"You need to call Quagmer." Riza rubbed his head as he spoke.
"You got a death wish? You call him," Atta retorted.
It was late morning. Both men were half asleep. Riza fumbled with the coffee pot, giving disheveled a bad name. Forward and rear, the cabin doors were open. The bunks, still unmade, were as unkempt as their current occupants - a couple of Bahamian prostitutes.
While the scene wasn’t much of a testimony for the worth of Islam, it might well have served as a recruiting film for Muslim militancy. Hung over, groggy from lack of sleep, and completely broke, the wannabe terrorists were in deep water.
"We can’t pay the girls. How are we going to provision our boat?" Atta complained, as if losing the money hadn’t been his fault.
"Worse, whose going to pay for the hull repairs?" Riza whined. "You’ve got to call Quagmer. Make something up. Say we got rammed by another yacht - a Jew yacht maybe. Yeah. Or say we had to bribe the dock master to keep him from tipping the authorities off."
"You want me to lie?" Atta protested hypocritically.
"You’ve got a better idea?"
Atta’s expression was as blank as his mind.
"On the other hand," Riza said, "you could tell him the truth. Tell Omen we drank ourselves into oblivion, gambled his money away, and whatever we didn’t lose, we squandered on prostitutes. He ought to love that. With any luck, we might even live to see lunchtime."
The girls were beginning to stir. It was time to fish or cut bait.
"If the babes find out we’re busted, they’ll kill us before breakfast." Atta was slow, not stupid.
Riza’s countenance brightened. "Our Atlantis cards are still good." He spied his sitting on the table. "The hotel doesn’t know we can’t pay."
"Yet," Atta warned.
"Then they’re still good. I’ll take the girls to breakfast. You call Omen. That’ll buy us some time." It was a heroic gesture.
Coffee done, they filled their cups and gradually brought their bodies back to life. Too bad it didn’t have the same impact on their souls.
"Mr. Nottingly, are you sure about this?"
Troy shook his head, smiling. "Son, I’m willing to trust you with my daughter. So why is trusting you with my airplane such a big deal?"
He had a point.
"Yes, sir, I understand. Thank you."
"You’re welcome. Just take good care of her."
"I will, sir. But to be safe, let’s make one more coupled approach."
"You are slow. Not her," Troy said, patting the glare screen. "Her!" He pointed to the rear of the Pilatus - to where Sarah was sitting.
That’s twice, Adams thought to himself. I’d better engage my brain before I crash and burn.
They were flying northbound above the Eastern Shore, over the romantic little town of St. Michaels. The Chesapeake Bay glistened beneath them. Off to the west, Thor could see Annapolis out his side of the plane. A grand green carpet of open fields and old hardwoods spread out to the east, fading into the Atlantic.
Troy Nottingly had offered the Admiral the use of his airplane. Sarah was already certified in it, having earned her commercial pilot’s license and instrument rating years ago. She had joined her father each year, in Orlando, getting recurring training in the simulators at SimCom’s Flight School. Thor was just coming up to speed.
Having committed their Plan to Save America to paper, they were set to tour the nation. Seventy speeches, fifty cities, twenty states, fifteen days. It would be worse than taking flight instruction from Sarah’s father.
Senator Dodge had delivered on his promise. Congressman Macon had not. There were eighty empty seats in the house, fifteen in the Senate. Every Republican candidate had signed the plan, as had most every surviving incumbent. While a smattering of conservative Blue Dog Democrats had pledged their support, most liberals were disparaging each of the five planks like they were a plague. They had even resurrected an aging James Carville to craft their "talking points."
However, the liberals had no plan of their own. Once the dust settled, or the spores, as the case may be, they merely returned to the status quo - building a government of the politicians, by the politicians, and for the politicians. They had learned that there was no limit to what they could achieve spending other people’s money.
Fortunately, Troy, a former dot-com founder, was well versed in the art of marketing. He brought the Admiral’s ideas to life, making them accessible by crafting a multimedia presentation to complement Thor’s stump speech. It came complete with stirring music, video segments, animations, spectacular photographic images, and, of course, text to support the Admiral’s spoken words. He also produced a color brochure that helped communicate the plan with style and clarity. In addition, Troy built Internet sites to present what Thor and Sarah had learned about Islam and the substance behind their Plan to Save America.
As they had in their speech to Congress, Adams and Nottingly shared the stage. And, as before, they brought Mary along to give the horror of terror a human face. Between Thor’s character, Sarah’s intellect, Troy’s marketing skill, and Mary’s disarming tenderness, it was a tour de force in a teacup.
Americans were being given a clear choice. Would they choose left or right, liberal or conservative, more or less, a continuation of the same or something new? The only thing that puzzled Thor was how something so out-of-sync with the status quo could be called "conservative."
Since the opposition was reluctant to commit their schemes to paper, Nottingly and Adams took the liberty of doing it for them. They framed the issue by presenting the nature of the liberal agenda from a historian’s perspective.
Adams explained it this way: "They want to intrude into your personal life. Why? Because they don’t trust you to make decisions on your own. They want to increase your taxes. Why? So they can build bigger government programs to buy your unwavering support. They want to enact more regulations. Why? Because they think you’re stupid and need to be protected from yourself. They covet control. Why? Because freedom is so untidy in the hands of others. They want to keep increasing their power. Why? So they can keep voters dependent on their wealth-reallocation plan. More government, more spending, more restrictions, more taxes. There is no wrong that can’t be righted with a little more money."
Thor had become convinced that conservatives wanted less: less government intrusion, lower taxes, less spending, fewer watchdogs, fewer restrictions. Just as environmentalists implored Americans to conserve, to use less, he explained that political conservatives wanted America to use less government, to rely less on government resources.
However, he was prepared to acknowledge that in one place the roles were reversed. Conservatives wanted a stronger national defense. Sadly, the media miscast this debate, labeling conservatives "hawks" and liberals "doves." The unmistakable implication was that one wanted war and the other, peace.
Adams engaged the A-team, relying on Sarah to explain the economic wisdom of building arms so that they would never have to be used. While the concept was simple, Nottingly knew it was lost on many. In her view, the reasons were clear. Though liberals were willing to spend great piles of money to make problems go away, there was only so much they could take from productive Americans. Thus the military was a competitor - something that consumed money they wanted to spend on their constituents.
The left still seemed to think war could be averted through political dialog and were eager to rely on government negotiators. "Talk nice to people," Sarah characterized their approach. "Understand their problems, feel their pain, blame someone else, and buy the support of hostile nations the same way you buy votes here at home. Open the public coffers and grant them billions in foreign aid." It wasn’t their money, anyway.
