Time Line: Set Appx 3 years after TRA
"Jonny, aren't you ready yet?" a striking young woman called from the cockpit of the jet. She tossed her loose, flame colored braid over her shoulder to get it out of her way. The young woman wore black jeans and a forest green t-shirt that matched her eyes.
"Almost ready, Jess," the young man named Jonny replied. "I just have this one last load of stuff to stow away."
"Okay," Jess answered. "I'll finish up the pre-flight checklist while you stow your gear."
"I'll help you in a minute," he answered, grabbing another bag and putting it away in a compartment. "I forgot how much junk I had until it came time to move back home at the end of the school year."
Reappearing in the doorway of the cockpit with a clipboard now in hand, the young woman laughed, "Well, you could have chosen to go to a school closer to home..."
"Did you, Jessie?" Jonny asked with a laugh.
"And deal with my dad interrogating every guy who asked me out on a date? No thank you, Jonny Quest!" Jessie laughed.
"The Race Bannon Application to Date My Daughter..." he teased, grabbing a suitcase and putting it in the same compartment as the previous bag.
"Exactly!" Jessie replied, heading for the door of the small jet.
Jonny's laughter followed her as she headed outside the jet to complete the checklist on her clipboard.
This was the first cross-country trip the two had been allowed to take without either taking a commercial jet or being flown in one of the Quest jets. It had taken since the semester break over the holidays to convince not only Dr. Quest, Jonny's dad, but her own father, Race Bannon, to let them make the trip without adult supervision. They were in one of the Quest corporate jets for this trip from California back to the rebuilt Quest compound in Maine. Having qualified for her small jet pilot license last summer, Jessie had been itching to fly without her dad looking over her shoulder every step of the way and meeting up with Jonny in San Francisco when he was done with his finals had been a perfect excuse.
Inside, Jonny hurriedly finished putting away all his stuff in various compartments.
He knew that Race would skin him alive if he shirked on checking the plane out before they took off. Jessie might be the pilot, but that didn't let him off the hook, since he was her co-pilot. He didn't have his full license yet for this size aircraft - he was hoping to have enough airtime logged in by the end of the summer to take the pilot's test. It wasn't the written test he was worried so much about - he'd always had a knack for acing any written exam. It was the practical exam that had him stressing out. He had this irrational fear that no matter how many hours he had under his belt and how well he actually did do on the practical exam, the examiner would find some reason not to pass him. It was irrational and he knew it, but that did little to help him get past the doubt. Finally, he had all his junk put away in the small luggage compartment of the sleek jet and went to go help Jessie.
"Okay, Jess, where are we at here?" he called out as he emerged from the plane.
Jessie looked up from her clipboard and told Jonny where she was at in her check. Together they went over the remaining items on the checklist, giving the jet a visual once over before moving inside to the cockpit to get ready for take-off.
The conversation between the two was limited to the last of the pre-flight items as they moved out of the hangar.
"Flaps?" Jessie called out, looking out her window to make sure the flaps on her side worked while Jonny did the same on his side.
"Check," Jonny verified.
This was how it went for several more minutes until Jessie called the tower to request clearance for take-off.
"Tower, this is Questor-two-one-one requesting clearance," Jessie said, checking to make sure she had her harness securely buckled.
"Questor-two-one-one, head over to runway four-west and you are second in-line for take-off," the tower responded.
"Copy that - runway four-west," Jessie repeated back to the tower. She revved the engines and the small jet moved forward.
Next to her in the co-pilot seat, Jonny double checked that he had his harness securely fastened as they headed towards the runway. He put his hands back on the yoke as they pulled into a stop behind the larger jet that was powering up for its take-off.
Moments after the larger jet had taken off and turned north, the tower signaled them they were clear, "Questor-two-one-one, you are cleared for take-off. Be sure to check for weather updates when you get to Boise. The unstable weather pattern over the northern plains is prime thunderstorm development."
"Roger that, tower. Will do. Questor-two-one-one cleared for take-off," Jessie said as she and Jonny did one last check of the flaps before powering up and heading down the runway. Moments later, they were in the air and turning to head east for home.
