Jack, a bush pilot, charters tours of Alaska’s terrain that includes night flights to view the aurora borealis from the sky. One fateful October night, when forecasters predict an exceptionally vivid aurora, Jack embarks on a solo flight to fly closer to the multicolored lights. Drawn to a fingerlike funnel that stretches toward the ground, Jack ignores the concerns in the back of his mind and flies through the anomaly before it dissipates back into the night sky. As Jack returns to the airport, he has no idea that his life is about to change.
Only a few days later, Jack is sitting in a local bar with friends when he suddenly realizes something is different. For a moment Jack seems to come out of himself – he can feel the pain of others, and sees brief flashes cross his mind. It is not long before Jack discovers he has developed a strange ability to entangle his mind with others. With his newfound gift, Jack soon finds ways to aid friends, uncover falsehoods, and even intertwine his mind with an eagle.
In this intriguing science fiction tale, a fearless pilot must come to terms with his telepathic ability and somehow weave his unintended gift into the course of his life.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.78(d)|
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The Auroral Entanglement
By James Nabi Michael
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 James Nabi Michael
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJack walked out to his plane. The sun was just rising, and a light mist covered the ground. A low fog floated over the water of the bay, located only a stone's throw away from the airport runway. The trees on the other side of the small airport were quiet that October morning since many of the birds native to the area had already migrated south for the winter. It was getting colder and darker in the morning now. Jack had done well that year; he'd had quite a few tourists, so he was happy that things were starting to slow down a bit. He had a de Havilland Canada Beaver bush plane that sat six comfortably, and he chartered it out to people in Alaska. He loved flying and enjoyed taking tourists up to see Alaska from the sky. It was fun to see the awe in people's faces when he flew them over the rugged wilderness of Alaska's terrain.
Jack was cold, and he zipped up his faded leather jacket and pulled up the collar to try and keep his ears warm. He did his preflight inspection, slowly walking around the plane checking for anything unusual. He climbed up on the wing and checked the fuel tanks to make sure they were full. He walked around the back of the plane and checked the rudder and hinges and the vertical tail. These were things he did every day, but he always did them diligently—it was the safest way to fly. He had a few people he was taking up that day; they wanted to see McKinley, which was one of the more popular landmarks tourists liked to fly to. He loved what he was doing—beautiful area, maybe a little lonely but not that bad really. He had lots of friends, and in fact, he was meeting up with a few that evening to just hang out, relax, and have a few beers after work. After he completed his preflight inspection, he walked back inside the hangar. Four people, two women and two men, were waiting there in a small office.
"All right, folks, we're ready to roll," Jack said, smiling broadly to his customers. "Hope you're not too squeamish, because it can get a little bumpy up there but ... uh ... you'll enjoy the ride. It's a beautiful view. Who's flown here before?"
One guy raised his hand.
"Okay, well, we've got mostly newcomers. Don't worry—it will be fun. So where are you from?"
One lady exclaimed, "I'm from New Jersey!"
"New Jersey!" Jack replied. "Well, it's quite a change of scenery for you, ma'am."
The woman smiled and nodded, then replied, "It sure is, and I'm loving it!"
Jack smiled again and then looked at his watch. "Well, it's seven thirty now, just about time to head out. The sun is just rising, and the fog will clear in the next ten minutes or so. It looks like some clear skies, so we should have a good ride."
They were flying out of Birchwood Airport that morning, an airport twenty minutes north of downtown Anchorage just off the main highway near the town of Chugiak. Jack, in fact, stored his plane there and tried to schedule most of his charter flights to McKinley from Birchwood. The airport was small but had a well-kept commercial runway and was located next to the water along the Knik Arm Bay. This made it an ideal airport for not just land but also water takeoffs and landings, and on many occasions, Jack had mounted floats to his plane for charter flights to the Aleutian Islands southwest of Anchorage.
All four of the passengers seemed to enjoy the flight that day as far as Jack could tell. It took them about an hour to get up to McKinley. He spent well over an hour flying around the mountain. He flew his plane toward the top of it and then did some nice circles closer to the base of the mountain as he pointed out scenic areas and landmarks for those who asked. It was an enjoyable trip, and the people were very pleasant and friendly. He enjoyed talking to them and getting to know a little about their backgrounds.
They made a short stopover at a small airport near the mountain. This gave the people some time to relax, check out the scenery from the ground, and get a snack. They did a little more flying near the mountain before they headed back. He landed the plane just after three o'clock that afternoon. He said good-bye to everyone, gave them a few brochures about his charter service, and thanked them all for flying with him that day.
He was going to meet up with his friends at seven o'clock. He had a few hours to burn so he ran some errands, picked up a couple things he needed for his apartment, and then headed over to meet his friends.
* * *
"Hey, Jack!" a deep voice called out as soon as Jack stepped into the dim, wooden-walled pub. "What's up, man?"
Jack looked toward the voice and saw his friend Bob, balding and a little overweight, leaning on the bar.
"Hi, Bob, what's going on? How are you doing? Where are you guys at?"
