Surviving the Collapse Omnibus: A Tale Of Survival In A Powerless World, страница 1
Surviving the Collapse Omnibus
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Surviving The Collapse: Book 0
1. Chapter 1
Surviving the Collapse: Book 1
Surviving the Collapse: Book 1
2. Present Day
Surviving the Collapse: Book 2
Chapter 13 (Six months later)
About the Author
Surviving The Collapse: Book 0
Dozens of knobs, buttons and lights lined the roof of the Boeing 737 cockpit just inches above Captain Kate Hillman’s head. The view beyond the windshield was gloomy. The aircraft rumbled through the grey skies spitting patches of sleet, snow, and heavy winds.
“New York has a funny way of welcoming you home.” First Officer Dan Martin shook his head, keeping his hand steady on the flight stick. “My brother said it’s going to get down to ten degrees tonight.”
The headphones that both pilots wore crackled with air traffic control’s voice. “Bravo one-eight-five-six, this is tower, we’ve got a roadblock down here because of the weather.”
“Timeline for the delay?” Kate asked.
“Twenty minutes. Redirect heading to one-one-nine.”
“Copy that, tower,” Dan relayed. “Redirecting heading to one-one-nine.” The navigation screen tilted toward the new coordinates, the big bird turning slow and steady. Once adjusted, Dan looked over to Kate and raised his eyebrows. “Did you hear me? Less than—”
“Ten degrees,” Kate said, reaching for the flight plan that she had been given prior to takeoff. She flipped through the pages quickly, scanning the data. “We should have been ahead of this weather.” Kate flipped the “fasten your seatbelt” sign and then picked up the phone to address the passengers. “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats. The weather has caused a slight delay, but we’ll land as soon as possible. Thank you.”
The inside of the cockpit rumbled, and the muscles along Dan’s forearms tensed. Kate hung up and noted Dan’s white knuckles. “First storm?”
“Yeah,” Dan answered.
“Easy on the stick. She’ll do most of the work. Just keep it steady. Radar has the storm passing in a few minutes.”
Another burst of icy sleet smacked the windshield, and the jet rumbled in discontent. Kate shook her head, clicking on her radio. “Tower, this is Bravo one-eight-five-six, requesting an ascent. We’re getting tossed around pretty bad up here.”
“Copy that, Bravo. Request granted. Ascend to thirty-five thousand feet.”
“Ascending to thirty-five thousand feet,” Dan replied, pulling back on the stick.
The jet climbed higher, the nose pointed up as it broke through the worst of the clouds. Kate watched the altimeter. “Twenty-five thousand.” It ticked upward. “Thirty thousand.”
The plane jolted and tossed both Kate and Dan in their seats. The notebook in Kate’s lap crashed to the floor, and the altimeter’s gauge dropped one hundred feet in the blink of an eye. The straps over Kate’s shoulders dug deep and tight into her flesh. When the inertia of the fall ended, the warning beacon on the port engine blinked.
Kate shook off the disorientation and checked the engine status. “One is rolling back.”
Dan looked at her sharply then at the display screen.
“Two is holding.” Kate flipped channels to the control tower. “Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is Bravo one-eight-five-six. We have lost thrust on our port engine, requesting immediate emergency landing.”
“Copy that, Bravo one-eight-five-six.”
Kate took control of her stick. “My aircraft.”
“Your aircraft,” Dan said, letting go of the controls.
“Get out the QRA,” Kate said, the stick stiff in her hands.
“Bravo one-eight-five-six,” tower said. “Redirect toward LaGuardia, heading two-two-zero. Runway one is clear.”
“Heading two-two-zero. Copy on runway one.” Kate placed her right hand on the ignition key. “Restarting engine.” A twist. Nothing.
The big 737 groaned as Kate steered through the clouds, the jet struggling to maintain altitude with only one engine.
Dan scanned the Quick Response Action checklist. “Master on or off?”
Kate glanced toward the display. “Off.” She tilted the stick to the left, adjusting the aircraft to the new heading toward LaGuardia. “Gears down.”
“Gears down.” Dan reached for the lever and pulled it down. The mechanical drone of the wheels descending from the plane’s belly ended with a clank.
Kate checked the heading, altimeter, and speed. The weather provided poor visibility on approach. But she trusted the instruments to do their job, along with the coordination from air traffic control.
“Bravo one-eight-five-six, you are on course,” tower said. “Watch your speed.”
“Give me flaps,” Kate said.
“Flaps extended,” Dan echoed.
