you could scrub my back.’

She cocked an eyebrow. ‘I suppose I could.’

Later, in the bar, I greeted RF senior staff and old friends, accepting a cold beer. It had been a while for a cold beer as well. I downed several quickly, feeling a bit better, now a little more mellow, the death and dust washed out.

‘So how was it?’ Dr Hicks asked. ‘Really?’

‘Hell on earth.’ I took a moment. ‘Someday I may write the book, but I doubt it. I like building things, and we managed to get the Congo economic engine restarted, but … it will take a long time for them to recover, there’s no quick fix over there. The only bright spot is the international cooperation against The Brotherhood, and the new unity government.’

‘You heard about Jimmy?’

I nodded. ‘Back to 1920 someplace.’

‘He caused a hell of a storm when he returned, helping with a gas cloud from space.’

‘Gas cloud … from space?’ I lied. ‘What the hell would he know about this time line?’

‘Best theory is that a future you dragged him from time and gave him the answer.’

‘I would have written on his forehead.’

‘It was written on his hand.’

‘Oh. Well, there you go, it could have been me.’

‘He took back quite a team with him, and ten of the lab technicians jumped through before the portal powered down.’

‘They what?’ I frowned.

‘They followed him.’

‘They’ll have a rough time - blacks in 1920,’ I pointed out.

‘Hal is here, he wants to see you. When he found out that Jimmy had gone he … got drunk and … tried to kill himself.’

‘Shit... How’s he been the last few years?’

‘Retired, bored, hiding from the Press.’

‘Ah.’ I sipped my beer. ‘Where is he now?’

‘In one of the houses in the estate, under guard.’

‘I can’t leave him in that condition.’ I headed straight out, security in tow, and found the house, guards posted outside. Inside I found Hacker. ‘Been a while.’

‘For you … a long while.’ We shook.

‘How is he?’

‘He’s fine,’ came a voice, Hal stepping into the lounge a moment later. ‘He’s … also now a damn prisoner.’

‘The people must think you’re valuable,’ I said.

‘Fuck … the people. They want to stuff me and put me in a glass case. And that trip Jimmy took, I should have been there. Second World War? Who knows more than I do about that?’

‘Well, Jimmy … Sykes … Jack of course … the technicians…’

‘Fuck you as well,’ Hal let out as he sat.

I sat opposite, Hacker easing down.

‘Can you keep a secret?’ I asked them. They exchanged a look. ‘I’ll be going to join Jimmy, in 1925. I’ll be leaving just as soon as I get fed up with this place, which will be about a week. So … know anyone who might want to come?’

‘You’ll take me?’ Hal gasped.

‘I’d go as well,’ Hacker offered. ‘Someone needs to keep an eye on the old man here.’

‘Then you’d best get yourselves fit - I’ll arrange injections. Hal, start jogging – with your posse of guards.’

The night before I was due to step back through the portal, the world still not aware of my intention, I was in the rooftop bar enjoying a beer when a bright light caught everyone’s attention. We peered down as a portal opened on the runway, people rushing about.

My heart sank; he was back already. People stepped through the portal as we watched. I turned and ran downstairs, ready to thump Jimmy. Ten minutes later I stood staring at the people who had come through, smiling like an idiot.

In the morning I walked into the control room with Hal and Hacker, packs on our backs full of food and water. ‘Dial the frequency,’ I ordered. A few of the technicians were unaware of the trip, and questioned it. My Kenyan bodyguards stuck pistols up their noses.

‘We have it, sir,’ came five minutes later. ‘Radio signal … Morse Code … New Year 1925 celebrations.’

‘Wind back a bit, say two months.’

‘Calibrating. Ready, sir.’

The portal burst into life, a startled young camel running for its life, nothing else visible. We jumped through and ran forwards. With the portal off, I scanned the ground. ‘There, a line of rocks. This is the right planet, and not one million years BC.’

‘Thank fuck for that,’ Hal let out, my four guards scanning the horizon.

‘Is that … a train I can hear?’ I asked.

It was, and we hiked towards it, finding a track some two miles north of the portal. And we had just missed the train. Bummer. At least we had a track to walk down.

‘OK, let’s just start walking,’ I encouraged.

Rudd did a double take, stopping dead in the street outside the new hotel. ‘Paul? Hal?’

We shook and hugged. ‘Let’s get inside,’ I encouraged, Rudd greeting Hal and Hacker before saying hello to the bodyguards, all of us in suitable period clothes. Inside, we claimed rooms before hitting the rooftop bar. Rudd fetched us beers as we sat at a table, a cool breeze blowing.

‘So, what you all been up to?’ I asked.

‘We sold the diamonds and made money, CAR is formed and drilling oil in Zanzibar,’ Rudd reported. ‘Ngomo and his men are raising a Rifles regiment - there are one thousand of them now, a base thirty miles north of here, white officers.’

‘White officers?’ Hal queried.

‘They have integrated well enough, the officers injected,’ Rudd explained with a shrug. ‘These white officers, they were selected by Jimmy and trained by Mac and Handy, so now they fight like Rifles. They protect the train lines into the Congo.’

‘And Abdi?’ I asked.

‘He has bought many things in Mogadishu, raised a Rifles regiment of at least two thousand men – both regiments now with AK47s.’

‘AK47s?’ Hal queried.

‘Made in Canada,’ Rudd reported. ‘Just for us.’

‘Gives us an edge,’ Hacker noted.

‘And now aeroplanes,’ Rudd explained. ‘They look like Cessna 172s, and they’re quite reliable. We have a basic air service to Mombasa and back. Oh, and fridges.’

‘Fridges?’ Hal queried.

‘The scientists invented them,’ Rudd informed Hal. ‘Oh, do you know about the scientists?’

I nodded. ‘And Anna and Cosy?’

‘They started Ebede a few years ago, some twelve hundred kids there now. I see them often. And Steffan works with the steam train company.’

We laughed. ‘Should have known,’ I quipped.

‘They are pushing track into the Congo and a few places here, now talk of a track from the Mawlini area towards Tunisia. Oh, and Abdi’s rifles massacred the Italian army in Libya, after they massacred them in Somalia.’

‘The Italians were due to invade Libya a year or two back,’ Hal noted.

Rudd nodded. ‘They did, and … well, he killed them all, five thousand they say.’

‘Jesus,’ I let out. ‘How close are we to the gold in the Congo?’

‘Maybe … two hundred miles or more.’

‘Ask Ngomo and his men to pop down,’ I said.

‘We can have a party here, I’ll clear out the whites,’ Rudd offered.

‘I heard on the train down here about a large hospital,’ I mentioned.

‘Yes, Jimmy gave the money for it, for a lady he was involved with.’

‘Jimmy … involved with a lady?’ I queried.

‘Dr Helen Astor. She works there. Oh, she knows about time travel and us.’

