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Marooned

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Pre Flight 1

And y Sachs

Andy lengthened her stride to keep up with her boss. Miranda, flanked by Emily, the first assistant, and Nigel, the creative director of Runway Magazine, hurried along the concord of Terminal 2 of the Narita Airport in Tokyo. They were late for their flight as the press conference after Tokyo fashion week had wrapped up, dragged on. Miranda was famous for her bow-in-bow-out stunts, never one to linger, but when it came to the international press, too much was at stake to risk alienating any of the other magazines or newspapers.

“Andrea.” Miranda’s voice, low and without inflictions, still carried easily back to Andy. She half ran to catch up to the trio in front of her. Serena, the makeup artist, did the same.

“Yes, Miranda?” Andy tried not to gasp the words out as she was seriously out of breath. How the hell did Miranda keep this pace and not even look the slightest frazzled?

Miranda cast a glance over her shoulder. “You will take Emily’s seat on the plane. I need you next to me.”

Andy gawked. Miranda needed her next to her? What the hell was that supposed to mean? Was she in trouble? Was Miranda displeased, or, god forbid, had she figured out Andy’s not-at-all-professional feelings for her much-older boss? Swallowing hard, Andy managed a wan smile. “Of course, Miranda.”

 

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Pre Flight 2

Miranda Priestly

Thank god they boarded first class passengers before anyone else. She was no accustomed to waiting. Yes, there had been a time when she had barely afforded to travel economy class, but that was almost thirty years ago. Nowadays, she enjoyed the privileges of being the most influential fashionista—thought she loathed that word—in the world, which all the perks that came with her position as editor-in-chief of the leading fashion magazine.  She glanced behind her, making sure that Andrea had not misunderstood. True to form, the beautiful brunette stood close to her, holding onto her boarding card and her passport.

This was the first time Andrea had joined the Runway staff at Tokyo fashion week. She had gone with Miranda to Paris six months ago—and perhaps that’s when this…this something, had begun? Not one to second-guess herself, or to become too philosophical, Miranda couldn’t pinpoint the exact time Andrea had begun looking at herthat way. She wasn’t even sure how to decipher what Andrea’s glances made her feel. It was unprecedented, that much was clear, as these thoughts came unbidden to Miranda, sometimes at the most inopportune times. The nearly ten hour flight to LAX would provide ample opportunity for Miranda to examine, diagnose, and, preferably, dismiss it all.

 

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Pre Flight 3

Kathryn Janeway 

“Good evening, Captain,” Chuck Taylor, her co-pilot and good friend, said and saluted her with his index finger. “Looks like it’s going to be a lovely, starry night going back to the US.”

“Lovely and starry?” Kathryn looked suspiciously at Chuck. “You on some romantic streak there?”

“Haha. I wish,” Chuck said as he took his seat, pulling the preflight checklist binder from its place next to his chair. “On the contrary. I’ve worked extra shifts to be able to finally take my extended vacation and join the digs under Mexico City.” Chuck was an avid archeology buff and always saved up vacation time to join one trench or another around the globe.

“I’ll be right back.” Kathryn got up, wanting to touch base with the number one flight attendant before they went through the checklist. She stepped out into the front galley, finding Monica as she prepared for boarding the passengers.

“Hi, Captain,” Monica said, as always cheerful and pleasant. “Our air marshal’s boarding with the first class passengers this time. Other than that, it’s business as usual.”

“Sounds good. Anyone we’ve had before?” Kathryn glanced at the passenger manifest in Monica’s hand.

“Yes, actually. Annika Hansen. The tall blond?” Monica looked like she tried not to smile.

“You all right?” Chuck looked up from the checklist, which he sound would start reading from.

“Yes. I’m fine. Why?” Kathryn gave him her best indifferent look.

“Oh. Right.” Kathryn nodded briskly at Monica and returned to the cockpit. She sat down and busied herself with harness, adjusting it to her compact size.

“Just looking a bit flustered, but, them again, it’s hot in here.” Chuck grinned.

Oh, for heaven’s sake. Flustered? Honestly.

 

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Pre Flight 4

Annika  Hansen

“Welcome aboard. That’s the right isle, 5C. Enjoy your flight.” The flight attendant whom Annika had flown with on several occasions before, smiled warmly at her.

“Thank you,” Annika said and pulled her small carry-on behind her to her seat. After stowing it, she sat down and pulled out her cell phone. Dialing the woman who once recruited her to become an air marshal, Super Advisory Air Marshal in Charge (SAC) Queenie Borgstrom, she drummed her fingertips as she waited for the busy woman to pick up. As on of the few people at her level to have the SAC’s direct number, Annika still found herself squaring her shoulders as she anticipated her boss’s annoyance. No, not even that. Fury. Annika knew she skipped four steps in the command structure at the Federal Air Marshal Service by doing it this way. And it wouldn’t be easier, but it would be quicker.

“Borgstrom.” The intimidating woman’s voice was short clipped and did not allow for any lengthy explanations, which was good as Annika only needed very few.

“Annika Hansen here. You will receive my letter of resignaton in today’s mail. This is my last flight.”

 

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Chapter Text

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Janeway. We are going to suffer through some turbulence, I’m switching on the fasten seatbelts sign and that means everybody must buckle up and that nobody is allowed out of their seats until the signs turned off again.” The husky, female voice coming over the speakers made the people in the airplane shift uncomfortably. “Cabin crew, secure the cabin and take your seats.”

“That sounds worrisome,” Andy Sachs said and turned toward Miranda, her employer. “I mean, if they want the cabin crew to strap in.”

“I’m sure it’s a precaution.” Miranda Priest, editor-in-chief of Runway Magazine, said in her customary, bored tone of voice. She snapped closer her table and tightened her seatbelt.

Andy did the same and placed the tablet she had been using under the seat in front of her. Making sure Miranda’s Prada bag was equally secured under the seat in front of them, she cast a glance at the other passengers around them. Nigel Kipling, creative editor of the magazine and Emily Charlton, Miranda’s first assistant, looked wide-eyed back at her. Behind them, Serena, makeup artist and photographer, sat calmly next to a blond woman whom Andy didn’t know.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Nigel muttered, rubbing his bald head.

“It’ll be fine,” Andy said, trying to sound optimistic. “Just some turbulence. Happens all the time.” She wasn’t as sure as she tried to sound, since the fact that the flight attendants hurried through the aisles, telling people to raise their backrests, fold their tables, and stop using electronics. This was more than your everyday turbulence. Andy had no fear of flying, but she had been on enough flights to feel the same way Nigel did.

Emily sat with her eyes closed and her white-knuckled grip of the armrests showed the stuck-up Brit was very afraid.

“But I need to go to the rest room,” a man shouted from behind Serena, making Andy jump at the panic in his voice. “You can’t force me to sit down!”

“Yes, I can,” the flight attendant said calmly. “You heard the captain, sir. Everyone needs to remain in their seats until the sign turns off.” She placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, but he swatted it away, making her lose her balance.

“Hey, sir.” The blond woman next to Serena unbuckled and stood. “I suggest you take a few deep breaths and regain your composure. Now.” Her alto voice carried well throughout the first-class cabin.

“And who are you to—” The man stopped talking when the blond opened the right part of her jacket, spiking Andy’s curiosity. “Fine. Fine!”

“What on earth is that man on about?” Miranda huffed impatiently. “Honestly. All he has to do is sit still for a few minutes.” The words were barely out of her mouth when the plane seemed to plummet, tail first, toward the ocean beneath them.

Chapter Text

“My plane,” Kathryn said, disengaging the autopilot. Beneath her, the plane stomped and then kept falling.

“Your plane.” Chuck Taylor, her co-pilot, grabbed the binder with the checklists. “Damn, this packs a wallop.”

“Sure does.” Gripping the rudder firmly, Kathryn worked the pedals to take the plane out of the freefall. Pushing the throttle forward, she knew it would still take a few moments before the engines responded. She engaged the comm system, trying to reach a tower on any of the coast lines. “Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Intrepid 995, Tokyo to Los Angeles. We’re trying to avoid a severe electrical storm with violent turbulence.” She squinted at the flickering altimeter. “5,000 feet and falling.”

Chuck was going through the checklist as Kathryn attempted to maneuver the plane away from the dangerous air pockets. She spotted a piece of night sky where the dark clouds separated. Perhaps they had reached the outer perimeter of the electric storm?

A bright light blinded Kathryn temporarily. It slammed into the plane, jolting it and now they did more than fall through the turbulent air around them. If she couldn’t right the jet, it would go into the death spiral of a tailspin. “She’s going to stall.”

Glancing at the compass, it didn’t make sense. It spun as if the poles had lost their magnetism and the radar systems flickered on and off. Where the hell were the backup systems? Kathryn had been hit by lighting before, but never like this where it felt as if the invisible hand of a deity shook the aircraft.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” Kathryn shouted, trying to drown out the roar of their descent. “This is Intrepid 995, Tokyo to Los Angeles. We have two-hundred and seventy souls aboard and we’re attempting a water landing without any functioning instruments.” She gave them their last known location before the unexpected electrical storm hit but knew they had veered off their flight plan.

“Engines one and two are out. Trying to restart.” Chuck spoke through clenched teeth. He flipped the switches. “No luck.”

“That’s it. No way I can keep her up even if we’re out of the worst of the storm now.” Kathryn opened the comm system to the cabin. “This is the captain. Put on lifejackets and prepare for an emergency landing.” She shot Chuck a look and he nodded somberly.

“No matter what, we’re landing the plane.”

“Damn it, Chuck.” Kathryn shook her head as she struggled with the controls.  Now they were away from the clouds, but she had no way of knowing in which direction they were flying. The remaining two engines had begun to heat up and she knew it was only a matter of time before they gave out.

Watching the glittering ocean come closer with each second, Kathryn could hear the flight attendants’ “brace, brace, brace!” through the cockpit door.

“Look, Kathryn!” Chuck pointed at a black formation in the distance. “That’s got to be an island.”

Kathryn dug her teeth into her lips as she worked the controls. Yes, it was an island and she wasn’t going to waste this miracle. “All right, Chuck. We’re setting her down before we overshoot.”

Chapter Text

Annika glanced between her backrest and the one next to her, making sure the man who caused a scene only moments ago were indeed strapped in and behaving. She knew he wasn’t a serious threat as it was, but if he panicked further, he might make create a bigger problem in case he stirred the same emotions in other people. Now he was sitting with his eyes closed and clutching the armrests.

Having worked as an air marshal for four years, Annika had decided to change gears in a month’s time. This flight had been last minute since her colleague who were meant to work, had called in sick. She felt the profession was a lonely one, and as much as she was a private person who were very picky in choosing her friends, being an air marshal meant long hauls without workmates. The whole point was that nobody knew her true work identity, which mean the staff treated her as just another passenger.

The sudden warning from the captain sent shivers through everyone’s mind, Annika could feel it. She, being so used to flying, already knew that more than the usual bumpy-ride-turbulence was up. They had cleared the worst and yet the plan didn’t feel right. Using her training, which was extensive, Annika switched her mind into what she visualized as razor-sharp ice. It gave her clarity and she could analyze the situation around her without losing focus. She donned her lifejacket and made sure it was secure.

Glancing to her right, she saw a woman, slightly younger than her, struggling to put on her lifejacket. The older, white haired woman inside of the brunette, had donned her and gripped the younger woman’s arm. “Andrea. Calm down. Just put it on and bend forward.” Her low voice was barely audible, but it seemed to reach the girl, Andrea, who nodded.

“Yes, Miranda. Sorry.” She tugged the belt around her waist and tied it. “There. Done.”

“Bend.” The woman pressed Andrea’s head forward and then assumed the same position.

“Brace—brace—brace,” the flight attendants chanted, rendering the cabins with an eerie feeling of doom, which perhaps was the point, Annika thought. It sustained the notion how serious their situation was.

“Bollocks,” a definitely British female muttered from the row in front of Annika. “Serena!”

“I’m here, Emily. We will be all right.” The sonorous voice of the stunning woman next to Annika said. “Just hold on.”

“I love my job, I love my job,” Emily whimpered, but seemed to do as the other woman, Serena, said.

“Good that you can remain calm,” Annika said quietly, nodding at Serena.

“I think I may have the most advantage on this plane, as I’m placed next to an air marshal,” Serena whispered.

Annika raised her eyebrows. “Really?”

“I saw the gun,” Serena mouthed. “My lips are sealed.”

Having to smile, Annika shook her head. That damn man behind them. She shouldn’t have been so obvious, but at the time, she had to subdue him fast without having to resort to a more hands-on approach.

The plan shook and began tilting far too much to the right. People around her gasped, some screamed, others prayed. Annika thought of the somber fact that very few people would miss her if she died. Her aunt in Sweden was the only blood relative she had left and her friends…would move on.

Then the plane hit the water and it seemed to engulf them completely.

Chapter Text

Miranda gasped as all she could see was water outside. Faint light from the moon and the stars glittered in the relatively calm sea and she felt hypnotized by it. Around her loud voices, screams, and the urgent orders from the flight crew bounced around the cabin, but it was as if it didn’t concern her.

“Miranda. Miranda!” Frantic hands tore at Miranda’s seatbelt. “We have to get to the emergency exits. Come on!” It was Andrea’s voice. Miranda turned her head slowly, still feeling so dazed.

“Don’t yell,” she said calmly. “My hearing is perfectly fine.” Honestly, that girl. She was too intense at times.

“Then get up.” Andrea had the audacity to pull at Miranda’s arm, wrinkling the sleeve of her Calvin Cline shirt. “There’s already water on the floor.”

Something, like a switch, flipped inside Miranda. The sounds around her came back, full force, and she could see passengers stumble as they ran toward the exits. The plan was no longer in the air. They had performed a water landing. A woman wearing a uniform was approaching from the front of the plane. Her auburn hair curled around her jaws and she was bleeding from a laceration above her left eyebrow. In the other isle, a tall dark man, also in uniform, ushered passengers toward the open door. Where were they going to go? Into the ocean?

Suddenly, Miranda was on her feet with Andrea’s hand clutching hers. Water sloshed around her feet as Andrea tugged at her while pushing Emily and Serena in front of her, making them move faster.

“Nigel?” Miranda called out and could hear the dread in her voice. The plane was sinking, and they were going to get trapped inside. She would drown and leave her daughters…

“Behind you.” Nigel’s voice trembled, and she was relieved to feel him press against her. All four of her staff were on their feet. Perhaps…perhaps they stood a chance.

They reached the door, and Miranda looked at the wide-eyed flight attendant that somehow managed to remain professional despite everything. She was very young but pointed to the inflated raft outside that was attached to the plane. “Get as far out as you can and inflate your life jackets,” she instructed. “If you have high heels, kick them off.”

Miranda normally did, but not while travelling. She followed Andrea out the door and a cool breeze made her shudder. Andrea inflated both their vests and tugged her along to the far end of the raft. Miranda wondered if this was what was used as a slide for emergency landings on land. Around them, people reacted in a multitude of ways, ranging from shocked silence to loud wails.

“I can’t believe this,” Emily whispered, clinging to Serena. “What the hell happened?”

“Turbulence,” a sonorous voice said. A blond woman that Miranda had seen in passing and only notices because she could have been a model if she’d been slightly younger, sat down next to them. “I believe some of the engines gave up.” She shook her head. “We’re lucky Captain Janeway is a seasoned pilot.”

“Lucky?” a man behind her sneered. “If we were lucky, we’d be still in the air.”

Miranda barely tolerated fool and being in a state of shock made her resilience to the presence of idiots even less. “We’re not interested in your ignorant opinions. Do shut up.” She sent him a withering glare.

The man opened his mouth as if to argue but seemed to think better of it. Perhaps there was hope for him yet.

People filled the raft and when no more passengers come through the door, the female captain and two flight attendants joined them on the raft. The plan was sinking with increasing speed. The crew dislodged the raft and Miranda could see two more rafts further down the side of the plane float away from the aircraft.

“Oh, god,” Andrea whispered next to Miranda, her eyes huge. “Please tell me everyone made it out.”

“They did.” Captain Janeway came over to them, standing in the center of the raft. “I made sure of it.” She looked over to their left. “And now I need everyone to paddle.”

Chapter Text

 “What?” Andy looked confused at the airline captain. “Paddle where?”

“Toward the island due west.” Janeway pointed to the left of them. “I estimate I overshot it a bit, but not by much.”

Island? Andy turned to Miranda who was shivering next to her. “Did you hear that, Miranda? We’re not far from land.”

“I heard.” Miranda’s teeth were clattering.

As many of the passenger on the raft already began to paddle, using only their hands, Andy gently pushed Miranda aside and stuck her arm into the water. It was cool rather than cold, and she joined the effort. Soon, Nigel, Serena, and Emily paddled in front of her and behind her, the tall blonde she’d spotted earlier, did the same. The other rafts seemed to move in their direction and small lights from the life jackets and attached to the rafts, became clearer as they approached.

