Lords of Being
Chapter 12: How Much is that Airplane in the Window?
Glass has one of his bots set up an account at one of his favorite banks in the Cayman Islands. He tells Mabel how to transfer the funds she's contributing towards the purchase of the plane. Between them they've come up with $800,000, which should be sufficient for a down payment. Hellgrammite has set up a second account in Switzerland, which is the one we'll use to purchase the plane.
Ah yes. The purchase. Glass calls the broker for the craft he picked out last night, who answers, “This is James Crane at the Plane Exchange. How may I help you?”
“Hello Mr. Crane. My name is Bob Carlton. I left a message for you yesterday. I was interested in the BAC 1-11 you have listed in Ames, Iowa?”
The voice on the other end replies, “Oh yes, the Wolfram jet.[Note] Very good. Would you like to take a look at it?”
“Yes, I'd appreciate it. My pilot and I could come by this afternoon.”
“Certainly sir. Shall we say 2:00? I'll meet you at Gate 27 at the municipal airport.”
“That would be quite good.”
After hanging up, Glass calls Captain Barron and passes on the time and place, and asks him to meet us in the parking lot a good 15 minutes before the appointed time.
It's a bright sunny afternoon in Iowa at 1:40 as we pull into the parking lot at the municipal airport. Captain Barron is waiting by his car as the RV pulls up.
Glass hops out and calls, “Captain Barron! Thank you for meeting us on such short notice. Could you please come over towards the RV for a moment?” Once the Captain comes closer, Glass continues in a quieter tone, “As I mentioned yesterday, some our activities are going to have to be discreet. For the purposes of purchasing the airplane, my name is Robert Carlton.”
“Very good sir. Who would you like me to be?”
“It would probably be best for you to be yourself. That will draw the least attention.”
We all troop into the airport. To say nothing of the dog. At gate 27 there's a man who just knows that this mob must be the people who called wanting to buy a jet. Perhaps they want to leave the country quickly. He calls out, “Mr Carlton?”
Glass responds, “Yes, I'm Bob Carlton, of Tao Associates. You must by James Crane.” Captain Barron doesn't even blink at “Tao Associates.”
Crane holds out his hand, “It's good to meet you. Please follow me.” We go out onto the tarmac to a waiting bus, which takes us to a hanger, containing the jet. There's a stairway leading to the forward cabin door. Captain Barron wastes no time and goes directly to the cockpit, where he pulls out the service log and starts reviewing it.
On the other hand, the rest of us are civilians. Crane shows us the cabin. Pointing out the wet bar, the living room, the tasteful, gently used upholstery, the price, and tactfully, the payment schedule. He drops hints that the schedule can be negotiated.
Glass asks, “The hush kits have been installed recently?”
“Oh yes. They were updated 5 years ago.” He quotes specs and the decibel range for
them. For most of us, they might have well been speaking Martian. Glass nods, as if he understands what Crane is talking about. Perhaps he does.
Captain Barron is ranging around, opening service panels and inspecting to make sure that things have been kept up to snuff.
Crane attempts to make more small talk with Mabel, “Will you be traveling with your pet, m'am?”
“Yes, Hookie will be accompanying us.”
Crane is showing them around the kitchenette, when Glass asks to see the cargo hold. They make their way aft, picking up Captain Barron and Hellgrammite on the way. The cargo hold can be accessed from the rear of the plane. It's low, but that shouldn't be a problem for Hellgrammite's clanks or Glass's menagerie.
While Hellgrammite and Glass measure the hold and consider whose works get which areas, Captain Barron inspects it for corrosion and signs of stress. Once he's completed his inspection, Captain Barron comes over to Glass and sums up his assessment, “Looks good.”
“Hush kits okay?”
“For not very much more, they can be updated, but these will do.”
“Flying to Florida for a refit shouldn't be a problem?”
“That should be a milk run.”
“Good. We need to be moving soon.”
“I got that feeling at lunch. I've got my overnight bag in the car.”
Neville lies down and checks out the couch. It's quite comfy. Neville is looking around idly when he sees a blob plastered against the window. It looks like the sample. Asiras. He calls over Claude, who's the closest. Claude comes over in time to see the blob sublimate. Neville looks confused, and Claude examines him. The blob has returned to its container.
