(2018-10-12) Wishful Thinking
After the events of Poetry Night at the Junction, Solo and Heather continue their conversation at the Boardroom. There could be flirtation, though it's hard to tell.


The Boardroom

An wooden bar occupies the center of this small, hole-in-the-wall establishment - lacking for things like "free wi-fi" and slick interior design. The whole place has fewer than ten small, round tables with mismatched chairs scattered across the wooden floor and one L-shaped bar with five stools in front of it. This is not the place to come asking for specialty liquors, but it's a decent joint if you're looking for some place downtown, and the location means it turns a good bit of business on a week night. The food menu is limited: wings, fries, chili dogs, hamburgers, typical bar-food coming out of a tiny kitchen through the back. But there are decent beers on tap, and you can get a middle-of-the-road cocktail for a not-unreasonable price.

There's one, good-sized TV stuck to the wall next to the bar, inevitably tuned to sports, and every other spare space on the wall is occupied by a random assortment of decorations: advertisements for liquor or local businesses, a smattering of framed photographs of Colorado scenery, pennants for the Rockies and the Broncos, and a dartboard at the back. The smell of beer, peanuts, and patrons hangs in the air, often battling with whatever song someone convinces the old-school jukebox to pump out.


"A-10s? Wow. That's some pretty heavy shit." Heather seems impressed. "Why didn't it end well? And maybe you can tell me the whole truth instead of that bullshit in the cafe" she smiles before nodding to a Honda hatchback. "This is it, sorry. Most of my money is in the station. You might have to close the door twice for it to stick." Heather slips into the driver's seat and waits for Solo before resuming the conversation. "So you want to know who is rich, and who has mistresses they need to fly out to. I can see why you need the gossip." A shrug. "I might be able to help you out…if you help me out. Tourist season now, you should be able to get some pop stars and their drug addled entourages to use your services. No contacts in that world?"

Solo laughs softly. "So, in exchange for me thinking you're a lesbian…" she slams the door vigorously enough to get it to stick the first try, "…you think I'm what… a criminal? A drug user? Don't let my nickname deceive you. I'm just a pilot. But yes, all that about pop stars would be useful." She looks out at the road. "Ok… no bullshit. I didn't leave the military voluntarily, and my discharge wasn't exactly honorable. Not outright dishonorable - those are what you get if you pause at Fort Leavenworth on your way out, and it means you're a convicted felon. But not exactly "We're sorry to see you go." And when you google me, you'll find a very tawdry scandal about it, so there's no point hiding it. Originally it was a sexual misconduct thing. I agreed to a lesser charge… failure to maintain weight."

"Failure to maintain weight…seriously? You get caught fucking someone you shouldn't and that becomes 'failure to maintain weight'? I'm not sure what's worse. Discrimination over weight, discrimination over libido, or the military mindset that thinks both those things are fine. Actually, the last one is worst" Heather starts up the car and heads off to the bar - they both need it. "I don't think you're a criminal…you're just overweight" she teases, "Though if you call yourself 'Solo', these things happen. You know, you should advertise your airline with slogans like 'Calaveras to Los Angeles in under ten parsecs'…or whatever it was. Hmm, maybe not, Disney will sue the pants off you." She peers over at her passenger. "You say you have an exciting job, Solo? One that, I dunno, would make good television?"

Solo shakes her head. "Unless something goes horribly wrong, my job is about as exciting as driving a bus." She looks out into the darkness. "Except that it's flying. That makes all the difference. Flying A-10s and bombing the shit out of bunkers and whatnot… flying someone to Denver quietly and quickly… even… taking some ten year old up for a familiarization lesson in the Pipistrel, although you miss having the clouds under you." She looks over at Heather. "That probably sounds crazy to you."

"Why would it sound crazy? Despite all the things you've gone through, you're doing a job that you love. And that is very, very rare, Solo. You should treasure it. And not only is it a job you love, it's a job that millions of people wish they could do. To fly. That…that's awesome. I might be a little envious" Heather smiles. It's not a big town, they'll be at the bar soon enough. "I don't really want to get a plane crash on camera, but you'll be surprised what people find interesting. Most of them will never see a cockpit. See the view out of that window. It will be a fantasy they want to be part of. And if we don't get enough for a series, we should get enough for a special. 'Solo: A Calaveras Story'…what do you think? Is that a park?" Heather manages to squeeze her small car into a spot near the bar, hopping out quickly. "Personal question time, Solo. Where did you get the money to own an airline?"

