United Arcadia Flight 818
Copyright Joseph Nardone 2016
Distributed by Shakespir
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Jared tries to settle into the cockpit. No passengers or crew are on the vessel yet, but he can feel a sense of remorse already settling in. Nothing has happened. Still, he knows what the outcome will be. Or, at the very least, he knows one of the two outcomes.
“Mintz, do you have your stuff together? Plane will be boarding in less than an hour.”
It is the voice of the man who essentially forced Jared to helm the doomed voyage.
Nervously, Jared wants to respond. His hands shaking, remaining unclear of what his actual objective is, but now without armed men in his face, he attempts to muster up some courage.
Sarcastically he responds, “You know, the least you can do is tell me your name.”
Silence at first is transmitted through the radio. Not dead silence, though. White noise is emanating from the radio, as if the man in the suit wanted to answer but needs to ponder his response first.
“Call me Dean.”
“Assuming that’s not your actual name there, Dean. But we’ll do you. For what it is worth, you don’t look like a Dean to me.”
Jared hasn’t exactly settled into his new role as “Captain of Doomed Arcadia Flights,” but he’s combatting his stress the only way he knows how. Without Jennifer by his side, while currently trying to figure out what happened to her on United Arcadia Flight 817, he has resulted in using his sarcastic wit.
“Don’t forget you owe your life to John, Mintz. Let’s not try too hard to be clever here.”
As the man in the suit, now known as Dean, is talking to Jared he can hear other people in the background. He’s uncertain what it is they’re saying, but he knows Dean is not alone – wherever he is.
“Dean… Can you at least tell me what my role in this is? I’m in. I buy all the way into whatever you’re trying to do here if it means I can find Jennifer.”
Some of the signals are clearly crossed, and a few of the voices become clear.
“Let me tell him…” A response to someone else was unintentionally broadcasted for Jared to hear.
“Only some of it. Don’t worry. Our boss won’t be upset with this.”
Jared interrupts the conversation. Had he been more patient maybe he could have gotten more details, but time is running out before the plane is set to depart. He is frantic to get as many answers as soon as possible.
“What are you going to tell me? I can hear you, you smug…”
“Calm down, Mintz.” A stern sounding Dean replies. “Here’s the truth. We don’t know all that much. That is pretty much it.”
“You know nothing?”
“We know more since you and John came back. We know now that it works both ways. Passengers disappear sometimes, and other times new people show up.”
“What do the new passengers, the new people have to say about all of this?”
“That, Mintz, is above your paygrade. All I need from you is to be calm. Fly the plane as if you’re flying it as you have a thousand times before. Let the rest playout as it will, then I will see you again if you land.”
“What do you mean by if?”
“Hello, Captain. We have already started to board the plane. Skeleton flight it appears.”
Jared nods at the stewardess. He doesn’t know who she is. Despite being nervous, he realizes he is meant to play this voyage out as cool as possible.
“Call me Jared.”
An incredibly gorgeous, black haired beauty responds, “Hi, Jared. My name is Sasha.”
Sasha smiles, let’s Jared know that the co-pilot should be here any second, and that she’ll take the preemptive strike of getting them coffee before either of them ask for it. She hands him the flight manifest before she leaves the cockpit.
Already wallowing a bit in his own self-pity, Jared picks up the paper to see how many souls he is responsible for. The list is only four people this time. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s purposely withholding knowledge that the four of them, as well as his steward and co-pilot, are likely to not meet their final destination.
As Jared looks over the names of each of the passengers, he notices that one of them is marked as an Air Marshall. “Kyle Kensing” it says. Ideas have already begun to rush through his head that he should approach the Marshall before the flight takes off. With hopes he can help with whatever the hell it is that’s going on.
While he is doing that, in walks in an older man. Gray hair, chubby, looking a little bit rough around the edges, it is indeed his co-pilot.
“Mintz,” utters a man who could be confused with a sea pirate as much as an airplane pilot. “Heard a lot about you. Heard you’re one hell of a pilot. Short trip. Small load to carry. One steward. Who’d you have to go down on to get this gig?”
Despite knowing that inevitable horror awaits, Jared can’t help but take a liking to this roughshod of a human.
“Name is Tommy Barnouse.”
The two shake hands. Jared even feels a slight sense of relief wash over him.
“So, Jared, I see we have a Marshall on our vessel today. Wonder what that’s about. I know there’s supposed to be one on each flight, but guy’s going to have his hands full with those three other pesky passengers, Sasha, and us.”
Speaking of the devil, Sasha walks in to the cockpit.
“Guys, the Marshall wants to say hi… I guess?”
Jared is nervous. “What if he knows something?” He thinks to himself.
At the same time, it is not as if he could say no to seeing the guy. It is not as if any of them are busy with a crazy workload or dealing with a plethora of crazed passengers. Really, outside of the Air Marshall, at least according to the manifest, there’s a John, Nancy, and Walter, all flying on this plane. Sasha, having done her due diligence, has already connected the dots and surmised that John and Nancy are a couple and that Walter is a man who is nervous to fly.