Once they were in the air and at their cruising altitude, the two felt relaxed enough to start chatting about non-technical things.
"So, how do you think you did on your finals?" Jessie asked, setting the autopilot.
Jonny shrugged, "I probably did all right."
"What? You probably got no lower than a B minus on any of your exams, I bet," Jessie teased.
"I don't know, Jess," Jonny answered. "My foundations of physics prof was a real hard-ass."
"Yeah, I had to keep proving myself in his class," Jonny scowled for a moment.
"Ugh," Jessie commiserated. "Let me guess, he had a complex about your dad."
"Got it in one," Jonny said, checking the plane's color radar to make sure their flight path was clear for the moment.
The plane, while not as sophisticated as the personal Quest jets, still had more to it than a standard Lear jet. They had a GPS transponder onboard besides the standard emergency beacon and the plane was equipped with power and modem hookups for the business travelers of Quest Corp. It helped that Quest Corp had its own communications satellite so travelers on the jets could remain in contact with the office if need be and not get eaten alive by phone-air charges.
"How's the weather look so far?" Jessie asked him, checking the instrumentation.
"Looks clear for now," Jonny answered, looking back up at the sky in front of them. It felt good to be going home. He had missed having Bandit at his side this past year, but dogs weren't allowed in the dorms and freshmen had to live in campus housing - no exceptions allowed. Not that Jonny had made much effort to get around that rule. He had wanted to fit in as much as possible and not garner any extra attention. Not everyone knew of the famous Benton Quest and that Jonny was his son. That was how he wanted to play it - close to the bone and letting people get to know him first before he mentioned his famous father.
"How do you think you did, Jess?" Jonny asked.
"Pretty good," Jessie answered with a small smile. "The only class I'm worried about is my English comp."
"But I thought you liked English?" Jonny asked, slightly confused.
"I do, but having to write argumentative essays?" Jessie made a face. "The whole semester, that's all we did - even our term paper had to argue about something."
"Yuck!" Jonny commiserated, making a face as well. "Argumentative essays, the whole semester?"
"Yeah," Jessie nodded. "She had me pulling my hair out some weeks with the way we had to argue. I'll be lucky if I pull a B out of this."
"Ouch," Jonny winced. "I'm glad my English lit prof this semester was a hippy. He had some really neat things to say about living in San Francisco during the 60's."
"You got so lucky there, Jonny Quest," Jessie said in an envious tone.
"Yeah, I did," Jonny smiled and shook his head to get his perpetually shaggy bangs out of his blue eyes. "Hey, I forgot. When's Hadj due back from Germany?"
"I think he gets back either tomorrow or the day after. Lucky dog - he got done with finals early."
Watching from the shadows as the sleek jet taxied out of the hangar and then over to the runway, a dark haired man wearing mechanic overalls wiped his hands on a towel. Once his hands were clean, he headed over to the small office at the back of the hanger and sat down at the one desk. He opened the laptop computer and hooked the laptop up to his cell phone and connected to the Internet. He logged into Yahoo! and went to his mailbox. He fired off an email to another anonymous email account, this one to a yahoo.sg account. He knew the address routed to many other addresses, but he trusted the person behind the address not to screw up on paying him. He typed that the mechanical 'enhancements' had been taken care of and that the plane was currently in the air.
He hit send and almost immediately he had an answer, "Payment transferred to account per agreement. Thank you for your services."
The man logged onto another site, this one to his electronic bank. He entered his secondary password to access his bank balance and verified that the payment from his contact was indeed in the account. He quickly transferred the funds to another account that he would log into later and transfer them yet again. That having been done, he signed off the internet and powered down his computer and carefully packed it away. His cell phone was secured in an exterior pocket. He stripped out of the mechanic's overall, revealing business clothes underneath. With his computer bag on his shoulder, he looked like any other business traveler and headed towards the rental car he had behind the hangar.
The two young people continued to talk about their various studies and their eagerness to get home for the summer.
