Flying is usually a tedious excuse to do nothing for a few hours, so why include a flight in a thriller? Well, it just so happens that flying is the easiest way for Jak to get to Milan. But, what a minute (or longer) you may ask – isn’t he on a train to Milan? Yes, he is, but he wasn’t the day before.
[novel extract: “Ladies and Gentlemen. This announcement is for Flight AZ1026 to Milano. We are now starting boarding. Please have your boarding pass ready for checking.”
Jak closed his laptop and joined the line. He found his way to seat 20A, a window seat near the center of the aircraft. Today, despite this being such a popular route out of Rome, seat 20B was also empty. As usual, Jak thought about the number ’20.’
“It’s the sum of the first four even numbers, 2 + 4 + 6 + 8.” Some scholars, he recalled, knew 20 as the ‘God Number.’ He settled back, feeling somewhat comfortable in such an interesting seat.
“I really should have majored in Mathematics and not Science,” Jak thought, gazing outside at the last preparations for their flight.
However, for Jak, the Seat 20 would be involved in an ‘Act of God’ all too soon.
Flight 1026 taxied for a few minutes and then lifted off runway 34L, heading northwest out over the Tyrrhenian Sea. In the control tower at Fiumicino airport, Don Giovanni frowned as he paused longer than normal at his radar screen. A low pressure system was moving over the French and Italian Alps, drawing moist air from late summer heating of the Mediterranean. Such conditions can result in a powerful downward blast of air known as a ‘föehn’ wind. In southern Europe, it is called the ‘mistral.’
Don turned to his supervisor. “Sir, we might have a Met situation south of Malta. Moretti left a few details in his log.”
“Don’t worry about it,” came the confident reply. “It’s too far away from us to cause any problems, but keep an eye on those thunderstorms building near Tuscany.”
Don made contact with AZ1026.
“Fiumicino tower, Alitalia ten twenty six. Climb and maintain thirty two thousand.”
“Up to thirty two thousand, Alitalia ten twenty six,” Captain Bruno replied.
“Roger, flight ten twenty six. Head three two zero to Genoa to avoid the build up of cumulonimbus over Tuscany. Genoa will guide you into Milan. Have a pleasant flight ten twenty six.”
“Copy, Fiumicino. Roger and out.”
When they leveled off the Captain came on the intercom.
“This is Captain Bruno speaking. We have now reached cruising altitude and are heading up the coast to Genoa to avoid some bouncy air over the Apennine Mountains. Although we have clear skies ahead of us, we do advise all passengers to remain seated and keep your seat belts fastened. Expected landing time in Milan is now 4:15pm and local weather is overcast with rain expected later in the day. The present ground temperature is 15 degrees. I will give you an update closer to our arrival. Now please sit back and enjoy your flight.”
He turned to the co-pilot. “It’s all yours from here.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
Captain Bruno released the controls and sat back in his seat. He scanned ahead and noticed a large area of open, blue sky. To his left, a bank of dark-gray clouds rose above the horizon – their billowing, serpent stalks appearing angry and stark through his polarized glasses. However, for Bruno, they seemed too distant to bother them.
“It should be a comfortable flight,” he announced confidently, unaware of the severity of the brewing storm.]