Nottingly, on the other hand, believed that a strong shield and a sharp sword were the best means of assuring peace, protecting what Americans held dear, and ultimately saving lives. Ready weapons were unused weapons. Freedom, she knew, was bought with coin or blood.
The battle lines were drawn.
Trixi Lightheart looked depressed. The explosion at Camp David had blown out every camera, and without video, ratings were as depressed as the nation’s mood. No amount of B-roll could make this disaster look sufficiently entertaining. And worse still, the anthrax attack had been a fiasco.
She began her report, "As few as a hundred thousand people may have been affected by the most recent anthrax attacks on America. It now appears that the spores the terrorists distributed were not effectively stabilized," she read. "Most, therefore, were not lethal."
It was a tale of woe. "Technical experts have analyzed the trucks. They claim that the mixing devices failed to properly combine the anthrax with the powder that is required to keep them aloft. This failure, in turn, substantially reduced their movement. Meteorological conditions were also unfavorable. The combination of wind, rain, and high humidity diminished the attack’s effectiveness."
In other words, death didn’t scale. The little buggers had been a bust.
This was good bad news. Lightheart was perplexed, not knowing whether she should be be smiling or stern in her presentation. She chose a non-committal grin. "The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta confirmed today that antibiotics have been much more effective with this particular strain of biological weapon."
Trixi looked down at the papers spread on the desk in front of her. She knew that the network had decided to run file footage of the fifty coffins that still lay in state under the Capitol Rotunda. The video revealed color guards standing watch as long lines of Americans filed past, four abreast, showing their respect for the fallen.
The news anchor reported, "Mamdouh Salim, President of Palestine, expressed his sympathy for the families of those slain at Camp David. He went on to say, however, that former Chairman Alafat was justified in his actions because America invited the attack. The President, he said, created a state of war when she sent warships into Islamic waters. Salim also blamed Israeli occupation and war crimes. In his concluding comments, the President Salim told reporters that he expects America to honor its pledge to pay his new Palestinian State two billion dollars a year."
Each network was on a commercial-free twenty-four-hour news watch. As part of their coverage, they ran journalistic essays dignifying the plight of the Palestinian people and their struggle against "occupation." They had also prepared tributes to the life and service of each congressman, senator, and cabinet member that had been slain. Elaborate testimonials were aired, proclaiming the great accomplishments of the late President, presenting her as a selfless servant of the working people, a troubadour of the peace process. Ironically, she had become a martyr.
"Tomorrow, starting at ten o’clock eastern, a funeral procession, complete with horse-drawn carriages and military honor guards, will make its way through the Capital. Even in death, the President’s family and party are trying to be inclusive, allowing every victim of the bombing to accompany her in the parade."
In the saddest expression she could muster, the new dean of the airways proclaimed, "One hundred and eighty members of the Washington press corps perished in service to their country. Their remains, along with the fifty political leaders now lying in state, will stretch the procession an estimated five blocks. Of course, FOX News will bring it all to you live." It probably wasn’t the best word she could have chosen. "Pre-procession coverage will begin at eight A.M. eastern tomorrow morning."
They were clearly uncomfortable. 4,000 years is a long time to hold a grudge. Confused, the men didn’t know if they should pray for their lives or fight for them. In the end, they simply stared warily at their hosts, recognizing that four Palestinians and three Jews do not a minion make.
Talib Ali finally broke the ice, offering his unlikely would-be allies a cup of hot tea. Mamdouh Salim motioned for them to sit around the late Chairman’s black conference table. They were in Gaza, in what had once been the headquarters of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. It was now their nation’s capitol, at least in their eyes.
"About a decade ago," Talib said, "several men from your organization, the Temple Faithful, tried to destroy the Dome of the Rock."
The Jews sat motionless, silent. There was no reason to deny responsibility for their previous failure.
"I am curious, gentlemen." Omen raised an eyebrow. "Why?" He hoped their answer would lead toward common ground.
"For the Messiah," the most diminutive of the Jews proclaimed. "Our prophets said he will rule the world from the Temple once it’s rebuilt."
The response angered the believers, Talib Ali and Aymen Halaweh. Strangely, it seemed to please the more practical Omen Quagmer and Mamdouh Salim. They were fishing for volunteers. They were hoping these guys would take the bait.
"We too have an interest in seeing the Dome destroyed." President Salim’s response shocked the three Temple enthusiasts.
Having been briefed, Halaweh and Ali knew this was a lie. They settled back down, knowing that the explosives would never be detonated. And there was little they enjoyed more than deceiving infidels.
Warily, the tallest Jew responded, "We’re listening."
"Public opinion has turned against my people," Omen explained. "With the crucifixions, the anthrax thing, and now with the little incident at Camp David, we are struggling with our public relations." A lie is more seductive if you mix in a little truth.
"And you want us to help you?"
"No. We want you to help yourselves." Mamdouh turned the tables.
"Why are you doing something for us? We don’t understand," the third Jewish man queried his lifelong enemy.
"We believe that the destruction of our third holiest site will help us regain the upper hand politically. That’s especially true if the damage is done by radical right-wing Jews. No offense, gentlemen."
"None taken." He stroked his beard. "So you want to blame it on us."
"Give you credit," Omen corrected him. "Among your people and with your god, you’ll be heroes. If you’re caught, you’ll be imprisoned, I suppose, but that’s a small sacrifice for helping your Messiah, is it not?"
"And who knows?" Salim added. "Wearing the high-tech suits we’re prepared to loan you, you might even get away with it."
"Then how would that help you?"
"After your last attack on the Dome, our people installed video surveillance cameras. The cameras will pick up the Star of David insignias on the uniforms you’ll be wearing." Omen turned, pointing to the wall behind them. "See them over there?"
"State-of-the-art technology," Mamdouh interrupted. "You’ll be nearly invisible in the midnight setting. But the suits will broadcast your position on a discreet transponder code, so we’ll know where you are, and the world will know you’re Israelis."
"Then what’s to keep you from tracking us down after we’ve placed the explosives - I’m assuming you want us to carry C-12?"
"The C-4 will be stashed in the pack. That’s where the transponder is so...."
"We know Alafat was carrying C-12. Don’t lie to us."
Omen smiled. "You’re right. I apologize on behalf of my colleague. We’re all professionals. There’s no reason to lie."
Aymen and Talib almost swallowed their tongues.
"These fancy suits...how did you get them, anyway?"
"Black market," Omen lied. "Your people will sell anything." That was true enough.
