Updating enlisted record brief
The autopilot made small and silent corrections to keep the flight on the preprogrammed course. He sighed, then took another sip from his plastic cup.Stuart listlessly laid two fingers of his right hand on the control wheel. Most of the other airlines don't do this crap anymore." Stuart took his eyes off the horizon and glanced back at his relief copilot. "I don't know where the company buys this lousy coffee," he said to no one in particular. "If that's a trivia question, the answer is Brazil." Stuart didn't answer.
It had become such a passive job--until something went wrong. For a brief, irrational moment he thought he might be seeing the opening salvo of an atomic war. Altering the course of a supersonic transport was no easy matter, however.The chart was blank except for lines of longitude and latitude and the current flight routes. For the interview, he remembered to mention the upper deck where the cockpit and first-class lounge were located. One day when he was feeling reckless he would tell an interviewer that it had a fireplace and pool. They had departed San Francisco thirty-nine minutes late because of a minor leak in the number-three hydraulic system. Terri O'Neil picked up the tray, left the galley, and walked the short distance to the circular staircase. She could see from the shadow that someone in the cockpit had leaned up against the door's tiny section of one-way glass to see who had knocked.Flight 52 had long left behind any features that mapmakers could put on a chart. Stuart had spouted the advertising hype whenever he couldn't think of anything else to say. Slightly faster than the rotational velocity of the earth. While the mechanics changed the bad valve, Captain Stuart and his flight crew spent the delay time reviewing their computer flight profile. She waited at the base of the stairs while an elderly, well-dressed woman worked her way down. Carl Fessler unlocked the door for her, and O'Neil walked into the cockpit.Stuart had been called in to speak to the Chief Pilot about his candor. The usual mid-flight routines had laid their blue veil over the crew. The doldrums, as they were called by seamen--but this ship was not becalmed as a ship caught in the doldrums. Mc Vary picked up the ship's interphone and pushed the call button. Of the three of them on the flight deck, only Stuart remembered when everything they ate was served on real china.It was ripping along at close to the velocity of a bullet. well, you have ten left to wonder about." He laughed again, then glanced at Captain Stuart to read his mood. Flight attendants Sharon Crandall and Terri O'Neil were in the first-class galley in the main cabin below when the light blinked. After a brief exchange with Mc Vary, she hung up and turned to Sharon Crandall. It's a wonder they don't turn brown with all they drink." "They're just bored," said Crandall. Walking all the way upstairs every time the cockpit crew needs a diversion is no fun." O'Neil took out a dish of pastry and poured three coffees. The utensils then were silver and the food was a little less plastic as well.The Straton 797 maintained a steady Mach-cruise component of 1.8--930 miles per hour. Strands of "As Time Goes By" floated down to O'Neil over the normal in-flight noises.
The triple inertial navigation sets with satellite updating all agreed that Flight 52 was progressing precisely according to plan. O'Neil forced a smile and balanced the tray of coffees and pastry against the handrail. With each step the singing of the more gregarious passengers got louder.
Across seven time zones and the International Date Line in less than a working man's day. He had honestly explained the technical problems of supersonic flight at 62,000 feet, like the subtle effects of ozone poisoning and the periodic increases in radiation from sunspots. Behind Mc Vary, Fessler was typing into a portable computer--an electronic equivalent of a ship's log--with backup data from the instrument panel. Captain Stuart had waited for the coffee and pastry as though it were a special event--a milestone along a straight desert highway.
The interviewer had latched on to some of his points, exaggerated others, and had written an article that would have scared the hell out of a Shuttle astronaut. Mc Vary had returned to staring blankly ahead, his mind, no doubt, on personal matters. Coffee and a pastry." "Coffee for me," Fessler said. He ate the pastry slowly, then sat back to sip at his coffee.
"Wrong map, Dan." He didn't care for cockpit humor. As usual, the interviewer had been more interested in the Straton than in him, but he'd become accustomed to that. The Straton 797 was not like the old British/French Concorde. She wished the airline would go back to the old-fashioned lounge instead of the aerial nightclub. She could not recall if his name was Hogan or Grogan. She edged her way around half-a-dozen passengers, across the heavily carpeted lounge, and toward the cockpit.
He unfolded the chart for today's mid-Pacific high-altitude navigation routes and laid it on his lap, studying it slowly with the motions of a man who had more time than duties. It climbed to the same altitude the Concorde did, but it flew a little slower. Armed with some aerodynamic breakthroughs of the '90s, the Straton engineers had aimed at less speed and more size. The aircraft held 40 first-class and 285 tourist-class passengers. With the tray balanced in her hands, she tapped against the fiberglass door with the toe of her shoe.
Carl Fessler tapped his pencil on the digital readout of the Total Airfram Temperature gauge. The fourth being in the cockpit--the autopilot--continued to maintain the 797's heading and altitude. It was becoming apparent to Stuart that the mysterious missile was not on a collision course with the Straton. Henning's blue civilian suit stood out among the officers and men dressed in tropical tans.