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M. L. "Matt" Buchman

Ghostrider (+audio)

Ghostrider (+audio)

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When sabotage threatens the US Air Force’s newest gunship, there’s only one woman to call.
An AC-130J “Ghostrider”—the latest variant of America’s most lethal aerial gunship—goes down hard in the Colorado Rockies. Except the flight data doesn’t match the airframe. Air-crash genius, and high-functioning autistic, Miranda Chase leads her NTSB team of sleuths in to investigate. But what they uncover reveals a far greater threat—sabotage.
If she can’t solve the crash in time, a new type of war will erupt. One far too close to home which threatens to shatter her team.

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Tacoma Narrows Airport, Gig Harbor, Washington
Elevation: 295 feet
(1900 hours Pacific Daylight Time)
Miranda’s laptop barely fit on the end of the plywood workbench in her airplane hangar. One of Jeremy’s ever-expanding projects was squeezing her aside, but she managed to hang on long enough to deliver her latest report.
She selected Upload on the NTSB’s secure server. Her report “Airbus A320neo excursion from runway and collision with taxiing 737 at SFO” was complete and ready for final peer review.
It had led to a large number of jokes about Boeing versus Airbus that had seemed irrelevant to the destructive mechanical interactions of the two aircraft or the fatal error to the pilot who had caused them.
She had to blink twice at the following screen because it didn’t make any sense.
“It’s blank.”
“What is?” Jeremy didn’t look up from where he’d taken over most of her workbench. He’d scavenged a full set of cockpit instruments from a mothballed military C-5A Galaxy jet transport on his last trip to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s boneyard. He was meticulously dissecting, studying, then restoring each one. She appreciated that his thoroughness matched her own, even though they would never be used again. The faint scent of lightweight machine oil permeated the immediate area.
She and her site investigation team—Team Chase they were now called, for reasons that continued to strike her as unfair to the others—were gathered in her hangar at Tacoma Narrows Airport. It was a warm summer day and the main doors were slid back to let the sun in.
Her two planes were parked to the sides of the cozy hangar. There was room for a third. But her team used the Mooney, and she’d never found another plane she wanted more than her Sabrejet. Two planes were sufficient. Their “office” in the back corner was functional and smelled of a Pacific Northwest summer: all ocean, pine, and fresh mown grass…with just a hint of familiar avgas and Jet A fuel.
Through the back wall, the sound of small aircraft taking off to the south occasionally filled the hangar with a cheery buzz. At the brief roar of a twin jet on the nearby runway, she looked up from her screen. She just couldn’t break the habit even though there were no windows facing in that direction. It was the sound of Williams FJ44-1 engines, but was it the -1A or -1AP—she couldn’t tell without seeing the plane.
Aside from the occasional aircraft, the hangar was far quieter than her agency office at the National Transportation Safety Board just twenty miles away across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
She focused back on her screen, but nothing had changed.
“Our queue is blank.”
Mike laughed from where he sat opposite Holly.
The two of them were playing Backgammon. Mike was playing as if he were reading a good book. Holly clearly felt that Backgammon was a blood sport. She didn’t roll her dice out of the cup and onto the board—she slammed it down with a crash that threatened to dislodge the wooden slats from the stout spare-parts crate that they were using as a table.
“Why is that an issue? I could do with a break.” Mike eased back on the sagging sofa to look at her. “We’ve been busy campers of late.”
“Just play, goddamn it.” Holly snarled at him.
Miranda considered pointing out that the more anxious Holly became, the more casual Mike became. She didn’t understand it herself, but she’d observed the dynamic before.
It was still unclear if having an intimate relationship was somehow at the core of their verbal swordsmanship, or perhaps their lack of one. Her attempts at studying human emotions as interacting dynamic systems were still providing erratic results long after any merely mechanical systems would have been clearly delineated.

Publication Details

Initial Publication: June 23, 2020
Print Pages: 354
Audio length: 8:26
Narrator: Read by Author

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