Spirit of Dagny

Geoff OBrien

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(approx 5,400 words)



Frida and her under-fourteens Perifania Pride rugby league teammates would face their greatest challenge yet: being flown across the outback to Galt Station, where their parents were waiting, having already arrived. Frida’s friend Simone also happened to be along for the trip.

Frida and the girls stepped off the airplane – except for airsick Adele, who weaved and wobbled. By now it was late afternoon. The air outside was dry and uncomfortably warm, in constrast with the airconditioned plane. The first leg of the trip was over. For the second and final leg, the girls would be flown by helicopter.

One of the pilots led the girls down the plane’s retractable stairs, then across the tarmac, toward the only building on the deserted outback airstrip. Further away, a small stationary helicopter rested beside an open hangar. The helicopter was closer in size to the one Mum would use to instruct out at Saunders Airfield, rather than bigger transport helo that she flew Frida and the Pride mixed team in last year.

The airplane pilot opened the glass doors of the building and pulled one of them aside, allowing the girls to enter. Inside the squat building was some plastic seats for visitors. A plump, elderly woman sat behind a desk, patiently typing at a computer.

The airplane pilot left the girls with someone else who was waiting beside the seats: a tall, tough-looking man with tattoos and a bushy beard. He wore a black leather jacket, jeans and steel cap boots. Most of his skin was heavily tanned except for a thin band across his eyes. Frida guessed he must wear sunglasses a lot. Most of the girls wilted or shrunk away, intimidated by a man who looked like a bikie.

A ready, easygoing smile transformed his stern face. “G’day,” he said down to them. “Tom’s ma name and flyin’s ma game.” An outback twang melodised his accent. “Reckon I must be just about the luckiest guy in Queensland to fly all of you lovely ladies around. Ready to head out to Galt Station?”

Adele cradled her stomach. “Do we have to go straight away?”

Next Uber helicopter won’t be along fer awhile,” he joked. “So it’s either a quick helo ride, or a hundred kay walkabout with dingos, kangas and king browns to keep ya cump’ny. Take yer pick.”

We’ll fly, thanks,” declared Leah with a royal voice. Others nodded.

Right-o. This way then.” He walked outside. All the girls followed him – except one.

“’Dele?” Frida called back.

I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” Adele took a second to gather herself, then reluctantly followed. “All this flying,” she muttered when she’d caught up. “What’s wrong with buses, huh? Next time you talk to Mr Saunders, tell him to buy us a bus.”

Back outside, Tom led them to the helicopter waiting by the hangar. Swinging open the side door, he motioned inside. “Might hafta squeeze in, sorry. Only room ta sit a few.”

The girls rushed inside, where scuffles broke out for available seats. The sulking rest had to stand, bunched together in the passenger area. Instead of participating in the melee for a seat, Simone had dodged her way past to stand at a spot just behind the open, empty pilot’s cabin. Frida and Adele joined her. Several headsets featuring headphones and mikes dangled all around the pilot’s cabin and the seated section further back. They weren’t connected by wires to anything – they must use bluetooth.

Tom stayed outside for a few seconds, walking around the helo, checking it from the outside. Then he opened a separate door to the pilot’s cabin. Taking his seat, he strapped in his harness and began flicking switches. He donned a radio headset and chatted to someone, telling them where he was flying and checking the weather. After that, he took off his radio headset, poked a thumb towards the empty beside him and spoke to Frida, Simone and Adele, who were closest. “Anyone fancy themselves as a copilot?”

Adele stared at the floor, miserable with her rebellious stomach. Frida and Simone looked at each other.

Go ahead,” Frida said.

Y-you sh-sh-sure?”

Course I am. You’re the only one of the two of us who has actually flown a helo.”

Only th-that wuh-one t-time w-w-with y-your Mum. Th-that d-d-doesn’t–”

Tom was following their conversation with raised eyebrows. “No jokin’?” he said to Simone. “Yer’ve had time in the air?”

No jokin’,” Frida replied for Simone’s sake.

Tom beckoned to Simone and patted the seat beside him. “Come on then hon’! Don’t be shy. Get yerself a free lesson. Next time yer jet-setting shiela mates are sipping fruit punch and winging around the outback, yer’ll be flyin’ ‘em yerself, ‘cause Tom trained ya.” His face suddenly soured, then he turned his head, coughing and spluttering. Opening the pilot’s door, he spat outside. About to close the door, he hesitated, cradling his stomach. He reminded Frida of Adele.

