Willow 06: Altivolus Per Angelus

Captain Chris Larabee tensed feeling the landing gear on the American Eagle L1011 touchdown with a slight shake on the concrete runway of McCarran International Airport. Nose slightly up and wings titled at the correct angle for a final descent, the twenty-five year old plane shot down runway 24, passing the multitude of emergency vehicles waiting along the flight line. Sharing a look with his first officer, Buck Wilmington, Chris quickly went into the final maneuvers of slowing the massive plane's normal one hundred and thirty-mile an hour landing speed. He applied full flaps and reversed the thrusters, listening to the three out of four remaining engines groan in a slightly louder than normal protest. Feet pressing even pressure to the brakes, the nose lowered, sending another small shudder through the plane. The plane slowed, one hundred, eighty, sixty, forty, twenty until finally, the great silver bird rolled along with easy grace, coming to a full stop directly at Gate 10. Routine landing.

Complete silence filled the control cabin, a few seconds in which each of the three men responsible for the safety of the plane and its occupants, barely breathed. And then it started, a hollow, small sound, gaining decibels quickly and then the unmistakable swell of clapping hands and cheering voices filled the silence. Suddenly Chris reached up and flipped off the FASTEN SEATBELT switch and slumped forward in his seat with a sigh. A part of him heard Buck get on the radio, hamming up the regular welcoming spiel to the passengers, but with a somber undertone foreign to the gregarious man.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, flight 1625 has arrived safe and sound and you may remove your oxygen masks. I'm sure you've noticed the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign, but for safety reasons we ask that you please remain seated. The flight attendants will be coming through the cabin, instructing each of you on leaving the plane and helping with the overhead compartments. Thank you again for remaining calm through what I'm sure was a hair-raising experience.

On behalf of American Eagle, Captain Larabee, the crew and myself, welcome to Las Vegas, Nevada. Local time is seven-twenty p.m., local temperature a delightfully warm eighty-seven degrees. There are American Eagle representatives waiting at the gate for any of you that have questions, or are in need of assistance. Just look for the men and women in the bright red jackets..."

Another part heard his flight engineer, Ezra Standish, radio the American Eagle mechanics, giving the plane's status. The engineer kept his voice low, so there would be no interference with Buck's microphone, but the stress was there, lying just beneath the surface of the normally dulcet Southern twang.

"Don't give me that horseshit. No, I don't think you understand, rear pressure went completely at thirty-thousand and the damn masks never lowered... yes... No! Manually, the flight attendants and I had to go through each section and drop them. No, now! I assure you Captain Larabee will ground this plane if a full diagnostic is not performed immediately...."

And a part of him could hear the excited chatter of the three hundred and twenty-seven disembarking souls. Hear the fear caused by the hair raising flight change to optimistic plans, the majority of which seeming to hinge on a chance to grab for a piece of Las Vegas riches. Exactly like the millions before them, believing that they would be the lucky one to break the bank. Dreamers all, having no idea that Lady Luck had already collected each and every one of their Get Out of Jail Free cards. There would be no more Pass Go, no more Collect $200, and certainly not a chance for Free Parking. The lucky SOB's would grumble and groan as they left Vegas a few dollars poorer, but hopefully one or two of them would actually realize just how lucky they already were.

Unfastening his seat harness, and stretching out the kinks beget from the intense adrenaline high, the only thing Chris wanted to think about was a shot or two of single malt whiskey, a hot shower and bed. In that order, but hearing the frustrated growls coming from his engineer, he knew his plans would have to wait. He turned to Ezra and raised an eyebrow at the microphone headset thumping across the floor.


"Same bureaucratic crap as always." Standish's voice took on a mimicking sing-song cadence, "'We're backed-up, we'll get to it when we can', and my all time favorite, 'but you landed the plane with no fatalities, didn'cha?' God, the incompetence. It's a wonder planes can even get off the ground anymore."

A knock at the cabin door kept Chris from answering. Standish twisted in his seat and turned the knob with a push. Louisa Perkins, head flight attendant with American Eagle, poked her head in.

"Orin Travis is on his way in," she said with a grimace. And this is where I stopped. Maybe someday I'll pick it back up.