“Excellent, they’re on the right trajectory,” Andy heard Janeway say to the flight attendant.

“So far, so good,” the young woman replied, out of breath.

Miranda slid in front of Andy. “Make room for me,” she said quietly and stuck her arm into the water. She was still trembling and even in the pale light from the moon, Andy could see Miranda’s lips were blue tinted. Of course, her slender boss did not have the benefit of being a size six. Miranda was fashionably thin, as was Serena and Emily, but they were younger, after all. Not thinking of anything but keeping Miranda as safe as possible, Andy instead moved closer and aligned her body with Miranda’s from behind by wrapping her free arm around her waist.

“What on earth are you doing?” Miranda flinched.

“Trying to keep you warm. You’ll be going in to hypothermia if I don’t.” Andy tried to sound matter-of-fact, but holding this woman, whom she secretly adored, so close made her heart contract painfully.

“Ah. Well.” That was Miranda-speak for “oh, for heaven’s sake, all righty then.” Andy kept her firm hold of Miranda as they paddled in unison.

“You’re going great, everyone,” Janeway called out. “Now, only the people on the right paddle until I tell you too. We’re coming up toward what looks like a bay. We need to get around a natural wave breaker. It might get a little choppy, so hold on. We don’t want anyone falling overboard even if you’re all wearing life jackets.

Andy and the others on her side of the raft kept paddling. Lactic acid had set in a while back and it was harder than she ever would have thought possible. Miranda wasn’t shaking as badly as before, which Andy hoped was a good thing. She knew it could also be a sign that the threatening hypothermia had gotten worse.

“Here we go. Hold on, people!” Janeway’s warning rang out and Andy stopped paddling, gripped Miranda harder and held on to the side of the raft. She could barely feel her right hand, but hoped she had a good grip.

Miranda pressed Andy’s arm closer and kept the same grip of the raft, her breathing rasping. “Oh, dear god.”

“We’ll be okay.” Andy spoke the words in to Miranda’s hair, just behind her left ear. “I’m not letting go.”

And that’s when the raft rose so high in the front that Andy was certain they’d all slide off backward and into the water. She braced herself, tugged Miranda closer, and looked up at the moon.

Chapter Text

Annika gripped the edge of the slide hard as it seemed to rose toward the starry sky. She heard the other passengers scream and prayed they’d all hang on. A thud against her left side made her flinch and automatically sling her arm around the body of the person having lost their grip.

“Thanks,” a husky voice belonging to Captain Janeway, called out. She clung to Annika’s arm and braced her legs against the edge of the heaving raft. “That man over there is panicking enough to risk everyone else’s life.

Annika didn’t have to look to guess who the captain was talking about. “Hold on to me. I think we’re over the worst.” She looked at the frothing waves around them and tried to ascertain if someone had indeed fallen overboard. Preparing to dive into the water if need be, she was relieved to not see any bobbing heads on the glittering surface.

Soon they could resume their paddling toward the dark shore of the island. Janeway let go of Annika’s arm after squeezing it and murmuring her thanks again. She stood in the middle of the raft, gazing around them, probably also looking to make sure nobody on the other rafts had ended up in the water.

Annika paddled until her arm was so tired she could barely move it. Her jacket was drenched from dipping into the water, and from the spray when they crossed the natural breaker. Yes, this was the Pacific, but it was cold under the stars and the bright moon. She could see how other passengers were shivering. Some were only dressed in shirts and blouses. In front of her, the people she’d sat closest to on the plane seemed even more fatigued. The young brunette stubbornly held on to the white-haired woman Annika had recognized as Miranda Priestly when she saw her exit the plane and climb out on the slide-turned-raft. Not one to bother much with fashion, she surmised that Miranda was the type of celebrity that was hard to miss.

The raft stopped suddenly and Annika knew they had reached shallow waters. She stood next to the captain. “We need to get everyone off and pull the raft up on the beach,” she said calmly.

“Agreed. Can you assist the ones who need it on your side and Monica and I will do the same on this side?” Janeway gazed up at her and only now did Annika notice the blood dripping down the captain’s left temple. She didn’t acknowledge it, but was determined to have someone look at it as soon as possible. No doubt Janeway would have to be pinned down first. This captain was, for lack of a better expression, stubborn as hell.

As they guided the shocked passengers off the raft and directed them to huddle together on the still warm sand over by the edge of the jungle, Annika kept a stealthy eye on the captain. It was hard to judge in the moonlight, but she was certain Janeway wasn’t normally this pale.

It took them a good while, but eventually all the rafts had been emptied of passengers and crew and pulled up on the beach. Janeway’s copilot, Taylor, came walking toward them in long strides. “We need to perform a headcount,” he said firmly.

“Yes,” Janeway said and turned to begin walking toward the passengers on the far right. She stumbled and would have fallen if Annika hadn’t been one step behind her and catching her. “Damn,” Janeway said and righted herself.

“You’re injured, Captain,” Monica, the flight attendant, said. “I’ll assist Chuck with the headcount.” She nodded at Annika who realized tending to the captain would be her task for now.

“Come here. Let’s sit down so I can look at your wound, Captain,” Annika said firmly. Better make it close to an order, or this woman would ignore all of them and risk her health.

“But…oh, by all means, then.” Janeway rolled her eyes at Annika and sat down. Next to her, Miranda Priestly was half lying across the brunette’s lap, shivering in her thin shirt.

Annika motioned for the group closest to the captain to move closer. “We need to stay as warm as possible,” she said. “That means shared bodily warmth. No room for shyness or awkwardness. This is, as you know, a dire situation, but if we stay close together, we’ll keep each other warm until the sun goes up. All right?”

She didn’t have to strongarm anyone. Even the man who was panic prone, and who could blame him, really, huddled close and wrapped his arm around the people closest to him.

Annika knelt in front of Janeway, pushing the wet auburn hair back from her forehead. “Okay, let’s have a look at you, Captain.”

Chapter Text

Kathryn was furious at herself for being the one in need of medical attention when the souls surviving her ditching the plane was her responsibility. Instead, she had to indulge the tall blonde that was this flight’s air marshal and her attempts at first aid without any supplies.

“What’s your name again, Marshal?” Kathryn asked, trying to sound stronger than she felt. “I apologize. I should know it.”

“Annika Hansen, Captain. No need to memorize my name. I’m sure you see more than your fair share of air marshals.” Annika gently probed the wound. “You’re not bleeding as badly anymore.”

“I’ll be—”

“Fine. Yes.” Annika’s hair shone like silver in the moonlight. “We need to keep you warm.” She motioned for Kathryn to scoot closer to the two women next to her. Pulling off her jacket, she placed it around Kathryn’s shoulders. “There you go.”

“I can’t take your jacket—”

“I insist.” Annika helped Kathryn put her arms into the sleeves.

“Listen to her, Kathryn,” Chuck said as he returned to them. “The crew has everything in hand and once the rafts have dried, we’ll be able to use them as shelter from wind and potential rain.”

“All right.” Kathryn’s mind raced and though she knew she could rely on her crew to keep everyone safe, she also was fully aware that she was responsible for every single one of the people on the beach. “What cannot wait,” she said huskily, is locating water.”

“I hear you,” Chuck said somberly. “As soon as dawn breaks, that’ll be our first priority. The island looks lush from here, so hopefully it won’t be too hard.”

“How are the two children doing?” Starting to feel marginally warmer, Kathryn dreaded the answer. She knew there were a ten year old boy and a four year old girl among the passengers.

“Huddled up with their parents,” one of the flight attendants said. “Nobody is seriously injured. Mostly it’s about staying warm until sunup.”

Relieved to hear this, Kathryn slumped sideways, unable to remain upright. Strong arms pulled her close and she realized it was Annika who held her firmly. Around her, shivering survivors fought to stay warm. Murmured conversations, comforting words between families and strangers alike, were close to hypnotic. “Thank you,” Kathryn whispered in Annika’s direction.

“Don’t mention it,” Annika replied calmly. “Not even the Captain Janeway is immortal. We need to take care of you as much for your sake as for the morale of the crew and passengers.”

Kathryn knew Annika was right. If the captain weren’t on top of thing, it would have a detrimental effect on everyone else. She wasn’t unaware of her reputation. Having captained large airline jets for the last fifteen years, her experience and skills were unquestionable. Some of her male peers felt threatened by her, but most respected her and many of the younger pilots idolized her. When she first realized the latter, she found it awkward, until she understood how she could use her so called fame for educational purposes and as inspiration for other woman in this, still, very male dominated profession.

She was close to nodding off where she sat wedged between Annika and the young woman called Andrea, when she heard a woman scream.

Chapter Text

Miranda sat upright and tugged at Andrea.

“Who is making that awful sound?” she said, willing herself to sound her usual detached self, but her stomach trembled, and her heart raced at the piercing sound of a woman’s cry.

“People are in shock,” Andrea murmured. Her strong arms held Miranda steadily.

“That’s not shock. That’s fear.” Serena, who sat right behind them, said.

“Well, I for one want none of that,” Emily chimed in. “This is nerve wracking as it is.”

“I’ll go see what’s going on,” the copilot, Chuck, said. He stood and the tall blond, Miranda had forgotten her name, eased the captain off her shoulder and joined him.

“I’ll go with you.” They walked in the direction of the now whimpering woman and Miranda saw the air marshal snap open her gun holster. This made Miranda shiver and immediately Andrea pulled her closer.

“Still cold, Miranda?” Andrea asked, her breath caressing Miranda’s ear.

Not one to crave physical closeness, not counting hugging her children—oh, God, her girls. Miranda’s eyes welled up. Surely the authorities knew the plane was missing by now? The radar would have lost sight of them and Miranda’s former husband would eventually be notified…and have to inform their children. They might fear she was dead. That she left them, albeit unwillingly, and her girls would be heartbroken. Miranda turned her head and pressed her face into Andrea’s neck. The warmth comforted her in an unexpected way. They weren’t dead. Someone would find them. Save them. And she wasn’t alone.

“We’ll be all right,” Andrea said, echoing Miranda’s thoughts. “They will have noticed where the plane went off the radar and start searching for us. You’ll be home with the girls in no time.”

Miranda nodded against Andrea’s satin skin. “Thank you.”

The captain stirred next to them. “Annika. Chuck.”

Miranda looked up and saw the tall man and the blond come walking back. Annika. Chuck. As she had no way of knowing when they’d be rescued, she would be smart to memorize the names of the people in charge and not rely on Andrea or Emily to do it for her.

“What did you find out?” the captain, Janeway, asked, pushing herself up. She was very pale, but her eyes were level as she gazed up at Chuck and Annika.

“A woman claims she heard something from the jungle. Like a roar. I have no idea how likely it is for a small island to host predators of any kind, but we managed to calm her enough to not incite panic among the other passengers.”

“A roar?” the captain shook her head and looked as if she regretted it immediately. “When morning comes, we need to send teams to look for fresh water and whatever goes for edible here. Should be coconuts, at least. If they spot anything that might be able to roar, then we’ll know.”

“We’ll figure it out come daybreak,” Chuck said. “In the meantime, as it is quiet again, we should rest as best we can.”

“Agreed,” the captain said and looked surprised as Annika reclaimed her seat next to her.

Miranda felt Andrea shift next to her. “Lean more against me, Miranda. You need to stay warm and catch some sleep. Soon the sun will rise, and we’ll all be warm.”

“Yes,” Miranda murmured, exhausted. “Warm.” Part of her wondered if it was true, since she didn’t feel like she would ever be warm again.

Chapter Text

Andy raised her hand to push the bushes away from her face. She had been smacked at least five times already and refused to take another whipping across her forehead. The sun had been up for the last hour and after making sure Miranda had stopped shivering, she had joined one of the teams looking for water.

“Thank god the rafts had first aid kits and some other basic survival gear,” Annika said from where she walked just in front of Andy. “We need something to carry the water in when we find it.”

Andy was glad Annika used the word when instead of if. The idea of not finding water scared her as she’d felt parched for the last couple of hours. “Yes. Captain Janeway said not all airlines stock up like that. Hence the Intrepid’s good rating, I suppose.”

“Yes, it’s a good airline.” Annika sent Andy a lopsided smile. “Not counting that we’re marooned on an island instead of landing in Las Vegas.”

“Think of it this way,” Andy grinned, grateful for the friendly banter. “We’re all alive and we didn’t actually crash. It was a water landing.”

“True.” Annika ducked under a half-fallen palm tree. “Hey, we’re in luck. Coconuts.” She raised the small axe that had come in the kit hidden in the side of their raft. Only the staff were allowed to carry any sharp objects and clearly the air marshal fell under that category as leader of Andy’s team. Behind them, two men and a woman that had briefly introduced themselves, stopped next to Andy.

“I think we need to cut them down and bring them back,” Annika said, “in case we don’t come back the exact same way. She looked at the three beside Andy. “There are twelve fruits here. Why don’t the three of you carry four each back to the beach. Captain Janeway will have tools to open them and she’ll be in charge of distributing the water. I hope the fruits are as young as they look. I believe they hold more water that way.”

“All right. Come on boys, the middle-age woman said briskly. “Two under each arm. We can manage that.”

“Just follow the markings I’ve made with the axe and you should get back without problems.” Annika nodded in the direction they came from. “See you when we get back.”

Annika and Andy kept walking, making their ways over roots and through low shrubbery. A city girl at heart, Andy hoped no scary critters, especially ones that roared, would show up, or she would no doubt to make a fool of herself. Annika seemed so calm and levelheaded, which was a stark contrast compared to working alongside the high-strung Emily.

“You and Miranda look very close,” Annika said, startling Andy out of her reverie.

“What? Oh. No. No, no. We’re…I mean, we work together, no, that’s not right. I mean, she’s my boss.” Andy felt a blush creep up her neck.

“Really? The way Miranda clung to you most of the night, it looked like that to me.” Annika cast a friendly glance at Andy.

“She was cold.” Andy sighed. Oh, who was she kidding? “And I’m protective of her. Perhaps a bit too much.”

“Ah. I see.” Annika didn’t elaborate on what she meant, but instead stopped. The dense jungle seemed to get less so, and Andy brightened at the thought of not having to push forward with brute force.

“Looks like it’ll be easier to—”

“Shh.” Annika gripped Andy’s arm hard. “Listen!”

Andy’s breath caught in her throat when her ears picked up the new sound. “Shit,” she mouthed to Annika, who nodded solemnly. This could not be good.

Chapter Text

Miranda stood with her feet in the water. Behind her, Emily fretted, and Serena did her best to calm the agitated Brit down. Thinking it was unfathomable that she’d been so cold last night, she’d feared hypothermia, when the sun seemed to blaze down on them from the moment it rose over the horizon.

“Cooling down?” Nigel showed up at her side, carrying palm tree leaves.

“Yes. Odd isn’t it? Only hours ago, I was freezing.” Miranda shrugged.

“Yes, but we were all drenched from the spray of the ocean water. And that blouse, though gorgeous on you, doesn’t provide any warmth. I hope it’ll be better tonight.

“What are you doing with those?” Miranda asked, nodding at his burden.

“We’re going to try and attach the rafts together as shelter. We need shade, but most people are reluctant to seek it out in the jungle.” Nigel motioned toward the area where the crew that hadn’t gone looking for water and food, were pulling the rafts into v-shaped formations.

“Let me help you.” Miranda took half the leaves from Nigel. “I’m nothing if now good at braiding.”

Nigel’s smile became more genuine. “Good thinking, boss.”

Serena and Emily joined them, and Miranda had to admire the stoicism of her in-house makeup artist. Serena kept an arm around Emily’s shoulders and Miranda could tell it was necessary. Not everyone can manage to remain calm during a crisis and Miranda knew Emily wasn’t fond of flying to begin with.

“Andy’s not back yet?” Serena asked in a low voice.

“No.” Miranda’s heart contracted painfully a few beats at the question. “I hope she won’t be long.” Feeling exposed at her own words, she squared her shoulders.

“Look. Someone’s back. Weren’t they part of Six’s team?” Nigel pointed at three people emerging from the dense jungle, carrying something.

“But where is she?” Miranda struggled to not raise her voice. Where the hell was Andrea? Had something happened to her and Annika?

“They look to calm and they’re smiling,” Emily said, sounding calmer than she’d done since they began plummeting toward the ocean. “Are those coconuts?”

“They are.” Miranda lengthened her stride, curing the brilliant white sand that grabbed at her shoes and slowed her down. As she reached the trio, together with several of the other passengers, she saw the captain was already present as well. She seemed all right and only wore a makeshift bandage on the small cut on her forehead.

