I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
The flight attendant’s face drained of color. Nix thought she looked incredibly like a black and white version of her previous pink-cheeked self. “Hijacked? How?” She craned her neck, looking into the cockpit as if expecting to see a wild-eyed, bomb-clad man in that small space. The copilot simply looked back at her bleakly, throwing his hands in the air to say, “I’m as helpless as you are.”
“We’re not crashing yet,” the pilot assured her. “But we could at any moment. Somebody else is flying this plane, and we can’t get control back.”
Nix stepped into their conference confidently. “Excuse me,” he said calmly but firmly. “I happened to overhear you just now. I know it sounds strange, but I’m something of an expert on these types of situations. Perhaps you could let me look into it?” The flight attendant and pilot exchanged dubious looks, but then shrugged: How much worse could it get?
One glance into the cockpit confirmed Nix’s suspicion. No bomb-toting terrorists here. Just a large computer screen situated between the two control yokes, and on the screen, a glaring message hollering ERROR! NAVIGATION ACCESS NOT GRANTED. CONTACT YOUR SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR TO OBTAIN NAVIGATION ACCESS.
“Who’s your system administrator?” Nix asked, glancing among the pilot and his coworkers.
“Stanley. In Minneapolis.” Not much hope there, then.
“Somebody’s hacked into your computer,” explained Nix. “All we have to do is find somebody with a laptop on this plane, and we’ll have your hijacker.”
Glancing up from her oiling, Marion hollered, “Charles! Leave your sister alone!” The little boy froze, his finger an inch from his sister’s arm. Marion transferred her focus back to her work, carefully rubbing every inch of burnished black steel with protective oil. Cleanliness and smooth action were crucial—
“She was bothering me first!” A young boy’s half-holler, half-whine crashed through her focus again.
“Was not!” The six-year-old girl’s ear-piercing dissent didn’t even wait for her brother to lodge his objection. Then they were off, in that familiar pattern.
“Charles! Rose! Leave each other alone. I don’t care who started it. And Charlie, you’re the oldest, so it’s your job to be nice to your sister.”
“Only by a minute.”
Marion’s mouth quirked in a reluctant smile. He had a point; she couldn’t legitimately pull the “older and more responsible” card on Charlie and Rose. But thank goodness, no rules said Moms had to be logical. “It doesn’t matter. Just do it.” She put a hint of steel into her voice and the twins subsided into a more peaceable playing with mega-blocks.
Satisfied with that resolution, the short, fit forty-year-old mother of four settled down again to finish cleaning and polishing her second-favorite weapon, the .50 Action Express Mark XIX Desert Eagle. This afternoon’s practice had proven her once again to be an excellent markswoman, one of the best shots on staff with N.U.N.S.—the National Underground Network Security agency. With Phoenix Drake away on business, she could outshoot everybody in the office. Even Nix had trouble keeping up with her sometimes.
“Moooooom?” Amanda’s teenagehood had produced a number of annoying quirks, not the least of which was her tendency to turn everything into a question.
“Yes, dear?” Marion set aside her firearm once again, its weight settling heavily on the dented, scarred oaken dinner table.
“Can I borrow the car tonight?” Somehow the girl, her long hair hanging in a concealing sheet around her face, managed to look guilty without having done a thing. –A think that Marion knew of, that was.
“What for?” The girl’s eyes shifted away under her mother’s steady gaze and Marion began thinking perhaps “No” would be the suitable answer this time. She’d gotten plenty of practice detecting lies as Teddy went through high school.
“Well, Charissa and Lynne wanted to see a movie, and I thought, well…?” Hands twisting, the girl seemed to shrink in on herself. “I just wanted to hang out with my friends, you know?”
“I know, but tonight’s a school night” Wednesday night, in fact! “And it’s probably not a good idea to go out tonight.”
“No, dear. Maybe Friday.” Hardhearted Marion picked up the gun and its oiling cloth, signaling an end to the discussion. “Don’t try asking your father, either,” she told the departing back, “Because he’ll say no, too.”
All she got in return was a long-suffering sigh. “It’s a tough life,” Marion told her gleaming gun. With a quick flick, she worked the action, feeling its smooth pull and release. Another good day’s work. Carefully she locked the gun in her work desk, already wondering if they had enough spaghetti sauce for another night.
“Everybody’s got a laptop,” the flight attendant groaned. “That’s the point! You can fly and get emails at the same time.” Sure enough, Nix’s quick but piercing glance down the plane showed half the passengers lit by monitor glow.