"Oh, we're just over there at that corner table." Bob gestured with his hand to the backside of the bar.
"Well, good, I'm just going to grab a beer at the bar and then I'll meet up with you."
"Sounds good, man."
Jack ordered his favorite micro-brewed pale ale, but the bar was busy that night and he had to wait several minutes as the bartender served up drinks to the patrons ahead of him. As he stood there at the bar waiting for his beer, it started to happen. It was the strangest thing, but it had been happening sporadically now for several years, especially at places where food was served. His mouth was filled with the tastes of food, almost as if he were tasting the food off the plates of the people around him. He looked to his left and saw a young woman taking a bite of her cheeseburger. At that moment, Jack felt his mouth fill with the taste of well-done hamburger meat and cheese. Then a few seconds later, he tasted salmon in his mouth. He looked to his right and spotted another patron sitting at the bar a few stools down eating fresh-cooked salmon. At first when this started happening several years back, he thought he must just have an oversensitive nose, but the tastes were so strong he had a hard time believing that it was just his nose. The odd thing was it didn't occur all the time, only every once in a while, and it didn't seem to follow any kind of set pattern, other than it occurred more often at bars and diners. He hadn't given it much thought; it was unusual and quite strange, but it didn't bother him too much; in fact, it was quite fun having these tastes appear in his mouth. When the bartender brought him his beer, his mind shifted, and he simply dismissed what had just happened, focusing instead on the pale ale in his hand and how all of a sudden he was quite thirsty. He took a big gulp of the beer before the bartender spoke to him.
"That'll be three fifty, Jack. Do you want to start a tab?"
"No, that's okay, Joe, I'm probably just up for a few tonight."
Jack handed Joe a five dollar bill and then headed over and sat down with his buddies.
Jack, Bob, Bryan, Darrell, and George sat around a smooth wood table, each man with a beer in front of him, with peanuts and pretzels on the table. Jack and his friends tried to meet up at least once a month. Jack had known most of these guys for several years, so they were good friends; it was a nice way to relax.
"So what have you been up to, Jack?" Bob asked as he chewed on some peanuts and took a gulp of his beer.
"Oh, not too much, just hanging. Did some flying today, took a group up to Mount McKinley, you know. Things are starting to die down a little bit now. I'm thinking about flying out of Fairbanks, probably in another couple of weeks. Things usually start picking up there by the end of October, sometimes earlier. I'll start getting some people up there who want to see the aurora borealis. It's kind of neat—I really enjoy those evening flights and all those colors in the sky."
"Wow, that's cool. Sounds pretty awesome," Bryan said as he peeled the label off his beer bottle. "What else have you been up to?"
"Oh, not too much. Just hanging out, drinking a couple of beers with my buddies."
Everyone laughed a little bit.
"So what have you guys been doing?"
"Oh, been pretty busy, pretty busy," George said as he leaned back in his chair, putting it on two legs. "Been busy out at the oil rigs. We hit a big pocket last week, got pretty hectic. We've had a few new babes come into work the other day, been trying to find out a little about them. So how's your love life, Jack?"
"Oh, I've been doing some dating. Playing the field a little bit. No one real serious, but I've been dating a couple of different women trying to get to know them better. I'll see how things pan out." Jack actually had been seeing one woman now off and on for seven months, but he didn't like to discuss the details of his love life in this type of setting.
"Cool," George said as he stroked his deep red beard.
* * *
They were just sitting, not saying too much, when George spoke up.
"Yeah, man, I was out at that oil rig the other day. You should have seen how much oil we pumped out of that well. We had a huge rupture in one of those oil lines, and I busted my butt trying to get that thing wrapped up. There was oil spilling out all over the place, but I got that thing fixed up; they didn't even have to shut down that pump! I must have worked fifteen hours that day, you know!"
Oh boy, Jack thought, here he goes again. Old George had a reputation for blowing his horn. When there was nothing to talk about, it could be somewhat fun to humor him, but sometimes it got old listening to him drone on about how great he was. At least for now, Jack sat and listened.
"Yeah, I tell you, my boss gave me a pat on the back. He said to me, 'George, I've never seen anyone bust his butt as hard as you did today. You're one of my best workers out here, you know that.' That's what he said to me, you know that, guys! That's what he said. And I tell you, know how much oil we pumped out of that well that day? You know we pumped twice as much as what they normally do, maybe three times as much."
Yeah, right, George, Jack thought, probably more like five percent more than normal, but eh, who's counting? Let him go on, he said to himself. He seems to get a kick out of it.
"Yeah, and you know these other guys I work with, they're a bunch of wimps compared to me. I'm so good, I'm the best guy out there."
Oh man, Jack thought, I better think of something to shut him up because this is getting old. Jack didn't mind so much when George was blowing his horn, but when he started putting down the other people he worked with, well, that was too much.
"Yeah, you know I work out so much—look at my muscles. These guys I work with can't hold a candle to me. They just go to the oil rig, work, and then go home, watch TV, and drink beer. They're not nearly as tough as I am."