"Did you find any cool computer games yet?" Jonny asked with a grin, eagerly looking for a match up against her when they got home.
Jessie shook her head. "I've only been home for a day. No real time yet to go looking for games. Hadji might have something cooked up by the time we get back."
"Was he working on something, do you know?" Jonny questioned eagerly.
"I'm pretty sure," Jessie said with a laugh. "He left me an email and then would barely let me in the lighthouse, let alone do anything in Quest World, when I talked to him yesterday to ask about it."
"Okay, that cinches it. He's up to something," Jonny laughed and checked the radar again. "Jess, take a look at the radar. I think we're going to hit bumpy weather sooner than we thought."
Jessie did just that and frowned. It looked like a solid line of storms was building across the whole Midwest. "Well, San Francisco did warn me that this was coming. Time to contact Boise and see what we can do."
"Gotcha," Jonny said, slipping his headphones back on and tuning the radio to the right frequency. "Boise tower, this is Questor-two-one-one, over."
"Questor-two-one-one, this is Boise tower, what can we do for you over?" a female voice came back over the radio.
"Boise tower, we're hoping you could give us a redirect to a smoother flight path, over," Johnny said, looking over the radar screen again.
"Questor-two-one-one, bear north to heading two-eight-one and climb to 39,000 feet. That should clear you around the worst of it, over," the female controller answer.
"Copy that, Boise tower. Change heading to two-eight-one north and climbing to 39,000 feet," Jonny repeated back to the traffic controller.
"That is correct, Questor-two-one-one. Boise tower out."
"Thanks, Boise tower. Questor-two-one-one out." Jonny said and closed the radio channel.
Jessie made the adjustments, setting the plane to climb as they banked to their new heading.
Talk was light between the two. They were not looking forward to having a bumpy flight and having to fight the weather. Flying in bad weather was something they were more than used to, but piloting on their own? It had both of them somewhat nervous. Each took a brief turn to use the restroom, figuring they weren't going to have a chance once they hit the storm front.
It didn't take long before they started seeing more than white, wispy cumulus clouds. The clouds took on a gray tinge at first and they began feeling the choppier air.
"This is going to be fun," Jonny muttered, checking his harness once more to make sure it was securely fastened. "We're in for a bumpy ride, Jess."
Jessie frowned, did the same as Jonny and said, "Good thing I don't get airsick."
Soon they could see anvil shaped, deep gray-blue thunderheads with lightning streaking out of them. The turbulence increased, even at 39,000 feet, the air was still choppy. Suddenly they hit an air pocket and dropped 100 feet before Jessie and Jonny could pull back on the stick and pull the nose back up.
"Let's do that again - Not!" Jonny commented with a sigh.
"I agree," Jessie said, checking their instrumentation. The storm system had trekked further north than originally predicted and it had now collided with another unstable air mass from Canada to produce tornado prone super cell storms over the northern plains. "It looks like we got caught between two storm fronts. This is going to be rough."
No sooner had she said it than they hit another air pocket and dropped fifty feet again. The two cursed and struggled to keep the nose up.
"Jonny, get on the radio and see if there's a clear path we can find with the Helena control tower," Jessie said, keeping a tight grip on the yoke.
"Will do," Jonny said, keeping one hand on the yoke as he tried to raise the Helena, Montana tower. "Helena tower, this Questor-two-one-one, do you copy, over?"
"Questor-two-one-one, this is -" the rest was cut off in a burst of static as there was a loud thunderclap that sounded below them.
"Helena tower, this is Questor-two-one-one, do you copy, over?" Jonny tried again.
"Questor-two-one-one, this is Helena tower, we copy you over." This time the voice came through, slightly garbled, but much clearer.
"Helena tower, we're getting shoved around up here. Is there any chance you could lead us to a clearer flight path, over?" Jonny asked, keeping an eye on the radar that was splashed with color indicating the strength of the storm system they were caught in.
"Questor-two-one-one, copy that. No go on clearer flight path. It's solid storms here. Suggest two-eight-five north. That should lead you away from the heart of it, over."
