Just a little thing that came to me as I watch the horror and devastation that man will do to his fellow man. I wonder if there is hope for us on this planet until I see the selfless actions of those who fight to rescue those trapped, risking their lives as many did yesterday and paid the ultimate price for their devotion to duty. At this time my thoughts go out to all of you in the USA and my prayers are for those who have lost loved ones in this atrocity.
So This Nation Shall Not Perish...
©2001, by Hypatia -- all rights reserved
The approach to Bangor International was rough, the New England weather conspiring to make even this method of entry into the US difficult. I don't know how many people that came to check us out noticed our escort, but as I looked out of the window the under-slung ordinance was unmistakable. Most of the people on this flight were too concerned about the other passengers to look out the window. As we boarded the plane at Manchester, one hysterical female had started shouting that one man looked like a Muslim, as if any Muslim who could slip past the security of an airport could be recognized by a civilian. The protesting man was taken away and an hour and a half was lost as baggage and security was checked again. Not that security was a problem for me, my ID opened many doors closed to most but I didn't want to advertise my presence here today.
It was with relief that we touched down and the intense security checks that governed all flights across the Continental USA began.
"May I see your passport, visa and travel authorization please?" the customs official asked. The two armed soldiers behind him took this job seriously and more than one fatality had occurred at this port of entry.
"Yes," I said slowly removing my papers from my pocket. One of the marines raised his weapon at me.
"Sir can you open your jacket very slowly?" he said and the customs man moved away from me.
"I am MI5. My ID is with my paperwork and I am authorized to carry a weapon on all flights," I told him. It was true and I would have faced disciplinary action if I had not been carrying a weapon. The Marine didn't look convinced.
"I am going to remove my jacket very slowly now and let it fall to the floor," I told him, slowly keeping my hands in sight at all times. "Then you can remove my weapon and secure it or I can hand it to you to examine."
"Move very slowly, Sir," the Marine said. Both of them now had their weapons trained on me and I did. As my jacket fell to the floor the room door burst open and a uniformed officer walked in.
"Stop pissing around Harris, you are expected in Washington as soon as possible. We have a helicopter waiting for you," the General said.
"It's good to see you again, Sir," I said keeping my hands up.
"For God's sake put your bloody hands down man," he said angrily and I slowly lowered them.
"Harris here is cleared to enter the U.S. without delay. If you would look at his paperwork please," the General said to the customs official, who appeared to be confused as to why a British Officer had come bursting into his processing area.
"Who are you Sir?" he asked before looking at my paperwork.
"I am no one. I am not here. Neither is Harris. This did not happen and you will carry on as normal," the General said flashing an ID card. The Marines lowered their weapons and came to attention. The customs man gave my paperwork a cursory glance and nodded me through.
The General then took me out the door and through the corridors full of military personnel. "What is going on, Sir?" I asked as I looked around at all the activity going on in the airport.
"Mossad took out a Palestinian base three hours ago and the reprisals are expected to start soon," he explained.
"Which one?" I asked.
"Just a minor one just inside the Syrian border but as normal Mossad was not too worried about collateral damage. There was a large loss of civilian life," General Cummings explained. "Why they couldn't just wait and let us send in a team, I don't know."
"The Israelis dislike being dependent on us for anything. Too many times in the past, the atrocities committed against the Jewish people have been observed by Western nations and ignored," I replied.
"Yes but that all changed with the new Jihads," he said angrily.
"It did -- sort of, Sir." I was unwilling to disagree with him totally. "But though the attacks from the air are something that grabbed the world's attention, the loss of life in Israel was much larger."
"I know, but at this time, with the situation with the Damocles operation, their escalation of the situation is unnecessary," he responded angrily. "Sorry Harris. I know it's not you, but I was given assurances less than twenty-four hours ago that nothing like this would happen. I shouldn't have trusted the lying bastard."
"Sir, I know, and you know, that both of us have lied to in the past to ensure that security was maintained," I reminded him as doors were opened for us. "I just hope they hit no one big. We don't need another martyr at this time."