Okay, Jack thought, this is too much; I'm going to have to intervene here. He's going overboard—I don't want to hear another word. I want to talk about something else.
"You know, George, you are just the most amazing human being. I just wish I could experience it firsthand. What do you say I become you for just a few moments. What do you think, buddy? Can we do a swap for just a few seconds, or even just a split-second?"
Everyone laughed, including George.
"Right, Jack, you couldn't handle being me even if you wanted to be."
There was another round of laughter, but it did get George to stop talking about himself so much. During the next few hours, they chatted about normal stuff—women, their jobs, the weather, their families, their plans for the winter. It was a good time.
Eventually it was starting to get late, and Jack had to get up early the next morning.
"It's about ten thirty, guys. I'm heading out. Don't want to get up too late tomorrow morning." Jack said good-bye to his friends and headed back to his apartment.
* * *
Jack rented a small apartment in Anchorage. He spent a good portion of the year in Anchorage because that was where the work was. He liked Anchorage, but it was a little too much of a big city atmosphere for him. He also owned an older house up in Fairbanks, where he felt more at home. He didn't get to spend much time there, but during the off-season, he lived there and spent most of his time renovating the house. It was difficult working on the house in the winter, but before complete darkness set in, he would work on his outside projects even with the few hours of daylight. He had a huge flood lamp, as well, if he needed to do some work on the outside of the house after the sky turned dark. In the evenings, he would work inside, renovating the rooms.
Fairbanks was more secluded than Anchorage, and he felt more like an explorer or adventurer living there. For his Fairbanks tours, he usually flew out of Fairbanks International Airport from a hangar on the north side of the runway, but there was a small private airport located only a few minutes from his house in a rural neighborhood. When Jack was in Fairbanks but not doing tours, he would park his plane there and make the short walk to his home. Even this late in the season, he could still pull together a trip out of Anchorage, but Fairbanks started picking up in the fall and winter. In Fairbanks, you could see the aurora borealis more clearly and vividly, and he got a fair share of business from aurora hunters who wanted to see the phenomenon from the sky. The aurora borealis was fascinating; in fact, sometimes when there was a really spectacular one, Jack would fly up into the night sky on his own.
The aurora borealis exists in the earth's upper atmosphere, in the range of two hundred to three hundred thousand feet. Jack's plane could only climb to about eighteen thousand feet on a good day, but even then, it seemed so close that you could reach out and touch it. Sometimes he'd take off when it was vivid in the sky and he'd fly straight toward it. His plane could climb better than most, and he'd point the nose straight up, facing right toward the aurora borealis, and he'd imagine he was flying right through it, like flying through a rainbow. He would not do this with the tourists—it would probably scare them a bit—but every so often he would do it himself. With the tourists, he would first spend some time on the ground letting them absorb its beauty, and then they would board the plane and gently climb, while Jack turned the plane to capture the full panorama of the spectacle. As they climbed up and up, he would do figure eights, so that the passengers on both sides of the plane could get a good view.
It was difficult to schedule his flights since there was no set time the aurora borealis would appear, but he would scan all the forecasts, particularly from one station that kept track of the sun's activity twenty-four hours a day and could predict with relatively fine accuracy when an aurora borealis would occur. The aurora borealis is most spectacular when an unusually large number of light photons from the sun strike and excite tiny particles in the earth's upper atmosphere. Since the aurora is most pronounced within a twelve- to seventy-two-hour period after major sun activity, with an accurate account of prominent sunbursts, the forecast was fairly reliable. He advertised his services around many of the local hotels in Fairbanks and gave a number that people could call to get an update on aurora borealis activity and when Jack had flights scheduled. It worked quite well; many visitors to Alaska were there for a week or two, which gave them time to schedule something in advance. During peak season, Jack could usually get four or five people to go up with him to see the aurora from his plane; but in early October, he was lucky to get one or two at a time. It was quite fun, but sometimes the passengers would be a bit disappointed if the aurora borealis were faint. Usually, though, it worked out well, and people were satisfied with what they saw.
When Jack got home that evening from the bar, he checked with his forecaster to see the level of sunburst activity. Sure enough, within the next day, an exceptionally vivid aurora borealis was expected. Shoot, Jack thought, it's a little early in the season, isn't it? Usually the best sightings were toward the end of October or the beginning of November when the nights were longer; this one was unusual, since it was only the first day of October. Well, Jack thought to himself, I should have checked in earlier; I could have lined up a good tour. If I hadn't headed to the bar to sit and listen to George go on about his escapades, I could have pulled something together.
Usually people would check his recording and book a seat the day before the scheduled flight. Sometimes people would book the day of the flight, but this was rare, especially this early in the season. Oh well, there's a missed opportunity, he thought. If I can get up there tomorrow, maybe I can get a few people to go up. He didn't have anything scheduled out of Anchorage for four days, so it was worth a try. It was almost midnight, but Jack called his message service and changed his recording with the new information.
Excerpted from The Auroral Entanglement by James Nabi Michael Copyright © 2012 by James Nabi Michael. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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