"They’re called SFGs," Mamdouh burst in, sounding professional.
"So we put on these SFGs and tiptoe into the Dome under the watchful eyes of surveillance cameras. We take off the packs and set them against three of the four internal columns. Do I have this right?"
"Yes. You’ve obviously studied the construction of the Holy Shrine." Having earned their trust, Omen unrolled the blueprints. "Here, here, and here," he said, pointing to the three large support columns Halaweh had determined to be the most vulnerable.
"Then we hightail it out of the Dome, and push the trigger when we’re clear," one of the Jews said. "If we’re fast enough, we escape. If not, we go to jail. But either way, we both get what we want."
"That’s the plan." Quagmer shot him an oily smile. "Are you in?"
The three Jews shared a glance. "Was Moses Jewish? Hell yes!" They were ecstatic. The Temple Faithful had committed themselves to doing this very thing.
Thor was sitting in the right seat, Sarah in the left. It was familiar territory. She was in charge.
Holding the checklist, Adams ticked off the preflight items. "Flight control lock?"
"Removed and stowed."
"All in left," she said rubbing her fingers along them as she looked.
"All good right," he called out before lowering his thumb down to the next line. "Parking brake?"
"Set," she confirmed, pulling and twisting it as she tapped the pedals.
"AHRS one and two?"
"You wish," Thor joked. "Cooling, fans, and heat?"
"Off, low, and off," she said, looking down and to her left.
"EFIS?" he asked, moving down the list.
"Norm." Although she had no idea how it worked, she knew the acronym stood for Electronic Flight Instrument System. These glass tubes had become ubiquitous on high-priced aircraft, both civilian and military. The Pilatus had four of them.
"All off except the beacon." She pressed the top of one of the large gray rocker switches, placing it in the middle position.
"All off - probes, boots, and windshield heat. The inertial separator is open," she anticipated, pushing another switch.
"ECS?" The Environmental Control System was particularly handy if you wanted to remain alive at cruising altitude. He checked the position.
"Trim and Flap Interrupt?"
"Norm and guarded."
"Less," she laughed, making sure the small red manual override lever was in its off position.
"Power control lever is idle," she answered, pulling the large black throttle backwards.
"Condition lever?" he asked, moving his thumb down the plastic card.
"At zero, indicating zero."
The lever was nearest him, so he confirmed what she had said. He then reached down to verify the stowed position of the emergency levers on the console between their seats. "Battery on. Fuel check?"
"Sufficient and balanced." They would need less than half of what they were carrying in the wings. The plane held 2,700 pounds of Jet A.
"Oxygen lever?" he asked, raising it himself. He loved the sound it made, filling the quick-donning masks behind their seats. Should there be a rapid decompression, these would save their lives.
"EIS Test?" It stood for Engine Instrument System.
"Eights and tapes," she shot back, putting the system through a self-diagnostic test.
Sarah looked back and checked on Mary. "Belted, supplied with semi-nutritious snack foods, and occupied with a big game book."
Adams smiled at Mary and then looked outside again to make sure they were clear. Shredding an unsuspecting lineman on the tarmac was considered bad form. With no one in sight he said, "Ignition."
She fired the starter. The giant one hundred-inch propeller slowly came to life. The turbine speed rose with Ng showing fifteen percent of its 30,000 RPM performance. As it did, she lifted the condition lever and pressed it forward, dumping kerosene into the turbine. It roared to life.
Eyes glued to the display, they saw an LCD jump to nearly 800 degrees when the secondary nozzles poured fuel into the hot section of the Pratt and Whitney engine, mimicking the afterburners on a military jet. This was all a far cry from the "kick the tires and light the fires" MO of Navy jet jocks. For Thor, learning to fly a complex general aviation aircraft was a study in personal discipline. Unlike going off to war, pilots often described the civilian experience as hours of tedium punctuated by seconds of terror.
"One victor alpha cleared for takeoff, on course." They were off to Florida, which meant they were within twenty-four hours of completing their fifteen-day marathon. Orlando and Miami were the only obstacles between them and a return to a normal life.
At altitude, they settled into the routine of flight. With the autopilot in command, the crew began to chat. "Last night, in...oh gosh, where were we yesterday?"
"Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta," Adams recounted.
"That’s right. Last night in Atlanta, after I put Mary to bed, I did some more reading."
"What’d you find?" Thor was almost afraid to ask. The deeper they had dug into Islam, the uglier it had gotten.
Sarah confirmed his fears. "We didn’t tell the General a fraction of the similarities between Muhammad and Hitler."
Thor looked at her. "Like what?"
"Like they both told the world they were peace-loving right up to the moment they butchered everybody in sight. Hitler said, ‘My only great task is to secure peace in the world. I have a deep respect for the rights of other nations,’ saying, ‘from our innermost heart, National Socialist Germany wishes to live in peace and friendship.’"
"The friendship of blitzkrieg - death came so fast, it was relatively painless, I suppose. But did you know that the ‘land-for-peace’ terminology used in describing today’s ‘peace process’ with the Arabs was usurped from Hitler? He said, ‘The German minority in the Sudetenland must be autonomous.’"
"Germans in Czechoslovakia were corrupted by Nazism, just as the Palestinians are by Islam. Both comprised twenty-two percent of the population, and both were determined to undermine their democracy from within on behalf of neighboring dictatorships."
"Israel and Czechoslovakia: wealthy states with world class military defenses - defenses rendered useless by giving the high ground to a treasonous minority," Thor explained as he scanned the engine instruments.
"When Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler, he unwittingly unified Germany behind der Fuhrer. It was a stunning diplomatic coup. Awarding the Islamic terrorists with the heart of Israel will similarly galvanize their resolve and inflame their lust for war, won’t it, Thor?"
"Yes. The ‘peace process’ is the most direct path to war. Giving Hitler Czechoslovakia ignited World War II; giving the Arabs Israel will be the opening salvo of World War III."
"Muslims say Islam doesn’t support terror, yet the faithful terrorize. Muhammad even told them to lie to us."
"Unfortunately, the media has bought into the delusion. How many times have you heard them say Islam’s a peace-loving religion?"
"A few thousand. They’ve spewed the garbage so often, folks have come to believe it. Makes us look crazy when we say it’s untrue."
"Do you think it’s purposeful, or merely foolish? Are the folks with the microphones lying, or just too lazy to figure it out?"
"Let me ask you this. What are the qualifications for being on television?" Sarah posed, scanning the instruments.
"You’ve got to look good and be able to read the teleprompter."
