Salamander Six is a near-future short story set on Saint Martin at the moment it gains independence from a newly-imperialist France. The hero character is an entrepreneur/inventor, developing new forms of aerial firefighting to be used in hard-to-access fires, such as those in tall buildings or on oil rigs.
Our hero gets a call from the French telling him the last of their administrators are trapped in a safe room near the top of a burning building. He hates the French, but feels he has a moral obligation as a firefighter to save them.
He flies his aircraft (I can’t remember if it’s a rotorcraft or jump jet) to the building, uses some firefighting drones to suppress some of the flames, then goes in with a team wearing fireproof exosuits and gets the Frenchies out of the safe room. They all get back to the aircraft without incident and fly to safety on some French-held island.
I was really expecting a twist to the story at some point. Many possibilities flashed through my mind. The team could have been trapped by the fire, needing another way out of the building. They could have seen something they weren’t supposed to see in the safe room. The Frenchies could have tried to hijack the aircraft. The rebels could have threatened to shoot down the aircraft unless the crew upgraded their passengers to Pinochet class.
A member of the team said something like “that was easier than most of our training missions.” Author tip: if, as you are writing your story, one of your characters tells you exactly what is wrong with it, listen to him.
The story ends with a conversation between the hero and the head Frenchman. I think the author was trying to say something profound about human nature or the nature of power, but none of it resonated with me. For me, the conversation went something like this:
Hero: “Back when we both lived in Marseille, you had me sent to prison on false charges and ruined my company. Now that I’ve saved you today, my company on Saint Martin will probably be ruined as well.”
Frenchy: “Hey, I’ve ruined a lot of people’s lives, buddy. It’s kind of my thing.”
Hero: “Well, alright. As long as we have that straight, then.”