I'm getting the hang of how things work in this place called cyberspace. I have started my blog (here) signed up for Twitter, joined groups all over who deal with books such as authors, readers or critics. I feel I need it all. So I think what is needed is another installment of the book. So here it is, a portion of
Chapter 6 The First Day of Tomorrow
A few days later, Niklas woke in the small studio apartment and planted a kiss on his wife’s forehead. She muttered something in her half-asleep state and he smiled at her. It was still very early, but he was excited; he was ready for the day ahead.
Niklas nervously fidgeted with his shirt, ensuring that it was smoothly tucked before exiting the car and heading for the squadron. He could barely contain the excitement within him as it bubbled and swelled.
“Hello. I am reporting for my first day of duty.” Niklas told the other man his name and after a few seconds of flipping through papers on a clipboard, the man looked up at Niklas. The tag on his chest read A1C Jacob Riley. He had very fair skin and hair that was so red it was almost orange.
“Report to hangar eight. The Staff Sergeant will give you direction from there.” He nodded at Niklas.
“Thank you.” He was on his way. He did his best to control his pace, though he wanted to run the long distance leading to his station.
Just inside the door was another airman holding a broom. The man smoothly spun the brush, knocked the head of it on the floor, and caught it as it came up at him. In a millisecond it was hanging in its designated spot. The man smiled at him. “Name’s Harold. They call me Harry.” He stuck a hand out at Niklas. “What are you up to?”
“Oh, um,” Niklas shook the out-stretched hand. “I was given instruction at the squadron to report here. I am supposed to see the Staff Sergeant…” Niklas paused as a smile tugged at Harry’s lips. The other man turned his back on Niklas.
“Hey Sarge!” Harry yelled as he knocked on the door to the Nav Aids Room. A moment later it swung open. “Got a rookie out here for ya.”
“What’s your name, airman?”
“Niklas, Sir.” Niklas stated his last name and the man nodded.
“Yes, I was expecting you. Come in.” The man walked back to his desk and, out of the corner of his eye, Niklas saw Harry take post just outside the door. He thought for a moment about closing it, but thought better of it. The room was not what Niklas was expecting. It was large and he and the sergeant were not alone. “Niklas, this is Rodney. He is our Tech Sergeant.” The two shook hands and after the Staff Sergeant was done saying his spiel, Rodney addressed Niklas again.
“Come on. I’ll show you around.” The tour indoors was short-lived. The space was mostly open and easy to navigate. There were a few cubicles reserved for the sergeants and a few desks in an area of the larger room. “One of those will be assigned to you soon, but for now let’s head out to the flight line. You can take a closer look at one of the planes.”
“Wonderful!” Niklas felt like a kid in a candy shop. This is was made all the crap at Keesler and Lackland worthwhile. This is what he had been waiting for. They exited at the opposite end of the building onto the tarmac. Several planes were parked down the length of the blacktop. “What type of aircraft will I work on?”
The man pointed in the direction of large planes. “The WB-47E. Are you familiar with them?”
Hearing that, Niklas was able to pick it out of the lineup and nodded. “Yes Boeing 6 engine bomber, first swept wing aircraft." The man nodded his approval of Niklas’s statement. Niklas smiled. Life was good and he was right where he was meant to be. “What are the lines designating,” Niklas asked, pointing to a series of colored lines which ran long distances across the tarmac.
“You know, I don’t really know.” Rodney furrowed his brow in thought and then shook his head as if to dismiss the thought. Niklas made a mental note to look it up or ask someone else later in the day. Just as the thoughts were passing through his mind, his head lurched forward and then came back hard against the seat. He put a hand to the back of his head and looked to his companion.
“I’m sorry. I almost forgot.” The man shook his head, looking a bit distraught. “I have to call Operations. Oh man, they are going to wring my neck.” Niklas just nodded, happy that it wasn’t anything more serious. “Just take a look around for a minute or two. I will be right back to take you on a tour of the interior, okay?”
“Yes, of course. Take your time.” Niklas smiled at the man reassuringly.
“I’ll be right back!” Rodney yelled the statement as the vehicle shifted into gear and sped away in reverse. Niklas began to follow the white line, one foot carefully planted in front of the other, as if walking across a balance beam, and then, after a short distance, he hopped onto the yellow line, moving closer to the magnificent machine. He paused and stared up at all one hundred-seven feet of it. The wings, which stretched an even more impressive one hundred sixteen feet, filled his field of vision. “This is amazing,” he said aloud in awe.
“Hey! Hey! Stop right there!” Startled, Niklas turned around to see a member of the Air Police glaring at him. The man began to move toward him, quickly.
“Get down! Down right now! On the ground!” Niklas gave a look of shock and then did as the man said without another word. What the hell? It’s my first day and I am going to be arrested just before it gets interesting. A foreign sound pulled him from his thoughts.
“…gets better every time.” Niklas sat as he heard the comment mixed with bouts of riotous laughter.
You have got to be kidding me! All around him men were laughing and Niklas wasn’t entirely sure that being arrested would have been the less desirable outcome.
Rodney climbed from the van and walked up to him, reaching out a hand. Niklas ignored the gesture and stood without assistance. He wiped the dust from his uniform. “Don’t worry man. We do it to all of the rookies.” He laughed again. “You will get your chance soon enough.” With that, he slapped Niklas on the back.