"Then since we know they can read, how is it possible they’ve missed something this obvious?" Sarah wanted to drive the point home. "If you were to pick up the Hadith, how long would you have to read before you knew that Islam was about war, not peace?"
"I don’t know. Four or five hours at the most. Not very long, especially considering what’s at stake. They’ve murdered thousands of Americans and pummeled our economy. Muslim militants have changed the way we live - so what’s a few hours?"
"How about five minutes?" She reached behind the seat and dug into her flight bag, pulling out a copy of al-Bukhari’s Hadith. "Give me five minutes, not five hours, and I’ll find five Muhammadisms sufficient to prove that Islam is all about war - killing for Allah." Sarah opened the book.
Thor glanced at the cover. "You’ve got it upside down and backwards," he said, trying to help her out.
"No, I don’t. It’s written from back to front. Upside down is really right side up."
"Okay. Sounds perfect for Islam."
Sarah read what the Muslim scholars had had to say about the Hadith and their translation from Arabic to English. ‘"I am perfectly sure that the translation, with Allah’s help, has approached perfection.’"
She turned the page. "Listen to this. ‘It has been unanimously agreed that Bukhari’s work is more authentic than all other Hadiths combined.’ They said: ‘The most authentic book after the Qur’an is al-Bukhari.’
"Since the Qur’an is supposed to be Rocky speaking, that would make al-Bukhari’s Hadith the most authentic source for the words of Muhammad."
"The professor from the Islamic University of Saudi Arabia who oversaw this translation said, ‘There is no doubt about the Hadith’s authenticity.’ He said, ‘It’s the most accurate account of the Prophet’s sayings.’ ‘Al-Bukhari traveled to many places gathering the precious gems that fell from the lips of the noble Prophet.’ I know you think I’m making this stuff up. But no, look here," she said, showing him the passage.
Looking back down at the book, she read, "‘Many Islamic scholars’ - now there’s an oxymoron - ‘have tried to find fault in the great collection of al-Bukhari, but without success. It is for this reason they unanimously agree that al-Bukhari is the most authentic book after the Qur’an.’"
"The best of Muhammad."
"Yes indeed - the best Islam has to offer. So if in the next five minutes I can find say, a half dozen places in which the Messenger promotes war, it would make the mullahs and the media either liars or fools, right?"
"If it’s that easy, yes."
"Set the timer." She pointed to the top of the nav/com stack.
Adams pressed the far right button on the plane’s RMI. "Go, girl."
She let the book fall open, flipping a few pages and scanning the subject heads. Finding what she was looking for, she read "The Book of Jihad, chapter one, number 1204. It says, ‘A man asked Allah’s Messenger, "Guide me to a deed that equals Jihad in reward." He replied, "There is no such deed."’"
Adams stopped the timer as she read each passage, starting again when she began her search for the next. "That’s one. Although in saying this, Muhammad is condemning Islam outright. If fighting is the most important deed, Islam can’t be peaceful. That’s a direct hit."
"Listen to what the ‘Islamic scholars’ had to say about Jihad." Sarah’s tone was deeply disturbed. She read, ‘Jihad is holy fighting in Allah’s Cause with maximum force and weaponry. It is the most important part of Islam. By Jihad Islam is established, made superior, and propagated. If Jihad is forsaken, Islam is destroyed and Muslims fall into an inferior position. Their honor is lost and their lands are stolen. Their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim.’"
"Whoa, or should I say, woe. What does that tell you about all the nimrods out there trying to convince us all that Jihad is a ‘spiritual struggle’?" The question was rhetorical. He simply pressed the timer again. Twenty-five seconds had passed.
"They’re lying." She flipped to the next page. "Number 1205: ‘A man asked Allah’s Apostle, "Who is the best Muslim?" The Prophet replied, "A believer who strives in Allah’s Cause," i.e., Jihad, "with his life and property."’ Humph," she said, "that one sounds suspiciously like an approval for suicide, doesn’t it?"
"Yep. And there’s a verse just like it in the Qur’an. You’re forty seconds in, and you’ve found three."
"Okay. Same chapter, next verse. ‘Allah’s Messenger said, "Allah guarantees to admit the Mujahadin in His Cause into Paradise if they are killed; or Allah will return them home safely with war booty."’"
"What a scumbag!" Adams protested. "Paradise if you’re killed fighting for him, booty if you’re not. Good grief!" He shook his head. "Well, that’s fifty seconds and four. One to go."
She looked down. "Number 1207: ‘"Paradise has one hundred levels which Allah has reserved for the Mujahadin who fight in His Cause."’"
"Five and fifty-five," he said pressing the timer again. "Either you’re really good or Islam is real bad."
Almost instantaneously Sarah read, "‘I heard the Prophet saying, "Jihad will bring about either a reward in the hereafter or booty in this world."’ How’s that for ‘peace-loving?’" she asked.
"Well, now we know where they get this lame-brained idea of paradise being a reward for murder. You’re six in sixty, seconds that is. You win - we lose."
"Not so fast, lover. I’m just getting warmed up," she said scanning the navigational instruments. After what seemed like an eternity, about twenty seconds, Sarah was ready. "‘I heard the Prophet saying, "Paradise will be granted to the first batch of my followers who will undertake a naval expedition."’ Then, ‘"The first army amongst my followers who will invade Caesar’s city will be forgiven their sins."’"
"Seven it is. Chapter seven: ‘Allah’s Messenger said, "By Him who holds my soul, whomever is wounded in Allah’s Cause, his wound will have the smell of musk perfume in Paradise."’"
She flipped forward. "You got it. Chapter eight: ‘If Allah gives me a chance to fight Infidels, Allah will see how bravely I can fight.’"
"Yes, nine. ‘Muhammad said, "Embrace Islam first, then fight." So he became a Muslim and was martyred. Allah’s Apostle said, "A little work, but a great reward."’ Sure sounds like a peace-loving religion to me - great rewards for fighting."
"That’s ten in less than two minutes."
"Ooo! Here’s a good one. ‘Gabriel said to the Prophet, "Why have you have put down your arms? By Allah, I have not put down mine yet." The Prophet said, "Where does Allah want me to go now?" Gabriel answered, "This way," pointing toward the tribe of Beni Quraidha.’ The Jews. ‘So Allah’s Messenger went out toward them.’ Then, if you recall, the peace-loving founder of the peace-loving religion lined up all the Jewish men along a trench and cut their heads off. And just in case that wasn’t peace-loving enough, he sold the women and children into slavery - all with Allah’s blessing and a little angelic assistance."
"Makes me want to puke," he said.