Are you okay?” Frida asked.

Tom winced. “Not feelin’ a hundred percent, t’ be honest.” He closed the door. “Startin’ tuh wonder if sharin’ Mick’s ‘tater wedges was such a good idea. He said he’d kept ‘em separate from those prawns and their juices, but I dunno…” He scrounged around by his feet, then held up a thin and opaque blue plastic bag. “Might hafta use this, soon.” He coughed in to the crook of his elbow.

Adele eyed his bag. “Do you have another one of those?”

Nope. Sorry. From the look o’ ya, I’m thinkin’ we might hafta share this one.”

Adele groaned.



Get ready ladies!” Tom called back. “We’re about to go! It’s gonna get loud in here, so if ya wanna talk, use those.” He hoicked a thumb at the headsets, then grinned. “Or lip read.” He flicked the switches for the engines, then settled his hands on the pilot’s controls and his feet upon the pedals. Simone settled herself in the co-pilot’s seat.

Outside the cabin, Frida could see the edges of the big metal rotor blades above them began to spin. She and the other girls paused to listen. The whine of the helo’s engines increased in pitch, in tandem with the whoosh of the whirring metal rotors. Soon, the rotors were spinning so fast that they blurred through the air, resembling the world’s biggest desktop or pedestal fan. Tom donned his radio headset once more and spoke in to it. The helo jiggled, then moved, slowly rising.

Any girl standing had to hastily readjust her stance, resetting her feet and balance as though setting themselves for tackling practice. The sitting girls did something similar with their hands, planting them against the sides of their seats and gripping them. The helo continued to rise.

Once the girls felt more confident with their balance and posture, they all – except Adele – rushed to the closest window. Beneath them lay a mostly empty landscape of reddish dirt, dotted with the occasional mound and eucalyptus tree. In the distance, a seemingly endless straight stretch of bitumen road rolled out to the horizon. A family of kangaroos bounded away from the noise the helo was making. The late afternoon sun covered everything with subdued yellow-orange light. Viewed as a picture, the landscape may have been boring. Viewed from within a rising helicopter, as high as a skyscraper and still climbing, the girls were entranced.

After a minute, the helo was so high that Frida couldn’t discern the shape of the trees or kangaroos anymore, only tiny splotches of stationary green and shifting brown amongst all the red dirt. A road train truck rolling down the road looked like a metal caterpillar that Frida could pluck with her thumb and forefinger. The novelty of the loud engine and rotor blades were beginning to wear off, so Frida decided to don a headset. Some of the other girls were doing the same.

Motion distracted her. Tom the pilot was coughing again. This bout seemed worse than before. Hacking and gasping, he soon had to let go of the controls and pick up his sick bag–

Frida looked away, peering outside the window again. Outside, the vivid setting sun had dropped a little lower toward the horizon. Soon it would be dusk. They may not arrive at Galt station until after nightfall. Frida wondered how many rooms they would have. She hadn’t really thought about how she and the other girls would sleep until now. They would probably have to share rooms. She reminded herself to ensure she wasn’t sharing a room with both Leah and–

Something – someone – tugged at Frida’s shoulder. Simone? For some reason, her face was aghast, almost as pale as Adele’s. Simone wordlessly pointed at the pilot…

whose body was silently tipping forward and sideways to slump against the pilot’s door. The sick bag lay discarded, balanced on his jean-clad legs.

Tom wasn’t moving.

Frida gaped at him. Was he asleep? Unconscious? How had he became like this? What would happen to the helo? Frida stared without seeing, her mind’s eye playing a Hollywood-esque video of a spinning helicopter plunging through the air, crashing in to the ground, erupting in a fireball–

Something bumped against Frida, interrupting her mental doomsday movie: Simone, prodding at her, jolting her to action. Frida reached out to shake Tom. He didn’t respond.

Somehow, the helo was still flying. For how long? Someone would have to land it. Could Frida do that? Part of her wanted to. She knew some stuff about helos. Her mother was a pilot. Frida had spent some time on the big, room-sized simulator out at the airfield where Mum worked as an instructor. Frida fantasised about flying everyone to safety… but not for long. She wasn’t the best girl for the job.