The gears in the wings ground as Dan adjusted for the landing, helping to steady the big bird on its approach.
The 737 broke through the clouds and the worst of the storm, and Kate finally had a glimpse of runway lights, and the sprawling airport and surrounding borough of Queens.
The computer’s automated alert system kicked into gear once they cleared fifteen hundred feet, lights flashing in coordination with beeps and its robotic voice. “Warning, pull up. Obstruction. Warning, pull up.”
“Two hundred feet,” Dan said, his voice shaking from the steady rumble of the aircraft.
The big jet tilted left, then right, then back to left as Kate struggled to keep it steady. She knew the storm had slicked the runway with ice and rain, so she’d have to keep the plane as level as possible to avoid a spin. She measured all the inputs, all the variables, letting the instruments help guide her path.
“Fifty feet.” Dan extended his arm to brace for landing.
The computer’s warnings blared again, and after twenty feet, it recited the elevation countdown. Kate tilted the nose up slightly just before impact, and the hulking jet’s wheels squealed and screeched onto the runway. The plane started to spin, but Kate pulled back on the thrusters, and the aircraft slowed to a crawl.
Dan exhaled, leaning back into his chair. “Nice job, Captain.”
Kate’s muscles slowly relaxed as she l
“Bravo one-eight-five-six, please taxi toward gate twenty-one. We will have emergency operations on standby.”
“Copy that, tower.”
Once docked at the gate, Kate and Dan stepped out of the cockpit and triggered another round of applause. Dan immediately pointed to Kate, and she smiled curtly but waved off the adoration. As the passengers were escorted from the plane, one by one, they offered their thanks and gratitude.
With the plane empty of passengers and crew, Kate grabbed her overnight bag, jacket, and flight cap and followed Dan through the gate.
“So what happens now?” Dan asked.
“We’ll be interviewed separately by the NTSB,” Kate answered, her pace brisk as she removed her phone and powered it on. “Then an investigation will review the cause of the engine failure. So long as there wasn’t any negligence on our part, we’ll be back in the air.”
Dan hurried ahead of her and then blocked her path. His cheeks were suddenly white. “There wasn’t any negligence, right? I-I mean, I followed protocols to the T.”
“We’ll be fine, Dan. We did everything right. So far as I could tell from the cockpit.” Kate stepped around him, and when they exited the tunnel, members of the NTSB were already there to greet them, along with a union rep and airport security.
The interview was quick, mechanical, and efficient. Kate answered the questions honestly and candidly. She offered no fault to her first officer, crew, or herself. The board members thanked her for her time, and once they were gone, the union rep pulled her aside.
“The review shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks, but until you’re cleared, you’re grounded,” he said. “I’ll contact you when we know more.”
Kate nodded and then sat in the quiet of the conference room. Alone, the moments replayed in her head. It had happened so fast, it almost felt like a dream. She’d only been through one engine failure scenario before, five years prior. It was a malfunction in the master computer caused by inclement weather. She assumed this was a similar error.
Still alone, Kate took a few slow breaths. She lifted her hand, keeping it level in midair. Despite the rush of adrenaline, it didn’t shake, steady as a rock. Repeated vibrations drummed against her thigh in her pocket, notifications of the texts and calls she missed while she was in the air.
The most recent call was from Mark, but the other ten were from her lawyer, who had also sent her a text marked urgent that simply read, “Call me.”
Kate’s stomach tightened, but she forced herself to dial. It rang twice before he answered.
“Kate, where the hell have you been? I’ve been trying to get ahold of you all morning.”
“I had a flight,” Kate answered. “What happened?”
Dave paused and then exhaled as though he were holding in his breath. “The parole hearing was moved up today. Can you make it?”
Kate hunched forward and rubbed her forehead in exasperation. “Shit. I don’t know. They still have my statement on file. Do I really have to be there?”
“It always makes a more formidable show of resolve when you’re there personally,” Dave said. “It sends a message to the parole board that he shouldn’t be let out. You—”
“All right,” Kate said. “I’ll find a way to make it up there.”
“Good. Meeting is scheduled for five. See you then.”
The call ended, and Kate collapsed backward in her chair, slouching. She glanced down at the wings still pinned on her uniform. She’d been flying for more than twenty years. She’d just managed to land a Boeing 737 with a port engine failure safely through a storm of sleet, snow, and wind. But when Kate lifted her hand again and brought it to eye level, she couldn’t keep it steady.
She grabbed her bag and left.
