Captain James Holland is the pilot on a routine flight from Frankfurt to New York, packed with people eager to be home for Christmas. When a passenger collapses from what appears to be a heart attack, Holland is forced to request an emergency landing at London's Heathrow Airport. But to his great surprise, the air traffic controllers will not let him land in England they tell Holland that his sick passenger has contracted a dangerous new form of influenza and that the plane must return to Germany.
But when German officials also refuse the landing, and other European countries follow suit, Holland begins to suspect that he's in much more trouble than anyone's letting on. In fact, his sick passenger is carrying a deadly virus accidentally released from a Bavarian laboratory, and it is feared that everyone on board is now infected. At the same time, someone with access to the CIA's computers wants to shoot the plane out of the sky, and there is a United States ambassador on board with powerful terrorist enemies who want to see him dead. While the panic on the ground spreads from the White House Situation Room to a small airport in the Ukrainian Republic, Captain Holland has only one concern: Where and when can he land?
Pandora's Clock the most gripping, heart-stopping read of the year.
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Aboard Flight 66 - Friday, December 22 - 5:10 P.M. (161oZ.)
As the English coastline passed beneath the nose of Quantum's westbound flight 66, the flight attendant call chime began ringing in the cockpit -- not once, but five times in rapid succession.
There was no procedure for such a signal.
James Holland toggled the interphone as he glanced at Dick Robb, who seemed equally alarmed.
"Flight deck," Holland said.
A tense, feminine voice flooded his ear.
"Captain, this is Linda at door 2B. I think we've got a heart attack here!"
"Okay, how bad is it?"
"He's an older man. Brenda's started CPR," she continued. "He got sick right after liftoff, but suddenly he keeled over in his seat. We gave him oxygen, but he's almost stopped breathing."
"Have you checked to see if there's a doctor aboard?" Holland asked.
"We did, yes. A Swiss doctor responded, and he said we've got to get this man to a hospital fast or we'll lose him."
"Okay, Linda. Keep us informed."
Dick Robb had nodded and was already calling the air traffic controller, anticipating Holland's decision.
"London Center, Quantum sixty-six. We have a medical emergency aboard and need immediate vectors for an emergency landing at..." Robb glanced at Holland and raised an eyebrow, aware he'd jumped the gun -- and equally aware Holland wouldn't protest. What choice did they have?
"Let's go to London Heathrow," Holland shot back. "Ask for priority handling, and we need paramedics to meet us."
"Robb repeated the request and took the new clearance as the captain dialed in the course direct to London and began an autopilotdescent out of thirty-three thousand feet. Holland reached forward at the same time to type "LON" into the flight management computer and hit the execute button. The big Boeing immediately began a turn to the left to follow the new course as Dick Robb folded his arms and sat back with a look of forced disgust.
"You're going to do this solo, then?" Robb asked. Holland glanced at him, not comprehending. "What?"
"The book says that the pilot-not-flying programs the computer. You're the pilot flying on this trip. I'm the pilot not flying."
Holland studied Robb's face. He was serious, and there wasn't time for a confrontation, even if he'd wanted one.
"Sorry, Dick," Holland said. "You were busy working the radios, and we've got an emergency here." He gestured toward the flight management computer, trying not to look disgusted. "Please give me direct London, and let's plan the ILS approach."
"That's more like it," was Robb's singular response.
One story below the cockpit, in the neutral zone between coach class and business class, a small group of flight attendants and several concerned passengers huddled around the figure of a small man lying prone on the floor. Brenda Hopkins, the redheaded flight attendant with supermodel features who had helped Earnest Helms to his seat, knelt by his head alternately trying to breathe life into his mouth between impassioned attempts to pump his chest and circulate enough blood to his brain. Her hair had gone wild and her uniform was stained, but she was oblivious to anything but the battle to save her passenger.
Breathe into his mouth five times, listen, pump his chest fifteen times. Short, hard, downward strokes. Remember the training!
Over and over again.
She had been at it for ten minutes, but despite a routine of running and daily workouts, she was tiring.
The Swiss physician hovered over her, monitoring the rhythm of her efforts but making no attempt to take over until she was ready for relief. His frustration at having no medical tools to hello the man was driving him to think frantically of other alternatives.
Another flight attendant had produced the airplane's emergency medical kit, but it was impossibly crude, and there was no defibrillator -- which was the one instrument he really needed.
As they felt the aircraft turning and descending, there was a spark of a response, a gasp of sorts, and the patient seemed to arch his back slightly as if taking a breath on his own. The doctor put his ear to the man's chest, verifying a weak, unstable heartbeat -- which immediately faltered.
"We almost had him," he told Brenda.
She took a deep breath, wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, and started again -- her mouth closing around the patients' as she held his bald head and tried not to think about the fact that he was sick -- with what, she had no idea. She was terrified of AIDS, and bad cases of the flu, and any other terrible malady she might get from direct contact.
But she had always wanted to be a doctor, and wasn't this where it began? Her passenger was desperate. She couldn't worry about the consequences.
What People are Saying About This
Combines exquisite suspense and cardiac arrest action.