High above the height of most Canadian geese in the misty and dark blue heavens of the canopy that covered the planet, Lily Truscott enjoyed the pleasures and benefits that was First Class. Her best friend Miley was sleeping against the window, Miley's father was in the seat on the outside aisle across from them. He looked at the teenage girl munching on shrimp, swaying to the voice of Justin Bieber over her earphones and appeared concerned. First Class on Trans-American Airlines was quiet and serene. He knew what it had to be like back in Coach… the screaming babies, the crampt conditions, the surly faces of fellow passengers. The only thing he had to face up here was the possibility of being embarrassed. Wringing his hand across his mouth, he lightly gasped, debated what he was about to do and then went along with it.
"Lily…" He waved his hand before the girl to muster her attention. "Lily?" The girl finally noticed him. "You know, girl… we will be home in another hour. You may want to let up on the shrimp."
"You think so?" Lily looked to him and pulled her headphones down. "I wonder if they got any sushi left?"
"Good night, girl…." Robby Ray Stewart made a face of disbelief. "Where do you put it all?"
"What do you mean?" Lily looked back as the plane lightly shuddered from turbulence. Robby looked at her, back across the empty row of seats by him and toward the big guy on the opposite window seats. Actress Alex Lambert was in a seat two rows up studying a script. World-renown chef Andrew Zimmern was in a window seat checking his messages on his phone. Looking up at Robby, the chubby guy chuckled a bit at his situation and glanced once at his book before looked back to Robby.
"Your daughter really likes the seafood…" He commented.
"She's not my daughter, she's my daughter's best friend." Robby explained.
"You're Robby Ray, aren't you." The big guy beamed with a large smile filling out his whiskers. "My mom used to listen to your records." He reached across to shake hands. "I'm Hugo Reyes…"
"You're the owner of those Cluck Bucket restaurants…" Robby shook his hand back. "I can't keep my son Jackson from ordering from your Malibu restaurant…" The plane shuddered again. "Don't these late night flights ever get to you?"
"Only when I go over water…" Reyes recalled a time from his past he was still trying to put behind him. His wife, Libby, stirred next to him, looked at him briefly and tried to get back to sleep. By Robby's side, the female stewardess came up alongside and turned to Lily.
"Can I get some sushi?" Lily asked.
"Oh sweet Georgia Mother Brown…" Robby's Tennessee accent responded out of disbelief as the plane shuddered again. This time the "Fasten Your Seatbelts" came on and another stewardess hurried down the aisle past Reyes, through the food and drink prep area and back into coach over the wing section of the plane with the over-crowded middle class passengers. In 15A and 15B, Gabrielle Montez struggled with sleep and studied her physics textbook. Her fiancé, Troy Boyden, opened his eyes at her and noticed her book. He responded a bit amused, his eyes tired with sleep as he blinked, stirred in his seat and lightly yawned while sitting up erect.
"What test are you studying now?" He asked.
"I couldn't sleep." She looked to him with two big brown eyes shining toward him.
"You don't have anything else to read?"
"You're something else." He chuckled a bit not knowing he was being watched. From 17C, Theresa Russo looked at Troy then to Gabrielle and wished she were her daughter. Both Gabrielle and her middle daughter, Alex, had the long dark hair and were both attractive young girls. The only difference was that Gabrielle seemed to be smart, charming and studious and Alex was not. Turning to her husband, Theresa prodded his right leg for attention and her jarred away from the sensation.
"Jerry…." She looked to him. "Do you think we should call home and check on the kids when we land?"
"What?" He reacted tiredly annoyed. "Justin's in charge."
"It's not him I'm worried about. It's Alex that stresses me out…." Theresa confessed. "And Max part of the time."
"Theresa…" Jerry Russo sighed tiredly and leaned back in his seat. "If there's a problem, Justin can have me home just like that!" He snapped his fingers.
"Problem?" Someone overheard him. "Is there a problem? Are we going to crash?" Adrian Monk pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his nervous forehead. He hated flying. It was not so much the flying but the stories of planes crashing that were in the news.
"I said nothing about crashing." Jerry looked to the panic-stricken detective. "My wife and I were talking about our kids."
"Oh, god…" Adrian felt the winds and lightning outside the craft. "We're going to crash. We're going to crash…." His anxiety was rising. His fears were getting worse…
"Excuse me, maybe I can help." A gentleman rose from the seats behind the Russos. "Excuse me, sir…" He moved toward the nervous detective. "I'm a psychiatrist… Dr. Frasier Crane at your service. Look, there is nothing to fear here. All you have to do is put yourself in a peaceful place." The solemn voiced physician tried to help. "Just close your eyes and calm down."
