SEP: Interlude Pt. 2


Mostly Harmless
May 8, 2010
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[FONT=&quot]SEP: Interlude Pt. 2[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Banning Municipal Airport[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I'm glad to see you've finally warmed up to this."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I haven't warmed up to jack," Jamie Cunningham said tartly as she turned her head to her left to cast a disparaging glance at her friend, mentor and Mission Commander Brian Adkinson. He winked back at her. She watched him look over the control panel in front of him, and her eyes took in the details. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]The aircraft they were seated in was a mid 1990's model, a 'Bravo' series with a cluster of analog gauges directly in front of him that told him how high, how fast, and in what direction the plane was pointing. All of these gauges were familiar to her. She saw an altimeter, an airspeed indicator, a slip indicator . . . a fuel flow indicator, a manifold pressure indicator . . . a big black knob, a small red knob and an even smaller blue knob in the lower middle below the prominently labeled gear retract lever. Overhanging the glareshield near the middle of the instrument panel hung a GPS, and she saw its power line tucked neatly into a power tap in the panel.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]His window slot was open, allowing a small breeze through the cockpit as Jamie hadn't shut the door to the aircraft yet. At his glance she pulled the door snugly and it clicked shut.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"No -- don't shut it just yet. Leave it cracked open for a while," He said.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Okay, okay," She said as she fumbled for the door handle and after a moment's wrangling (chiefly to determine which way to move the handle) the door popped open again.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Alright," Adkinson said; his tone was now serious. "All belly-aching and joking aside, are you okay with flying today? Or should we call it a day first?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Jamie took a moment to think it over. The last two years had been nothing but doldrum and work. Her eyes swept over the control panel again, at the propeller sticking upright in front of her, and at the crystal-blue sky above her. It was past time to break the routine . . . to do something unusual . . . and a dark, dusty corner of her heart blazed to life as she slowly nodded.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Good," Adkinson said with a smile. "I'm going to start it up now." His hands flew over the controls in a practiced dance. "Fuel pumps are on, mixture is rich. Beacon lights are on." Then leaning his face to the window he shouted "CLEAR!" . . . and a moment later he reached for the key and gave it a healthy clockwise twist.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]The entire aircraft seemed to shake as the propeller moved in front of them. The engine coughed to life, sending a constant vibrating drone through the frame. Jamie smiled in spite of her own choler as she felt the aircraft breathe around her. Adkinson smiled back and donned a headset at his side of the cockpit. She reached for her own headset and fitted them over her ears. They fit snugly, but amazingly comfortably, and she nodded to him.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Can you hear me?" She heard, and she nodded again. "Good. Let's get one final check done and we'll be up in the air."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]* * *

[FONT=&quot]"Banning traffic," Jamie heard. "Mooney [FONT=&quot]F[/FONT]our-[FONT=&quot]On[/FONT]e-[FONT=&quot]E[/FONT]ight Mike Juliet is taking off, runway two-six. Departure to the north."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Then as Brian Adkinson scanned downrange to his right for any traffic (the traffic advisory frequency was quiet, but it was still a good idea to at least look before one took an active runway) his hand gently moved the throttle. The aircraft wandered forward once more and his foot press began to yaw the nose towards the runway centerline. His right hand touched the flap switch (it was already set properly for takeoff) for a final acknowledgement and it returned to the throttle.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Then the engine roared to life as Adkinson smoothly pushed the knob into the firewall. Jamie heard the propeller spin up, adding its own raspy growl to the song the engine was already singing. She felt the acceleration push her backwards as the aircraft gained speed, and the corner of her mouth began to lift as they quickly began to supersede normal driving speeds.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]As if on cue the nose of the aircraft inched upwards -- first no more perceptible than the faintest upward tick . . . then more noticeably as the sound of the wheels against the runway abruptly ceased. Jamie felt the unnatural sensation of flight assault her senses as she saw the vertical speed indicator inch upwards, and at the same time she saw the altimeter begin to spool.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Adkinson's hand left the throttle and quickly reached the landing gear lever. Lifting it up and pushing it in, Jamie saw the annunciator lights briefly illuminate and then she felt the light thump of the wheels locking into place.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Plane's got some pickup," Jamie said.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"It's got a German motor. A two hundred seventy horsepower plant," Adkinson replied in a gravelly monotone as he banked the aircraft to the right.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I thought the engine stamp said Lycoming?" Jamie mused.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]* * *

