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Old May 5 2010, 07:42 PM   #1
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Star Trek : Angel - Book IV - Saving History II

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NO infringement is intended. All other material is copyright to Unusualsuspex 2010.


2026 - Air Force One is down and the President of the United States is missing, believed dead.

As a power hungry and inexperienced Vice President steps into the vacuum, Iran prepares to strike at Israel with illegally procured nuclear weapons and in turn, Israel goes on to a war footing to stop them.

Russia is suffering a comparable lack of leadership as factions vie to replace the recently deceased Premier and the shadowy Sword of Iran group use violence, terror and mind control to achieve their leader’s goals.

But above all this, the very existence of humanity itself is suddenly threatened by an event that had long been postulated but for too long ignored.

In Part II of the Saving History Trilogy the past, present and future of the Star Trek universe continue to converge as Humanity’s dream of flight to the stars seems like it may end before it can even begin!


STAR TREK:ANGEL – SAVING HISTORY – PART II
THE YEAR WE DODGED THE BULLET

READ IT HERE FIRST!!


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Old May 8 2010, 11:09 AM   #2
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Re: Star Trek : Angel - Book IV - Saving History II


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Old May 9 2010, 08:39 AM   #3
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Re: Star Trek : Angel - Book IV - Saving History II

AUTHORS FOREWORD

While I attempt to research every story I write to the best of my ability, until now that has really only involved checking my Star Trek facts and figures. However, with what has now become a trilogy, my research has become paramount (no pun intended!) to the realism of the story. Not only have I delved into the Trek archives to ascertain dates and facts for the characters but my research then moved on to other prominent features.

In Part I – The Year of The Fire Horse, it was geography, time zones, political groups, weapons and the rebirth of flight to the stars that rated my attention.

Here in Part II – The Year We Dodged The Bullet, the research has continued delving deeper into history, space technology and theory, and much more.

This research, in one very major instance, led me into contact with one Russell L Schweickart, the Chairman of the B612 Foundation to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to me.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Rusty was the Lunar Module pilot on the Apollo 9 mission in 1969. He has done much since that time and now, as mentioned above, is deeply involved with the B612 Foundation.

I urge you to visit the website to find out more about their mission, but to describe it briefly, the B612 Foundation is a private foundation dedicated to protecting the Earth from asteroid strikes. This is by no means a pie in the sky statement as the Foundation has already presented papers to NASA and had research conducted by JPL to determine the viability of asteroid deflection by means of a ‘tug’ system. I won’t go beyond that explanation for two reasons:

1. It might encourage you to visit their website to find out more (Go on! Go!)
2. It may well spoil the story for you!

Writing science fiction based around science fact can lead to a nasty case of the anachronisms as reality outstrips fiction but the schedule of what I’m writing here is not far out.

Unfortunately, I have had to take one or two liberties to fit the facts into the story and make them fit into the established premise laid down as part of the Trek novel, THE LOST ERA – THE SUNDERED by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels, but if I have I hope you’ll all forgive me, especially Rusty to whom this story is dedicated!
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Old May 9 2010, 08:51 AM   #4
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Prologue

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STAR TREK: ANGEL – BOOK THREE


SAVING HISTORY – PART II

THE YEAR WE DODGED THE BULLET



"Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there."

Virginia Burden, from ‘The Process of Intuition’ (pub. 1975)



“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.”
Bertrand Russell, British author, mathematician, & philosopher (1872 - 1970)



PROLOGUE



EARTH
CRETACEOUS PERIOD
65 MILLION YEARS AGO


Steam, heavily scented by the moist ground from which it rose, drifted lazily above the tall ferns as morning sunlight began to evaporate the night’s condensed moisture. Insects the size of small birds sparkled like airborne jewels as they buzzed indolently in the still air above the brightly coloured vegetation.

Above and through all this strode perhaps the most well known of the dinosaurs, a six tonne, twelve metre long adult Tyrannosaurus Rex though it wouldn’t be known as 'the tyrant king of the lizards' for over 65 million years after its extinction. In fact the very species that would name it hadn’t yet appeared on the planet, but it mattered little. To all intents and purposes, the tyrannosaur was master of all it surveyed.

Its huge head swung from side to side sniffing at the morning air for prey. Its speed in a chase could reach up to 25 miles per hour which, when compared to the slow moving creatures it fed on, was more than enough to secure food. Even so, the mighty creature was not averse to scavenging when the opportunity arose, and such was the case this fateful morning.

In the hot, humid air it scented the carcass of something recently deceased and swivelled its head to pinpoint its location. While the tyrannosaur had excellent eyesight, it was of little use in dense foliage like this when it then relied on its sense of smell for guidance. With huge, ponderous steps it trudged forward, flickers of movement catching its attention as smaller creatures scurried from hiding to escape its tread. For a short while at least, they were safe.

Overhead, a flight of pterosaurs arced back and forth above the trees, snapping at the insects disturbed by the tyrannosaur’s progress. Surprisingly agile for their size, their hollow bones gave them a lightness that allowed them to gracefully ride the thermals rising from the rapidly heating forest.

Their movement may have been birdlike but they were four limbed creatures, their wing being nothing but a very thin membrane stretching between the front and back legs. There was something bat-like about them, and their long beaks looked not unlike some bird species’ that would later evolve, but with a wingspan of almost 15 metres they could never be mistaken for the birds we know today. In fact, following their demise, future scientists would puzzle for decades over where to place them in the evolutionary plan.

Suddenly, as a flock, they dived down towards the ground in a clamour of panicked screams. The abrupt silence that ensued, however, was not to last long. Turning its head back and forth once more in an attempt to discover the source of the pterosaurs panic, the tyrannosaur eventually looked up just as a fierce and piercing light split the sky above its head and a sound like Armageddon beat down upon it.

It had witnessed in its youth the truly terrifying eruption of a volcano but this was on a magnitude far greater. In panic, it span around temporarily blinded by the light, unsure of which way to flee. Ultimately, the attempt would prove to be futile.

Travelling at a speed close to 18 kilometres per second, the ten kilometre wide asteroid struck the earth some 300 kilometres away with a force equivalent to 100 trillion tonnes of TNT - over a billion times more explosive than the bombs that would be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The tyrannosaur ran headlong with all its might through the stand of tall trees, its meal forgotten in the dread that now enveloped its mind. The shockwave that travelled through the earth following the impact lifted the six tonne creature into the air as if it were weightless before it was slammed back down, its shattered body tossed again and again by aftershocks.

On the horizon a ball of fire rose high into the sky, incinerating everything within close range and starting vast fires in the surrounding vegetation that would burn for weeks. Huge earthquakes and continental landslides would create tsunamis hundreds of metres high, shattering coastlines and flooding plains. In the wake of the fireball, blasted material from the 180 kilometre diameter crater was ejected at high velocity into the atmosphere, eventually to shroud the planet in darkness causing a global winter. More than half of all species on Earth, including the dinosaurs, bird-like pterosaurs and large marine reptiles would never adapt to this hellish environment and become little more than fossils to be wondered at by their successors, the surviving and evolving mammals.

The devastated location would eventually become what is now Chicxulub on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the event itself would be known to scientists and palaeontologists as the K-T, or Cretaceous-Tertiary, mass extinction; the death knell of the dinosaurs.

It would not be the last time that Earth was visited in this way, but for now it would be the last such event to threaten life on Earth in such a planetary manner.

For now.
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Old May 9 2010, 09:14 AM   #5
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Re: Star Trek : Angel - Book IV - Saving History II

Okay, I'm still working on finishing Book III, but I just have to say... that cover is FANTASTIC!
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Old May 9 2010, 06:13 PM   #6
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Re: Star Trek : Angel - Book IV - Saving History II

It was one of two I was dithering over, both appropriate to the forthcoming story!