Terminal D was packed with tourists heading toward gates with flights to all over the world. Los Angeles, London, Miami, Toronto, Tokyo, Hawaii, Paris, Madrid, Moscow. To Kate, airports were the ultimate melting pots. Millions of people, all from different backgrounds and geographical locations, passed through them on a daily basis. And while her main route was from New York to Chicago, she’d done her fair share of travel to different parts of the world.
She missed those far-off places sometimes, but she had requested the new route personally. The fact that her family had moved eight times in the past seven years had taken its toll. An ultimatum was given, and Kate didn’t hesitate to choose her family over work. With her tenure at the airline and her excellence as a pilot, her bosses didn’t hesitate in their approval.
Just before the airport’s exit, Kate spotted the customer service desk. She weaved through the masses funneling outside and noticed the weather had cleared up. She flagged down one of the employees. A young girl came over, and when she noticed the wings on Kate’s shirt, her face lit up brightly.
“Captain! What can I do for you?”
“I normally fly into JFK, and I need to know the quickest way to get into Manhattan from here. My apartment is on the south end of Central Park.”
“Taxi will be the most comfortable, but with the weather and traffic, it’ll take you hours to get into the city.” She leaned over the counter and pointed past the doors and down the street. “So long as you don’t mind the cold, there’s a train station two blocks south. The N will get you to Grand Central. From there you can hop on an uptown train.”
Kate nodded her thanks, but before she got away, the girl called out to her.
“I’m in flight school,” she said proudly. “Got any tips?”
Kate kept walking but turned back toward the girl. “I’ll tell you what my flight instructor told me.” The electric doors opened, and cold blasted Kate’s body. “Don’t crash.” The girl laughed and flashed a thumbs-up. Kate waved back, and the electric doors closed.
Outside, Queens greeted Kate with a cold, dirty whoosh of city air. She skipped the line for taxis and zipped her coat up to her collar.
Tiny puddles of frigid water filled divots and potholes along the sidewalk and roads. Everywhere Kate looked, there were people. People walking, people driving, people running, people talking, people, people, people.
Horns blared in sporadic patterns and acted in coordination with the steady buzz of voices as the official New York City soundtrack. Up until six months ago, she never would have pictured herself living here permanently. But while the city was congested and dirty and overpopulated, there was always something to see and do.
Crates of fruit and vegetables sat out in front of a grocery, a few customers browsing the goods with skeptical eyes. Kate stopped in front of the fruit and wondered if they needed anything at home. She examined an apple and reached for her phone.
Kate scrolled through to Mark’s name when she suddenly remembered the voicemail he’d left her. She quickly pressed play.
“Hey, you’re probably still in the air, but I wanted to let you know that Holly came down with a fever this morning. Mrs. Dunny is going to keep an eye on her until you get home, but you might want to get her some cold medicine on the way. Love you and can’t wait to see you tonight.”
Kate immediately turned from the fruit, dropping the apple into the crate as she dialed her daughter. It rang five times and then went to voicemail. She redialed. Five more rings. Voicemail. She left a message.
“Hey, Holly, it’s Mom. I’m on my way home. Dad told me you were sick, and I just wanted to see if there was anything you wanted from the store. Text or call me. Love you.”
She hung up and pocketed the phone, confident that her daughter wouldn’t call her back. Over the past year, their interaction together had dropped significantly. She might as well have been invisible. Mark had chalked it up to preteen angst, but Holly didn’t act the same way with him.
And while the ultimatum for stability had come from her husband, Kate had really done it for her daughter. The constant moves, the days at a
At the corner of the sidewalk, Kate broke away from the steady flow of pedestrians and climbed the stairs to one of the N train’s elevated platforms. She reached for her metro card and swiped it, making her way topside, shoulders brushing against the huddling masses trying to stay warm. She leaned against one of the posts and checked her phone again. Still no response.
She pocketed the device and flipped the collar of her jacket to guard herself against the stiff wind. Her stomach rumbled, reminding her of the skipped breakfast.
The thump of the train against the tracks triggered the eager eyes of passengers desperate to get warm. As the train slowed, everyone huddled near the platform’s edge, hands rubbing together vigorously and toes tapping impatiently.
The doors swooshed open, and a mash of people collided into one another, fighting for the warmth of the train car, as if this were the last train in existence into the city.
Once the bulk of the people had boarded, Kate wedged herself into a small space in the back corner of the train car between an old woman in a bright-pink sweater and a man in a black trench coat.