Mari stretched, yawned, and rolled over on the bed. One or two minutes more… The humming of the engines and the blow of the wind on the walls of her room were still keeping her half asleep. She struggled to reamin in that floating state, but a violent shake made her open her eyes. Mari suddenly sat, got rid of her sheets, and tried to rush towards the windows.
Another shake, more violent. This time she lost her balance and fell on her bottom. Area of turbulence!
Fully awake now, Mari got up and hurried towards her sit and harness. She wouldn’t be able to see what was happening, but safety first. She knew she was right when she heard the crackling voice in the speakers.
« Madam, I hope you have woken up now. You’d better stay close on your seat; turbulences will surely hold on for a while. »
Mari obeyed, put her harness on and relaxed. These were only turbulences, and she knew Karl could deal with them. She had hired him for that, after all. He was a good pilote and had quickly learnt everything there was to know to deal with the whimsical Flying Haven –and their captain.
But no matter how talented Karl was, the turbulences went on.
« Madam, we may have to undergo an emergency landing. Can you please join me in the cabin? »
Mari frowned. What a way to wake up. Getting her fett back on the ground, eeewww… Ever since it had started its flight, the Flying Haven had only got back on Earth when it needed some repair and overhaul, and Mari had never got down. Why should she now?
Mari opened the harness and struggled to reach Karl’s cabin without falling again. The pilot android did not show any sign of noticing her when she let herself fall down on the seat beside and put another harness on.
« What’s wrong, Karl? »
« See for yourself. »
For the first time of the day, Mari looked Outside. Nothing seemed out of place. Or maybe…
« Karl, why is the Tower faltering this way? »
« Because it is the end, Madam. »
The android’s voice did not show any emotion. The sentence was cold and Mari felt her heart freeze. The Tower was swinging more and more, and so did the aircraft in which she was sitting now. The clouds around looked grey, angry, they were swirling and seething.
The end. She had to make the choice. Finally.
« What are the options, Karl? »
She knew it all already, but maybe hearing them would help her decide.
« We can stay here, Madam, and burn with the Sun and the keepers of the Tower. Or we can land and reach the Underground, meaning we’d never leave afain. »
Mari pondered. They were trapped between Scylla and Charybdis. Either facing a terrible death, or being locked down until the end of her days –it was another kind of death. These options were certain, definite, strict. Typical for a machine. But there was something missing, Mari was sure.
« We have another option, don’t we? »
The android seemed like it was hesitating.
« Yes Madam. But you know how risky it is. We have neither the right aircraft nor enough fuel for this. We can try to reach the Further. »
The Tower finally fell, as in a slow-motion movie. The keepers had completed their task and would go down with it. The building that had been used as a lighthouse for all the aircrafts had fallen. The message was clear: Earthlings would never fly again. The Sun would devour their atmosphere, it had already begun. The seething clouds were filling up with bright, burning colours. Those that had not left yet would remain in the Underground forever. Mari had never wanted to take such a choice. When the Haven had started flying, she thought that she would die in the air, with the attitude of a true captain.
Now she didn’t know anymore. Further could be a solution, so unthinkable that even the computer had refused to take this possibility into account.
« Karl, how high are our chances of survival? »
« If we don’t land now, less than 1%, Madam. »
Mari took a short time to think. For so long she had refused to think of it… Now she had to, and the answer in her heart was obvious.
« 1% is a lot already. Let’s go, Karl. »
« Fine, Madam. »
The Underground promised that she would live, but Mari had decided to fly no matter the price: that was the wish she had, tens of years before, when the Flying Haven had taken off for the first time.
And now it was flying for the last time, to the unknown and the uncertainty.
The Flying Haven headed Further.