Check out the other one here!
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Old May 10 2010, 10:32 AM   #7
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Chapter 1

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is trademarked and copyrighted by CBS Studios.
NO infringement is intended. All other material is copyright to Unusualsuspex 2010.


Chapter 1


FBI FIELD OFFICE
WASHINGTON DC, USA
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1510 EST (2010 UTC)

Agent John Baxter had sat and stared sullenly at the screen in front of him. On it was the image of the luggage tag that had been attached to the remnants of a holdall from the explosion on the George Mason Memorial Bridge earlier in the day.

The innocent image belied the full ramifications that the investigation was now uncovering.

After ensuring that the seriously injured driver of the flight catering truck had been safely dispatched to hospital under guard for her own protection, he had returned to the office refusing treatment for his own minor injuries. Baxter was more intent on discovering just what the hell passenger luggage had been doing in a flight catering truck and why it had been rigged to explode.

In the past half hour the information had begun to flood in and none of it was good.

The first call had come from Intercontinental Airlines Operations at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport located in Arlington, VA just across the Potomac River from the Nation's Capital. This had been the departure point for IA Flight 382. The last communication that had been shared with the flight was a message for the Captain, Mike Jarvis, a seasoned veteran. It was a private message relayed by Operations which had simply stated that a Ms Shamshir would be unable to make a dinner engagement in London due to business commitments. Since that time, calls to the aircraft had met with no response.

Just 15 minutes later, a security guard at Reagan had discovered the bodies of five baggage handlers hidden in waste skips by one of the storage hangars. Investigation had shown that these five were assigned to loading the forward cargo hold of IA Flight 382.

Finally, news had just arrived that Air Force One had disappeared mid-Atlantic and Baxter had immediately taken all the information he had to the Assistant Director, Jennifer McKenna.

She’d read his synopsis quickly but thoroughly and then looked at him with brown eyes that had the ability to project calmness and control or intensity and fury. At the moment her emotions seemed to be a mix of all of these.

“And you suspect the events are connected?”

Baxter sighed. “To my mind Ma’am, the catering truck and IA Flight 382 are most definitely connected taking into account the murders at Reagan. It’s too much of a coincidence that Air Force One disappears on the same route.”

He was pleased to see that her question had apparently been confirmation of her own suspicions.

“Alright, you get to head this one John. I’ll upstream it to Homeland Defence and the White House.” She handed the data slate back to him. “Keep me apprised of all updates.”

He nodded and was about to leave the office when she stopped him.

“However, before you do anything you will,” – and she emphasised the last word – “get some medical treatment and get cleaned up.”

“Yes Ma’am.”



THE WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM
WEST WING BASEMENT
WASHINGTON DC, USA
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1517 EST (2017 UTC)


To Robert Carmel’s mind, the events about to unfold here in the White House Situation Room were akin to allowing a torchlight procession through a fireworks factory. What made it worse was the simple fact that the American constitution supported it.

He watched Vice President Stephen Stearman in conversation with some anonymous member of staff at the far end of the conference room, nodding his head sagely. With his mature film star looks and his apparently affable manner, he at times seemed like the perfect candidate for Presidency and it was an image he promoted vigorously.

Insiders, however, knew that there was little more to him than that because Stephen Stearman was all image and little substance. Staffers had seen his mood swing from petulant to preening in seconds especially if cameras were anywhere in the neighbourhood. Carmel also knew that his grasp of the rapidly evolving world situation was tenuous at best. Economics and social climbing had always been his most superior talents, but the façade of capability was such that his nomination to VP was assured almost from the start.

The White House Situation Room was a 5000-square-foot conference room and intelligence management centre in the basement of the West Wing of the White House. Its mission since its inception in 1961 was to provide the President, the National Security Advisor and other critical members of the Presidential staff real-time information from all four corners of the globe and as such was a 24/7 operation run by staffers of the National Security Council.

Whether the situation was military operations or humanitarian crises, information was funnelled to the Situation Room directly. Currently, however, the information was sparse but nonetheless alarming.

Carmel stood and looked at his watch. The situation was four and a half hours old and it was now time to brief the Vice President and the resident staff on the latest intelligence, a situation that Carmel knew Stearman would have to be guided through carefully considering its import.

“Mister Vice President, ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.” Carmel noted that Stearman winced at the Vice President tag, but until he was officially, (if only temporarily), promoted to Acting President status, it was the title Carmel would use. “I will now present the latest intelligence on the situation we face.”

At Stearman’s nod, the room was seated and Carmel made his way to the lectern. Behind him, large LED wall screens carried transcripts of the information he was about to impart.

“To recap, at 1539 UTC, Air Force One transmitted an emergency data burst en route from Andrews Air Force Base to London Heathrow airport. The coordinates are listed in your data slates and the position relates to a distance of at least 1000 nautical miles from the nearest landfall in Ireland.”

The map on the centre screen behind him zoomed in to encompass Greenland to the North, the British Isles to the East and the Newfoundland coast to the West.

“Based on the VC-25’s survivability enhancements over the standard 747, we are currently confident that, barring a catastrophic event, Air Force One can survive ditching if land cannot be reached. However, I also need to remind you that since the aircraft’s beacon stopped transmitting just minutes after the initial databurst such a catastrophic event cannot be ruled out.”

“What about air traffic control?” asked Stearman. “Surely they must have seen something?”

Carmel winced internally at the question but answered it diplomatically.

“Sir, air traffic control as you know it is not feasible over the North Atlantic simply due to technical limitations.” Stearman should have been well aware of that and in asking the question showed once again that his grasp of the situation was poor. “Our actions now are based around the following procedures. Two AWACS aircraft are converging on the area as well as P8 Poseidons out of Patuxent Naval Air Station. The Royal Air Force has also put their own AWACS and Nimrod aircraft in the air and they are immediately at our disposal.”

“And how long is this all likely to take Mr Carmel?” Stearman once again.

My, we’re in a rush to be President aren’t we? Carmel stifled the thought and his increasing frustration with the man and studied his data slate for a moment to compose himself.

“Just coming to that part Mr Vice President. While the aircraft are en route to the scene, we’re also diverting vessels north into the area to assist in search and rescue operations. In addition we’re shortly expecting satellite imagery from the NRO which may help narrow the search area. The first unit on station will be the P8s within an hour and then the Nimrods within three and a half hours.”

Stearman stood, his attitude turning bullish. “Mr Carmel that will mean that they’ll have been in the water for almost five hours assuming that they even survived the crash in the first place. What kind of rescue operation is this?”

Carmel was close to breaking point with the idiot and held up his own data slate.

“Mr Vice President, I’m sure you’ll recall from your brief that the meteorological forecast for the area reports a relatively low sea swell, good visibility and unusually mild temperatures.” He saw Stearman about to speak but continued. “This means that the VC-25 could quite likely have survived a ditching. The aircraft captain, Colonel DiGriz is an exceptional pilot otherwise he wouldn’t be in the position. Furthermore, the enhanced survival equipment aboard the aircraft would support survival in the water for at least 24 hours if not longer.” He took a breath feeling a calmness settle over him in the knowledge that everything that could be done was already underway. “The aircraft and vessels responding to the incident can only travel at their top speeds Sir, which in the case of the closest aircraft is equivalent to Air Force One. I’m sure they’re not hanging around.”

Stearman muttered something under his breath, but when he noted that the eyes of every person in the Situation Room were focussed on him he returned to his seat.

“Let’s hope they’re not Mr Carmel. Is that all?”

“For now, Mr Vice President, yes.”

“Keep me advised.”

Stearman stood and without a thank you to Carmel or the staffers who were manning the positions in the Situation Room, left. Carmel shook his head in dismay as Admiral James Packard, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approached him.

