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Spare Parts

Spare Parts

Автором Judy Mardorf Thompson

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Spare Parts

Автором Judy Mardorf Thompson

Длина:
355 pages
3 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
May 23, 2011
ISBN:
9781456763787
Формат:
Книге

Описание

In Spare Parts, Claudia Martin, an avionics engineer at Duffet Commercial Airplane Co. (DCAC), finds a serious software anomaly which could threaten the integrity of the Flight Management Computer system -- and that could bring down a jet. Her boss, an ex-lover, chooses to overlook her warning in order to meet the accelerated airplane development schedule. But Claudia's own values will not allow her to agree to let it go. Claudia finds her professional reputation challenged, her career at stake. When a local flight crashes under mysterious circumstances, she accepts the call to adventure that will change her life forever.

Claudia approaches the FAA where she is offered a job as an undercover mole. She teams with FBI Agent Wyatt Richardson to examine bogus parts issues. Their sexual tension serves as a subplot highlighting rivalry between governmental agencies. Wyatt regards bad hardware to be the issue, but Claudia disagrees. She pursues her quest for the hidden cause -- bad software. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Lurking beneath it all is a sinister plot to ruin DCAC by a EuroAire-owned subcontractor. What begins as an investigation of flight-critical software and bogus spare parts explodes in global dimensions, becoming a race for market share and air safety, and threatening Claudia's life.

Spare Parts spans two continents, where an evil web turns safe air travel into a roulette game. The FAA, FBI, NTSB, British Civil Aviation Administration (CAA), and New Scotland Yard wage separate battles before joining forces against one CAA inspector, and a corrupt subcontractor. As Claudia puts the pieces together, she discovers how EuroAire obtained software source code to deliberately sabotage flight-critical programs on DCAC jets.

Издатель:
Издано:
May 23, 2011
ISBN:
9781456763787
Формат:
Книге

Об авторе

Judy Mardorf Thompson worked for a major aerospace manufacturer, and has thirty years experience in the electronics, communications, computer software, and aerospace industries. She is widowed, and lives north of Seattle, near her two married daughters. In 1991, Judy's essay was published in Newsweek's My Turn, and Reader's Digest. In 1994 she self-published a true story, 'WHEN A DRUNK DRIVER KILLS.' Judy has appeared on four TV programs: the Oprah Winfrey Show, Northwest Afternoon, CNBC TV's The Real Story, and Nerissa At Nine. Judy enjoys sailing, jazz and classical music, traveling, and country living.

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Spare Parts - Judy Mardorf Thompson

SPARE PARTS

Judy Mardorf Thompson

http://www.taleteller.biz

email: jmm1948@gmail.com

AuthorHouse™

1663 Liberty Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403

www.authorhouse.com

Phone: 1-800-839-8640

This is a work of fiction, set in the future. Any references to persons, places, corporations, entities, and acronyms is coincidental, and should not be construed as factual. Some industry standard abbreviations and acronyms used are factual.

© 2000 by Judy Mardorf.

© 2011 by Judy Mardorf Thompson.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

First published 1999

First revision June 2000

Second revision May 2011.

ISBN: 978-1-4567-6377-0 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4567-6378-7 (ebk)

Printed in the United States of America

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models,

and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them

Contents

ABOUT THE BOOK

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

DEDICATION

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

About the Author

ABOUT THE BOOK

In SPARE PARTS, Claudia Martin, an avionics engineer at Duffet Commercial Airplane Co. (DCAC), finds a serious software anomaly which could threaten the integrity of the Flight Management Computer system—and that could bring down a jet. Her boss, an ex-lover, chooses to overlook her warning in order to meet the accelerated airplane development schedule. But Claudia’s own values will not allow her to agree to let it go. Claudia finds her professional reputation challenged, her career at stake. When a local flight crashes under mysterious circumstances, she accepts the call to adventure that will change her life forever.