‘So why is she there … and his holiness in Canada?’ I probed.

Rudd shrugged. ‘I never asked. Oh, Doc Graham is here, at that hospital. He’s the boss.’

‘Throw a party for tomorrow night, get the gang over,’ I told Rudd.

‘I’m celebrating the birth of my second son,’ Rudd informed us.

‘You didn’t waste any time,’ Hal noted.

‘Ngomo has six wives.’

‘Six!’ we all said at the same time.

‘They live at the base. Abdi has fifty, they say.’

‘Fucking hell,’ I let out. Facing Hal, I said, ‘What happens in Vegas … stays in Vegas.’

‘Damn right,’ he agreed.

‘Can I help you,’ Dr Astor asked me.

‘No, I’m fit and well, as fit and well as … Jimmy.’

She stared.

‘I’m Paul, Jimmy’s right hand man. I just arrived … here.’

‘Ah,’ she realised.

‘Nice to meet you,’ I said as I shook her hand. ‘I can see why Jimmy likes you.’ She blushed a little. ‘Doc Graham around?’

‘One floor up.’

I knocked and entered Doc Graham’s grand office.

‘Paul!’ he shouted as he stood. ‘I wondered if you’d join this show.’ We hugged.

‘Better here … than over there. And Hal and Hacker are with me.’


‘Big party in the rooftop bar tomorrow night.’

‘I think Anna and Cosy are in town, I’ll check.’

‘So…’ I took in his office. ‘Where do you plug the computer in?’

‘Not for another eighty years! But I love it; it’s simple.’

‘You … inject people?’

‘Lots of them, all the time; we’re doing a good job of making a healthy Kenyan population. So … how was … the other place?’

‘Hell on earth, and best left as a memory.’

He nodded his understanding. ‘Jimmy’s planes are a step forwards, and fridges. Still, they’re making a few quid. And Rudd, he thinks he’s you - out to re-build Africa.’

‘I’m off to Canada after New Year.’

‘They’re all coming here,’ Doc Graham stated, but I already knew.

I nodded absently. ‘I … don’t want to spend too long around Africa, not for a while.’

‘Who could blame you, after what you went through. Cold beer?’ He pointed towards the fridge in the corner.

‘Very ostentatious,’ I quipped. ‘For 1924.’

We cracked open beers, and caught up for an hour.

I wandered around Nairobi with two bodyguards, enjoying the old colonial feel to the place. I found police on the corners, the streets clean, oddly clean. I noticed the “Silo Clinic”, and a sign for “Silo Tractors”, a faded poster for “Silo Fridges”. It made me smile.

The following evening the gang assembled in the rooftop bar, Steffan and his guard up from Mombasa, Anna and Cosy coming across. The rooftop bar had been reserved for just us, no whites to wonder about the blacks in attendance. I gave Ngomo a telling off about the wives, threatening to include it in a book I was writing. But Anna surprised me even more, now pregnant. I enquired as to who the father was.

‘We’re here a long time,’ she said. ‘And I miss a child that is not smarter than I am.’

‘I know that feeling,’ I sighed. ‘When they answer you back in Latin you know you’ve lost them!’

‘We have over a thousand children now, the oldest about ten, the youngest just babies.’

‘At least they don’t have AIDS yet.’

‘No, most are well enough, but just the usual famine related illnesses. We collect them from all over the country, and Doc Graham has an orphanage here in Nairobi.’

‘You must have rubbed off on him. How’s their schooling?’

‘It’s a little slower than before, they start from nothing. In our time they spoke some English and watched TV. Some of these children can’t even talk, and they’re six years old.’


‘We have some of the scientists with us, and we’ve hired many staff. The aim is to feed the Rifles some good officers before 1934, soldiers during that period, and hopefully plenty of nurses.’

‘Will you open an orphanage in the Congo soon?’

‘In a year or so, small to start with. There are not many orphans there, no built up towns or cities.’

‘You fly, I hear,’ Hal asked Cosy.

‘Yes, the Trophy Mark II. It looks like a Cessna 172, and it’s reliable. It’s made from bonded aluminium honeycomb.’

‘Christ, that’s advanced!’

‘No one has noticed,’ Cosy said with a shrug. ‘It’s just a plane like others. Well, it’s the first monoplane here, but there are other monoplanes around. I’ll show you tomorrow if you like.’

‘I would, thanks,’ Hal responded.

Skids turned up late, our wandering safari chief looking as tanned as me.

‘You having fun in the bush?’ I asked as we shook.

‘We now own several lodges, and a shit load of land,’ he informed me. ‘The estate makes money as well. But in this day and age they shoot and mount everything, and they like to shoot elephants.’ He shrugged. ‘You spent … what, twelve years fighting The Brotherhood?’

I nodded. ‘No picnic. I’ll talk about it when I’m ready. What’s your role down here?’

‘To get the land and lodges ready for 1945 onwards.’

‘I though you’d want to train the Rifles.’

He made a face. ‘Had enough of soldiering for a while.’

‘I know that feeling.’

Steffan approached.

‘How’re the toy trains?’ I asked him.

‘Great, I love steam engines.’

‘Track going alright?’

‘It’s hard work where we are, all jungle and gullies. But there’s clear land ten miles on, so things should speed up.’

‘That clear land; could a team make a quick track and get to the gold?’

He nodded.

‘Send Ngomo’s men on and start that mine, clear the area. We’ll need the gold, and it’s two thousand feet down.’

‘We’ll have to deal with the Belgians first.’

‘That gold is close to the Zambian border, so … alter a map a little, and practise lying.’

‘You seem to be up to speed on the plan,’ he noted.

‘I discussed it with Jimmy some time ago.’

‘Ah, I figured as much; gas cloud from space.’ He walked off smiling, and shaking his head.

Rudd received a telegram right in front of me. ‘Another thirty tractors have arrived.’

‘Call everyone together, get them seated,’ I asked.

With everyone seated, I began, ‘As some of you may know, Jimmy and I decided to come here long ago.’ A few were genuinely surprised. ‘The plan, this plan, is one that Jimmy and I discussed and came up with, at least the broad strokes. Now, we’ve just received another thirty tractors, and Steffan informs me that after the next ten miles of jungle there’s flat land towards Zambia and the gold mines. Ngomo, I want your men fully mobilised, and sat on those tractors. I want a road made to the mine, and I don’t care if it’s the same route as the train track. Steffan, bring up supplies and fuel for them. If anyone asks … you’re scouting ahead for the track, then plead ignorance.

‘Rudd, buy mining gear ready, but keep it well hidden. Anyone asking questions about it disappears. Ngomo, make a trip to Mawlini, get some diamonds. Rudd, sell them, buy good mining equipment and get us some British mine engineers. Ngomo, when we find the mine we’ll stay there – for a hundred years. So make a camp, and make it comfortable.