“Bob,” he said quietly, “we both know the man’s an ass but remember that right now he’s numero uno until we resolve this. Don’t let him get to you in front of the staff.”

“Easier said than done James, but you’re right. It just scares me that he may end up in the Oval Office permanently.”

“If things go down the pan, it’s the way the Twenty Fifth Amendment works Bob. Let’s just try and make sure that it doesn’t get that far by finding Madeline and the others.”

Carmel looked at his long time friend and smiled tiredly. “What do you figure the odds James?”

Packard was upbeat as he tapped the data slate he held. “You said it yourself Bob, everything’s in their favour as long as we can get on site fast.” He placed a hand on Carmel’s shoulder. “And before you ask, yea I wanted to plant one right on his smug kisser too.”

“Thanks James. I’ll try and bottle it up a little better next time.”

Packard winked and returned to the other waiting members of the JCS. Carmel meanwhile made a beeline for the Director of the FBI. Benfield’s latest information had also been in Stearman’s brief but Carmel was increasingly convinced that the VP hadn’t bothered to read down that far.
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Old May 10 2010, 10:34 AM   #8
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Chapter 1 (cont)

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is trademarked and copyrighted by CBS Studios.
NO infringement is intended. All other material is copyright to Unusualsuspex 2010.



Chapter 1 (cont)


FOUR AND A HALF HOURS EARLIER

AIR FORCE ONE
NORTH ATLANTIC
EN ROUTE TO LONDON HEATHROW
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1341 MIDAT (1541 UTC)


The cockpit of Air Force One was, on the surface, little different to the commercial airliner it was derived from, the Boeing 747-400. Like the rest of the aircraft, though, it hid a plethora of changes that the Air Force was naturally keen not to publicize.

In 2017, the US Air Force had updated the two Presidential aircraft, and while retaining the Boeing 747 with it’s proven track record, they had moved up to a militarized version of the 747-400, calling it the VC-25B. With updated aerodynamics, better fuel consumption including the use of biofuel and a new ‘glass’ cockpit, the VC-25B was ready to serve future US leaders for years to come.

To DiGriz’s mind, the addition of the glass cockpit had been a godsend. A ‘glass’ cockpit was so called because the normal analog instruments (or ‘clockwork’ cockpit gauges) had been replaced by digital representations and MFDs, or Multi Function Displays. During his Air Force career, DiGriz had moved up through the heavy fleet in Air Mobility Command and when eventually earning the prestigious position as Commander of Air Force One, he had been slightly dismayed to see that the original VC-25A still retained the old cockpit.

With the update came the additional benefit of reduced cockpit workload meaning that the flight deck crew was reduced from three to two, the flight engineer being the axed position.

All around defence systems had been incorporated on the new aircraft utilising state of the art Electronic Counter Measures equipment and it was part of this retro-fitted defensive suite that first alerted Colonel James DiGriz that something was wrong.

They had climbed to their cruising altitude of flight level 330, 33,000 feet, and settled in at their cruising speed of 500 knots. The President had paid her usual visit to the flight deck admiring the view of the sparkling blue Atlantic over six miles below.

“Fine day for flying Colonel,” she’d said. DiGriz knew she was ex-Air Force and she often passed a little while on the flight deck getting a shop floor insight into one of the forces under her command.

“Certainly is Madam President, but the weather in London’s not quite so pretty.”

She’d chuckled, saying that she didn’t expect too much time for sight-seeing anyway and after ten minutes or so returned to her suite downstairs.

After that the flight had proceeded quietly until one of the passive radars mounted in the tail had detected another aircraft at the limit of its range. Paging through the screens, DiGriz had interrogated the unknown aircraft’s transponder with little concern. The rules of aviation were designed to offer large margins of separation to aircraft and he noted that the return was 60 nautical miles distant and 4000 feet higher while travelling on the same heading.

He logged it in the computer then flicked the MFD back to the menu page, sighing gently. The sound made Lieutenant Colonel Lee Wylie turn and grin at his Commander.

“Bored Sir?”

DiGriz feigned horror. “Bored? Flying Air Force One? Wash your mouth out Lee.”

They both laughed and Wylie stretched in the comfortable seat.

“Shanwick reports that Heathrow is starting to close in Sir. We’re already designated Gatwick as our primary alternative and…”

Wylie was interrupted by a warble from the passive radar, the screen flicking up in front of the MFDs menu. DiGriz enlarged the image which showed that the unknown aircraft had increased speed and was descending.

The new rules governing separation for Air Force One stated that no aircraft was allowed to penetrate a 30nm zone around the big jet when there was no radar coverage and this one was fast approaching that limit.

When it showed no sign of slowing, DiGriz hit the internal call button and declared a Code Amber as per regulations.

********

As soon as Special Agent Tony Harmon received the call, he stood from his small desk outside the Presidential suite and tapped on the door once before entering. Both Code Amber and Code Red were the only times that he had the latitude to do so but he still felt slightly uncomfortable at intruding unannounced.

“Tony?” The President raised her eyebrows, obviously slightly surprised at his entry. When she noticed the obvious look of worry on his face, her tone changed. “What?”

“Madam President, I’ve just been given a Code Amber by Colonel DiGriz on the flight deck. I need to ensure that you’re strapped in please.”

He’d never before operated under a Code Amber and while he knew the routine, he wasn’t quite sure how the President would react.

Madeline began to clear loose items from the desktop into her drawer and asked “Did he say what was wrong?”

Harmon replied, “Not yet Ma’am,” shaking his head as he placed the President’s chair into its fore and locked position. He turned to the NASA Administrator who’d been in conversation with the President when Harmon entered. “Ms March, if you could proceed back to the VIP area?”

As March left the suite, Harmon spotted two small courier bags sitting at the front of the cabin and moved to secure them before strapping himself in beside the President.

********

Abigail March had immediately returned to the senior staff meeting room which was just aft of the galley. It was the closest position with secure seating and she was met by one of the flight attendants.

“Ms March…”

“I’ve just been told,” she replied with a smile. “I’ll strap in if you want to go deal with the press boys.”

He shook his head. “That’s fine Ma’am. They’re already being locked up which means I get to stay up here with you.”

She noted the look of relief on his face as they entered the meeting room and they both took their seats. It wasn’t a moment too soon.

********

DiGriz watched in amazement as the aircraft closed on them. The return was too big for a fighter which didn’t detract from the fact that he’d already penetrated way inside the exclusion zone.

“Code Red Lee, I have control.” DiGriz took hold of the control yoke and shook it gently once to acknowledge that he now had manual control of the aircraft. Wylie released the controls and began running through the Code Red checklist.

“Passenger warnings set… ECM suite active… flares and chaff armed… and data burst transmitted.”

The data burst was a highly compressed snapshot of all aircraft functions plus a GPS location transmitted to a satellite and rebroadcast to security units back in the United States. It would be received by the Presidential Operations Room at Andrews Air Force Base, the Situation Room in the White House and the National Military Command Centre in the Pentagon amongst others.

He was preparing to send the long version when DiGriz released a string of expletives and reached across to slam all four throttles fully forward. The subtle whine of the four General Electric CF6-80C2B5F engines rose to a crescendo as he pulled back on the yoke and banked first to port then immediately to starboard.

Wylie just had time to notice something huge flash past the starboard window when the stall alarms began howling.

********

Harmon was partway to his seat when the floor suddenly rushed up to meet him. The evasive manoeuvres took him completely unaware and he reached out futilely to grab the rapidly receding safety of his seat. For the briefest moment, a large shadow blotted out the sun and Harmon saw the President’s mouth open in shock.

Without warning, left became right and he was thrown forcefully against the bulkhead and consciousness left him in a blinding swirl of stars.

********

March had just been asking the flight attendant whether the small press contingent had been behaving. She knew that on this trip it was a smaller group than normal with the international media already converging on London ahead of them.

Before he could reply, the PA system blared a recorded Code Red warning and red lights began to pulse around the ceiling of the room. March looked up in shock just as the VC-25B powered upwards and she felt gravity push her violently into her seat.

Somewhere behind her she heard the sound of breaking glass above the roar of the engines and briefly had time to see the flight attendant grip the arms of his seat before there was the even louder sound of an explosion.

********

In a detached corner of his mind that wasn’t involved in the titanic struggle to control the VC-25B, DiGriz knew with conviction that the aircraft that had narrowly missed them had been intent on ramming them even though he couldn’t believe it.

On the control panel, small warning tabs lit up just as the stall warning claxon began to sound. Seconds later, the yoke began to vibrate in DiGriz’s hands as the aircraft began to wallow. The ‘stick shaker’, as it was called, was a tangible back up to the stall warning alarms that continued to blare meaning that the nose of the aircraft had risen high enough to bleed off airspeed and reduce the lift that the wings were producing. Reluctantly, he eased forward on the yoke to lower the nose hoping that the mystery aircraft was out of their flight path.

He was about to order Wylie to transmit a Mayday call when the explosion happened. The cockpit windows flared momentarily outshining even the high altitude sunlight and DiGriz felt the nose lifted even higher despite his efforts. There was the rattle of debris hitting the labouring aircraft’s airframe with one or two small stars appearing in the forward screen. A sudden bang and then there was the sound of rushing air warning DiGriz that the pressurized cockpit had been compromised.

DiGriz shouted for Wylie to don his emergency oxygen mask while he tried to regain some semblance of control over the stricken aircraft. Wylie took momentary control as DiGriz donned his own mask before he grasped the controls once more. Red warning lights were now dominating the MFDs as systems failed and the fire warning and failure lights for number four engine glowed brightly.

“We’ve lost number four and the pylon Sir!” shouted Wylie over the cacophony of the cockpit as he scanned out of the starboard cockpit window. “Part of the outer wing section as well!”

The co-pilot ran the fire and shut down procedures for number four, but the explosion had caused more problems. A shockwave of air from the blast had pushed all three remaining engines into a compressor stall and the power dropped off almost instantly. Despite the size of the VC-25B, its forward and upward momentum continued for a short while before at last it nosed over in a parabolic arc and began to free fall.

********

Harmon shook his head in an attempt to clear the strange feeling of light headedness that swept over him until he realised he was actually floating upwards from the deck. Despite the screaming pain from what felt like a dislocated shoulder, he managed to push away from the forward bulkhead towards the empty seat that was his only salvation.

The push, however, had not been quite strong enough and he realised that he was about to float above and out of reach of the seat. It was then that he felt something catch at his foot and pull him downwards and he looked down to see the President heaving with all her might to reel him in.

Even the sickening spasm of pain as he landed in the seat couldn’t remove the smile of thanks he gave her as they rapidly struggled to strap him in and then don the oxygen masks that had dropped from their concealment in the overhead.

It was perhaps the most helpless feeling he had ever had in his career as part of the Presidential protection team. His Commander in Chief was now under direct threat and her protection, at least for the time being, was out of his hands.

********

In her career as an astronaut with NASA March had extensive experience with microgravity. In basic training, every astronaut candidate rode the ‘vomit comet’, a NASA funded aircraft that flew multiple parabolic arcs high in the atmosphere to simulate weightlessness briefly, and it was obvious that Air Force One was now exhibiting the same flight path.

What concerned her now was the sudden decrease in engine output that the flight attendant had obviously noted as well. When the oxygen masks dropped from the overhead, March immediately snagged hers and donned it quickly. At this altitude, she knew that the air was thin enough to cause unconsciousness within a matter of seconds.

The flight attendant, however, simply stared at her in panic, his hands clutching the seats armrests and making no attempt to reach for the mask.

“Benjamin!” she shouted, quickly reading his name from the tag on his uniform. “Benjamin! Get the mask on! NOW!”

Already, March could see that the sudden equalisation of air pressure from the decompression was causing the cabin air to condense, forming a temporary misting effect. Whether Benjamin had noticed this or perhaps her command had galvanised him, she didn’t know but at least he had woozily grabbed the mask and placed it over his face.

Whatever happened now was in the hands of the gods, and to her mind that meant that there was probably no higher authority than the men in the cockpit. She closed her eyes, thinking that it wouldn’t harm to hedge her bets and quietly began to pray.
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Old May 12 2010, 09:46 AM   #9
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Chapter 2

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Chapter 2


NATIONAL NAVAL MEDICAL CENTRE
BETHESDA, MARYLAND, USA
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1545 EST (2045 UTC)

Baxter had left the office almost immediately after his meeting with the Assistant Director, quickly briefing agents in his task group first.

One team had been dispatched to check on the truck driver’s son in the event that he may have been approached by the terrorists. A further two teams were now on their way to the airport to oversee the murder scene and also to coordinate with the airport authorities on Intercontinental Flight 382. If they could obtain CCTV footage of the loading of the flight, even better.

Baxter had then picked up Agent Emma Collins and departed for the NNMC at Bethesda. It was one of the hospitals close to the capitol that tended to the needs of the President in crisis, but it had also been selected as a secure place of treatment for Carlene Anderson.

Baxter’s reasoning was sound. Anybody who had rigged the truck to explode would likely have expected the driver to die taking any information she may have had to her grave. That hadn’t happened and if the perpetrators became aware of the fact then it was odds on that they would attempt to rectify their error.

Despite the inherent security at Bethesda, Baxter had also set up an inner perimeter of three agents to cover the room 24/7. As he and Collins strode quickly down the corridor towards her room, they saw two of the agents outside the door and that a doctor was just leaving.

“Doctor?” The woman turned to him and smiled.

“How can I help you?”

The FBI agents displayed their badges and introduced themselves discovering in the process that they were talking to the consultant overseeing Carlene’s treatment, one Dr Jasmin Kumar.

“How is she doctor?”

“Thanks to you, I understand, much better than somebody in her position could have expected to be Agent Baxter. She has internal injuries that will require operating on and that will be happening shortly, but they’re not life threatening at this time. Some shrapnel wounds to her back, a broken arm and perforated eardrums.” She smiled. “It sounds quite awful but she should make a full recovery.”

Baxter breathed a sigh of relief. He had witnessed too many innocent victims of violent acts lose their fight for life while the aggressors didn’t even suffer from a disturbed conscience.

“Is it possible to speak with her doctor?” He held his hands up to ward off the expected protest. “I realise she’s ill doctor, but the investigation has taken a serious turn.”

Kumar debated the wisdom of the request for a moment but saw that Baxter was genuine in his concern.

“You’ll need to write your questions down Agent Baxter, Ms Anderson still can’t hear properly, and she won’t be able to answer verbally. When she went down she took quite a chunk out of her tongue. Oh and I have to add the coda that if she becomes distressed or upset in any way, I will have to ask you to leave.”

Baxter nodded, grateful for even that much. “I understand doctor.”

When they entered the room, Carlene was propped up in bed surrounded by the plethora of medical equipment that was common in hospitals, each one emitting its own cheerful signs of continuing life in the patient.

Carlene’s face was covered down its left side with a livid bruise where it had struck the tarmac after the explosion and her left arm was raised in a sling. The more serious injuries were hidden beneath the sheets. She attempted a half hearted smile as she recognised him and winced in pain.

Collins surprised him, removing a data slate from her courier bag and handing it to Baxter with a smile.

“Use this to type the questions for Ms Anderson.”

Baxter nodded, taking the slate from her and went to sit by the bed. He quickly typed in a sentence and held it up for Carlene to see.

“Your son is fine and we’re looking after him right now Carlene. No need to worry about him.”

She managed a smile through her swollen lips as he typed again.

“We don’t expect you to answer all our questions just yet. You need to be treated, but is it ok if I ask just a couple?”

She read the slate and nodded once. He smiled encouragingly and mouthed thank you to her.

“Do you think there is anything you can remember that would help us catch these people? Conversations at the airport or perhaps descriptions? We can get the details later.”

She patted the bed by her right hand and Baxter looked at her in confusion. She pointed at the data slate then patted the bed again. Baxter understood and laid the data slate near her good hand. Slowly she typed in a sentence, once or twice correcting it. When Baxter at last picked up the slate, he drew in a breath of recognition.

“i heard them talking. arabic. my ex was from mid east but didnt understand all. mentioned sword of iran? saw two of them. one has tattoo of snake wrapped round sword on his right arm. white guy american shaved head.”

Sword of Iran! The same group that had attempted to set off a device in Greensboro! He quickly typed in a reply and showed it to Carlene.

“I won’t ask any more questions Carlene. You’ve done just great and we’ll take care of both you and John so don’t worry ok?”

Carlene read the slate then took his hand in hers, squeezing it tight and attempting a smile.

Baxter stopped as he left the room and spoke to one of the agents on duty outside.

“As of now Ms Anderson is a prime witness in a case concerning national security. I’ll be sending down a second team but she must not be left alone at any time. Get her bed away from any exposed window and nobody will be allowed to enter the room that has not been approved by Doctor Kumar here, is that understood?”

The agent nodded once. “We’ll wait here until team two arrives; Agent Hannant will stay with Ms Anderson.”

Satisfied with the arrangement, Baxter turned to Kumar.

“Doctor, thank you for your patience. I can’t divulge any details but I must impress upon you how important Ms Anderson is, which is why I must insist that from this point onwards she be accompanied at all times by an FBI agent, two when I get the second team here.”

“As long as it doesn’t interfere with her treatment or recovery Agent Baxter, it won’t be an issue.”

Baxter breathed a sigh of relief knowing that many doctors would have taken exception to FBI agents cluttering up their wards.

“Thank you Doctor Kumar. And, just one more thing,” he grimaced. “I er, well I think I may have broken a rib or two.”
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Old May 12 2010, 09:47 AM   #10
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Chapter 2 (cont)

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Chapter 2 (cont)


FOUR AND A HALF HOURS EARLIER

AIR FORCE ONE
NORTH ATLANTIC
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1345 MIDAT (1545 UTC)

DiGriz was well aware that he had to get the aircraft out of its steep dive before it tore the wings off the already weakened airframe, but he had to do it carefully. Too much back pressure to recover the aircraft was as dangerous as letting the airspeed become too high.

With all three of the surviving engines flamed out, the VC-25B had become a 350 tonne glider until they could be relit. Assuming they can, he thought grimly. He knew that the recommended maximum engine in-flight start envelope began at an altitude of 28000 ft and so for the time being, he had to bring the rate of descent down as quickly but as gently as he could.

“How’s the wing looking Lee?”

Wylie interrupted his attempts to regain the electrical systems to look out of the window.

“No sign of fire Sir, but there’s loose panels towards the extremity. No sign of fuel leakage, I think the cut-offs took care of it.”

That was one less worry at least. No fuel leakage meant that the fire wasn’t likely to restart and once they got the engines relit, they could redistribute the fuel in the tanks to balance the aircraft.

“Any luck with the electrics?”

“Minimal Sir. Something must have taken out a junction downstairs.”

That wasn’t so good thought DiGriz. No electrics meant, among a dozen other things, no radios.

“Alright,” he replied, easing the yoke back slightly. “Prep the in-flight restart checklists so we’re ready for a try at 28,000 feet. I’ll be happy if we can get two and three so go for those first.”

Engines two and three were the port and starboard inner engines and if he could have those two for balanced flight, they might just get out of this one.

********

Stacey Kyle had risen quickly in the world of broadcast journalism and just four months ago had picked up the prestigious position of Senior White House Correspondent for the relatively new Digital America media franchise.

The reporters who flew on Air Force One with the President were called the press pool and were rotated quite often. When Kyle had found out that she’d been picked for the London trip, she felt it was adequate justification to rub it in the faces of colleagues who felt her rise within the company wasn’t entirely due to her professional reporting skills. The fact that those not in the press pool would be flying commercial (and probably economy at that) had been another sore point.

Breathing deeply from her oxygen mask, she wondered just how many of them were now thinking of how to write her obituary.

Looking around the press section of Air Force One, she saw her camera man, Vince Bush, sat just across the aisle holding a napkin to the gash on his head. It wasn’t serious but he looked decidedly pale. Strangely there was not the sense of panic amongst the four teams of media personnel that she might have expected. Like Kyle, they believed that anybody who piloted the President had to be at the top of their game and they trusted in the crew’s ability to get them out of this situation.

Of course, she had no idea what this situation actually was. An air force flight attendant had circulated to tell them that the Captain had requested they all put on their seatbelts but that there was no reason for concern. Moments later the aircraft had slewed around the sky and there had been the sound of an explosion, though it hadn’t seemed to come from their aircraft.

That’s when Vince had been injured and the oxygen masks dropped. She had been so busy getting the mask in place that she only belatedly realised that the sound of the engines had died, and now the aircraft was in a high speed descent.

Kyle had managed over the past few minutes to enter all of this into the data slate she’d been cradling in her lap at the time of the incident. The act wasn’t wholly one of a professional doing their job in the face of adversity however. Part of her mind felt that if she was going to die today, she wanted people to know just what had happened.

Imagine that, a mocking part of her mind jibed, a posthumous Pulitzer.

She looked at the assorted crew members who were seated back here with the press. All seemed composed despite the dire circumstances. She knew that Air Force One carried 26 crew in total and they were all carefully screened military personnel, with exemplary service histories. If they were to survive today’s events then their lives would be entrusted to these people.

The press cabin, with about 15 or so seats, was at the back of the aircraft and subsequently the crew members who had been caught back here had taken whatever seats were vacant but at least two had been thrown to the floor when the explosion occurred. One was now conscious and tightly holding on to his colleague whose pretty face was marred by a deep gash from forehead to jaw.

Kyle had managed to throw them a cushion from the seat beside her as well as a spare shirt from her carry on bag. The man had silently thanked her as he used it clean up the wound.

Her observations of the press cabin were suddenly interrupted by the sound of a strange crack followed by a low vibration from the port side of the aircraft which quickly faded back to silence, and for the first time Kyle felt a shiver of fear.

********

“Trying again,” said Kyle. He re-initiated the start-up sequence for the number two engine and began his quiet litany from the checklist again. “Check fuel flow, EGT, N2, & N3 RPM & oil pressure indications are normal for engine light off and…”

DiGriz tuned Wylie’s checklist out of his mind as he continued to bring the aircraft out of the steep descent. Passing 25,000 feet, he realised they had already dropped over a mile and a half unpowered since the explosion, but he kept reminding himself of the mantra his air force instructor had drummed into him all those years ago: When you face any in-flight problem, thing one is to Keep Flying the Aircraft.

He’d managed it so far relying on Wylie to carry out the emergency drills, and it was starting to pay off. The big aircraft was starting to respond, but she was sluggish and continually trying to yaw because of the damaged starboard wing. The additional loss of the number 4 engine would take a severe toll on the distance they could glide if the engines couldn’t be restarted.

The numbers sprang to his mind as if hardwired into his brain. In a controlled glide under ideal conditions, an unpowered 747 could travel 15 feet forward for every loss of 1 foot of altitude. But these were far from ideal conditions. They’d already lost over 8,000 feet in trying to recover, and then there were the winds at this altitude to factor in.

DiGriz attempted the mental maths. If they could recover a level attitude by 20,000 feet, the best glide distance would work out at just over 50 miles. That was how long they had to start the remaining engines or a ditching was guaranteed and 50 miles closer to land at this stage of the flight meant very little.

His calculations were interrupted by Wylie cursing vehemently in the right hand seat.

“Nice and calm Lee,” he chided gently. “The Lady won’t respond to a potty mouth.” Not that he didn’t want to scream and curse himself, but right now he needed Wylie to be calm and professional. “Keep trying for an in-flight restart until we hit 10,000 feet. If we still don’t have any luck we’ll try the ground start procedure, otherwise I’ll need to start dumping fuel before we try to ditch.”

When they’d departed Andrews, the VC-25B had been carrying just over 170 tonnes of fuel in its eight tanks. They’d used four hours worth of that plus the fuel already lost from the starboard wing but if they were going to ditch he’d want to lose more. It would reduce the risk of fire, still a real threat despite the fact they were landing in the sea, and it would add to the aircraft’s buoyancy.

He had little idea how much of the underside of the fuselage had been compromised after the explosion, but if they’d lost cabin pressure then there were holes. It was up to him to ensure that the cabin crew had as much time as possible to evacuate the people on board and despite the size of the aircraft, he knew that could be achieved in a relatively short time as long as nobody panicked back there.

********

“Alright everybody, listen in.” The air force Staff Sergeant was calling from one of the forward seats in the press cabin in an attempt to gain attention. “The sound you’re hearing outside is the flight crew trying to restart the engines, but I want to run through the landing on water drill with you just in case ok?”

Kyle was all ears hoping this would make up for the fact that she’d been too excited to listen before take off.

“First thing you need to know is that we can glide for a short while so we have time to prepare, but we have to be ready when the time comes. What I need you to do is reach under your seats and pull out the life vest that’s there.”

There was a rustling sound through the cabin as 15 media people and several crew members obeyed the order. Again, there was still no sense of panic.

“Alright now is there anybody who does not have a life vest in their possession?”

The flight attendant who had been crouched on the floor stood up.

“Anne, I need to get Brenda forward and treat this head injury. I’ll strap her in up front and get life vests for both of us there.”

“Alright Alan,” she replied unfastening her lap strap and standing up to face the press pool. “Check in with the cockpit and brief me.”

The man nodded and supporting his injured crewmate set off towards the on-board medical centre.

She returned her attention to the sea of silent faces in the cabin and continued with the brief. “Now this is very important. Do not under any circumstances inflate that vest before you attempt to leave the aircraft. I can’t stress that enough ladies and gentlemen, so trust me when I say you’ll have points deducted if you do.” She attempted a slightly nervous smile. “Ok, just follow me as I put on the vest…”

********

Staff Sergeant Alan Hackett half carried, half dragged Senior Airman Caroline Byers through the security cabin, the guest cabin and then down the port side corridor that led past the dining room and senior staff meeting room. Along the way, he checked in with the flight attendants who were detailed to cover each compartment advising them to brief on an expected water landing before moving on again.

When he reached the onboard medical facility just aft of the President’s suite, he gently laid Byers down on the med table and fastened two straps across her before beginning to treat the gash to her head. When he looked at it, he realised that it was way beyond the realms of his simple first aid skills and decided that the doctor was needed.

“Caroline, can you hear me?” He watched carefully as the young woman’s eyelids fluttered. “I need you to hold this…” He saw that she was in no condition to understand or comply with his instructions and so quickly fastened a gauze pad to the wound hoping it would staunch the flow of blood until he could find the doctor.

Stepping out of the door, he saw the two Secret Service agents who were strapped in by the entrance to the Presidential suite.

“Guys, you’re safe to unstrap and check on the President but make it quick. I’m going to fetch the doc forward while we have a few minutes. Any problems, pick up the phone and buzz.”

He didn’t wait for a reply as he dashed aft to the guest facility where he’d seen the doctor on his previous way through.

“Doctor Hallam?” Hallam raised his head with bloodshot eyes and adjusted his glasses. “The flight attendant I just brought through, I need your help please.”

“Have they checked on the President?” Hallam had his priorities right which at least showed that he wasn’t completely falling apart.

“I have security checking on her now. If you’d come with me please?”

Hackett led Hallam to the medical facility then left him to tend to Byers while he checked with the cockpit. He selected the intercom to the cockpit twice before he realised that internal communications must be out. Replacing the handset, he dashed upstairs to the cockpit door and rapped loudly on it.

“Sir it’s Hackett from the press cabin. Internal comms are out back here so I’ve done a run through the compartments.”

There was no reply for a moment and then he heard the clunk of the cockpit door being manually freed from the inside. By the time he entered, Lieutenant Colonel Wylie was just retaking his seat.

“Hackett,” called DiGriz keeping his attention focused on the analog instruments, “I’ll need to keep this brief but it’s gonna be a definite water landing. I don’t know how badly the lower fuselage may have been compromised so we might start taking on water fast which means we need a rapid evacuation.”

Hackett nodded, understanding that time was of the essence.

“Any casualties back there?”

“Security is checking on the President now Sir, but it looks like we got off lightly. Only one non-walking and the doctor is treating her now.”

DiGriz nodded. “Good work Hackett. We’re still trying for a restart but it looks like a no go. Without internal comms, you’ll have to get the passengers moving as soon as we come to a rest ok? Your discretion.”

“Got it Sir, I’ll report back when I have an update.”

Moving quickly, Hackett ran back down the stairs to see the Secret Service agent exiting the Presidential suite supporting a fellow agent.

“President is fine,” he said. “I just need to pop Agent Harmon’s shoulder back in and then we’ll join her for the landing.” Hackett thought grimly that landing might not be quite the right term for it, but simply nodded.

“Let the doc know that the President’s ok and make sure that you all have your life vests on but do not inflate them before you exit the aircraft under any circumstances ok?" They nodded gravely at the warning and Hackett said, "I need to go aft and brief the other flight attendants.”

As he hurried back through the aircraft, briefing the senior flight attendant in each compartment, he quickly checked through the nearest window at each stop. By the time he’d reached the rear once more, the surface of the Atlantic was getting extremely close. It was only then that he realised he hadn’t stopped to retrieve a life vest.


THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON DC, USA
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1603 EST (2103 UTC)

Stearman was pacing the floor of the situation room when the first call came in from a civilian aircraft that had been crossing the estimated scene of the incident. They had reported a large slick of what could have been aviation fuel and lubricants as well as possible wreckage and bodies in the water.

Stearman exploded unexpectedly. “Is it Air Force One? Ask them!”

Packard stood quietly and approached Stearman. “Mr Vice President, the aircraft didn’t have time to loiter over the scene because of fuel concerns. However, at least now we have a possible incident scene to investigate and as soon as our forces arrive there, then we’ll know more. They’ll have to make several passes for verification and it may be that until we have a surface vessel on scene, we won’t know exactly what they’ve found.”

“Not good enough Admiral. I expect the armed forces of the United States to respond swiftly and report accurately considering the circumstances.”

“Which they will do Mr Vice President,” responded Packard firmly, “as soon as they have verifiable information to relay to us.”

Carmel watched the interchange praying that Stearman wasn’t about to make a total ass of himself when he caught one of the situation room staffers trying to attract his attention. He quickly moved to the operator’s position as the heated conversation continued out on the floor.

“Sir, it’s the NMCC! They have the Russians on the direct line. They need to speak to the VP immediately.”

The Russians! God they know how to pick their moment thought Carmel.

“I’ll take it.” He picked up the headset and settled it on his head. “This is the NSA, who am I speaking to please?”

“Sir, its Major Arnold, duty controller at the NMCC. I have Acting Premier on the direct line wishing to speak to the Vice President immediately.”


Carmel thought quickly. “Did they say what it was about Major?”

“No Sir, they said they’ll only speak with Vice President Stearman.”


“Alright, hold the connection, I’ll get the Vice President over.”

Placing the headset on the console, Carmel quickly interjected himself between Packard and Stearman.

“Mr Vice President, I’m sorry to interrupt but I have the NMCC with a direct line communication from Moscow. They need to speak to you immediately.”

For a moment, Stearman seemed dazed as if the sudden interruption had taken the wind out of his sails. “Why? What is it?”

“They didn’t say Sir, simply said they need to speak to you as soon as possible.”

“Deal with them, Mr Carmel. I’ve got other priorities right now.”

“Sir?” Carmel couldn’t believe his ears. “I seriously advise you to…”

Stearman turned quickly to face Carmel. “No Mr Carmel, it is I that advise you if I’m not mistaken. Deal with it.”

Stearman stormed off leaving Carmel to stare in shock at Packard.

“Take the call Bob, I’ll speak to the Vice President,” Packard said quietly before striding to catch up with Stearman.

Hurrying back to the console, he placed the headset on once again. “Major Arnold, patch the line through please.”

“Connecting now Sir.”


There was the faintest of clicks before he heard Arnold introduce the acting Premier of the Russian Federation.

“Vice President Stearman?”


“I’m sorry Acting Premier; the Vice President is on a second line at the moment. I apologise for the delay.” It galled Carmel to have to cover for Stearman, but protocol demanded it. He certainly wasn’t about to start divulging information about the downing of Air Force One.

“Then perhaps you will ask him to contact me immediately after he has finished. I assume he would like an update on the condition of President Everett?”


Carmel’s mouth fell open. The Russians had the President!
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Old May 15 2010, 01:03 PM   #11
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Re: Star Trek : Angel - Book IV - Saving History II

Commentary on Chapter 1

Oh… goodness. Air Force One is in mortal jeopardy, and it seems a rescue of any survivors (if anyone lives through this) will be a long way off.

Here’s hoping that aircraft is as survivable as it’s designers intended, and that it’s pilots and crew are as stellar as advertised.

One question, though… I always thought AFO flew with a minimum two-fighter escort? Or is that not the case?
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Old May 15 2010, 01:58 PM   #12
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Re: Star Trek : Angel - Book IV - Saving History II

Commentary on Chapter 2

The Russians have the President?!?

As the kids say, OMG!! The kids still say that, right? Right?! Oh, God but I’m sooooo OLD!
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Old May 15 2010, 02:21 PM   #13
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Re: Star Trek : Angel - Book IV - Saving History II

Fighter escort isn't always provided and when you consider defence spending cuts, the provision of two fighters plus a tanker plus the cargo aircraft that fly ahead with limos etc etc, I made a temporal deduction that financially, something had to give.

As for feeling old, my youngest (17) says OMG to me all the time, usually in a derogatory manner!
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Old May 18 2010, 10:10 AM   #14
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Chapter 3

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Chapter 3


FOUR HOURS EARLIER

AIR FORCE ONE
NORTH ATLANTIC
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1503 MIDAT (1703 UTC)


All attempts to restart the wounded aircraft’s engines had failed and the flight crew had finally come to the decision that it was likely that debris from the explosion had entered and damaged the engines beyond their capacity to operate.

Fuel had been bled from the eight onboard tanks, but the system could only lose 5,000 pounds of fuel per minute which was nowhere near enough to deplete the tanks before ditching.

With a mere five minutes to ditching, they had carefully surveyed the sea state and aligned the aircraft with the swell direction noting that whatever deities may have been looking down on them, the swells were not high.

Hackett had left the cockpit moments before to verbally warn the passenger compartments of their imminent ditching and the two pilots could only hope that they were now prepared.

Bringing the aircraft down with wings level was imperative and with the damage to the starboard wing, not easy. If one wing should dip close to the ocean’s surface it would dig in and put the aircraft into a devastating cartwheel. DiGriz maintained the controls as Wylie read out speed and attitude readings.

“Ok, no flaps, no gear, fuel vents shut, Vref plus 15 knots puts us at a touchdown speed of around 175 knots.”

“Damn that’s fast,” cursed DiGriz.

Flaps of course would have slowed them down but it would also have raised their stall speed meaning that they could lose important lift at the last moment and drop to the ocean rather than glide.

“We’ll have to live with it.”

“Engine temps well down, and all engines isolated. We’re ready Sir.”

With almost infinitesimal movements of the yoke, DiGriz held the aircraft in a 10 degree nose high attitude until he felt the first kiss of the tail against the water. Carefully he allowed the nose to come down until he felt the sudden drag of the inboard engines catching the water and tearing off to disappear in a cloud of spray behind the aircraft.

The aircraft now slid on its belly across the water, skipping once or twice, and they heard the tortured scream of metal as the wings and fuselage took stress that they hadn’t been designed for. With a final deceleration that threw both pilots into their straps, the huge aircraft slewed to a standstill.

Without waiting a second longer, they evacuated the cockpit via the upper deck emergency descent reels and harnesses.
********

Kyle had heard the tremendous crack of the engines separating then the boom of the aircraft skipping once and then again on the surface before she was thrown forward in her seat harness.

It seemed an eternity before the flight attendant shouted out “Release your harnesses and make your way to the door that you were briefed, do not run!” Placing a small megaphone to her lips she shouted through the length of the aircraft “CABIN DOORS - UNLATCH AND LOCK OPEN!” and Kyle heard it repeated down towards the front.

She lifted the flap on the seat strap and felt it fall away then stood quickly. In the ensuing silence around her, members of the press pool were all quickly doing the same but Kyle, despite the admonitions not to, paused to grab the data slate from the seat back stowage and shove it inside her life vest.

She quickly joined the short line that led to her designated escape door and watched as the flight attendant ensured the door mode select lever was in the automatic position before rotating the door operating handle 180 degrees. The door cracked open and the power assist opening system activated.

Releasing the door operating handle, she grabbed the assist handles on the door surround panel until the door was in the fully open and latched position, admitting a blast of air that smelled of the sea tainted with aviation fuel. The automatic inflation of the slide/raft took just six seconds and then the flight attendant shouted once more over the increased noise.

“Alright, once you’re out of the door, then and only then, inflate your life vest as we showed you, get on to the slide, making your way forward and grab on to the large upright at each position.”

The queue of people inched forward, each one stepping through the door, inflating their life vest and shuffling along the bobbing emergency slide that had now become their life raft. Kyle stopped just outside the door to pull down on the two red tabs of her life vest before moving out on to the raft. She stopped halfway along to grasp the upright, and then fell shaking to her knees as water swirled around her bare feet.

The enormity of what had happened hit her like a sledgehammer, but more importantly that she had survived it. At least so far. Raising her head she saw that the raft was almost full and the flight attendant who had been guiding them had now boarded at the rear.

The attendant pulled the door strap handle, and then raised the flap where the slide/raft joined the aircraft, pulling the release handle freeing it from the doomed aircraft. Kyle could see that it was already settling into the water making ominous creaks and groans.

Two small paddles were passed forward from the rear of the raft and taken by the flight attendants just ahead of Kyle. Slowly but steadily, they moved away from the towering tail of the slowly sinking VC-25B.

********

“She’s breathing, but I’m not getting any kind of response from her Sir.”

DiGriz looked at the still form of Madeline Everett in despair. He was a pilot, not a doctor for God’s sake.

“Alright Tony,” he said to the Secret Service agent. “Let’s make her comfortable and keep her warm as best we can. Now the rafts are out, the ELTs will be broadcasting so at least somebody will know where we are.”