General Cummings grew quiet at that and I stayed quiet as we were led to the waiting helicopter. The smell of aviation fuel was strong from the aircraft and the heat from the engines blew across us mixed with the blast from the rotors. This was an urgent mission and to that end they were pulling out all stops to get me to Washington.
As we lifted, I looked out of the window and could see two military jets taxiing to take position at the end of the runway. The missiles they carried were to be used in defense of a nation, a nation that had been living under a shadow of fear since 8:45 on the eleventh of September 2001. For twenty-six years this fear had ruled and the names of the Martyrs for the cause of Islam had grown from the original twelve. Every terrorist group with a faction fanatical enough to give their life for a cause had jumped on the idea that was displayed to full effect that day. Gone was the possibility of hijacking and demands for the release of prisoners, you just took over a large jet and flew it above a metropolitan area. The New York incident was just the start; the World Trade Center, though horrific, was just a prelude to the terrors to come.
As we approached New York from the north, the air cover that protected the city was obvious and to those who knew what to look for the anti-aircraft defenses could also be seen. London had tried to cope without these precautions, but with such a concentration of major airports it was a fatal mistake. The four aircraft that carried out the attack on London had been in the air a matter of minutes when they were hijacked. After the pilots were killed, the targets had been simple, Westminster, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and The Financial District.
Though the world had been appalled at the horror inflicted on the US and offered all assistance in tracking down those responsible, no one had realized what a war against these people would cost in human lives. The psychology of the terrorists responsible for the attacks was something that had been neglected. Any action large enough to make them think twice about committing an atrocity brought more supporters from within the Muslim world. Many times action had been taken and each time the ranks of the terrorists had swelled, with more and more flocking to give their life for the chance to hurt a western nation.
The skyline of Manhattan was on show now and I turned my attention away. The gaping area where the Trade Center had been was a permanent reminder of what was started and yet had to be finished.
"What is the situation with Damocles?" General Cummings asked.
"Well, all is ready. We have a couple of decent sites to try it on, but we are talking an enormous step here. The psychology of the situation is unclear as nothing has ever been considered like this before," I told him.
"You are too young to remember the first attack aren't you?" the General asked me.
"I remember it, Sir, but I was still in school and the impact of it didn't actually reach me," I admitted.
"I saw it on television. I watched the second jet plunge into the tower over and over again, though the sight sickened me. That a person would do that, without remorse, to an innocent unsuspecting population is what gives me the conviction to carry on with this course of action," he said firmly. "The later attacks just made my resolve firmer."
"I know, Sir, but with the initial retaliation against Osama Bin Ladin, we had the attack on London and Berlin, carried out as a reprisal for the role that American bases on British and German soil played in the bombing of the Afghan capitol," I said, then added at the end, "then the loss of Tel Aviv."
"Yes and Pakistan's involvement with the nuclear weapon that was supplied to the Black September group was proved and retaliation was swift," the General said, referring to the firestorm that had destroyed Kabul.
"Sir, this is a possible escalation that would make that look like nothing," I answered firmly. "We are talking about the extermination of a population within a hundred years."
"Good," the General replied.
We landed at the Pentagon, the other symbol of what had been done that day when the sleeping dragon of American patriotism had been released. Our IDs were checked by armed guards at many points before I was finally led into the briefing room. Before I sat, I looked around at the people gathered here. Some, such as the Secretary of Defense, I recognized, but most I didn't.
"This meeting is classed as Top Secret. No information is to be divulged outside this room and all materials are to stay here," General Cummings said looking around the room.
"Yes General. We know all that. Now can we get on with business and have you tell us what has got the British establishment so fired up?" the Secretary of Defense asked irritably.
I stood up at this point and looked around the room. This was my project. I had conceptualized it and nurtured it. Now, at the time when I should be happy, I was scared. What was I condemning a population to?
"Come on then son, talk to us," the Secretary demanded, although with a little more sympathy than he had offered General Cummings.
"Basically Sir, what project Damocles is, is the destruction of a population which has been aligned against us for almost three decades," I said as I passed around the literature.
"In the beginning, this was a dirty tricks project, not intended to cause a loss of life, but to cause disruption within the areas that are the bases for the fundamentalist forces," I explained to them and got blank looks in return.
"We were looking for ways to make the masses who flock to join the Jihads think twice before joining," I told them.
"Inconvenience them?" a man in an American Air Force Uniform asked with scorn in his voice. "We are fighting a war and you want to inconvenience them, we need to kill the bastards."
"Many things that cause inconvenience are useful," General Cummings said in my defense. "Think of the disruption on the French railways during the Second World War. Trucks carrying supplies to the German Army very rarely arrived at their destination the first time, due to small acts of sabotage such as contaminated axle grease. It was very -- useful."
"Yes. I can understand that, but why drag us in here for inconvenience?" he asked.
"If you will let me continue, Sir, I will explain." I interjected, trying to regain control of the conversation.
"Hold your tongue for the moment Clive. Let him finish," The Secretary said to my inquisitor and nodded to me with a smile.
"Well, we started research on the common childhood diseases, those so infectious that they are unlikely ever to be eradicated. We were working on mumps and with a bit of genetic tinkering we happened to beef it up a bit," I said.
"Beef up mumps? What the hell is that going to do?" the Air Force Officer demanded.
"Very simply Sir, we are talking about the possibility of wiping out the reproductive capability of all nations who sponsor the war against the west," I explained, "and there are a few other rather interesting side effects."
"How many will this virus kill?" the Secretary asked.
"Less than one percent of those infected, a lot less than one percent, and it is different enough that it makes no difference if you have already had mumps."
"You are talking about wiping out a country within a hundred years, what risks are there to us in the Western World?" a U.S. Army Officer asked.
"With a simple variation of the Mumps, Measles and Rubella vaccine that is used so often on our own children, we have immunized the population, but with the length of the infectious period and the incapacity caused by the infection, it is unlikely that anyone carrying the disease will be traveling out of their own country."
"What are we talking about here? Can you put it as simply as possible why I should be listening to you?" the Air Force Office asked.
"Well Sir, what we are talking about is giving every male in hostile territory a very bad case of the mumps. This will result in bilateral orchitus and destruction of the testes, basically we are talking about the sterilization of every male in the region." I spoke carefully and slowly, allowing them to digest the words.
"What of these other interesting side effects?" the Secretary asked.
"Well the Fundamentalist Islamic Nations are very male dominated societies. What we do will undermine the structure of their society. We are talking genocide as the result of our actions, but there is more. The testes are destroyed in the two days the virus is active. As a result, all testosterone production in the body is stopped. The human body is a carefully regulated system and both males and females produce testosterone and the female sex hormones," I said, looking around at the faces and seeing how little comprehension these people had of what I was saying.
"Can you put that in a way us old men can understand?" a Naval Officer asked with a smile. "We aren't exactly the brightest when it comes to human biology."
I waited till the laughter stopped and then took a deep breath.
"Basically, with no testosterone in the system at all, the males who have been infected will begin to have problems. Initially, secondary female sexual characteristics are likely to develop, primary and secondary masculine development will be affected drastically." I still received some blank looks though some where laughing at this point.
"Basically, Sirs, after being infected, the men are likely to stop growing beards, a large number will grow breasts and their male sexual organs will atrophy. Also, since testosterone is so closely associated with aggression they will be a lot less aggressive." There were gasps and laughter all around. Everyone understood.
"Son, what you are suggesting we do is, as well as stopping them from making more of the little bastards to attack, stick a pair of tits on every one of the sick bastards," the Secretary spoke lightly, but there was steel in his eyes.
"Yes Sir, though with time other health problems such as osteoporosis are likely to be encountered due to the lack of hormones in their systems," I added quickly.
"Can they make hormones over there?" the Air Force Officer asked.