Solo climbs out. "I don't own an airline. I own an air courier service. Two planes, one pilot, one mechanic (both me). So it's not like I own a billion dollar company. And no, no TV shows about my life. Now… if you wanted to do a show where I teach you to fly… that could be interesting." She follows Heather into the bar.

Solo adds, "I guarantee you the internet trolls will dig up the tawdry photos from the tawdry scandal about me though. They might not even have all the naughty bits blurred out.

"Sounds like I need to do some Googling when I get home" Heather teases about the photos. "Maybe not an airline, but planes don't come cheap. It wouldn't be about your life, more about your job. But, yeah, learning to fly could work. Do you mean me me?" A snort and a shake of her head. "Nah, not me. Or, at least, not just me. Hmm…how about a show where you teach various people from all works of life. 'Dream to Fly'. That could work. What would you like to drink? Find us a booth?"

Solo finds a booth as far from the door as possible. "Getting a private pilot's license takes a minimum of 40 flight hours, twenty with an instructor, twenty flying solo. Now, my Pipistrel Electro Alpha trainer is good for about half those instructor hours, but you do need to learn piston engine management at some point to get your license. And why not you? It's a skill you could use in your work, couldn't you? I mean… go to scenes up in the mountains, fly over forest fires, and like that? Why just be the reporter when you could report and fly?"

Heather returns with the drinks, handing over Solo's before sliding into the booth. "It wouldn't be about getting their license, it would be just a first lesson or something. I'm there will be more never wanting to do it again than would carry through with it" she explains before a sip of her cranberry vodka. "If I was also flying, it might affect my poised on-camera professionalism?" Heather winks. "And finding forty hours in my life would be a bit difficult right now. Besides, I've just met this awesome pilot who could do the flying for me."

Solo takes hers…bourbon with bitters, no ice. "You don't do it all at once. Most people do it over a year or two, pay as you go." Solo looks into her drink. "Unfortunately, except for traffic overflights, neither of my planes is really suited to reporting. They don't have the loiter time. The jet's too fast and burns up fuel like flushing the toilet. And the Pipistrel's electric. It only has about an hour of battery. It's designed for training. You'd want something with a lot more endurance. A regular Pipistrel Alpha, maybe or a Cessna, or whatever." She sips her drink. "Tell you what. Assuming I don't get hammered tonight, why don't I take you up tomorrow. Let you fly the Pipistrel a little. See if you like it. I can be a little generous with the flight time on that thing. Once you have the actual experience of doing it yourself, you might have a better feel for whatever show you have in mind."

"It sounds like the channel needs a chopper" Heather sighs, "Add that to the list of future expenses. I wonder if the fire service has one we could share. One of the fireman implied that there were money issues with them. Might be able to ease the burden a bit. Can you fly a chopper, Solo?" Another sip of her drink. "Forty hours over two years might be a lot too" she laughs, "But, sure, I'll go up with you tomorrow. Assuming we don't get smashed. I will have to be back by say…three in the afternoon at the latest. I present the news on the weekend, and I have to edit the stories beforehand. Not to mention the hours of make-up needed to make myself presentable so the cameras don't break." Heather offers her glass in a toast. "Deal. We'll go get high together tomorrow."

Solo laughs and toasts with Heather. "Sounds good. And no, I'm a fixed-wing girl. Helicopters aren't natural." She winks. "Sides. Choppers are expensive. Really expensive. And the maintenance is expensive. And heaven help you if the engine stops. Whereas the Pipistrel can glide quite a ways, and my jet has a fucking parachute for the whole airframe." She sips her whiskey. She considers it, how it feels, how in control of it she feels tonight. Oh right. Flying tomorrow. One drink limit, no exceptions. "So how did you wind up in the news business?"

