“We got trouble.”
I recognized Zoë’s voice, but I didn’t turn around from my computer. I was too absorbed in a news report on the website AviationNow.com. A competitor’s new plane had crashed a couple of days ago, at the Paris Air Show. I wasn’t there, but my boss was, and so were all the other honchos at my company, so I’d heard all about it. At least no one was killed.
And at least it wasn’t one of ours.
I picked up my big black coffee mug—the hammond skycruiser: the future of flight—and took a sip. The coffee was cold and bitter.
“You hear me, Landry? This is serious.”
I swiveled slowly around in my chair. Zoë Robichaux was my boss’s admin. She had dyed copper hair and a ghostly pallor. She was in her mid-twenties and lived in El Segundo not too far from me, but she did a lot of club-hopping in L.A. at night. If the dress code at Hammond allowed, I suspected she’d have worn studded black leather every day, black fingernail polish, probably gotten everything pierced. Even parts of the body you don’t want to think about getting pierced. Then again, maybe she already did. I didn’t want to know.
“Does this mean you didn’t get me a bagel?” I said.
“I was on my way down there when Mike called. From Mumbai.”
“What’s he doing in India? He told me he’d be back in the office today for a couple of hours before he leaves for the offsite.”
“Yeah, well, Eurospatiale’s losing orders all over the place since their plane crashed.”
“So Mike’s lined up meetings at Air India instead of coming back here,” I said. “Nice of him to tell me.”
Mike Zorn was an executive vice president and the program manager in charge of building our brand-new wide-bodied passenger jet, the H-880, which we called the SkyCruiser. Four VPs and hundreds of people reported to him—engineers and designers and stress analysts and marketing and finance people. But Mike was always selling the hell out of the 880, which meant he was out of the office far more than he was in.
So he’d hired a chief assistant—me—to make sure everything ran smoothly. Crack the whip if necessary. His jack-of-all-trades and U.N. translator, since I have enough of an engineering background to talk to the engineers in their own geeky language, talk finance with the money people, talk to the shop floor guys in the assembly plant who distrust the lardasses who sit in the office and keep revising and revising the damned drawings.
Zoë looked uneasy. “Sorry, he wanted me to tell you, but I kind of forgot. Anyway, the point is, he wants you to get over to Fab.”
“Like an hour ago.”
The fabrication plant was the enormous factory where we were building part of the SkyCruiser. “Why?” I said. “What’s going on?”
“I didn’t quite get it, but the head QA guy found something wrong with the vertical tail? And he just like shut down the whole production line? Like, pulled the switch?”
I groaned. “That’s got to be Marty Kluza. Marty the one-man party.” The lead Quality Assurance inspector at the assembly plant was a famous pain in the ass. But he’d been at Hammond for fifteen years, and he was awfully good at his job, and if he wouldn’t let a part leave the factory, there was usually a good reason for it.
“I don’t know. Anyway, like everyone at headquarters is totally freaking, and Mike wants you to deal with it. Now.”
“You still want that bagel?” Zoë said.
Copyright © 2007 by Joseph Finder. All rights reserved.