"Please. Not in daddy’s nice airplane."
He laughed. "So tell me, how does the media miss this stuff?"
"Like you said, it’s either purposeful or irresponsible."
Still on a roll, Sarah read, "‘A blind man said, "O Allah’s Messenger! If I could see, I would take part in Jihad."’ So Allah told his Messenger to give him a get-out-of-Jihad-free card," she paraphrased. "‘A pass is given to the blind and lame.’"
"The blind and lame," Thor repeated. That sounds like every Muslim. Why don’t they all take advantage of their ‘free pass?’" He shook his head. "I think that’s fourteen examples of Prophet-Man personally encouraging his followers to go to war, to kill infidels. In each case, the reward is booty or paradise. This is about as peace-loving as the Mongol Horde."
"According to this little treasure, paradise isn’t sounding real special. ‘The Prophet said, "If somebody uses a horse in Jihad in Allah’s Cause...then he will be rewarded for what the horse has eaten or drunk and for its dung and urine."’"
"Well, that seems only fair," he quipped. "Paradise in his own image - a total waste."
"It says here, ‘Allah’s messenger fixed two shares for the horse and one for its rider from the war booty.’"
"This boy’s too whacked out to be a founder of a fraternity, much less a religion."
"The fact is, Islam is all about war. This garbage goes on and on."
"Can I have a turn?"
"Sure," she said, handing him the book that was as backward as its message.
Thor scanned a few pages. "From the Book of Revelation, verse 6: ‘Issue orders to kill every Jew in the country.’ Must be Alafat’s favorite. Or maybe it’s 1261. Muhammad said, ‘Muslims will fight Jews until they hide behind talking rocks. "There’s a Jew hiding behind me. Kill him!" the rocks will proclaim.’ Mo, in a fighting mood, says in the next verse, ‘"You must fight against the Turks; people with small eyes, red faces, and flat noses."’ Nothing like a little prejudice to kick off a holy war."
He flipped the page. "‘Once the Jews came to Muhammad and said, "Death be upon you." "So I cursed them," the Prophet said.’"
"Perhaps you’ll like this one: Number 1268. ‘Allah’s Apostle sent us on a military expedition telling us, "If you find such and such a person, burn them with fire."’ Oh, and catch this. It goes on to say, ‘When we came to bid Allah’s Messenger farewell, he said, "Previously I ordered you to burn so-and-so with fire, but punishment with fire is done by none except Allah, so if you capture them, kill them instead."’"
"See? Kill him, but don’t burn him. Mo could be such a softie. Definitely peace-loving, as in ‘rest in peace.’"
"Here’s why they follow their thugs so blindly. ‘The Prophet said, "It is obligatory for one to obey a Muslim ruler’s orders." The Prophet also said, "To enter Paradise you must obey me, and he who obeys me obeys Allah. He who obeys the Muslim chief, obeys me. Muslims should fight for the Imam."’ Islam is all about submission."
The Admiral had heard enough. Grabbing the book, he tossed it onto the floor behind them. It bounced, landing near Mary’s feet.
"We need to let folks know this stuff," Sarah said.
"Yeah? How are we going to do that with the media being such a big part of the problem."
"Overwhelm them with truth. There’s so much of this, and it’s so black, even they can’t...."
"Don’t be so sure," the nattily attired Adams interrupted. He was wearing a suit and tie. Sarah and Mary were decked out in matching Laura Ashley prints.
"We’ve got another five minutes before we start our arrival into Orlando Exec." He looked out the window. Puffy white clouds decorated the brilliant blue sky, a sky that was mirrored in the glistening waters of the Atlantic and the distant deep colors of the Gulf. At 28,000 feet, they were high enough to see both coasts.
"One victor alpha, Orlando approach, descend and maintain seventeen thousand. Orlando altimeter is three zero one four," the air traffic controller said. Sarah reached up and turned the altitude pre-select counter clockwise. Pulling out the knob, she established a 2,000 foot-a-minute descent. Adams retarded the throttle so as not to overspend the machine.
"Sarah, did you do a similar search for peaceful Muhammad quotes?"
"I fell asleep reading al-Bukhari last night. I must have read for three hours. ‘Let’s-play-nice’ sayings are few and far between. Muhammad was a real piece of work. And I’m afraid you’re right. His condemning us infidels, his terror, all stems from him being insecure. I’ll give you an example," she said, reciting a verse she had read the night before. "Insecure Boy is bragging about his trip to heaven. In the middle of his story, he somehow feels the need to cut Moses down to his own level, to make him appear to be as big a crybaby as he is. So Muhammad tells his followers this story: ‘When I left Moses, he cried. Someone asked Moses why. "I weep because after me there is a Prophet whose followers will enter Paradise in greater numbers than my followers."’ Pretty sad, huh?"
"Sarah, we’ve got a moment before they start vectoring us to final. I need to tell you a story - to explain why I know so much about Muhammad’s insecurity and why it has created such a hateful legacy."
"Alright," she said with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation.
"Back when I was in my teens, my father was so insecure he wrote me a mountain of hate letters. Their tone and threats were nearly identical to the things we’ve read from Muhammad. Then one day dad’s rage grew out of control. He called a minister friend of his and told him he was going to kill me. The pastor called and warned me, as he was obligated to do. I made copies of my dad’s letters, looked up the name of a shrink in the phone book, and set an appointment. I delivered his ‘love letters’, along with an explanation of our ‘relationship’.
"A few days later," Thor said, "after the psychiatrist had read everything, I met with him. I’ll never forget this. He stood up as I walked into his office and told me not to sit down. He said that the man who wrote the letters had followed me there that first day. The shrink said that my dad had been threatening him and his family ever since." Adams stared blankly forward as he recounted the sorry tale.
"The psychiatrist told me that he would never meet with me again, saying that I couldn’t even pay him for the visit, and that I was never to mention his name. Then he hit me with this. He said that the man who wrote those hate letters to me was insecure, to such a degree he was psychotic, delusional, and paranoid, just like Muhammad. He said my dad had lost contact with reality and that there was nothing I, or anyone, could do to change that. He told me that insecurity made him insatiable. Then he laid out the reasons why insecurity caused him to demean me, to lash out. He said he had to be in control, and that no matter what I did, no matter what I gave him, it wouldn’t change a thing. Nothing would ever be enough. Again, just like Muhammad and his followers. He went on to tell me, ‘With these letters, you will get a restraining order against him, but it will make no difference.’"
Sarah looked horrified. All she had ever known was love.