‘OK, that road. When you find the mine, back up and create a road that heads down to Zambia. Then, in front on the mine, make side roads that lead nowhere, a few of them. If any Belgians take an interest … let them get lost in the jungle. If they find the mine … leave none alive to talk about it.

‘Now, since the mine is just thirty miles from the Zambian border, we can say that we’re mining in Zambia. Rudd, open a mine in Zambia with permission, just across the border, and dig a big hole. If they don’t find anything, move it a mile, just keep the Belgians guessing.

‘Ngomo, when the first gold is ready, start an insurrection in the north and the east of Congo; I want the Belgians to hate the region, and to be gone. The Congo is ours, and we’ll dig up the ore and oil – with the cooperation of the British. Rudd, Steffan, send telegrams, order those tractors moved by train into the Congo, and to the end of the track ready. Hal, Hacker, grab a plane or two, make airstrips in the Congo, and scout ahead. And Hal, don’t crash and get lost in the jungle!’

They laughed.

‘OK, Jimmy is here in a few weeks for New Year, after which Hal and Hacker will come with me to Canada, a few planes to play with. Cosy, let’s make sure that we can move things from Mombasa without being noticed. Take an interest in any Belgians taking too much of an interest in those movements; put your spy hat back on for a while. You’ve had too much free time of late anyway, poor old Anna knocked up.’ They laughed.

The party dragged on, everyone given time to brief me on their operations, and I altered a few things.

I went out that day to the shops, finding no particular streets set aside for rows of shops as in our time, and many of the clothes shops looked like regular houses at first glance. Around here, clothes were made for you, not bought off the peg so much. The guys had indicated the benefits of ladies silk knickers over men’s woollen undergarments, and I bought a few shirts – no collars attached. Or cuffs attached for that matter.

Hats came next, and I bought a variety, the men in the shop surprised that I didn’t know my hat size, or any brands of popular headwear. The shoes were not that dissimilar to those that you could find in 2047, albeit a little stiffer. There was no such thing as a soft shoe or training shoe, and most men wore ankle boots, even with a suit. I wondered how they danced at the local ball, and did the lady’s shoes have steel toecaps, for when they were stepped on by the men?

I emerged in a new beige suit and straw hat, tan ankle boots, and started itching, soon cursing 1925’s clothing manufacturing processes.

The next day I ventured up to the Rifles base in my itchy clothes and met the white officers, explaining that I was Jimmy’s right hand man. I explained the big deployment to them, the men keen to be kept active. They informed me about the Canadian Rifles, the desert camp, and Abdi’s attacks on the Italians. I fired an AK47 – pretending that I was interested, threw a grenade, but I was not in the mood for soldiering.

That following week I travelled down to Ebede, having a long look around and staying the night. I had a peek at the River View beach the next day, but it was overgrown with bushes, not much to see. Still, I bought the land and ordered up a hotel.

Mombasa was a hive of activity around the port, most of these current wooden houses gone in my time, replaced by ugly brick warehouses. Steffan showed me around the Mombasa Steam Company, and I met the co-directors, explaining that I had been in Hong Kong and other places.

Back in Nairobi, I risked a flight in one of the Cessnas and landed at the other River View, the one that had a river to view, staying the night with a bunch of colonial whites that I wanted to shoot and mount, or mount then shoot. Skids showed me around the area on horseback, and I opted for a long horse ride back towards the nearest rail line, a pleasant three-day trek. I slept to the roar of lonesome male lions. By the sound of it, they weren’t getting much. In Nairobi, I kicked back and relaxed, often to be found sat in the rooftop bar and chatting to strangers, or helping Rudd to organise things.

Jimmy and the gang arrived on December 2nd, a few days spent in Mombasa before travelling up to Nairobi for Christmas and New Year, the scientists having been asked to remain in Canada and to design a few things.

‘You made it then,’ he said to me. We didn’t even bother to shake.

‘Someone has to run this show properly.’

‘So I can relax while you do some work, eh?’

‘Seen Dr Astor?’

‘Not … yet,’ he carefully mouthed. ‘Why?’

‘She seems nice. And what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’

‘It’s not in Vegas, it’s in my head. Memories … follow us around like taunting ghosts.’

I took a moment, looking away. ‘That they do.’

‘So, you’ve organised a big push for the gold I hear.’

‘Yep, all in hand. Hal and Hacker helping out.’

‘Did Hal really try and kill himself?’

I made a face. ‘If he had ... he wouldn’t be with us, so I guess it was half-hearted.’

‘It won’t be easy to meet him, I should have asked him.’

‘Well, he is getting on, and not as fit as he should be,’ I pointed out.

‘Which was why I never considered him. You took Mecca on my old world?’

I nodded. ‘After a year, there was a solid ten miles of bodies in every direction; they just kept coming. Must have been a million vultures thriving there.’

‘Not pleasant.’

‘We all wore masks. Plague broke out, and that killed them … not us.’

‘And Texas?’

‘Took some persuading, so we ignored them.’

‘Just as well. Shelly sent her assistant to spy on me, to act as my assistant.’

I laughed. ‘That’s my girl.’

‘So I have him earmarked for a future British Prime Minister.’

‘That’ll piss her off.’

‘She … afforded the opportunity.’ He took a moment. ‘Did they hassle you about coming back?’

‘I didn’t tell them, I just came. They’ll be hell to pay when I go back.’

‘Fuck ‘em.’

Abdi turned up the next day, his team welcomed into the hotel, few white guests around to be concerned about the “wogs”, our hotel having been block-booked – by us. He and Ngomo compared their men, and their wives, Mac taking the piss out of each in equal measure. Big Paul and his gang re-acquainted themselves with the bodyguards of Abdi and Ngomo, Cookie and Sandra greeting everyone, but not having to cook for a while.

Sykes and Jack turned up a day later, another round of drinks and chats, Timkins arriving the following day via a Royal Navy warship from London bound for Australia. People enquired about Churchill, and dreary old London.

It took a week for everyone to catch up with everyone else’s gossip, Jimmy and Timkins talking a great deal, often late into the night. Jack and Sykes brought me up to speed on current world politics, and I scoured the English newspapers that the pair had brought with them. There were many small wars and rebellions going on about the globe, empires expanding or shrinking, but nothing major, and nothing that we wished to concern ourselves with.

Dr Helen Astor re-acquainted herself with Jimmy, and she made it clear that she had not seen anyone else, nor wished to. Jimmy asked her to get on with her life, and to get married. But I could see how fond of her he was. I offered to console her for him, getting a warning finger and one of his looks. She joined us for the Christmas celebrations and for New Year, spending many nights with Jimmy. We wanted to ask, but we didn’t dare.

