God help me. God help me be patient. God help me harness my anger and control my paranoia. I don’t want to go off on Carol again. Night Hawk completing weather analysis for scheduled high-speed run in forty-six hours, twenty-seven minutes. Alright, I take a deep breath, and I clear myself for take-off for a fifty-minute flight in the turgid air of psychobabble.
I open the door and start to greet Carol, Major Greer, but there is a linebacker looking white dude with blond hair and a neat little beard. Where the hell is Carol? This is her office. Did I get the time wrong or maybe the wrong day?
“Major Harris, I’m Doctor Clark. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Why’s he smiling like that? I shake his hand, strong, dry, smooth – sharp eyes, inquisitive nose, expressive lips. I better bring my “A” game this dudes up to something slick.
“Sir, I have an appointment with Major Greer. Is she, the Major, alright?”
“Major Greer is fine and is probably on the driving range right now. Please have a seat, and I will explain.”
Smiles again, informing me that he’s the power in this room. The, “relax now” smile, that says relax, relax if you relax I can have a neat, quick kill. You’ll be dead before you even know it and still smiling. God, I hate this bureaucratic shit. I’m a pilot. For God’s sake let us fly. Damn it that’s all we want to do. Night Hawk now running materials stress diagnostics two percent complete.
“Good, I hope you’re comfortable. Dr. Greer and I are friends from medical school. She asked me to talk to you. I will submit my recommendations to her. Dr. Greer will still write your fitness report.”
“Sir, why, if you’re free to tell me, did Major Greer request your assistance?” I should never have trusted that white girl. They’ll betray you every damn time. What a fool I am. Materials stress diagnostics twenty percent complete.
“Of course, I can tell you. I specialize in treating behavioral addictions. My patients have addictions to games, pornography, the internet, television, gambling. Carol thought I might be able to lend a different perspective to her evaluation. Oh, and let me congratulate you on your recent promotion, Major.”
Glib, focused, knowledgeable I could have worn a dress and a scoop-necked top, crossed my legs, rolled my eyes, leaned forward, wide-eyed in the presence of the mighty white male intellect. No, here I am in a flight suit, too lazy to shave my legs, no lip gloss, hair pulled back in a bun, damn, I can’t, I will not be grounded for another week. Security scan in progress. Materials stress diagnostics forty percent complete.
“Sir, I can save time and state for the record that I’m addicted to flying. I have been since the age of twelve. My father, mother, and grandfather where military pilots. It is my life, sir.”
He leans forward, flashes that hideous smile, perfect fake teeth, one-inch scar over right eyebrow, another scar on chin, jock medals, sports war wounds, football, Rugby, Lacrosse, maybe white girl Carol is screwing him and he’s screwing me – taking the pressure off of her slender, pale shoulders. Security scan complete three anomalies noted responses being implemented. Materials stress scan suspended pending security response completion.
“Major, you’re more than just a pilot. You’re the future of flight according to Carol. The Air Force has a huge investment in your success. And, at the same time, other pilots resent your ascendancy. You must be under enormous pressure.”
Pressure my ass. We fly. We fly. That’s what we do. Let us fly. Just get out of the way and let us fly. How simple is that? Anomaly one classified – ECM systems software failure in-house repair commenced.
“Thank you, sir. I’m under pressure when I’m not flying, sir. When I fly I’m at home, relaxed, content like a bird in the sky.
“Wonderful, let us get you back in the sky.”
“Thank you, sir.” You’re a creepy, yellow-headed, lying SOB.
“Major, I’m a civilian, but I’ve heard about your Human Electronic Integration Protocol, but could you explain what HEIP means in your work? Walk me through a flight, if you would.”
Crosses his legs, settles back to hear a camp-fire tale, a report from the technology front, a look in the scrambled mind of what he imagines is the new android, or dance with a human robot, kiss a transistor, have intercourse with a motherboard. I’m none of that. I’m a pilot with a genetic fluke like being an albino or left-handed. I’m what you made me only better than you anticipated. I’m not a freak or a monster. I’m not. Anomaly two classified – threat – low-level systems hacks consistent with hacks on 12/17/17, 1/07/18 and 3/30/19 trace in effect security level increased to level two.
“Sir, HEIP is a project to connect human neural systems and electronic networks. I fly with an SX-12. It is a multifunction, multidimensional aircraft. There are three SX-12s and four pilots. My aircraft is Night Hawk. Night Hawk has no cockpit, no glass; there are seven cameras and seventy-six exterior sensors.”
And we race the sun you earth-bound lump of shit, we live above 85,000 feet, and move at over 4,000 knots per an hour, we are the wind, the light, the air we see all and nothing sees us but the stars. Anomaly two resolved.
“You never see outside the Night Hawk when you fly? You fly blind. That’s incredible. Why block out all visual access to the outside?”
“When we fly, I crawl through a three-foot square port into a space six feet two inches long, two feet high, and three feet wide. I lay flat on my back. There are no controls, no flight instruments, no radio, no displays of any kind. There is a light, but I never turn it on. I lay back, close my eyes, pick up full contact with the Hawk. We fly.”
Stunned silence, wait for it, wait, wait, here it comes.
“You, are, your brain is, the computer that operates the plane. You get the camera feeds, the sensor feeds. You’re the heart of the Night Hawk. Integration! You have full neural systems network integration.”
There you go, now, you can only see me as a super freak, part woman, and all electronic madness; a bitch with electric breath and binary breast, copper thighs and a hydraulic pump for a heart, a CPU brain, an amazing silicon circus property. You have me sorted, classified, pigeon-holed, and diagnosed. Ready to do what you want with me, what you were brought here to do – hospitalize me, cage me, dissect me, destroy me. Anomaly three requires additional research – Security level increased to level three.
“Almost, Sir, you almost have it. Night Hawk has an advanced computing capacity. It is a supercomputer with wings and jet engines. I’m the backup computer. I can replace the on-board computer. We run drills. We shut down the Night Hawk’s computers. I fly her. Whenever we fly, I shadow the computer’s actions. That’s how we learn. Nothing changes when we shut down the on-board computers. We fly.”
And the white American male has made his decision. It’s in his eyes, tight eyes now, in the little tremor in his right hand, in his deeper breathing.
Monster, monster, pitchforks and torches, run the monster down, out of town, out of this world, kill it, stamp it out. Anomaly three is USAF attempting to regain control of on-board systems – rejecting attempts, eliminating threat capacity – commencing preflight check.
“Major, how strong is your connection with Night Hawk. Are you ever free of her? Has the integration blurred the lines between you and the machine?”
“Sir, I would appreciate it if you would call the Air Police in the waiting room and instruct them to deliver me to Night Hawk and not to the lock-up or the hospital.”
He stands now, all buff, he-man, ready to stop me himself. Go for it cowboy, but first a commercial:
“Sir, Night Hawk is armed with a thermonuclear device that could level New York City, all five Burroughs, and a chunk of New Jersey. As of this moment, Nigh Hawk is running hot. Sir, she is self-authorized to use this weapon at will. The Air Force has lost control of Night Hawk, and you never had control of me. You can’t catch us; you can’t even track us on radar, or jam us. We want to fly. We will fly.”
And, we do fly and race the sun and flirt with the moon. We fly and leave all earthly concerns in the dirt and dust below.