Frida looked to Simone, who had shrunk back against the co-pilot door. She shook her head violently – almost dislodging her headset. If Frida had thought all of this, her friend would have too. Not only that, Simone was probably a step or two ahead… and whatever she was thinking was wigging her out.

Simone.” Frida indicated the unattended cyclic, the stick-like metal thing rising from the floor that the pilot used to fly the helo. The end of the cyclic split out into two bits, resembling the letter Y, that either the pilot or copilot could reach.


Yes, Simone. It has to be you.” They both knew it. Frida had never piloted a real helo, only mucked around in a simulator. Mum had once taken Simone for an actual flight for an hour. She’d logged some time in the airfield’s flight simulator. She had also been the one practically living on her X-box flight simulator game since the holidays. Frida had sometimes idly wondered if that would be enough to enable someone to fly in real life.

She was about to find out.

What has to be Simone?” Adele asked, her voice groggy. Miserable with her motion sickness, she had nonetheless heard something in Frida’s and Simone’s voices to pique her curiosity. Where Frida stood, she would be blocking most of Adele’s view. Other girls were pressing forward, trying to see what was going on.

Never mind,” Frida snapped, all-too aware of the passing time, and that they were passing it without an operating pilot. Then she saw Adele’s face. “Sorry. Hey, keep the others back, could you?”


Because I asked nicely?”

Adele looked at her.

Checking the other girls couldn’t see, Frida allowed Adele a quick peek at the pilot, who still hadn’t moved.

Adele raised her hands over her mouth in dismay. “Ohmygawd.” Her hands muffled her voice.

Yes, so why don’t–” Frida stopped when Adele uttered an incomprehensible noise that sounded like “Urk,” and urgently reached out for the pilot’s sick bag, still propped on his legs. She couldn’t quite reach it. Frida could, so she snatched carefully at the very top of it – darkish splotches of somethings were inside – and extended her arm to thrust the bag out to Adele. She hastily took it and spread the top of it open. The girls behind Adele shrieked and backed away as fast as they could.

Frida shrugged. Close enough. Now, what to do about their pilot?

Simone was one step ahead, trying to pull the pilot away from his seat. “H-h-h-help–” She stopped trying to talk once Frida also pulled at the man’s inert body. He barely budged. Wait…he was strapped in. While Frida worked at the straps and buckles of his harness, Simone was slapping his face, so desperate to rouse him that she accidentally whacked Frida instead.

Ow! Watch it!”

Someone bumped Frida from behind. Bindi, wearing a headset. Thank goodness. The bigger girl could assist. “Here,” Frida said, “help me with this guy.” She passed one of his arms to her.

Bindi held it balanced upon her palm, examining it with mild curiosity. “What’s with him?”

He’s passed out.”

No way.”


The helo dipped.


{Simone Speaks}

Frida’s stomach swooped in reaction to the sudden motion. Everyone froze…

then the helo levelled out.

Pull!” Frida yelled at Bindi. They yanked at the pilot as hard as they could, almost falling backward when they managed to drag the man’s body most of the way off the pilot seat.

The helo dipped again.

Too late, Frida realised: the controls. Pulling the pilot away from them may have been a bad idea. “Simone!”

Frida’s friend jumped over to take the pilot’s place, awkwardly settling herself in the pilot’s seat. She had to stretch her legs to reach the pedals. The cyclic rested at an awkward spot for Simone, who wasn’t as tall as the pilot. The helo jiggled when she grasped at the cyclic too quickly. Her other hand settled over the collective, a lever beside the pilot’s seat that looked like the handbrake in a car. The helo levelled out. Simone was wheezing in barely-controlled panic.

Frida ordered Bindi to pull the pilot away. “Try rousing him. Let me know if you do.”

Why can’t you do it?”

Frida glared at Bindi. “I have to assist with flying.”

Bindi’s eyes bulged.

Or do you want to do that?”

You can,” Bindi said, so quietly that Frida only understood by lipreading.

Thanks. Get Alissa to help you with him.” Some of the other girls were getting anxious, watching Frida and Bindi. They surged forward again, jostling Bindi and Frida, who yelled at Adele to do something.