"What he said next was a shock: ‘Buy a gun and learn to use it. The man who wrote these letters is violent and hateful. If you are not prepared to defend yourself, he will kill you.’" Thor sighed heavily. "So you see, Sarah, I know all about insecurity. I lived with it. I know exactly what caused Muhammad to be paranoid and delusional, violent and hateful. I know what caused him to kill, to deceive. And I know why his followers terrorize us today. Fact is, we can’t appease those whom Muhammad’s message has infected. A gun is the only thing that will stop them."
Thor’s revelation stunned Sarah. She mourned for his loss.
"Pilatus one victor alpha, descend and maintain eight thousand." The air traffic controller’s voice intoned over the intercom. "Turn right heading two seven zero. Contact Orlando approach on one three two point niner."
Thor tuned the number one radio to the new frequency. "Approach, one victor alpha out of seventeen for eight." Sarah switched the autopilot from Nav to Heading and reset the desired altitude.
Adams turned his attention to the number two radio, dialing in the ATIS frequency for Orlando Executive. The winds were light and variable, the sky clear. "One victor alpha turn left heading two two zero. Descend and maintain three thousand."
As they fell gracefully out of the sky, Sarah was inwardly troubled yet outwardly focused. Her left hand rested comfortably on the control yoke; her right was gently draped over the throttle. She had said nothing. She didn’t know what to say.
Thor looked at his beautiful fiancé, now deep in thought. He placed his left hand on top of hers. In a little over a week she would be his wife. Then he thought of Mary, the precious little jewel strapped in behind them immersed in a puzzle book. Out of the greatest calamity of his life, he had found love, not once but twice. The Admiral reached behind him and pulled the shoulder harnesses forward, locking the tabs into place. For the first time in his life, he had something to live for.
"Orlando approach, one victor alpha has Orlando Exec," Sarah said looking out the left side of the airplane.
"One victor alpha, you are cleared for visual approach, runway seven. Contact tower on one one eight point seven. Good day."
Adams repeated the instructions as Sarah disengaged the autopilot. Foot on the left rudder pedal, ailerons deflected into a coordinated thirty-degree bank, she pressed the nose down, and throttled the power back.
"Pilatus one victor alpha with yankee five miles northwest inbound visual runway seven," the Admiral explained with military precision.
"Pilatus you are number two, left base entry, following a Cessna on extended downwind. Call traffic in sight," the tower instructed.
Nottingly spotted the small high-winged plane. It was obviously being flown by a student. The wobble in his flight path was the first clue, and the Sky Hawk’s bright red tail identified it as belonging to a local flight school. Adams repeated the instructions, informing the tower that they had the traffic in sight.
"One victor alpha, you are cleared to land behind that traffic. Keep visual separation."
Adams checked the airspeed. Noting that they were below the requisite 177 knots, he lowered the gear. He wanted to slow their approach and give the Cessna plenty of room. "Three green," he said, noting the main and nose gear lights. "Flaps fifteen," he announced to Sarah on the intercom, pulling the flap lever back into the first position. The plane pitched down ever so slightly.
Sarah tried to make sense of the Sky Hawk’s maneuvers. "Tower, is the Cessna landing or departing the area?"
"Sky Hawk six six whiskey," the tower said over the common radio frequency. "Turn left base."
After a few second’s delay and without response, the controller came back on the radio. "Cessna six six whiskey, what is your intent?"
There was only silence as everyone watched the red-tailed Sky Hawk climb rather than descend.
"Cessna six six whiskey, how do you read?"
Once again, there was no reply.
"Pilatus one victor alpha, we have lost contact with the one-seventy-two. It appears to be departing the area, although it’s been doing pattern work here for the better part of the last hour."
"Roger that," Adams replied, watching as the small plane began a gradual left banking turn. He put in thirty degrees of flap.
"Tower, what do you make of the climbing left turn?"
The tower responded, "The student pilot made some twenty touch-and-goes prior to your arrival. While his accent made him hard to understand, he’s had no radio problems."
"Roger, tower. Do you know anything about the pilot?"
"The ground controller has the flight school on the line now."
Sarah pulled the power back to eight PSI and began her turn from base to final. "Flaps forty," she told Thor.
He started to put them in, but hesitated. "Tower, the Cessna is crossing the field. Do you have light signals?"
"Yes. We’ve been using them. We have tried to contact the pilot on ground and emergency frequencies. No joy."
"Did the pilot sound Middle Eastern?"
"Do you have his name from the flight school?"
"Just a sec...affirmative. It’s Malamud Assad."
Thor and Sarah traded a glance.
"Sarah, I’m taking the controls." He wasn’t asking. The warrior smelled foul play.
"Your plane," she nodded, immediately removing her hands from the yoke and throttle and her feet from the pedals.
The Sky Hawk had stopped climbing. It was now in a steep dive, heading directly toward the approach end of runway seven. It looked like a collision course. "Tower, one victor alpha is going missed."
Suddenly the T-CAS traffic avoidance system began bellowing, "Traffic, traffic, traffic!" The Sky Hawk was headed right for them.
"Tower, one victor alpha aborting right!"
With the skill of a 5,000-hour jet jock, Adams pushed the throttle full forward, raising the gear and flap levers in one fluid motion. He forced the right pedal full forward, swinging the rudder right as he deflected the ailerons. This pushed the Pilatus into a sharp sixty-degree bank. Instantly, they felt the G’s accumulate, forcing them down into their seats. So he wouldn’t stall in the steep turn, he forced himself to press the nose of the airplane into a shallow dive. It wasn’t a move for the faint of heart. They were only 500 feet above the ground.
Mary let out a whimper as her puzzle book flew from her tray table across the cabin. She didn’t like bumpy flights.
Sarah and Thor could both see the Sky Hawk bearing down on them, looking for all the world like a kamikaze. As the Cessna came closer, Malamud Assad and his wide-eyed smile became increasingly visible. He was staring - aiming - right at them. With the benefit of gravity, the Cessna was more than a match for the otherwise faster Pilatus. Each fraction of a second brought the high-winged attacker ever closer, causing it to grow steadily larger in the front window. Closer, closer.
Malamud’s eyes focused as if he were looking through the sights of a gun. As quickly as they had banked hard to the right, he had turned left, pursuing them. It was a dogfight without guns.
In an ever-steeper dive, Adams gained speed, keeping the attacker at bay. He knew that a 172 falling out of the sky was faster than they were. The Pilatus was still a dirty bird, with flaps and gear partially extended. He had retracted the levers, but the cycle time for one was fifteen seconds, thirty seconds for the other. And this whole drama was being played out in a tiny fraction of that time.