“Excellent,” Janeway said and pointed toward where they had piled the few resources, they’d gathered during the morning hours. First aid kit, emergency rations, and an assortment of things people had had in their pockets that might come in useful. “Put them down there and we’ll figure out who is in most need of the water inside them.” She waved one of the flight attendants to her. “You have one of the axes, Linda. Once we’re opening these, you’ll be in charge of that. Any more where these came from?” She turned back to the three from Andrea’s team.

“Yes. Now that we know what we’re looking for, we spotted a dense area with a lot of coconuts. The only thing is that we need to climb up into them to retrieve them,” the woman said. “These grew from a half-fallen palm tree.”

“We need to figure that part out.” Janeway looked around. “We could try strips of fabric together to make a harness of sorts. Unless we have an elite gymnast or two on the passenger manifest.” The last part was clearly spoken tongue in cheek, but Serena raised her hand.

“I was on the Brazil national gymnastic team. If I can get a crew with me to carry the coconuts, I can climb up and toss them down.”

“Oh, god,” Emily murmured and swayed.

“Good.” Janeway pointed her hand at Serena. “What’s your name?”

“Serena.”

“Well, Serena. You’re in charge of the coconut detail from now on. You’ll be trusted with one of the axes. I’m sure you realize we cannot afford to lose any of them.” Janeway nodded briskly. “Assemble a group of ten, or so, and get to it.”

“Aye, ma’am,” Serena said and saluted with her index finger.

Miranda couldn’t wait any longer. She turned to the trio that just returned. “Where is Andrea and Annika?”

“Annika told us to return with the fruits. She and Andy would keep on looking for fresh water.” Again, it was the woman that answered. “They were fine when we parted.”

That was moderately encouraging. Miranda rubbed her arms despite the heat. What if something happened to Andrea?

Chapter Text

Annika pulled her gun out and stepped in front of Andrea after giving her the axe. “Stay behind me.” She moved toward the sound, her heart beating hard in her chest.

“Is that the damn roar again?” Andy whispered.

“Sure sounds like it.” Moving some branches out of the way, Annika took the safety off her gun, her finger still away from the trigger. The dense growth made it hard to see what lay ahead, but she thought she could see it thinning out further up. She bent to dodge some dangling vines. They were sticky, and she had to yank her ponytail free. Turning her head, she made sure Andy had noticed the vines and wouldn’t get caught with her even longer hair.  She nodded briskly as she saw Andy duck with more success.

Annika took two more steps and then stopped as she felt the ground go soggy under her feet. She raised her hand to alert Andy. “Can you hear that?” Annika asked, nudging a few branches aside.

“Yes. It sounds like…water?” Andy murmured and helped Annika by using the axe to shove the sticky brushes aside. “And my feet are getting wet. Damn ballerina flats.”

Annika looked between the branches and found herself staring, her mouth agape. “Damn. Do you see what I see?”

Andy came up to stand next to her, shifting her feet that made a sloshy sound. “Wow.”

“Wow is a good a word as any.” Annika examined the ground next to them and stepped sideways. “Here’s better. Firm rock.”

“Oh, good.” Following Annika, Andy took a deep breath. “I think this has to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s stunning.” Annika agreed with Andy. Before them, a small waterfall, perhaps fifteen feet high, splashed into a lake, or spring, she wasn’t sure what to call it. About a hundred feet across, it was surrounded by flat rocks and low growths. Purple, pink, orange, and blue flowers created a breathtaking color collage.

“Wait, what’s that?” Andy asked and pointed at the far end of the water.

Squinting, Annika saw movements as some animal came up to the water, its walk something between a waddle and a slither. It looked like a huge lizard. It gaped and dipped its nose, drank, and then gave a sound that indeed sounded like a hissing sort of husky roar.

“Well, go figure,” Annika said. “That explains at least one of the sound’s we’ve heard.

“Let’s hope that’s as big as they get.” Andy swallowed. “Think it’s dangerous?”

“Lot of teeth, and quite the big mouth.” Annika engaged the safety of her gun and holstered it. Andy gave her back the axe without having been asked.

“This has to be fresh water since the animals drink it, right?” Andy motioned to the clear lake. “We could try it, I suppose?”

“Yes. We might as well. If we’re to survive until help comes, we need to be able to provide fluids for everyone. Coconut water is great, but we’ll still need water.” Annika watched the animal disappear into the jungle and decided they could risk it. “Come on.”

They stepped up to the edge of the rock and knelt. Annika kept a watchful eye of their surroundings as Andy didn’t seem to mind being the guinea pig. She cupped her hands and raised the water to her lips. Carefully, she sipped it and then smiled broadly up at Annika.

“It’s wonderful.”

Annika tried the water after making sure no critters were close to them. The water was cool, refreshing, and tasted better than the bottled stuff she was used to. “You’re right. Now we have to figure out ways to fetch some for the passengers and crew.”

“If the damn lizard thing didn’t live here, we could move everyone to stay here by the water, but that’s probably not a good idea,” Andy said thoughtfully.

“Agree. And we need to start fires now that everything is drying off. That’s one way of becoming more visible.”

“And spell help in the sand with logs or whatever.” Andy nodded.

Annika was pleasantly surprised at the young woman she had thought was more of a city girl, hothouse flower, had such stamina and a level head. “Good idea. We need to start back before they send out a search party. We should be able to bring more people to help us carry water once we’ve rested a bit.” It was getting hotter now as the sun was almost directly above them.

“Yes, I need to make sure Miranda’s not freaking out. She’s started to realize that her daughters, her twins, might think she’s dead.” Andy looked sad. “I know we all have someone back home fearing the worst, but in Miranda’s case, the girls are all she has.”

“And you, obviously.” Annika began walking back the way they came, using the axe to make the marks even more obvious for future water teams to follow.

“I’m just her second assistant.” Andy turned pink.

“Uh-huh.” Annika wondered if Andy was blind. The way Miranda Priestly had clung to her assistant told a different story. When Annika remembered how Captain Janeway had finally given in and relied on Annika to care for her wound, she felt her own cheeks warm. Perhaps she and Andy had more in common than at first glance?

Chapter Text

Andy stepped back onto the beach, the breeze from the ocean helping to cool her down. The jungle, as beautiful as parts of it was, was clammy enough to make her shirt stick to her skin.

“Andrea.” Miranda walked up to her, taking her by the shoulders. “You were gone far too long.”

“Um. Sorry?” Andy sighed inwardly. Was Miranda’s words meant as critique, or signs of worry?

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Miranda still didn’t make sense as she sent a glaring look at Annika. “And you should know better than to drag a young woman not used to the wilderness into unchartered territory.”

“I assure you, Annika didn’t drag me anywhere. In fact, she’s the reason we found fresh water.” Andy was too hot, and too exhausted, to be polite, or aware of any warning signs in Miranda’s demeanor. “I need to cool off, though.” Andy freed herself from Miranda’s grip, something she’d never want to do otherwise, but she did feel disgusting after sweating like a pig.

As she walked along the water to find some remnant of privacy, she kicked off her shoes, tugged off her shirt and slacks, and waded into the water. It was such a relief, chilling her hot, slightly blistered feet, and she went further out and dived under a wave. The ocean water rejuvenated her, and Andy felt her ability to think returned. Fuck. Had she really blown Miranda off like that? She began swimming back to the shore and when she saw Miranda stand, arms folded over her chest, at the water’s edge, she swallowed hard. Yeah. She was screwed.

“Ready to conduct a normal conversation?” Miranda asked quietly as Andy rose from the water. Then her eyes grew wide as she regarded Andy.

“Sure. Absolutely. Sorry about sounding testy.”

“Well.” Miranda cast a glance over her shoulder at their fellow passengers and the flight crew that now surrounded Annika. Turning her attention back to Andy, she unfolded her arms, looking quite fidgety for being Miranda. “Your underwear became transparent in the water. You may want to put on your shirt, at least, before you join the others.”

Andy looked down her body and realized Miranda was correct. Not that she was a prude, or anything, but to show off this much of herself for a bunch of strangers wasn’t what she had in mind. “Damn.” She pulled on her shirt, which reached just below her ass. Looking at the sweaty slacks, she decided to wait until they had dried—and when she preferably had a chance to use a knife, or even Annika’s axe, to cut them into shorts.

Miranda seemed relieved that Andy had covered herself, and how Andy was supposed to interpret that, she had no idea. “I see you all have erected shade and wind protection using the rafts.” Andy hoped that changing the subject would prevent her from blushing.

“Yes. Kathryn is quite skilled at this whole survival business.” Miranda sounded as impressed as she could, sort of the equivalent of giving a nod and a smile at a run-through or a fashion show.

“So is Annika.” Andy smiled at the thought of how Annika had made sure to keep Andy safe, even pulling her weapon.

“You seem to have hit it off.” Miranda spoke casually—even too casually, Andy who always was acutely aware of Miranda’s tone, thought.

“She’s a cool person.” Andy stopped a few feet away from the crowd around the flight crew and Annika. The latter spotted her and raised her hand, waving Andy forward.

“I have a coconut for you,” Annika said and held out an open fruit. “You need the water.”

Andy wasn’t about to leave Miranda out of the conversation or whatever planning was taking place. She steeled herself and took Miranda by the hand and pulled her along. Glimpsing Emily’s huge eyes, she winked at her colleague. Good thing that Serena was keeping close to Emily. She looked like she was about to faint.

Andy accepted the fruit, took a large gulp of the coconut water and then handed it to Miranda. “Here. You need to remain hydrated until we start the water runs.”

“The what?” Miranda simply held the coconut in her free hand and stared at Andy.

“As opposed to the usual coffee runs, we’re going to have to start doing scheduled water runs for the passengers and crew.” Andy motioned for the coconut. “Drink. Please.”

“Very well.” A faint smile tugged at Miranda’s lips before she drank from the jagged edge. “Not too bad.”

Relieved that Miranda was going to allow Andy to keep caring for her, Andy drank some more as well. A few people on Miranda’s right shifted and nudged her toward Andy. Without thinking, she let go of Miranda’s hand and wrapped it around her shoulders instead. She tugged Miranda close, nearly chest to chest. “Hey, guys. The beach is huge. No need to crowd anybody,” Andy said, her voice stern. She caught Annika’s eyes and knew she didn’t imagine the knowing look the other woman gave her. Andy in turn looked at the still-pale captain standing right next to Annika, well within her personal space. For some reason, this made Annika’s cheeks color as well.

Chapter Text

Door  13

Kathryn stopped in the shade of the jungle, watching for the last of the teams on what the young woman working for Miranda Priestly, Andrea, had coined as “water runs”. Understanding it was an inside joke among Miranda’s staff, it had still caught on, and when some of the crew and passengers came up with a way to carry water, by cutting out smaller pieces of one of the rafts, the teams had begun their trips. While the teams were away, other people made larger containers of the raft to store the fetched water in.

Annika had insisted she needed to stay at the fresh water source all day, since she was the only one with a weapon, to keep whatever the roaring creature was, at bay. Now she would return with the last of the teams and Kathryn hoped this meant she would be able to breathe better. What was it about the statuesque woman, so poised and strong, that made Kathryn lose her breath in the first place? She sighed at the mystery and then jumped when someone placed a gentle hand on her arm.

“Captain? You’re a bit pale.” A young woman, another of Miranda’s staff, stood by her side. Next to her, a redhead held the first woman’s hand.

“I’m fine. Thank you.” And she would be even finer when the last team was back. “I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten your names.”

“Serena.” The taller of the women smiled. “And this is Emily.”

“Are you doing all right?” Kathryn asked, knowing every single one of the two-hundred and seventy-nine souls on this island were her responsibility. The buck stopped with her and normally, she shouldered it in a normal way. Now, as she’d had to ditch the plane and bring everyone to this place, she feared they could get sick, injured, or simply starve, before help arrived. This was on her, no matter how you looked at it.

“We’re fine, Captain. Last night was horrible, and cold, but tonight we’ll have fires, and shelter. And water.” Serena actually looked pleased. “It could be far worse.”

Emily nodded. “My panic scale is at a three on my best days and it’s barely at a five right now. That should tell you something.”

Kathryn chuckled. “Sounds all right, then.” A rustling sound from the now well-trodden path into the jungle, made her turn around. Nine men and women came carrying water in the makeshift buckets made of raft material, hung on branches between them. Taking up the rear, Annika emerged, her hair in disarray and looking tired.

“Annika.” Kathryn let the others pass and walked up to her. “You’ve been out too long. Sun’s about to set.”

“We need the water. I had little choice.” Annika walked over to a place in the shade, sitting down in the sand with a sigh. “I admit, I’m tired.”

Kathryn joined her, having spotted Chuck taking charge of the returning team’s water and helping them pour it into the larger container. “Some of the other passengers walked along the beach earlier and found other types of palm trees. They managed to bring bananas enough for everyone.

“Bananas?” Annika ran her hand over her face. “That’s a good source of energy. With that, the water, and the coconuts, we’re off to a good start. Anyone good at spearing fishing?” She tilted her head and looked at Kathryn, her ice blue eyes dull with fatigue, but still beautiful.

“No idea.” Kathryn smiled. “But we lucked out that we have a downright prepper in our midst. He is wearing a special utility box on his belt, which made it to the island with him. All he had to do at airport security was to store the knife that went with it in his checked luggage. He handed it over to my co-pilot. It holds fishing gear, a sort of string that is a saw, compass, space blanket, magnifying glass, and…a fire striker. And a few other things I couldn’t make out. We’ve gathered wood all day and will not be cold tonight.”

“And we’ll be able to signal planes or ships.” Annika pulled at the hair tie in her hair, but only managed to make it worse.

“Allow me?” Kathryn rose to kneel behind Annika. “You’ve half the jungle attached to your hair.”

“Thank you,” Annika said quietly.

Kathryn eased the hair tie off the blond tresses, combing it through with her fingers to free it from the debris. “There. Better. Want a new ponytail?”

“No, my head hurts a bit.” Annika rubbed her neck.

Concerned, Kathrun circled her and tipped Annika’s head up by placing a curled index finger under her chin. “You were next to water all day. Please tell me you drank enough?”

“I did.” Squinting at Kathryn, she sighed. “Guess, I’m really in need of that banana.”

“You’ll have two.” Kathryn extended a hand to Annika and helped her to her feet. “Last night you looked after me—my turn to return the favor.”

“You don’t have to feel oblig—”

“Please. Just let me do this.” Kathryn wasn’t about to walk hand in hand with Annika like Serena and Emily had done, but she kept close to Annika in case she would need her. And, she thought, she actually did breathe better now. Imagine that.

Chapter Text

Door  13

Kathryn stopped in the shade of the jungle, watching for the last of the teams on what the young woman working for Miranda Priestly, Andrea, had coined as “water runs”. Understanding it was an inside joke among Miranda’s staff, it had still caught on, and when some of the crew and passengers came up with a way to carry water, by cutting out smaller pieces of one of the rafts, the teams had begun their trips. While the teams were away, other people made larger containers of the raft to store the fetched water in.

Annika had insisted she needed to stay at the fresh water source all day, since she was the only one with a weapon, to keep whatever the roaring creature was, at bay. Now she would return with the last of the teams and Kathryn hoped this meant she would be able to breathe better. What was it about the statuesque woman, so poised and strong, that made Kathryn lose her breath in the first place? She sighed at the mystery and then jumped when someone placed a gentle hand on her arm.

“Captain? You’re a bit pale.” A young woman, another of Miranda’s staff, stood by her side. Next to her, a redhead held the first woman’s hand.

“I’m fine. Thank you.” And she would be even finer when the last team was back. “I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten your names.”

“Serena.” The taller of the women smiled. “And this is Emily.”

“Are you doing all right?” Kathryn asked, knowing every single one of the two-hundred and seventy-nine souls on this island were her responsibility. The buck stopped with her and normally, she shouldered it in a normal way. Now, as she’d had to ditch the plane and bring everyone to this place, she feared they could get sick, injured, or simply starve, before help arrived. This was on her, no matter how you looked at it.

“We’re fine, Captain. Last night was horrible, and cold, but tonight we’ll have fires, and shelter. And water.” Serena actually looked pleased. “It could be far worse.”

Emily nodded. “My panic scale is at a three on my best days and it’s barely at a five right now. That should tell you something.”

Kathryn chuckled. “Sounds all right, then.” A rustling sound from the now well-trodden path into the jungle, made her turn around. Nine men and women came carrying water in the makeshift buckets made of raft material, hung on branches between them. Taking up the rear, Annika emerged, her hair in disarray and looking tired.

“Annika.” Kathryn let the others pass and walked up to her. “You’ve been out too long. Sun’s about to set.”

“We need the water. I had little choice.” Annika walked over to a place in the shade, sitting down in the sand with a sigh. “I admit, I’m tired.”

