Flash Fiction Friday: Thank You For Flying

The flight attendant was making her final round with the drink cart on what should have been a short and uneventful commuter flight. Her smile was forced, the creases deep in her face and the ache of her facial muscles apparent to anyone willing to make even a nominal attempt at eye contact. No one was. The whole craft was shaking, as it had been for the last half hour, and though a few were seemingly growing used to the constant bounce, most of the passengers were strapped tightly to their seats, white knuckled, as they clung to any arm rest real estate they could muster. Everyone that is, except for Mr. Hopkins and his associate Mr. Williams.

Mr. Williams looked perhaps more embarrassed than anything else, his posture bearing no resemblance to a man fearing for his life, as he hunkered down in his coach class seat next to his companion. Mr. Hopkins on the other hand stood calmly as near the center of the passenger cabin as he could manage.  His expression was only a little grumpy, though his face was never far from grump, and his eyes were well hidden behind smoke colored lenses. He wore a black suit, a hundred years outdated and all the more stylish for it, with a knee length coat of a similarly dark material. His hands, gloved in black lambskin, were palm up and held just below shoulder height. The only hint of color, a robin’s egg blue handkerchief, was tucked neatly into his vest pocket. He did not so much as flinch in the constant turbulence, but the air around his arms seemed to vibrate with energy.

“I cannot believe you are making such a show of this,” Mr. Williams mumbled his fingers rubbing diligently at his temples.

“I haven’t the time for a resurrection cycle, there is too much that needs doing right now,” Mr. Hopkins replied without looking. “Besides, aren’t you the one always going on about how I might do something to help the common man?” Mr. Hopkins nodded toward the fat man to the other side of him, wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and greasy pony tail. “How much more common do they come?”

“You might have simply prevented the wing from falling off, rather than engaging in this little bit theater,” Mr. Williams said, attempting a whisper loud enough to carry over the noise of air travel but not to the prickling ears about the cabin. Tension was high and the last thing they needed was for someone to distract Mr. Hopkins, or worse yet, make him angry. Many in attendance looked to be just as afraid of Mr. Hopkins as they were of crashing, staring at him wide eyed from their seats. Granted, if they knew Mr. Hopkins they’d fear him just a tad more. A fiery death was one thing, but Mr. Hopkins was something all together more. Much, much more, actually.

“You’re assuming I knew the wing was to even come off. You know, despite your suspicions on the matter, I haven’t a hand in everything dreadful,” he paused then looked down at his companion before continuing. “You know, you might have shot the terrorist before he detonated the device, rather than after. Had you thought of that?”

“My revolver was well hidden, it took some time to retrieve it.”

“I was rather surprised you managed to get that onboard. Where was that hidden?” Mr. Hopkins said, arching a single well manicured eyebrow above the brass wire frames.

“You’re the one always pretending to know everything,” Mr. Williams hissed.

“I never pretend,” Mr. Hopkins said, then cleared his throat. “Make yourself useful Williams and have the pilot radio ahead. We’ll be arriving shortly.” The plane began to descend as soon as Williams stood. The overhead speakers crackled to life a moment later.

“L-l-ladies and g-g-gentlemen, this is your captain speaking,” a trembling voice announced. There was a sharp pop followed by static then the voice of Mr. Williams came through.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be arriving shortly in New Amsterdam airport. Please ensure your safety belts are buckled, your children silenced, and your prayers said.” There was a heavy clunk as the microphone was slapped back into the waiting palm of the captain. The hint of a smile tugged at the corner of Mr. Hopkins’s lips, though he stopped himself quickly.  The old adage, smile and the whole world smiles with you had never really applied to Mr. Hopkins and the people onboard were nervous enough as it was.

As Mr. Williams re-emerged from the cockpit, the flight attendant stopped him, gripping him by the sleeve.

“His arms aren’t going to get tired are they?” She asked, glancing back at Mr. Hopkins with arms still held out wide. Mr. Williams stared at her blankly for a moment.

“He’s keeping the plane aloft by forces you cannot hope to comprehend and you’re concerned about muscle fatigue?” Her cheeks flushed and she dipped her head in embarrassment. Mr. Williams returned to Mr. Hopkins side. “How are your arms holding up, not too tired?” he said from the corner of his mouth. Mr. Hopkins shrugged and the whole plane jolted.

“I’ll manage,” he said.

The plane dipped low, its tail drifting nearer the runway as they approached. Suddenly the whole vessel shook violently and the air was filled with a harsh metallic screeching. Mr. Williams, expressing his first hint of real fear, looked wide eyed at Mr. Hopkins.

“What the devil is going on?” Mr. Williams yelled to be heard over the den, as his fingers dug into the shabby seat upholstery.

“Ah, landing gears, I knew I’d forgotten something,” Mr. Hopkins said. He lifted his palms slightly and the whole plane followed, creaking and groaning as it fish tailed slightly. Mr. Hopkins raised his right foot and stomped it down onto the drab green carpet floor of the cabin. A mechanical whir sounded from within the belly of the jet and Mr. Williams shook his head, mumbling.

“Showoff.”

The craft bounced twice, the rubber tires protesting loudly and smoking darkly as they gobbled up the plane’s momentum. And then, rather anti-climatically, the entire plane simply coasted to a halt. Without a word, Mr. Hopkins turned and reached into the overhead compartment to retrieve his black Gladstone. The door to the craft opened of its own accord before he’d reached it, and the emergency slide was unfurling itself as Mr. Williams caught up to him. “You can’t just leave it at that, what are you going to do about all these people? The Order won’t like a mess like this hitting the media. Everyone here has seen what you can do,” Mr. Williams said, his hand catching at Mr. Hopkins’s shoulder.

“Indeed, they have. I think that is sufficient to keep this little incident secret,” Mr. Hopkins said, much louder than needed for Mr. Williams’s benefit. He then smiled wide and a few children began crying. With a turn and a step he was gone. Collectively, every passenger exhaled in relief, a sound so large that it entirely muffled the subtle “Whee!” from just outside.

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