January 2nd saw us travel down to Mombasa together, those of us leaving, and we took separate ships at differing times; I travelled separately to Jimmy in case one of us met a watery death. I had two scientists with me, the men glad to be heading to Canada - and very glad to heading away from Abdi. That left two with Anna, inventing things locally and building fridges, my two electing to try Canada after a few years in British Somaliland. My four bodyguards readily joined Ngomo; they’d have stood out in Canada.

I stopped off in Hong Kong to meet Po and Yuri, a few days spent catching up, Jimmy having met with them on the way down to Kenya. I was spoilt rotten: food, booze and girls – all sampled in equal measure.

I hadn’t had much female attention in the past twelve years, certainly no relationships. Blowjobs could be had for a tin of meat in most places, and in Zimbabwe I picked up a nice young girl that stayed with me for a year or so. She spoke little English, but she cooked and cleaned for me with a cheery smile, and kept me warm at night.

Having enjoyed a bath with six pint-sized Chinese ladies at the same time, Po and Yuri showed me around their hotels and clubs, a few ships in the harbour, and finally their fridge factory - their very large fridge factory.

Han arrived back on the last day that I was there, our roving salesman greeting me warmly. We spent hours catching up. They waved me off the next day and I set off for Canada, heading after Jimmy. The crossing was rough in places, and we arrived in Vancouver on February 20th, 1925. It was cold as hell. Still, after my twelve years fighting in Africa it was most welcome, crisp and clean snow handled as if gold dust.

Mac met us at the dockside dressed like Al Capone, a few cars to transport us through the snow to the gang’s hotel just outside Trophy. I liked the hotel straight away, and the view from my room. Jimmy brought me up to speed on the various facilities, a map laid out, and he pointed out the secret facility, and the secret airfield in the interior.

My first chore in Trophy was a little shopping, since I possessed mostly light-coloured suits suitable for Africa - and straw hats, and everyone around here was in a dark brown suit. I noticed hats on some of the working-class men that looked just like trucker caps from 2010, a variety of colours. Some men wore cloth caps, many wearing the typical rounded bowler hats, other hats in the classic Fedora style of the 1930s. I bought several suits off the peg - they fitted, but was duly measured for several more.

I finally figured out that Knickers was a type of long coat, a Derby was a rounded bowler hat, and that I needed detachable starched bibs of some sort for a function. I was also expected to change for dinner, and for work, and then I decided that they could all fuck off if they thought I was going to change three times a day. I bought shirts with and without collars, with cuffs this time, and the trousers seemed a little better than those available in Kenya. I even bought a few pairs of blue jeans and some high boots, expensive imports from the States.

The shops offered a wide variety of warm padded jackets and Canadian Parkas, which was just as well considering the weather of Canada. Wondering how I might get all of what I bought back to the hotel, they asked where to have it delivered. I fumbled with the Canadian money Jimmy had given me, which included oddly enough a twenty-five cent note from the Dominion of Canada, and a bunch of Twenty-Five Dollar bills. I explained to the perplexed, yet helpful man in the shop, that I was from Africa – and wore a loin cloth mostly.

When the weather improved slightly the next day, I ventured to the factories and met Ted and Bill, and their staff, Jimmy explaining to them that I would be heavily involved from now on – and that I had been in Africa. We took Hal and Hacker along, and grabbed all of the test pilots. Hell, they had nothing to do in the current weather.

‘Guys,’ Jimmy called. ‘This is Paul, my right hand man from Africa; you do whatever he asks. This is Hal, and this is Hacker, and they have more hours in aircraft than you ever will. They … are our new chief test pilots and design consultants; they know a thing or two about aircraft. They’ll be teaching you a thing or two about flying, including dog fighting and ground attack. They’ll also buy the beers.’ He faced Hal and Hacker. ‘Stay here guys, get acquainted.’

Back at the hotel, when Hal and Hacker returned, we grabbed them. ‘Right,’ Jimmy began. ‘You have a long cold winter ahead of you. Get a piece of paper, a pencil, and design a flying bedstead.’

‘Forerunner to the helicopter,’ Hal noted.

‘Yes. Make it look ugly, and don’t make it too smart just yet. But come spring I won’t something that hops along and hovers. Get some work done, slackers.’

Moaning and cursing, they headed off.

With the weather holding, I checked out the Rifles base, a quick visit, then the airfield, a look at the fighter.

‘It’s a beauty,’ I agreed with Jimmy. ‘But you’re right, a bit too soon.’

Jimmy showed me the Dash-7, and I ran a professional eye over its rudimentary control displays. ‘We have twelve now, many of them flying paying passengers – weather permitting, and we’ve just received permission to operate an air license in the States. I’m going to run them down to Los Angeles.’

‘And then?’

‘And then … everywhere. Come on.’ He led me to a very large hangar, where the skeleton of a flying boat was taking shape. ‘This will be easy to test: we just power it down the inlet till it lifts off.’

I glanced at the inside, finding bonded honeycomb layers. ‘Advanced … metalwork,’ I noted. And waited.

‘If it gets out … yes, a problem. But I aim to jump thirty years ahead in secret. After that, fuck knows. We either shorten the war, or we start an arms race.’

We checked in on Mac and Handy, testing some of the weapons, then wrapped up warm and looked around an empty factory, a secret factory, our footsteps echoing.

‘Keeping it a secret will be near impossible,’ I said, my words echoing, my breath misting. ‘And the other project?’ I faced him.

‘Will be started in the spring and … will be tricky to keep quiet. I’ll rope in the British and Canadian Governments to help with secrecy. I have ... an idea.’

I spoke to all of the black scientists in turn, getting a brief on their individual project areas, as well as families. Many now had wives or girlfriends, and one had just become a father.

During those dark winter nights we read the international papers a great deal, or worked on the various projects, only venturing out when the weather allowed us. We paid for snow ploughs, and they helped to keep the workers in the factories, production planes soon nose to tail and ready to be shipped out – when the weather allowed. I sat down with the designs of the Dash-7 and made a few modifications, and increased its size a little, handing the designs to the scientists to hand into the factory.

And, when I needed a little lady company, Jimmy pointed me towards a hotel in Vancouver where a few nice ladies hung out, “broads” or “molls” as they were often referred to, several of them up from Seattle. I tried the “dances” on occasion, but found few ladies that I liked the look of. They tended to wear heavy make-up and lipstick, god-awful perfume, and dresses that typically made them look fat, as well as much older than they really were. They also attended the dances with their mothers in attendance, sometimes grandma as well.

I met one nice girl, but she turned out to be eighteen. Around here that wasn’t a problem, she was almost old enough to be “left on the shelf”, as she had commented. Girls going off to college were not common here and now, and this young lady worked as a waitress at a local diner. She was very impressed with my money, but hinted at a spring wedding. I hinted that it was time for me to go, and beat a hasty retreat.