Claudia approaches the FAA where she is offered a job as an undercover mole. She teams with FBI Agent Wyatt Richardson to examine bogus parts issues. Their sexual tension serves as a subplot highlighting rivalry between governmental agencies. Wyatt regards bad hardware to be the issue, but Claudia disagrees. She pursues her quest for the hidden cause—bad software. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Lurking beneath it all is a sinister plot to ruin DCAC by a EuroAire-owned subcontractor. What begins as an investigation of flight-critical software and bogus spare parts explodes in global dimensions, becoming a race for market share and air safety, and threatening Claudia’s life.

Spare Parts spans two continents, where an evil web turns safe air travel into a roulette game. The FAA, FBI, NTSB, British Civil Aviation Administration (CAA), and New Scotland Yard wage separate battles before joining forces against one CAA inspector, and a corrupt subcontractor. As Claudia puts the pieces together, she discovers how EuroAire obtained software source code to deliberately sabotage flight-critical programs on DCAC jets.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Throughout the eight and one-half years it took to write this book, LaRue Krumm cheerfully continued giving me her vigorous support, brainstorming with me, and editing many versions of the manuscript. Her encouragement never faltered. Thank you, LaRue.

Elizabeth Lyon, a nurturing editor and creative writing instructor, led me in three major revisions. Her tutelage has been exceptional, and is greatly appreciated.

Special thanks go to Janelle Breese-Biagioni, a screenwriter from Penticton, British Columbia, whose talents and enthusiasm in writing the screenplay will result (we hope) in a movie.

Let me express my appreciation to Tom Clancy for having exchanged emails with me for six years, for his encouragement, and for his phone consultation with me concerning one aspect of my plot. His phrase, Easter Egg, is used in the story.

For technical aspects of motorcycle riding and maintenance, thanks go to the guys at the Lynnwood Cycle Barn.

My profound love and appreciation go to my daughters, Jeanne and Jessica, for their unwavering support. They believed in me, and in this story.

DEDICATION

This book is dedicated to my daughters Jeanne and Jessica, and to ordinary workers in the aerospace and software industries. May your voices be heard, and your hard work acknowledged.

Wisdom entereth not into a malicious mind, and science without conscience is but the ruin of the soul.

François Rabelais

PART I:

THE GLITCH

CHAPTER 1

December 12, 2004 Duffet Commercial Airplane Co. (DCAC), Everett, Washington

Where’s your data?

In a file attached to my email.

Inconclusive. Anything that shows a fault will be found in ground or flight test. Frowning, Marshall Stevens leaned back in his chair.

Claudia Martin straightened her shoulders, faced him squarely, Well, they haven’t been caught yet. The FAA can’t explain the crash of that 997 last month. What if it had unreliable software? Maybe she should have gone to someone else, someone who could be objective, not a mid-level boss, not a former lover. But who?

Claudia felt his eyes boring into her flesh. She tried to shift his gaze by sweeping her shoulder-length auburn hair to one side. I found an anomaly and reported it. It needs fixing before it gets installed on the new plane. Aren’t employees empowered to monitor their own work, call a stop when necessary?

Yes, that’s CTA methodology.

Well, I’m calling a stop. I need more time.

Not possible. Design schedules have been accelerated. He folded his arms across his chest.

She glanced at model airplanes on his desk, a slice of aviation history featuring bi-planes, Corsairs, Boeing’s family of commercial and military airplanes, Hughes, Lockheed and Airbus models, and even the SST. Claudia knew Marshall Stevens’s ambition, to rise to the top at DCAC (pronounced dee sack) and direct development of a new airplane, would result in another replica joining his precious collection.

This isn’t a factory where we can pull the plug and stop the line, he said. We can’t get excited about every little glitch or we’d never meet schedules. We have fail-safe checks and balances to catch faults along the way, but we need to get the product out the door. His voice had risen.

Look, Navigation software either works correctly in the FMC, or it doesn’t. Claudia glared at him. Airplanes get to their programmed destinations on time, or they don’t.