Adele wiped something from her mouth with one of her hands. Her other hand waved the sick bag at the closest gaggle of girls, who recoiled as though they were vampires and the bag was old garlic.

That freed enough space for Frida to clamber on to the recently vacated co-pilot’s seat. It felt warm and sweaty from it’s previous occupant.

A whisper of airconditioning tickled the back of Frida’s neck, making her shiver. The shivers seized the rest of her body, causing her to tremble like a leaf in a cyclone. Part of her wanted to curl up in a corner and let someone else take over. Her nerves were jangling, as though this were the last minute of a close – wait, that was it. This was like playing the championship game, that was all. Yes. That was all. Last year, her captain had been taken out of the game, injured by rule-breaking boys. Today, her pilot had been taken out by prawns. Now, as then, Frida didn’t want to take charge. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much of a choice. She had to.

This is like that championship game, that was all. The championship game…

Frida forced herself to take a big breath. She really hoped that pilot would wake up soon. “What do you need?” she asked Simone.

Simone sat rigid, staring straight ahead.

Simone!” Frida slapped Simone’s thigh, startling her. She gave her head a violent shake and re-gripped the cyclic. Frida exhaled with relief.

Simone tapped at the earpiece of her headset. “S-s-send a m-m-muh-message t-t-t-t–” As always, Simone deferred to Frida when they needed to talk to anyone else.

What do I say?”

M-m-may d-d-d-d–”

Right. “May-day, may-day,” Frida said in to the receiver, until it unexpectedly wiggled in her hand. “Hey!” Frida protested to Simone, whose finger almost poked Frida in the eye. Simone was tapping her finger at – oh, that’s right, the talking button. Frida had to push it in. “May-day, may-day,” Frida repeated with finger pressing down the button. “May-day, may-day, this is…” She glanced a question at Simone, who didn’t see, because she was busy looking at the instrument panel and experimenting with the controls. “Tom’s helicopter,” Frida continued. “May-day, this is Tom’s helicopter, going to–” What was it called? “–going to Galt station. I, uh, repeat: may-day, this is Tom’s helicopter, going to Galt station, may-day, may–”

Simone prodded at Frida’s finger again, this time pushing it off the talking button.

“–funny, Tom. You hear me? This is not cool. Take back the radio from those girls and get off the air in case someone with real problems needs to communicate.

What to say to that? How could Frida begin to explain what was going on? Trying to think, she glanced outside.

That was a mistake.

The ground… all the way down there… Frida could barely see it, because the sun had set. It was dusk now, not quite night. How far off the ground were they flying? A few kilometres? More? All this had felt scary, but in a distant way, like a computer game or a flight simulator… until Frida had looked down.

You there, Tom? On the off-chance that this isn’t some stupid joke, please respond.”

This wasn’t a game or a flight simulator. This was real. A craggy mound of rock filled Frida’s vision, excluding everything else. The vision of the helo crashing and exploding recurred to her. They could fall right in to that rock and

Tom, please respond.”

No one would survive.

Tom, please respond.”

Tom’s helo here.”

Frida gasped. She hadn’t spoken. Who had?

Hey, where’s Tom? Who’s this?”

It was Simone.

She had donned the pilot’s headphones and was slowly speaking in to the mike. “Tom is sick at the moment.” Her eyes were as wide as they could go, unable to believe the words she was hearing, words that she was uttering – and not stuttering. “He’ll talk to you when he can.” Her voice was monotone. Her eyes stared straight ahead as though she were walking a tightrope and dared not look down.

Frida didn’t know which was more incredible: that Simone was flying, or that she wasn’t stuttering.

Another stunt, Tom? Very funny. Kick off whoever that is. I know you can hear me. You’re lucky the station manager isn’t here in the booth with me.”

Tom’s…glad to hear that,” Simone said carefully. “Uhhh…by the way…where is Galt station?”

Frida’s headset crackled. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Where do we… land?” A tear drop trickled down from one of Simone’s still-wide eyes. She wasn’t blinking either.

Silence from the radio. Through her headset, Frida heard raised voices behind her. Someone squealed. They were learning what was going on. Frida turned around. Adele’s face was as white as a clean sheet and her mouth hung slack. Frida asked, “Is the pilot awake yet?”


