Gupta closed the door of the cockpit and addressed the passengers and the flight attendants of First Class, who were looking intently at the grenade he had in his hand before taking out a gun from his jacket pocket and pointing at them. Feliks squeezed Toris’ hand tightly and the latter just rubbed his back comfortingly, making him know he was there for him.
“Back everybody, to the tail of the plane...”
Upon seeing that no one understood them, he got angry and grabbed Arthur by the collar of his shirt pulling him to a standing position. He was shivering when he felt the cold steel of the gun against his heated and sweaty skin.
“H-He wants you to go back... to the Economy Class cabin, please”
Toris got up and helped Feliks while the other passengers unfastened their seatbelts and went to the back of the plane. Arthur was released and he went over to help the First Class passengers take a seat at the Economy section, which was full.
“Please, make room”
He asked Vash Zwingli, a blonde Swiss tourist who had been forced to pay for those expensive vacations in Greece and Italy by his sister, who was travelling alongside him, Lilly, who sat on her big brother’s lap allowing a passenger to sit down. Several women had to pile up with men in their seat in order to make room to the First Class passengers.
“We have to take this trolley out”
Feliciano said, teary-eyed, to his brother, who started pushing towards the galley, where they stored it and secured it with straps. The Edelstein couple was forced apart as there was one free seat at 23-C and another one at 21-D, both in the aisle. A traumatized Feliks and Toris were holding hands, an aisle sitting them apart. Arthur went to the galley with the Italian brothers, while Gupta stood in front of the open curtain. The air conditioning was working perfectly, but, by the excess of people in the cabin, the heat was growing unbearable.
“Are you ok?”
Arthur asked his Italian flight attendants, who were hugging each other in the galley. Feliciano wiped the tears from his eyes and nodded before taking a shaky sip of water. His brother took a deep breath before answering.
“I knew those sons of bitches were up to something!”
He whispered and Arthur shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest. He then untied his apron, as did the Italian brothers. Lovino threw it to the other side of the galley. Feliciano left it over the counter, as did Arthur.
“That kind of talk would get us nowhere”
“Everyb0dy, heads down! Come on!”
Gupta yelled from the other side of the aircraft and Arthur poked his head out of the galley. Feliciano visibly shook upon hearing the strident hijacker’s voice coming from the cabin. Gupta was moving his gun frantically. Lilly hugged her brother tightly, obviously scared to be so near the terrorist. The passengers turned around, looking at Arthur, who had moved out of the galley and into the cabin.
“Please, he wants you to put your heads down. Cover them with your hands, please. Help me, boys”
He told the Italian brothers. Arthur began walking down the aisle, followed by his flight attendants, checking if everyone’s seatbelts were fastened and their heads were down. When he was in row 23, Feliciano spotted Mr. Edelstein and was surprised to see him there, so he approached him and whispered.
“Mr. Edelstein, what are you doing here?”
Roderick was as surprised to see his former piano and German student as Feliciano was to see him in that plane. The teacher shook his head and smiled before taking his hand, something that was very unusual of him, as he wasn’t very much for demonstrating his affect for someone else, but he had grown to love that young boy that couldn’t learn anything even if you hit him with a book. It wasn’t love, it was a deep fondness.
“The same thing you are doing here, my boy”
Upon hearing her husband’s voice, Elisabetta turned around and saw Feliciano too. They both smiled at each other. She had been her governess growing up and had also grown to love him.
“You, shut up!”
Gupta yelled at Feliciano, who, startled, took a step back. Arthur went back and grabbed his hand, pulling him alongside down the aisle to check the passengers.
“You better remain silent”
When he got to Feliks’ seat, he put both his hands over his shoulders and gently pushed him down and his hands over his head. He whispered in his ear, rubbing his back affectionately.
“Don’t worry, everything will be alright”
Were the first few words that came out of the traumatized Pole’s mouth ever since the hijack began. Toris couldn’t keep his eyes off him and Arthur just caressed his back comfortingly, although he couldn’t do anything with that.
“Heads down and be quiet!”
It was seven in the morning and a loud ringing of the phone woke Alfred up at, what he thought, was an inhuman hour. He yawned and took the call, knowing that there must be something very important for someone to be calling at such hours on a Saturday in the middle of the summer. He answered the phone and it was his commanding officer, for which Alfred opened his eyes widely and got himself together, jumping up from the bed and almost throwing the phone off the table.
“Jones, this is a national emergency. We need you here at Bragg immediately. The President has ordered us to intercept that hijacked airplane wherever the hell it’s landing, we still don’t know, but we’ll find out. We need you here as soon as possible; this is an order, Jones”
Alfred yawned and tried to cover it up with a cough.
