A knock on the door made them all turn their heads. Bianca opened to see Samantha, with Marcello peering from behind her. He seemed to always be around her as if she could protect him from any unfortunate turn of events. It was her aura of reliability and calm, the same thing that made Bianca, too, assume Samantha could handle anything just as efficiently as handled an unruly passenger. Now, after the conversation she ad unwittingly eavesdropped on, she thought differently. Samantha wasn’t born a rock. She had turned into a rock after the loss of her daughter, a rock of loss that kept helping other people.
“They’re waking up,” Samantha half-whispered, half-hissed. “Just a handful now but they are moving. I think it’s our presence here. We are trying to be quiet but they are waking up. What do you want us to do? We’ve never had a sleeping cabin.”
They had never had a sleeping cabin and it was decidedly odd to have it now. People didn’t sleep when a plane crashed, except those who had deliberately knocked themselves out with pills. When a plane crashed people screamed, cried, prayed, and cursed. Sleeping passengers sounded like a blessing but it could yet turn into a curse.
“Just do what comes naturally,” she said. “Calm them down and wait for the tunnel. Hasn’t it popped up yet?”
Samantha shook her head.
“Okay, so just do what you always do. Is everyone else okay?”
“Yes. Gabrielle complained she’d had cold sores again when we took off but she’s fine now. I had cramps, like the first time. But it’s all gone now. There is something strange here, stranger than usual.” There was a deep line of concern etched between Samantha’s brows and there was something in her eyes, an uncertainty that said she didn’t want to be where she was. This was unusual, too.
Bianca nodded. The situation was certainly unusual. They were about to uncover the greatest mystery in aviation. Or not, if the captain’s uncertainty was any indication. Both he and his first pilot looked confused and not a little embarrassed.
“What happened?” she said, crossing her arms. If she waited for them to start talking on their own they could grow old here. Except they couldn’t. They were all dead. They would probably somehow become deader.
The first pilot looked to his captain who looked way. They were both acting like people who had made a serious and costly mistake and were now looking for ways to not admit to their responsibility for it.
“Look,” Michael said and leaned on the door. “We’re not here to judge you. We’re here to help you move on. But I don’t think we can unless we know what happened to you. Why are all the passengers asleep? How did you crash?”
“We ran out of fuel,” the captain said quickly. “We crashed because we ran out of fuel.”
“Okay.” Bianca nodded in what she hoped was an encouraging way. “Why did you run out of fuel?”
The two Malaysia Airlines pilots exchanged another guilty look.
“You wouldn’t believe us if we told you,” the first officer said. “We couldn’t believe it at first and we saw it.”
Bianca heaved a sigh of exasperation.
“I think you’re seriously underestimating us,” Michael said. “We’ve seen our fair share of weirdness. What happened?”
“There was this white light in the sky just when we were crossing into Vietnamese air space,” the captain began and stopped when Bianca leaned forward sharply. She bit her lip and nodded to him to continue. “We thought it was some sort of explosion, a missile strike or something but then the light was gone and we were still in the air and everyone was okay. Only…”
“Only none of the equipment was working,” the first officer said. “Nothing.”
Bianca straightened up. For them, the white light had made the plane invisible. For MH 370, it had made the equipment stop working. How many others were there who had seen a white light prior to crashing because their equipment had stopped working?
“But you stayed in the air,” Michael said, stepping forward. “You stayed in the air for hours, that’s what the investigation found. Well, suggested.”
“Oh, yes. More than one, actually. How did you remain airborne?”
“We don’t know that, either,” the captain said after yet another exchange of co-conspirator looks. “You see why we were reluctant to tell you? We don’t know much about how we found ourselves here. We don’t even know where here is. We took a sharp turn left after that explosion of light, then straightened, flew for hours and then dropped into the ocean.”
“What’s the last thing you remember?” Bianca said but before the captain answered someone knocked on the door.
Michael opened it. Gabrielle peeked inside and then gestured to both Michael and Bianca. Michael slipped out.
“The last thing I remember is the ocean coming straight at us and the screams of the passengers,” the captain said with a flat, expressionless face. “They’d even stopped fighting by that point.”
“Fights broke out when they realised we were not on our route,” the first officer said. “It was taking too long to reach Beijing and we had to tell them the truth, or at least part of it. Then thought the plane was hijacked first but when they found out there was no hijacker some became… restless.”
“It was a riot,” the captain said, looking up at Bianca. “One idiot wanted to land the plane himself. He stopped shouting when I showed him the dead panel. They all stopped shouting.”
“Lucky for you,” Bianca said. “Is that why they’re all asleep? Did you lower the cabin pressure to knock them out?”
Captain Imran shook his head.
“I couldn’t. Nothing on the panel worked. They kept crying, fighting and asking each other what was happening until they got tired. Then there was some more fighting and crying when the plane started falling, and then nothing. When I came to, they were all like this.”
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