Chapter 9

Written by: Joe Labrum

Jack Harris picks up his usual double-tall half-caff with soy on his way in to start his shift. The barista working the early shift in the officer’s mess apprenticed in the Starbucks on Post Alley by the market in Seattle, and he brews a credible Latte. Harris is the First Mate on this container ship, a 630-foot floating city. He carefully sips the scalding beverage as he bounces up four flights while balancing a tray of coffee in his left hand. Blazing sunlight floods the wheelhouse as he pushes the steel door open with his foot.  

The Skipper, Captain Eisentrager, has his head under the shroud of the radar scope studying a blip on the screen. The “mayday” call repeats over the intercom as Harris stands motionless assessing the flurry of activity.

“Mayday, mayday,” squawks again with chilling urgency. “This is Quantis Air flight 3117 from Tahiti to San Francisco. Two engines have failed and we are going down. We are 426 nautical miles West-South-West of Long Beach heading Northeast. Does anybody read? Over”

 “I have it,” the captain yells, still studying the scope. “My God, it’s coming right at us and it’s close. Signal the radio room to contact them.”

He grabs his binoculars and searches the cloudless sky in a wide sweeping arc just above the horizon. Nothing.

“Stevenson, get on the scope and see if you can get a fix,” he orders.

The navigator mumbles coordinates from under the shroud.

“It’s about five degrees off the port stern and losing altitude fast,” he said, “three to four kilometers out.”

The captain focuses his search in that direction and a dazzling spot blazing in the bright morning sun, increasing in size by the second draws his attention. Within moments, the mass of the aircraft fills the field of view. The crew in the wheelhouse freeze as they watch in horror as the airliner flashes overhead barely forty meters above the top of the mast and splashes down five hundred meters off the starboard bow.

*********

Is this how I die? The thought races in my head as I try to stay focused. Keep everyone moving toward the exits, I think. “No pushing and no panic,” the words of the instructor repeat in my head.

The cabin smells of the stale air; of human beings crammed in hot close quarters sweating profusely and throwing up in fear. Passengers struggle over luggage from the overhead bins as they stumble toward the emergency exits.

“Please move quickly onto the wing,” I direct calmly. Just then, as the line of stunned and shaken passengers work their way through the chaos, a stranger appears in the opening.

He wears the uniform of a seaman and climb over the threshold of the hatch and comes in followed by another man in uniform.

“Who are you?” I call excitedly. “Where did you come from?”

“Jack Harris, ma’am, and this is Lieutenant Stevenson from the freighter you almost hit when you came down.

Comments

Congratulations on this chapter Joe. I really liked the way you came at it from an onlooker's perspective. It shifted the focus. At first I wondered if you had the right serial and then it all came together. That was smart. Your start made me curious and I wanted to find out where it was going. Great description and characterization.
Thanks for the comment, Suraya. I wasn’t sure if the approach would be well received or not. I know it was supposed to be a humor piece but I couldn’t figure out how to make a plane crash funny… thanks Ray :-)