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''In Light of Recent Events''

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  • ''In Light of Recent Events''

    The speaker in the cockpit buzzed and crackled. Phonetic letters tumbled out in urgent interrogation. Jerry wriggled his skinny bottom deeper into the pilot's seat and drummed his fingers on the throttle control.

    'Turn that bloody thing off, Una. Please'

    His co-pilot blinked and ran nervous fingers through her short chestnut hair. She reached up and killed the noise with a flick.

    'There'

    'Cheers', Jerry sighed and put the Concorde into a shallow bank over the Thames Estuary. A luminous grey haze melted the horizon in all directions, but the silver meandering of the river was an easy aid to navigation. He sniffed, rubbed his nose on his gold-ringed sleeve and levelled off, heading west.

    'Not far now', he grinned happily.

    Una Persson released her harness. She felt her body trembling, and had to admit that she was terrified. Standing up awkwardly in the cramped cockpit, she shuffled over to the armoured bulkhead door and pressed her ear against the cold metal. Frantic cries filtered through, and she could just sense the manic drumming and thumping as the door was kicked and punched by the trapped Celebrity passengers. Individual phrases penetrated the barrier; tinny words. Toy voices recited a cycle of mantric phrases.

    '...Get me out of here!'

    'Because I'm worth it!'

    'Look at meeee!'

    Una could distinguish one strident voice that sounded a bit like Janet Street-Porter, but the others were too muffled to identify. She shook her head sadly and moved over to the port window.

    'They've not quietened down'

    'They will soon!' laughed Jerry. He was obviously enjoying himself. He put the Concorde's stilleto nose into a shallow descent over the Thames Barrier.

    'I'm not sure they all deserve this, Jerry', Una spoke with her back to him.

    'That doesn't sound like you'

    'Perhaps I don't feel like me'. She was hostile. She felt uncharacteristically self-pitying.

    'All the more reason to do it, then. We won't get out any other way now', Jerry did a quick scan of the instruments. He was pleased to see they still had more than half their full fuel load aboard. 'You left it too late. As usual'

    'So did you'

    'Ah! I was dozing!'

    'You're only doing this for show'

    'I'm making a statement'

    'A bloody mess'

    'A bloody messy statement!' He was in high spirits. His pale face creased in mirth and his rather hurriedly-grown moustache twitched with excitement. He had not even bothered to remove his captain's peaked cap. It fell rakishly over one eye; he always liked to look the part.

    'They're not all that bad. I've worked with some of them. They...' Una felt guilt rising like bilious indigestion. The personal equation. She hadn't expected it to affect her this much.

    'It could be worse. At least BA decided to put this lot on the last flight. What if it had been terminally-ill orphans? Or deserving refugees? Huh? Bloody comic irony, that's what this is'

    'I still...'

    'Look. I gave Philip Pullman the last parachute...'. He was exasperated, then suddenly thoughtful. 'Hope he didn't get too wet', he mumbled.

    'Jerry...

    'Oh, give it a rest, will you?'

    She sat down, sulkily. The airliner drew level with Greenwich. Their descent had brought the buildings lining the river into clear view. Una distractedly watched the Blair Mausoleum slip by under the port wing, its decaying dome like a mouldering Big Top. She found the sight infinitely depressing.

    'Now then' Jerry became businesslike. The shadowy silhouette of Docklands and The City loomed, dead on the nose.

    'No sign of interceptors' Una tried to smoothe the atmosphere. It was, after all, their last few minutes together. For a while, anyway.

    'That'll be Channel 5', Jerry grinned again, 'You know they carry a lot of weight with the military these days. It'll make good telly'.

    A million windows scintillated gently in the watery sun as the Concorde lined up with the mountainous cluster of skyscrapers. Una felt her heart beat faster and her body grew uncomfortably warm.

    'Which one are you going for?' she murmured through drying lips.

    Jerry bounced gently in his seat like an excited child. He bit his lip and considered the selection towering up ahead. He'd always hated the hideous, Lego-block lump of Canary Wharf, with its silly pinnacle light flashing; a stupid, cubist Christmas tree. Just as bad was the aquarium-like Nat West building. Blue glass and bent neon pipes. Bladerunner designed by auditors. Both were tempting.

    But his eyes were drawn inexorably to the fusiform, organic spiral that now dominated the centre. It looked like a mighty Shutte-Lanz airship ploughing into the midst of the towers, shot-down over the city and held, vertical, in the frozen second before destruction. For the briefest moment, Jerry felt a surge of recognition. He blinked rapidly.

    'Leefe...?'

    'Leave?' Una frowned, 'Maybe...?'

    'Mathy?'

    'What?'

    He rubbed the bridge of his nose. The cityscape swam back into focus. He made up his mind.

    'Sorry, Norman'

    The whine of the Olympus engines rose to a scream as he opened the throttles.

    Una, cold-knuckled, gripped the armrests of her seat. The gleaming cone expanded, filling her vision.

    She closed her eyes.

