A fighter jet buzzed past Flight 508 as it continued circling out over the desert.
All alone in the cramped cockpit, Captain Hyatt tightened his grip on the joystick and tried to clear his mind. None of this was making any sense.
He waited for instructions to divert to the nearest Air Force Base, but none came. Radio silence.
Even Air Traffic Control, which had spent the last forty-five minutes stalling with bullshit reasons for Flight 508 to remain in a holding pattern far away from McCarran International,
had gone dark. Every other nearby airport had failed to so much as acknowledge his requests for an emergency landing.
Far out in the distance,Captain Hyatt could make out a fleet of vehicles amassing on the hot Mojave sand. White tents were being erected by bodies in yellow jumpsuits.
They were surrounded by dark trucks.
He adjusted himself in his chair, careful not to dirty his shoes with the blood that had began to flow into the cockpit from underneath the door.
Thirty minutes earlier, what began as individual screams from First Class erupted into a symphony of shrieks from the entire orchestra of passengers,
punctuated by a percussion of stampeding feet and what Captain Hyatt could only assume was gunfire from the Air Marshal’s weapon.
His co-pilot, Pope, had hurriedly exited the cockpit to examine the situation, but had not returned.
Captain Hyatt was beginning to lose his sense of time. Sweat poured down his face, soaking his uniform. He loosened his collar.
What had been less than three hours was beginning to feel like an eternity, and he was starting to get the feeling that he would be up there forever.
Deep down, though, he knew this wasn’t true. The reality was that the people on the ground knew more about what was going on behind the cockpit door than he did.
The reason the fighter jet and Air Traffic Control had cut contact with him was not because they didn’t have a plan. The reason was that he was not a part of it.
One way or another, Captain Hyatt knew that Flight 508 would return to Earth. What truly worried him was not if he would land, but rather, in how many pieces he would be in when he did.
He sunk back into the chair, weeping quietly to himself as another fighter jet lined up behind Flight 508.