Kathryn joined her, having spotted Chuck taking charge of the returning team’s water and helping them pour it into the larger container. “Some of the other passengers walked along the beach earlier and found other types of palm trees. They managed to bring bananas enough for everyone.

“Bananas?” Annika ran her hand over her face. “That’s a good source of energy. With that, the water, and the coconuts, we’re off to a good start. Anyone good at spearing fishing?” She tilted her head and looked at Kathryn, her ice blue eyes dull with fatigue, but still beautiful.

“No idea.” Kathryn smiled. “But we lucked out that we have a downright prepper in our midst. He is wearing a special utility box on his belt, which made it to the island with him. All he had to do at airport security was to store the knife that went with it in his checked luggage. He handed it over to my co-pilot. It holds fishing gear, a sort of string that is a saw, compass, space blanket, magnifying glass, and…a fire striker. And a few other things I couldn’t make out. We’ve gathered wood all day and will not be cold tonight.”

“And we’ll be able to signal planes or ships.” Annika pulled at the hair tie in her hair, but only managed to make it worse.

“Allow me?” Kathryn rose to kneel behind Annika. “You’ve half the jungle attached to your hair.”

“Thank you,” Annika said quietly.

Kathryn eased the hair tie off the blond tresses, combing it through with her fingers to free it from the debris. “There. Better. Want a new ponytail?”

“No, my head hurts a bit.” Annika rubbed her neck.

Concerned, Kathrun circled her and tipped Annika’s head up by placing a curled index finger under her chin. “You were next to water all day. Please tell me you drank enough?”

“I did.” Squinting at Kathryn, she sighed. “Guess, I’m really in need of that banana.”

“You’ll have two.” Kathryn extended a hand to Annika and helped her to her feet. “Last night you looked after me—my turn to return the favor.”

“You don’t have to feel oblig—”

“Please. Just let me do this.” Kathryn wasn’t about to walk hand in hand with Annika like Serena and Emily had done, but she kept close to Annika in case she would need her. And, she thought, she actually did breathe better now. Imagine that.

Chapter Text

Spooning Miranda. Andy hadn’t thought she’d be able to forget about them being marooned on a deserted island for a second, however lying on banana palm leaves behind Miranda Priestly did the trick. Not only could you not pry a stamp in between them to save your life, but Miranda held Andy’s hand tucked against her stomach. Yes, it was for warmth, sure, but the whole handholding that had started last night, had clearly carried on well into the night.

Behind Andy, Nigel snored quietly, which was oddly reassuring. At one point, Andy had heard a gasp from further back and when she heard Annika’s low voice murmur something reassuring, she surmised that perhaps the captain was in pain or distress. It didn’t escape Andy how her and Annika’s situations seemed to coincide. Granted, Annika hadn’t told Andy in so many words about her attraction to Janeway, but she could feel it. The way Janeway looked at Annika also seemed to mirror how Miranda’s eyes had lingered on Andy for a while now. She couldn’t tell when it had started. It had probably been very gradual, but during this fateful trip to Tokyo, it had exacerbated everything.

Andy wondered why she felt guilty for reveling in the way she was close to Miranda. She had tried to keep a modest distance when they went to lay down, leaving a few inches between them. This had not sat well with Miranda who reached back and pulled Andy’s left arm forward and tucked it against her. “We’ll get cold,” she said, and if she hadn’t sounded breathless, Andy would have bought that as the only reason.

“Well, we can’t have that,” she had replied calmly and pulled Miranda back into her, pretty sure she thought she heard Miranda whisper something like “dear god”.

The fires were still burning as Chuck Taylor, the co-pilot, had organized a schedule for keeping watch over them and the sleeping people. Four people at a time took two-hour watches to make sure they didn’t miss any passing ships or airplanes. Armed with additional firewood, they were prepared to stoke the fires if that happened. Andy was on the next night’s roster, which had caused Miranda to demand Chuck change it, so she could stay up with her. Andy would have preferred if Miranda would get more sleep instead, but somehow knew that there was nobody else that Miranda was comfortable sleeping this close to. So, the roster was changed.

“Are you awake?” Miranda whispered, startling Andy.

“Yes. Did I wake you?” Andy wanted to kick herself.

“No. I need to turn around.” Miranda sighed. “Do you want to switch sides?”

“No, I’m fine.” Andy didn’t mind either way, but Nigel had shifted and had his back pressed against hers. There was no way she could move without disturbing him.

“Oh. Well.”

“Just turn around, Miranda. You’ll be fine.” Andy smiled into the darkness, barely lit by the glow from the flickering flames of the fire.

Miranda pivoted, giving a soft moan when she settled down, this time facing Andy. She shivered, and Andy realized she was starting to get cold again. “Lift your head.”

Miranda hesitated but did as Andy suggested. Andy pushed her arm in under Miranda’s neck and tugged her closer. She managed to move up a bit so Miranda’s head ended up on her shoulder. This way Andy could wrap both arms around Miranda and hold her close again. “Better?”

“Much.” Miranda sounded relieved as she pressed her face against Andy’s neck. Now it was Andy’s turn to tremble. Had anyone told her only yesterday that she’d be holding Miranda like this, she would’ve called them cruel and delusional. Now, it felt…natural. Of course, it also felt surreal, mind-blowing, and breathtaking, but mainly…natural.

“Think you can sleep now?” Miranda whispered and when her lips moved against Andy’s skin, it sent shivers up and down her spine in a way that Miranda had to notice. Miranda slid her right arm up along Andy’s side and hooked around her shoulder. “I know. I know.”

Tears threatened to spill at what had to be tenderness in Miranda’s voice. Andy had never heard her sound tender with anyone but the twins, but this was another version…another sort of tenderness, tinged with something like—passion? They were trapped among all these people, most of them complete strangers, and Andy couldn’t risk anyone overhearing them. She wanted more than anything to tell Miranda she heard her, she understood, and that she felt so much. Wanted Miranda so much—more than anyone she had ever met. But all Andy could do was hold Miranda, shelter and warm her, and by doing so, try to convey just how much of her heart Miranda held in return.

Andy pressed her lips against Miranda’s forehead. She had to do something. This made Miranda slide her hand up into Andy’s hair, caressing her in gentle little circles. Finally able to relax some more, Andy smiled against Miranda’s smooth skin. How could such a little simple caress instill both hope and reassurance? Miranda touched her in a completely new way and Andy began to truly believe that not only were they going to be saved soon, but there might be some sort of future for her in Miranda’s personal life.

Closing her eyes, Andy felt the, by now, fading fragrance of Miranda’s hairspray, mixed with Miranda’s own scent, and then she felt herself drift off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Annika walked next to Kathryn as they reached the large rock formation that protruded out into the water. Kathryn shielded her eyes against the sun with her hand as she looked up at the rugged formation. “Think we can climb it?”

Annika gave Kathryn’s black, formerly shiny, shoes a glance. “Depends on your footwear,” she said. “Those look slippery.”

“Barefoot?”

“Wouldn’t recommend it. This is lava.” Annika touched the blackened rock. “And very rugged.”

“Damn.” Kathryn put her hands on her hips after tucking her hair behind her ears. “I’d love to get a better view of the island. For all we know, there could be a vacation resort on the other side!”

Annika smiled faintly. “Doubtful.”

“What I’m saying is that we have no idea if there’s a much better place for us to wait for help than this beach.” Kathryn looked out over the sea. “If we weren’t in such trouble, this place would be paradise, wouldn’t it? It’s beautiful.”

“Yes, very beautiful.” Annika nearly choked on the words as she regarded the woman next to her. They’d flown together on several flights and from the first moment she saw Kathryn Janeway, she’d known she should keep her distance. Always a careful person, and very private, Annika was rarely comfortable around new people. When looking into Kathryn’s eyes turned out to have the same effect on her as a sucker punch, she’d known she was in jeopardy. Or, her heart, at least.

Living alone, working a solitary profession, albeit not for long as she had resigned, was more Annika’s thing. Never depending on another person or getting involved on a personal level—it was far easier than the mess of caring deeply. And standing here now, drawn into the light that was Kathryn, she knew it was too late for any over her usual evasive maneuvers.

“Let’s continue around the island a bit longer.” Kathryn motioned toward the east. “Who knows what we may find.” She began walking without waiting to see if Annika would follow.

Sighing inwardly, Annika followed Kathryn who were more energetic than should be possible after her head injury and having only eaten a few bananas. “We can’t go too far,” Annika cautioned. “We only have the water we can carry in the coconuts.” Annika had taken upon herself to carry four coconuts with fresh water threaded on a thin vine over her shoulder. She’d be damned if she’d let this stubborn woman kill herself in the name of exploration.

They walked along the beach, close to the water where the sand was firmer. Kathryn’s formerly stark white shirt was showing the same wear and smudges as everyone else’s and still she carried that commanding persona that made her crew adore her and passengers flock to her. And, Annika thought, she was no better. If she wasn’t careful, she’d lose her heart and never retrieve it.

“I think we’ve reached further than the passengers that walked this way yesterday,” Kathryn said. “No more foot prints.”

“They didn’t bring water, which limited how far they could go, I would think.” Annika studied the edge of the jungle. It looked the same as it did on their beach. “I wonder if the beach stretches all around the island or if the topography changes.”

“Perhaps we’ll find out.” Kathryn shot Annika a furtive glance. “I know, I know. Not all of it today. And hopefully we’ll be rescued well before then.”

“I’ll say.” Annika shortened her stride to keep pace with Kathryn.

“I’ve got to get everyone home.” Kathryn sighed, and her voice lowered to a husky murmur. “They put their lives in my hands, I mean passengers in general, every time they board one of my flights. I carry the ultimate responsibility for their wellbeing, their safety. It’s up to me to make sure we tap into every resource imaginable on this island, to stay alive until help arrives.”

It tore at Annika’s heart to hear the underlying anxiety in Kathryn’s voice. Just by looking at her, you wouldn’t think anything phased this woman, but it hadn’t taken more than a minute when she first met Kathryn to realize the compassion and strength of emotion that permeated her soul. Kathryn radiated exuberance and perhaps her level blue-gray gaze could fool some into thinking she was all business, but Annika knew, no felt, differently.

“Look,” Kathryn said and stopped walking. “What’s that?”

A gap among the palm trees and vegetation seemed curious to Annika as well. They walked toward it. “It looks almost manmade.” Annika frowned. “I mean, look at how precise it is. As if someone bulldozed a path right into the jungle.”

“Now this is a mystery,” Kathryn said and stepped closer. “I can’t see any tracks or footprints in the sand, but it’s entirely level. What are the odds of that?”

Annika looked in among the shrubs and vines. “Some of it looks a little overgrown, but the sandy path keeps going as far as I can see. What are the odds that there’d be sand stretching in along a straight path like this?”

“Very unlikely.” Kathryn took a few steps in through the opening, but Annika put her hand on her arm.

“Wait. Listen.”

Kathryn looked up at her, her brows knitted. “What…oh.”

An entirely new sound, not a roar or a growl, but more like thunder ending in a whistling noise, could be heard in the distance.

“What the hell can that be?” Kathryn shook her head. “This place is rapidly becoming the strangest location I’ve ever been to.”

“Been to many desolate islands in the Pacific?” Annika knew she had to lighten the mood as the sound was too eerie for comfort. “And yes, I can’t say I’ve heard anything like that. Ever.”

“We need to find out.” Kathryn started walking into the jungle, clearly dead set on finding out if anything else was threatening her passengers and crew. Annika hurried after her, knowing she had to be the voice of reason even if it meant annoying the captain.

“We do need to find out, but not like this. Not without sufficient backup and preparation.” When Kathryn still kept walking, Annika stepped in front of her and placed her hands on her shoulders. “Please, Kathryn.”

Kathryn sighed in obvious frustration. “Damn it. All right. All right.” She relaxed. “You’re obviously correct. Is that going to be an infuriating habit of yours, Annika—to be right all the time?”

Annika smiled. “Not all the time, I’m sure. But this time, it is better to be prudent. If we get lost in there, or if something happens to you…us…nobody will know where we are.”

“Of course.” Kathryn inhaled deeply and then reached for one of the coconuts. “Guess we better rehydrate and go back and form a team. There’s no way that I’m sitting this one out. We have to find out if this, well, road, leads to something that can help us.”

As they turned to leave, a new low thunder rolled toward them and this time it was accompanied by a gush of wind that moved the sand on the ground. Annika looked down and what she saw made her stare in disbelief.

Chapter Text

Kathryn looked down at the tracks. “Caterpillar tracks?” she said in disbelief. “Something using caterpillar tracks have driven through here at one point. What the hell is this place?”

Annika brushed more sand aside with her fingertips and felt with her hands. “They’re rock hard. Petrified.”

Crouching next to Annika, Kathryn felt the ridges and valleys of the tracks. She looked back and forth between the two rows. “I estimate that they axel width had to have been around one point five meters. So, we’re not talking about a military tank here. Something smaller. An excavator? Or a smaller armored vehicle?”

“The first sounds more plausible, I think.” Annika stood and brushed the sand from her knees and hands. “I think we should investigate, but as I said before, not without notifying the others and also preferably bringing more people with us.”

“Yes.” Kathryn agreed. “We just don’t know what we’ll stumble upon. Need I say that you and your gun are a given on the team?” Smiling, Kathryn saw Annika send a glance to the sky as if asking some deity for assistance. “Aw, come on. You know you want to.”

“I do. I just don’t want to go in half-cocked.”

“Me either. Let’s head back and form a posse.” Kathryn started walking back to where they came from. She felt more energized than she had since they ended up on this, for her, unknown island. She knew everyone else were waiting for helicopters, planes, or ships, to find them at any second, but Kathryn knew that a rescue could take longer than the passengers thought. Yes, the planes emergency beacon had been on when she and Chuck left the cockpit. That was encouraging, but the Pacific was big and once the plane sank completely, something the beacon should work, but who knew what was injured in the water landing?

To explore a mystery on this island could be just what the more adventurous of the crew and passengers needed. Even if not all could go trotting into the jungle, there would be reports and stories to bring back to the campfires and that would take the focus on their situation. That and finding any type of food was going to help save them—and their sanity.

Two teams lead by the prepper guy and his husband were in the jungle right now, looking for edible plants, roots, etcetera. The guys were very knowledgeable and thanks to them and Chuck’s affinity for camping and generally roughing it, they had gotten further than they would have otherwise with making it as comfortable and safe for everyone as possible. The children were everyone’s top priority and also, Kathryn had observed, very motivational for some of the passengers as they focused more on the kid’s wellbeing than on their own.

“Annika,” Kathryn said and stopped abruptly. This made Annika stumbled into her from behind, nearly sending them both sprawling on the sand.

“Did I hurt you?” Annika regained her balance. “What’s wrong?”

“No, no. Nothing’s wrong. Well, not really.” Kathryn turned her attention toward the gap in the jungle that was barely visible from where they stood. “Am I being selfish for finding this mystery so exciting?” She wasn’t sure why she needed reassurance from this woman, whom she found so desperately attractive, but didn’t really know at all.

“No. Whatever it takes to keep all of our spirits up. And besides, finding where those caterpillar tracks end up might lead to something useful for us.” Annika tilted her head. “You’re strong, Kathryn. I know you are ultimately responsible for all of us. Don’t think I don’t get that. That said, I want you also to remember that you’re not alone. The entire crew, and I, are behind you and we’ll figure this out together.”

Kathryn breathed easier. “How could you possibly know that’s what I needed to hear?” She briefly touched Annika’s arm. “We better hurry back so we can make the most of the rest of the day.”

Annika remained where she was, merely looking into Kathryn’s eyes as if she was searching for something. “It’s odd,” she said slowly. “I feel I know you better than it’s logical, considering we only meet in the line of duty every now and then. I can’t say why.”

Oh, god. Kathryn knew exactly why she felt closer to Annika than she had to any other person for years. If ever. This last part gave her pause. Was she falling for this gorgeous creature? She tried to think of Annika as a friend, but that didn’t sit quite right. It was more than friendship in the way Kathryn regarded the other woman, much more. She could get lost in those ice blue eyes, linger at the fullness of Annika’s lips, and get all heavy and hot inside when she thought of touching every hill and valley of her tall, curvaceous body.

Some of Kathryn’s thoughts may have been visible in her eyes, because Annika’s eyes widened as if something dawned on her. Not able to break the intense eye contact, Kathryn slowly raised her hand and placed against Annika’s upper arm again. “We’ll explore this later, if you are willing,” she said huskily. “Or, if I’m mistaken, I apologize,” she amended when Annika seemed so rigid where she stood, bathing in sunlight.

“You…are not mistaken.” Annika swallowed visible. “I agree. Later.”

Feeling dizzy at the prospect of having two mysteries on her hands, the caterpillar tracks and the suggestion that Annika may not be indifferent to her, Kathryn nodded briskly and resumed walking back to their base camp. One thing at a time.

