Irwin Hall had a very productive meeting in Havana with a number of bankers and investment professionals from South America. None of them were interested in provoking the Giant to their north. Irwin assured them the habitat offering would be structured in a company totally divorced from any association with the System Trade Bank or other entities subject to North American sanctions.
Instead of going back to Hawaii, Irwin received private invitations to have a smaller meeting with some investors in Belgium who had complex reasons for not wanting to be seen with the South Americans with whom he’d just met. That was fine, Irwin didn’t really care about their internal squabbles and would accommodate them as long as they didn’t require him to publicly disassociate himself from one side and support the other.
Cuba had heavy traffic in hypersonic connections, which were forbidden in North America for supposedly environmental reasons. That was a big reason they’d met in Cuba, besides a lovely climate, relatively cheap accommodations compared to Singapore or Tokyo, some of the best duty-free rum and whisky in the world, and they still made well-regarded cigars even if they were subject to tobacco bans in a number of countries.
He could get a very quick flight to Brussels and probably just keep going east after. He could get a direct flight to reconnect to Hawaii that direction and lift for home. The flight to Brussels was Air France and he had one of the twelve first class seats at the front. There was only one couch to each side of the aisle in first class. The rear had one seat to a side and two to the other in two staggered sections, with the service bay for drinks and such in the middle. First class had their own services and kitchen even as short as the flight was.
The plane took off aimed south a bit to avoid the Keys and American airspace. They would build altitude and then turn north accelerating through the transition to a semi-ram engine, then shut down that engine entirely at about forty thousand meters. They would pick up enough speed from the compact rocket in the tail to go ballistic until they dropped back in the atmosphere passing off the coast of Ireland and made a long supersonic turn to the South East over the North Sea, going subsonic before crossing the coast of the Netherlands lined up to land at Brussels.
The attendant offered Irwin a mini-quiche and champagne or a freshly prepared sandwich if he was hungrier. He declined and asked for coffee. The eighteen seats in the rear had to make do with pre-mixed drinks or soda, and bag nuts or pretzels.
The coffee was served in a delicate handled-cup, but its appearance was deceiving. It was a glassy ceramic that would not shatter and produce shards that might injure someone. At least it wouldn’t if you didn’t have a hydraulic press or an anvil and heavy hammer handy.
Irwin took a sip and was pleased with it when there was a >WHAM< and the cup flew off his serving tray and splashed the coffee up the left bulkhead. The hypersonic slewed clockwise so hard it thrust Irwin’s head down against his left shoulder and then it decelerated so hard his chin went against his chest and his arms went out straight in front of him. He was belted in and the crew made sure the passengers stayed that way until they went ballistic, just in case something like this happened. The crew was not all so fortunate and several of them were injured severely. The first class seats were in pods, and the top of Irwin’s pod came down like a clamshell and locked closed. Emergency lighting from under the seat illuminated it indirectly. There were a rumbling and pitching motions, then a long hard turn to the left. “This is your Captain. We lost our starboard engine and shut both down. We are already cleared to land straight in at Miami which is easily in our glide range. I’ll announce when we are on approach. We expect an orderly exit without hazard on the ground aided by airport personnel. Well, that was interesting. Irwin never intended to, but he was going to have opportunity to test the free travel provisions of Home’s on again – off again treaty with North America. He sent a text to Jeff and Eddie, then canceled his Brussels meetings.