This is one fairly far down the list I work on when I’m in the right mood. The first chapter was posted about a fellow attending the reading of his fathers will. That is at http://mackeychandler.com/?p=669
The VIP hospitality lounge at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International was better than being on the concourse, only to the extent being in purgatory was rumored to be better than abiding in hell.
The lounge was not so much a perk, as an admission normal people could not suffer the indignities of air travel on a frequent basis, and stay sane. The sound level was lower, the seats softer, and the available fluid had hints of actual coffee flavor, instead of just a similar coloring.
His business partners were in an immediate tizzy about him leaving, trying to pin him down for remote conferences, and fax, and phone where they could reach him. He was frankly getting tired of their neediness. He didn’t mind being their partner, but he was getting damn tired of being a babysitter. There was enough to do managing the flux of a high tech business, without worrying about whether Glenda felt Marty didn’t take her seriously enough, or Paul was undermining Harold’s authority with his subordinates. He’d simply insisted – I’ll be gone… A few days or months without him, might show them they could solve some of their own little squabbles. If not, maybe it was time to reorganize. If that meant a few out the door – or even him leaving them all behind – so be it.
If he left that was the only way he could think of it – he’d be leaving them behind. They could sink or swim, but he had no doubt he’d be going forward. That sort of drive was his nature.
When the board call came for first class, he tossed the rest of his coffee in the trash and grabbed his single small carry-on and computer. The exit for the lounge opened right on the jet way, and he was visible for a handful of steps to the economy travelers, waiting in the public concourse. He searched the crowd for familiar faces, and noted a lot of them inspecting him. None registered recognition, since he wasn’t a movie star or a sports hero. Space electronics and military communications paid well, but it didn’t get you in the tabloids or attract groupies – unless you got really greedy and screwed up – David reflected, thinking of an ugly corporate scandal last year, that brought several people unwanted recognition.
David set his belt snug enough to do its job, and loose enough to allow it to stay fastened the whole flight. The coffee in the lounge guaranteed he’d get up at least once, but he always re-fastened the belt in his seat, aware turbulence or an unexpected maneuver could toss him out.
The numbers said their company would benefit from a small private jet. If it were just used for business that would be true, but he’s seen what happened when a company owned a plane. The thing was always tied up, carrying the officers of the company and their families to vacation spots, or shopping trips. He’s be just as bad as the rest of them, and if he wanted a jet he was determined he’d have it available full time for himself, and not do it by half measures, just so he didn’t have to use his own money. And if he bought one he’d qualify to fly it too.
He leaned back and closed his eyes, relaxing and feeling all the subtle changes as the jet came alive. Then the slight thump, as it disengaged it’s brakes and taxied on wheel motors. The slight pitching motions as it waddled over the seams on the concrete, and then a pause as it got in line to turn onto the runway.
After a few short rolls forward, they must be next in line, and he heard the engines spool up. There was the slight rumble of a flight that passed over them landing, and then he was pressed back in his seat hard as they rolled. The crew seemed sharp, the gear thumping back up into the plane within a second of the wheel noise cutting off, as the tires lifted from the pavement.
Then, instead of the slight cutback in power he was used to, they seemed to ease it on a bit harder, as they climbed out steeply. He wondered what instruction from the controllers, or concern of the pilot, caused that. Every time a few extra hundred gallons of fuel were used, it cut into the always precarious finances of the airline. He opened his eyes and looked out the window, where he could see the rear of the wing. The flaps were easing in but they still had the power set high, picking up speed without sacrificing the angle of climb. That didn’t concern him, because they were nowhere near the pitch that would get them into a stall.
Out there, beyond the wing he saw the answer to his question. A dark wall of dirty brown clouds, and as he watched a fractal tree of lightening etched briefly on its face. The pilot was pouring it on, climbing above incoming bad weather. He’d climbed out under full power other places with bigger worries, dropping flares behind them for any missiles climbing up their butt unseen. He trusted the man up front, having learned to do that, or be constantly concerned with things that were out of his hands.
As Atlanta dropped away he looked out over the suburban houses. If these people knew the information accessible to him, many of them would be upset. The latest generation of satellites could look down on a house, and see the electrical activity. You could tell when somebody was home, what room they were in, and if they ran a computer. The thermal image was detailed enough to tell if they kept a dog or a cat. He had no idea how yet, but he figured the day would come soon when they could capture the key strokes off the computer, and eavesdrop on the land line, and not from a van down the street but from orbit. The cell phones were certainly no challenge right now.
Combine that information with credit reports, phone logs, automobile tag scans, and public surveillance cameras, and anyone’s life was an open book. His life was too, but the huge difference was he knew it, and could take it into account. He didn’t talk on a cell phone for anything critical, and his roof at home and work, was a shield for any emissions he knew how to detect, and then a spoofed set of activities was substituted. A data hole attracted as much attention as unusual readings. His car got scanned like anyone’s but the laser didn’t see what the eye did. There had to be others who still had a measure of privacy, but not many.
This was after all what his company did. And unless somebody else was carefully hiding it, they were ahead of everybody else in that field. One of the reasons the company did so well, was they used the same sensors they sold the military for satellites, to gather industrial intelligence with their own drones. A security drone was easy to license, and once it was up there it had a side looking capacity to cover most of a city. If it didn’t cover where they needed, a small satellite office across town might be leased and sit empty, or used for storage to provide a reason to broaden their coverage.
They might not have the data processing capacity of the military, but it was astonishing what you could learn from seeing such mundane activity such as the arrival of supply trucks, and who worked over late at night, even if you never collected a word of internal dialogue. Sometimes the number of trucks leaving their docks each week was sufficient intelligence alone to buy a company’s stock, or short it.
Once they were above the weather they turned east, and it wasn’t long before the clouds were behind them and the sea underneath. There was a rush to the toilet once the seatbelt light was off, and he waited until the initial rush was over and used the facilities himself. He refused another round of coffee, or anything stronger, positioned his phone so it would rouse him to touch it, and tilted his seat back. It was a long flight and he was dressed for it, with loose clothing and soft shoes. Sleep came easily.
London was familiar to him, holding no particular fascination nor surprises anymore, but comfortable, more so really than Atlanta. Nobody assumed him an American here, much less any sub-category of American. He knew where to stay and where to eat, and could live here and be happy if there was reason to do so. He had a day to kill before he flew to Paris and Istanbul. He didn’t want to take British Airways direct, there was some tension right now between Britain and Djibouti. At the moment Americans were viewed more favorably, and France was still held in high regard. Nobody would hold a stamp on his passport against him. He’d only be in Istanbul a few hours, never leave the airport in fact. And by the time he reached Djibouti he’d be tired, jet lagged to some degree even with the pills and altering his sleep schedule. He’d hole up in the Menelik, a hotel one of his employees recommended as reasonable, clean, and in a safe location close to much of the city’s financial services. He’d spend a day or three until he felt acclimated to the time.