Returning to the main cabin with Captain Barron and Hellgrammite, Glass sits down at one of the cabin's tables to dicker with Crane about the price, down payment and payment schedule. All of that practice valuing Valley startups must have helped, because he negotiates a very good price and payment schedule. Crane excuses himself to go draw up the necessary papers.
Once the broker has left, Captain Barron asks, “How immediate is 'soon'?”
“You had suggested that you could arrange for us to leave tomorrow?”
“Yes. I'll need papers filed. And who's the copilot?”
“As it turns out, it would appear that we need to get one. Can you recommend anyone?”
“You wanted to go to Florida for a refit? I can get you that far on my own. However, further will require a copilot. I'll give it some thought. Where exactly were you planning to have the work done?”
“Sun Equipment and Engineering in Fort Lauderdale. I've dealt with them in the past. Give me a list of anything you'll need modified or updated.”
Captain Barron excuses himself to go to the cockpit to start calculating how much fuel he'll need for the flight to Florida.
Glass goes to where Hellgrammite is investigating some of the service panels, “If the plane is going to become our mobile headquarters, what were you planning to do with your vehicle?”
Hellgrammite pulls his head out of the hatch and replies, “I was going to leave the RV in long-term parking.”
“The plane can't leave for Florida for another 24 hours. The RV could meet us there.”
Rosamund adds, “We wanted to get Neville out of the area, so there are lots of reasons for most of us to leave in the RV immediately.”
There's a bit of additional discussion, but it's generally agreed that this is an excellent plan by the time that Crane returns with the paperwork. Glass signs the documents and arranges for an EFT from Hellgrammite's Swiss bank for the down payment. Crane shakes everyone's hands, and departs smiling. Unless there's an unforeseen problem, the aircraft is now ours.
Captain Barron leaves with Crane to arrange for the plane's return to service. Shortly, technicians arrive to start servicing the plane. The group leaves Captain Barron to supervise and goes back to the RV. Nobody notices that Claude stayed on the plane, staring at the ceiling of the craft.
As Rosamund, Zabeth and Neville climb into the RV, Glass tells Neville to keep his phone with him at all times. Zabeth makes her way forward to the driver's seat and guides the RV out of the lot, heading towards the highway and Fort Lauderdale. Just after she merges into the afternoon traffic, the windshield rings. It's Glass. He'll leave the line open. Let him know if we need anything.
Glass, Mabel, Hookie and Hellgrammite return to the hanger to find service personnel swarming over the plane under the direction of Captain Barron. They retreat to the relative quiet of the cabin to find that Claude is examining the electrical system with an eye to doing something spectacular to the lighting. Glass settles himself on a couch in the forward cabin, pulls out what looks like a pen, and begins doodling on the glass cabin divider. Hellgrammite wanders about the cabin mentally listing the modifications he's planning to make once all of the humans have left. Mabel and Hookie are inspecting the craft for potential dog bed locations. Hookie eventually selects a spot under one of the couches, circles the spot three times, and then curls up for a nap.
Once Hookie is settled, Mabel starts chewing on the problem of how to finance the remainder of the plane. While there's a month until the next payment is due, she's exhausted all of her available funds, as has Hellgrammite. Each of them (and Rosamund and Zabeth) can draw a $50,000 annual stipend from the Exchequer, but the next pot of money won't be available for a while and they all have prior commitments in addition to paying for the aircraft. Zabeth supports her art gallery in Paris, for instance, and Rosamund buys up stretches of rainforest; that doesn't leave a lot of liquid capital.
Walking to the divider where Glass is doodling, Mabel describes the problem to him. She explains that she'll need to contact the Courtiers who control the Exchequer; Greta Holtz, of Order, in Switzerland or Leong Moon, of Chaos, in Hong Kong. Glass suggests that we should avoid any additional Courtier contacts. However, we've already contacted Lady Diamond and Professor Ragnison. Perhaps they can help us.
Pulling out his phone, Glass calls Lady Diamond, who answers, “Hello Sylvester.”
“Hello Lady Diamond. As was suggested, we are about to travel. Acquisition of said transportation is drawing on my funds. I was wondering if you could do me two favors.”