The increasingly louder hubbub from the other girls prompted Frida to raise her voice. “Is anyone with him?”

Bindi’s–” Adele dry heaved “–trying to wake him up.”

One of the Youtubers butted in. “His face and throat,” she said, “are all, like, puffy and red.”

Adele added, “Alissa took someone’s phone.”

Seriously?” Frida couldn’t believe it. Alissa was bullying someone at a time like this? “Why?”

She’s using it to call triple-zero.”

Alissa?” Frida repeated in disbelief.

Yeah. I guess she remembered her part of that, uh, revival thing from last year.”

Huh. Alissa acting responsible. And Frida thought Simone flying and not stuttering was weird.

Finally, the radio crackled to life. “Tom, if you can hear me, you and I are gonna have a very long chat when you get back – and by that I mean you being tied and gagged while I tear you a new one. Stop messing around and get on the air, now. I’m not kidding.”

Simone fired an anxious glance at Frida, who could only shrug. The man on the radio didn’t sound very happy – or inclined to help them.

Girl? You there? Or that other girl?”

I’m here,” Simone said. “Um, over.”

Bit late for radio etiquette, whoever you are.” More silence. Then: “Listen, I told someone outside to switch on the lights around the helo pad, so you can land. After that, they’ll flip on some of our other lights, up high. Can you see any?”


{First Time For Everything}

Simone waved a hand outside, directing Frida to look, but she was already on it. There! Far off, to her right, closer to the horizon, easy to spot once the sun had set. Those lights were pretty much the only source of illumination to be found anywhere. Frida pointed.

I see them,” Simone confirmed.

Good,” the man’s voice crackled over the radio. “Head for those. When you’re close enough, you’ll see our station’s helo landing spot. Can’t miss it.”

Can you, um, stay on the air? Please?”

No worries, girl. I’m not going anywhere. If this is what I think it is…” The man stopped talking.

Well, the pilot… he–”

Don’t say anything else. Others might be listening. You and I are already in enough turbulence. Let’s just get you here, eh?”

Yes,” Simone agreed immediately.

Do you – does everyone there know what they’re doing?”

Um, yes.” Simone’s hand was wrapped around her side of the cyclic so hard that her knuckles were white.

Right… well, feel free to ask, just in case.”


Not that I can tell you much, to be honest. Never flown at all, myself.”

Well, that was reassuring.

Simone carefully moved the cyclic. The helo inclined to one side, causing it to slowly turn through the air. During the long turn, the helo would occasionally judder, taking Frida’s breath away for a moment, as though she’d been hit by a tough tackle and slammed backwards in to the ground. Soon, they were facing the far-away lights.

The crackling radio startled both Simone and Frida. “What’s doing, girl?”

Simone indulged in a fortifying breath. “Course change. We’re coming to you.”


What did that mean? It sounded familiar.

Simone seemed to know. Her eyes looked more normal now, blinking while she thought. “Five minutes,” she drawled. “I hope.”

What would happen in five minutes? They would land at Galt Station? Yes, that was it. Frida remembered now. Mum would sometimes use the term ‘ETA’ when she was flying. Estimated Time of Arrival, that’s what it meant.

What is she doing?”

One of the girls had pushed her way past Adele. The Youtuber’s friend. Her phone was out, of course, it’s camera directed at Simone.

No no,” Frida said hastily. Luckily, Simone wasn’t looking around. The Youtubers and their phone were the last distraction she needed. Adele shushed them and shoved them back. To distract them, Frida asked them, “How is the pilot?”

They pouted.

Still unconscious,” Adele supplied.

A flurry of motion beside Frida startled her. Simone. She had thrown up her other hand, her non-cyclic hand, over her mouth. Her eyes were wide open again, this time in dismay.

What is it?” Frida asked.

I can’t hover!” Simone wasn’t speaking to Frida, but in to the headset. “I forgot to mention that.”

So what?” the man sent back.

That means I can’t land on your helipad, because I’d have to slow down and hold the helo in a hover, first. I’m not skilled enough for that.”

The man swore. After a moment, he said, “First time for everything.”

Wait, I have a different idea. Do you have a airstrip?”

A what? Girl, this is a cattle station, not Heathrow bloody Airport.”