“One of them has control of this aircraft. All you have to do is get on the PA system and tell everybody to turn their computers off—” Nix felt particularly clever for this suggestion. Better than trying to check every person individually.
“—and what excuse would we give?” came the angry reply. Nix wanted to tell her how lovely her eyes were when she was angry, but thought better of it. This was probably what his mother always called an Inopportune Moment.
“Anything.” Suddenly, Nix realized his gun was in his briefcase, tucked safely under the seat in front of him. Perhaps he could reach it before the hijackers figured out what was going on. “Say we’re running low on power or passing through some turbulent zone or something. Stall. Come on.” He was already moving down the aisle at a clip that surprised the stewardess. A man of that bulk rarely moved so quickly.
Even as she reached for the intercom button, the flight attendant saw two clean-cut young men approaching the front of the plane from economy class. She watched in surprise as the large man who claimed to be in the James Bond business suddenly began running down the aisle.
When he saw the two Eddie Bauer-clad youths, Nix first thought of Mormon missionaries. Their carefully combed hair, neatly pressed khakis, virtually unwrinkled shirts all attested to their wholesomeness. But then he saw a suspicious bulge in one of their pockets, and something about their stances as they approached put Nix on the alert. He started to run. He had to reach his gun!
Just then, the plane lurched and bucked, throwing passengers and luggage roughly from seats and overhead compartments. Emergency lights flicked on, face masks dropped from the ceiling, and Nix and his two assailants tumbled into one another. “Excuse me,” he murmured as politely as possible, scrambling up again, but clearly the two young men
intended to keep him from his seat—and his trusty gun. Damn! Why couldn’t he have just slipped it into his pocket?
Nix, hampered by the tight quarters, swung at the first young man. The blow was blocked with a forearm, and the young man whipped out his foot, hooking it around Nix’s ankle. Firmly planted, Nix kept his footing, and brought his elbow into the young man’s face, releasing a cascade of blood from his broken nose. The young man’s hands involuntarily went to his bleeding face, and Nix took him out with a swift knee to the groin.
Stepping over the bleeding, moaning young man, Nix confronted his other opponent. This young man parried every blow, and even managed to land a few notable hits into Nix’s face and torso. The young man kept glancing back, seemingly anxious to keep his assailant away from—
In that moment Nix caught the look between his attacker and the respectable, silver-haired cat lover. The sliver-haired man motioned Nix’s attacker to pay attention to the fight, but Nix had already seized his opportunity. His fist crashed into his inattentive opponent’s face, knocking him unconscious immediately. The stunned body had barely crashed to the floor before Nix leaped over it to seize the tablet PC from the man’s tray table.
“Keep back,” Nix warned. “I don’t want to have to hurt you.” The man, on the verge of rising, sank back into his seat.
“It’s too late,” he sneered. “We’ve already lost too much altitude. This is the last fuel-wasting flight you’ll ever take!”
Not deigning to reply, Nix hurried back to the cockpit and hurled himself into the vacant pilot’s seat. Scanning the computer’s screen, he immediately saw that it was laid out as a digital version replica of the plane’s controls. “Good thing I paid attention in my flying classes, eh?” he muttered.
“We’re too low, man,” the copilot said, looking over Nix’s shoulder. “You can’t pull us up in time.”
“Of course I can,” Nix told him, confidently manipulating the computer’s controls. “I did this once when I was in flight training school—” the copilot subsided into his seat, but he didn’t forget to check all the straps and buckles.
Sweating with concentration, Nix carefully brought the flaps into position. Then he revved the gigantic engines and the plane’s nose, just clearing the frothing ocean’s surface, began to steadily rise. The ascent was rough, hardly textbook, but Nix brought them back to cruising altitude in a matter of minutes. Finally he felt safe enough to wipe away the sweat pouring down his forehead.
Cheering broke out among the passengers and crew as the plane’s flight grew steadier. “I think it should be OK,” Nix told the pilot. “I’ve put it on autopilot, but somebody will have to land it in Seattle…”
“I couldn’t fly with that thing,” the pilot said, indicating the computer. The copilot shook his head. “Me, neither.”
“Well, I’ll get some rest,” Nix sighed. “Wake me when we’re closer to Seattle. I’ll bring us in.”
Exiting the cockpit, Nix caught the fight attendant’s beaming smile. Maybe this had been worthwhile after all.
Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.