Chapter Three -- Landing Emergency
After dinner at the company cafeteria, Phil dropped the two teens off at the employee temporary housing. There they were shown to a comfortable one bedroom apartment.
"When an employee comes in for training or a project from one of our other plants, we found it easier to have our own hotel basically," Phil stated informatively. "That way we can put it on the company power and communications net as well as tie it in to the shuttle bus service."
"That's really kind of clever," Willow said as she looked around appreciatively.
"Tom is heavily into employee quality of life. So were his father and his grandfather apparently. SSI is a great company to work for for that alone. Call the front desk when you need a shuttle tomorrow. and have a good night!" Phil left, closing the door behind her.
"Bed or couch Buffy?" Willow asked.
"Couch. I slept on the plane plus I'm going out to take a walk after it gets dark. If I'm on the couch I won't wake you up when I get back and you'll need your sleep to be a big brain tomorrow," Buffy grinned at her friend then started rummaging through the bags till she found the heaviest one and opened it. The first thing to come out was a small stuffed pig which was set on the couch.
"Mr. Gordo will keep an eye on you till I get back. Okay?" Buffy pulled some other items out of the heavy suitcase then changed into black jeans and a black t-shirt before pulling on a light leather jacket, "Don't wait up!"
"Stay safe Buffy," Willow replied.
"I will,"the short Blonde left, leaving Willow with her laptop and the television to keep her busy.
Soon the brilliant redhead was on-line through SSI's connection to the internet and was writing emails to her friends back in California. After those were done she realized just how tired she was and went to sleep.
The next morning she woke to pop music coming from the living room, and walked out to find Buffy in the middle of her morning stretches.
"Anything interesting?" the yawning teenage genius asked her best friend.
"Hmm? Oh last night?" Buffy flipped to her feet from her one-armed handstand and scratched her chin in thought. "No, not really. Not even much dust. Just one actually. This place is pretty quiet when it comes to nightlife."
"That's good to know."
"Yeah. I made coffee."
"Oh thank you!" Willow moved to the kitchenette counter and poured herself a mug and took a long swallow, "Much better."
"No problem. I also called for the shuttle. It's supposed to pick us up in half an hour, so you might want to take a shower quick."
"Yes I think I'd better. Why so early though?" Willow asked as she checked her watch.
"So we can grab breakfast at the cafeteria before work."
"Buffy planning ahead? Will wonders never cease..."
"Hey!" Buffy responded irately, but was grinning nonetheless at her friend's teasing.
Smiling Willow made her way, coffee mug still in hand, to the bathroom to get ready.
In twenty minutes, hair still wet she emerged and poured herself another cup of coffee. Buffy had already gotten dressed and was idly watching the news.
Quickly pulling on a clean outfit, Willow joined her friend in the living room and the two of them headed down to the lobby.
Waiting outside was a small futuristic looking van. As they walked across the lobby, the front desk clerk called over to them.
"Miss Rosenberg, Miss Summers! There are packages here for you!"
Walking over they both received a small bracelet, much like one used for identification, with a small silver disk attached.
"Those will allow you onto the main plant area without tripping the intruder alarms. Keep them on at all times."
They thanked him and headed out to the van, putting on their new jewelry as they walked.
Willow looked closely at it, "Probably biometrics and a locater. They must be able to keep track of everybody's location in the plant."
As they approached the van the side door slid open and a woman's voice spoke, "Good morning Miss Rosenberg. Good morning Miss Summers. Destination?"
There was no driver. Only three bench seats each wide enough to sit two people.
"Wow!" Buffy exclaimed, "This place is like a high tech theme park. Cafeteria please."
"Thank you Miss Summers. And you Miss Rosenberg?"
"Uhm, Cafeteria too?"
"Thank you Miss Rosenberg. However, you must fasten your seatbelts before we depart."
The girls quickly followed the instructions and soon were on their way to breakfast."
The trip was quick and after a tasty breakfast the pair split to go to their individual meetings.
Willow arrived at the Mechanical Engineering lab and prototyping building. Inside she was greeted by a tall dark complexioned man named Abraham Haskell.
"I'm chief machinist here. You ever worked in a machine shop before Willow?"
"No not really. I have experience working with complex mechanisms though."
"Some robotics. Servomotor set up and disassembly mainly."
"Useful skills here. First though we'll get you checked out on the machine tools. The lathe, milling machine, drill press, laser cutter, can be controlled through a computer workstation, and so's the 3D printer. All are pretty standard except for the printer. It's one of the Boss's designs and uses laser sintered Durastress plastic or powdered aluminum or titanium as the raw material."
"It's a plastic Tom and his dad came up with years ago. Durastress is very strong and lightweight. We use it for super-lightweight projects. Aluminum is cheap and we use it for proof of concept. Titanium is for extreme heat resistant applications. We can actually mix different types of material in one production run."
Abe got Willow a pair of safety classes and got one of the junior machinists to start showing her how the various tools worked. The computer interface was fairly simple. After she had been familiarized with the tools, she was shown how to operate them manually. "Sometimes it's just faster doing it by hand then spending the time setting everything up on the computer," she was told.
By noon she was helping a couple of the other machinists build a sort of go-kart frame as an experimental motor test bed. They had just finished welding the aluminum chassis together when Abe called time for lunch. The whole group of them headed over to the cafeteria discussing what would be the next component to assemble.
As they were walking over there was the sound of a siren over by the runway.
"What's that?" Willow asked nervously.
"Plane in trouble," Abe replied, "Let's go!"
The group ran over to one of the SSI trucks parked at intervals all over the plant. Abe passed his wrist with the bracelet over the steering wheel and the electric motor whined to life. Willow jumped into the cab next to Abe, while the rest piled into the cargo bed. With a surprising amount of power for an electric vehicle, the truck squealed its tires as Abe raced it over towards the commotion.
When they arrived at the airfield the crash crews had already sprayed out a bed of a jelly like goo. Two heavy electrical cables stretched from the goo to a parked truck. As Willow watched, a switch was thrown on the side of the truck and the goo suddenly turned into a foam slab about thirty feet thick and and several hundred feet long.
Looking up, she saw an aircraft with smoke pouring from all of its four engines, on final approach at an extremely high rate of speed. The nose lifted slightly and the pilot pancaked the plane right into the foam slab which crushed, absorbing all the potentially lethal impact.
The man at the truck switch threw it again, instantly collapsing the foam back into a thick gel allowing easy access to the stricken plane. Even as the foam was receding firetrucks were on route across the tarmac when the plane suddenly exploded releasing a massive cloud of a pink, slightly bitter, smoke. As the smoke came in contact with both the bystanders and rescuers they instantly collapsed in boneless heaps. Until within just under two minutes, there were no signs of life anywhere near or on the airfield.