"That stuff never works…" Monk was stressing as the plane trembled again. "My peaceful place doesn't exist…"
"Is he okay?" Another person came down the aisle.
"He's having a panic attack." Frasier looked back and back again. "Are you a doctor?"
"Yes… Howser…" The young man shook hands with Frasier. "Dr. Douglas Howser…" He paused a bit. "My friends call me Doogie…"
"Ah…" Frasier noticed the stewardess coming to ask them to return to their seats, but before she could say a word, Frasier asked her to bring him some sedatives. By this point, other passengers were looking over and wondering what was happening. Gabrielle lifted her head up to look over the seats at the human conflagration. A few seats behind her, father Alan Harper and his son, Jake, looked up briefly with disassociated interest. Jake pretended to glance out the window then back to his father.
"Dad, how long is Uncle Charlie going to stay over in Las Vegas." He asked with teenage ignorance.
"Oh…" Alan looked back to his boy. "He wanted to try the slots again."
"Is that another euphemism for sex?"
"With your uncle, you never really can tell." Alan tried settling down again to rest, but he was too awake and eager to get back home. On the other side of the plane, the flight attendant had brought Dr. Crane the sedatives he had asked for to help calm the high-strung detective. Across the rows, other patients slept lightly or deeply from the turbulence. The plane jostled again slightly and then lit up with another lightning strike just beyond the play. Monk loomed his vision outside his porthole and feverishly set himself down in his sleep as Dr. Crane sat by him and tried helping him.
"Look, you just have to calm down." Frasier tried to appeal with him with logic. "I guarantee you. With everything we know about flying today, this plane is not crashing!"
"Yeah…" Howser rested on one knee in the aisle. "Think about it like this. More people die in auto accidents than in plane crashes."
"Oh god…" Monk realized another thought. "I've got to take a ride in a car after I land!"
Crane and Howser looked at each other across the seats. At that moment, there was another sharp lightning strike and the plane jostled from one slight elevation to the next. Howser lost his footing in the aisle and found himself knocked sideways into the lap of Mary Ann Summers-Gilligan. One moment the cookbook authoress was sleeping peacefully on her way home to her home on a Pacific Island resort, and the next, she noticed the thirty-something blonde physician going face first into her lap. She bounced up out of her seat as more passengers began waking up into the shaking flight. There was no sign of danger as the hundred people on board stirred and looked around as the rainless clouds outside batted the plane around like a piñata. One of the harried flight attendants must have asked the pilots to say something because the announcement system squawked on with a brief moment of static white noise.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your co-pilot speaking…" It sounded like the voice of God if the divine lord was a thirty-nine year old Star Trek geek who lived in his parent's basement apartment and lived mostly on a diet of sushi, Dr. Pepper and Hot Pockets. "Please excuse the turbulence, but we are putting on the Fasten Your Seat belts sign. We're passing through a dry weather front coming south from off the Sahara basin meeting the Pacific current creating choppy weather conditions, but we are passing through the worst of it and we should be landing at LAX on time within the hour. The temperature in Los Angeles is a balmy seventy-degree temperature with slight winds at thirty miles an hour. I hope you enjoyed your flight and thank you for flying Trans-American Airlines." As he signed off, there was another flash of lightning followed a few seconds behind by the boom of thunder.
"Whoa…" Pilot James Ubriacco saw that lightning strike at wing's length. "That was another close one." He checked his charts. "At least it's not raining."
"Maybe we ought to lift above the clouds again…" His co-pilot Donny Hedges looked out at the foggy and dark sky before them. The only lights they had were the shimmering patterns of light from Los Angeles underneath them accompanied by the trailing pinpricks of light along the freeways extending in all directions under and around them. They couldn't see the mountains or the sea, but they were at 14,500 feet and on descent toward LAX still a bit toward the south. Ronny Kaplan, their navigator, checked their settings and looked forward to his late dinner with his wife.
"We're okay…" Ubriacco grinned with that steely grin again. "I've flown a lot of storms, and besides…" He grimaced assuredly. "Lightning near strikes the same spot twice."
"Correction…" Hedges looked over. "It's more than likely to hit the same place twice."
"Are you sure?"
"My brother used to do weather at WKRP in Cincinnati…" Hedges checked speed and height as another flash briefly blinded them then behind it at the speed of sound was the thunderbolt hitting and jostling the cockpit like an angry child swatting at his toys. Ubriacco felt his head thrown back and forward hard, but before he could complain about the whiplash, he noticed the lights in the cockpit had all gone off in the flash. The system was specially built to handle strikes and lightning, but there were these rare isolated incidents and they were prepared for the likelihood. Bathed in the gray and tinged blue luminescence through their windows, they looked around and checked their switches. Their engines shut down at the same time and although the seasoned pilots couldn't hear their passengers, they could feel the fear and panic.
