The old mercenary looked at the desolate room with half-closed eyes, and for a while, in his mind, the room filled with noise. Sounds of glasses, voices. In the background, from outside, the sound of powerful engines. Faces....: Heroes, tricksters, daredevils, some were even bandits, but all were, in some way, brothers. The strange and sometimes exotic foods that were sometimes served, beverages that were contrabande from somewhere, secret deals closed in the darker corners of the room.

Now, the whole room was dark, but there were few secrets left. The brothers had spread in all directions. ... The world had changed, perhaps for the better, but in some ways poorer.

The mercenary got up, put away his pocket flask and walked out the door. He stood a while, blinking in the sunlight, then walked over to his little plane and looked at it. It had served him well. Not a magnificent fighter, just a small mule, but it had carried him far. He reached into the cockpit and turned the mixture to rich, then went out in front and heaved at the propeller, turning the engine a few times. Back the the cockpit, he switched on the ignition, and forwarded the throttle just a little. Back in front, he gave the propeller another heave. The engine coughed once, but did not catch. Another heave, the little engine coughed, sputtered and started running, unsteadily. He walked back to the cockpit, reached in and adjusted throttle and mixture till the engine ran reasonably clean, warming up.

After a few minutes, when the engine had warmed a bit and ran as clean as could be expected, he crouched down under the fuselage, grabbed the choks by the ropes connected to them, threw them into the rear cockpit, then jumped into the front seat, gunned the engine and, swaying a little, the small biplane rolled down the parking lot, and nosed into the sky. A few people in the gardens now occupying what had once been an airfield looked up puzzled as a small camouflage-painted biplane climbed into the blue and made for the horizon.

MRC_Hans