"Copy that, Helena, new heading of two-eight-five north, over," Jonny repeated back to the tower, making the adjustments as Jessie struggled to keep the plane level.
"Questor-two-one-one, this is Helena tower out."
They hit another air pocket and dropped another fifty feet again and as they worked to pull the plane back up, a warning light went on.
"Jess, I'm getting an overheat warning on engine number two," Jonny said, studying the readouts.
"This is not happening," Jessie complained and fought to keep the plane's nose up.
"What do you want to do? Reduce airspeed?" Jonny asked.
"I don't think that will help. I'd rather land and figure out what the problem is before we loose an engine," Jessie said. "Hopefully, by the time we figure out what's wrong with the engine, the weather will clear."
"Gotcha. You want to try Helena? They are the closest to here," Jonny asked her, watching the storm clouds continue to roil under their flight path.
"Call and see if it's clear," Jessie answered, pulling back on the yoke again.
"Helena tower, this is Questor-two-one-one. We are having mechanical problems, over," Jonny called out.
"Questor-two-one-one, this is Helena tower. What's your status, over?" the voice was static-filled, but mostly understandable. Airline communication still transpired on the AM radio band and therefore, more sensitive to electrical disruptions.
"Helena tower, we are reading overheat on engine number 2. Request permission to land to check it out, over," Jonny called.
"Negative, Questor-two-one-one. We are socked in right now - no one's going in or out until the weather clears, over."
"Helena tower, where can divert to, over?" Jonny asked, watching the overheat warning continue to blink on the engine.
"Questor-two-one-one, divert northwest to Kali-, o-." there was another lightning burst below them, that cut out the radio in a burst of static.
"Helena tower, this is Questor-two-one-one. Could you repeat that please, over?"
"Questor-two-one-one, divert northwest back to Kalispell, over," the air traffic controller repeated.
"Copy that, we will divert to Kalispell, over," Jonny answered, hoping that they could make it.
"Helena tower, out."
"Questor-two-one-one, out," Jonny said and released a sigh.
"Making course corrections to head to Kalispell," Jessie said, checking the coordinates on the map she pulled up.
"Copy that," Jonny said, both hands on the yoke to help Jessie keep the plane level.
They banked back to the northwest and right then the engine light went from warning of overheat to screaming red alerting them that the engine was now overheating.
"Uh, Jess, we've got an overheat on engine two now," Jonny said as they fought the winds.
"Tell me something I don't know," Jessie answered tersely. "We're going to have to try to make it to Kalispell on one engine. Let them know we're coming in hot."
"Kalispell tower, this is Questor-two-one-one, do you copy, over?" Jonny got on the radio.
"Questor-two-one-one, we copy, over."
"Kalispell tower, this is Questor-two-one-one. We are having engine problems here. Number two engine is overheating. We have been told to divert to you by Helena. We are requesting emergency clearance for landing, over," Jonny called out. This was so not how he wanted to start his summer vacation.
"Copy that, Questor-two-one-one. We read you 200 miles out. Is that correct, over?"
"Copy that, Kalispell. We are approximately 200 miles out and coming in with only one engine, over," Jonny answered.
"Questor-two-one-one, come -"static burst, "heading -" another static burst then, "- descent to -" lightning flashed and the static electricity burst drowned out the rest of what the controller was trying to tell them.
"Kalispell tower, could you repeat that? We didn't copy, over," Jonny said, cursing the weather and the airline industry's refusal to move past outdated technology.
"Questor-two-one-one, come about to heading two-four-four west and begin your descent to 20,000 feet. You are cleared for immediate landing. We will have emergency vehicles standing by, over."
"Copy that, Kalispell. Changing heading to two-four-four west and beginning descent to 20,000 feet, over." Jonny repeated back the instructions, making sure he had them right as Jessie began making the changes to their flight path.
"Jonny, cut power to engine two before we lose it completely. I hope it's something that we can easily get fixed when we get on the ground," Jessie said, fighting the weather still to keep the nose up.