"Main fuse…" Clipping his seat belts off, Kaplan was out of his seat and to the floor for the hatch into avionics. There was a clang of the hatch and the added light of the emergency lights on reserve power and he dropped into the dark gullet of the immense steel beast expected at Los Angeles Airport. The plane was gliding on momentum for now as his hands moved by instinct over the spare fuses and gripped the new fuse, but now he had to get the old one out and replace it. The cockpit flashed with light again.
"Is that another lightning flash?" Hedges looked up.
The plane flew through the thunderclap, and in the belly of the shuddering steel beast, Kaplan sailed backward and hit his head on avionics like a rag doll flailing around in the jaws of a dog. Ubriacco heard the loud thump and rushed to help him as at that point the plane started dipping and he slid sideways toward the angle of gravity. Hedges started pulling up on the stick, but it wasn't moving. This craft was taking a nosedive and they had moments to get the power on to save it.
"Jimmy, get up here!"
"Let me get the fuse first!" Ubriacco looked around for the fallen part then just grabbed a second one. The lost part skipped and skidded further into the bowels of electronics and computer circuitry. Back in First Class, the flight attendants tried to control things in their area. Most of the passengers remained calm, a few fearing the worse. Reyes crossed himself and squeezed his wife's hand. Robby Ray tried to assure his daughter and her friend as actress Alex Lambert nearby crossed herself and clung to her script like a shield. It seemed the plane was dipping more as an unattended drink cart rolled past her joined by a second down the other aisle of the plane. Back in coach, Gabrielle fretted and took Troy's hand as the plane vibrated in the dark thunderstorm, but in the subdued light, she noticed something blocking the moonlight coming through the line of windows along the plane. Several others noticed as well and turned to the fleeting shape as the plane dipped lower. All their eyes could see for a while was the misty clouds and moisture condensing on the outside, but through that was something else. There was a large form on the left wing of the plane over the engine for a minute then it went away from view. It looked like…
No, that was impossible.
There was no such thing as flying people…
…But then there were those reputed sightings of a flying girl in Detroit that spring of 2003.
Her left hand reaching down over the shell of the turbine engine, clad in a blue leotard, red skirt and cape and buffeted by the wind currents she was trying to ride, Bridget Hennessey kept herself on course by her right arm and hoped she could hold this plane up aloft by the wing. This craft was a lot bigger than anything else she had handled. She had helped to land Cessnas, helicopters, private jets but nothing this big before, but she had to give Captain Ubriacco the time to replace the burned fuse to his on-board computer and get it running once more. As she kept the plane on course, cell phones, digital cameras and electronic devices aimed at her through the plane windows from inside the plane were snapping photos, but if any of them actually got anything, it was a red blur or a foggy shape, it would be a miracle. Awake from her nap, Miley Stuart was pinned at her window with Lily watching the blonde apparition at the wing trying to keep them aloft and alive. A few seats behind, Gabrielle and Troy looked at each other in stunned surprise. Jerry Russo grabbed a cell phone camera from a passenger to try and get a photo, but first he had to fight Alan Harper and his son for the view from her window seat.
