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The second I finished, an email from Gillian popped onto my screen.

Subject: Random.

I need to ask you a question...


Subject: Re: Random

Is this question about fucking? (And you didn’t need ellipses after that sentence.)


Subject: Re: Re: Random

No, it’s about something personal. (Thank you, Professor Weston... <—How about those ellipses? Did they fit there?)


Subject: Re: Re: Re: Random

Then you actually don’t need to ask it. (No, they don’t fucking fit there.)

See you Saturday in Atlanta.


Her response was immediate.

Subject: I’m going to ask it anyway.

I noticed you own at least six different Audemars Piguet watches. Combine that with your million-dollar condo in Manhattan and I’m quite curious: Are you a trust fund baby? How else are you able to afford that on a senior captain’s salary?


Subject: Re: I’m going to ask it anyway.

I noticed you missed the words in my previous email. Neither of your questions are about fucking, so I’m not obligated to answer them.


She sent a lengthier response littered with curse words, but someone tapped my shoulder before I could finish reading it.

“Captain?” He tapped my shoulder even harder. “Sir?”

“Yes?” I looked up from my phone and groaned, realizing I wasn’t really in the air right now. I was sitting in a damn simulation session with a pilot-in-training. “What do you want, Ryan? Your name is Ryan, right?”

“Yes, sir. I um, I need some advice.”

“I’m listening.”

“Should I make an announcement about the upcoming turbulence or will leaving the seatbelt sign on for the passengers be enough?”

“You do realize that this is a simulator right?” I looked over at him, noticing beads of sweat falling down his red face. “There are no passengers behind us. There isn’t even a cabin behind us. It’s just me and you, in a metal box.”

“So...” He wiped his forehead. “Is that a yes or a no?”

“Just fly the goddamn tube.” I glanced at the control screen, making sure he wasn’t doing anything unnecessary, and then I leaned back and read the remainder of Gillian’s email.

The tube began to rock back and forth—first light turbulence, then moderate turbulence. And all of a sudden, the shakes became severe and the simulator session ended with a loud screeching sound and a sickening thud.

The final results flashed onscreen. Test flight 2102. Destination not reached. Total fatality.

“Congratulations,” I said. “You’ve killed all one hundred and forty-two passengers, all four flight attendants, me, and yourself. You also managed to land your plane so deep in the Pacific that the NTSB won’t find all the wreckage for at least three years.”

“No.” He shook his head. “This is your fault, sir. I asked you for help.”

“You asked me if you could make an announcement about fake turbulence.” I unbuckled my seatbelt and looked at the controls, noticing he’d taken the plane out of autopilot and completely deviated from the flight plan. “What you should’ve asked, is if it was okay for you to switch the settings. I would’ve said no.”

He shook his head, looking as if he was about to cry over this. “I was in a stall. I didn’t know the system would allow me to fall so low, especially without intervening.”


“Doesn’t the real version of this plane have a fly-by-wire system that steadies everything if the plane descends to less than fifteen feet?”

“Yes.” I stood up. “There’s also a hidden parachute that will automatically appear and save every soul aboard for times just like this. I’m shocked you didn’t press that button.”

“Wait, wait,” he said as I twisted the exit handle. “I honestly wasn’t sure what to do, sir.”

“Did you consider contacting control? Asking if you could climb to a higher altitude?”

“I could’ve done that?”

“Rest in peace, Ryan.” I opened the hatch, immediately making my way down the simulator’s steps.

“Captain Weston?” A supervisor who looked ten years younger than me suddenly stepped in front of me. “Captain Weston, are you leaving?”

“As soon as you step out of my way, yes.”

“But why? Your trainee just crashed his plane into the Atlantic Ocean.”

“No, he crashed it into the Pacific Ocean. The water’s much deeper in that one.”

“That’s not the point.”

“Care to get to it?”

“Don’t you think you should be giving him a stern but encouraging lecture right now? Perhaps giving him pointers so this won’t happen next time?”

“I think the fear of dying will be enough.”

“You know...” He sighed, crossing his arms. “If it weren’t for a certain mark of honor on your profile, I would’ve had you fired weeks ago, when you allegedly told an entire group of passengers to ‘Get the fuck off my plane’ when you thought they were taking too long to disembark.

“That wasn’t allegedly. The clip is on YouTube.”

He rolled his eyes. “We’re funneling a lot of money into the program under the new mergers, and I personally would love it if every pilot tried to make a positive impact. Isn’t that why you fly, Mr. Weston? Isn’t that why you’re here?”