"They could Sir, but not for all of their populations and any facility large enough to manufacture them is an easy target. However, this shouldn't be taken lightly. We are talking about the extermination of a people."
"Tell them the other suggestion Harris," General Cummings said looking at me.
"Yes Sir," I said refusing to look back at him. I didn't like this part. It was likely to sell this whole idea to these men, yet I felt it was morally wrong.
"The men will need hormones to prevent osteoporosis, the leaching of calcium from the skeletal structure, a condition common in post menopausal women. Hormones are needed to prevent this, that only we would be able to supply, but they don't have to be male hormones."
The laughter grew in intensity from the group.
"You are well placed in the dirty tricks department Harris," the Secretary of Defense said while laughing.
"Yes Sir, from all our information this should stop all aggressive acts towards our countries and only a small area needs to be targeted for the rest of the involved parties to capitulate," I elaborated hoping to tame the situation down.
"But if we hit them all at once, we can end the problem once and for all. Any self-respecting Islamic Fundamentalist terrorist is going to think twice about what action he takes against us if he has to put on a bra before coming out to war," General Cummings said smiling. The man loved this idea.
"Yes Sir, that is basically the psychology of the situation, but what the long term affects is likely to be I don't know. We will also eliminate the possibility of the prepubescent males in the area taking action against us in the future, as they will never grow to be male at least as we understand it," I told them. "But I must say that, despite the fact that this operation and the ideas are mine, I feel they are morally wrong and we shouldn't even consider trying this."
"So you don't like the idea, yet you came up with it and presented it here," the Secretary said looking sternly at me. The steel was back in his eyes as he tried to fathom my intent.
"Yes Sir. I may not like the idea but I know my duty and my responsibility. This decision is not up to me and, though I may not like it, I have to present it properly." I waited for the rebuke.
"Well spoken Harris. I like your style and we will consider the moral issues before any action is taken, but as one who was there when the Pentagon was hit in 2001, I can honestly say that there is very little I would consider 'too drastic' with these people. They deserve all that they get and unless you have experienced it, lived through it, you wouldn't understand. This is not a case of a vengeance weapon, this is a way of ensuring that this nation, and the ideals for which it stands, does not perish from the earth," he intoned to all assembled. "Thank you Harris for being so honest. I promise all factors will be taken into account before any action is taken."
"Thank you sir," I said. "I just felt I had to tell you my personal opinion."
"I have listened and I will pass it on to the President when I meet with him. You may leave now Harris," the Secretary said and I made my way to the door. In the company of an armed escort, I was led to an area to wait and a plastic cup of liquid, supposedly coffee, was passed to me. I sat there silently sipping it and watching the people go past. My escort seemed unwilling to enter into any conversation.
"Just what the hell was that all about?" General Cummings asked from my side and I sprang to my feet spilling the coffee down my trouser leg.
"Sorry Sir. You know how I feel about this project and I felt I had to say what I thought," I told him.
"We will let it pass for the moment, but there will be words when I return to Britain. If it had been anyone else but the Secretary there, you would have made me look like a right fool. Luckily he likes people who speak their mind," he said as he looked at my wet trousers.
"Sorry Sir," I repeated.
"I think you are too much of a liability to continue presenting the case here. You are to get the next flight back and to start making preparations to implement Damocles. You can do that?" he added on the end, the scorn in his voice obvious.
"Yes Sir, I meant it when I said that I know my duty and responsibility," I told him.
"Good. The helicopter is waiting to take you back to Bangor and, despite the outburst, good job," he added as a parting shot.
"Thank you Sir," I called after his retreating figure before being escorted out to the waiting aircraft.
The Boeing Osprey hadn't bothered folding its blades and with the vulnerable position it was still in, I decided that my trip back hadn't been a spur of the moment decision. They had planned on me going straight back. I should consider myself honored, though. A twenty four-seat troop carrier, all for me. With the price of fuel at the moment, this trip would probably cost more than I earned in two months. As the rotors started, I contemplated the impending atrocity I was responsible for unleashing on the world.
In Bangor, thanks to my escort, I was swiftly through customs and on the 767 before any of the other passengers. I could see a few of the first on board look at me with surprise and a little suspicion as I sat at the back, but I just sat there watching them getting shown to their seats with an expression of obvious boredom.
The engines started and eventually we taxied to the end of the runway. Then the engines powered up and I was pressed back into my seat by the acceleration and the nose of the plane lifting. A few seconds later we were airborne.
I sat there thinking as we ascended through the rough weather. Perhaps I should have suppressed the research and lost the data. The annihilation of a people, however hell bent on the death of everything that the democratic nations of the west stood for, had to be wrong. What would the Chinese reaction be to this? After the first polite offerings of sympathy, they had sat quietly while the conflict raged, neither condemning nor approving actions on either side that could be classed as a crime against humanity. What I had put in action was comparable to the nuclear detonation that destroyed so many in Tel Aviv. I would be the person responsible for all that occurred from this point forward.
Movement about a third of the way up the aircraft got my attention. Three men stood at the same time and one of them walked down the aisle towards me. Four rows in front of me his left hand shot out towards a man who sat in the isle seat. A flash of silver caught my eye. A woman screamed and I heard a gurgle from the man who had just been assaulted.
The man just in front of me reached towards the man he had assaulted and pulled out something from his clothing. I saw it was a gun and realized that whoever they were, they had just taken out the Sky Marshal on board.
"Everyone will sit down, remain quiet and stay in their seat," he shouted down the body of the plane. The woman next to the Sky Marshal was still screaming and without a thought the man turned and fired. The silence after the shot was deafening.
The Marshal had probably been loaded with low velocity soft slugs like I was, but even though they are not supposed to penetrate an aircrafts skin, I wouldn't have risked shooting the woman while pointing the weapon at the side of the aircraft. The woman, being made of slightly less resilient material than the aircraft, died as her head was destroyed by the bullet. Luckily, the bulkhead, though damaged by the bullet and the mass of brains and bone, held.
"Your one chance to live at this time is if you do exactly as I say," the murdering bastard shouted down the aircraft.
"We are demanding that all our brothers and sisters living in the shadow of Israeli opre-"
He was cut off at this point by the two shots that hit him in the left side of his chest in the back. I couldn't miss at that distance and he was thrown forward onto his face. I walked forward and picked up the dropped revolver. Glancing to the right, I saw that the original owner had had his throat cut by an improvised knife made from razor blades embedded in something that looked like a hair brush handle.
"Who are you?" a man to my left demanded.
"Harris, British Military Intelligence," I said training my weapon on him.
"Hughes. NYPD," he said, pulling a badge from his pocket. I glanced at it and passed him the revolver.
"If you make use of that, don't take out a window" I told him and the two of us made our way up the aisle of the aircraft.
Ahead of us, a stewardess was on the floor clutching her face as blood poured through her fingers. I stepped past her, while Hughes stopped and helped her into a seat. I waited for him while looking forward to the curtained area ahead, keeping the Browning I carried raised and watching either side in case someone came at us from one of the forward seats. The curtain moved and another stewardess was thrust out ahead of a dark haired man with a beard.
"You will now drop your weapons or this woman dies," he said without any trace of an accent.
"No," I replied and took aim at a distance of about twenty foot.
The homemade knife was waved under the stewardess' throat and then pointed in our direction.
"I will use it. Put your weapons down or this woman's blood will be on your..."
The explosion of my weapon stopped him speaking. It wasn't a clean shot, the angle at which he held his head and the area I had to aim for had limited my choices. The bullet entered his head slightly to the right of his nose just at the level of his eyebrows. It exited through the same side just before his ear. Clean or not he dropped twitching from the damage the bullet made from its passage and I swiftly pulled the stewardess out the way while placing a second round in the back of the man's head just to make sure.
Pulling open the curtain I saw the galley area ahead and the closed door to the cockpit.
"You kick, I enter first," I whispered to Hughes. "I go right, you follow left."
He nodded, took position by the door and kicked. It held tight. He kicked again and it still held.
I tried the handle and it was locked. Taking aim at the area I assumed was the lock, I fired two shots into it and Hughes kicked again. This time it opened and I dived inside. Seeing the one person not in uniform I instinctively fired. I hit him twice in the chest and he fell.
"Clear," I shouted and Hughes helped me up.
"Are you hurt?" he asked.
"No but I think we are short a flight crew, I noted looking at the bodies of the two crew. Both had had their throats cut, but for some reason their faces had also been horrendously mutilated.
"Draw that curtain and lets get them out of here," I said to Hughes. He did and the two of us carried the three bodies to the galley area. The stewardess who had been held hostage entered.
"Is he dead?" she asked.
"Yes and the flight crew are as well," I said bluntly. "Are any pilots hitching a ride today?"
"No -- none of our pilots, anyway. I will make some discrete enquiries though," she said and left us.
"What's your first name?" I asked Hughes.
"John," he said holding out a hand.
"Kevin," I said, grabbing it. "But don't tell anyone, not many know. You New York cops don't know how to fly a jet do you?"
"I can pilot a police car and occasionally a bicycle, but this thing, no," he admitted.
"Pity. Lets try and find out if anyone on the ground can help us," I suggested.
With a moment or two of messing about with various buttons John had the radio working.
"Press that then you can speak," he said pointing at a button.
"Mayday, Mayday, Mayday," I said. "We are a Boeing 767 out of Bangor, Maine, bound for Manchester England. We have had a terrorist incident on board and the flight crew is dead. Help."
"Station calling, please repeat," came from my headset.
"The flight crew is dead and we have no one to fly the plane," I told him.
"Who are you and what of the terrorists?" the man asked.
"Kevin Harris, MI5 and General Cummings, at the Pentagon with the Secretary of Defense, will confirm that. The terrorists are all dead, as are our flight crew and a man, I presume was an Sky Marshal," I told them. "Can you get us down?"
"Hold United 547 and I will contact you in a moment," the voice said.
"MI5, I would have never put you down as a spy," John said sat next to me.
"That is the idea, that you don't look like a spy. But to let you into a secret, I spend my life in an office and the only things I ever shot before were targets," I told him.
"You did good for a rookie," he said with a smile. "Now, how are you at flying a plane?"
"Hopefully good, for a rookie," I told him.
"Harris? Is that you up there?" came a voice through my headset. It was General Cummings.
"Yes Sir, we had a little fun up here. The action's all over, but we are without a pilot," I told him.
"Are the controls locked, Harris?" he asked.
"I don't know sir," I told him.
"Wait one second, Harris. We will get someone on to you who knows what they are talking about," the General said and was gone.
"What does he mean locked?" John asked looking worried.
"All modern aircraft use a retinal scan to allow access to all flight control systems. Without either the pilot or the co-pilot's retinal scan we can't do a damn thing," I told him.
"Does the eye have to be living?" John asked standing up to walk to the galley area.
"I don't know," I answered honestly.
"Forget it. I guess that's why they destroyed the poor bastards eyes, both of them," he said weakly.
"Are you okay there?" I asked.
"Yes its just a little gruesome," he said through clenched teeth. He came back looking pale.
"Well, in that case I would think that the controls are secure," I told him.
"Kevin can you hear me?" came a different man's voice through the headset.
"Yes I can," I told him.
"Which seat are you sitting in?" he asked.
"Left hand seat," I replied.
"Good we are going to see what your control situation is." His voice reminded me of a doctor speaking to a sick patient.
"Yes Sir," I said.
"Good. Now I want you to press the right hand rudder pedal with your foot quite firmly. Then we will see if your course changes," he said.
I did as he said and waited.
"Have you pressed it?" he asked.
"Yes I have and nothing all is happening," I told him.
"Wait one minute," he said.
"Are you with anyone on board, John?" I asked.
"No, I was going to a conference on terrorism in England," he replied. "Left the wife at home. I was feeling guilty about it, but now I'm glad. What about you?"