He stood, waved his right arm. I don’t like your circumventing the chain of command.

She ignored his interruption and continued: Unpredictable goofs cause a domino effect on all other systems the Flight Management Computer controls. One bad NAV command falls on another.

If anyone followed up on your report, it should have been Paul O’Malley. I can’t have employees taking matters into their own hands.

But it wasn’t caught in verification, and I know—

No buts about it, he hollered.

Dammit, Marshall. That’s why it didn’t work between us; you don’t hear other people. You’ve got to listen to engineers under you. We’re the designers, the ones closest to the product—the ones who’ll save your bacon, and the flying public, before there’s a catastrophe.

He moved around his desk and took two steps closer. Don’t try to pull that on me. Management has a higher responsibility. We take input from many sources, make decisions with consequences you can’t begin to imagine. He again folded his arms across his chest. We see the big picture.

Let me tell you what’s in the big picture. Dead bodies. Lots of them. It’s only a question of when. If you read my entire email, you’d know why I can’t take no for an answer.

Yours is only one input. Now, if that’s all, you’ll have a disciplinary warning for insubordination placed in your personnel record.

Claudia blinked.

You’re off the project. It isn’t your problem anymore.

Stunned, she swallowed hard. Her worst fear, not working to uncover the glitch in software, hit her straight-on. She took a deep breath. You can’t dismiss it that easily. She put a hand on her hip.

He moved closer to her, towering a full eight inches over her. She backed away, broke eye contact. Feeling bullied was new to her. She didn’t like it. She knew her rejection of his earlier sexual advances had wounded his pride. His meaning couched in ‘If that’s all’ clearly meant that she could have gotten his attention in a centuries-old way. But she wasn’t for sale, and she didn’t mix business with pleasure.

It’s not your problem anymore.

Claudia felt her cheeks warm. Her pulse raced. Her throat felt dry. If he’d intended to intimidate her, he certainly had. As she turned to leave his office, she glimpsed the framed citations that filled an entire wall. She reflected on her own credentials, and a wave of anger flashed through her. Credibility. Professionalism. In her opinion, her attributes far exceeded his—but she wasn’t a man.

She turned to again face him. I inherited that assignment when Fleming died. I’ve spent months coming up to speed on it, and I’m telling you, there’s an unpredictable bug. That software should not have been released and installed. Airplanes will crash.

The project will be reassigned. Stevens pointed his index finger at her. And don’t even think about trying to end-run me by going higher up. This is as high as it goes, do you understand me? My decision, my responsibility. Don’t test me, Claudia, or you’ll be sorry. Now get back to work.

She stormed through the antechamber, careful to avoid making eye contact with Myrna Prye, who had probably overheard the confrontation. Claudia’s stomach churned. She reached the elevator, punched in number one, and the doors closed with a final clunk. Why hadn’t she planned better? Why hadn’t she said that not all released software was fault-free—fault tolerant, yes—but not fault-free? The downward movement caused her to feel lightheaded. Dammit, now she was virtually powerless, off the project. When the elevator doors opened again and she stepped out onto her floor, she felt she had reached a new low.

How could she get back on the project? Claudia realized senior management gave lip service to CTA but didn’t practice it. She should have fed the CTA catechism back to him: There cannot be Continuous Technological Advancement without refining, correcting, improving and building upon yesterday’s greatest progress and processes. Dammit, why was hindsight so much smarter than real-time observation?

And how could a simple idea for improving released software have turned into such a mess? After Fleming’s heart attack, releasing the original version had kept the schedule from sliding. But it had taken on serious dimensions once Claudia realized it should not have been released at all. And now this! Damn him! Her in-work version to correct Fleming’s software would be released today, glitch or not. She had refused to sign off on it, and her supervisor, Paul O’Malley was out with the flu. In his absence, Marshall Stevens had directed Verification to sign the release order, and Chuck Wright had done so, with a sneer on his face. In her five years in the group, Wright had never given her credit for anything.