He has no choice to let him in. None. Otherwise, one of his colleagues might think something is wrong.
“Yeah. Let him in. Tell me it has to be quick because we’re about to embark in a few moments.”
In walks in Kyle Kensing. A little young looking for an Air Marshall. Tall, in shape, dirty blonde hair. He has himself a charming southern accent.
“Captain. Co-Captain. Lovely stewardess whose name I didn’t get to catch,” Kensing’s charm is already through the roof with a combination of cheese and sincerity. “Simply wanted to say hi. Let you know I’m here. Gun in pocket sure, but don’t think there’ll be any need for it. Hell, if one of those three bum-rush the cockpit, I’m pretty sure she can take’em down with her good looks.”
Sasha smiles. Doesn’t blush, though. The polite kind of smile that shows appreciation for the kind words, but doesn’t let the person saying it feel as if there’s been a successful attempt at flirting.
“Mr. Kensing, right? Thanks for saying hi,” Jared replies. “But we have to take off now. Let’s hope you’re right, though. If the couple who are staring at each other, or the middle-aged guy terrified to get in the air decides to go rogue, Sasha’s looks will get them.”
“Thank you United Arcadia 818 passengers for your patience. Buckle up for a moment, as we’re about to take off. Nothing but clear skies and a sunny destination awaiting you fine people.”
Sasha takes pride in her job. That is abundantly clear as she went that extra mile to make the mere four passengers aboard the plane feel okay about the departure.
Moments later, the plane is in the air, about to meet whatever fate Jared has been worried about since settling in the cockpit, and seven souls in total are left in the hands of whatever is going on during these Arcadia flights.
In the cockpit, Jared continues to keep his cool. It has certainly helped him that his co-pilot is half everyone’s favorite grandfather and half the person every man hopes he ends up being when they reach their sixties.
“Jared. Friend. So, tell me, how has working for Arcadia been for you so far? I got to tell ya, I’ve been working to the grindstone the last few months. Doubles, triples, sometimes even four short trips in a single day. I hate to complain, but it sure as hell would be nice if our union did something about this.”
Only capable of smiling and nodding back, it has finally sunk in with Jared: He’s starting to like a person who is unlikely to be there with him whenever they reach whatever destination the plane ends up at.
“Thomas, there’s something…”
Before Jared can say something he probably shouldn’t be saying, a radio transmission interrupts the soon to be conversation.
“Hey, fellas. Hope all is well up there.”
Jared can recognize the voice. It isn’t an air traffic control. It is Dean’s words coming through the broadcast.
“There seems to be a patch of stormy weather ahead of you. Won’t be much. Letting you guys know to try to go right through it. Likely last a few seconds.”
“Lies.” Jared thinks to himself. But he can’t dare say anything. Not if he wants to survive the aftermath of the fallout of this trip. That is if he survives the trip at all. No matter. Not to him. He wants to find Jennifer. He keeps his mouth shut.
“What say you, Jared?”
“Guess we should listen to our man on the ground.”
A few moments go by and Thomas notices the radar showing the storm the air traffic controller mentioned. Unlike what Dean had to say, though, it didn’t seem like a passable obstacle on their way to the plane’s destination.
“Hey,” Thomas says as he pokes Jared. “Our buddy on the ground was wrong, I think. Not too sure we should try to go through this.”
Pausing, unsure of what to say or do, Jared reverts back to his sarcastic wit.
“You know these cheap Arcadia pricks. Last flight I had this same issue. It didn’t last long. Radar is likely off, is all. We’ll give it a go and If it appears too difficult or not as short a storm as we’re told, after a few minutes we’ll fly over it.”
There was truth in Jared’s lie. He did have the same issue in his previous flight. He came off so sincere that Thomas agreed. What he was agreeing to was to hit the supposedly short storm head on. What he was actually agreeing to was to test the boundaries of reality.
Thomas agreed with Jared. After all, he had heard nothing but good things about his captain. Straight into the storm United Arcadia Flight 818 went.
As the two neared the storm, Jared is tempted to check in with Sasha to find out about her and the passengers, but even before he can do so the radio seems to be going on the fritz. It isn’t even white noise the pilots are hearing. It is mumbled voices that sound far off. The deeper into the storm they get, however, the more clearly they can be heard.
“Not at all what you think…” Is heard loud and clear through the radio.
“What the hell was that?” A bewildered Thomas states. Now visibly upset, bordering on angry, he grabs a hold of the wheel and plans to steer the plane above the storm.
In a flash, Jared grabs his hand, shakes his head no. He then mutters, “It will be okay.”
“What will be okay…”
A flash happens around the plane so bright that it blinds the pilots. After the shock wears off Jared, he realizes whatever was supposed to happen, did. Yet, when he looks to his left, Thomas is still there.
“Whelp. Whatever the hell that was, it is over. Clear skies now. But I’ll tell ya. That was some strange stuff. Probably should radio in to tell someone about that.” Thomas says, then follows it up with a joke. “Maybe not. We could have been bombarded by aliens and we’ll be banned from flying ever again. They’ll thing we’re crazy.”
“Probably not.” Jared responds. “Our destination is right there anyway. We’re here.”
