Mac took his time returning to the camp. He did not relish the idea of telling Dr. Strong that he and Dan had lost the stone map and the key, that the German's were now flying off to find El Dorado, and that they could not follow.
The roadster slowly pulled up to the crates and the tent silhouetted in the campfire. Dr. Strong and his daughter both waited with anticipation as Mac and Dan stepped out the car.
"Well, did you get them?" Rebecca asked excitedly.
"Not exactly," Mac replied crestfallen. "I'm sorry Doc, but the Germans had a zeppelin and made off with the map and key. We have no idea where they went and we can't follow them."
Much to everyone's surprise the professor started to laugh.
"Are you all right, father?" Rebecca looked at her father with a troubled look on her face.
"Quite, quite," the archaeologist continued to laugh. "You forget Mac that I have the map already memorized. Plus, I know exactly where the German's are headed. In fact, they are traveling in opposite direction of El Dorado."
"I must admit it Doc, but you have lost me again," Mac said sitting down on a crate near the fire.
"Remember I told you about the renegade Spaniards stealing the stone map and heading north?" the professor prompted.
Rebecca and Mac both nodded. Dan just stared at everyone with a puzzled expression.
"I'll explain later," Mac offered to Dan.
Dr. Strong continued, "The reason they headed north was because Rodrigo made a translation error. He translated part of the map to read ‘in the greatest river canyon'. Therefore, Rodrigo believed that El Dorado was in the Grand Canyon, the greatest canyon.
"What he should have translated was ‘in the greatest river valley." The greatest river is the Amazon and that is south instead of north. So, you see they are heading in the wrong direction.
"However, we still need the key. That is the most important artifact that they stole."
Mac felt much better and slapped Dan on the shoulder.
"Dan do you think you can get the Jenny running tomorrow?" Mac asked.
"Shouldn't be too hard. I just need to check the prop and clean out the feathers," Dan returned.
"Feathers!?!" Rebecca exclaimed.
Mac turned a little red. Even in the firelight, Rebecca noticed the pilot blushing.
"Yeah, my engine trouble was brought on by me flying into a flock of birds. I had to land before my propeller shattered or the engine died."
"Leave it to Mac to find road kill in the sky," Dan joked.
Dr. Strong and Rebecca started laughing. Mac gave Dan a glare before he too joined in laughing.
It did not take Dan long at all to get the Jenny ready the next day. Both the propeller and the engine were fine. A quick cleaning and routine maintenance had Mac in the air by late afternoon.
Mac made to the Grand Canyon in Arizona by sundown. He stayed at a colleague's airfield while he started his search for the zeppelin. Mac made a few inquiries into whether anyone in the area had seen an airship flying in the sky. However, everyone he asked thought he was joking.
Mac had little choice but to begin to search for the zeppelin by air. The task before him was daunting. The Grand Canyon was long and deep, but the zeppelin may have landed miles away from the canyon further increasing the area where Mac would have to search.
Mac had searched the area for over a week. He had nothing to show for his efforts and everyone decided that he should return home. The Jenny was flying back toward New Mexico when Mac saw a something on the ground that did not quite fit.
At first glance, it looked like a patch of snow high in the mountains. However, the patch of snow was elliptical and rising into the air. Mac banked the Jenny around to take a closer look.
Mac laughed as he spied the zeppelin climbing higher into the sky. By pure chance, he had stumbled upon the airship. The German airship was about 529 feet long and 38 feet in diameter. Three gasoline engines positioned outside the gasbag powered the great craft up to 85 miles an hour. Maybe he would not go home empty handed after all.
The zeppelin began to fly off in an easterly direction. Mac increased the Jenny's speed in order to catch up to the zeppelin. He wanted to get a better look at his adversary.
Mac was almost on top of the zeppelin when he noticed the platforms on the top of the zeppelin. During the Great War, zeppelins had gunners on the top of the airbag to fight off attacking allied aircraft. These platforms were still armed and they began to open fire upon the little Jenny.
Mac pulled back on the stick to gain altitude before the gunners and their Maxim machineguns could get a fix on him. The engine of the biplane roared in protest as bullets ripped past. Mac rolled the biplane as he dove. He could hear the tearing of the fabric skin as some of the bullets found their mark. He pulled back sharply on the stick and the plane climbed rapidly into the sky once more. Mac leveled off before the plane stalled. The Maxims pursued him persistently.
The Jenny began to respond sluggishly as he jinked the plane. The two machinegun placements relentlessly fired upon the aircraft. Mac pushed forward upon the stick again and the plane dove. Mac flew the plane past and below the zeppelin, but not before a few rounds found their way into the engine. Although the gun placements could no longer fire upon the plane, the machineguns had done their job as smoke billowed from the Jenny's engine.
The plane did not respond to his control as it spun ever closer to the ground. Mac fought to pull the stick back as the wind screamed in his ears and the engine coughed and smoked as he plummeted towards the earth. The altimeter rapidly counted down. Mac had only a hundred feet in which to gain control of the plane as the ground rushed ever closer.Posted by deg at June 21, 2006 8:28 PM