From Marshal To Guardian, Part One: The Crossing

InterNat Airlines Flight BR82

International Flight BR82, Heathrow Airport, near London, United Kingdom

21:13, October 23, 2014.

Christopher Barnes Markson, Federal Air Marshal Service, TSA

- D1, first class - said a female flight attendant, who was escorting passengers to their seats - On the right side of the aisle, next to the window - she smiled at Markson.

- Thank you - replied Chris. He knew her personally - likewise with the majority of the crew; Susan Margoyle, she grew up in the same place he did - they used to be childhood friends for a while, then the university separated them. Such an interesting twist life took when they met each other in this job. What are the chances? Almost nothing.

While walking towards the mentioned place, Barnes took out an item from his coat's pocket, which resembled regular earphones. After nonchalantly throwing the bag on the seat next to his, he sat down - well, more like fell into - his place; as he saw one of the attendants walking up and down the aisle, he spoke up.

- Excuse me, sir! - a moderately young man turned around, searching for the direction the request came from. As to help him out, Chris waved at him, which he did finally notice, and moved up to the seat - Could I have a bottle of water, when you get the chance? - Markson asked politely, which the man smiled and nodded to. As the attendant walked off, Chris put the equipment in his ear.

Now, he did not needed to do anything else, only to lean back and relax - probably read. But, before he did so, protocol required him to report in via his phone.

„Damn, my phone!", he thought in a panic, and took out all the pieces; the device's body, the back cover, and the accumulator - more commonly known as a battery. This was basic, the screen did not brake, neither did the body: the phone was unharmed, he just needed to place the energy cell back in its place, and seal it with the back cover - simple.

„Come on, you piece of junk!", he almost said this out loud, but restrained himself in the last moment, and decided to release his anger in thought instead; Markson held his finger on the button that turned the phone on and off, and waited for the screen to light up, which - ten seconds later - it did.

- Pardon me, sir - he heard a voice, but barely looked up; someone - probably the person, who will sit next to him for the flight - was trying to take his place, but Chris' bag was in the way - Could you...?

- Of course - answered Barnes before the man finished, then raised the carrying equipment that occupied the place neighboring to him. While doing so, he did not even look up from his phone, which was starting up in a slowly-but-surely way.

- Uh... Thank you - answered the guy in a surprised manner, as the speed and style of the response he just received did catch him off guard. After regaining his senses, he sat down.

In the meanwhile, Markson's phone finally turned on; he proceeded towards the „Messages" section, selected the name „Broyles", then started typing: TSA Central, this is Agent Markson, I need an update on my objective!

For a few minutes, he waited for an answer, but the small icon on the top of the screen kept showing that there was no signal.

He sighed, and touched the screen; In case your message cannot reach me due to the weather, be advised that both me and Agent Higgins are a go. After this was sent, Chris locked the phone, and slid it in his pocket. It was then that the communications between the cockpit and the control tower started.

- BR82, this is ground, report in, please! - the earpiece Markson always used might have had a striking similarity to an ordinary earset, used to listen to music, but, in his case, it was the in-the-line of protocol a way of communication with his partner, the cockpit, and - in clearer weather conditions - his director at the FAMS. Right now, the procedures prior to a takeoff were being heard on the frequency by him.

- Flight tower, this is BR82, we are ready for taxi to Runway A3 and disconnect ground-power - said the pilot, whom was known by Chris for the past...

„3, 4 years?", he thought, „I am pretty sure that Troy retired in 2011. Yes, he did; well, then that is 3 years I knew O'Neill for. Hm. It did not seemed this long before".

- Copy that, Flight 82, please carry on - came the „all clear" from the control tower.

There was probably a co-pilot in the cockpit as well, but Chris was not sure about who he was; the last first officer he knew about on this flight was Phillip Wyson, but he retired last month. This „new guy" was literally a new guy to him.

Markson checked his watch; it was 21:21, already one minute off schedule. Looking up, he saw someone that he did not expected to see; Mr. Sweatpants, as Barnes started to call of the... unusual man he met in terminal, was walking down the aisle, apparently avoiding the marshal's look; but he could not possibly know that he was one, how could he?