Close to giving up on the idea of a lady, I ventured to Seattle to try their clubs, prohibition having an effect on attendance numbers – as well as the mood of the attendees. One night, feeling fed up, I was approached by a nice half-caste Chinese lady, tall for Chinese. She made several hints, clear hints. She was not a hooker, but looking for just the one steady customer; a sugar daddy we would have said in my day and age. I slipped her enough money to make her interested, and organised an apartment for her in Vancouver. Then, two or three times a week, I would visit, have a lengthy massage, sex, a long hot bath, another massage, more sex, and a meal at the Chinese restaurant next door afterwards, the lady impressed with my stamina.

Those visits kept my mind away from looking for a steady woman, which I figured I would have to wait for, maybe till 1960!

I pottered around the prototype seaplane monster when I could, contributing towards the layout and positioning of four-engine controls, making comments. One evening, I said to Jimmy, ‘That seaplane will make long journeys, so it needs an auto-trim.’

‘You mean … an auto-pilot gyro-stabilised.’

‘In time, but an auto-trim would do for now. You’d have a gyro-system to stabilise the aircraft, electric servos, then you can alter heading and height with micro turns of a dial. That way you save the pilots on long journeys.’

‘Scribble it down, discuss it with the scientists. We’d need a gyro model made up, and some fancy electric servos – which is a bit of a leap. Start by getting the engineers together and asking about long distance pilot fatigue.’

I went and got them together the next day. ‘Guys, this flying boat will have the fuel for twelve hours, probably a lot more. That’s a long time for any pilot, even for two. They’ll get tired, make mistakes - and crash. How do we set a course, then lock the controls so that the pilot can take a rest?’

‘Some sort of auto-trim one asked?’

‘Yes, but how?’ they asked each other.

‘How about a pendulum of some sort,’ I suggested. ‘When it’s straight down you’re flying straight and level. What we need, is when it moves ... it alters the trim a small amount.’

‘That could work,’ some agreed.

‘I want a team on it,’ I said. ‘Because that big bird will be hard to fly across long distances. But I like the pendulum idea: if the plane banks, the pendulum swings, and … some controls move the trim a little. But could we make that trim electric or hydraulic?’

They thought they could, and they got to work. I was impressed by the team Jimmy had put together and, for 1925, they seemed a lot smarter than I would have figured. I was also surprised to find physicists and mathematicians in the mix, and now a room of professional draughtsmen with neat haircuts and sharp pencils.

After the evening meal, Jimmy gave Mac and Handy another project, an RPG. ‘I want a basic model, then an anti-armour model. Once ready and tested, put it to one side. Then I want you to look at the jeeps we’re making, and test them to destruction, especially in this weather. Give prototypes to the Rifles here, and test them. Then … then a want a mounted 105mm recoilless rifle, anti-armour and anti-personnel shells.’

‘That all,’ they quipped.

‘Get to work, slackers,’ I told them. Facing Jimmy, I said, ‘Germans had basic RPGs in the war.’

He nodded. ‘And they understood shaped charges. Americans had the bazooka, a three pound projectile that was deadly accurate to six feet.’

I whiled away a wet March working on the seaplane - it was becoming a passion, and I helped with designing the pilot’s controls. I pictured myself flying, and what I would reach for most, which controls would be accessed less often. I remembered my lessons from Tubby on the Dash-7, and now tried to pinch a few ideas. I insisted that there be a red light when flaps were down, green when up, next to a suitable symbol. The artificial horizon was made a little bigger, a compass heading overlaid onto it, a simple spinning disk.

In a break with tradition, I wanted all of the readouts that affected the auto-trim to be together; speed, altitude, rate of climb/descent, trim settings, auto-trim on or off shown as a light. I grouped engine readouts together, and duplicated and mirrored them for the co-pilot/navigator. The cockpit seats were made to recline, and were given headrests. I also made sure that they eased back far enough for lumbering pilots to step out without knocking controls. And the in-flight toilet was a must, as well as a first for any aircraft of this period. Flushed items would fall to earth, a good reservoir of water held.

Remembering long flights made in C130 Hercules, I had a food station made up, a hot water tank that used an electrical heater run off the engines. At the moment, the planned passenger seats were more your cinema and less luxury, so I ordered several variants made up, all reclining with headrests and arm rests. With suitable seats agreed upon, and the floor of the aircraft ready, we experimented. Those of us from the future knew what it was like to have cramped seats on cheap flights, so we made sure that there was legroom for Jimmy. If he fitted, we were happy.

We managed to get forty-four seats in comfortably – two rows of two abreast with a central isle, one seat set aside for a waitress. Thinking on, that waitress would need a food and drink store. We lost a row of seats in favour of a food store and a sink for people to wash in, a bin underneath. Luxury travel would need to be luxury travel.

Jimmy reminded me about taking the plane out of the water, for maintenance and painting. Seawater would take its toll. It was a major redesign, so I insisted we look at that on version two. Luggage space was built into the area under the seat flooring, hatches made-up.

Jimmy then said, ‘Think … safety.’

I sat, and I thought about the safety. We had basic rubber rafts with the other seaplanes, so I pinched a load from stores and decided to store them at the rear. Pinching an idea from the future, I placed life vests in racks under each seat. Sat in one of those seats, the sun was beating in. I spoke to the engineers and had simple curtains placed over the windows so that people could sleep.

‘It’s better in here than my house,’ an engineer quipped.

‘Paying passengers, VIP passengers,’ I said. Standing, I suddenly wondered why I had not hit my head. ‘Overhead racking.’

I soon had a rack running along the length of the seats, so now bags could be stowed overhead. Considering rough sea landings, and rough take-offs, I added a simple elastic net to it so that bags would not thump heads. Well, as far as the paying passengers were concerned, I figured we’d done enough, certainly for 1925.

‘Think … safety,’ Jimmy said again. I went back to thinking

Taking out a seat, I set fire to it. Whoosh. I asked for the covering to be fire retardant, and got the scientists on it. I set fire to a life vest, and it also went whoosh, an acrid black smoke created. We sought alternatives. I installed fire extinguishers forward and aft, and in the cockpit. Sat in the seats, an engineer having a coffee with me, I said, ‘If there were thirty-six or so people in here, how would they get out in a fire, or if the plane was sinking?’

There was one main door.

‘Ah,’ he said. ‘Yes, I see what you mean.’

We had the side windows in the cockpit made larger, and detachable. In the front row, windows came with large clips, and could be prised out. At the last row, windows were also detachable, and big enough for most people to squeeze through. I then considered sinking, which was always a real possibility for a seaplane, and a hatch was duly cut into the ceiling at the rear, a large hatch. By standing on the seats you could easily clamber out.

Thinking more about sinking, I looked at the plans for the plane, suggesting that compartments be made in the lower level, air-tight, so that if one was holed by a log in the water the damn thing wouldn’t fill with water and sink. They agreed. I also had the nose strengthened with lightweight honeycomb, making it airtight as well. The ends of the wings had sections sealed off with rubber, so that they would assist with floating in an emergency. The tail was also modified.

