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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Microstory 848: Airplane Parents

Flying is risky business now that the bladapods have released their reality warping gases all over the planet. While everyday holds new surprises, conflicts, or obstacles, most of what is going to be altered pretty much already has by now. There are only two ways to experience a new base modification now: direct contact with a bladapod, or passing through the bladosphere, which commercial airliners do on a regular basis. Engineers have figured out how to protect aircraft from exposure to the gases, but it still happens from time to time, which is why air travel has suffered greatly. There are really only a handful of surviving airlines these days, each one providing significantly fewer flights than they once did, serving fewer cities than I would like. I’m a consultant, looking to either secure new business, or maintain the accounts my firm already has, so global travel is an absolute must. The hyperloops are great when I’m trying to stay on the continent, but I don’t have time for a ship to reach overseas. So here I am, with a few hundred other brave souls, just hoping nothing bad happens, but it does.

Of course, none of us has any idea where the leak is, but it’s too late now. If you see bladgas, it is already in you. The flight attendant stands up, and raises her voice to address the crowd. I’m close enough to the front to see that her intercom is not working. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she says, “as many of you have noticed, we are experiencing a bladgas event. I want to assure you that the cockpit is completely sealed off from the cabin, and operates on a separate system. While I am unable to communicate with them, the sensors have alerted them to our situation. Protocols demand we remain in a holding pattern above the bladosphere, over the nearest airstrip, which we will land on as soon as our case has been codified. Please understand that, no matter what happens here, the plane will land safely. I am requesting assistance from anyone with a technical background that could help me repair the communications system. We appreciate you remaining calm as we work through this as a team. Make sure that your identity tag is visible, just in case.” A teenage girl raises her hand and stands up, informing the flight attendant of her education as a technician. The rest of us try to do what the woman said, and stay calm. Many of us prepare final messages to our loved ones. Others attempt to fall asleep. There has been some reported correlation between being unconscious, and being unaffected by the bladosphere, but no causality has been proven. I just go back to my book.

About an hour later, changes begin to manifest. It starts off small, like it always does. Someone is pouty and inconsolable. Another is fussy, looking through his bag, desperately searching for something. At first, the rest of us aren’t sure that anything’s wrong, and are still praying that the gases do nothing but turn the plane black. But then a pattern forms as people become more unruly. They start crying and screaming, acting like total children. And their children are acting more like adults. Behavior fluctuation appears to be the name of the game here, on a group level. So far, it seems only the parents and their offspring have been changed, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stop there. Sure, it’s incredibly irritating trying to read while all these people are freaking out—at least children crying on an airplane don’t have much trouble with legroom—but I know we’ll come through on the other end. I doubt things will end up like on the infamous Flight 522, where half the passengers suddenly started thinking they were rhinoceroses, and possessed the strength to prove it. It was one of the first flights after the gases were released, and since there were no survivors, it ushered in years of massive paranoia. The young technician twists one last wire, and claims to have solved the problem. We can hear the captain on the other end, but she’s not assuring us everything is going to be okay. She’s singing. She’s singing a lullaby. We can hear the voice of the copilot, singing as well, but his is the theme song to a popular Danish children’s TV show. A five-year-old girl stands up from the front row, and demands the use of the intercom system. “Mom?” she asks. “Mom, can you hear me? Mom, you stop singing right this instant, and land this plane!” We hear the sound of the captain blowing raspberries into the mouthpiece. Then the plane takes a dive.

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