Maybe he was trying to get out of some boring job. He looked pretty much the way I did when I was avoiding choir practice at school. During each of these interruptions we hid in the same truck. I don't know if that was a good idea, but whatever we did was a lottery: a terrible game of Russian roulette. When we had the luxury of being able to spy on the base we least a few things that might be useful. There seemed to be about sixty aircraft out in the open, two-thirds of them great huge things that were probably bombers or troop carriers. The rest were little fighters, like wasps. They were in three lines along a concrete apron that stretched for close on a kilometre. They were packed in pretty tightly and I remembered Colonel Finley saying that as fast as these people kept expanding the airfield the more planes they crowded into it. Behind the concrete apron were three giant hangars that could have contained anything from the officers' grog supply to another squadron of planes. It was a fair bet though that at least one hangar, probably more than one, was used for aircraft maintenance.
When a flight of bombers landed, a bunch of fuel trucks raced out to fill them up. The planes taxied to their parking spots. By the time they got there the fuel trucks were waiting. As the pilots and crew walked away the fuel was already pumping into the huge planes. "There's a hundred million bucks' worth of aircraft sitting out there," Homer said. He was probably underestimating. I guessed that planes like these would cost at least two or three million dollars a pop. As it got darker we learnt the nighttime procedure. When a plane landed, runway lights were switched on, but they were very dim and were only on for a couple of minutes. The moment the plane touched down, out went the lights. Too bad if the pilot couldn't steer a straight line. We gradually began to work out what the different buildings were, and Lee drew a rough map. I didn't like him doing that âI was paranoid about anything being on paper, because I'd read a story when' I was little about a spy in World War One being executed when they found a map stitched into his clothing. But this one time I bit my tongue. Everything was so urgent, so excruciatingly desperate, that normal rules had to be suspended. I understood that. So we figured out that to our left was the dining room or canteen. We guessed that because of the smells, which made our mouths water, and because when it got darker, around teatime, various soldiers wandered past our hangar, all heading in that direction. Half an hour later, back they came. They looked hungry when they went there and well-fed when they came back. You can tell, somehow. I don't know how, but you can. We snacked when we got desperate enough, with more of our New Zealand food, but we hadn't brought much with us, as we'd wanted to preserve our little stores in Hell. And scroggin wasn't quite as satisfying as the fried chicken I thought I could smell wafting down the road.
I found I was too nervous to eat much anyway. Only Homer seemed to have a real appetite. As I looked at the food disappearing down his throat I wondered what we'd do when the supply ran out. To our right was a big fibro building with only a few lights. And they just seemed to be security lights, on all the time. We thought it might be a storage place. Further off was the control towerâthe building with the round topâwhich we could see clearly, higher than everything else. Opposite us was a long low wooden building with small windows. We worked out fairly early that it had to be a barracks. There was music blaring, shirts hung out of windows to dry, and from time to time we had glimpses of half-dressed men coming from showers or getting changed. Beyond that were the planes. A plan was starting to form in my head and I started talking about it to the others. We were all trying to be brave I think, except for Kevin, who disappeared into the truck and