  • #2
    I just thought I ought to point out that this little vignette evolved out of what was originally intended to be a posting about the recently 'foiled' terrorist plot to fly an aircraft into Canary Wharfe (I know it's a story, and should be in the 'writers' forum but I wrote it 'online' and didn't know how to move it!). The authorities' caginess about details and timing led me to suspect that a temporal adventurer might have been involved and...well, I was still upset by the end of supersonic passenger travel, and one thing led to another...

    I incorporated a cabin-load of celebrities because (1) I was still irritated by the fact that Concorde's final flight was a beano for the wealthy and well-known, rather than a treat for the more 'deserving' ( I feel BA missed a PR trick, there) and: (2) What better way to achieve the enduring fame they so blatently seek than this? I still primarily blame Janet S-P's instrumental role in the creation of 'Yoof TV' for the utter banality and crapness of current children's and teenagers' telly (although JSP's friends & family please note the character only 'sounds a bit like' her; it isn't her really. Hahaha!). So there.

    'Leefe' refers (of course) to William Leefe-Robinson, who famously shot down a Shutte-Lanz airship (the SL11) at Cuffley, and who died of pneumonia after the War. Heinrich Mathy was a leading airship captain who perished when his Zeppelin was also downed in flames over Potter's Bar. A feeble attempt to be clever.

    Foster's 'Gherkin' looks a lot more like a Shutte-Lanz airship than it does a pickle...

    Just thought I'd make it all clear....I'm not very busy today... :)

    And, yes, I know parachuting out of a Concorde would be tricky. It was dramatic licence...

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    • #4
      PS I travelled on Concord at the beginning, when it was still cheapish, because they were trying to get people to go on the plane, and travelled on it at the end when it came for a couple of hundred dollars extra if you took the QE2 one way. I fulfilled my ambition of travelling on the QE2 (actually unimpressive -- it's a crap boat, in my view), Concord and dirigibles, as well as an amphibious sea-plane and a few other cool forms of archaic transport -- and agree with you that the class of people you got on the last flights made you pray you didn't die in the same space as them. I was also privileged to travel on US trains while they were still more or less the 1930s Pullmans, while they still had massive kitchens, very spacious sleeping quarters (for a train), radio controls (which no longer worked) and ice water taps (which also didn't work any more) and before they tried to pretend they were airliners, serving prepackaged meals on trays. Great morale amongst the railroad people. Not sure it's still there. Incidentally, all the other sea crossings I made to New York were on Russian ships, which were great, though a little unseaworthy.

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      • #5
        Any dog sleds? Any bicycles with the giant front wheel? Any unusual cars?
        The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

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        • #6
          Groovy transport experiences, Mike! Unfortunately I've missed out on Concord (I was spelling it all frenchified, wasn't I?) although my Gran had a filght on it. In fact, she died the morning before I wrote the odd little piece above - perhaps that explains the darker edge to it (it's been bugging me, that - do you ever get that feeling when you've created something and it scares you a bit? Yeah, like that). My Nan had an unbelievably caustic sense of merciless humour (target - almost everyone. Example: Neighbour parks in front of (non-car-owning) Nan's house; she beats car's windscreen with stick and states quite loudly 'I hope they get cancer!'. Wonder where I get it from...). But I digress...

          Apart from autogyros, I think one of my fave transport experiences was on the great Soviet trains - the big (sually green) ones on the Moscow-Saratiov line and the Trans-Siberian. HUUUGE sleeper compartments with a big silver samovar in the corner of each corridor coach - constant hot water & tea! Mind you, my first EVER airliner flight was on an Aeroflot Tupolev. The seat becoming detached from the floor was the start. The loss of one engine over Irkutsk was engaging. The steroid-fed super-hardened in-flight chicken meal (imagine the sound of 180 snapping plastic forks) was the highlight.
          Ping!

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          • #7
            Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
            PS I travelled on Concord at the beginning, when it was still cheapish, because they were trying to get people to go on the plane, ...
            Just because you're talking about it and because I've never really had the chance to boast about it before, my paternal grandfather helped design Concorde, he worked for Rolls-Royce in Bristol. So I guess that would mean he was involved with the engines (right?)
            You see, it's... it's no good, Montag. We've all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal.

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            • #8
              Shame we couldn't have got one of the engines and had him autograph it.
              I never made it to the Trans-Siberian Express and haven't done a full trip on the Orient Express, either. I had planned to go to Japan via Russia some years ago but then the deal fell through and I never made it.

              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
              The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
              Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
              The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
              Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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              • #9
                I guess your grandpa worked at Filton, Guv, so it probably was engines - I can remember flying in De Havilland Chipmunks from there as an air cadet in the early 'eighties and listening to the howls and roars from the turbojet testing jigs across the apron. Scary!

                The funniest thing about the Trans-Siberian was the gauge change at the Sino-mongolian border; the whole train gets wheeled into an immense shed; the carriages are lifted up (with passengers) on mighty cranes; the bogies are changed by a swarm of female workers in classical Maoist green padded two-piece outfits; then train is dropped back onto wheels and proceeds! Very like being in a Leningrad tank factory, or in a Bond movie. Without the duff dialogue. Couldn't see any fluffy white cats, either.

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