She exhaled slowly, an idea flashed through her mind: Was her email a catalyst, a signal to Stevens to speed up schedules—to release designs before goofs became common knowledge? Would that secure a teflon man’s bonus? Would it get her the opposite?

The idea of a disciplinary warning in her otherwise unblemished personnel file sickened her. Claudia’s proudest endeavor was a nine-month assignment on a cross-divisional team to develop software for the Advanced Space Station. She’d match the feathers in her cap anyday, with anyone at DCAC. And now a black mark on her record?

Bile rose in her throat and she ran for the ladies room, passing a cluster of well-dressed men in the lobby. She felt conspicuous, panicky as she swooshed by them, hoping not to further embarrass herself by vomiting in front of an audience.

Her temples pounding, palms clammy, she made it just in time. She realized her only option at DCAC—a vastly different firm since the buy out—was to get to O’Malley who strongly supported her and disliked Stevens. Below Stevens organizationally, but above him in character and honor, O’Malley’d keep her on the project, wouldn’t he?

The more she thought about it, Stevens’ directive that ‘This is as high as it goes… don’t test me, or you’ll be sorry,’ only served to strengthen her determination to continue. Now she’d match her wits with his—and she’d win. He was despicable, a man without a conscience. How could she have slept with him?

A new plan emerging, she splashed cold water on her face. Drying it, she looked into the mirror, feeling older than her twenty-nine years, looking ashen, older at the moment, too.

But if she was right, hundreds of people could die. This was one time she’d rather be wrong. She’d rather be in hot water herself than counting body bags.

Alone in her DCAC cubicle, staring at her computer screen, Claudia ran the morning’s events through her mind. She glanced up at the wall-mounted clock. Almost 11:00 AM. Her gaze drifted back to beige, textured fabric on the cubicle’s wall. She sighed, exhaled, reached for the phone. Gripping it tightly in her left hand, she dialed, counted the rings and wondered if she should bother him at home.

Hello, a raspy voice croaked.

Paul, it’s Claudia Martin. Sorry to hit you with this while you’re sick, but—

It’s okay. I’m bored. What’s happening? He coughed and wheezed into the phone like a rusty hinge.

Someone released my software, did an end-run around you.

For Chrissake! It must be the Goddamn schedule. Paul O’Malley sneezed three times.

Claudia was surprised by O’Malley’s outburst. Was it because he felt lousy, or because he feared what bogus software could do? Verification signed the order.

Dammit! Go to Stevens.

I did. He’s not willing to stop it. In fact, he chewed me out, took me off the project.

A long silence. Claudia waited for his affirmation that she’d done the right thing, that he understood all implications, that this glitch could cause fatalities, that he knew Stevens wasn’t willing to get errant software fixed. Did he fear having the axe fall if he contradicted him?

That stupid bastard doesn’t know squat about software. I told him there was a problem… O’Malley’s voice trailed to a whisper.

Chills tingled her spinal column. O’Malley hadn’t reacted as she expected. He hadn’t told her to continue working on it, hadn’t said he’d handle Stevens. A knot tightened its grip on her stomach as she realized she was on her own. O’Malley wouldn’t go to bat for her. If she persisted, she’d be hung out to dry, another corporate casualty.

Claudia’s heart hammered. What now?

Wait and see. Maybe ground or flight test will catch it.

And if they don’t?

There’ll be an in-flight diversion—or worse.

So, we just sit back, hope there won’t be a crash? Her pulse pounded in her temples.

Yeah. Otherwise, your job—and mine—is toast.

Claudia envisioned airplane loads of charred bodies, seared beyond recognition. O’Malley’s reference to toasted jobs paled by comparison, and infuriated her sense of values. But she needed to remain on the payroll to straighten this mess out. What do you want me to work on? I need an assignment. At least he can do that much, she thought.

Stay with that NAV software.

Claudia’s mind raced. A double-level message: no more time, but keep working on it. Could she release another version to supersede the troubled one? There was still hope. Okay. Get better over the weekend, Paul.