There had been no cockpit door planned, so I added one with a rubber seal and a lock. If the cockpit hit something and was punctured, the water would not rush into the cabin. I was happy enough.

May the 1st saw the big beast rolled out on a sled and placed on the taxiway. With quite a crowd watching, she was powered up – all four engines, and allowed to run for an hour. We’d never get her in the thermal room, so Hal simply powered her up and down all day, the engines not failing. A fuel leak was found overnight and worked on.

The next day, Hal powered her up and moved along on the sled, taxiing around the airfield before powering down the runway on the heavy sled. Overnight they found another fuel leak and a small crack in a main spar. That crack has been caused by a badly fitted section, and was swapped out, a twenty-four hour job. Hal then tried again, full power applied to the four-engine beast. She powered down the runway before slowing, turned and taxied around, growling as she went. A day of that produced no leaks and no cracks.

With a window of opportunity in the weather, we pushed her to the inlet, now a larger concrete ramp leading down into the water. She slid in and drifted, Hal powering her up, Hacker left seat, two engineers observing from the rear. They powered her down the inlet, the waves small today, and back up to us. Full power was selected, the peace of the local wildlife disturbed, the shoreline full of spectators. After what seemed an age she lifted her nose and bounced skywards, Hal flying in a straight line for a mile or so before landing, taxiing back to us on the surface – but at speed.

Engineers went aboard by boat and inspected the frames, inside and out. We had two sizeable cracks. The poor girl was nudged under power towards the sled in the water, hauled out damp and damaged. But it turned out that the cracks were in the skin, the frame solid; the skin had been sealed a bit too tight in a few places. We ordered her back into the water the next morning, the inlet calm. Hal powered down the inlet, lifted the nose and gracefully climbed, turning in a slow circle. We all held our breath and watched as she circled the field. Over the inlet, Hal banked both ways, climbed and descended, completing another circuit and landing smoothly. Jimmy ordered a party.

The beast was left in the water overnight, lights rigged up, two- dozen engineers inspecting everything. The inside of the float was a little damp, a small hole found and plugged, a bad join blamed.

In the morning, the tired engineers gave it a good bill of health. Hal and Hacker, and now four engineers, lifted off and climbed, two circuits made at around two thousand feet before they headed down the inlet and out of sight. Unknown to us, Hal flew the damn thing around Vancouver and down to Seattle, just to show off. Back on the inlet he landed smoothly, powering down and then back up, taking off again. An engine gave out. On three engines, he performed a circuit without difficulty, landing in one piece, the beast in need of an engineer’s gentle touch.

‘I never used more than sixty percent power the whole time,’ an ebullient Hal informed us. ‘Loaded, she’ll handle differently.’

‘Next flight,’ Jimmy began, ‘make it just the two of you, and see how she climbs, what altitude she’s comfortable with.’

With the engine fixed, Hal and Hacker took her up the next day, climbing on full power up to fifteen thousand feet without a problem – oxygen available if the partial pressure system failed. And they got three hundred and ten miles an hour from her in a dive. They banked and buffeted her, climbed and dived, even cut engines and tested the handling. With that phase complete, they loaded sandbags, more each subsequent flight.

With the equivalent of thirty passengers in weight now onboard the take-off run was longer, much longer, but she handled well enough once up. Her rate of climb was lousy fully loaded, but it didn’t matter. They tried maximum weight, and heard a loud crack on landing. Our boys had cracked a main spar, a week’s work to replace it.

Technically, it could not be replaced, but this was the prototype. A section was cut out, replaced, and made much stronger. They again loaded up the sandbags, and she again powered down the inlet over modest waves. Landing several times, the spar held, a redesign on the cards for the next prototype, which Jimmy ordered that day. His instructions to Hal were: ‘Break it, and stay alive.’

Hal landed her deliberately heavy and bounced, several times. Two minor supports buckled, one cracked. None were critical, and seemed to be been fitted too tightly. With the damage un-repaired, he bounced her again. Noting a storm moving in, and high waves, he pounded the poor girl at full power into the waves, shaking the damn plane to pieces. Any paying passengers would be consulting their lawyers - after emptying the sick bag.

With the beast broken in many places, but still flying, she was retired, destined to be taken apart and examined in detail, the engines salvaged - as well as the nice seats. The second prototype was planned, and Hal now had a slogan. The engineers would say: “we make ‘em, you break ‘em”.

Still, they learned which parts would break first, and made modifications, a total of a hundred and six faults officially listed.

That May, the US Army ordered another dozen Cessnas, and a Dash-7 on evaluation. The British ordered a total of sixty Cessnas, most destined for the far corners of the empire where the planes were great for carrying mail securely, or diplomatic papers; the planes were preferable to the roads in places like Africa. And we benefited from the order book entries for another thirty around Canada. The aircraft factory was starting to turn a profit, Columbia Airlines doing very well and growing in reputation.

We expanded the airfield and took on another sixty staff, shift patterns still being worked. Meanwhile, the secret factory was receiving equipment, men selected from the main workforce and being assigned to it. They were offered extra money, as well a bullet in the head if they spoke about the secrets within. They could report that they were working on a rocket plane, and that was it; anything else would cause them to lose their jobs. Even Bill and Ted did not fully understand the new planes that would soon be worked on. The physicists, mathematicians, and metallurgy guys were moved over, the best talent now on this project.

On day one, those new engineers found our scientists stood next to a six foot long engine, but with its propellers on the inside. They watched as it was started up, a deafening roar issued. It was a short first test, and any longer would have caused the engine to blow apart. The theory was given to the men, explained in detail, as well as the problems: it tended to fly apart and explode. Caution was needed.

The men pinched the best lathes from the factory, the best metals and alloys, and got to work, succeeding in blowing the engine apart every week. Good job we installed sandbags.

We could have made the engine better, but the fact was that we needed them to learn. And there was a big difference between this toy of an engine, and the real thing. Mr Frank Whittle was due to design the engine in around ten years in Britain, a few others having the idea at the same time, but we got in there early, and ours would advance by leaps and bounds.

The next ten years would see some of the most significant leaps in the planet’s history as far as aircraft designs were concerned, with or without our help. Planes would go from the red Baron’s bi-plane, to aluminium monoplanes capable of four hundred and sixty miles per hour. It was the grand age of aviation invention, so we were not causing too much of a stir.

Seeing Mac working on RPGs, I said, ‘I want some suitable to fit to the underside of the fighter.’

‘Not rockets?’

‘These will do the job; just lob them down at the troops and tanks below. Four on each outer wing, and they’d be quick to reload on the ground; just push in and click.’

A week later we had racks and tubes fitted to a fighter prototype. With Mac’s crude warheads fitted, Hal took off and pounded a nearby hillside, the wildlife disturbed.