[FONT=&quot]"So, what do you think?" Adkinson said mildly.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I think I'm in heaven," Jamie replied. The passage north took all of a half hour as they climbed slowly over the San Jacinto mountains and the lush green of the San Bernadino National Forest. The craggy peaks mingled with the dense forestry, and Jamie had seen on several occasions hikers wandering the hills with their backpacks and walking poles. Not once, however, did she feel like they were going to become a statistic by way of 'controlled flight into terrain' -- the engine powering them through the air was strong enough to generate at least a seven hundred foot per minute climb through the rapidly thinning air. Now they were travelling in a westerly direction over the Santa Ana winds, over the busy Los Angeles airspace, just over twelve thousand feet above sea level, and her adjustment to the oxygen masks Adkinson had provided was beginning to pay off.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]She knew that above ten thousand feet in an unpressurized aircraft, oxygen was required, and she had had reservations about being up that high in such a small aircraft. However, the tradeoff was the view. She could see desert if she craned her head to the right far enough, and if she looked to the left, ocean.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]It was Adkinson who kept his head on a swivel even more than her; he had the pilot's job of, of course, keeping the aircraft in the air and moving in a straight line. The excitement they had had earlier (establishing visual contact with a departing 787 from LAX) had both inspired her and drilled in the precariousness of her situation, but as she reached her hand out to sample the rigidity of the construction in front of her, she also felt strangely emboldened.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]You're flying again, Jamie,[/FONT][FONT=&quot] she told herself. This is for real.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Have you been keeping up with Sienna?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Jamie blinked at the non-sequitor. "What?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Have you been keeping up with Sienna and Svetlana lately? I was just curious."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Sienna is [FONT=&quot]i[/FONT]n Germany," Jamie replied. "Last email I got from her was she was in Munich heading south to backpack in the Alps for a day or four. Svetlana . . . she and I have traded emails over the past year and we even Skyped a couple of times. She tried to teach me some Russian a couple of times but . . ." Jamie shook her head.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"But, what?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I can't make the words, Brian," Jamie growled through a sudden fit of frustration. "I don't understand their grammar. I don't have a head for it. And everything I did try to say was either wrong or hilarious in all the wrong ways, so . . ."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Adkinson laughed. "I feel your pain. It's almost like the difference between propositioning someone for sex and declaring your intention to kill them and their whole family plus everyone who ever knew them is in your pronunciation."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Pretty much," Jamie replied dryly. "Between you and me, I think anyone trying to teach anyone else another language is tantamount to them foisting flim-flam hiccup cures on the unsuspecting[FONT=&quot] -[FONT=&quot]- like [FONT=&quot]having them drink f[FONT=&quot]rom the far side of[FONT=&quot] the glass.[/FONT][/FONT][/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Adkinson laughed again -- heartily, this time. "Jamie, that's about the best analogy I've heard all week. Welcome back!"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Thanks, it's great to be back," Jamie replied dryly. "And just out of blatant curiosity, why do you ask?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I was just thinking about the old times just now. Like on Flight Day Two when you came barging through the middeck while Sienna and I were talking. I thought you were going to blow a gasket or something."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"That was so stupid!" Jamie almost shouted in sudden exasperation as she turned her head to look at Adkinson. "She was trying to data-mine interpersonal information, and you didn't have the nuts to shut her down! I had to do it for you!"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Ahh, but you have to admit what we did with your iPod was sheer epic."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Jamie paused as at first she remembered the incident with visceral clarity. She had lost her iP[FONT=&quot]o[/FONT]d two months before launch day. During her busy (she often considered it hellishly hectic) training schedule. She had somehow found time to fruitlessly search for it from time to time but it had never shown up and nobody had claimed it at any point in time. Her music was her life, she knew. Without it she had managed to survive the work-up regimen before flight and somehow remember all the little details she would need to know for every aspect of the translunar flight she was about to undergo.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]But she also knew it would be a long voyage both there and back without any sort of music to calm her often busy mind down during what little down time she was going to get. She had long abandoned the idea of ever finding the device again when she had found it in one of the toiletry cupboards of her personal gear storage inside her sleeping closet on Constitution.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Then the thought occurred to her. Brian was suddenly talking about space . . . a topic that had become taboo in her mind since the mission which had nearly trashed a very expensive spaceplane. That was the kind part to the whole equation -- the post-flight interviews, the constant self-soul-badgering and 'I could've done this or that better' had gotten to her completely in the weeks after the mission and she had made good on her resignation letter. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]She had told her new flight director whom had replaced Edward Foulkes on his retirement that she knew she had lost the edge all flight crews and professional astronauts needed . . . and that she considered herself in her heart to be more of a liability than an asset. The smart thing to do was to remove herself from the picture, she told herself -- before she got herself and anyone else killed.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]And now, she realized, she was sitting in an airplane ten thousand feet above the ground with the only other soul in the world able to hear her . . . happening to be her Mission Commander from that same mission. Strange thoughts wheeled through her head as she reviewed what was happening around her. Though she could not discount the possibility of anoxia (even with the O2 mask she was wearing) she couldn't help thinking.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"You're up to something," She said. She looked at his face and noted his attention rooted on the airspace directly in front of him and it confirmed it. There was something snaking around in his brain, and she felt a stab of adrenaline as she realized it had to be significant. Nobody would drag someone halfway across the country and put them in an airplane just to shoot the breeze, she realized.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I think we should grab some dinner somewhere," Adkinson said offhandedly. "I'm hungry. Are you hungry?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"No, I'm fine," Jamie said resolutely. Then the thought of food invaded her brain, and as her stomach began to swirl beneath her head she felt the familiar pang of peckishness.

She sighed. "No, I'm not. I could use some food too, now that I think about it. Besides, you're trying to change the subject, and you, sir, started it!"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I just know you too well," Adkinson said with a smile.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"And how is that? Just because we've known each other for the past seven, eight years, practically lived together, studied together and worked together?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"That about sums it up. I'll put us down in Camarillo. We can get something to eat there."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"How are we going to get to a restaurant, Brian? Walk? Taxi? We don't have any wheels," Jamie protested.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"You think this is some rap video?" Adkinson said with a grin.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"No, I'm just trying to think practically, that's all."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I've got us covered, Jamie. There's a place right on the south side of the airport. They close early compared to the rest of California, but they should still be open. Deal?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Sure," Jamie said. "Put some food in me, and then we can discuss why you're talking about the Space Program again after two years of relative silence."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"It's a deal," Adkinson said giddily. "Now hang onto your hat, because we're going to start our descent."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I'm not wearing a hat, Brian," Jamie intoned.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]* * *[/FONT]​


Mostly Harmless
May 8, 2010
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Four minutes after I posted? Wow, you're quiiiick! :)

I didn't know anyone was waiting for this. You should see the smile on my face right now.


Lurker Representitive
Apr 30, 2009
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I'm glad you're writing more of this. It's a good story with good characters and you have a good style. Anxiously awaiting more.:cheers: