Andy lengthened her stride to keep up with her boss. Miranda, flanked by Emily, the first assistant, and Nigel, the creative director of Runway Magazine, hurried along the concord of Terminal 2 of the Narita Airport in Tokyo. They were late for their flight as the press conference after Tokyo fashion week had wrapped up, dragged on. Miranda was famous for her bow-in-bow-out stunts, never one to linger, but when it came to the international press, too much was at stake to risk alienating any of the other magazines or newspapers.
"Andrea." Miranda's voice, low and without inflictions, still carried easily back to Andy. She half ran to catch up to the trio in front of her. Serena, the makeup artist, did the same.
"Yes, Miranda?" Andy tried not to gasp the words out as she was seriously out of breath. How the hell did Miranda keep this pace and not even look the slightest frazzled?
Miranda cast a glance over her shoulder. "You will take Emily's seat on the plane. I need you next to me."
Andy gawked. Miranda needed her next to her? What the hell was that supposed to mean? Was she in trouble? Was Miranda displeased, or, god forbid, had she figured out Andy's not-at-all-professional feelings for her much-older boss? Swallowing hard, Andy managed a wan smile. "Of course, Miranda."
Pre Flight 2
Thank god they boarded first class passengers before anyone else. She was no accustomed to waiting. Yes, there had been a time when she had barely afforded to travel economy class, but that was almost thirty years ago. Nowadays, she enjoyed the privileges of being the most influential fashionista—thought she loathed that word—in the world, which all the perks that came with her position as editor-in-chief of the leading fashion magazine. She glanced behind her, making sure that Andrea had not misunderstood. True to form, the beautiful brunette stood close to her, holding onto her boarding card and her passport.
This was the first time Andrea had joined the Runway staff at Tokyo fashion week. She had gone with Miranda to Paris six months ago—and perhaps that's when this…this something, had begun? Not one to second-guess herself, or to become too philosophical, Miranda couldn't pinpoint the exact time Andrea had begun looking at her that way. She wasn't even sure how to decipher what Andrea's glances made her feel. It was unprecedented, that much was clear, as these thoughts came unbidden to Miranda, sometimes at the most inopportune times. The nearly ten-hour flight to LAX would provide ample opportunity for Miranda to examine, diagnose, and, preferably, dismiss it all.
Pre Flight 3
"Good evening, Captain," Chuck Taylor, her co-pilot and good friend, said and saluted her with his index finger. "Looks like it's going to be a lovely, starry night going back to the US."
"Lovely and starry?" Kathryn looked suspiciously at Chuck. "You on some romantic streak there?"
"Haha. I wish," Chuck said as he took his seat, pulling the preflight checklist binder from its place next to his chair. "On the contrary. I've worked extra shifts to be able to finally take my extended vacation and join the digs under Mexico City." Chuck was an avid archeology buff and always saved up vacation time to join one trench or another around the globe.
"I'll be right back." Kathryn got up, wanting to touch base with the number one flight attendant before they went through the checklist. She stepped out into the front galley, finding Monica as she prepared for boarding the passengers.
"Hi, Captain," Monica said, as always cheerful and pleasant. "Our air marshal's boarding with the first-class passengers this time. Other than that, it's business as usual."
"Sounds good. Anyone we've had before?" Kathryn glanced at the passenger manifest in Monica's hand.
"Yes, actually. Annika Hansen. The tall blond?" Monica looked like she tried not to smile.
"Oh. Right." Kathryn nodded briskly at Monica and returned to the cockpit. She sat down and busied herself with harness, adjusting it to her compact size.
"You all right?" Chuck looked up from the checklist, which he soon would start reading from.
"Yes. I'm fine. Why?" Kathryn gave him her best indifferent look.
"Just looking a bit flustered, but, then again, it's hot in here." Chuck grinned.
Oh, for heaven's sake. Flustered? Honestly.
Pre Flight 4
"Welcome aboard. That's the right isle, 5C. Enjoy your flight." The flight attendant whom Annika had flown with on several occasions before, smiled warmly at her.
"Thank you," Annika said and pulled her small carry-on behind her to her seat. After stowing it, she sat down and pulled out her cell phone. Dialing the woman who once recruited her to become an air marshal, Super Advisory Air Marshal in Charge (SAC) Queenie Borgstrom, she drummed her fingertips as she waited for the busy woman to pick up. As one of the few people at her level to have the SAC's direct number, Annika still found herself squaring her shoulders as she anticipated her boss's annoyance. No, not even that. Fury. Annika knew she skipped four steps in the command structure at the Federal Air Marshal Service by doing it this way. And it wouldn't be easier, but it would be quicker.
"Borgstrom." The intimidating woman's voice was short clipped and did not allow for any lengthy explanations, which was good as Annika only needed very few.
"Annika Hansen here. You will receive my letter of recognition in today's mail. This is my last flight."
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Janeway. We are going to suffer through some turbulence, I'm switching on the fasten seatbelts sign and that means everybody must buckle up and that nobody is allowed out of their seats until the signs turned off again." The husky, female voice coming over the speakers made the people in the airplane shift uncomfortably. "Cabin crew, secure the cabin and take your seats."
"That sounds worrisome," Andy Sachs said and turned toward Miranda, her employer. "I mean, if they want the cabin crew to strap in."
"I'm sure it's a precaution." Miranda Priest, editor-in-chief of Runway Magazine, said in her customary, bored tone of voice. She snapped closer her table and tightened her seatbelt.
Andy did the same and placed the tablet she had been using under the seat in front of her. Making sure Miranda's Prada bag was equally secured under the seat in front of them, she cast a glance at the other passengers around them. Nigel Kipling, creative editor of the magazine and Emily Charlton, Miranda's first assistant, looked wide-eyed back at her. Behind them, Serena, makeup artist and photographer, sat calmly next to a blond woman whom Andy didn't know.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Nigel muttered, rubbing his bald head.
"It'll be fine," Andy said, trying to sound optimistic. "Just some turbulence. Happens all the time." She wasn't as sure as she tried to sound, since the fact that the flight attendants hurried through the aisles, telling people to raise their backrests, fold their tables, and stop using electronics. This was more than your everyday turbulence. Andy had no fear of flying, but she had been on enough flights to feel the same way Nigel did.
Emily sat with her eyes closed and her white-knuckled grip of the armrests showed the stuck-up Brit was very afraid.
"But I need to go to the rest room," a man shouted from behind Serena, making Andy jump at the panic in his voice. "You can't force me to sit down!"
"Yes, I can," the flight attendant said calmly. "You heard the captain, sir. Everyone needs to remain in their seats until the sign turns off." She placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, but he swatted it away, making her lose her balance.
"Hey, sir." The blond woman next to Serena unbuckled and stood. "I suggest you take a few deep breaths and regain your composure. Now." Her alto voice carried well throughout the first-class cabin.
"And who are you to—" The man stopped talking when the blond opened the right part of her jacket, spiking Andy's curiosity. "Fine. Fine!"
"What on earth is that man on about?" Miranda huffed impatiently. "Honestly. All he has to do is sit still for a few minutes." The words were barely out of her mouth when the plane seemed to plummet, tail first, toward the ocean beneath them.
"My plane," Kathryn said, disengaging the autopilot. Beneath her, the plane stomped and then kept falling.
"Your plane." Chuck Taylor, her co-pilot, grabbed the binder with the checklists. "Damn, this packs a wallop."
"Sure does." Gripping the rudder firmly, Kathryn worked the pedals to take the plane out of the freefall. Pushing the throttle forward, she knew it would still take a few moments before the engines responded. She engaged the comm system, trying to reach a tower on any of the coast lines. "Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Intrepid 995, Tokyo to Los Angeles. We're trying to avoid a severe electrical storm with violent turbulence." She squinted at the flickering altimeter. "5,000 feet and falling."
Chuck was going through the checklist as Kathryn attempted to maneuver the plane away from the dangerous air pockets. She spotted a piece of night sky where the dark clouds separated. Perhaps they had reached the outer perimeter of the electric storm?
A bright light blinded Kathryn temporarily. It slammed into the plane, jolting it and now they did more than fall through the turbulent air around them. If she couldn't right the jet, it would go into the death spiral of a tailspin. "She's going to stall."
Glancing at the compass, it didn't make sense. It spun as if the poles had lost their magnetism and the radar systems flickered on and off. Where the hell were the backup systems? Kathryn had been hit by lighting before, but never like this where it felt as if the invisible hand of a deity shook the aircraft.
"Mayday, mayday, mayday," Kathryn shouted, trying to drown out the roar of their descent. "This is Intrepid 995, Tokyo to Los Angeles. We have two-hundred and seventy souls aboard and we're attempting a water landing without any functioning instruments." She gave them their last known location before the unexpected electrical storm hit but knew they had veered off their flight plan.
"Engines one and two are out. Trying to restart." Chuck spoke through clenched teeth. He flipped the switches. "No luck."
"That's it. No way I can keep her up even if we're out of the worst of the storm now." Kathryn opened the comm system to the cabin. "This is the captain. Put on lifejackets and prepare for an emergency landing." She shot Chuck a look and he nodded somberly.
"No matter what, we're landing the plane."
"Damn it, Chuck." Kathryn shook her head as she struggled with the controls. Now they were away from the clouds, but she had no way of knowing in which direction they were flying. The remaining two engines had begun to heat up and she knew it was only a matter of time before they gave out.
Watching the glittering ocean come closer with each second, Kathryn could hear the flight attendants' "brace, brace, brace!" through the cockpit door.
"Look, Kathryn!" Chuck pointed at a black formation in the distance. "That's got to be an island."
Kathryn dug her teeth into her lips as she worked the controls. Yes, it was an island and she wasn't going to waste this miracle. "All right, Chuck. We're setting her down before we overshoot."
Annika glanced between her backrest and the one next to her, making sure the man who caused a scene only moments ago were indeed strapped in and behaving. She knew he wasn't a serious threat as it was, but if he panicked further, he might make create a bigger problem in case he stirred the same emotions in other people. Now he was sitting with his eyes closed and clutching the armrests.
Having worked as an air marshal for four years, Annika had decided to change gears in a month's time. This flight had been last minute since her colleague who were meant to work, had called in sick. She felt the profession was a lonely one, and as much as she was a private person who were very picky in choosing her friends, being an air marshal meant long hauls without workmates. The whole point was that nobody knew her true work identity, which mean the staff treated her as just another passenger.
The sudden warning from the captain sent shivers through everyone's mind, Annika could feel it. She, being so used to flying, already knew that more than the usual bumpy-ride-turbulence was up. They had cleared the worst and yet the plan didn't feel right. Using her training, which was extensive, Annika switched her mind into what she visualized as razor-sharp ice. It gave her clarity and she could analyze the situation around her without losing focus. She donned her lifejacket and made sure it was secure.
Glancing to her right, she saw a woman, slightly younger than her, struggling to put on her lifejacket. The older, white haired woman inside of the brunette, had donned her and gripped the younger woman's arm. "Andrea. Calm down. Just put it on and bend forward." Her low voice was barely audible, but it seemed to reach the girl, Andrea, who nodded.
"Yes, Miranda. Sorry." She tugged the belt around her waist and tied it. "There. Done."
"Bend." The woman pressed Andrea's head forward and then assumed the same position.
"Brace—brace—brace," the flight attendants chanted, rendering the cabins with an eerie feeling of doom, which perhaps was the point, Annika thought. It sustained the notion how serious their situation was.
"Bollocks," a definitely British female muttered from the row in front of Annika. "Serena!"
"I'm here, Emily. We will be all right." The sonorous voice of the stunning woman next to Annika said. "Just hold on."
"I love my job, I love my job," Emily whimpered, but seemed to do as the other woman, Serena, said.
"Good that you can remain calm," Annika said quietly, nodding at Serena.
"I think I may have the most advantage on this plane, as I'm placed next to an air marshal," Serena whispered.
Annika raised her eyebrows. "Really?"
"I saw the gun," Serena mouthed. "My lips are sealed."
Having to smile, Annika shook her head. That damn man behind them. She shouldn't have been so obvious, but at the time, she had to subdue him fast without having to resort to a more hands-on approach.
The plan shook and began tilting far too much to the right. People around her gasped, some screamed, others prayed. Annika thought of the somber fact that very few people would miss her if she died. Her aunt in Sweden was the only blood relative she had left and her friends…would move on.
Then the plane hit the water and it seemed to engulf them completely.
Miranda gasped as all she could see was water outside. Faint light from the moon and the stars glittered in the relatively calm sea and she felt hypnotized by it. Around her loud voices, screams, and the urgent orders from the flight crew bounced around the cabin, but it was as if it didn't concern her.
"Miranda. Miranda!" Frantic hands tore at Miranda's seatbelt. "We have to get to the emergency exits. Come on!" It was Andrea's voice. Miranda turned her head slowly, still feeling so dazed.
"Don't yell," she said calmly. "My hearing is perfectly fine." Honestly, that girl. She was too intense at times.
"Then get up." Andrea had the audacity to pull at Miranda's arm, wrinkling the sleeve of her Calvin Cline shirt. "There's already water on the floor."
Something, like a switch, flipped inside Miranda. The sounds around her came back, full force, and she could see passengers stumble as they ran toward the exits. The plan was no longer in the air. They had performed a water landing. A woman wearing a uniform was approaching from the front of the plane. Her auburn hair curled around her jaws and she was bleeding from a laceration above her left eyebrow. In the other isle, a tall dark man, also in uniform, ushered passengers toward the open door. Where were they going to go? Into the ocean?
Suddenly, Miranda was on her feet with Andrea's hand clutching hers. Water sloshed around her feet as Andrea tugged at her while pushing Emily and Serena in front of her, making them move faster.
"Nigel?" Miranda called out and could hear the dread in her voice. The plane was sinking, and they were going to get trapped inside. She would drown and leave her daughters…
"Behind you." Nigel's voice trembled, and she was relieved to feel him press against her. All four of her staff were on their feet. Perhaps…perhaps they stood a chance.
They reached the door, and Miranda looked at the wide-eyed flight attendant that somehow managed to remain professional despite everything. She was very young but pointed to the inflated raft outside that was attached to the plane. "Get as far out as you can and inflate your life jackets," she instructed. "If you have high heels, kick them off."
Miranda normally did, but not while travelling. She followed Andrea out the door and a cool breeze made her shudder. Andrea inflated both their vests and tugged her along to the far end of the raft. Miranda wondered if this was what was used as a slide for emergency landings on land. Around them, people reacted in a multitude of ways, ranging from shocked silence to loud wails.
"I can't believe this," Emily whispered, clinging to Serena. "What the hell happened?"
"Turbulence," a sonorous voice said. A blond woman that Miranda had seen in passing and only notices because she could have been a model if she'd been slightly younger, sat down next to them. "I believe some of the engines gave up." She shook her head. "We're lucky Captain Janeway is a seasoned pilot."
"Lucky?" a man behind her sneered. "If we were lucky, we'd be still in the air."
Miranda barely tolerated fools and being in a state of shock made her resilience to the presence of idiots even less. "We're not interested in your ignorant opinions. Do shut up." She sent him a withering glare.
The man opened his mouth as if to argue but seemed to think better of it. Perhaps there was hope for him yet.
People filled the raft and when no more passengers come through the door, the female captain and two flight attendants joined them on the raft. The plan was sinking with increasing speed. The crew dislodged the raft and Miranda could see two more rafts further down the side of the plane float away from the aircraft.
"Oh, god," Andrea whispered next to Miranda, her eyes huge. "Please tell me everyone made it out."
"They did." Captain Janeway came over to them, standing in the center of the raft. "I made sure of it." She looked over to their left. "And now I need everyone to paddle."
"What?" Andy looked confused at the airline captain. "Paddle where?"
"Toward the island due west." Janeway pointed to the left of them. "I estimate I overshot it a bit, but not by much."
Island? Andy turned to Miranda who was shivering next to her. "Did you hear that, Miranda? We're not far from land."
"I heard." Miranda's teeth were clattering.
As many of the passenger on the raft already began to paddle, using only their hands, Andy gently pushed Miranda aside and stuck her arm into the water. It was cool rather than cold, and she joined the effort. Soon, Nigel, Serena, and Emily paddled in front of her and behind her, the tall blonde she'd spotted earlier, did the same. The other rafts seemed to move in their direction and small lights from the life jackets and attached to the rafts, became clearer as they approached.
"Excellent, they're on the right trajectory," Andy heard Janeway say to the flight attendant.
"So far, so good," the young woman replied, out of breath.
Miranda slid in front of Andy. "Make room for me," she said quietly and stuck her arm into the water. She was still trembling and even in the pale light from the moon, Andy could see Miranda's lips were blue tinted. Of course, her slender boss did not have the benefit of being a size six. Miranda was fashionably thin, as was Serena and Emily, but they were younger, after all. Not thinking of anything but keeping Miranda as safe as possible, Andy instead moved closer and aligned her body with Miranda's from behind by wrapping her free arm around her waist.
"What on earth are you doing?" Miranda flinched.
"Trying to keep you warm. You'll be going in to hypothermia if I don't." Andy tried to sound matter-of-fact, but holding this woman, whom she secretly adored, so close made her heart contract painfully.
"Ah. Well." That was Miranda-speak for "oh, for heaven's sake, all righty then." Andy kept her firm hold of Miranda as they paddled in unison.
"You're going great, everyone," Janeway called out. "Now, only the people on the right paddle until I tell you too. We're coming up toward what looks like a bay. We need to get around a natural wave breaker. It might get a little choppy, so hold on. We don't want anyone falling overboard even if you're all wearing life jackets.
Andy and the others on her side of the raft kept paddling. Lactic acid had set in a while back and it was harder than she ever would have thought possible. Miranda wasn't shaking as badly as before, which Andy hoped was a good thing. She knew it could also be a sign that the threatening hypothermia had gotten worse.
"Here we go. Hold on, people!" Janeway's warning rang out and Andy stopped paddling, gripped Miranda harder and held on to the side of the raft. She could barely feel her right hand, but hoped she had a good grip.
Miranda pressed Andy's arm closer and kept the same grip of the raft, her breathing rasping. "Oh, dear god."
"We'll be okay." Andy spoke the words in to Miranda's hair, just behind her left ear. "I'm not letting go."
And that's when the raft rose so high in the front that Andy was certain they'd all slide off backward and into the water. She braced herself, tugged Miranda closer, and looked up at the moon.
Annika gripped the edge of the slide hard as it seemed to rose toward the starry sky. She heard the other passengers scream and prayed they'd all hang on. A thud against her left side made her flinch and automatically sling her arm around the body of the person having lost their grip.
"Thanks," a husky voice belonging to Captain Janeway, called out. She clung to Annika's arm and braced her legs against the edge of the heaving raft. "That man over there is panicking enough to risk everyone else's life.
Annika didn't have to look to guess who the captain was talking about. "Hold on to me. I think we're over the worst." She looked at the frothing waves around them and tried to ascertain if someone had indeed fallen overboard. Preparing to dive into the water if need be, she was relieved to not see any bobbing heads on the glittering surface.
Soon they could resume their paddling toward the dark shore of the island. Janeway let go of Annika's arm after squeezing it and murmuring her thanks again. She stood in the middle of the raft, gazing around them, probably also looking to make sure nobody on the other rafts had ended up in the water.
Annika paddled until her arm was so tired, she could barely move it. Her jacket was drenched from dipping into the water, and from the spray when they crossed the natural breaker. Yes, this was the Pacific, but it was cold under the stars and the bright moon. She could see how other passengers were shivering. Some were only dressed in shirts and blouses. In front of her, the people she'd sat closest to on the plane seemed even more fatigued. The young brunette stubbornly held on to the white-haired woman Annika had recognized as Miranda Priestly when she saw her exit the plane and climb out on the slide-turned-raft. Not one to bother much with fashion, she surmised that Miranda was the type of celebrity that was hard to miss.
The raft stopped suddenly, and Annika knew they had reached shallow waters. She stood next to the captain. "We need to get everyone off and pull the raft up on the beach," she said calmly.
"Agreed. Can you assist the ones who need it on your side and Monica and I will do the same on this side?" Janeway gazed up at her and only now did Annika notice the blood dripping down the captain's left temple. She didn't acknowledge it but was determined to have someone look at it as soon as possible. No doubt Janeway would have to be pinned down first. This captain was, for lack of a better expression, stubborn as hell.
As they guided the shocked passengers off the raft and directed them to huddle together on the still warm sand over by the edge of the jungle, Annika kept a stealthy eye on the captain. It was hard to judge in the moonlight, but she was certain Janeway wasn't normally this pale.
It took them a good while, but eventually all the rafts had been emptied of passengers and crew and pulled up on the beach. Janeway's copilot, Taylor, came walking toward them in long strides. "We need to perform a headcount," he said firmly.
"Yes," Janeway said and turned to begin walking toward the passengers on the far right. She stumbled and would have fallen if Annika hadn't been one step behind her and catching her. "Damn," Janeway said and righted herself.
"You're injured, Captain," Monica, the flight attendant, said. "I'll assist Chuck with the headcount." She nodded at Annika who realized tending to the captain would be her task for now.
"Come here. Let's sit down so I can look at your wound, Captain," Annika said firmly. Better make it close to an order, or this woman would ignore all of them and risk her health.
"But…oh, by all means, then." Janeway rolled her eyes at Annika and sat down. Next to her, Miranda Priestly was half lying across the brunette's lap, shivering in her thin shirt.
Annika motioned for the group closest to the captain to move closer. "We need to stay as warm as possible," she said. "That means shared bodily warmth. No room for shyness or awkwardness. This is, as you know, a dire situation, but if we stay close together, we'll keep each other warm until the sun goes up. All right?"
She didn't have to strongarm anyone. Even the man who was panic prone, and who could blame him, really, huddled close and wrapped his arm around the people closest to him.
Annika knelt in front of Janeway, pushing the wet auburn hair back from her forehead. "Okay, let's have a look at you, Captain."
Kathryn was furious at herself for being the one in need of medical attention when the souls surviving her ditching the plane was her responsibility. Instead, she had to indulge the tall blonde that was this flight's air marshal and her attempts at first aid without any supplies.
"What's your name again, Marshal?" Kathryn asked, trying to sound stronger than she felt. "I apologize. I should know it."
"Annika Hansen, Captain. No need to memorize my name. I'm sure you see more than your fair share of air marshals." Annika gently probed the wound. "You're not bleeding as badly anymore."
"Fine. Yes." Annika's hair shone like silver in the moonlight. "We need to keep you warm." She motioned for Kathryn to scoot closer to the two women next to her. Pulling off her jacket, she placed it around Kathryn's shoulders. "There you go."
"I can't take your jacket—"
"I insist." Annika helped Kathryn put her arms into the sleeves.
"Listen to her, Kathryn," Chuck said as he returned to them. "The crew has everything in hand and once the rafts have dried, we'll be able to use them as shelter from wind and potential rain."
"All right." Kathryn's mind raced and though she knew she could rely on her crew to keep everyone safe, she also was fully aware that she was responsible for every single one of the people on the beach. "What cannot wait," she said huskily, is locating water."
"I hear you," Chuck said somberly. "As soon as dawn breaks, that'll be our first priority. The island looks lush from here, so hopefully it won't be too hard."
"How are the two children doing?" Starting to feel marginally warmer, Kathryn dreaded the answer. She knew there were a ten-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl among the passengers.
"Huddled up with their parents," one of the flight attendants said. "Nobody is seriously injured. Mostly it's about staying warm until sunup."
Relieved to hear this, Kathryn slumped sideways, unable to remain upright. Strong arms pulled her close and she realized it was Annika who held her firmly. Around her, shivering survivors fought to stay warm. Murmured conversations, comforting words between families and strangers alike, were close to hypnotic. "Thank you," Kathryn whispered in Annika's direction.
"Don't mention it," Annika replied calmly. "Not even the Captain Janeway is immortal. We need to take care of you as much for your sake as for the morale of the crew and passengers."
Kathryn knew Annika was right. If the captain weren't on top of thing, it would have a detrimental effect on everyone else. She wasn't unaware of her reputation. Having captained large airline jets for the last fifteen years, her experience and skills were unquestionable. Some of her male peers felt threatened by her, but most respected her and many of the younger pilots idolized her. When she first realized the latter, she found it awkward, until she understood how she could use her so called fame for educational purposes and as inspiration for other woman in this, still, very male dominated profession.
She was close to nodding off where she sat wedged between Annika and the young woman called Andrea, when she heard a woman scream.
Miranda sat upright and tugged at Andrea.
"Who is making that awful sound?" she said, willing herself to sound her usual detached self, but her stomach trembled, and her heart raced at the piercing sound of a woman's cry.
"People are in shock," Andrea murmured. Her strong arms held Miranda steadily.
"That's not shock. That's fear." Serena, who sat right behind them, said.
"Well, I for one want none of that," Emily chimed in. "This is nerve wracking as it is."
"I'll go see what's going on," the copilot, Chuck, said. He stood and the tall blond, Miranda had forgotten her name, eased the captain off her shoulder and joined him.
"I'll go with you." They walked in the direction of the now whimpering woman and Miranda saw the air marshal snap open her gun holster. This made Miranda shiver and immediately Andrea pulled her closer.
"Still cold, Miranda?" Andrea asked, her breath caressing Miranda's ear.
Not one to crave physical closeness, not counting hugging her children—oh, God, her girls. Miranda's eyes welled up. Surely the authorities knew the plane was missing by now? The radar would have lost sight of them and Miranda's former husband would eventually be notified…and have to inform their children. They might fear she was dead. That she left them, albeit unwillingly, and her girls would be heartbroken. Miranda turned her head and pressed her face into Andrea's neck. The warmth comforted her in an unexpected way. They weren't dead. Someone would find them. Save them. And she wasn't alone.
"We'll be all right," Andrea said, echoing Miranda's thoughts. "They will have noticed where the plane went off the radar and start searching for us. You'll be home with the girls in no time."
Miranda nodded against Andrea's satin skin. "Thank you."
The captain stirred next to them. "Annika. Chuck."
Miranda looked up and saw the tall man and the blond come walking back. Annika. Chuck. As she had no way of knowing when they'd be rescued, she would be smart to memorize the names of the people in charge and not rely on Andrea or Emily to do it for her.
"What did you find out?" the captain, Janeway, asked, pushing herself up. She was very pale, but her eyes were level as she gazed up at Chuck and Annika.
"A woman claims she heard something from the jungle. Like a roar. I have no idea how likely it is for a small island to host predators of any kind, but we managed to calm her enough to not incite panic among the other passengers."
"A roar?" the captain shook her head and looked as if she regretted it immediately. "When morning comes, we need to send teams to look for fresh water and whatever goes for edible here. Should be coconuts, at least. If they spot anything that might be able to roar, then we'll know."
"We'll figure it out come daybreak," Chuck said. "In the meantime, as it is quiet again, we should rest as best we can."
"Agreed," the captain said and looked surprised as Annika reclaimed her seat next to her.
Miranda felt Andrea shift next to her. "Lean more against me, Miranda. You need to stay warm and catch some sleep. Soon the sun will rise, and we'll all be warm."
"Yes," Miranda murmured, exhausted. "Warm." Part of her wondered if it was true, since she didn't feel like she would ever be warm again.
Andy raised her hand to push the bushes away from her face. She had been smacked at least five times already and refused to take another whipping across her forehead. The sun had been up for the last hour and after making sure Miranda had stopped shivering, she had joined one of the teams looking for water.
"Thank god the rafts had first aid kits and some other basic survival gear," Annika said from where she walked just in front of Andy. "We need something to carry the water in when we find it."
Andy was glad Annika used the word when instead of if. The idea of not finding water scared her as she'd felt parched for the last couple of hours. "Yes. Captain Janeway said not all airlines stock up like that. Hence the Intrepid's good rating, I suppose."
"Yes, it's a good airline." Annika sent Andy a lopsided smile. "Not counting that we're marooned on an island instead of landing in Las Vegas."
"Think of it this way," Andy grinned, grateful for the friendly banter. "We're all alive and we didn't actually crash. It was a water landing."
"True." Annika ducked under a half-fallen palm tree. "Hey, we're in luck. Coconuts." She raised the small axe that had come in the kit hidden in the side of their raft. Only the staff were allowed to carry any sharp objects and clearly the air marshal fell under that category as leader of Andy's team. Behind them, two men and a woman that had briefly introduced themselves, stopped next to Andy.
"I think we need to cut them down and bring them back," Annika said, "in case we don't come back the exact same way. She looked at the three beside Andy. "There are twelve fruits here. Why don't the three of you carry four each back to the beach. Captain Janeway will have tools to open them and she'll be in charge of distributing the water. I hope the fruits are as young as they look. I believe they hold more water that way."
"All right. Come on boys, the middle-age woman said briskly. "Two under each arm. We can manage that."
"Just follow the markings I've made with the axe and you should get back without problems." Annika nodded in the direction they came from. "See you when we get back."
Annika and Andy kept walking, making their ways over roots and through low shrubbery. A city girl at heart, Andy hoped no scary critters, especially ones that roared, would show up, or she would no doubt to make a fool of herself. Annika seemed so calm and levelheaded, which was a stark contrast compared to working alongside the high-strung Emily.
"You and Miranda look very close," Annika said, startling Andy out of her reverie.
"What? Oh. No. No, no. We're…I mean, we work together, no, that's not right. I mean, she's my boss." Andy felt a blush creep up her neck.
"Really? The way Miranda clung to you most of the night, it looked like that to me." Annika cast a friendly glance at Andy.
"She was cold." Andy sighed. Oh, who was she kidding? "And I'm protective of her. Perhaps a bit too much."
"Ah. I see." Annika didn't elaborate on what she meant, but instead stopped. The dense jungle seemed to get less so, and Andy brightened at the thought of not having to push forward with brute force.
"Looks like it'll be easier to—"
"Shh." Annika gripped Andy's arm hard. "Listen!"
Andy's breath caught in her throat when her ears picked up the new sound. "Shit," she mouthed to Annika, who nodded solemnly. This could not be good.