SOMETHING GOING ON in the cockpit. I need to get there.
The john is a reasonable request. She nudges her mother in the left seat to get up so I can complete the process. After I’m out, I mention that the back toilets seem to be in use and I’m going up front. I’ve been dismissed. The ladies return to their seats, books and conversation. I wonder why I have to use subterfuge so often.
I make my way forward and get up next to the locked entrance to the cockpit. A flight attendant bars my way, all while trying to look helpful.
“You can’t go any further forward, sir. Can I help you?”
“Ma’am,” I say, “I am a scientist and I felt something about twenty minutes ago that most people will dismiss, but that could be dangerous. I understand your need to protect the captain and I will wait here or wherever you like, but please, for the sake of all you believe in, let him know that I am here. My name is Ricardo D’Guise, Professor Ricardo D’Guise, seat 17F. He is aware that we have problems and he will want to speak to me.”
The woman looks at me like, Oh, God, another one!
I try to look inconspicuous and especially not dangerous. They can sense these things, I’m sure.
Evidently she’s been instructed to let the captain know about any untoward event, and I am it, this time. She sits me back with a larger than normal male flight attendant and asks me to stay put until she returns, to which I readily agree. She gives the male attendant some sort of wink or signal and from the corner of my eye I see him change his position some. The last thing I want is a confrontation, so I sit quietly, looking straight ahead.
The nice looking lady returns after about five minutes. I give credit to the airlines for reinforcing the cockpit doors on planes since 9-11. It blocks out any sound from the other side. A little heated discussion over my appearance would no doubt be expected. Distracted by my thoughts, I don’t notice, but when I look up she’s standing over me and she is another person.
“Professor D’Guise, the Captain would like to speak to you.” She has become all deference and it’s almost embarrassing. I’m not used to being treated with kid gloves and as far away as I usually am from the normal world my mind resists being placed in a special position of any kind.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” is all I say and I get up and follow the flight attendant to the door. She knocks twice and the door opens immediately. The lady stays on her side and the co-pilot, an older man with intelligent eyes and a slightly abrupt manner motions me to come in.
The Captain is a man of about fifty-five years, tanned and rugged looking in a studious way, but he strikes me as totally competent. Competent, that is, until I look in his eyes and I can see the fright within.
I explain that I had been listening to channel nine and heard his exclamation. I mention the feeling that had passed over my wife, my mother-in-law and me and quite surely all of the other passengers as well. I show him my credentials as Dean of the Science Department at Cornell. He gets right to the point. I don't ask either man if they had felt something, but clearly, from the little jump each made involuntarily, they had, too.
“Professor D’Guise, we lost contact with the ground about thirty-five minutes ago, just before we were to pass over Whitehorse. It’s not natural. There is no hiss, no evidence whatever of a connection between us and the Earth below. I don’t understand it and I hope you can enlighten me.”
“I hope so, Captain. I am a professor at Cornell University and although I run the Department of the Sciences, my major field of study has been in temporal science. It is not well known or well respected, but I believe that you may at this moment be willing to listen to what you have never before given credence to.”
“And what is that?”
“That we have likely fallen through a hole in space-time and that the earth is no longer beneath us.”
“Yes, if I were you, that is what I would think, and with some conviction. After all, it has never happened to you before, right?”
“Of course not!”
“Let me try to help you through this with an explanation that I hope you will be able to accept, because our lives, all of our lives, will ride on the decisions you make within the next,” Ricardo looked at his watch, “Fourteen minutes.”
“What?” the pilot and co-pilot shout in unison.
“It is my belief that we are in a temporal hole and that it will be closing within the next fourteen minutes, correction, thirteen and a half.” The men start to speak, but I hold up my hand.
“Gentlemen, you let me in to see what I had to offer. The least you can do is to listen to my explanation.”
“All right, go ahead.”
“Temporal holes exist in space and actually abound, but one so close to a gravity well such as Earth is unusual and unusually dangerous. These are not predictable. They have no geometric equivalent, nor do they have a great deal of stability. Fourteen minutes may be on the low end, but that is all the credence I would give such an anomaly. You could have twenty. I couldn’t bet on it.