‘Fine,’ Hal reported. ‘I blew up the area I was interested in. Against troops they’d be great. But make them aerodynamic and they’ll keep their speed better; keep the weight at the front. With that plane and those RPGs … I could make a mess of a train, a truck convoy, a building for sure. And if they were earthquake mortar standard I could dig up someone’s runway and spoil their day.’

‘Yeah, well the Italian fascists just grabbed power,’ I informed Hal.

‘Will we be getting a TV this year?’ Hal joked.

‘It starts this year doesn’t it,’ I realised. ‘John Logie Baird. Still, just the one channel - and nothing worth watching. He’ll turn in his grave when they start running adverts!’

I went and sat with Jimmy, getting pancakes and tea off Cookie. ‘Should we be involved with television or radio?’

‘Sure, but I was waiting for the 1929 crash. Right now stock prices are high, but after the crash they’ll be a tenth of the price.’

‘Fair enough.’ I took a moment. ‘Lindbergh.’

He lowered his paper, eyeing me with suspicion. ‘Yes…?’

‘We could load up a Cessna, definitely a Dash.’

Jimmy took a moment. ‘I think his plane was – will be - just about three feet longer than our Cessna.’

‘Well … it would put us on the map, and would be good for aircraft sales.’

‘If we had a thousand - we could probably sell them. Unlike our contemporaries, ours don’t snap as you fly along.’

‘I think we should do it.’

‘You mean, you think you … should do it.’

‘Or one of our guys,’ I said defensively.

‘We didn’t design our Cessna for that kind of flight. Have them convert a Dash, rip out the seats, extra fuel tanks, and see how far it goes. But use Hal or Hacker, since our other pilots may doze off.’

We made the conversion quickly, seats ripped out, extra fuel tanks rigged up. Some of those extra tanks sat in the wing space between the engines, some next to the pilot, the tanks well wrapped up so that they would not leak. They also came with a hand pump to top-up the main tanks; it was a flying petrol can. Our scientists adjusted engines and mixes, advice given on fuel conservation, but they figured it could fly for more than twenty-four hours easily enough. We moved the fuel tanks back and put a seat back in; it would have two pilots for safety.

Hal, plus a mortal pilot, took off at 5am one crisp and cold morning and headed for Toronto. They made it with plenty of fuel to spare, turned around after circling the city and came back, just over two thousand four hundred miles.

‘Easy,’ Hal reported. ‘And we still have plenty of fuel.’

A party was thrown, the press informed. Jimmy knew the production Dash-7 had the range, and now offered a non-stop Vancouver to Toronto ride, one less passenger allowed on. That would be followed by a non-stop Seattle/Vancouver to Los Angeles service.

Hal and his buddy then refuelled with regular gas, flying down to Los Angeles non-stop. There, they refuelled again, and headed across to New York. They made it to much fanfare. Without consulting with us, Hal refuelled again and set a course for Paris – alone. When he got there he sent us a telegram, and I felt a little deflated. This was the era of breaking records, of the pioneer spirit, and I had no wife or daughters to nag at me. I had Jimmy to nag at me, which was worse.

Hal refuelled, picking up a crazy British explorer in Paris – a Sir Winthrop something - giving the guy a lift to Nova Scotia. Well, it was someone to talk to. He then flew non-stop back to us alone after a night in a motel and a good meal. Everyone welcomed him back, the press out in force – the local press that was. Jimmy ordered the plane stripped and checked; it was a good test of its airframe.

Seeing the look on my face, Jimmy said, ‘Convert a Cessna, and test the range.’

I had a green light from “the wife”, soon ripping out any unnecessary junk and installing extra fuel tanks. I also had a new paint job done to my custom bird, our name all over it. Taking off one fine still dawn, I made it to Toronto without difficulty, staying the night in a hotel, reversing the leg the next day and getting used to peeing in a milk bottle and then emptying it over pristine Canadian countryside. It had been a beautiful ride, just me alone with the elements, a great view of the Canada offered up from three thousand feet.

‘Simple,’ I said.

‘They’re still mechanical objects, subject to breakdowns, and not as reliable as in our day. And in our day pilots died every day. Try a four point square trip around the States next.’

I went and found the now quite famous Hal Becker and wound him up. I had been almost as far, single engine. ‘Thought you wanted to avoid the publicity,’ I teased.

‘It’s not like our day,’ he grumbled. ‘And I’m up here, well tucked away.’

‘Jimmy wants you to fly down to Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, get the airline promoted.’

Hal sighed. ‘That flight might not have been the brightest idea I’ve ever had.’

‘Look on the bright side, you might get laid.’

‘Fuck … right … off, sonny.’

Hal made his publicity flight, and our airline received the publicity. And poor old Lindbergh? Well, I guess no one would kidnap his kid now.

Our second seaplane was receiving the loving attention of almost four hundred workers in three shifts around the clock; each day I would marvel at how it had grown overnight. Since most of the spars and frames were made ready, it was a quick fix job. The hundred odd faults had all been fixed, things adjusted, other things made stronger. The original was on the side of the airfield covered by a large tarpaulin, and had been skinned alive. Engineers still visited it now and then to see how a certain section had faired after its rough treatment, parts being cannibalised.

One clear day, mounting a half-track with Mac, Handy and Big Paul, we drove around to a tight valley that was used as a shooting range, soon firing RPGs at trees in the distance. The 105mm recoilless was tested by attaching a long rope to the firing mechanism and ducking behind sandbags. It blew down trees, several times, the tube checked for cracks. Fired against an old truck it blew the truck to pieces, and enjoyed a range of at least eight hundred yards.

Back at base, we broke champagne bottles over the first few production jeeps, the vehicles reminiscent of those used by the US Army in the Second World War. The first batch of twenty jeeps were duly dispatched to Ngomo, a thousand more ordered. And we received a telegram from Rudd: “Ngomo at ground zero”. It was cause for a minor celebration back at the hotel, the British Army turning up the next day after a long trip. They had, actually, been to see De Havilland, so we did not feel quite so special. And they had things to look at in the States.

They jumped aboard the jeeps and sped around, ordering four hundred straight away for African units, another hundred to the UK. At the moment they were fighting in China, but Jimmy would not get involved. Those British soldiers could have done with some decent air cover, but we kept the fighter under wraps. The “chaps” from the War Ministry ordered another sixty Cessnas for far off places, and twelve Dash-7s.

We then landed one of our best orders, the US Postal Service, the one that a certain young Lindbergh worked for. At least now he’d get a new plane, and a safe one. As part of a rolling programme, they ordered four hundred aircraft to be delivered over the next three years, the planes to be customised with a lockable metal box in the rear instead of seats. DHL had arrived early!