„No chance!", he reassured himself in thought, and started to look for the flight attendant he was a few minutes ago. „Damn, I could use some cold water right now!"; this was followed by a deep sigh. After a minute, the pilot started to commence the routine preparations.

- Right, start the engines, Rob! I will do the talking - he laughed on his latter sentence, only heard in the cockpit and by Markson.

- Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard InterNat Flight 82, direct route to Boston - this came through the speakers now, as it was a public greeting from the pilot - I am your captain, Mark O'Neill, flying along with First Officer Robert Watts - the captain kept a short pause before carrying on; while this happened, the lights turned off, except the small, personal ones over the seats - Despite the harsh weather, we expect an easy flight this evening; we may come across some minor turbulence, but apart from those, we should be fine, and will arrive to Boston in no more than 7 hours. We will take off from the runway soon - Markson could feel the light vibration that was passed onto the aircraft from the engines. For a moment, he started to feel dizzy, but, as soon as he strengthened his grip on the armrests, his head returned to a normal state.

The plane began to roll onto the runway now; some additional radio chatter was heard by Chris either through the speakers, or his earpiece:

- Flight attendants, please be seated and ready for takeoff - O'Neill gave out the instructions, then, on the closed channel of the cockpit, started talking to Watts - How are we tonight, Rob?

- Uh, a bit shaky, due to this bloody weather, but I am fine otherwise - the tinge of a British gentleman's accent was easily noticeable in his voice, in contrast with O'Neill, who was American, bearing a different dialect.

- Shaky? - laughed the captain - I know someone else who is shaky on flights! - a strange feeling started to build up in Markson.

- Really? - asked the first officer with an interested tone - Who would that be? - but, before he could get an answer, he stopped O'Neill - Wait, wait, wait! - there was silence for a few seconds - It cannot be Susan, she always loved to be up in the air! - upon hearing the name, Markson made a small motion, although involuntarily; he never abandoned the idea of reuniting with Elisa somehow, but, if that fateful day when she would find another man came... Well, Chris always fancied Susan a bit - Definitely not Peter, he fears the water, not the air - Watts kept thinking; at least, that was what Markson thought. He could not see what was happening, but could read people well, even if it was only their voices - Oh, I know! - came the sound of sudden realisation; Barnes' heart skipped a beat. Were they talking about him? - Isn't it that marshal guy? - they were talking about him - What was his name again, Walkerson? No, it was Hutchson, wasn't it?

- Neither! - he heard O'Neill's answer and laughter - It is Markson, Chris Markson - while listening to this, Barnes did not even notice that the aircraft had approached the runway, and was seconds from takeoff.

- BR82, you are cleared for takeoff on runway A3 - the control tower was heard through the frequency, which the captain was quick to respond to.

- Copy, ground, thanks! - this was the last sentence spoken between the two sides, then the control tower did not say anything else. Seconds after, O'Neill started to talk with Watts again - So, about Markson: as I said, he is quite afraid of flights; he is shaky! For instance, there was this one time when we were flying to New York.

„Do not tell him, Mark!", ordered Chris in thought.

- And? What happened?

Do not you dare!", shouted Barnes in the same way - in his head. He was not sure what it was that O'Neill wanted to mention, but whatever it was, it could not have been any good; only something awkward or embarrassing, which did occasionally occur in the past 4 years.

- Well, he was just casually in his seat, enjoying one of the free meals provided to all passengers, then, we got into a turbulence, and he... - this was how long Markson could bare the conversation; he lived through this once, he did not wish to hear it again.

He took out the earpiece, and put it back in his bag. While doing so, his hand crashed into something: Anna's present, the book; after a short consideration of actions, Chris took it out, and put it on his lap. For a few seconds, he was just staring at the item, wondering about to what to do with it. But, before he could conclude anything, he felt a sudden surge of adrenaline; for a few moments, he was not sure what it was, although, seconds later, realised that the plane started to speed up, ready to take into the air. Since this took him by surprise, Markson, acting in a panicked haste, grabbed the edges of his seat, but, while doing so, the book dropped from his legs, and fell onto the floor; before he could pick it up, the aircraft already started to ascend, which resulted in his hurried movement. He managed to grab the object and raise it, but, as to stay in the feeling of safety, Chris quickly straightened back up and squeezed hard on the armrests again, and, with his left hand, strongly pressed the book against his own chest.

