Here, after a slight delay, the pulse-pounding second chapter of Clyde Crudwell's bestselling Skank 109!:
"Sir?" A man's nervous voice rang out in the eerie hollowness of the airplane hangar.
"Yes, second lieutenant, what is it?" came the reply from Second Brigadier Bombardier Admiral Benton Onton-Voss.
"That man you were just talking to, the civilian."
"Yes?" The Second Brigadier Admiral appeared to be studying the blueprints in his hands with utmost intensity but the slight strain in his voice betrayed a note of annoyance.
"Wasn't that, wasn't he…"
"Wasn't that Dirk Diver?"
"What of it?"
"The famous Dirk Diver, the one who…"
"Yes? Out with it, get to the point."
"The one who…"
Onton-Voss let slip an annoyed sigh. "Yes, Yes. The one who raised the Titanic."
"Then it's all true then. How he raised the Titanic. How he…"
"Yes, yes. They raised the Titanic. But it's not as if he did it alone. He had half the Navy working under him, not mention damn near all the Coast Guard. Plus an army of independent contractors and damn near every scuffy mercenary he could dig up in South Africa and God knows where."
"So they really did it, then."
"They raised the Titanic, but the Russians were planning to hijack the secret stash of uranium inside, so they had to sink it all over again. They removed the uranium first, and left it in the capable hands of America's staunch allies, the Afghan rebels, who are sure to use it only for the safest possible purposes. But the Russians don't know that. As far as they know it's still on the ship, down there in the murky godless depths."
"That's incredible, sir."
"If you ask me it was all just for show. Didn't serve any goddamn purpose at all. Just another excuse for Diver to get laid. The female sex, they go flat on their backs for that kind of pointless nonsense showery."
"Well, it's still impressive, in a kind of a way."
"Showery, pure show."
"Is showery even a word, sir?"
"Never mind, that! Don't interrupt me again until you've got some real questions."
"What you just said, sir, about him getting laid. Is it true that the chicks really like him?"
"How would I know? I'm certainly not a female."
"They say he's been with more women than all the princes of Nairobi. They said he's had more poontang than you and I would see in our entire lives even if we were to be appointed headmasters of the world's largest all female Catholic school, and all of them drunk."
"Even if he has, why should that concern me? Does that make him the oceanographer the newspapers make him out to be? Or any kind of a pilot. He's overrated, as far as I say. All the pussy in the world can't change that. I'm interested in airplanes, man, airplanes."
"He's said to be a good skin diver as well."
"Skin diving. A marginal skill at best. A decent time wasting pursuit for a civilian, I suppose."
"He's back, sir."
"Oh, so he is." He turned to speak to the younger suntanned man who'd just returned. "Well, Dirk, you seem to have been doing some skin diving. A decent pursuit for an idle civilian, I suppose, if you like physical fitness and frittering away your precious time. You must be very relaxed."
"Indeed I have, and indeed I am. Relaxed enough to fly an airplane."
"Oh ho, you'd like to try your hand at our precious DC-57, would you? And you think I'd just turn her over to the first civilian that walks in without government clearance."
"You'll find my papers give me all the clearance I need. You see I have not only the standard Q clearance, but I've been upgraded to R as well."
"What the hell? What's our embattled military coming to?"
"Not only that, I have permission from the president himself. You see, I've given him a few golf tips over the years. Improved his game quite a bit, if we must be honest."
"Another damn golfer wants to tell me how to fly my planes. They come and go, and they all know Bob Hope. Well, I suppose you'll want a look at the plane. There she is. Unfortunately our lighting situation isn't that good."
As if on cue, a bold ray of sunlight erupted from the clouds that had previously hidden it and pushed through the huge open door to bathe the hangar in its ethereal light. Suddenly the hangar seemed less like a gloomy, forbidding tomb and more like a cheerful, sunny tomb. Though none of them would have admitted it, a chill was creeping up all their necks. A cold, shivery chill that made their necks prickly with the anticipation of discovery.
"There she is. The men say she looks like a tomb. An eerie, forbidding tomb."
"More like a golden sarcophagus, I say. Ancient, yes, but the golden glory's still there beneath the years of dust."
"If you're mad, I say. Mad and a little bit fruity, as civilians often are. I think you've been spending too much time in the sun."
"After I spend a little time bristling her ailerons, you'll see what I mean, and you'll envy me for getting to fly her over the Mediterranean for the first time in thirty years."
"Envy a dead man? Not likely. But she's all yours, if you want to try her. The men call her the skank, you'll understand once you get a whiff of her." The light dimmed on the aircraft and moved to slightly illuminate the workbench in the corner. The workbench was covered with an assortment of paint cans, some of which obviously held paint. But others were home to nails of various sizes, some large, others not so. There were also tools on the table. These were tools which be used to resurrect the ancient warbird and restore it to its former aeronautical glory.