"Gotcha, Jess," Jonny said, flipping the switch to kill power to the engine.
"Cutting power to engine two."
There was a jerk as the engine cut out, but there was no time to say anything about it as they fought the weather and lack of an engine. Things went from bad to worse as they were descending through the thick clouds. With a deafening clap of thunder and a bright flash that left them blind and deaf for a moment, then they could hear the sound they didn't want to hear - engine one, their only engine left, stalling out.
"Jonny, begin restart procedures on engine one," Jessie called out.
"I'm on it, Jess. Beginning restart procedures on engine one," Jonny said, doing things by the number as he had been taught by Race. This was not a place for improvisation. He got back on the radio, "Kalispell tower, this is Questor-two-one-one, declaring an emergency. Kalispell tower, this is Questor-two-one-one, declaring an emergency. We have lost both engines now. Repeat. We have lost both engines. Do you copy, over?"
Static burst through their headphones,
Jessie and Jonny barely glanced at each other, a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs.
"No go on engine one," Jonny said, continuing to try and restart the engine.
He tried again to raise the tower at Kalispell, "Kalispell tower, this is Questor-two-one-one. We are declaring an emergency. We have lost both engines now. Do you copy, over?"
Static burst through their headphones again. Jonny cursed the weather and their luck under his breath. He had no idea if their messages were going out or not. He could only hope that their messages were being received.
"Jonny, lower flaps to thirty degrees. We've got to drop more airspeed to keep the nose up," Jessie said, her hands white knuckled on the yoke.
"Right, Jess. Lowering flaps to thirty degrees," Jonny echoed, aware that the flight recorder was recording every move they made and he hoped that it would just show that once they were down on the ground they had done everything right.
There was a jolt as the flaps lowered and slowed them down.
Jessie called out their airspeed and altitude as Jonny continued to call out their location in hopes that Kalispell tower would be able to hear them. They were below the cloud cover now, and visibility was still beyond poor. It was almost down to zero with the heavy rain fall. They hadn't managed to get out of the storm completely and the weather was still wretched even at the edges of it.
"Jonny, flaps to forty-five degrees!"
"I got it. Flaps to forty-five degrees!" Jonny answered, pulling the knob to adjust the flaps to the correct position and immediately put both hands back on the yoke to help Jessie keep the nose up.
"Altitude 10,000 feet and airspeed is 254 knots," Jessie called out after the flaps slowed the plane down more.
Jonny gave up trying to do restart procedures on engine one. It had probably taken a direct strike and therefore, was toast.
They were still going way too fast, but with no reverse thrust to slow them down, they were really up the creek.
"Altitude 9,000 feet..." Jessie called out, clearly looking for someplace they could land and hopefully, walk away from.
Jonny looked around, hoping to find something too as they continued to plummet like a stone through the air.
"Altitude 8,000 feet..."
The mountains were no longer distant peaks, they were jagged, rock edifices that could tear the plane to smithereens if they were to crash into them. The trees were looming larger and larger and Jonny felt his stomach knotting with fear and tension now.
"Altitude 7,000 feet..."
Then, they were out of time and with a tremendous shriek, they were crashing through the trees, sliding on the belly of the plane through the forest. A giant pine in front of the plane splintered as it was struck by lighting and the larger half of it crashed forward towards the still sliding plane. The weight and force of it broke through the windshield on Jonny's side of the plane.
Jonny heard the sound of breaking glass and then blackness swallowed him before he could check out the sound.
The large pine tree landing on them seemed to help slow the plane down tremendously and within another two hundred feet, they had come to a grinding and mangled halt. The right wing was almost completely sheered off the body of the small jet, dumping fuel all over the forest floor. The left wing was a crumpled and twisted mess.
Jessie sat breathing heavily, her head bowed and hands still clenched on the yoke. They were down. They had made it down in one piece.
"Jonny?" she asked, when she had her breath back.
Silence greeted her.
"Jonny?" she asked again and lifted her head up to look. "Jonny!"