“Yes, Colonel, sir”
When the Colonel hung up, Alfred began wondering what the hell was the talking about. He had heard something about a hijacked airplane, but he hadn’t heard anything else other than he was needed in Bragg, and, of course, why wouldn’t they need him? He was the hero, after all. He thought that, if he turned on the TV and watched the news, perhaps he could find out a little more about that future mission. He looked for the remote control and he found it under his pillow. He always likes to watch TV at night, when he couldn’t sleep, so it was normal that it was there. He turned on the TV and went straight to NBC News.
“...The incident occurred no less than fifteen minutes ago, on board Pan Atlantic Airways flight number 103 en route from Athens via Rome and London to New York. The aircraft is now heading for an unknown destination, presumably, somewhere in the Middle East...”
That couldn’t be... could it? Alfred left the remote control aside and frantically began looking through all of the mess of papers he had in the table where the phone was. He wanted to find the sheet of paper where he had written Arthur’s flight number and schedule. When he found it, he felt as if his blood had left his entire body.
Arthur’s flight had been hijacked.
Gun in hand, Farah, who had left the cockpit minutes ago and allowed her underling Gupta to take her place instead, forced Arthur to pick up the interphone and give a message to all the passengers and crew of flight 103.
“Ladies and gentlemen, our flight has been hijacked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Please, do exactly as they tell you and everything will be alright. Remain seated, with your seatbelts fastened and your heads between your hands, please. I promise, we will get out of this, together, safely. Thank you”
Some passengers cried, other hugged their loved ones sitting close to them. They couldn’t believe that their dream holidays ended in such horrible way. Feliks squeezed Toris’ hand before wiping tear tracks from his cheeks and getting up. Gupta noticed and immediately pointed his gun at him.
He yelled. Feliks turned around, as he was already on his way to the galley. Toris feared for his beloved’s security at that moment, so he grabbed his hand and kept him on his place.
“I’m going to the galley”
He said, with a shaky voice, but Gupta didn’t understand so he began yelling again and approached, him in the aisle, where he smacked him across the face with his gun, causing some passengers to scream. Arthur ran to where the hijacker and Feliks were and pulled him away from the Pole.
“I’m not going to let you hit my flight attendants! Get back!”
He yelled at the hijacker, who glared at him and went back to his place. Toris wanted to help, but Arthur told him to remain seated, for his own safety. Farah was looking the spectacle unfolding in front of her eyes in the cabin, but didn’t do anything at all, not even think much about it. She went back to the cockpit, whose door was wide open. Arthur helped Feliks up and took him to the galley, where he and Feliciano sat him at the jump seat. Feliciano brought him a glass of water and Feliks shook his head.
“I’m fine, thank you”
“You, the blonde one! Come here!”
Farah said from the other side of the cabin. Arthur sighed and came out of the galley, walking with as much dignity as he could muster and approached the two hijackers who were standing in front of the first row of seats at the Economy cabin. Gupta grabbed an old lady’s bag and emptied it on the floor, pushing it against Arthur’s chest.
He said in his poor English. Arthur was surprised.
He asked them. Gupta shook his gun at him, making Arthur step back a little.
“Collect all passports! Now!”
Arthur was beyond confused, but he knew that they were up to no good. “After all, they hijacked a plane full of tourists, didn’t they?” He thought bitterly.
He asked. Farah sighed and pinched her noise as Gupta grabbed him by the collar with the hand that was holding the secured hand grenade and pointed his gun at him. Arthur swallowed.
He yelled. Arthur sighed and nodded. He grabbed the bag and began asking the front passengers for their passports. Some had to look for them in their carry-on luggage over their seats, so they had to, carefully, stand up and take them. More and more passports were being dropped into the open bag as Arthur walked up the aisle.
“Your passport, please, ma’am”
“Your passport, please, sir”
“Why do they want our passports?”
Elisabetta asked, when it was her turn to hand over hers’. Arthur looked back at the hijackers, Farah had returned to the cockpit because she didn’t want the pilots to try anything funny so she kept a close eye on them, especially on Captain Bonnefoy. He whispered to Elisabetta.
“I don’t know, but you better not ask many questions”
Upon hearing the identities of their hijackers, at the back of the cabin, there was panic between Gal and her husband Josef Ben Mizrahi, both Israelis and Jewish from birth, who had chosen Greece and Italy as their wedding anniversary destinations in a trip that would have lasted a month. Gal had a Hebrew ring that her husband had bought to him in Mykonos in their honeymoon in the same island they had visited during their anniversary.
“My ring is Hebrew!”
She whispered in panic at her husband. Who made sure no one heard that. They were sitting at a safe distance from the hijackers.
“Take it off and put it away”
She did as her husband told her to do and put it on her purse, resting her head on her husband’s shoulder, crying. Josef caressed her cheek, both of them, without raising their heads so the terrorists wouldn’t notice them. When Arthur came by to ask for their passports, they both shook, even though Josef didn’t want his wife to see him tremble in fear.
