Miranda called Mike as she hurried from the house, across the meadow, and up the grass runway to Spieden Island’s hangar. She didn’t like breaking the law, but the urgency was high enough that she was willing to drive one-handed while using her cell phone. It was an oversight that she hadn’t set up the island’s golf cart with a hands-free system.
The data said that the law should have been written to prohibit all phone usage while driving, even hands-free, but that had proved to be too unpopular a choice for vote-minded representatives in Washington, DC. Safety bowing to consumer convenience was a trend she’d witnessed all too often in how the FAA’s decision-making process selected which of her own recommendations to implement and which to ignore.
And now she was a contributing factor to one of the most dangerous problems that the NTSB’s surface transportation teams were always struggling to correct.
The fact that she owned the island and was the only person presently here perhaps diminished the risk.
While waiting for Mike to answer, she navigated along the dirt track over the half-mile from her house to her aircraft hangar. The local deer were very calm when she was the only one here, and she had to wait for a family of them to graze across the track in front of her.
“Hi, Miranda. What’s up? Do we have a launch?”
“Holly is on a flight to Sydney, currently over Johnston Atoll in the South Pacific.”
“Right. I knew that. I’ve been following her with a flight tracker. What’s Johnston Atoll?”
Miranda considered the priority of answering the question…and chose not to. Holly would congratulate her on proper selection of information organization. However, the “where” was indeed pertinent.
“It’s where,” she emphasized for clarity that she was amending his question, “her plane will be crashing in approximately nineteen minutes. Or near there if the damaged wing falls off before they arrive at Johnston. I estimate that she has a sixty-two percent overall chance of survival.”
The deer remained grazing in the middle of the track. As much as she hated to do it, she beeped the golf cart’s horn. They looked at her in some surprise, but moved aside and she was able to continue toward the hangar. She was most of the way there before Mike responded.
“Would you mind repeating that?” His voice was so soft that she could barely hear it over the swishing of the tall grass against the underside of the golf cart. She really needed to get out the tractor and mow the runway soon.
“Yes.” She hated repeating herself. Mike knew that, but she did it for him. “Holly is on a flight to Sydney, currently over Johnston Atoll in the South Pacific. It’s where her plane will be crashing in approximately nineteen minutes. Or near there if the damaged wing falls off before they arrive at Johnston. I estimate that she has a sixty-two percent overall chance of survival.”
“Holly. Crashing. South Pacific. I’m…going to need…moment.”
Miranda wondered at that. It wasn’t a difficult concept. Unless this was one of those interpersonal things that she never understood. Mike took care of those for her. But he wasn’t making much sense at the moment.
Perhaps it was because he and Holly had been lovers for most of a year now. Would that be a significant factor? His stuttered reaction said yes.
“Is Andi there?”
When nothing happened, she decided that she had to be extremely specific. “Please hand the phone to her.”
For seven more seconds nothing happened, then there was a shuffling sound.
“Miranda, what did you say to Mike? He’s gone white as a sheet.”
She decided that her third repetition wasn’t actually repeating herself if a new person was involved.
“I said, ‘Holly is on a flight to Sydney, currently over Johnston Atoll in the South Pacific.’ Then I told him, ‘It’s where,” she did her best to match her earlier emphasis for exactitude, “her plane will be crashing in approximately nineteen minutes. Or near there if the damaged wing falls off before they arrive at Johnston. I estimate that she has a sixty-two percent overall chance of survival.’ That percentage is only a first-order approximation; I should have mentioned that. Then he asked me to repeat it and I told him the same thing again, also without the first-order approximation amendment.”
“Okay, Miranda. I’ll try to fix it. You need to think about how important Holly is to us all, but especially to Mike. You could have found a better way to say that.”
“But she does have a sixty-two percent chance of survival. That’s a good thing.”
“The fact that she’s in a pending plane crash and has a thirty-eight percent chance of dying is a bad one.”
“Oh, I get that now.” At least enough to state that she did. But… “No, I don’t. Can you explain it to me?” She’d carefully used as positive an explanation as the data allowed. She always started with the positive once a period of A/B testing had revealed that it made for a much more efficient and effective interview than when she started with a negative—even when the negative was far more factually supported.
“Later. Let’s get moving.”
“Oh, right.” Miranda had parked at the hangar but become too involved in the conversation to continue with what she’d been doing. Driving and phone conversations were not a good combination. “I’ll be at the Tacoma Narrows airport in twenty minutes. Call Jon. We’re going to need a longer-range jet than either of mine to fly there.”
“He’s your boyfriend. Shouldn’t you be the one calling him?”
“That will only delay my flight to you.” Miranda unlocked the hangar door and pressed the garage opener. She concentrated on keeping in motion, which made it harder to follow the phone call.
“And he may not wish to use a military asset for a civilian crash.”
“Remind him that Johnston Atoll, closed or not, is still a military property.”
“Okay, I’ll twist his arm for you.”
“Why would you do that? I’m not certified to fly any current military jets. We’ll need both of his arms intact.”
“It’s a saying, Miranda. It means that I’ll take care of it as soon as I can get Mike and the others moving. Are you sure that you don’t want to call him?”
Miranda thought a moment. Their last conversations had been…uncomfortable. Jon kept asking for things she didn’t understand; like he was the one in control and her opinion was damaged to begin with. She knew that. She was the one who was autistic after all, not him. But she still had them and—
“I’ll take that as a no,” Andi spoke up.
“No, you don’t want to call Jon.”
Miranda considered the time factor and the annoyance factor. Weighed separately either would be acceptable. Compounded? “No, I don’t.”
“Okay. I’m on it. Now go,” and Andi hung up.
Miranda realized that she’d come to a stop again. Cell phones really were dangerous.
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