Even more confused than he was on United Arcadia Flight 817, Jared is happy that Thomas is still with him. He is also thinking about what is happening in the back. He is hoping they are okay.
Moreover, what can or does he tell Thomas and whoever is left before they land.
“Thomas, I need to use the pisser really quick.” A once again lying, but looking for an excuse to check in the back, Jared says.
“The good old pre-landing urination chamber visit. I got ya, buddy.”
Trying to nonchalantly make his move out of his seat to get to the back of the plane, Jared turns to Thomas, “You’re good people. We need to have a talk when I get back.”
“Whatever you say, Jared”
After reaching the passenger area of the plane, Jared realizes something odd. He recognizes only two faces out of the now 10 in on board. Sasha is standing off to the side near the beverage area oddly. She is as calm as she was before they hit the storm. The other still standing original passenger is the Air Marshall, Kyle Kensing, who is standing towards the back of the plane with his hand on his holster.
“Someone want to tell me what the…” Before Kensing can get the words out of his mouth the plane makes a steep decline.
“Sasha, Kensing, to the cockpit with me now.” Jared exclaims.
With the four of them now in the cockpit, as the plane is descending upon yet another seemingly empty airport, Jared knows he has to make a decision. As soon as he is about to explain the situation at hand, Sasha smiles at him, shakes her head, then begins to speak.
“All right, boys. Here’s the deal. Mintz, you already know what is what.”
It dawns on Jared that Sasha doesn’t appear to be the polite stewardess he originally thought she was.
“We didn’t know how it works. Or who or which type of people make it. But we’re all here. So are the other people in the back. Dean will debrief us quickly on the ground before we head back up.”
Kensing still has his hand on his holster, “You want to share the details with me here, doll? How about you captain?
He then points to Thomas, but he can tell that the co-pilot is as confused as he is. In fact, Thomas still doesn’t know that there’s three passengers gone missing, and a few new ones added.
Before the group can have any more of a discussion, Dean’s voice comes over the radio.
“Sasha, you still there?”
“What’s the situation?”
“Three original passengers gone missing. Mintz, the co-pilot, and the Air Marshall still with us, though… Oh, and we have some new passengers waiting to meet you.”
“Do not let the three of them interact with any of the others. No matter what.”
In a sense of rebellion mixed in with his sense for civic duty, Kensing starts to make a beeline for the new passengers.
Sasha stops him by simply uttering “Charlotte.”
Completely still, Kensing gazes over at her with tears in his eyes. The tears, mind you, only partially masking the rage that’s illuminating off his body as if it’s a radiation glow and not emotion.
“Um… we’re here.” Thomas states.
“You guys are staying right here, okay?” Stated as a question, Sasha might as well be barking an order. “I need to hand our new friends off to Dean.”
Sasha calmly walks out of the cockpit. The three men, with only Jared having the slightest idea with what happened, stand in silence. Finally, Kensing realizes Jared knows something. Sasha mentioned as much.
“Mintz, that woman said the name of someone I care. How does she know that? Explain to me what in the f…”
Dean’s voice once again airs over the radio.
“Don’t blame Jared, guys. He’s simply trying to justify his ends by using the means provided.”
Jared is in tears, as his mind is on the still not found Jennifer.
“No worries,” Dean states in a businesslike way. “We were hoping for six or seven, but the four of you and Sasha will do.”
“Will do for what?” Thomas asks.
“For what is next. And before you ask your follow-up question, let me assure you, what happens to be next is something you’ve never experienced before.”
As Dean is finishing up his speech, Sasha walks back into the cockpit.
Dean then continues, “No passengers this time. We’re going to refuel you now. As for you Jared, and I guess the rest of you, Sasha will fill you in a bit more on what is what. You guys all deserve at least that.”
Jared turns to Sasha, tears in his eyes, “I was told I’d find out more about what happened to Jennifer.”
“Oh, you haven’t realized it yet have you? This is like picking a needle in a haystack. Except we’re not even sure if it is a needle we’re looking for.”
“Well, what is it that you think we’re looking for?”
“All of us are looking for something different, dear. You’d be shocked to know what Dean is looking for. My motivations are far simpler. I don’t want to see you people die.”
All four of them can hear the entrance door to the plane being shut in the background.
“For the two of you who don’t know who I am, my name’s Dean. From here on out, I’ll be your voice on the ground. We reloaded the plane with some supplies for you guys. More food, water, all the essentials. Among the things we dropped off is some other cargo. One is simply a device that should allow us to talk to each other via a more appropriate means. Face-to-face… at least in a digital sense. The other, well, I ask you kindly not to open the wooden box.”
“And why the hell wouldn’t we?” Kensing responds.
“Because if you do, you’ll all probably die.”
Thomas slumps back into his seat, Jared gazes out the cockpit window thinking of his lost lover, Sasha stands as if she’s somehow been reaffirmed.
“Have a safe trip, friends.” Dean says over the transmission.
Jared suddenly stands up. “He said the four of us and Sasha will do. There’s only four of us in here. There’s only four here. What in god’s name is in that box…”