“Should you decide to dip below the clouds you think you are viewing beyond the window and hope to see the Earth sparkling below, you would surely short circuit the only remaining stability of the hole and we would be cast into an un-place from which we would never return. In other words, we would lose our lives. Now you may speak and ask what you will. Persuade yourselves over the next ten minutes. That is all the time you have left.”
“Why ten minutes?” the Captain says.
“It will take three minutes to remove ourselves from this situation, but no more.”
“You can advise us on what to do?”
I lose no time. We’re getting short on it. “When you look above you, you seem to see dark sky. Look closely and you will note that what stars you seem to see are not points of light, but short streaks.”
The two men look out either side of the front ports. When they turn to Ricardo they have lost composure.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before, Captain,” says the co-pilot. He sounds scared.
Captain Rourke, a veteran of twenty years in the big jets, agrees. “Go on, Professor,” he says.
“There have been a number of disappearances of aircraft, most notably over the Bermuda Triangle - it is a focal point close to earth, not close like this, more of a spike from space - but in other places, too. They have been investigated by the military and classified. Otherwise they have been hushed down by the airlines for fear of ruining a worldwide and very lucrative business, not to mention the panic such public knowledge would cause. Not all have disappeared through such holes, but the evidence is clear enough to believe that more than half of the incidents have occurred as a result of temporal activity.”
The two pilots look at me in disbelief. Then they look at each other. They say nothing for a long moment.
Finally, Captain Rourke spoke up. “What needs to be done?”
“You will need to spin your plane one hundred and eighty degrees without changing your lateral position. It is vital that you do not deviate from your current heading. Can you do this?”
“We’ll crash. I can’t turn the aircraft around like that!”
“You won’t crash. The negative energy that is sucking us into the vortex will re-polarize and push us out. Your forward energy will become reverse energy. You will have to trust me on that. You must decide what you are going to do. You have a window of two minutes before we can do nothing to stop this.”
“We have no choice either way, it seems to me. What do you think, Joe?”
“It’s crazy, but Professor D’Guise doesn’t appear to be. I don’t like the alternative of continuing ahead.”
“Me, either, Joe. We’ll give it a try.” They turn and sit back in their seats. Joe puts the seat belt sign on and the Captain at the same time opens the mike to the ship and passengers.
“Attention everyone. Strap yourselves in tight. We are going to hit some severe turbulence in a very short time and everyone must be buckled in to prevent injury. Flight attendants, get strapped in as well. Do it now!”
“Professor D’Guise, please sit in the seat behind the co-pilot and strap in.” I do so.
The captain looks to his board and goes through what he plans to do with his co-pilot. This takes one minute. Joe nods and at the Captain’s count, they flip switches, disengage the autopilot, put the brakes on one side and reverse the starboard engine while pushing the port engines to one hundred percent. The big jet flips around in place, a crazy, no, a totally insane move, one never before performed with such a craft.
Like the big bird it was, the 747 hung in the thin air for only a second. Then, with a mighty push, the negative energy of the vortex reversed and threw the jet out into normal space. Muffled shrieks of discomfort from coach and first class mingled with the gusty sigh of relief in the cockpit from two perspiring pilots.
Good men that they were, they normalized the plane and put it on autopilot again.
“Looks like Whitehorse down there, Joe,” the Captain says with evident relief.
“I can uncross my fingers?”
Captain Rourke turned and shook the hand of the man who had saved three hundred and seventy-nine passengers and crew.
“Professor D’Guise, thank you from me, my crew and, no doubt, all the passengers on Flight 311. In keeping with the secrecy that has evidently held this little bombshell from the general public, I will give an accounting to the airline, but I intend to keep mum about this to everyone else. I’ll need you to help me with this.”
“Long as I don’t miss my ship, Captain, I’ll be happy to. On our way to a cruise, you know.”
“I assure you, you won’t miss a thing.”
I return to my seat. My wife looks up. “You took a long time coming back. Might you have had something to do with that little maneuver that scared the hell out of us?”
I look pained. “Me?” I say.
She gives me a look and sticks her face back in her book.