The plane began to move, away from its circle of Paragon Protectors.
Jon looked down at Quake. "Jimmy, get me in front of that plane. Now." There was the sound of a small jet engine beginning to whine, and a fine shower of pale yellow sparks appeared around his boots.
Blood Nut yelled, "Wait! Jon....what are you....?" as Quake nodded, raised his hands, and vanished.
The boy appeared again half-way across the tarmac, vanished, appeared again in front of the accelerating plane. He lifted his open hands once more, tightened them into fists, and jerked them toward himself. Jon disappeared and reappeared next to the boy.
He looked over his shoulder, shouted, "Get out of the way!" to the boy, and began to run in front of the onrushing aircraft. Checking by both sight and sound, he slowed to allow the plane to catch up to him, then begin to pass.
As the tail section passed overhead, he lept upward, claws extended, and jammed his left claws into the underbelly of the plane. Hanging on for dear life, he hacked at the metal skin with his right, cutting away bits of metal as the plane sped down the runway. When he had a sizable hole, he flexed the elbow of his left arm, raised his body until his head and shoulders fit into the opening, thrush his right arm through and jammed his right claws into the only bulkhead he could reach, then retracted his left claws, and pulled himself the rest of the way inside.
Back on the rooftop, Blood Nut turned on the blonde woman. "Why did you let him go? You could have stopped him....you could have teleported him back!"
"I know," she replied softly. Her tone caused the tank to stop and look at her more closely. He was shocked to see the track of a tear running down her cheek. He didn't think he'd ever seen the elven woman weep before.
After a second, she sighed, dropped her eyes as the fast-moving plane soared out of sight.
"There is no way we could have gotten a full team on board that plane, Blood, there wasn't time," she said softly.
"Huh....?" he responded.
".....and if you don't have a full team, the best man for the job....." Maggot Man left the rest unsaid.
".....is a scrapper," Stray finished for him, her voice quiet and calm.
Blood stared at the blonde woman for a long moment, her eyes still fixed on the ground. With visible effort she looked up, took out her cell phone, tapped buttons.
"I need the number for Kip Cantorum's office in Skyway City." She listened for a moment, tapped the buttons again. "Kip, this is Linuial of Starfire. Listen to me, there isn't time to discuss this. I need you to contact the best hacker you know. I need someone to hack into Weathersat, and I need it done now. In the next five minutes, outside."
"There's no time to argue, Kip, there's a jetliner filled with explosives that is going to detonate somewhere over the Eastern seaboard in the next few minutes, and I need to know the exact location when it happens, within seconds of the event. There's no time to get clearance, and anyway, you know my clearance isn't that high. We can't wait on the authorities, this time.
"Listen carefully, Kip....."
Jon began working his way forward, cutting cautiously through bulkheads when he couldn't find a way around or through them. He didn't want to accidently cut any of the flight controls.....he needed the plane to stay airborne, at least until he could find out where they were, what was under them, and get control of the cockpit.
It wouldn't help matters any if the plane fell out of the sky onto a city or residential area.
He hoped that they hadn't noticed his uninvited entry. It would make things much easier. It was why he'd chosen the front of the tail section, the last section of the plane that he had any chance of reaching from the ground.
He found himself in a cargo hold, obviously the location of the bomb mechanism with its accompanying explosives. He glanced briefly at the bomb itself, checked the timer, but made no attempt to touch any part of it. Hopkins was always thorough.....there was certain to be a trigger set to go off if anyone tried to tamper with it without the proper codes, and there might even be a proximity sensor of some sort. Jon was no bomb expert, but he was bright enough to know not to fool around with things he didn't understand. He pulled out his pocket watch from its pouch on his belt, checked it against the timer, put it back, and moved on.
Two compartments further, he sliced into an intervening wall, and was thrown forceably backwards by a blast of pure energy.
Looking up, he saw a matched pair of Paragon Protectors, one pulling open the door between compartments, the other using claws identical to Jon's to widen the hole he had started. He strugged to his feet as the claw-bearer rushed him.
Locked together, struggling, Jon hissed at the clawed man, "......if it wasn't for people like me, you wouldn't have those...."
The helmet covered any facial expression, but the Protector growled back with equal ferocity, "Prototype!" spitting the word as if it were a curse.