Electronics started flickering as Ubriacco returned to his seat and tried restarting the engines in flight, but was it too late? The plane was deep into a nosedive straight for a wide section of Los Angeles beneath them. As Bridget tried pulling the ship back heavenward, she was shocked and surprised by the chunk of wing and engine casing ripping off along their seams in her hand and she suddenly shot into another direction without the plane. Sailing upward a hundred feet into the stratosphere, she caught herself rolling head over heels for several minutes until she saw nothing but stars, then dove back down into the ocean of air beneath her and shot down below the moving thunder clouds for the wounded airliner. Her hands furled into fists, her long blonde hair wafting around her furiously, she dived earthward again until she found the descending 747 again. Flying through the tail fins, she skimmed the surface of the fuselage looking for something to hold on to and carry it. The crack around the entry door, the external radar sensors, the landing bay doors… She had to stop this plane from taking out a chunk of one of the most populated cities in the United States. Sliding over the cockpit windows, she reached the cockpit and nose cone and began pressing against it to take it airborne once more. Her teeth gritted together, her eyes watering, she felt her breath racing through her lungs…
"Come on, Bridget…" She whispered herself under the roar of wind and air friction charging past her. "You can do this. You can do this. You saw Brandon Routh do this in that movie." She started pushing upward against gravity as the plane plummeted straight into the center of Los Angeles. Bridget looked down briefly and noticed the familiar sight of the Los Angeles Astrodome beneath her filled with lights, hundreds of people and not a lot of open space.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" She screamed out loud. The massive arena was only eighteen years old, but it was known as the largest open-air arena in possibly the entire United States. Capable of seating almost 18,000 people, the location had seen acts as famous as KISS and the Stones down to the Monkees and a Jem and the Holograms reunion tour. Last month, the Jonas Brothers had played here to large sold-out crowds with Selena Gomes and Demi Lovato along for the ride, and Britney Spears had been here the month before. On the stage below this night, Taylor Swift was singing to a stadium packed with fans, but between lyrics, she heard the screeching noise and tapped her microphone a bit confused. Several of her fans started looking up, and eventually, she noticed the sea of heads turn aloft to see the plane above them. It looked to be in an odd position. It was flying with its nose straight down, and it seemed a lot closer than normal. The screeching sound was getting louder… So much so that crowds of teenagers cupped their ears and started scattering. They ran into each other, ahead of each over and around in fevered insane panic, but a few… a few noticed something else. As the plane came closer to full size, they saw the presence at the tip of the plane. A blonde figure in a red cape feverishly trying to stop it from crashing, and it seemed to be working. As the craft slowed, a vast ripple of kinetic energy rippled through the fuselage popping metal seams. At ground level, the cell phones started getting whipped out to get pictures. It was at a hundred feet… seventy-five as it drew to a slow stop. Bridget was straining… Her jaw clenched in desperation and eyes watering as she refused to look down under her. She felt it slowing, but how much height did she have left? She didn't dare look but she soon realized it. Her left foot touched earth and the weight of the plane pressed her down to the ground once more and dipped again before her hands crushed through the steel, and she finally lifted the plane up. Her chin was to her chest as she opened her eyes gasping and started lowering the almost one hundred tons of steel and aluminum on its undercarriage down across left field between the parting oceans of concertgoers. With a thunderous rumble, the mighty 747 hugged soft earth as its protective angel finally gasped from the strain to her strength. From stage, co-entertainer Kellie Pickler came out to get a better look at the scene. Swift's jaw dropped. How could she top that?
Taylor's fans roared with applause and cheers at the spectacle. Was this real? Was it a movie stunt? Bridget didn't look up; she just levitated aloft and glided up to the entry doors of the grounded plane still in one piece, her fingers piercing the seal around it and pulling it toward her and off to make sure no one was hurt in the jostling around through the atmosphere. Her right foot stepped inside as teenaged concertgoers rushed the plane to get a closer look.
"Is everyone okay?" She spoke with a honeyed voice highlighted by her exhausted breath rushing through her lips. "I hope no one got hurt."
Alex Lambert was struck speechless by the sight of the girl in the Supergirl costume. Was this a gag? Robby Ray was clutching his chest as Lily struggled excitedly at her seatbelt. No one had been tossed out their seats in that fracas, but they had obviously felt every thrust, shake and tremor of the plummeting craft. Amidst the assorted First Class Passengers, Lily jumped into the aisle grinning uncontrollably
"I know you!" She giggled excitedly. "I've read about you since you first appeared in Detroit!" She looked to Miley. "And you said she didn't exist!"
"Where were you when I crashed on that island in the South Pacific!" Reyes undid his belt and stood up on his feet; his stunned and speechless wife by his side. Bridget just stood silently assessing the situation as outside the plane, Taylor Swift fans were climbing up on to the wings of the plane and lifting each other up to try and climb inside it. A light gasp, Bridget's senses perused the sea of voices going on around her. There was confusion, joy and relief, but no one seemed hurt or injured.
"Ladies and gentlemen…" She fussed briefly with her extremely windswept hair. "I hope you won't let this little incident put you off flying." She recited a line from the movie. "Statistically-speaking of course, it's still the safest way to travel." She turned after a light nod of her head and turned out to the entrance door. There was hundreds of kids struggling and fighting to touch her, camera footage trying to broadcast her image on close-circuit screens, but her aura was so powerful that it just recorded and broadcast hazy blurred images. Amidst the sparkling lights of cell phone cameras and hysterical kids, Bridget stepped into the air until she could levitate back into the wind currents. She was ascending higher and higher over the stacked speakers on stage. The cute blonde pop-country singer on stage arched her head skyward and lightly clapped herself watching as Bridget saluted her with a big beaming smile just before vanishing into the atmosphere.