"Hold on!" he yelled.
It was now a three-way game of chicken between attacker, ground, and airframe. They were all too eager to blink, of course, turn tail and run from the Muslim marauder. But to do so they had to descend quickly, and that created two new enemies. To delay the impact with the 172, which would be certain death, they had to give their systems awhile to react. The giant turbine engine required time to spool up, and the flaps and gear needed time to retract. Adams knew he had to dive, just as the Sky Hawk was doing, if they hoped to escape. But if he stayed in the dive too long, nature would finish what the kamikaze bomber had started. On the other hand, if he pulled up too abruptly or gained too much speed, especially in this extreme sixty-degree bank, he would rip the wings off.
Still slower than the rapidly diving Cessna, the Admiral had but one thing going for him. A slower plane turns faster than a fast one. If he couldn’t outrun his adversary, maybe he could outmaneuver him. This tactic was not without risk, however. A sixty-degree turn doubles the aerodynamic load on the airframe. Pulling out of the steeply banked dive would stress man and machine right up to the breaking point.
The menacing propeller was now spinning in Sarah’s side window rather than in front of them. And it was no longer growing, although the earth below them was.
The plane’s ground proximity warning system was now squawking, "sink rate, sink rate, terrain, terrain, pull up, pull up." Annoyed, Sarah disabled the audible warning.
Thor was analyzing it all, calculating the pluses and minuses of every alternative. Properly trained and focused, the human brain is faster than any computer.
Military jets are stressed to handle more Gs than the human body can survive, but civilian planes aren’t. Thor had noticed the overly engineered parts on the Pilatus, and he knew that the Swiss-made bird had been built by a military contractor. He was now praying that they had designed the craft to withstand more than the 4.5 Gs the FAA required. Their lives depended on it.
All in one motion, Thor raised the nose, smoothly yet firmly. It took a surprising amount of strength. He leveled the wings, trying to retard the dive and keep the airframe from breaking apart. The ground approached at an alarming rate. They were less than a second from impact.
With his wings nearly level, Adams pulled the control yoke back into his chest. The plane bottomed out just inches above the swampy Florida ground. Shrubbery exploded as the propeller trimmed the mangroves, scratching the undercarriage as it passed. Had the gear not partially retracted, they would have cartwheeled.
Sarah held her breath. Mary screamed.
Still pulling back, he felt the giant blades pull the five-ton craft forward, allowing it to rise, slowly at first, then at an ever-accelerating pace. The Pilatus’ weight-to-thrust ratio was greater than a World War II P-51’s but not nearly that of an F-18. He had beat death for the moment. Hope and adrenaline coursed through his veins.
As he climbed at 3,000 feet a minute, Thor began a slow bank to the right, hoping to see the crash site of their assailant. But no such luck. In a left descending turn, the Islamic warrior had missed both them and the ground.
Sarah, looking at the T/CAS traffic avoidance display, said, "Four hundred feet below us at three o’clock."
"Let’s keep climbing. It can’t climb at even half our rate."
"Nice flying, sir!" Orlando tower shouted. "That was incredible."
"Do you have any more intel on our Mr. Assad?"
"Yes. The flight school said he’s from Egypt, here on a student visa. They said he prayed religiously, even in class. A weird butt-up sort of thing."
"Why didn’t they report him?"
"They did. But the authorities called it racial profiling. The Feds said it was illegal and actually threatened the school."
The Admiral shook his head. America had lost its way. In its desire to be politically correct, it had forgotten that its primary duty was to protect its citizens. Prudence had become a crime.
The tower continued, "The FAA has told us specifically not to profile anyone who looks Middle Eastern or anyone carrying Islamic books and such. We can only question little old ladies, small children, and white males - no terrorist types. They’d rather see Americans die than risk offending Muslims. Is that crazy, or what?" Thor hoped that he was exaggerating. He wasn’t.
"We’ve lost visual contact with the Sky Hawk. Do you have him on radar?" Adams asked.
"Yes, sir, we do. He missed you by as little as you missed the ground. We shot video of the whole thing. Right now, he’s at your five o’clock and climbing, although not nearly as fast as you are, captain."
"He was trying to kill us, wasn’t he?" Stupid question, but Thor had to ask.
"Yes, sir. No doubt about that."
"Okay, tower, listen carefully. I want you to switch to frequency: pitcher, first, catcher point center, second. I repeat. Frequency: pitcher, first, catcher point center, second." Thor didn’t want the terrorist listening to their discussions. He hoped the tower understood baseball nomenclature.
Sarah dialed 132.84 into the number-two radio. Adams was impressed that she knew the positions.
"Pilatus, one victor alpha. This is Orlando tower. Do you read?"
"Affirmative, tower. This is Admiral Thurston Adams. I want you to call every military base within a fifty-mile radius. Bring them up on this frequency. But first, call MacDill and Patrick Air Force Bases and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. Have them send whatever they have airborne."
"Yes, sir. I’ll do it now."
"Admiral Adams," another voice came across the radio.
"Admiral, we’ve closed the airport to all incoming traffic, but you are still cleared to land."
"Negative, Orlando. We will not be landing while the Cessna is airborne. We’d be a sitting duck on the ground. Where is he now?"
"Three thousand feet below you, heading southwest, away from the airport."
Sarah pointed him out on the "fish finder," as the T/CAS system is affectionately called. Adams pushed the GPS moving map overlay. With it engaged he could not only see their relative positions but could also determine where the intruder was headed.
"Tower, my track shows the Sky Hawk headed...oh no! Directly toward Disney World."
"Affirmative, sir. So does ours. He’s twelve miles out."
"What is it with these guys?" the Admiral said to Sarah. Engaging the push-to-talk button on the yoke, he activated the radio. "Tower, close this airspace to all in-bounds. Have all current traffic land at the closest appropriate airport. Call Disney and warn them. They’ve got five minutes. Now, what’s the status of the Air Force and Navy Jets?"
There was a short pause. The original tower controller returned to the mike. "Admiral, the Jacksonville Naval Air Station said they have two F-18s on a training mission over Cape Canaveral. That’s thirty-three east. They will contact you on this frequency. And Admiral, the airspace has been closed. Disney has been alerted. They sound panicked, sir."
Adams banked to the right again. Descending at full power, he headed in the direction of the blip on the moving map display.
"What are you doing?" Sarah was alarmed.
"We can’t just let him fly that thing into Disney World. He could kill a hundred people, maybe more."
"Thor, if we get near him again, he’s gonna kill three people for sure."
