Willow was adrift in a sea of paper when Buffy knocked on her office door before letting herself in.
"Whoa Will, did a laser printer explode?"
"Uh, I might have gotten a little carried away..."
"What is all this stuff?" Buffy asked after carefully moving a stack of papers so she could sit down.
"A start of an idea? I think I figured out how to fix Ted's program."
"So it isn't homicidal?"
"That was a big part of it. Right now I'm looking through all the computer designs SSI has done to find something more compact for it to run in."
"Will, what are you planning?"
"I'm not sure yet actually. Anyway, how was the fitting?"
"My spacesuit and my flight suits will be done in two weeks. So for the next two weeks I'm being checked out on the Halberd Class transport rockets. Class room and simulator...Yay me?"
"You're going into space!"
"In a month or so, yeah. Who would have thought it? Don't worry Will, Tom said he'll fly you to Outpost 2 in the Challenger and we'll meet up up there."
"I'm going into space???"
"Of course you are. What would I do without your brain to get me out of trouble?"
"So what are you doing now?"
"Under orders of our boss. I am taking my flying student, Willow Rosenberg, on a proficiency flight as she needs some more stick time in the Pigeon Elite. Pilot in Command Rosenberg will fly, Co-Pilot and Instructor Summers will watch. Those were Tom's instructions so lock your stuff up and get ready to go flying."
Willow realized it was useless to argue against both Buffy and Tom, and secured all her documents and computers. They headed out to the flight line and were met by Tom's sister Sandy Barclay. Sandy was co-owner of the company and handled most of the sales and personnel management. She was also a former SSI test pilot however, and enjoyed flying as much or more than her brother did.
"Hi there Buffy! Taking up Willow for some time?"
"She's actually taking me up, you want to come along?"
"In an Elite? Sure, I haven't ridden as a passenger in ages. It will be interesting to see what it feels like."
Willow almost started hyperventilating. Sandy had written the book on the Elite as well as many other SSI aircraft. She had been flying since she was sixteen and was qualified on every former and current SSI airframe. Now she was going to be a passenger in a plane Willow Rosenberg was flying!
Buffy and Sandy were silent as Willow did the pre-flight including a walk-around. Buffy strapped herself into the Co-Pilot's Seat while Sandy was on the spare cockpit jump seat. as Willow put on her headphones and called the tower. Getting permission to run up the engines, she went through the start-up checklist as was rewarded by the increasing whine of the pair of powerful Swift Dynamatic turbofan engines. The tower gave permission to taxi and she activated the automatic tug to back the aircraft out of its parking space. When the tug disengaged, she gave a little forward thrust and was soon moving to her space in takeoff order. The she received clearance to takeoff, Winding up the engines she released the wheel brakes and was soon rolling down the runway. A moment later she was airborne with the landing gear quietly retracting.
"Great takeoff Willow," Sandy told her. "Very smooth and professionally done."
Willow felt encouraged by that, but was still too nervous to completely relax. For the next hour Buffy gave her maneuvers to do, described in flight emergencies and asked for the response, and watched her control of the aircraft.
When they finally touched down Willow felt completely worn out and was grateful when she finally shut down the engines and completed the post-flight paperwork.
"So Sandy?" Buffy asked.
"You were right, she's really good. Willow, you're an excellent pilot, you just need to relax a little more."
"Willow," Buffy said, "give me your pilot's log so I can update it. Now Tom told me you're supposed to go flying twice a week. That way you won't get stale in the office. Understand?"
"Is that true?"
"Yes. Next time we're going to do some simulator work and I'll start familiarizing you with the Skeeter. Rotorcraft are the best."
Sandy laughed at the dazed expression on Willow's face. "It's okay Willow, I can't tell you the amount of times Phyllis Newton and I had to pry Tom out of his lab. He had the same expression."
"Tom's old girl friend and my best friend in since elementary school. Her father ran Swift Construction."
"Oh, is she still in Shopton?" Buffy asked.
"No, she moved to New York City, when she and Tom broke up."
"Aww that's sad. What happened?" Buffy pressed.
"Tom was never the kind of guy who would think about marriage. Phyllis dropped plenty of hints and eventually they just moved apart," Sandy shrugged.
"So Tom has never married?" Willow asked.
"He hasn't even dated since Phyllis left I think. That was almost thirty years ago."
"Wow...By the way Sandy," Buffy asked curiously, "Why are you telling us this? Isn't it kind of personal?"
"Because since you two and Oz showed up last summer, Tom's been happier than I've seen him in years. Something is up and you two are involved somehow...at least Willow is," Sandy sounded puzzled.
"Any ideas why it's me?" Willow asked.
Sandy shook her head, "None, I'll try to find out though."
"Thanks Sandy!" Willow said and meant it.
The two girls left the flightline and headed to the shuttle van site.
"Buffy, don't you think they're going to try again?"
"Oh, I'm hoping they do. Tom and I have a few surprises ready. Also Phil is going to be following us in an unmarked car."
"Oh we're being baity again! Just like Sunnydale."
"Yup!" Buffy unzipped her backpack and started to fit together a gun-looking device with some sort of video screen on the top.
"Is that one of the surprises?"
"Sure is. Tom called it the Whisperlance."
"What's it do?"
"It's a surprise."
The van drove a different route this time and as they were about to turn towards their apartment the van suddenly made a sharp left.
"Willow, try your Little Sister. My cell just stopped working," Buffy was looking at her useless phone.
The teen genius couldn't get through either and told her friend.
"Well it looks like they've succeeded on the kidnapping. Now we just wait to see where we end up," Buffy looked pleased.
"You were expecting this?"
"Tom was. The kidnappers are in a world of hurt and they don't know it yet."
The van continued on speeding up and then did a quick U-turn into the back of a moving semi that had just lowered a set of ramps. Once it was inside the ramps retracted and the doors closed leaving the two teens sealed inside a dark space.
"He was not expecting this," Buffy said in an annoyed tone. "They're probably going to gas us and haul us out."
"And then what?"
"I have no idea."