THE FLIGHT


The jet had been airborne for almost an hour and a half now, 
flying into the night. Trask and his two fellow agents had settled 
back for the long trip to Europe. The experimental material was 
safely in the hold of the aircraft, and now it was simply a matter of 
time before the package was delivered and they returned home 
to the States.

"Excuse me," said a soft, cultured voice.

Trask turned away from the window he had been stargazing 
through, and looked into the eyes of the woman seated next to 
him. He could see in the glow of her overhead light that she was 
a mature, elegantly dressed woman. Her features were quite 
striking, and her raven hair, touched with silver, peeked from 
beneath the fashionable turban she wore. Next to her sat a 
little girl who was coloring in a book, and Trask assumed the 
pair were travelling together--probably a daughter or niece. The 
woman was working on some papers that she had spread on 
her lap tray.

"I hate to trouble you, but do you have any aspirins, by chance?" 
she asked, smiling at the agent.

"I'm sorry. I'm afraid I don't," he answered apologetically.

"Oh, dear," she said. "And I have such a dreadful headache. It 
runs in my family, you see. I simply don't travel well by air."

Trask looked for a flight attendant. "Well, maybe one of the fli..."

"Oh! Wait a moment," the woman said, smiling bravely and 
rubbing her temple. "I just remembered that I have some in my 
purse. Silly of me. Let me just clear this mess out of the way."

As she began to gather her papers from the tray, Trask looked 
down and saw the woman's purse at her feet.

"Let me get that for you," he offered helpfully.

"Would you?" the woman said, brightening a bit. "Oh, you're 
such a dear. Thank you."

The agent bent down to retrieve the handbag, ducking just under 
the laptop tray. The woman sat back, a small smile playing on 
her lips, and clicked her ballpoint pen once.

From the floor there was a quiet hiss. Trask stiffened a moment, 
then sighed quietly and went limp. A thin wisp of pink smoke 
drifted up and around the lap tray and quickly dissapated. The 
woman put away her papers and her laptray, then propped the 
agent up so that he was sleeping peacefully against her 
shoulder. She reached up and clicked off the overhead lamp.

"Frannie, dear," came the woman's soft voice from the shadows. 
"Why don't you go see if the other gentleman would like to play?"

The little girl smiled and put down her coloring book. She 
hopped out of her seat and skipped down the aisle of the jet.

*****

Sanders had finished some figuring, and put his calculator back 
into his jacket. He wondered what he might be able to buy for 
his girlfriend before they made the return trip to the U.S. Before 
he could give it much more thought, a small, lightly freckled face 
peered around the seat in front of him.

"Hello there," he said to her with a friendly smile.

"Wanna gunfight?" the little girl asked in a whispered voice. 

Sanders looked over at the large woman seated across the 
aisle. The woman glanced up from her crochet, smiled at the 
child, and then at him. She returned to her project.

"Y'know," he confided quietly to the girl. "I'd sure like to,
sweetie, but I've been in gunfights all day long, and now I'm just 
going to rest a little bit."

The girl brought her hand out, holding a small, brightly colored 
water pistol.

"Awww, c'mon, mister, just one?" she pleaded quietly.

Sanders could see the woman across the aisle smile and 
shake her head sympathetically, continuing her needlework. He 
realized there was not going to be a graceful escape. He gave a 
resigned smile and nodded.

"All right, but just a quick one, okay?"

The girl grinned and nodded. Sanders drew his hand up with 
his thumb and forefinger extended, and took a "shot" at the girl, 
accompanied by a quiet sound effect. The girl giggled and 
ducked momentarily out of sight for cover, then reappeared.

"Missed me," she said with a mischevious grin. She held the 
water pistol out, and a thin stream of liquid squirted into the 
agent's face. The smile faded from his lips almost immediately, 
and his eyes began to glass over. He made a small gasping 
sound, and tried in vain to rise from his seat.

"Oooh, I think you got him, sweetheart," the large woman 
remarked innocently, engrossed in her crochet and oblivious to 
what was really happening.

The girl smiled slyly, and though unconsciousness was rapidly 
closing in on him, Sanders saw...just for a moment...the very 
adult intelligence behind the childlike facade. It was a revelation 
that came far too late. The "little girl" squirted him in the face 
again, and there was no fighting whatever potent chemical that 
spun him down into darkness.

"There," she said happily. "I got 'im."

The agent was quite still in his seat, and the large woman 
looked over at him.

"Maybe you'd better run on back to your seat, honey," she told the 
girl. "I think the man wants to sleep now."

"I shouldn't be at all surprised," the girl murmured under her 
breath with a smirk, as she returned to her seat.

*****

Evans sat alone in a row toward the back of the jet, his mind on 
other things besides the assignment. So many details of his 
own life needed to be worked on once he returned home. These 
details occupied a good deal of his thinking.

"Such a frown."

He glanced up and saw one of the flight attendants standing next 
to him. She was tall, slim, and very attractive, and her lovely 
face, framed by short red hair, smiled warmly down at him. She 
was pushing a small cart down the aisle.

Evans returned the smile. "I didn't mean to look so dour. 
Just...things on my mind."

She nodded, understanding. "That's all right. These long flights 
tend to give people too much time to think about things. Maybe 
you just need to distract yourself. Have you tried listening to 
music with the headphones?"

The agent smiled and gave a small shrug. "Airline radio stations 
are a lot like airline food for me. Hard to find any that appeal."

"I see," she said, seeming a little disappointed, but then 
brightened again. "Well, how about a magazine?" She reached 
down into a small bin in her cart.

"That's kind of you, but..." he began.

The woman fished out a magazine and set it down on the laptray 
in front of Evans. It was some sort of history periodical.

"There's a wonderful article in here on Pre-Columbian art," she 
said.

"Ah. Well, thanks very much, but that sort of thing always puts 
me to sleep."

The woman smiled at him. "Let's find out."

She opened the magazine, and the agent suddenly felt 
overwhelmed by a too-sweet fragrance that wafted up into his 
face. The print in the magazine seemed to slide in and out of 
focus, as he was seized by an irresistable warmth and 
drowsiness. He could see that one of the pages was a large, 
colorful advertisement. One of those perfume ads with a sample 
strip of the product. The copy over the picture of the perfume 
bottle read, "DECEPTION...it's a knockout!"

As realization dawned on him, Evans tried to push the magazine 
away from him, looking up weakly at the flight attendant. She 
winked knowingly at him.

"May I get you a pillow, sir?" she asked.

Evans made a valiant effort to stand. The woman watched him 
with a fond smile, as she pulled a blanket and pillow from the 
overhead compartment.

The fragrance was inescapable, and Evans sank back into his 
seat. Darkness rapidly swept over him.

"Sleep tight," he distantly heard the woman's voice say. Then he 
was gone.

Needless to say, when the agents awoke at their destination, 
there was no longer anything for them to deliver.

END