What about an open field?”

How open? Most of our territory is full of cows, wildlife and trees.”

Simone shook her head. “A straight road, maybe?”

Only gravel roads out here. No bitumen.”

That will do. I hope.” Simone closed her eyes, alarming Frida until her friend opened them again. “I don’t suppose your gravel road has landing lights?”

The man laughed. “It doesn’t even have ‘beware of kangaroo’ signs. What are you thinking?”

Gliding us in slowly enough to slide to a stop using our skids.”

Hells bells, can a helicopter even do that? Can you?

Simone flashed an ironic smile. “‘First time for everything?’”

Don’t muck around or you’ll crash!”

Better to crash when we’re on the ground rather than stall in the sky and crash from there.”

A pause, then, Girl, you’ve got more guts than a weightloss group dropout. Looking forward to shaking your hand after you land.”

Simone shuddered with a brief, high-pitched giggle that she choked off. Likewise.”

Alright, I just got a brainwave. Gimme a sec. Dazza–!” The man’s suddenly-raised voice was just as suddenly cut off. Waiting for the man to come back on the air, Frida became aware that she was thirty, and had been for a while. She was feeling a bit knackered, too. Uh oh. She fished in a pocket for her blood glucose meter. She could be feeling this way because she was stressing about plunging to the ground and exploding. On the other hand…

She pricked her finger and waited. Her blood glucose was a little high, but still okay. Meanwhile, the radio stayed silent. What was going on down there?

Something beyond the cockpit snagged Frida’s attention. Down at the ground. More lights. A pair of them, piercing the nearly-dark sky. The lights moved and jiggled through the trees.

You there, girl?”

I’m here,” Simone said.

See the car lights?”

Simone looked down after Frida pointed for her. “Yes.”

That’s Dazza driving his ute. He’ll zip up and down the road with his high beams on. Best I can think of.”

Okay.” Simone adjusted the cyclic. The helo approached the line of the road indicated by the car lights reflecting off the lines of trees. “Please tell him to turn them off when we’re almost level.”

Will do. Just so you know, I can see your blinkers from here. You’re close. I’ll shut up and let you concentrate. Good luck, girl. Cooee if you need anything.”


All part of the service.”

Inside the cockpit, the heat was smothering Frida. Had Simone accidentally turned off the airconditioning? Sweaty strands of Frida’s hair were distracting her. She wiped at her forehead, then rubbed her moistened hand on her shirt. Through her headset, she could hear someone breathing. Simone wriggled her body in her seat. She checked her pedals. She re-gripped the cyclic in one hand, then the collective in the other.

Frida threw a glance over her shoulder. Pretty much every girl was bunched up behind Adele and the Youtubers. They were lucky that Simone wasn’t looking back. Being the centre of attention wigged her out.


{Skid Marks}

The helo dipped. So did Frida’s stomach. Gasps and a brief squeal made her twitch. The helo continued to slowly descend while Simone managed the cyclic and the collective.

It’s alright,” Frida said for the benefit of the others. “Simone is doing that. She’s bringing us in to land.”

She’s, like, done that before, right?

Frida didn’t look back. “Course she has. All the time. Shut up.”

Eh-eh-eh-eh–” Simone cut herself of with a bemused shake of her head, then dipped it towards a collection of the gauges.

Airspeed?” Frida guessed. Why was Simone stuttering again? “You want me to call airspeed.”

Simone nodded without looking away from the eucalyptus forest beneath them. She dipped her head toward a different section of the instrument panel.

And altitude,” Frida guessed again.

Another nod.

Okay… one thousand feet. Sixty knots.”

The helo shuddered, almost jostling Frida off her seat.

More squeals, plus lots of movement out of the corner of Frida’s eye. Some of the girls were thrown off balance. Someone leaned against her shoulder, then eased off.

Meanwhile, Simone was fighting the cyclic. “W-w-w-wuarrrgh!”

Wind. Frida knew enough about both her friend and flying to know that was what Simone wanted to know about. “Not sure,” Frida reported, seeing no wind sock. Wait. The trees. The tops of the trees were all swaying, from… “Right to left,” she said out loud. “Wind’s coming from our right, blowing to the left.”