“Can you give me your passports, please?”
Arthur asked with a shaky voice and Gal burst into tears, causing her husband to hug her tightly. Tears gathered at the corners of Arthur’s eyes upon seeing the heartbreaking scene in front of him, but he had a task ordered by the new commanders of the plane that he couldn’t ignore.
When Arthur saw their passports realised they were Israelis and they would have a lot of trouble in that flight, if they were not killed instantly by the Arab terrorists. He feared for them, especially for the woman, who, he noticed, was pregnant and holding her belly tightly while crying into her husband’s shoulder. Suddenly, he was struck with a dangerous idea.
“Put them away”
Josef and Gal raised their heads and he immediately took the passports back and hid them under their seat, unbeknownst to them, Farah had walked over to Arthur and watched the whole scene developing, so she knew that those had to be passengers that would be in a terrible risk in their hands, which made her even more intrigued.
“Why didn’t you collect their passports?”
Arthur turned around and swallowed. He then opened the bag to show her all the passports inside it.
“I-I have it here, I swear”
She pointed her gun at Arthur’s head and he let the bag fall to the floor. Josef, with shaky hands, took the passports out of the life-jacket pocket under their seat. She read the passports’ covers and smirked. She turned around, with her gun still pointing at Arthur’s head.
“Look what we have here. A couple of Israelis scum”
Gupta pointed at them with his gun, as did Farah.
She said in her poor English, but well enough for everybody to understand. Gal looked at her husband in fear and protected her belly. Arthur grabbed the woman’s arm.
“Please, this woman is pregnant...”
Gupta said, as Farah pointed her gun at the couple and forced to walk to the First Class cabin in plain view of everybody else on board. Some were crying and some were not surprised to see what they were doing and crossed themselves, knowing the poor couple’s destiny in the hands of those blood-thirsty terrorists.
“... but, you not understand, she is...”
He yelled and hit him with his gun across the face. Feliks and Feliciano went running to help him up. Feliks grabbed the bag to continue collecting the passengers’ passports while Feliciano and Lovino took him to the galley to sit down at the jump seat and give him a glass of water, like they had done with Feliks.
Once he was done, Feliks was brought to First Class to check on the Ben Mizrahi couple, that was hugging each other in the ample seats of the cabin, and hand over the passports to Farah and Gupta.
“Now, sit down and give me the Jewish passengers’ passports”
Farah said, not noticing that she was talking to a different blonde steward. Arthur was still in the rear galley, while Feliciano and Lovino tried to calm the passengers and shut the curtain that divided the Economy section from First Class. Feliks didn’t understand.
Feliks was cut off by Farah’s soft laugh. She smiled at him and adjusted her shawl.
“Oh, sorry... Jewish passports”
“B-But... I’m sorry, but American passports do not state religion... nor do I think Italians or Greeks do”
Gupta sat him down forcefully and threw the bag over his lap. He pointed his gun at the back of his head while Farah kneeled down to his level to talk to him.
Feliks let out a shaky breath before explaining to them. He had not seen the horrors of the war, as it had happened thirty years ago, but he had known them from his parents’ stories. He couldn’t do that to the poor Jewish people. Never in a million years.
“I-I can’t... I’m half German. You can’t ask me to select Jews to do things that I don’t even want to think about. No, I can’t”
His Polish accent was growing thicker by the time he spoke, as he was getting very nervous and his hands, which were holding the bag with the passports, where shaking. Gupta kneeled down too, and, moving Farah out of the way, pushed his gun against Feliks’ chin, tilting his head up. Feliks felt a droplet of sweat making his way down the side of his forehead through his neck and into his shirt.
“You. Will. Do. It”
Feliks sucked in a deep breath and got up, not caring about the gun pointed to his chin and mustering all the bravery in him, he faced the terrorists.
“NO! I WON’T DO IT!”
He yelled throwing the bag away, all the passports scattered all over the floor, to which Gupta answered by hitting him again in the face with his gun, over the previous bruise, causing him an immense pain. Feliks fell to the floor, crying in pain and clutching his face. Gal put her hand over her mouth in horror and Josef hugged her. Gupta started kicking him in the stomach.
Toris could hear his beloved Feliks screaming in pain, so he ran to the First Class cabin. Upon opening the curtain, Farah, in surprise, shot him in the shoulder, making him fall back and all the passengers scream. Vash held tightly to his sister, who squeezed out of his embrace and ran to help him, putting her pink neckerchief over his wound. Suddenly, she felt something cold against her blonde hair.
Farah said calmly. Vash stood up and grabbed his sister. Arthur and Feliciano ran towards Toris, who was in the floor, moaning in pain and clutching his shoulder. Gupta had stopped kicking Feliks, who was now coughing blood.
It was as if all Hell had broken loose on board that flight, and no one could do anything to stop it.