- First time flying? - Barnes jumped a bit upon hearing a voice, which turned out to belong to a balding man, probably around his late 30s, wearing a two-piece suit and tie; the guy who sat down before the takeoff. He was holding the newest issue of The Daily Telegraph, that he was probably reading beforehand; the glasses he wore supported this.

- No, no - smiled Markson, and breathed in deep; these questions were asked from him frequently and he needed to give the exact same dumb answer, all the time - I just have this kind of... - he sighed before continuing - I cannot really explain well myself, but it is almost like a phobia - he bluffed, because this always worked; „People never listened closely anyway".

- Ah, Aviophobia!

„Well then!", thought Chris as the man said the unexpected sentence, „We are going to have some problems here!". This was the first person to ever acknowledge what he only used for a casual answer.

- Would not that result in some kind of hysteric or panic attack? - now the guy had him; in these types of situations, Barnes needed to think real fast to give a proper answer.

- I said almost like a phobia - he looked at the bald man, who did the same - I tend to overreact on some things... - it was then that the guy interrupted him.

- So you attitudinize? - Markson now knew what type of person this man was; the kind that always expressed and practiced his knowledge on others: sometimes tolerable, but unbearable on the larger part of occasions.

- Did you hear me say that? - Chris gave him a withering look; he hated people with these characteristics.

- Individuals do not directly state that they attitudinize, instead, they avoid saying it, but still act as...

- I do not attitudinize! - said Markson with an edge in his voice that suggested the rapid loss of patience - Does that answers your question? - at this, the bald man just gave out a „hmph" sound, as to show that he still thought of himself as a higher individual; Barnes strongly disagreed.

Then, unexpectedly, the guy held out his hand in front of Chris:

- Boyd Tate - the marshal was just staring at the man's hand, which he appeared to notice - Listen, I do not wish to be in a conflict with you, I did not planned to start off this way.

- Right - Markson shook his hand - No offense taken, sir - he tried to stay as neutral as he could, but this guy did anger him for a minute; but he got over it quick.

Opening up his bag, he detected an empty space; where was the book? In an alarmed flow of action, Markson started looking for it by turning everything upside-down, inside-out, but he could not find it.

Before panicking even further, he remembered where it was; but, when checking his chest, the item was nowhere to be found. Gazing around, he spotted the book on the floor - again.

Sighing, he leaned downwards, and picked it up, then checked between the pages; no damage. A well-known fact is that nothing good lasts forever; Tate strengthened this statement, as he started to talk again.

- Is that what you read? - he asked, not really trying to cover his disbelief - I used to study that! - Boyd kept a silence long enough, so it could be noticed - With a group of children, back in the school I taught in - another pause he kept, but this was significantly longer. Then, the calm silence was broken by him, again - By the way, you did not tell me your name!

„So that is what this was all about!", thought Markson with a minor victory in his mind, „Using surrounding events, so you can force out informations? Smart!", this was rather more reproachful.

- Tim - said Chris after a short period of thinking - Tim Montague.

After this, Tate did say something, but Markson was not listening anymore; they were up in the air for at least 10 minutes now - this was going to be a long flight, especially in the vicinity of Boyd.

Christopher could not think of anything better to ignore him, but to read The Journey; page 50 he turned to, that was where he left off at the terminal. His phone still not received an answer, he was not even sure that it sent the message in the first place.

„I will need to check up with Higgins eventually, even if this requires me to break the protocol, again", he thought.

- Hello? Can you hear me? - Tate threw him off his private moment of thinking, which Markson reacted to by just glancing at him lightly. Boyd did not seem - or did not wanted to - notice this - Finally! I was asking you about the job you do! - the way he spoke started to put Chris on the edge now; everyone has a point where they lose it. Also, the tone the man used just simply irritated him.

- I work in a book publisher's office - the same cover story, repeated over and over again for 4 years. Once, he will get bored of it; then he will make up something new.