First the tracks…and then, perhaps tonight…Annika.

Chapter Text

Andy stood next to Kathryn and Annika. On her left, Serena,  Nigel , one of the prepper guys, the one named Leo,  an athletic young man named Cory,  and Monica , the flight attendant,  checked their gear. Two coconut waters each, compass, two axes, and, of course, Annika’s holstered gun.

“I wish you’d reconsider,” Miranda said, her voice cool. “I can’t see the need for any of you to go. Who cares about some old tracks?”

“Miranda. Please. This can be important. Serena and I have gotten to know Kathryn and Annika, just like you. And you’ll have Emily here. Chuck will be in charge until Kathryn comes back. No doubt, you’ll take over if you think he shows any signs of being incompetent.”

Miranda glared at Andy, but then a faint smirk formed on her lips. “You do have a point.” She pulled Andy in behind the closest bivouac, holding her hands gently. “Now, listen to me. You will be careful, right?”

“Yes, Mir—”

“No, not that generic answer to please me like you do in the office. You will be careful. And you will come back to me. Anything else is out of the question.” Miranda’s normally so level and cool blue eyes were lit from within.

Andy’s heart melted as she understood that Miranda was actually frantic at the risk of losing her. Another piece in the puzzle that was the feelings hovering between them, or through them, slid into place. “I promise. I will not take foolhardy risks and I will be back.” She sent a quick, furtive glance around them. Nobody paid them any attention. Andy pulled Miranda in for a gentle hug and, oh god, it was different from last night even if the proximity was the same. Standing up in a full-body hug, made Andy’s heart soar. Especially as Miranda didn’t hesitate but flung her arms around Andy’s neck and the hug went from reassuring to fierce.

“I will hold you to it,” Miranda whispered, her voice stark. “Damn it, Andrea.”

Andy pulled back just enough to meet Miranda’s gaze. “And you’ll be just as careful here.” It just dawned on Andy that none of them were entirely safe here, no matter if they dwelled on the beach, entered the edge of the jungle to use the latrine, or went on an expedition.

“Oh, I will. And Emily and I will walk with you to the entrance of this mystery track. I need to know where you enter this damn jungle in case—in case…” Her voice trailed off as Miranda buried her face against Andy’s neck.

“Good idea,” Andy said, even if she would have rather seen Miranda chill on the beach, in the shade. Then again, if the roles had been reversed, she would have done the same. Pressing her lips against Miranda’s hair, Andy ran her hands up and down her back. Granted, she had never hugged Miranda until these last days, but she could swear the woman felt smaller, skinnier. Miranda didn’t have a lot of body volume to play around with and dieting on bananas and water was hardly optimal. The thought of Miranda not faring well made Andy’s tears sting at the corners of her eyes.

“Hey. Andrea?” Miranda looked up. “You’re hugging me a little too hard. What’s wrong?”

“Oh. Sorry.” Loosening her grip, a little, Andy tried for a blinding smile. “I…Well, you worry about me and you have to realize that I worry about you as well.” She blinked against the tears.

“I do understand that.” Sounding more in awe rather than distraught, Miranda cupped Andy’s cheek and ran her thumb over Andy’s lower lip. “We’ll be fine. You told me so and I believe you.” She looked over her shoulder. “Time to go, it seems. Get your water, darling.”

The word hung between them and Andy could only stare at Miranda for a few, heart-stopping moments. Then she dipped her head and pressed her lips against Miranda’s. The softness and sensuality of Miranda’s unpainted lips stole Andy’s breath for longer than mere moments even if the kiss was very brief. Miranda merely smiled tremulously when they parted and took Andy’s hand.

They walked back to the others and since Miranda seemed oblivious that their handholding in broad daylight could raise a few eyebrows, Andy didn’t care either. Emily, who normally would have been the one to need smelling salts at such a sight, merely gave Andy a barely visible nod, and Serena smiled broadly. Nigel grinned at Miranda, who, of course, didn’t acknowledge any of it.

Kathryn walked over to the team and made sure everyone had water. They had discussed bringing bananas but reconsidered as they were sure they’d stumble upon more coconuts and banana palms as they trekked into the jungle.

“All right, people,” Kathryn said, to the team and to the passengers and crew who were listening as well. “While we’re gone, Chuck is in command her on the beach. Keep doing the water runs but be careful of the wildlife. Keep the mood up and stay strong. I have no idea what we’ll find today, hopefully something useful, but if we don’t, at least we have a chance to solve the mystery.” She nodded at the team. “Let’s move out.”

Andy walked between Miranda and Nigel along the beach toward the gap among the vegetation. She was excited, but also suitably apprehensive. They might find something that could help the marooned people, like Kathryn said, and in Andy’s mind, she had to do everything she could to get Miranda home to her girls. But Andy wasn’t so naïve that she didn’t realize that they could end up in trouble. If something really bad happened to the team, she knew there wasn’t very much the rest of the crew and passengers could do without risking their own lives.

Chapter Text

Kathryn and Annika led the team in among vegetation. The tracks got easier to see once they reached far enough where the sand hadn’t reached. Kathryn glanced over her shoulder and saw that the other four kept the same pace. Serena and Andy walked next to each other, the number one flight attendant, Monica, behind them, and Nigel and, what was the name of that prepper guy again, yes, Leo, took up the rear. Leo carried an axe, as did Kathryn and Monica. The other three axes remained at the camp on the beach.

“It’s amazing how distinct the tracks are,” Nigel said. “It’s as if they drove in and never drove back out. Or vice versa, I suppose, but that makes even less sense.”

Kathryn studied the tracks closer as they kept walking. Nigel was right. The tracks were hard and easily distinguishable, but there were no overlaps that she could see. “That is odd,” she murmured.

“Agree.” Annika ducked under a vine. “And the fact that whatever drove in here did so in a straight line, more or less, is even stranger. I mean, if it ploughed in here, where are the downed trees?”

“Wait. Can we stop for a second?” Andy said. “Let me just check something out.” She motioned for Serena to follow her as she veered off the path and walked into the jungle in a ninety-degree angle.

Curious, Kathryn joined them. “What did you see, Andy?”

“This.” Andy pointed at a fallen palm tree. “Look.”

Kathryn crouched at the bottom end of the tree. No, not fallen. Sawed off. “I’ll be damned. Good eyes.”

Andy pivoted slowly. “And there are more. Sometime chopped these palms off and tossed them in here.”

“Judging from all the vegetation that’s grown on top of them, I’d say it’s been a while.” Serena pushed her ponytail back over her shoulder.

“Several years,” Kathryn guessed. “Okay, back to the tracks. Now we know that this was planned, but when, and by who, that’s the question.” They rejoined the others and kept moving further into the jungle.

“I wonder how large this island is. Did you get a sense of that, Kathryn, before you set the plane down?” Monica asked from behind.

“No, not really. The instruments were damaged, and I had problems even calculating the altitude. If I have to estimate, I would say, perhaps three-four miles across, but don’t quote me on that.”

“And it’s volcanic. Where’s the volcano? It’s pretty flat,” Nigel said.

“Not all volcanic islands look like Hawaii or Iceland.” Kathryn smiled over her shoulder at the charming Runway man. “We could truly be on the top of a wide and flat one.”

“As long as it doesn’t erupt, I’m good with that,” Andy muttered, making the others chuckle.

“I hear you,” Annika said and smiled to Andy. “A sign that it was a while ago since it erupted is the lush vegetation. Nothing’s been scorched off lately. Let’s hope its dormant.”

“Yes, let’s,” Serena said.

They made good time as the path was wide and they didn’t have to chop off vines and low vegetation. Kathryn wondered why that was. “Annika, what do you think of the fact that the jungle hasn’t reclaimed the soil on the track?”

Annika hummed. “That’s another mystery. Logically, it would only take a few months for at least the low brushes to cover the ground.”

Kathryn raised her hand and made everyone stop. “Why don’t we take a minute and rehydrate. “She sipped from one of her coconuts. She poked with her axe in the dirt. It didn’t budge. “What the hell? I thought the fact that we’re not leaving any footprints was because the dirt had dried up so much, but I should’ve realized that in this humidity, that’d be impossible.”

Monica and Leo tried chopping away at the track marks, but to no avail. “It’s like concrete.”

“Actually…” Annika felt the hard surface again. “It might be dirt mixed with something manmade to keep the road open like this.

“Road?” Kathryn looked toward the direction they came from. “You mean, this could be a road that is used still?”

“A suggestion as good as any,” Annika said.

“All right. I’m getting more and more excited what we may find,” Kathryn said. “Let’s move on.” She took the lead again and decided it was more prudent than ever to remain alert to her surroundings. If someone made this “road”, then this person, or persons, could still be here. And whoever made such and effort to drive some caterpillar vehicle onto a seemingly deserted island in the middle of the Pacific, might not appreciate being found. Her imagination conjured up a meth lab of enormous proportions in her mind.

They kept walking for another hour and then they literally hit a wall.

“Whoa. Where did this come from?” Andy stood next to Kathryn and Annika, gazing up. “It has to be at least twenty feet straight up.”

Kathryn knew they had ventured farther into the center of the island than the water teams had and that’s why they hadn’t see the elevation. “Damn. It’s like the road stops straight at the wall. What the hell?” She pushed her fingers through her hair. “Can you find any signs of the tracks veering off?”

Everyone spread out along what looked like blackened bedrock. They kicked the ground and pushed the vegetation aside.

“I can only see what goes for normal ground here, Captain,” Leo said.

“This doesn’t make sense. How could someone make a road to this rock and not leave any signs of where they went, or what they did with the caterpillar thing.” Serena sipped her water. “Damn, it’s hot here by the wall.”

Kathryn agreed. She looked up but got dizzy when she tried to figure out how tall the rock was and if it was possible to climb it. Damn head. The headaches she had suffered from since ditching the plane, still bothered her on and off.

Annika walked to the spot where the tracks ended and stood in the shade. She took one of her coconuts and leaned against the rock to drink from it.

And the next moment, she was gone.

Chapter Text

Andy stared at the space where Annika stood only two seconds ago. “What the…she just fell into the rock!” About to hurry over and look for her new friend, Andy was stopped by Serena’s strong hands around her arms.

“Wait, Andy,” Serena said. “We don’t know where she fell to.”

“We have to find her.” Kathryn stepped closer, carefully, but with looking grimly determined. “She was here, right? Just behind these dead banana leaves?”

“I think so.” Nigel approached from the other side. “Right where the tracks end. Or disappear, rather.”

“Let’s spread out, but don’t go to close to the rock wall,” Kathryn said, her voice clipped. “There must be some sort of door. Or a type of opening.”

They followed orders as if it had been Miranda Priestly issuing them. Even Leo, who was a bit on the ornery side, immediately followed suit. Monica took a long branch that had vines tangled around it and brushed at the dead leaves. After a few minutes, she stopped. “Wait. Are those some sort of rails?”

They hurried over to Monica who tucked her dark brown hair behind her ears and crouched on the ground. She had cleared an area of two square yards and was now running her finger along something that looked far to straight to be natural.

Kathryn joined her. “That’s metal, and it’s indeed some sort of rails. Like a smaller version of the ones you can see on the streets of San Francisco. I live there.”

“They seem to lead straight into the wall as well.” Andy didn’t let Serena stop her this time. She stepped up to the rock and started pushing aside dead vines. It dawned on her that the surface wasn’t the same texture everywhere. Right where Annika had stood, it was smoother, like granite albeit charcoal grey. “Hey guys…oh!”

A draft pulled her toward the wall and then everything went dark. Andrea felt herself falling and she screamed in terror as she fell toward what she knew had to be a certain death. Then her fall was cut short and she hit the ground with a thud that rattled all her bones. All in all, she thought she’d dropped six or eight feet. Far enough to rattle every bone in her body, but at least she was still alive.

The darkness was opaque, and it took Andy a while to adjust. Eventually her night vision was reasonably restored, and she could make out the contours of a square corridor or tunnel. She couldn’t see anything looking up to where she fell down, so she started following the corridor, one hand against the wall for support.

“Annika?” Andy whispered. “You there?” There was no reply.

Andy continued forward, one step at a time, her senses elevated to not miss any warning signs of potential danger.

“Annika?” she tried again.

After walking for a few minutes, she reached a place where the corridor separated in two. Staring in both directions, Andy thought she could see that the path to the right seemed to lead to more light. She wasn’t very fond of the idea of stumbling around int complete darkness. Taking a deep breath, she turned right and kept walking. She was thirsty and fumbled for her coconuts, but she must have dropped them when she fell.

The light at the end of the corridor made Andy lengthen her stride. She thought about Miranda and how she would be furious of Andy injured herself, or worse, didn’t come back at all. She might actually strangle Serena and Nigel. No, she had to remain positive and take any measure possible to stay alive. She couldn’t have gotten this close to Miranda only to have it snatched away from her.

The corridor ended with a frosted glass door. It didn’t have a handle and wouldn’t budge when she pressed on it. Andy knocked on the glass, but it only gave a muted tapping sound. “Hello? Anyone there?” Andy slapped her palm against the glass door several times. “Hello? Annika?” She glanced around herself for a buzzer, or an intercom, anything. “Hello? I’m Andy Sachs and I’m looking for my friend Annika. Hello?”

The faint echo in the corridor sang the words back to her in a melodic, metallic whisper. This gave the entire place such an eerie ambiance.

Then there was a small, barely audible, snap coming from the glass door. Not daring to hesitate, Andy pressed on the door and it swung open as if operated by some super-strong hydraulics. Peering inside, Andy saw a vast, underground space. The walls here looked like that smooth rock wall she’d touched before falling into this place. “Annika?”

“Over here,” a sonorous voice belonging to Annika said, but she was still out of sight. Andy turned around a formation that seemed to grow out of the rock.

And just stared.

Chapter Text

Annika knew what Andy felt as she watched the other woman gape at the surroundings. When Annika fell through the small opening after the lava formation shifted, she had thought this was how she died. She landed on her back and totally lost her breath as the air was pressed out of her lungs at the impact. There was no way to climb up that she could find and all she could do was take the tunnel, clearly manmade, and see where it led.

“Astonishing, isn’t it?” Annika now said to Andy and walked over to her.

“Yeah, that’s one word for it,” Andy said, pivoting to take it all in.

“If we can find something to carry this in, it could be a great help to the others.” Annika mimicked Andy and turned around to try and make sense of what they saw. An entire wall, at least thirty feet long, boasted cabinets with glass doors. Some were slightly misted, suggesting the content was frozen or refrigerated. The cabinets, or freezers, were filled with packaged and canned food.

“What is this place?” Andy murmured. “And who can possibly have put this hear? And when?” She walked up to the closest cabinet and hesitantly put her hand on the handle.

“Let’s see if there’s a date on any of the food.” Annika waited until Andy had opened the door and then pulled out a flat package. Reading on the label, she saw it was chicken casserole. “It’s like one of thos MRIs that soldiers eat when in the field.” Annika turned the package over. “And it is good for another ten years, holy crap. And package…two years ago.” She stared at Andy.

“That’s pretty recent. And the freezers over there look pretty new too.” Andy rubbed her neck.

“Did you hurt yourself falling down?” Annika asked, worried.

“A little, but I’m okay.” Andy looked around the room again. “This is huge. What’s that over there?” She pointed at the far wall. Only the area they were in were lit by small spotlights high up on the ceiling.

“I haven’t gotten that far.” Annika put the MRI back and started walking toward the darker end. Andy joined her. As they approached the new area, more spots switched on automatically.”

“Damn. This place must have sensors,” Annika said.

A new set of cabinets came into view. A kitchen. Annika shook her head. “I suppose they need to have cooking capabilities.” She ran her hand over the counter and the kitchen island. No dust. That made her nervous.

“And it’s not just any kitchen. Looks like a really high end one. This is a state-of-the-art cook top.” Andy opened a cabinet. “And real china. Crystal glassware. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear we were in Miranda’s kitchen.”

“No kidding.” Annika turned and spotted a large oak dining table with ten chairs. Behind it was a group of couches able to hold just as many. On the wall, she saw a large flat screen television. “This is insane. Someone has built a—a---bomb shelter here and they have the biggest TV I’ve ever seen.”

“Yup. Like Miranda.” Andy scanned the area around them. “But where do they sleep?”

“There was another corridor, remember? I bet it leads to more rooms. Like bedrooms and bathrooms.” Annika rubbed her arms as she tried to sort through the thoughts bombarding her mind.

“And another dark area,” Andy pointed out and began walking to the farthest corner of the large space. “And you know what, you’d think it would be cold down here. It’s just pleasant.”

Annika agreed. The chills she felt running through her body was not because of the room being cold. It seemed a perfect seventy-two degrees. She joined Andy as they approached the last corner to explore.  More spotlights switched on. Annika felt a dip in the floor and stopped. At the same time, the last item in the underground space was revealed.