She released the phone into its cradle and smiled in grim satisfaction. Maybe there was still a chance she could prevent a disaster, the schedule be damned.

* * * * * *

After Claudia Martin left his office, Stevens slammed his hand on his desk, toppling his replicas of the 997 commercial jet and Sir Galahad in battle dress. He hadn’t handled that very well. Martin had caught him off guard. Well, she had no right to pop into his office uninvited. He was Director of Engineering—executive level—not line management. He didn’t need an open door. Myrna should have stopped her. Myrna, he barked, get in here.

Myrna always seemed to anticipate a summons. She was there at once. Yes sir?

Wipe that grin off your face and get me Claudia Martin’s personnel file.

Yes, Mr. Stevens. Myrna returned with Claudia Martin’s file on compact disk, slipped it into his PC, and made a hasty retreat, closing the door behind her.

The file opened: Claudia Martin, Software Design Engineer. Quickly, he perused her glowing performance reviews. He clenched his teeth and felt a slight chill as doubt crept in. Could she be right? He’d never read her file before now: FANS IV commendation, Advanced Space Station team member, Air Transport Association Conference guest speaker, past President of Women in Computing. He just assumed she was an average engineer. The file proved otherwise. He read on. A comment under the heading of Confidential Information from an Unidentified Informant (from her former employer) read: Resigned for personal health reasons after fellow employee was arrested on counterfeit parts scam. An FBI statement indicated that subject had dated the suspect.

Stevens scanned the screen, his curiosity aroused. He chuckled to himself that she had lousy taste in men. He paged down to the end of the file, looking for more. But that’s all there was. He sighed. Personal health reasons? Emotional problems? She had overreacted to an obscure, unprovable software goof. Females tended to do that. If it was remotely true, and a design anomaly caused rework, the schedule would slide, and it would be his butt on the line. Overall the new airplane timetable would slide, profits would be later in posting, his bonus would be vaporware. If it caused a crash, DCAC could be sued. He started to add the warning he had threatened, but stopped short. Careful, Stevens. Cover your ass.

Myrna’s voice on the intercom broke his train of thought. Mr. Stevens, did you forget about your ten o’clock meeting?

Shit! He bolted up, grabbed his portfolio, and rushed out toward the conference room. Arthur Avenci did not tolerate lateness. He’d write a careful, politically correct comment.

CHAPTER 2

Claudia plopped herself down on the edge of her bed, pulled on gray sweats and rainpants, and bent over to tie her running shoes. She wove her curly hair into a ponytail. She couldn’t stop thinking about the software glitch from hell. Maybe a three-mile run in the rain would help her unwind, wash her free of stress, if only for a short time. The showdown with Marshall Stevens had been an unfortunate blow. And he was going to dump his anger into her personnel file. She took a deep breath. Forget it, Claudia. Keep this in perspective. It’s just more corporate bullshit. Focus on the impending disaster, and how to prevent it.

She walked into the kitchen, then couldn’t remember why. Ominous thoughts roared through her mind like water over Niagara Falls. She couldn’t shake herself loose from profound worry. In desperation, she picked up her remote and switched on the TV, wishing it were that easy to switch her own thoughts off and on. Did she back-up files? . . . can Flight Test catch it?

She pushed the mute button, her nerves jangled by everyday news: traffic mishaps, crimes, political bickering, rainy weather.

She continued muttering aloud: Personnel file isn’t life and death… bad software is… no way to solve design problems—Flight Test, last cog in wheel. She stretched her hamstrings, still pondering her next move at DCAC, how to fix the anomaly. She glanced at the screen, saw an airplane down, and fumbled for the remote, punched mute to hear breaking news.

This just in: A jet crashed at 5:45 PM today on approach to SEA-TAC. Trans-National Airlines flight 103 from Honolulu to Seattle veered off its final approach just minutes before landing. The news anchor’s report had her full attention.

The Duffet 997 twin-jet crashed in Southcenter Mall, smashing into Nordstrom’s, a popular department store, apparently killing several Christmas shoppers and destroying parked cars in the ensuing blaze. A search is underway for survivors. We’ll bring you updates all evening, as more details are available.

Claudia stared at the tube, numb with shock. Dead bodies, lots of them—those were her exact words to Stevens. Airplane crashes seemed to be multiplying, coming frequently after almost five years of near-perfect air safety.

A thought exploded through her mind like a 4th of July firecracker. Was it a glitch in the FMC, in that part of the Flight Management Computer that controls navigation software? Could it be the same troublesome software module she’d been unable to fix in the new version?

Not bothering to switch off the TV, she grabbed her rainjacket and car keys. This one had happened too close to home. She must see the crash scene for herself.

An orange fireball shot into the night sky. It lit up twisted debris that showered sparks. Explosions rocked the area as gas tanks of cars parked in the Nordstrom’s lot detonated. Airborne metal parts fell, clanging when they hit the ground. On rain-slickened streets, lights reflected off pavement. The high-pitched wail of sirens screamed shrill warnings for miles. Firemen shouted orders, running with equipment, stretching and manning firehoses which sprayed water in powerful geysers. That made little difference, like trying to fill a swimming pool with a squirt gun. Despite the moderate rain, a conflagration fed by hundreds of gallons of jet fuel and three department store floors would burn for hours.

Claudia’s ears hurt. Her heart pounded, and goose bumps formed on her arms. Traffic, except for emergency vehicles, was at a standstill. She parked her Honda a few blocks away, and hurried toward flames, noise, and calamity. She fought her way through crowds of panicked, fleeing shoppers. Her rain-soaked hair caused rivulets to run down her forehead. As Claudia drew closer, she could distinguish firemen’s shouts.

Get foam retardants! The ones used in airports.

On the way… radioed-in to Central.

Pieces of the jet’s fuselage protruded at odd angles across its scatterpath of about five acres. Claudia recognized a piece of the tail section implanted in a parked car’s collapsed roof. Her eyes widened, trying to take in the enormity of the disaster. She’d never witnessed a crash scene, didn’t know what to expect.

The stink of jet fuel, burning insulation, paint and building materials, singed flesh, clothing, and burnt rubber stung her eyes. Rain falling on hot debris created a sauna-like steam. Claudia gaped at three people on gurneys being loaded into aid cars. She craned her neck at EMTs administering first aid to victims who, she guessed, had been hit with flying debris. She grabbed a policeman. How many victims so far?

Too soon to tell. They’re under the rubble… rescuers have to wait till things cool to retrieve bodies. Please stand back. His radio squelched, a garbled message crackled, and he hurried away. My God. What a nightmare, she muttered. Her eyes brimmed with tears. She shook her head from side to side, as if a negative gesture could make it all go away. For the first time, she flashed on what a horrible way this was to die, what all victims—including her grandmother—must have suffered in their final moments. She recalled the numbness she’d felt eight years earlier when Gram’s flight went down. But she’d never visualized the absolute terror now unfolding in front of her. And to think it could have been prevented!

A wave of anger flooded Claudia’s mind. For the first time, she realized she had both the expertise and power to prevent more ghastly deaths in this way. She knew she could make a powerful difference.

Firefighters criss-crossed the area stringing fire hoses, yelling to each other. Policemen cordoned off the area, trying to keep curiosity seekers away. Claudia found an opening, raced through it, determined to get closer. Local TV news crews scurried around, looking for optimal angles. Reporters posed for rolling cameras, described the grisly scene.

Claudia wondered why journalists always seemed to descend like hungry vultures. Damn them. Eager for gory details. Then she realized she was, too. Guilt shot through her like a cannon, its trajectory slamming into her unsettled stomach, a sour taste rising in her throat. Her irritation grew as a reporter caught her eye and headed toward her, his camera crew on his heels.

Claudia

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