"A few hours stop over on business," I told him.
"You think we are in shit?" he asked me and I nodded. "What a pisser."
"My thoughts were similar," I admitted.
"Kevin we need you to find out what has been programmed into the computer," the voice on the radio said to me and I followed a series of instructions till some numbers came up.
"38.33N, 77.03W and then it has HP," I read off the screen.
"Thank you, Kevin," the voice said possibly losing some of its composure.
I waited for the next instructions -- and waited -- and waited.
"Do you think they've forgotten us?" John asked.
"No," I told him.
The stewardess returned. She looked scared.
"No one on the aircraft has any flying experience," she said.
"It was a slim chance, but it always works in the films," I told her. "How is everyone?"
"Two passengers are dead, one flight attendant badly slashed, but everyone is remaining calm," she said.
"Good. Panic won't help anyone now," I told her.
"Harris? Can you hear me?" came the General's voice.
"Harris, if you look out over your left wing you will see you have an escort."
I looked and could see a F22 Raptor close in on our wing, not exactly a common sight.
"Got another one here," John said looking out of his window.
"Yes, I see them Sir." I waved to the aircraft. The pilot didn't wave back.
"Well, Harris, it seems you are in a bit of a fix. They have set you to fly directly to central Washington and then circle in a holding pattern till you run out of fuel."
"And these two gentlemen are here to make sure there is no major loss of life on the ground," I finished for him.
"Yes, Harris, that's the idea," he said gently, "but rather than having the engines blown away by a twenty millimeter Vulcan cannon, there is another way that might give you more of a chance."
"Yes Sir. What is it?" I asked.
"You set off the fire control systems in both engines and you ditch in the sea."
"And that is a chance, Sir?" I said sarcastically.
"It is your only chance," he said sadly. "Can you do it?" he asked.
"Yes Sir. I can do it," I said despondently, "as the other option involves getting blown to shit. No way to disable the lockout on the controls?"
"Only with a living pilot," he said. "Look above your head. Do you see two red handles -- T shaped?"
"Yes Sir, I see them," I admitted. "Let us allow the flight crew to prepare the passengers and I will do it."
"Good man Harris, I knew you would do the right thing."
"Look, I don't know your name, but we need to get the passengers ready to ditch in the sea," I told the attendant.
"I'll take care of it sir," she said calmly, but tears streaked her face. "Before we hit, press there and shout 'brace, brace, brace' -- and its Karen."
I looked at the button she was pointing at and nodded.
"Good luck Karen," I told her.
"And to you Sir. Thank you for saving me from them," she said and was gone.
"Right. The passengers are being made ready. Give them a minute and we'll go," I spoke into the microphone.
"Cigarette?" John asked pulling out a battered packet of Marlboros.
"Go on. I shouldn't. I quit for my health," I said with a wan smile, but I took one anyway.
Taking a deep drag, I enjoyed the rush it gave me and I sat looking out at our escort.
"Harris you are going to have to do it soon or you will be crossing land," the General interrupted.
"Okey Dokey Sir," I said reaching up and pulling first one handle, then the second.
"It's done sir," I shouted as various lights and sirens began to try to get my attention.
"Good man," The General said.
"Sir, do you remember what I was saying about Damocles being morally wrong?" I asked.
"I could hardly forget it," he replied.
"Well Sir, on reflection it was a load of crap, but not for that 'so this nation shall not perish from the earth' garbage that the Secretary was quoting."
"Why was it crap then Harris?" he asked.
"It was crap because anyone who supports sick bastards who would do this shit doesn't deserve a place on this planet," I told him.
We had come through the clouds now and I could see the sea looking gray, cold and wet. I looked out at our escort and waved one last time. This time the pilot saluted back.
"Thanks for your help John," I said looking at the man sitting next to me and lighting another cigarette.
"Hey you did the work," he said holding out a hand. "Good luck."
"And you," I said shaking his hand.
"Brace, brace, brace!" I screamed...