- Did they, at least, publish the one you are reading? - asked Tate, in a very fake pretension of seriousness.

As an answer, Markson turned his head, and looked at him in the most intimidating and obnoxious way he possibly could; at this, Boyd seemed to have finally noticed himself, and got back to his newspaper.

„At last, you shut up!", thought Barnes, who felt that spending another hour with this man will drive him mad, especially if he carried on talking.

Markson checked his watch: 21:44, time was going on...

„Where is that damn water?", he wondered in a weak way, and scanned the first class; the flight attendant was nowhere around, he was probably having a break with the other staff in the front.

A lightning-bolt passed a few hundred meters next to the plane, causing a blinding light for a couple of seconds. This caused Chris' heart to hasten up to two times its normal speed; for the past minutes, he did not notice that he was sweating on his forehead; he took out a paper tissue from his pocket, and started to wipe the sweat off.

"Just breath in, then out; you are going to be fine!", he tried to calm himself, while he shut his eyes tightly. The behaviour of his body seemed strange to him: his throat went dry, breathing could be done hardly, dizziness took over him, he almost felt dazed. Usually, Chris was only afraid of the sudden and unexpected descends, which normally happened when a turbulence was encountered by the pilots; but now, he felt that he is going to be sick. This never happened before. "Hah, maybe you are just getting old!", he thought, "Just wait for that water to arrive, then..."

- Hey, are you feeling alright? - Tate spoke, although he actually sounded anxious.

- What do you mean? - asked Markson in a stressed voice, still grasping strongly into the edges of his seat, breathing heavily. If there was anything he needed right now, that was definitely not Boyd.

- Of course, who am I telling this to? - originally, Chris interpreted this sentence in a way that made Tate seem like a total snob; but the man carried on, which changed the outcome of Barnes' opinion and taken action as well - There are no mirrors around here, but, believe me, you look as pale as a wall! Now that I think about it - he pointed towards the window the seat was next to - Take a look at yourself there!

- I appreciate your concern, sir, but looking outside is the last thing I want to do right now. I... - without any warning, the plane fell at least 5 meters downwards; Markson twitched, as his stomach felt like it was moving up in his chest. He already started to detect the feelings of nausea, and did not knew how long he will manage to hold out without...

- Do you need a pill, or some kind of medication to calm yourself down? - asked Tate, who has been surprisingly sympathetic in the previous minute - I have some different tablets in my bag if you...

- Currently - Chris stopped him mid-talk - I will only require a moment, do not worry about me! - Markson could feel that the way he spoke was more aggressive than he wanted it to be; it was too late to apologise now though.

Another aerial-bump shook the plane: this time, Barnes did not even bother to tighten his grasp on the armrests; due to the fact that he was already gripping them with all of his power. If more turbulence will be encountered on the way... Markson did not even wanted to think of it. He was still feeling sick; only if he could just talk with Higgins or finally get that stupid bottle of water...

- Ladies and gentlemen, do fasten your seatbelts, we are currently flying through an unexpected turbulence - it was the captain, heard from the speakers overhead - If you could please remain in your seats until we manage to get out from the winds, that would be greatly appreciated, thank you! - although some passengers did understand that the pilot just tried to calm the people and laughed afterwards, O'Neill's entertaining way of speech did not helped Chris in any way.

Unanticipatedly - well, half-anticipatedly, by now - the plane took another hit from the winds, causing the most considerable shake of the aircraft that day; some bags even fell out from the baggage holders. Markson's stomach was beginning to give in. Another one of these shakes, and... "Do not think about it!", he was trying to avoid the apparent inevitable, "You will not throw up!". Then again, another turbulence got into the path of the airplane...

„That is it, back of the plane, now!", he commanded himself, but realised that this would be quite pointless, as he have not sent a text to Higgins to inform him - yet.

Could you meet me at rear lavatory? Thanks!, he typed, sent, then put away his phone. Five minutes later, when he believed that his partner reached the desired place, Markson undid his seatbelt, stood up, and started to walk - rather weakly - towards the back of the plane, where he was meant to meet Jacob.

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