“First, I've used funds that I need elsewhere to purchase the transportation. I was wondering if you could help me replenish my funds.”
“Second, I was hoping to limit our contacts. I've got Mabel here and was wondering if you could contact Ragnison for her.”
“Mr. Ragnison is here, as a matter of fact. If Miss Anson would like I can simply hand the phone to him.”
Glass clicks the speakerphone button and hands the phone to Mabel who says, “Hello David. As you may have heard, we're stretching ourselves financially. Beyond our capacity, in fact. We'll need extra funds from the Exchequer.”
Ragnison replies, “Can you tell me a little more about the purchase? I'll need to justify the extra funds to the exchequers.”
“We're going to need rapid transport, so we bought a plane.”
“That shouldn't be a problem. The exchequers are collaborationists. This means the loyalists aren't going to be as well financed.”
Glass says, “I've been able arrange a shell company for the financial aspects, and we have a pilot to cover the technical aspects. But if we have to leave the country, we may need help.”
Mabel adds, “And we'll need a copilot”
Diamond responds, “I may be able to help there too. How much does your pilot know?”
Glass replies, “He knows that his is a clandestine operation. He's reapplied for his government clearances.”
“Government clearance. How quaint. Where are you to be found?”
“Today we're in Ames, tomorrow we'll be in Florida. But you can always reach me on my phone.”
Ragnison replies, “Very good. I will contact Greta and Moon discreetly. They're very adroit at covert fund transfers.”
“Excellent. I'll text you an account number as soon as we're off.”
After a few additional pleasantries, they disconnect. Mabel mentally checks off that problem. Before she can start her next task, Captain Barron enters the cabin. “We're making good progress. If you want, I can keep things going all night.”
Glass responds, “The sooner we leave, the better.” He stands and gestures at the open aircraft hatch, “Could we go for a walk?”
Barron replies, “Sure.” And follows the other man down the stairs and into the dusk outside the hanger.
They walk a bit away from the hanger to where they can see anyone nearby in any direction and the sound of arriving and departing aircraft should prevent any eavesdropping. Just loudly to be heard over the noise, Glass says, “Mr. Neville, our civilian contractor, is rather important. He's protecting some confidential materials for us. And there's a certain amount of risk in this. The party being separated makes me nervous. The sooner we can be reunited, the better.”
Captain Barron nods his head, “I was wondering about that. I will do what I can. Just let get my flight bag and put my car in long-term parking and I'll start cracking the whip.”
Glass continues, “If you want to take a nap this evening, the aft cabin will be quietest. Part of the refit will be the installation of an extensive electronics package. Jonathan and I will be overseeing that. We're planning to spend this evening to take the necessary measurements. The forward communications closet is of most interest to us. We're also planning to stay with the plane during the refit. We're used to getting by on very little sleep if necessary.”
The two return to the hanger.
At 7PM, Mabel and Hellgrammite look at each other. They can both feel a blockage, but they're too exhausted from the efforts in York to do anything about it. They look at the two Elemental Knights, who don't seem to feel anything out of the ordinary. Mabel asks, “Which way is the blockage?”
Claude and Glass look at her, confused. Claude asks, “What blockage? I don't feel anything wrong.”
Glass suggests, “Perhaps we only feel the new-style blockages. We were never aware of them before The Breakdown.” He pulls out his phone and calls the RV, “Did you feel the…”
Zabeth interrupts, “Yeah, it fixed itself.”
“Yes, I think it must been an old-style one. We never felt those.”
“So how goes the provisioning?”
“Well. We've got a crew working to get us flight worthy.”
“When do you think you'll get to Florida?”
“Some time tomorrow night.”
After a bit more chit-chat, Zabeth concentrates on driving, Glass on his doodling.
Once the last of the provisioning crew has left, Glass tears apart the PA system and rebuids it as a global communications system. His Knowledge Navigator is a key component, and with it undocked, there's little to indicate that the system has been modified. Hellgrammite spends the night planning out the modifications he'll be making. They're getting more elaborate with each passing hour. Mabel fills a page with lists of things to be done, color coded by urgency and who needs to do which task.
As the RV nears the Florida state line, just before dawn, Zabeth notices that there is a motorcycle that has been pacing the RV for quite some time.
Last Updated: Apr 4, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved