“I’m an aviation nerd with trainwreck syndrome, so air crash investigation is a subject dear to my heart. Having watched documentaries on (and read NTSB reports about) ever so many crashes, I began to wonder what it might be like if the investigators had one last secret fall-back option when no clear cause for an accident could be found, and what it’d be like to be that fall-back option. I write fiction in which the supernatural and the ordinary exist side-by-side — monsters and magic are real, if not commonly understood — and the idea of a practical necromancer contracted to the NTSB seemed like an obvious conclusion.”
by Vivian Shaw
… when all those legs and arms and heads… shall join together at the latter day and cry all “we died at such a place,” some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left…
—Shakespeare, Henry V
It’s easier if you use a finger. If you have a finger to use. I don’t have fingers, on this one. What I have is a case full of samples, in tubes, and I can already tell this is a complete shitshow: they’re hopelessly garbled, mixed up together in a cacophony of terror and pain that gives me the kind of headache that will last for days. I need to get out to the site.
They don’t like people poking around, of course, during an active investigation, but I’m nominally part of the National Transportation Safety Board – got the blue nylon jacket with the letters on the back and everything, like some overgrown high-school kid who lettered in nerd instead of football. I’m allowed access to the crash site, it’s written down in the rules, and if I pick up fingers that don’t belong to me it doesn’t technically fuck with the chain-of-evidence protocol. Sometimes I get lucky and find what I need right away, soaked into the cockpit: human flesh and bone pulverized at the point of impact to a pink soup which nonetheless is capable of standing up, on this latter day, and telling me a tale. Sometimes I don’t, and it takes longer.
I’m strictly last-resort. When everything else is coming up empty, when both black boxes and the quick-access recorder, if there is one, are useless; when they cannot from the radar track and transponder data work out why the plane did what it did, when there’s no obvious evidence of explosion and the pilots didn’t say anything useful to ATC and all the shreds of aluminum and rubber and plastic are keeping their secrets to themselves – when they simply do not know enough to determine probable cause – that’s when they call me, and it’s always four a.m. when that call comes through. Stacy, we got one. Pack up your crystal ball and shag ass, we need you. (Continue Reading…)