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Chapter 17 – Wing Of Fire

May 9, 2012

Chapter 17 – “Wing Of Fire”

Now – Flight 176, Somewhere over Pennsylvania

Braden wasted little time unbuckling his seatbelt. He glanced around. The two Arabic men were praying, but not in the “death to America” way one might be used to seeing on tv. No, this was more like, “Hey, we’re very sorry for whatever it was we did.” In fact, in what would have been amusing were it not for the whole hurtling toward the ground thing was a young white man who just confessed to his wife that he kissed his wife’s sister. In the unlikely event he survived this, his wife might have something to say about that.

He stepped on the seat in front of him, “Sorry,” muttered to the man in front of him who didn’t seem to notice over his own shouting toward the cockpit. Braden peered down around the seat in that very direction.

The soldier boys, three of them, were all standing on the door stomping on it, trying to get it open. They did not appear to being having any success.

Braden noticed that the only voice coming over the intercom was from the flight attendant sitting up front. Nothing from the captain and co-pilot.

“Move!”

They olive drab trio looked up and saw nearly three hundred pounds of man stacked above a pair of work boots dropping toward them. Braden heard the flight attendant say over the loud speaker to return to his seat just before he made contact with the door. The boys dived out of the way of the falling man.

If there were ever a time Braden wanted to get all “New York” on someone, this was it. The lady seemed to have no comprehension that seatbelts weren’t going to matter when this thing hit the ground. Still, that must have been some training course kept her that focused at a time like this.

The bolts tore loose from the door, which shattered in half, pieces of hardened plastic flying like shrapnel. Braden immediately knew what befell the flight crew.

There was an incredibly painful, high-pitched screeching coming out of the flight panel…somewhere. Where?

He carefully let go his grasp on the door jamb. He slid down to stand on the thingie between the passed out pilots, both slumped forward with the flightsticks pushed forward.

The noise was unbearable. Where was it?

He flipped to prone and stuck his head underneath what he thought of as the dashboard and looked for the source. That the pain from the noise increased meant he must be getting closer.

“Aha! Ahhhhh!!!”

He grabbed it with one hand and seemed to be able to “hear” the screeching through his skin. His arm hurt almost as bad as his ears and jaw, which were vibrating like they’d come apart.

It ripped free. He was stunned, so glad to have the noise cease when he pulled the wires loose. He recalled briefly the joke about the man complaining to the doctor about how it hurt to hit himself in the head with a hammer, and how it was that the ceasing made him feel so much better that he did it.

The device looked familiar. He flipped it over and saw the imprint.

SchniederCorp. Good Lord…

“Whoa!”

The pain gone, he forgot momentarily that the pilots were still unconscious and the plane pointed ninety degrees in the wrong direction. He braced himself quickly and pushed the pilot up with his leg. Then he pulled back on the controls.

At first there was no movement. Wind, gravity, weight, momentum all conspired to prevent change in course. He grunted and pulled harder, hooking his other leg around the stick.

The co-pilot moved back involuntarily and still it seemed like nothing was happening. Then he felt a shift in gravity, silght at first, then sharp.

He heard some crashing coming from the cabin, followed by more screaming. Now they were headed at too sharp an angle upwards.

He stood up and leveled off. He gazed at the little plane thingie until he realized what was out the window was far more important. He pulled up again missing the hills of Pennaylvania by a dozen yards or so.

“Hey! See if you can wake them!”

The flight attendant made her way into the cockpit carefully. She had to step over one Army boy who was holding his head, a bleeding wound when the plane sharply pulled up.

It was an uneasy ten minutes (which seemed much longer to Braden who, really, had no idea what he was doing, and wished for his dad’s ghost even more for flying than he often did for the art of truck repair).

The pilots stopped over in Pittsburgh as they were told by ground control. The disembarking occurred on the Tarmac instead of a terminal, which gave Braden the opportunity to hop the fence and escape the waiting arms of a very pissed off Mendoza, a SWAT team, a dozen snipers, a tank, and fifty local police.

They were disappointed that there were no terrorists to arrest, but did ask quite a few questions of the Arabic men. Additionally, they were mildly pleased about being able to break up the domestic disturbance that broke out once the couple sitting ahead of Braden on the right disembarked the plane. The wife got in a few solid punches on her kiss-happy hubby before three officers managed to subdue her.

The rendezvous wasn’t so far now. Taking fifty to seventy-five feet steps would keep him going fast enough to hop a train to New York, get to the ferry downtown and to the island before the deadline. He could make the meeting with the madman who had just tried to murder him and an entire plane of passengers.

The screecher device in his pocket, he’d be giving payback to its original owner soon enough.

—–

©2011, 2012 Christopher C. Knall

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