“That explains the tracks.” She walked over to an odd vehicle. Made from metal, it was at least twenty feet long and seven feet wide. It looked like a cross between a small tank, a boat, and a car, where it sat on rails by the wall. That’s what she’d felt on the floor. Rails. Annika circled it slowly. “What the hell is this?”

“Looks like it can function both on land and water.” Andy opened the door on the left side of the vehicle. “Like a hybrid?”

“Yes. You’re right.” Annika joined Andy at the open door. She peered inside and saw ten seats. “Wow. It can transport quite a few people.”

“It looks a lot like my brother’s boat,” Andy said, motioning for the dashboard. “And my dad’s vintage car, oddly enough. Think it moves?”

“I suppose it’s possible.” Something dawned on Annika. “God, Andy. Think about it. If that thing is used to enter this place, then why is it here? I mean, wouldn’t it be where the owners are? For them to use when they need to get nt this place?”

“What a clever insight?” a stern female voice said from behind. “What the hell are you two doing here?”

Before either of them could turn around and answer, Annika heard the eerily sound of someone cocking a shotgun.

Chapter Text

Kathryn was frantic, but refused to let it show, or take over. She had to find Annika and Andy and have them all return to the beach. Why had she been so hellbent on trying to find out about the caterpillar tracks? She had endangered Annika whom she found herself irresistibly drawn to…and Andy, the lovely young woman that Miranda Priestly clearly loved with all her heart. Even a blind fool could see that. What if she had to return to the beach without the missing women? Well, Kathryn’s troubles would be over because Miranda would kill her.

“We need to get in there to save them,” Serena said gravely. “It is not an option to return without them, even to get more help. It’ll take too long.”

“I know.” Kathryn pinched her nose, trying to sort through the whirling thoughts. “We can’t try to rescue them without sending someone back to report on where we are and what happened.”

“Oh, god.” Nigel paled. He was as reluctant to face Miranda as Kathryn was.

“I know. I’m sending back Leo and Monica. “Explain what’s happened. Monica, you stay behind and help Chuck keep the passengers calm. Continue the water runs and food gathering. Leo, you bring back people you feel are strong and ready to help.” Kathryn knew she had gone to that single-minded place where she could regard everything with a certain detachment and be decisive. Like when she saw the island and knew where to ditch the plane.

“All right,” Leo said and nodded at Monica. “Let’s go then. We need to get back here before it gets dark.” He turned to Kathryn. “Here. A fire striker. You should be prepared to set small fires here before dark. In here, you won’t be able to see a thing as the vegetation shuts out most of the moonlight.”

“Thank you, Leo.” Kathryn was grateful to whatever deity that had place Leo and his prepper partner on her plane. She watched him and Monica head back along the caterpillar tracks. Turning to the others, she placed her hands on her hips. “All right. Nigel, you’re going to have to remain out here. Serena and I will try to follow Annika and Andy.”

“Wait a minute.” Nigel held up a hand. “What makes you so certain that disappearing the same way will help at all? We could end up with four missing people instead of two and for no good reason.”

“I know, but we can’t just stand here. We’ve gone over the damn rock formation several times and there is no other way in except where the rails are.”

“And if you get trapped in there? What will become of the rest of the crew and passengers?” Nigel stood his ground. “As much as my entire being screams I should go in and rescue Six and Annika, it has to happen with some sort of plan. Not go in half-cocked and just add to the problem.”

Kathryn relaxed by sheer willpower. “Damn it, you’re right, Nigel. And what did you mean by Six?”

“My pet name on Andy.” Nigel smiled carefully. “I have an idea. You ready to listen?”

Kathryn nodded. “Of course.”

“Let’s arrange for the small fires first, like Leo said. That way we won’t be taken aback when darkness hits, which is does from one minute to the next here. Then we go locking for some boulders, or large rocks. After that, we start braiding some of the vines. At least teen feet long braids.”

“And what do we do then?” Serena asked.

“When Six was engulfed by the darn rock, I definitely saw her go downward. Not just in, but down. I suggest we block the opening from closing again and lower the two of you down into what recess in there in a controlled way. That way, I should be able to assist you in coming up if there’s no other way.” Nigel wiped his hands on his trousers. “What do you think?”

“Brilliant plan,” Kathryn conceded and knew her panic of watching Annika disappear had clouded her thoughts more than she thought. “Thank you. Let’s get to it. Serena, you collect dead vines for us to use as kindle. Nigel, can you locate the boulders? I will start to cut down the vines.”

“All right.” Serena saluted and started her assignment. Nigel went further into the jungle on his hunt for large rocks. Kathryn too two seconds to fortify her strength. She deliberately ignored her headache and looked up at the closest tree. Vines wrapped around the trunk, but the branches sat close enough for her to be able to climb it to hack off the vines at the right length.

As she made her way up the tree, she thought of Annika. The tall blond, so statuesque and with a unique, understated charisma that pulled Kathryn in, was not going to die trapped inside some dame rock formation. Kathryn would get her out—or die trying.

Xxxxxxx

“Take your gun with two fingers and drop it on the floor. Kick it over here. Now.”

Annika slowly turned around and then did as the woman said, and then held her hands up and away from herself as she. She refused to focus on the shotgun, but instead locked eyes with the woman behind it. Illuminated by the bright spots, she didn’t look like anyone Annika had pictured staying in this…this bugout location. Yes, of course, this had to be some sort of prepper place. Someone’s safe place to bugout to if the world went to hell. Still, the woman aiming a shotgun at Annika’s center mass looked more like soccer mom than a rough and tough prepper. Perhaps it was Annika’s preconceived ideas about what preppers were like that had drawn a completely different picture in her head. This woman was dressed in jeans, a grey sweatshirt, and blue sneakers. Her long, black hair was kept in a long braid that hung forward over her left shoulder. The other shoulder was already occupied by supporting the butt of the shotgun. She could be in her early forties, perhaps. And obviously seasoned around weapons.

“My name’s Andy,” Andy said quietly. “This is my friend Annika. We were passengers on a plane going from Tokyo to Los Angeles. Our captain had to set the plane down on the water just outside the island. There are almost three-hundred people on the beach fighting to survive.”

“Really?” the woman said, her voice clearly showing she was not buying it.

“It’s true,” Annika said. “We found the tracks when we explored the beach and we followed it in case it led to a place that could have something useful for us. We don’t know when we’re going to be saved and there are several children among the pass—”

“Children?” The woman lowered the shotgun and inch.

“Yes. A four-year-old, and a ten-year-old.” Andy sighed. “Not to mention several senior citizens and one pregnant woman. We go on water runs to the waterfall and try to give everyone coconuts and bananas, but it won’t be enough if our rescue takes longer than we hope for.”

“I see.” The woman pulled something from her back pocket. Pressing a button on it, she spoked rapidly. “Glenn. I have two involuntary intruders in my sights over by the hybrid. Bring everyone.”

“Gotcha, Chris. Going by the weapons locker.”

Annika’s heart hammered painfully. Bring everyone? Who else lived here? How hostile was their situation as this Glenn person who was going by the weapons locker? Annika glanced at Andy who in turn didn’t take her eyes off Chris.

“Please,” Andy said. “We don’t mean anyone any harm. We haven’t stolen anything. We only fell through some hatch and ended up here, I swear.”

“I might believe you, if just a tad, but the others will have to make their own judgment call.”

Annika could hear people approach and tried to estimate how many they could be. She remembered the dining area with ten chairs. So, nine more? Ten armed individuals against two…not the best odds. She inched closer to Andy and too her hand.

Andy squeezed Annika’s hand back. “We’ll be okay,” she murmured.

Annika wasn’t so sure.

Chapter Text

Andy had lost track of time. How long had they been down here? An hour? Two? No doubt, Kathryn and the others were going nuts. When Miranda found out, she’d be seriously pissed. Glancing over at the table where the ten inhabitants had sat in a very long impromptu meeting that neither she, nor Annika, dared to try and speed up, speaking between themselves in hushed voices. Annika and Andy sat on the floor by what the woman, Chris, called the hybrid.

She had not expected the nine others to entail four senior citizens and two preteen children, both girls. A man, which Andy figured was perhaps the first woman’s husband, and the girl’s father, as there was a family resemblance, had glared at them and brought a sidearm. Since the “Glenn” that Chris radioed earlier had said he’d swing by the weapon’s locker, it made sense. Another man and woman, both in the late twenties, early thirties, completed the gang, and what struck Andy was that they all looked—normal, for lack of a better term. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but not this…this family?

Chris rose from the table and walked over to them, not carrying the shotgun this time, which was marginally reassuring. It didn’t escape her notice that the guy with the sidearm still had placed his gun in a sort of relaxed-but-ready position. “Andy. Annika. You’ve put us in a bit of a bind.”

“I realize that.” Annika spoke calmly as she stood. “Still, it can’t compare to the bind the passengers and crew are in.”

“We understand that. And we’re not unsympathetic to your situation.” Chris sighed. “You have to realize that we’ve gone through great length to keep our facility confidential. The fact that you’re aware of this island, let alone that you’ve found our bunker…it defeats the purpose of this place entirely.”

Andy had also gotten to her feet and now she tried to understand. “Why do you need a bunker to begin with?” She was curious and exasperated at how these people could contemplate their privacy outweighing the wellbeing of close to three-hundred people. “I can’t think of a reason that is more important than helping the people on the beach.”

“Hold your horses,” Chris said, palms toward Annika and Andy. “Of course, we’re going to help you.”

“I like the sound of that, if you, sir, stop pointing a gun at my air marshal and my friend.” Kathryn’s voice startled everyone and made Chris swivel toward the entrance from the corridor and “Glenn” raise his weapon. There, Kathryn Janeway stood together with Serena, and axe in one hand and the other hand placed on her hip.

“Oh, god. There’s two more,” Chris said. “Well, come on in, Captain.” She had clearly seen the insignias on Kathryn’s epaulettes.

“Thank you.” Kathryn walked over to Annika and Andy, while Serena remained by the door. “You all right?” She gave them a quick onceover.

“We’re fine.” Annika bent and kissed Kathryn’s cheek.  

Kathryn briefly touched Andy’s arm. “Miranda might just let me live.”

Andy smiled wanly. “You, yes. Me—I’m not so sure.”

Turning to Chris, Kathryn introduced herself and Serena.

“I’m Chris,” Chris said, omitting any last name. “This is my husband, Glenn, our daughters, our respective parents, and my sister and brother-in-law.”

“Quite the vacation place you’ve got here,” Kathryn said after nodding at everyone. “And I realize we’re party crashers, but I also hear you intend to offer some kind of help.”

“We can’t have anyone else come down here, but we can offer food and water. That and making sure the authorities know where to look for you, would be helpful, right?” Chris set her jaw, clearly not about to go any further.

Kathryn relaxed visibly. “You’d be helping more than you realize.”

“Agreed then. Kia,” Chris said to the older of the girls. “Go fetch one of the satellite phones, please. Write down the exact coordinates of our island for Captain Janeway.”

“But mom…?” Kia looked shocked.

“I’m going to assume that the four of you here will understand we can’t be part of your rescue in a more practical sense. Nobody can know of this place, or who we are. Once you’ve established contact with the ones who will come to your rescue, you have to tell them this phone belongs to one of you. It can’t be connected to us.”

“All right.” Kathryn didn’t sound as if she entirely understood.

“Come on, let’s stock a cart with food. You can take it up through the elevator. Just leave outside it once you’re done and we’ll retrieve it later.” Glenn came up to them, his arms full of food packages. “We get new shipments when we’re here so you’re not putting us out.”

Andy thought the lanky man looked quite friendly now when he had holstered his sidearm. After curiously observing Kathryn being busy talking with Chris out of earshot with everyone else, she walked over to one of the grandmas who stood by the fridge holding the water. “Hi. I’m Andy. Sorry about all this.” Feeling silly, Andy didn’t know what else to say.

“Oh, hush, girl. I’m glad you all survived, despite everything.” They began pulling out crates of water bottles.

“This’ll be plenty, thank you. We’ve gathered water continuously from the waterfall and—”

“Good grief, girl. Among all those darn Komodo dragons?” The grandma looked shocked. “They can be very dangerous.”

“They can?” Andy nearly dropped her crate. “But we’ve been sending teams throughout yesterday and today.” She swallowed. “We better hope help arrives quickly.”

“No doubt, once they know exactly where you are, it will. In the meantime, you can have all the water you want from us. We’ve tapped into the groundwater that feeds the waterfall. We store it on bottles for convenience and if something should happen. We’ll do fine as well.” The older woman helped fill up half the cart that was at least nine feet long.

“Here are some of the energy bars that mom makes us have.” The youngest girl came up to Andy, dragging a large cardboard box. “We hate them. You can have the lot.”

Andy had to smile. “Did you ask your mom?”

“She didn’t, but she’s right. You can have them. At least that saves me to have to nag them about it—this time around.” Chris helped carry the MRIs. “If you ration this and keep eating of your bananas, I reckon you’ll do fine.” She looked at the well-stocked cart.

“You’ve been more than generous. Thank you.” Andy wanted to hug the woman for helping to save lives but restrained herself. There was a quality to Chris that in a way reminded her about Miranda—and a stranger only hugged Miranda if they didn’t value their lives.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Chris said. “Good thing there are four of you as you have to get it out of the elevator yourselves when you get to ground level. I imagine there will be able hands to help you pull it to your fellow passengers.”

“Yes. We have a couple of more people outside.” Andy waved Serena over and they took the hands between them and began pulling the cart toward the door. Kathryn and Annika took up the rear together with Glenn and Chris.

Andy turned and waved, thanking the rest of the family as they were about to go through the door. She then tugged at the handle again. The large cart moved with ease but needed some shimmying when they reached the junction.

At the place where Andy and Annika had fallen down, Chris raised her eyebrows when she saw the braided rope made from vines hanging down against the far wall.

“Really?” she said.

“Well, I wasn’t going to drop like a rock, like these two,” Kathryn said, indicating Andy and Annika.

“I suppose. I see you’ve propped up the door. Good thing the elevator works anyway.” Glenn walked over to the side and opened a hidden panel. “Push the cart all the way over there. Stand on either side of it, well away from the wall.”

Andy and the others did as he asked. Chris stepped forward and handed Kathryn the promised satellite phone. “For the next forty-eight hours, you can dial us. I’ve preprogrammed the number. After that, it will cease to exist. Just in case there’s a hiccup. I want you to promise not to let anyone else know about this.”

Kathryn looked down at the satellite phone and then back at Chris. Her eyes glistened, and she cleared her throat before she spoke. “You—you are an amazing family. Thank you. Again.”

Chris returned Annika’s gun to her as well and took a step back after nodding at Glenn.

The elevator moved up, making hardly any noise. As they reached the ground level, the sliding door folded, rather the slid, sideways to the left. Outside, the sun had almost set, and small fires burned in a semicircle around the opening to the elevator. Andy stood closest to the exit and stepped outside into the humid evening.

And that’s when she saw Miranda Priestly drop to her knees.

Chapter Text

Miranda couldn’t imagine ever regaining the strength in her legs enough to get up from the dirt. Around her, small bonfires lit up the clearing next to the large rock formation and the sun was retracting its last rays. A devastatingly beautiful setting, but all she could feel was the remnants of fear of losing Andrea forever to whatever—or whoever—dwelled in the depths of the volcanic mass.

“Miranda!” Andrea rushed to her side and helped her to her feet. “I’m fine. I’m truly okay.”

Pulling Andrea into a fierce embrace, Miranda sobbed. Only once, but that was because she knew if she allowed a second one, she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from crying for a long while. “You truly are infuriating,” she said huskily. “We’re going to have to discuss this habit of yours.”

“Habit?” Andrea pulled back a few inches and looked at Miranda. “I object to that.” She smiled gently. “I’ve never fallen down a shaft before.”

“Fallen?” Miranda felt her cheeks go cold and pale.

“Oh, crap. I mean, this situation is hardly habitual in any way.” Andrea looked caught. “Serena is fine too. And look what we…found.” She motioned for the cart that the other pulled out from the opening in the rock. “Food. Water. And toilet paper.”

“What…where…?” Miranda clung to Andrea as she stared. “That was all in there?”

“Yes. We’re going to have to come up with a good story before we reach the rest of the passengers, or we’ll be breaking a confidence that our rescuers placed in us.”

Kathryn and Annika joined Miranda and Andy. Kathryn met Miranda’s eye with her own level gaze. “Hello, Miranda.”

“I should hate you for what happened to Andrea and Annika, but as they’re back—and with supplies—I suppose…I’m grateful.” She snorted as Andy whipped her head around to gape at her. “Oh, please. I’ve been known to say thank you and please. Once in a while.”

