Occasionally, a flicker of curiosity would urge the pilots to turn their heads and glance out past the sharp metallic casing of their jets to gaze at the distant, inland desert. They could barely recognise anything less conspicuous than the many mountain ridges, their complicated shapes shaded with streaks of black and grey and brown and, above the network of sunlit summits, just below their booming craft, hung swirls of thin cloud, suspended and still like a stretched, cotton-wool web . . . Their location, far up in the sky, gave them the feeling of detachment they needed.