Note to readers: The remaining chapters of this book will only be posted in excerpt form. To obtain a copy of the complete chapter, please request one by completing the Contact Andrew Bowers form.
The cockpit vibrations intensified, my organs jiggling inside their membranes, the top half of New York City’s flickering skyline obscured by heavy cloud sinking down in an evening sky. “We got a storm off Rockaway just now,” announced JFK tower in the same folksy voice I used to calm passengers whose mounting anxiety over being crammed into a flying metal tube with strangers was, so to speak, well-grounded. “Runway 31L cleared to land. Previous arrival reported a pretty smooth ride all the way down final.”
“Right,” I said, eying the lightning flaring over the black swathe of ocean to the south of the airport like a naval battle had just gotten underway there. What was it Gary had said at this point? Something lyrical about the “edge of the rain” moving in over Jamaica Bay.
“AA 759, wind now 120 at 23.”
“I got this,” I said, just as the windshield was thumped by a wall of water, the giant invisible hand of an Old Testament god pressing down on the nose of the plane. “Okay, here come the wipers. 15 knots right there. Plus 25 now.”
“Wind shear alert, northeast boundary winds 195 at 15.”
“Fuck,” I said, bursting through the belly of cloud, Runway 31L right there rushing up. Too fast. Headfirst… the cold hard vestibule floor, Melanie falling… tangled up in her own little feet… falling… ‘Da-da… da-da… da-da…’ Ally lunging…
“Terrain,” remarked the GPWS twice in quick succession and then, abandoning English, commenced its hysterical whooping, the red emergency light strobing around the cockpit. Impossible to land at this angle.
“Taking it around! On the go to the left. Max power! Max!”
“AA 759, understand you’re on the go, fly runway heading. Climb and maintain 3,000.”
“Flaps to 15. Down, get down, goddamn it!”
“AA 759, understand you’re turning left?”
Cluster of houses listing heavily over the wing tip, their windows glowing bedtime story yellow through the night and the rain.
Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!
“Power! Power!” I shouted, wrestling with the wind over the control column. It was futile and, no avoiding the houses now, let it go.
“Simulation complete. Descent time: 17 minutes and 52 seconds,” said the less chirpy, slightly more judgmental digital voice of the new simulator as I slumped back and marveled at how realistic the devastation outside the smashed windshield was. The blackened personal effects and children’s toys interspersed in the burning debris a nice touch to capture the magnitude of the calamity. “Landing unsuccessful,” it added dully.
“Gee, I hadn’t noticed.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“I’m surprised you don’t pipe in the smell of roasting flesh just to dispel any lingering doubts about the outcome here.”
The old simulator would just keep repeating “I’m not sure I understand” when I talked to it like this but this one was keen to move me along, “Shall I relaunch AA 759?”
“You could sour the dreams of an entire generation of aspiring young pilots, if you had half a mind for it. Which I guess you don’t.”
“I can modify the severity of the microburst to improve your chances of a successful landing,” it said, and I smiled at the note of sarcasm I could hear creeping in, a subtle feminine brand couched in the language of assistance but still somehow allusive to erectile dysfunction. It was only a matter of time before I irritated a computer Ally would be quick to point out, and then I would have said, “I didn’t even call it a cocksucker,” which in turn would have spurred me to test the simulator’s resilience to abuse in both its male and female iterations.
But Ally wasn’t here and I was a changed man (at least I think I was) and instead said, “No thank you, my flower,” cheerily plagiarizing Dr. Constantinescu’s ludicrous term of endearment, even pronouncing it “flowa” in that pseudo British accent of his, so persuasive had his personality been in the end, his quirks invited emulation. “That would be cheating. And besides, I’m very satisfied with the result.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” said the simulator, simply giving up on me now and reverting to the software’s old protocol for responding to the confounding vagaries of human behavior (“your behavior”, Ally would interject here).
“Back to the drawing board for the AI dweebs,” I said.
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Relaunch AA 759,” I said, gripping the control column with all the philosophical determination of a rodeo cowboy taking the reins of a bronco seething in its pen. “No modifications. Let’s see if I can put this thing down anywhere near the runway this time.”
“Launching AA 759. You have yourself a real nice landing now,” said the simulator and, as the grim faces of Midtown Manhattan’s towers popped up to the right, buried alive in that insidious cloud, a deep well of darkness directly ahead, I figured the AI dweebs maybe didn’t have so much work cut out for them after all.
To be continued…
*Previous chapters of The Angle of Attack are available at: http://bit.ly/2u7rqcL
© Andrew Bowers and Requiem for the Damned (The Angle of Attack: Chapter 22), 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew Bowers and Requiem for the Damned, 2020 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.