Simone adjusted the controls to compensate. They were flying directly over the gravel road, now. Trees lined the road to either side. Frida had to squint to see any of it; dusk was darkening to night. A faint crescent moon coasted the horizon, just above the tree tops. Higher up, the first lone stars were twinkling.

Five hundred feet,” Frida reported. “Forty knots.”  Further down and ahead, Frida could see the ute, mostly by it’s glowing headlights and dimmer taillights. The ute was driving away from them. It’s brake lights flashed and then it spun around, revving up a cloud of dust. Flickers of the ute’s headlights dodged and sliced through the dust and night sky, beaming beneath the helo. If the ute kept coming, it might run into – no, the headlights jolted, then became still. The ute’s driver had stopped.

Twenty knots.” Frida didn’t bother reporting their altitude, because it was obvious: the grumbling helo was almost level with the tops of the trees. If the helo stalled and they fell from here, would it be so bad? They dropped lower. The whirring rotor blades were spinning unnervingly close to some branches.

Simone guided the cyclic and collective. Her mouth was slightly agape. She was wheezing again. Preparing to land, she had pulled the helo’s pitch back a bit. That also raised the front part of the helo’s skids, the metal struts beneath it that held it upright when it was on the ground. The back of the skids would hit the ground first.

Frida heard an agonised “Urk!”, followed by “‘Ewwws’” and murmurs of disgust. Adele’s stomach couldn’t handle it any more.

The ute’s bright lights blinded Frida. Even as she turned her head away and raised her arm, the lights suddenly extinguished. The man in the ute had switched them off – perhaps too late, because their glare had blinded Frida. She blinked, trying to restore her vision. Hopefully Simone could see better. Were the helo’s engine and rotors louder? By the time Frida could see properly again, they were almost down. “Hold on!”

The helo’s metal skids brushed against the gravel road, wiggling the helo and making a rough grinding noise that Frida could feel through her seat. A chorus of squeals and screams filled the cabin. Frida wasn’t sure if she wasn’t contributing to them. The vibrations through the helo ceased for a second when the skids lifted off, then restarted when they hit the ground again. The helo tipped forward when the skids flattened out, their entire length now grinding against the gravel road.

They were on the ground.

Simone switched off the engines. This didn’t stop the helo’s momentum; it continued skidding and bumping along the gravel road. Simone was still leaning forward, tense, ready with the controls. The landing wasn’t over. If she didn’t keep the helo balanced, it could yet tip over to one side, sending the still-whirring metal rotor blades slamming in to the road and causing who-knew-what damage to both the helo and everyone inside. With the whine of the engines winding down, Frida could better hear the grinding skids and whirring rotors. The helo was slowing…slowing…

stopped. No one moved, holding their breath until the main rotor above them ceased moving.

Simone sagged over the cyclic.

Frida almost couldn’t believe it. “You did it!”

N-n-no.” Hearing herself, Simone paused, then released another ironic smile. “W-w-we d-did it.”

Frida launched herself at Simone, embracing her and hugging her as hard as she could. Adele wrapped her hands around them both. Other girls pushed in. Yet more threw themselves on top, joining what became a wriggling, giggling, laughing scrum. Girls crowded around the helicopter pilot seat and spilled out from the cockpit. Frida heard muffled voices amongst the pile.


She landed it?”


How could she–?”

Is there anything you can’t do?” Adele asked.

Y-y-yeah. M-m-move.”


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For those who are curious, this is a sequence of scenes I'd drafted a couple months back(then more recently edited a few times) for Ambition(working title), a sequel to Better Together.  At this point in time, it's primarily intended as 'extra' short story for those familiar with that novel.  Besides a few minor details, however, it ought to stand on it's own, besides also hopefully demonstrating my abilities with more simple, lighthearted prose.  Though this sequence was fun to write, I'll probably cut it from the novel, because it's basically too long; almost ten per cent of a middle-grade novel that is not focused on it's main character.


This started out as something of a side-story-esque 'hero's moment' for a non-main character, or 'sidekick', from Ambition(the main character's friend).  As I introduce several new characters in this novel, I decided to give most of them moments like these:  a few paras or a scene where each one can shine in some way, to better cement them in Reader's mind as well as providing some feel-good moments to serve as brief breaks from the main plot(s).

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