Retracting his right-hand claws, Jon punched the other man solidly in the faceplate with his metal knuckles, then kicked him into the arms of the second Protector, leaping forward for the open doorway. He ran to the front of the next section, one obviously designed for passengers instead of cargo, snapped out his claws again, skewered the fire extinguisher hanging on the partition, twisted in a half-circle to fling the metal canister, hissing and spewing, full into the face of the clawed Protector.
The man's helmet faceplate split, with a scream he retracted his claws and began tearing at his helmet. Jon lept again for the second Protector. She threw up her hands, and he was hit by a force like an invisible pile driver, pinning him against the back of one of the passenger seats. Retracting his claws, he reached into a pouch, grabbed a pill, popped it into his mouth and bit down. He inhaled the bitter tasting gas; the resulting surge of energy through his muscles allowed him to tear himself free, and he lept at her again.
There was no time for finesse, no room to maneuver. Sickened by his own actions, Jon struck out and down with his claws, driving them all the way through the woman's chest and into the floor below her.
They were far outside Paragon City's Medicom grid by now. There would be no one returning from this flight alive.
He jerked his claws free, turned to face the other Protector, who had by now yanked his helmet off and scrubbed his face and eyes with his gloved hands.
Jon struck, only to have metal blades meet metal blades. The two clawed men stood face-to-face, each one struggling to force the other back, to gain some sort of advantage.
Jon activated his hyperstride mode, pushed hard against the other man's weaponry, and then raised one foot and kicked him in the face, sparks flying.
The Protector screamed again, retracting his claws and grabbing at his face, and Jon jammed two claws through his hands and out the back of his head.
He yanked his claws free, scrubbed them across the man's costume, and then bent over and threw up.
No time, he thought, no time at all.
The majority of Crey's security seemed to have been posted outside the aircraft. They obviously thought they could prevent anyone from getting inside the plane. There had been no one in the cargo hold, and only these two Protectors in the passenger section. Despite the sounds of battle, no one had come from up forward to check on what was happening.
Maybe there was still a chance.
He ran forward.
A Cryo-blast met him in the face as he passed the partition. He ducked his head, squeezing his eye shut, relying on his cybernetic monocle for sight. Two seconds later, three Crey scientists had joined the growing list of casualties.
A single Agent waited for him in front of the door to the flight deck. She smiled, raised a heavy-looking gun, and fired.
He jumped to the right, to fall between seats, liquid fire stitching across his shoulder and hip. Some sort of compressed air dartthrower, some part of his brain noted. Bullets wouldn't be used inside a pressurized cabin, not that it was all that airtight after the damage he'd wrought tearing from the tail section forward.
He paused, then vaulted over the seats behind him, as she fired again. He didn't pause this time, but threw himself back into the aisle and into the line of fire, activating his hyperstride mode even as his feet hit the deck.
Her eyes widened in surprise as he pinned her to the bulkhead.
A wave of nausea and weakness washed over him as she slumped to the deck. He sat down, began pulling darts out of his flesh. Poisoned, of course, or drugged. He took more pills from his pouch, gulped them down, waited for the effects to kick in.
As he waited, he opened another pouch, went to pull his cell phone out.....and discovered that at some point he must have fallen on it....the case was shattered. He tried to raise a signal, but got no response.
That was it, then. He was entirely on his own.
He waited until he could stand again without holding onto the back of a seat, popped his left set of claws out, and reached for the handle of the door to the flight deck with his right.
He extended both sets of claws, drew back, and struck with both fists at the handle, then threw himself to the right.
Gunfire errupted through what remained of the door. Well, he mused, some of them did have guns after all.
Waiting for a break in the fusillade, he jumped through the doorway onto the crowded flight deck.
With his left hand, he jabbed across his body and into the near right-hand corner. The Agent with the gun dropped like a rock.
Only one of the two pilot seats was occupied.
Jon reached around the seat just as he felt the deck pitch under his feet, hammered the seatbelt lock with his fist, skewered the pilot, and lifted him bodily over the back of the seat, dropping his body onto that of the dead Agent.
He slid into the still-warm seat.
He looked around the control panel. There was very little he recognized, but he kept hunting. He finally spotted the horizon indicator, and confirmed that the pilot had put them into a dive just before he died.
Jon reached forward and put his hands on the yoke.
After his flight to San Francisco, he'd paused long enough in his encyclopedic reading to read up a little on flight. He'd even gone down to a small municipal airport and talked his way into a half-hour lesson in an old Cessna 150. He hadn't followed up on it, much as he loved the sensations of flight. But actually getting a license meant many hours of training and practice, and a lot of money invested.....and with his prostheses, he knew they probably would never give him a license anyway.