“During leap years,” Andrea muttered, making Serena and Nigel chuckle.

“So, what’s our cover story?” Annika said quietly.

Kathryn wrapped an arm, almost absentmindedly, around Annika’s waist and pursed her lips. “The less lies, the better, so let’s keep it simple. We found a cave in the jungle that held some supplies and a cart. Nobody was there and just as we left, we set off some warning system that closed it off. If someone spots the satellite phone, it came from the same place. I intend to keep it close to the vest as we don’t want a stampede.”

“Thin.” Nigel shook his head. “Very thin.”

“I know, but I honestly think they’ll be so grateful for the food and the water that they’re not going to ask too many questions.”

“Not to mention not having to go on water runs—and have toilet paper,” Andrea said. “Besides, those Komodo dragons are dangerous as hell.”

“I heard that too,” Annika nodded.

Miranda mimicked Janeway and kept her arm around Andrea. Perhaps Andrea thought Miranda needed the support, because she pulled her even closer with an arm around Miranda’s shoulders. “I agree,” she said. “Not knowing anything about what you faced beyond that folding door, I doubt the others will object to things that will end up saving their lives.

“Not to mention, confirm our location via the satellite phone,” Annika added. “Who knows what system the electrical storm took out.”

“Oh, god,” Miranda closed her eyes hard. “Of course, nobody can make any civilian calls, but what I wouldn’t give to call the girls and reassure them.”

“Miranda. Listen.”  Kathryn squeezed Miranda’s hand briefly. “When I talk to the airline, I’ll make sure all the next of kin gets personal calls from the staff as soon as humanly possible. I’m told I have some influence with the airline brass. Might as well put it to good use.”

Miranda could have hugged Kathryn. “Thank you.”

“We better get going. I don’t want anyone coming to look for us.” Kathryn nodded at Leo and three young men who looked very fit. “You can perhaps start wheeling the cart toward the beach? The rest of us will be right behind you.”

As the men began pushing the cart over the uneven ground, Kathryn looked around the rest of the group. Miranda waited impatiently for the captain to work something out.

“All right. I’m not sure how much it’ll help, but I suggest we all grab some branches and begin erasing as much of our footprints as possible. Not to mention the track marks left by the cart.”

“Good idea. At least over to that natural lava peer you wanted to climb,” Annika said, which rendered her a glare from Kathryn.

“Agreed.” Then Kathryn smiled and motioned for everyone to find branches. “I’m not going to waste any time. I’m going to start dialing.” She flipped up the antenna and walked a few yards away from them. Miranda held her breath until she could here Kathryn speak over the phone, even if she couldn’t make out what she was saying.

Miranda took Andrea by the hand, which held a familiar sense of reassurance and comfort, as well as…something romantic? In this environment? Yes. Actually. “Let’s fine some long enough. I have no interest in walking all the way back to the beach hunched over.”

“Good thinking.” Andrea walked over to the edge of the small clearing, pulling Miranda with her. “Here are some that have half-withered leaves on them. They should smooth things over.

Miranda helped pull several of them free. “We should do two each.” She’d honestly rather hold Andrea’s hand, but she couldn’t very well say that. They over to where the path led to the beach and waited for the others. Nigel, Serena, and Annika came pulling two branches each as well.

“Great minds think alike,” Nigel said, pushing up his glasses before he gripped the branches. “When we get back to New York, I’m calling your manicurist, Miranda. I’m getting the callouses from hell.”

Miranda had to laugh. “I’ll spring for it, for all of us.”

Kathryn came over to them, still on the phone. She motioned for them to follow her as she grabbed a torch and started walking. Now they were close enough for Miranda to hear what she was saying to the person at the other end of the satellite link.

“Have you run my control number yet and confirmed my identity? Well, finally. Put me through to Barbara Norton. Yes, I want the CEO directly.” Kathryn waited, and Miranda could hear the stress in her voice, even if Kathryn no doubt played it down. She admired the captain for shouldering this disastrous turn of events so well. “Thank you. Barbara? Yes, it’s Kathryn Janeway.” Kathryn took a trembling breath. “I managed to do a controlled water landing and so far, all the passengers and the crew are accounted four and in good shape. We’re on an island way off our course as we had to circle an electric storm. It still took out a lot of our instruments and the engines.” Kathryn stopped, and Miranda and the others did as well. Handing over the torch to Annika, Kathryn pulled up her shirt sleeve. Holding her arm close to the torch, she continued. “Barbara, I’m going to give you the longitude and latitude now. Repeat it back to me.” Rattling off a set of numbers, Kathryn then listened as the CEO of Intrepid Airlines repeated them. “Correct. I’m going to call you back every hour on the hour, and if I’m asleep, then my co-pilot, Chuck Taylor, will do so in my place.” Kathryn glanced at Miranda, who was on pins and needles at this point. “Now, and here is where I’m going to trust you to do what is right, Barbara. I can’t lend this satellite phone to anyone else, least of all civilians, without causing an uproar when it dawns on people that the batteries won’t be enough for two-hundred and eighty some people to call home. I need your minions to do that for us. Call everyone’s next of kin they have listed and let them know that we’re alive.” Kathryn tensed as she waited. After a few, ghastly long, moments, she relaxed so dramatically, Annika had to drop her branches and grab her around the shoulders. “Thank you, Barbara,” Kathryn said. “I won’t be able to tell most of the passengers about this, but those who are here know now.”

Yes, I do, Miranda thought, feeling quite dizzy. Caroline and Cassidy will know I’m alive and that’s going to make all the difference. The same went for Andrea’s parents.

“All right,” Kathryn said. “Any ETA you can give me on when we can expect the rescue effort to reach us?” Kathryn lowered her head as Barbara gave her answer. “Ah-huh. Okay.” Kathryn closed the phone after saying goodbye.

Miranda’s heart sank as Kathryn looked up with tears streaming down her face.

Chapter Text

Annika pulled Kathryn aside. “They’re behaving really well, considering they’re hungry, but I still want you out of the way. Don’t think I didn’t see you grimace and touched your forehead several times on the way back.” She motioned for the people getting in one of the six lines for food and water.

Kathryn sighed. “You’re far too observant.”

“Occupational hazard.” Checking the time on her self-rewinding watch, Annika noticed that it was time again for Kathryn to make a call. “We need to step further away. I’ll block the view for the others, so you can call.”

“Oh, already? Okay. Thanks.”

They walked far enough away from the passengers for them not to hear them. Dialing the same number as before, Kathryn rubbed her neck. “Hi, Barbara. My hourly call again.”

Annika listened to Kathryn’s part of the conversation and every now and then, she turned her head to make sure nobody was heading toward them. She saw Miranda and Andy glancing very quickly at them. Good, the less attention she and Kathryn attracted, the better.

Kathryn hadn’t given any details apart from “very soon” when she hung up with Barbara the first time. Her tears had started Annika, but now Kathryn’s eyes were dry and their usual calm blue-gray hue when lit by the moonlight.

“An aircraft carrier? You serious?” Kathryn looked up at Annika, wide-eyed. “All right. Barbara, you can clearly move mountains.” Chuckling, but sounding more fatigued than amused, Kathryn said goodbye to the CEO on the other end.

“They’re sending an aircraft carrier?” Annika frowned. That would take longer than they had supplies for, surely?

“Not sending one, per se, but one is heading this way and will be in range to send helicopters for the most vulnerable among us. They’re part of an exercise that just took place in Japan and on their way back to the US. The other ships in the convoy will send out rescue boats when they’re in range to do so. They expect to be close enough within eighteen hours. Tomorrow afternoon or there about.” Kathryn threw her arms around Annika’s neck and hugged her. “Oh, damn. Tomorrow, everyone will go home.”

“Yes.” Annika’s heart hammered in her chest as she pulled Kathryn even closer. She pressed her lips against Kathryn’s hair.

Kathryn grew still in Annika’s arms and certain that she’d overstepped, Annika attempted to pull back.

“Annika?”  Kathryn slid one hand along Annika’s jawline and down the side of her neck. “I know the timing is insanely wrong, but will I be able to see you when we get back home? I’d rather not just see you at work every few weeks, or months, or so.”

Annika smiled. “Yes. I’d like that. Especially since I quit my job before we took off from Tokyo.” Then she faltered some. What if they weren’t talking about the same thing? What if Kathryn meant they should hang like friends, meet for lunch, and, god forbid, go shopping together? Annika big her lip and had no idea what to say to figure it out.

“You did? Why? I mean, that’s your business of course.” Kathryn smoothed down Annika’s shirt collar. “I’m just interested in everything about you, that’s all.”

“I have been headhunted by several security companies over the last year and I think it’s the right time to make a change.” Annika kept her hands loosely around Kathryn’s shoulders.

“Um. Any of them keep you in California? Even in San Francisco?” It was sweet to see how casual Kathryn tried to sound, when her intense gaze spoke differently.

“Three of them. Interestingly enough, they’re the ones with the most alluring offers. Best pay too. Not to sound greedy, but that matters.”

“Sure does.” Kathryn seemed to sigh in relief. “You wouldn’t mind if we saw a lot of each other, then? Unless you fear you may get bored after a while.” Looking up at Annika through her eyelashes, Kathryn smiled crookedly.

“Never bored with you. And no, I wouldn’t mind seeing you often. I just, um, can we be more specific, Kathryn?” Annika cleared her throat.

“Specific?” Kathryn blinked. “I feel we’re not talking about the same thing, or are we?”

Digging for courage, Annika knew it was better to know now if she was totally misconstruing Kathryn’s attention, rather than when they reached the US. “I’m talking about going on dates, seeing each other in a romantic context.”

Kathryn practically fell back into Annika’s arms. “Oh, thank god. I was starting to think I couldn’t read people at all anymore and that you were going to tell me I should join your knitting circle, or something.”

Annika laughed, and she couldn’t remember when she did that last, even before the plane went down. “My hobby has very little to do with knitting. I’m more into horseback riding.”

Kathryn began laughing too. “I used to do that a lot, but I rarely have time to go to the farm these days. I’ll make sure we do that.”

“You have a farm?” Annika kept her arm around Kathryn’s shoulders and pulled her along toward the others. She would’ve loved to stay over here by Kathryn a lot longer, but she could feel them both getting cold. Chuck and the preppers had stoked the fires and people were starting to settle down with their new food. And she wanted Kathryn off her feet.

“No, but my sister does. She’s a painter and also keeps horses and other animals at her farm. My mother lives there as well, in a separate house. I usually stay in one of the small cabins my sister built to rent out if she needs extra income. These days she doesn’t, but she lends it to people in need of a change of pace.” Kathryn kept her arm around Annika’s waist. She stopped and refused to walk any closer to the others when Annika pulled at her. “No, wait. Once I get over there, I’m going to have to talk to both crewmembers and passengers. Now that I have a reasonable timeline, it’s time to fill them in. That means having to blow the whistle on having a satellite phone.”

“But I’ll help—”

“I know. I know. That’s not what I meant to say.” Kathryn looked down at her feet and kicked the sand. Then she met Annika’s gaze. “I just thought I’d ask for a kiss, our first, before potential mayhem ensues—mmm…”

Annika didn’t remember leaning in, but there she was, kissing Kathryn…and nearly losing all cohesion in her knees. Kathryn moaned and tipped her head back, holding on hard to Annika as she parted her lips. Annika responded to the obvious invite and slipped her tongue into Kathryn’s mouth, touching its counterpart. Fire rose from her stomach up her chest, igniting every cell in her body it passed. Not to mentioned everywhere Kathryn’s hands touched as they roamed Annika’s back and arms.

Sliding her lips along Kathryn’s cheek, in under her ear, and down her neck, Annika knew she had to try and stop this from going to far as they were well within sight of the others, but it was so damn hard to let go.

“Annika, you’re killing me.” Kathryn moaned. “We better get a grip…oh, sweet lord…or I may end up embarrassing us.” She gripped Annika’s collar with both hands. “Please, help me get my brain back to functional?”

“You’re saying that as if you expect mine is.” Annika stepped back, barely, and took Kathryn’s hand in hers. “All right. Are we presentable?”

“Not sure about me, but you look amazing.” Kathryn ran her tongue along her lower lip.

“And you are not helping. You look fine. We’re all a bit tousled, so who cares” Annika shrugged.

“True.”

They commenced walking toward the camp. As they approached, Andy looked at them and smiled broadly. “More people around here are into hand-holding, Miranda.”

Miranda raised an eyebrow and shook her head at Andy. “Silly girl.” She was indeed holding Andy’s hand where they sat. “Serena and Emily are fetching food for the seven of us once the passengers and the rest of the crew has had their share.”

“That’s nice of them.” Kathryn kept standing. “I’ll join you again in a little bit. I have an announcement to make after discussing it with Chuck.”

“No, wait.” Annika hoped she could get through to Kathryn. “Let everyone eat, including yourself, and then you can tell everyone. They’ll be full, you’ll get a little bit of rest, and the results will show it.”

“What results?” Miranda straightened.

“Don’t worry. It’s good news.” Kathryn glanced over at the people closest to them, but they were happily chatting while eating and didn’t seem to pay attention to the captain and her group. “We have a timeline and I promise I’ll tell you soon, but apparently I must eat as well.”

Miranda nodded and relaxed next to Andy again. “All right. I trust you.”

Annika was glad to see that Kathryn sat down and when Emily came over and handed them food and water, Annika felt she could finally let the nervous energy from the entire day seep out. She opened a protein bar and bit into it without hesitation. The two girls in the shelter hated them with a passion, but to her it was the best meal she’d had in ages.

Annika felt Kathryn flinch and that’s when she realized that the woman she had fallen for already knew.

Chapter Text

Andy stood next to Miranda as the helicopter with the last senior citizens left the beach. Further out, toward the horizon, they saw the outline of the aircraft carrier. “Can you believe it? We’re getting rescued and it makes me look at this place in a whole new light.”

Miranda turned toward her. “What do you mean?”

“It’s a beautiful island and with a stunning view of this sunset. I knew that all along, of course, but it’s as if knowing we’re going home lets me truly see it.”

“I understand. As a vacation spot, it could have been lovely, but with the Komodo dragons and the lack of sustenance, I don’t think I’ll try this resort again.” Miranda wrapped her arms around Andy’s waist. “I can’t wait to call the girls when we are aboard any of the ships.”

Andy’s heart ached at the longing in Miranda’s voice. “I know. It won’t be long. Oh…look!” Andy pointed at the ocean where she saw smaller boats approach the island. “They’ve launched some boats.”

“Yes!” Miranda placed hand over her mouth, giving a muted sob. Turning her head over her shoulder, she spoke to Nigel who stood a few feet behind them. “See?”

“I do see, Miranda.” Nigel’s voice was husky with emotions.

“As do we,” Emily said. She walked up next to Andy, together with Serena. “We’re going home.”

“Yes, we are.” Andy felt tears trickle down her cheeks. She gazed down at Miranda, feeling her tremble. They were going home and that was a blessing. Still, what would happen when they were back in New York? When Miranda was back with her children, at her job, and…was Andy going to slip into her role as second assistant—and remain there? What if she was a constant reminder of Miranda fearing she’d never see her girls again? Miranda was infamous for her ostrich technique when it came to unpleasant things. She had been known to duck and dodge.

Three speedy inflatable boats came closer and soon twelve soldiers jumped off and pulled them up. By then, Kathryn and Annika had returned from the helicopter landing site further up the beach and greeted the man who was clearly in charge.

“I’m Commander Travis of the USS Voyager,” he said, saluting Kathryn.

“Captain Kathryn Janeway. This is my first officer, Chuck Taylor.” She pointed at Chuck and then introduced Annika and Monica. “We’re very glad to see you, Commander.”

“You’ve been the focus of a lot of attention in your absence, crew and passengers alike.” Commander Travis nodded to the crowd behind Kathryn. “But we can fill you in on all of that later. We’re going to get you over to the ships. How many are left after the first helicopters took off?”

“They airlifted thirty-four people, most of the senior citizens and two different families with young children. There are two-hundred and thirty-six souls on this beach.”

Travis turned to the man next to him. “Good thing that British helicopter ship is about to catch up. It will take too long to take everyone over in these boats.” Turning back to Kathryn, he explained further. “The HMS Silver is a helicopter carrier that holds six Westland Merlins. They’ll be able to get you to the other ships and you won’t have to send the passengers over that reef we just crossed. It sure packed a wallop and I can’t imagine how you got everyone across it on the slides.”

“As you say, story time will be later,” Kathryn said. “How many can go in each helicopter?”

“Forty,” Travis said.

Kathryn motioned her crew closer and included Annika. “Divide the passengers into groups of no more than forty. Make sure families or friends stay together.” She turned back to Travis and Andy could tell Kathryn was tenser than ever. Perhaps she feared something would go awry at the last moment? “Commander,” Kathryn continued, “unless my math fails me, that means you can get us off this island in one go if they get all their birds in the air.”