"What a shame you don't do unnatural things" teases Heather. "Like flying a helicopter. That's all I meant. You have some valid points about it though." She leans back into the booth, considering the question. "Probably began with being a gossip queen at school. Short step to reporting. Wanted to write for a newspaper at first but then got into electronic media at college. Worked for a television station in Denver. Was damn good at my job…too good. Got shot by some corrupt cops. Survived, obviously, and got a big payout. Used it to buy the station. That and a few loans. And there's my life in a minute. That's pretty frightening. You'd want to hope you could get at least two minutes our of your life story."

Solo chuckles again. "I have a pretty broad definition of natural, except when I'm flying." She listens, playing a fingertip along the rim of her glass. She frowns at the 'being shot' part. "Shit… so howcome YOU don't pack?"

"What difference would it have made?" Heather shrugs about her lack of a weapon. "And it was a cop that shot me…twice. Do you think me shooting back would have helped anything? It would probably have made it worse, since he would have seen I was alive and finished the job. Him or one of the others. If someone intends to shoot you, Solo, having a weapon won't make any difference. They'll just make sure they fire first…and try to do a fatal job." Another sip of her drink. "And think about what would happen if everyone was armed. You'd shoot people for the slightest insult. It would be the old west all over again. Remember that concert hall shooting in Paris? Imagine how much worse it would have been if they were all armed. A shot rings out, you have no idea where it came from, but suddenly you're surrounded by people with guns in their hands. Do you wait to see which of them it was by shooting you? Or do you blast away at anyone you don't know. Especially those who look…different. The real shooters could have sat back and watched, and then finished off those who were left." A shrug. "Just my personal opinion, doesn't mean it's right."

Solo shrugs again. "In my line of work, identification friend or foe is pretty easy. Bad cops are a bad situation. You can't avoid cops, and it's never ever a good idea to shoot at one, you're right. As for the whole cascade of gunfire problem… doesn't seem like it happens much. There was a mass shooting at a Walmart not long ago. I mean Walmart. Like ten people in there were carrying. Nobody. Not one of them, fired a shot. Turns out it takes more than a gun to make you crazy enough to run toward a firefight and start shooting. Don't let the pro-gun crazies deceive you. A gun is a tool. If you're unfortunate, a gun can be the only tool for a job you do even if you don't want to. It doesn't make you bullet proof, doesn't make up for a lack of situational awareness, or for poking your nose into situations where dangerous people are being dangerous. It doesn't even get you automatic respect, which is what most wannabes really want. It's just a tool. Like having a Leatherman when you need to fix your car."

"I'm going to guess that a Leatherman is not someone who was in the Village People. Hey, he might have been able to fix my car. Not my place to judge" Heather smiles before nodding her head. "Most people will avoid confrontation, but when you think you're surrounded, no way out - like an easy to find Walmart exit - who knows what will happen. You're trained. You know what to do. Me, I'd probably shoot myself getting out. But it's not an easy problem to deal with, so let's talk about something else." A pause. "Do you have any easy problems we can discuss?"

Solo laughs. "Thanks. Now I've got Y..MCA… going through my head." She sips her bourbon. "No, it's not simple. It's human conflict in very close quarters. It's an old problem, and it's never simple. But it does make good news stories, I guess. Anyway, a Leatherman is a pocket knife with pliers and a screwdriver. You should definitely have one in your purse." She gets her own out of a pocket and sets it on the table. "Don't carry them through airport security though. Hmm. Easy problems? Are those even problems anymore?"

"People will always find a way to make problems out of everything" Heather sighs, "Especially if they don't like the solution." She picks up the pocket knife and looks it over before handing it back. "I'm not the most handy of people. Hey, don't knock the Village People. There are worse things you could have going through your head. Like me singing YMCA." Heather frowns. "I'm sick of tragedy making 'good' news stories. Everyone should know what is happening, don't get me wrong, but a lot of good happens every day too that shouldn't be reserved for thirty seconds at the end. I hate how afraid we make people. The idea is to make them aware, not terrified. Not full of hate." A snort at her words. "So much for the 'no hard problems' edict." She studies the woman across the booth. "Seriously though, why did you think I was a lesbian? Wishful thinking?"

Solo smiles enigmatically. "Did I think you were a lesbian? I thought I was just making a joke. There may be wishful thinking going on, but are you sure it's me doing it?"

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