“But damn, you should have seen your face!” The comment, which spurred more hilarity, came from a tall lanky AP who could barely control his movement as he laughed.
Seeing anger in his comrade’s eyes, Rodney started to speak again. “Come on, it’s time for the real tour.” At that, the rest of the men left and Niklas followed his guide in the direction of the plane’s tail.
There, in large black font were the numbers 51-2366. Rodney began to explain, “this means that it was built in 1951…”
Niklas cut him off, speaking as if saying his thoughts aloud, “and that its call sign was 2366.” The other man looked at him with a face that said he was impressed, but it was just a flicker and then it was gone, as he moved to open the hatch and pull down the ladder that would provide them access to the interior of the giant machine. Niklas felt a bit like he was taking a step toward heaven as he entered – a step closer to Oma. That thought vanished quickly as he took the first look at the instruments that made this metal monster leave the ground. Though he had seen pictures, he had never really realized how small the space was. For how large the giant machine was, the control area was cramped and Niklas found it hard to imagine three men operating in the tiny, olive green compartment. The first looks left him overwhelmed. He looked from one control to another – many he recognized; many he didn’t. “What’s this?” He pointed to an object that looked a bit like a small, upside-down fish bowl. The water rippled just slightly as they moved nearer it.
“That’s the gyroscope. Gives the pilot an exact reading of his attitude to the ground.” The man went on to explain how the concept worked, and though, as soon as the first statement was made, Niklas knew exactly why and how it was designed, he listened and nodded appreciatively. The man then turned his attention to another area of the compartment. Niklas looked at the dash of controls. He recognized much of this. It was just like the images he had seen on television and in the many books and magazines he had read on the subject. It seemed surreal to be standing amongst it. “Used to be that just a pilot, co-pilot, and navigator would fly this thing, but you’ll see that there is another seat up there.” The seat was barely that, but more like a cubby amongst the gadgets. And that is where I will sit, Niklas thought. Just behind that thought came another that concerned him slightly. None of this looks like what we studied in Tech School.
“What’s that?” Again he pointed to an unfamiliar object. Cone-like in shape, hung just above the ground and to the left of where the pilot’s feet would typically sit. It was connected to a short hose.
The man chuckled slightly and then answered, “You don’t know?” When Niklas shook his head, the man continued, “Well, now is a good time to learn. It’s a mode of communication in case of emergency while in flight.” The man paused, Niklas nodded, and he continued again, “In case of electrical failure, the crew can continue to communicate.” He pointed to the hose. “Sound travels through the hose. It’s kinda like the can and string phones fashioned by kids.” Niklas looked at the gadget, embarrassed that he hadn’t known. “Actually, we can get you to work right now. It has to be checked once a month to ensure that it is working properly. It takes two people and we are here anyway.” Niklas smiled. He was thrilled to serve some purpose so soon. “Ok, all you have to do is pick up the funnel and speak into it. I’ll be in the bomb bay listening on the other end.” Niklas nodded. He felt good – official.
As the other man climbed down the ladder, Niklas picked up the funnel, ready to do as he had been instructed. He held it to his mouth. Obviously hasn’t been used in a while, he thought. It smelled stale. “Testing, testing. Can you hear me? Over.” He put it to his ear and listened, but heard nothing. Again he tried, “testing, testing. Can you hear me? Over.” He returned the device to his ear. Nothing. Great, first test and it’s going to… His thought was cut short by a familiar sound. Dammit! Now what? Once again he was surrounded by the sound of laughter. He replaced the nozzle to its hook and headed down the ladder to find that Rodney and the same group of men were laughing riotously. “What now?” Niklas was beginning to grow tired of being the laughing stock of the place.
Through his laughter, Rodney struggled to respond, “It’s not an intercom. It’s connected to the honey pot!” Again, he rolled with hilarity.
Just to add insult to injury, the same goofy, lanky man as before put in his two cents. “It’s a freekin’ outhouse for the sky!”
When Niklas got home that evening, he had many stories to share with his wife, but he was sure to leave out the part about putting his mouth where another man had once had his family jewels.
The next day things were far more serious. There were no practical jokes and very little laughter. The Staff Sergent offered Niklas a cup of coffee and then started in. Niklas was entirely caught off guard. After the day of exploration, he had let his guard down a little, but now the man before him was anything but jovial. One question after another was thrown at the new member of the Hurricane Hunters in a sort of test. “I heard you were the top of your class. Surely that means that you were able to retain more than the average soldier.” The man said between the first and second interrogative inquiries. Niklas only nodded, stood straighter, and answered each to the best of his ability.
Apparently he passed, because a few minutes later, without warning, the other man ended the conversation and walked away. Not entirely sure what he was supposed to do, Niklas followed. The man stopped at one of the desks in the large open area. “This is to be your station,” he stated, without turning back to Niklas. It wasn’t as much a desk as it was a workbench, complete with tools right alongside the pens and pencils. In place of the typical office chair, there was a simple, old, dented, metal stool. “You’ll work here when not on the flight line.” With that the man told Niklas to occupy himself with the materials left there for him and then turned and walked away.