“That’s exactly my recommendation, but ultimately it’s up to the British captain.” Travis lifted a radio to his lips after moving a bit away from them.

“Helicopter?” Miranda was pale despite the warm glow of the setting sun. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”

“You would like to cross the reef again even less. I still shudder at how drenched and cold we were the last time.” Nigel placed a hand on Miranda and Andy’s shoulders. “It’s a very short trip, Miranda. It’ll be over in minutes.”

“All right.” Miranda patted his hand. “Are you going to be annoyingly right in the future as well?”

“Why change now?” Nigel said, beaming at her, which rendered him a withering glance, but also another pat on his hand.

Travis came back, and a smile transformed his bearded face. “Captain Montgomery has already set things in motion and the first helicopter will be in the air in minutes. They can use the same landing site as the ones from my ship.”

“We used the slides to shield us from the sand,” Annika said, returning from the group she put together. “Will we be able to do this now as well. The sand on the beach is very fine and we’re concerned about everyone’s eyes.”

“Yes, that should work. I’ll have my men be in charge of that as they will return with me on the RIBs.”

“RIBs?” Miranda murmured.

“Rigid Inflatable Boats,” Kathryn said. “Sounds doable, Commander.”

Travis nodded briskly and walked over to his soldiers. Andy saw that four of them were women, and one in each boat held an automatic rifle of some kind. What had they thought they find?

“All the groups are sorted, Kathryn,” Chuck said from behind.

“You saved spots for us—”

“—in the last group. Yes.”

“I’m in that group too, right?” Annika asked sternly.

Kathryn opened her mouth, perhaps to object, Andy thought, but instead nodded. “Of course.”

“Thought so.” Annika merely nodded.

“Which group are we in?” Serena asked.

“Group three.” Monica came over to them. “I’ve placed the rest in your group over there by the fire as it’s getting cold.  Group four to six are also there, but on different sides.”

“Better show the soldiers where to place the slides so the fires don’t go out and we all get sandblasted.” Annika strode over to Travis and Andy saw her point in the direction of the fires. The commander nodded and motioned for his subordinates to follow him.

Andy began walking toward the area where group three sat next to the fire. She placed Miranda in front of her, set on keeping the woman she loved warm and shielded from the sand that might still reach them.

A distant, fluttering sound made everyone look out over the water. The first helicopter was on its way. As it approached them, it reminded Andy of a large bird of pray where it flew fairly close to the water. Behind it, the colored the waves golden and Andy thought it had to be one of the most beautiful sunsets she’d ever seen.

“Andrea,” Miranda leaned back and murmured in her ear. “No matter where we end up on the ship, I want you near me.”

Caught in sudden deja vue, remembering how Miranda had said something similar before they boarded the plane in Tokyo, Andy gasped. “Yes. Absolutely. Yes.”

“Promise me.” The intensity in Miranda’s voice made Andy hold her closer.

“I promise.” As Miranda’s head was still leaning against Andy’s shoulder, her face turned toward her, it was as easy as it was natural to seal the promise with a kiss.

Chapter Text

“Mom!” The twins spoke in chorus as they so often did, making Miranda sob mutedly. Their sweet voices, sounding so relieved, so cheerful, for the most part, also had an undertone of stress that didn’t elude her. Pressing her fist against her mouth, she inhaled sharply through her nose while trying to find her bearings.

“Yes, I’m here and I’m fine. We’re all unharmed.” Miranda forced her voice to sound steady and reassuring.

“The others from Runway too? Andy?”

Andy? “Yes, Andrea’s doing well.”

“She promised to look after you.” Cassidy sighed. “We trust her with you, mom.”

Miranda couldn’t get words out at first. “Um. Trust her with me? What do you mean, Bobbsey?”

“Ah, you know. We know dad was never good for you. Stephen was a disaster. So we trust Andy to know what’s best.” Caroline spoke curtly. “You don’t always do, mom.”

Out of the mouth of babes… “We’re going to have to talk about that when I get home, my darlings. No matter what, Andrea has made sure I was safe and taken care of so, yes, your trust in her was not misplaced.” Glancing over her shoulder, Miranda saw the long line of people needing to use the ship’s phones. “We’re going to be home in about four days.”

“Four days?!” the girls groaned. “That’s like, forever.”

“Yes, it sure seems that way,” Miranda said softly, “but I know you’re safe with you father and you know I’m safe too. With Andrea.”

“True.”

Miranda sent them kisses over the phone and then reluctantly handed the phone over to a couple waiting behind her. She had gotten in line to use the phone as soon as they had been allowed into the bowels of the aircraft carrier, while Andrea made sure they had somewhere to sleep. When Miranda asked if Andrea didn’t want to call anyone, like her parents, she had become concerned when the young woman only shook her head with a sad expression in her eyes.

“I’ll shoot them some texts and an email when a computer is free. They know I’m all right as the airline called my friend Doug and he knows to inform them.” Andrea tugged at her fingers, smiling too broadly. “We’re not on the best of turns, but perhaps this will be a wakeup call for them. And, no, I’m not punishing them—I just can’t deal with the same ol’, same ol’, right now.”

“I see,” Miranda had answered, even if she didn’t. So, Andrea had had a falling out with her parents? Andrea? This far too kind and caring woman whom Miranda feared would get trampled and hurt just because she was so warmhearted. No doubt the fault lay with her parents and perhaps it was about Andrea working at Runway, or for Miranda, or both? Instead of continuing her ivy league education and becoming a lawyer. Miranda had reread Andrea’s CV only a short while ago and knew how brilliant she was.

Now, the brilliant girl stood at the far end of the long corridor, waiting patiently for Miranda. When she spotted her, Andrea lit up and raised her hand. As if Miranda wouldn’t always know instinctively where Andrea was in any room, any place? She huffed to herself. She had from the start. As soon as she really saw Andrea, it was as if someone had attached a homing beacon to her second assistant, making sure Miranda had to look up and she’d be there. Like now.

As Miranda reached her, Andrea studied her closely. “How did it go? Were they okay? Did they cry? Did you?”

Miranda had to smile. “Well. Yes, Yes. And yes.”

Andrea raised her eyebrow. “Oh. Oh! Okay, that was expected. A lot of tension being released. For all of you.”

“According to my girls they made sure they could trust you with me.” Miranda knew she was teasing, but she had to see Andrea’s expression at the girls’ statement. To her delight, Andrea blushed profusely. “I see.”

“Hm. Well, they did say something like that before Tokyo. And stuff.”

Miranda tilted her head. “Stuff? Well, I need to hear about that some more, but preferable not in the corridor. Have you any idea where we’re supposed to go?”

“Yes. The crew is sharing each other’s quarters until we reach California. We could choose between bunkbeds in a cabin with several beads, or…and I hope you think I made the right choice…a single bed cabin, but it has its own sink at least. The head is down the corridor, I’m afraid.”

“After the makeshift place we had to use these last few days, any facility that actually flushes is to be preferred.” Miranda let Andrea guide her to their quarters. “And as for having to share a bed, that’s preferable when I share it with you.”

Andrea whipped her head toward Miranda. “Yes? Really?”

“Really. Ah, is this it?” Miranda waited for Andrea to open the door to the quarters. It was cramped and only held a bed, a desk, and a chair, but it was indoors, had air condition, and, yes, a metal sink. Someone had put a set of simple toiletries and towels on the edge under the mirror, and on the chair sat two sets of clothes. Navy track suits.

“Did you arrange this?”

“Yes.” Andrea nodded. “They had arranged piles for us to pick from. I figured we’d both want to shower and get out of these clothes.”

“You figured correctly. I will however settle for washing at the sink tonight and have a proper shower tomorrow morning.”

“Me too. I don’t know about you but getting rescued made me more tired than being marooned.” Andrea stepped closer. Hesitantly, she placed her arms around Miranda and pulled her close.

Not about to allow insecurity or misplaced caution to stop them from embracing the way she needed them to, Miranda tugged Andrea closer and captured her full lips with her own. Gently, she opened her mouth and ran her tongue along Andrea’s lower lip. “Let me in, please, Andrea,” she whispered against the dampness of Andrea’s mouth. “Let me kiss you.”

“Oh, god…” Andrea shoved her hands into Miranda’s hair and tilted her head just so. Their tongues tangled and they deepened the kiss, and Miranda knew, her emotions, with each caress.

Sliding her hands in under Andrea’s shirt, she ran her fingertips greedily over the smooth skin, delighting in the sensation it created within her. Andrea groaned into Miranda’s mouth, nipping at her lips only to seize them again.

“So, sharing a bed, are we? Just us. No passengers or crew.” Andrea breathed the words against Miranda’s neck. “Sure you know what you’re getting yourself into?”

“No, but I know this to be true,” Miranda answered huskily. “I don’t think I can be without you, here in these quarters, or back home on Manhattan. Do you think you can see yourself get into that?” She pulled back some, looked up into Andrea’s warm, brown eyes.

There it was. Andrea’s amazing, broad smile. However weirdly Miranda had put her question, clearly, she had gotten it right.

“Yes, I can. Very vividly.” Andrea beamed. “Now I have another question.”

“Do go on.” Miranda deliberately pursed her lips, but Andrea just laughed.

“Will you wash my back if I do the same for you?” She looked over at the sink.

Miranda tugged Andrea closer again, hugging her tight. “Deal.”

 

#

 

Kathryn and Chuck stood in the captain’s office next to Commander Travis. Having briefed the aircraft carrier’s captain about a few more details about ditching the plane and how they had survived as well as they had on the island, she was exhausted.

“If you don’t hit the rack, Captain,” the captain said, “I think your air marshal will commit a felony with me as the victim for keeping you here too long.”

“I’m fine, sir.” Kathryn squared her shoulders. She was not the captain of this vessel, but she was still responsible for her crew and passengers. “I can’t settle down before I know everyone else of my people are having their needs met.”

“Do come in, Marshal,” the captain said and waved Annika in. “I think you’ve been briefed outside of my crew’s efforts?”

“Yes, sir. Kathryn, everyone has a bed to sleep in. Some share quarters and beds, but they’ve been offered food, clothes, toiletries, calls home, and so on. I think you need to stand down, at least for tonight. I have everything we need here.” Annika held up a large paper bag.

Kathryn sighed when she saw Chuck nod emphatically. “All right. I will.” Turning back to captain, she thanked him warmly.

“I’m bunking with the CAG. You will have my quarters,” Travis said. “Perhaps you can share with a crewmember or your air marshal?”

“That’s very generous.” Kathryn almost claimed that any rack would do, but the idea of sharing with Annika, of having her close when potential nightmares hit, was too good to pass up on. “Thank you.”

Travis summoned a crewman and put her in charge of showing Kathryn and Annika to his quarters. Fortunately, it wasn’t far, as the ship was huge. They passed a mess hall where crewmen on a break sat with coffee, no doubt to remain awake. When Kathryn passed them, she smiled politely as she heard someone whisper “that’s Janeway, the captain.”

Suddenly a young sailor flew up on his seat. “Oh, captain, my captain,” he said, saluting. The woman next to him only took a moment to repeat his gesture and then the room roared as at least fifty sailors were applauding and stomping while standing on their seats.

“What the hell…?” Kathryn stared at them and then looked over at Chuck and Annika who merely smiled back at her.

“Please.” Kathryn swallowed hard. She raised her hands, palms forward. “Don’t. Please, sit down.”

The applause still went on and only when others joined from the door, did the crewmen step down. Kathryn looked over toward the corridor they came from and saw the captain, Travis, and a man Kathryn thought might be the CAG, having joined in the clapping.

“Thank you,” Kathryn said. “And thank you for what you’re doing for my passengers and crew.”

The crewmen had settled down now that the officers were present. “Ma’am, we only got the chance to do anything for them because you did the right thing first.” The young woman closest to Kathryn smiled. “So thankyou.”

Kathryn kept it together until she and Annika was safe in Travis’s quarters. There she fell back at the closed door and felt tears begin to run. Annika was there immediately, pulling her into her arms. “You did it. We did it.”

“Yes. We did.” Clinging to the woman that had come to mean so much to her, hell, who was she kidding, Annika meant everything. Kathryn cupped the stunning face before her and kissed her gently. “You’re amazing. You helped me through this more than anyone else.”

“I had no choice,” Annika said calmly.

“What do you mean?” Kathryn blinked.

“Turns out I want a lot of things when it comes to you, so whatever I could do to help you, protect you, and support you, I tried to do. I had to be part of trying to get us rehydrated, fed, and home, because I need the chance with you.” Annika colored faintly.

“Oh, thank god. I’m not sure what I feared you’d say, but that was better.”

“A lot better?” Now Annika’s smile blinded Kathryn.

“Like night and day.” Kathryn rose on her toes and pressed her lips against Annika’s again. “And just so you know, I’m going to love getting to truly know you. I feel I know the most important things about you, because you’re wonderful, brave, and amazing. But I want to know much, much more.”

“As do I.” Annika buried her face into Kathryn’s hair. “Mind sharing the bed much?” she chuckled.

“Oh, god. Look at all that space.” Kathryn regarded Travis’s bed. “I think I may just crowd you anyway, despite how huge it seems after sleeping under the slides with all those people.”

“Being crowded by you has to be the best news I’ve heard since I stepped aboard this ship,” Annika said. “I’ve gotten very fond of having you close when we sleep.”

Smiling, Kathryn found herself wrapped up in the safety of Annika’s arms. “What do you say we brush our teeth and fall into bed? It’s either that or I’m going to fall asleep where I stand.”

“Good idea.”

They did just that. Brushed their teeth, which Kathryn found to be close to a religious experience, and then removed all their clothes and climbed into bed. Kathryn wondered if she shouldn’t be at least a little self-conscious about their state of undress, but she couldn’t muster the energy. When Annika pulled her into her arms, Kathryn closed her eyes and buried her face Annika’s long, alabaster neck.

As she let the unfamiliar sounds of the ship lull her to sleep, she thought of the family in the shelter inside the rock. Chris had explained enough for Kathryn to understand how imperative it was she never let anyone know about their presence at the location. She and Annika had looked for the opening in the jungle when they went to hide the cart near it but hadn’t been able to find it. Somehow, the family had managed to mask it, which was reassuring.

Closing her eyes, Kathryn let sleep claim her, safe in the knowledge that Annika would be there if she woke from a nightmare. Should the same thing happen to Annika, Kathryn vowed to hold the woman she’d come to care so deeply for, and not let go.

 

#

 

“They’re gone.” Glenn came and sat down at the dining table where the grandparents were playing bridge. “You were right. Helicopters picked them up last night.”

“Thank god.” Chris sighed and stretched. “I’m glad we could help them without getting compromised.”

“I’m glad they’re save too, but we’re going to have to take some measures, honey.” Glenn could tell that their parents were listening but left it to him and Chris to decide.

“Yes, I know. Still, we couldn’t let our safety outweigh the needs of so many, Glenn. That’s not us.”

“Wrong.” Glenn poured himself a cup of coffee from the thermos. “That’s who we weren’t. We can’t reason like that anymore, or we’ll undo all the planning.”

“Aw, come on,” Chris said, poking him in the chest. “You’re all talk. You’d never let innocent people, children, die to keep yourself save.”

“No. Perhaps not. But to keep our children safe. So would you.” Glenn rubbed the back of his neck. “Damn. I never should have gone into business with that man, nor turned state evidence. If I had looked the other way, you’d be running your charity, I’d be head deep in my business, and the kids would be able to be with their friends. And we wouldn’t have uprooted your siblings.”

“But you did. And you had to. A lot worse could have happened to a god knows how many people if you hadn’t. So that’s why I know you’re full of it, babe.” Chris caressed his cheek in a gesture so loving and familiar, Glenn closed his eyes at the emotions that filled him. “We had the power to do this. The money. The resources. We could’ve gone into witness protection, but instead we did this on our terms. Nobody can track us here. Even if they can, Annika falling into the elevator shaft was a good thing as it allowed us to keep that from happening ever again.”

“She’s right, Glenn,” Chris’s brother Mike said as he came over to join them. “We’re together. And you and I made it much harder for anyone to spot the tracks leading here. Another oversight we’re lucky they showed us, albeit inadvertently.”

“And besides. His time’s up any day, son,” Glenn’s father said. “Once they have him behind bars where he belongs, we can choose freely what to do. Return to our old lives, or start fresh as new people, somewhere else.”

Glenn regarded them and knew he was a lucky guy to have their unwavering support. Perhaps they were right. Maybe he was a selfless guy who willingly helped the strangers that had been marooned on their island.

Either way, his dad was right. It wouldn’t be too long now before the man who was to blame for all of this, paid the price for his crimes, and then they’d be free.

 


The End