Summer saw the second seaplane tested at length, but gently, pilots swapping every six hours after refuelling. She was kept busy twenty-four hours a day for a week, nothing major breaking. I put twenty engineers in the back, and hired a lady to serve meals and tea. The plane took off, flew down to San Francisco and back with two reporters on board, all the while the passengers subject to coffee and cake. They used the toilet with a professional interest, washed their hands, eased back and closed their eyes. The pilots came back and chatted, using the toilet and getting a coffee and lunch. It was a success.

The next day we flew twenty reporters down to Los Angeles, an overnight stay arranged, our beast moored in a marina. It didn’t need refuelling, and flew the hacks back up the following day. If we had a dozen we could have sold them there and then, a flood of enquiries generated by the trip. Jimmy then sent it south again with Hal and Hacker aboard. Fuel topped up in Los Angeles, it set off for Hawaii at dawn the following day, two reporters on board. They made it to Honolulu, much fanfare on arrival, and brought back four wealthy individuals, each having paid a modest sum for the ride. The great age of seaplanes was here, about six years early. Not satisfied with that stunt, Jimmy sent Hal a telegram. The plane returned to Hawaii with four reporters on board, plus the waitress, refuelled, then flew non-stop down to Auckland New Zealand, a hell of a reception waiting. Three nights were spent partying before the return leg, paying passengers allowed aboard, more taken on in Hawaii. Hal returned to even more fanfare, eventually bringing the bird back up to us. The workers threw a party at the hotel.

Jimmy grabbed Bill and Ted. ‘You know what I’m going to say next.’

‘Hire some more staff,’ they grumbled, but with smiles.

‘Gentlemen, we’re going to offer seaplane transport right around the world. Columbia Airlines will touch every corner of the globe.’

‘We’ve come a long way,’ Ted admitted.

‘Be sending people to the moon next,’ I quipped.

Hal was enjoying his celebrity status, more than he admitted. Still, 1925 fame was controllable.

I completed my four-pointer leg of the States, and decided that it was hard work, and could not be arsed now with trying to cross the Atlantic. We inoculated our pilots for “overseas flying”, and two weeks later one flew non-stop from New York to Paris, our name painted on the side of the aircraft and across its wings. That tick in the box made, the guy flew down to Cairo, then on to Nairobi. From there he headed to Goa, onto Singapore, but got caught in a tropical storm and was never seen again.

‘You can’t fly through storms,’ we told people.

It did not deter our crazy pilots, and one volunteered to try again. He flew off in the opposite direction, and went right around the world in eleven days, a new record.

The Canadian Government now “popped-in” often, and granted us government land, as much as we wanted. A piece of land near the airstrip was handed over, doubling the size of the facility. They paid to have roads improved, and could not do enough for us.

The third and forth seaplanes rolled out to a brass band, soon tested before entering service. The planes were flown down to Los Angeles, where they would fly back and forth to Hawaii. In an odd move, and considering safety, Jimmy had them fly together. If one went down then the other would be on hand for a rescue. Thirty paying passengers at a time were flown to the islands, mostly movie stars and studio bosses. And our trolley dollies? They gave safety lectures as the planes taxied out. ‘The emergency exits are here, here … and here.’

The fourth and fifth production models were sent to San Francisco, and would operate down to Los Angeles and back. At about the same time we expanded the Dash-7 fleet and flew Seattle to Alaska, Seattle to Los Angeles and onwards. There were not yet that many people who could afford the tickets, so we concentrated on the rich for now.

Seaplane number five was altered on the production line, a large door fitted to the rear, the seats ripped out and benches installed. With an invited audience of Canadian, British and American Army officers, forty Canadian Rifles parachuted down onto the airfield, released their chutes and ran across to us, weapons in hand – now folding stock AK47s, and their odd British combat clothing.

Jimmy faced the officers. ‘Gentlemen. If an … island or outlying colony were to be seized by a hostile force, a rebellion organised, then these aircraft could fly right across an ocean and drop forty soldiers by parachute, their supplies also dropped by parachute. Within sixteen hours of the news of an insurrection … you could have men on the ground, possibly to rescue your diplomats and citizens from … whatever tribal rabble are threatening them. Now, lunch.’

The soldiers were thanked and dismissed, the officers taken to lunch at the hotel. An idea had been planted, firmly planted. In our world, the US Army had been one of the first to consider paratroopers, but the idea never got off the ground till war broke out, the Germans being the first to use airborne troops to invade another country.

With the officers gone, Jimmy called a meeting of all the military types in the gang. ‘OK, it’s just about time to re-organise the Canadian Rifles. Grab a paper and pen. I want a Special Air Service created, and a Special Boat Service.’ He pointed at one of our British guards, now working with the Rifles. ‘You were SBS, yes?’

The man nodded.

‘OK, you’re in charge for now – under the Canadians. Always make it look like it was their idea.’

‘The officers are a good bunch now, all tough as fuck,’ the man reported.

‘Good. So, I want a selection process, ten percent extra pay offered. I want two hundred men and NCOs in the SAS, same for the SBS. For the SBS I want canoes and boats used for recon and inserts, climbing and attacking. The SAS will be the senior service, long range attacks their forte, HALO inserts.

‘I then want five hundred men made up into an Airborne Brigade. In essence, a recruit moves from grunt, to Airborne, to SAS or SBS. I then want an Arctic and Mountain Warfare Unit created within the Airborne – they spend time in the snow, and they parachute into the snow. Think – Norway, 1940. That unit should have only forty men.

‘I then want a Long Range Desert Group, spending four months a year driving across the Sahara in custom jeeps and trucks, pink desert uniforms. Again, forty men will do. Then we need jungle fighters, call them The Chameleons, because they should be invisible in the jungle. They’ll run our jungle warfare school and our survival training. Again, forty men will do. How many do we have toady?’

‘Eleven hundred.’

‘Fine, split them up over the coming months, create the bases and schools, then go to two thousand men. A year or two from now, British and Commonwealth soldiers will be on exchange tours with them. We will, after the 1929 crash, find plenty of willing recruits, and we’ll create an American Volunteer Rifles, up here, for Yanks out of work – and they’ll be millions of those. Start increasing the number of barracks, and start separating units by function. Create a base for the SBS up the inlet, and ask Rudd to create a base for the Rifles alongside Ngomo, as well as a base near Mawlini. The jungle training base will need to be in southwest Tanzania.’

‘More jeeps?’ Mac asked.

‘You’ll be getting more jeeps, more half-tracks – ship them to Kenya. And Mac, start on basic mortar tubes, nothing fancy for now. Every soldier must be familiar with every piece of kit, then we specialise. Oh, and a basic mortar to fire a grapple up a cliff.’

‘D-Day!’ I said.

‘And I want all of them to have sailing lessons. If they get stuck somewhere, they can steal a boat and sail off.’

‘Like fucking Dunkirk,’ I said.

Part 2B