He knew just enough to know precisely how little he knew. There was no way that he could fly this behemoth.
But maybe he could keep it from crashing.....at least until the bomb went off.
The yoke was very much like a steering wheel on a car....turn it left, the plane goes left, turn it right, the plane goes right. The difference was that if you push it away from yourself, the nose goes down.
Thank goodness that principle didn't change, even with the big jets. He began pulling the yoke back toward himself, slowly, keeping his eye on the horizon indicator. When he had it leveled off, he kept looking until he found something that looked like an altimeter.
Too low. Way too low.
They hadn't been descending for long....he guessed that they had been flying very low to start with, since with the tail section torn open, it would have been impossible to pressurize the craft.
He pulled back on the yoke, ever so slightly. He couldn't afford to bring the plane much higher, either, any more than the dead pilot could, without pressurization. He had no idea what altitude was safe, but figured he could try to match the altitude they must have been cruising at.
He leveled the plane again. More hunting, and he finally found what he had been looking for, the switch marked "Autopilot". He triggered it, gingerly lifted his hands from the yoke, then relaxed.
So far, so good.
He pulled out his pocket watch. Still some time, he thought. He disengaged the autopilot again, began nudging the wheel to the left.
Thrust and drag, lift and weight, the four forces acting on an airplane wing. Lift had to overcome weight; thrust had to overcome drag. There was no way that he could calculate those kinds of figures, but he did know that when a plane turns, it also loses altitude. He watched the altimeter, suddenly aware of the sweat trickling down his face. He really preferred not to tamper with the throttle, not unless he absolutely had to.
Turn a little. Straighten up and nudge the flying monster a bit higher to make up for the loss of altitude. Do it again.
They had been flying almost due west when he'd killed the pilot. He teased the flying bomb into turning, ever so slowly, back to the east.
Toward the Atlantic.
When the compass read due east, he activated the autopilot again.
With a wide turn like this, the plane would be passing well south of Paragon City. His home, and the Heroes in it, would be safe enough, even if they fell out of the sky in passing.
He checked his watch again, compared it to what he'd read on the timer on the bomb.
They just might make it.
He started searching for the plane's radio.....he knew it was there somewhere, but wasn't certain he'd found it, and decided not to risk experimenting. The flying bomb was safely on its way east, toward the coast....no point flipping any controls he didn't understand, doing anything that might send it crashing into the ground early.
He thought he saw something on the horizon....he concentrated, and his monocle spun in response. Yes, sure enough, he could just make out what had to be the edge of land, and the beginning of ocean water.
Just a little bit further, he prayed. Just a little more.
And the Crey aircraft raced on.
Let it be open water, he pleaded. He got his pocket watch out, watched the seconds ticking by. Please......no shipping lanes....no barrier islands.
At last the plane soared over the boundary, and out over the ocean.
He sagged in the pilot's chair.
It's over, he thought.
We made it.
He thought about getting up, looking for a parachute, probably the plane's pilot had had one ready. The Paragon Protectors might have been brainwashed into a suicide mission, but it was likely that some of the crew had intended to survive.
But he had no idea how to put one on, or how to use one, or how to go about jumping out of a passenger jet in flight, or how to avoid being sucked into the jet's engines.
Never mind, he told himself. You knew this was a one-way ride when you hopped on board.
He got up, searched the cockpit, didn't find what he was looking for. The first of the passenger seats surrendered the infamous "flotation device" of so many ignored stewardess speeches. He carried it back into the cockpit, the one part of the plane that was the furtherest away from the bomb.
He pulled the life vest over his head, wrapped the strap around his waist and secured it, pulling the straps taut. He sat back in the pilot's seat.
He waited, then pulled out his watch again, watched the seconds ticking by.
As the hands moved close to the moment he knew the bomb would activate, Jon grabbed at the seat belts and started trying to lock them.....then stopped, asking himself what the point was. With nothing but water below, being strapped to any part of the plane might be no more than a quicker way to drown.
He curled up in the chair, pulled his knees into his chest, wove the vest's inflation straps through his metal fingers, wrapped his arms around his shins, ducked his head.
The sky lit with the explosion from horizon to horizon, briefly outshining the sun.
The pilot's seat slammed into him from behind, driving him straight through the front of the cockpit, through the disintegrating metal and glass.
The aircraft shredded around him like so much tin-foil.
He fell, nothing but empty ocean below.........
Copyright terraforming.com, November 26, 2012