"I just want to distract him, delay him long enough for the fighters to arrive." He flashed her a little grin. She did not return it.
"Pilatus one victor alpha. This is Hornet yankee seven. Come in."
"Hornet yankee seven, this is Admiral Adams. Where are you, son?"
"Thirty miles from your position, closing at mach one point two. Over."
"Do you have us on radar?"
"Affirmative, sir. Both you and the Cessna. Over."
"What’s your ETA?"
"Five minutes, sir. No, make that six. We’re going to have to slow down or we’ll blow right past him. Over."
"What do you have for ordnance?
"Guns and air-to-air missiles. Over."
"Do you have a wingman?"
"What’s your name, son?"
"Lieutenant Commander Wilson, sir. My wingman is Lieutenant Kain."
"Have either of you ever flown combat?"
"Well, then this is a good way to start. The Cessna can’t shoot back."
"You want us to shoot, sir?"
"Affirmative. I want you to engage and kill the enemy before he kills the folks we’re sworn to protect. That is an order, son."
"Yes, sir. We are four and a half out. Closing at mach one point one."
"Commander, we’re going to distract the pilot. We’re less than two minutes from overtaking him, but he’s only three minutes from his target, Disney World. Get your tails in here and engage."
Sarah pointed to the traffic they were following, first on T/CAS, then out the window. Thor veered to intercept. He wanted to pass on the left so that he and Malamud would be as close as possible.
"Gear extension is one seventy-seven, right?"
"Yes. Flaps fifteen at one sixty-three."
In a full power descent, they were at redline, flying at nearly 300 knots. Intersect was less than sixty seconds. Adams planned to fly past the red-tailed plane and then turn right, passing in front of him. He wanted to enrage the Arab pilot to the point he would recommence the chase in hopes of inflicting revenge.
"Two miles and closing," Sarah said. "Are you sure about this?"
"Oh, that’s reassuring."
The Admiral pulled the power back. He didn’t want to fly past Mr. Assad so fast that he wouldn’t be sufficiently tempted. Thor grasped the yoke in his left hand so he could visually demonstrate his affection for his Muslim friend with his right. Smiling, he banked the Pilatus and cut as closely in front of the Sky Hawk as their relative speeds would allow. From his seat, Adams was able to enjoy a leisurely split-second view of the olive-skinned Arab turning white with fear. The panicked student pilot nearly jerked the 172 out of the sky trying to avoid the Pilatus. Being the attackee wasn’t nearly as much fun.
With some effort, Assad regained control after flying through the Pilatus’ wing vortex - violently turbulent rotating air. But rather than following the plane he had once pursued so aggressively, he merely turned back toward the theme park. Mickey Mouse couldn’t fight back. A frustrated Adams slowed his plane and lowered the gear and flaps.
"Now what are you doing?"
"He’ll be over Disney World in one minute. The Hornets are still two minutes out. We need to buy more time."
"So why the gear?"
"What do you think is stronger?" Thor asked, maneuvering the Pilatus back into position. "Our right main or his left wing?"
"I’ve always thought the left wing was lame." She laughed nervously. It seemed better than crying, which is what she really wanted to do. Suddenly, she thought of Mary. She spun around to see a very worried- looking eight year old strapped into her seat. She was not enjoying this one bit.
Adams flipped on the cabin intercom. "Hey, Punkin. You wanna see Disney World?"
"Thor!" Sarah was not amused.
"Commander, how long to intercept?"
"Ninety seconds, sir. But radar shows only one aircraft. Yours. Where is the one-seventy-two from your position?"
"Kissing our right main," the Admiral answered, slamming the gear down into the high-winged Cessna. Knowing that the bump would bank the demented Arab left, he pulled up and turned away.
Retracting the gear and moving back above the wounded Cessna, Sarah and Thor could see that the last two feet of his left wing was missing. Fuel poured from the ruptured bladder. Yet somehow, the rugged little Sky Hawk was still airborne, albeit slower and less maneuverable. Shaking, Assad was doing all he could to vector his crippled bird toward the center of the Magic Kingdom.
"Pilatus, we are ready to engage. Do you want us to fire?"
"I’d have done it myself, but my father-in-law didn’t order the gun option."
"Roger that, sir. Lucky my uncle did."
"Can you waste him while he’s over the lake?"
"Yes, sir. I think we’ve got him out-gunned," Wilson came back, lifting the guard and pushing the trigger. Just as quickly, huge portions of the Sky Hawk’s red tail disappeared.
The relative speed of the 172 was now a problem. The first Hornet flew past the slower bird like it was standing still. But his wingman was further back than usual. "Admiral, I have missile lock. Permission to fire."
"Fire, Lieutenant." the Admiral ordered.
From their vantage point high above Disney World, Thor and Sarah took it all in. The missile dropped. As the burst of flame shot out its rear, it lunged forward, picking up speed. A second later the Cessna was no more. Splintered into a million little pieces, it looked like confetti.
"Yeah!" Sarah shouted over the intercom, clinching her fist. "Splash one terrorist." She thought of all the families, chomping peacefully on their cotton candy, strolling obliviously with Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, and Dopey. They would live because Malamud Assad had died. This had been one of those rare occasions when killing saved lives.
"Good work, son."
"Thank you, sir. Do you want us to bug out or follow you down to Orlando Exec?"
"Follow us in. I’d like to meet you."
Adams turned to Sarah. "Your airplane. Put her down gentle like."
"Sure, now that you’ve used the gear for a battering ram and the propeller as a gardening tool," she winked. "So, sweetness, do you think the scratches are going to be covered under the warranty?"
He thought about how he was going to explain the damage to Troy.
"On second thought," she said, reading his mind, "let’s not tell daddy about this."
"Orlando tower, this is one victor alpha. The air traffic problem has been eliminated. Request permission to land."
"You are cleared to land, Admiral. There is no traffic, other than the Hornets, that is, within twenty miles. Nicely done."
"It wouldn’t have been possible without you, Wilson, and Kain. You all saved a lot of lives today."
"Yes, sir. But speaking of lives, shouldn’t we dispatch a rescue op for the student pilot?"
"I don’t think that’ll be necessary," Commander Wilson said. "You can probably pass on the coroner, too. By the time the gators are done with their Muslim munchies, there won’t even be a grease spot."
Sarah didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She turned around again to check on Mary, as did Thor. "You doing okay back there, honey?"
She looked a little green around the gills. "I want you to fly the plane, mommy. Daddy’s not very good at it."
"Yes, I know, sweetie. So, Admiral," she asked, "are you always this much fun?"