The ELTs were Emergency Locator Transmitters fitted to each life raft that continuously broadcast their signal on both the civilian VHF and military UHF frequencies as soon as they hit the water.

He watched Harmon take off his own jacket and wrap it around Madeline, making sure that, as far as he could manage, she lay in the recovery position with her face clear of the small amount of water that had entered the raft. He hoped it would be enough but knew that the agent wouldn’t leave the woman’s side until they were rescued.

“Lee!” DiGriz called again in an attempt to locate his co-pilot but there was no response. Although DiGriz’s harness and reel escape system had worked perfectly, Wylie’s had locked just eight feet below the upper deck hatch. He’d had to release it and tumble down to the water and DiGriz had been unable to locate him since. “LEE!”

There was a loud groan followed by the rending of metal and the tall tail section of the once proud Presidential aircraft separated slowly from the fuselage. As water gushed into the rear fuselage, the nose lifted and DiGriz saw a waving hand in the water.

“Lee, swim!” He turned to locate the coil of nylon rope from the rear of the raft then moved to the side nearest the sinking aircraft. Heaving with all his might he watched it land mere feet from Wylie’s position. “MOVE IT!”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the bright yellow slide/rafts appear from behind the port wing with attendants paddling furiously to get away from the aircraft.

“Come on Agent, we need to paddle or we’ll end up being dragged down by the suction.”

He knew Wylie would have to take his chances on reaching the rope because now his priority lay with saving the President.

********

Two hours later, all the rafts had been gathered and lashed together forming a small island of cold humanity. The protective covers had been raised and a roll call had shown that, miraculously, almost all had survived.

Two of the flight attendants, including the injured Caroline Byers, were missing and one Secret Service Agent. The doctor was also unaccounted for.

Wylie had managed to reach the rope and eventually pull himself, hand over hand, to the raft containing the President but had ingested a lot of contaminated sea water.

The VC-25B had eventually disappeared below the waves just eight minutes after ditching, but it had been long enough to ensure that the majority of its fragile cargo of human lives could escape and DiGriz had silently thanked the Boeing engineers who had made her.

Now, their survival would be measured by how long rescue took to arrive.


RFS VLADIMIR MONOMAKH
NORTH ATLANTIC
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1905 MIDANT (2105 UTC)


The Mark 955 Borei Class was a Russian fourth-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. When it entered service just over ten years previously, it replaced the aging Delta III and Typhoon Class submarines of the Russian navy and had since become the backbone of their submarine fleet.

The RFS Vladimir Monomakh had been the fourth of her class and at 170 meters long and with a displacement of 14,720 tonnes she was powered by an OK-650B PWR nuclear reactor which in turn drove a pump-jet propulsion system making her both fast and quiet.

With a complement of 130, her cargo was an arsenal of 12 Bulava SS-N-30 ballistic missile missiles. Despite the nuclear arms reductions process that had begun in early 2010, it had still to progress far enough to remove all nuclear weapons from the world’s armed forces.

Right now though, there was a much more important cargo aboard and one that not a single crewman would ever have expected; The President of the United States of America.

Hours earlier as they had cruised almost silently beneath the waters of the Atlantic, the sonar operator had reported what sounded like a surface explosion to the North of their current position. Further refining of the report suggested a possible aircraft crash as the explosion theory became more likely the concussion of debris hitting the surface.

Captain Vasiliy Barskov had immediately diverted the vessel to investigate knowing that their routine patrol mission became secondary to offering assistance in an emergency.

In the years of the Soviet Union, he doubted very much that the Russian Naval Command would have authorised such a rescue operation preferring the submarine to remain clear of the zone and stay undetected. More enlightened times, and the fact that practically no submarine was ever undetected these days, made the situation somewhat different.

Approaching the location of the crash, the Vladimir Monomakh had risen to periscope depth to witness a tide of flotsam and debris consistent with the crash theory and Barskov had ordered the vessel to surface.

As he’d stepped on to the wet bridge of the submarine’s sail, he’d gazed in awe at the remnants of what had once been an obviously large aircraft. Bodies littered the water amongst the baggage and scraps of aircraft and he realised that this was no longer a rescue operation, but a recovery one.

He’d dispatched crew in outboard powered launches to recover bodies and any other possible vital items of evidence while below, the report had been transmitted to Zapadnaya Litsa, their home base. Over the next thirty minutes he had watched as the broken remnants of humanity had begun to arrive, carefully lifted from the launches and then placed reverently into hastily prepared body bags. Death at sea was a solemn occasion for any sailor.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking sight had been that of a small child and Barskov had muttered a silent prayer over the tiny body as it was lifted aboard. His introspection had been interrupted by the sound of the PA system.

Quietly lifting the handset he heard the voice of the communications officer below.

“Captain, we are picking up distress beacons on a bearing of 087 range 43 kilometres.”

“What type?” His demeanour had become business like again with the prospect of survivors.

“Indications are that they are ELTs and they are broadcasting an automated distress beacon on both civilian and military emergency frequencies.”


“43 kilometres distant? Could it be a second aircraft perhaps?”

“Possibly Captain. We may be looking at a mid air collision.”


He replaced the handset after advising the comms officer to tell the helm to lay in a course for the new discovery. For now they would have to leave a marker buoy to watch over the pitiful remains, the needs of the living outweighing those of the departed.

Just over an hour later, the RFS Vladimir Monomakh had successfully recovered the passengers of Air Force One and was now waiting patiently for the arrival of the US Navy.

Strange days mused Barskov as he completed his report. Strange days indeed.
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Old May 18 2010, 10:12 AM   #15
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Chapter 3 (cont)

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Chapter 3 (cont)



THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON DC, USA
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1610 EST (2110 UTC)


“Who am I speaking to?” Stearman’s tone was openly hostile much to Carmel’s shock. The man should have been on his knees with gratitude.

“You are speaking to a man who has also had the reins of power placed temporarily in his hands Vice President Stearman, and I would have thought that as equals a level of decorum would be applicable?”

A deep blush appeared on Stearman’s face as he realised that he’d placed the communication on an open channel to the Situation Room. He quickly backed down, perhaps not least because his bluff had been called by a man whose qualities of leadership were far more refined.

“I…apologise. These are obviously stressful times…” Carmel mouthed the words thank you to Stearman who grimaced but bit the bullet. “I understand that we owe your naval forces a debt of gratitude Acting Premier.”

“They merely acted in the way that I hope any human would under the circumstances Mr Vice President, though I shall pass on your personal thanks.”

The voice was slightly accented, but strong and clear, the speaker obviously having an excellent command of English. Carmel had thrust a piece of paper into Stearman’s hand which read “General Anatoly Kosachev, Acting Premier”.

“The crew of the RFS Vladimir Monomakh have recovered all but four passengers and crew from Air Force One Vice President. President Everett was amongst the survivors though preliminary reports state that she is seriously ill.”

“Ill?” Stearman floundered for a moment. “I, er, ill in what manner Acting Premier?”

“I am awaiting a medical report at this time from the Monomakh’s chief medical officer but as soon as I have the details I will advise you. In the meantime I have to report that there appears to have been a second aircraft incident some distance south of the Air Force One crash.”

Carmel scribbled hastily on another piece of paper, thrusting it in front of Stearman.

“Erm, do you have any details Acting Premier?”

Stop sounding like a moron and start sounding like a leader thought Carmel in desperation.

“Again, I’m afraid not at this time although the Monomakh did leave a marker buoy at the scene. Mr Vice President, I must go now but all available data is being transmitted to you at this time and I will have my aide contact you with any update as we receive it.”

Stearman stood with his mouth open for a few seconds until a click was followed by “This is Major Arnold, duty controller at the NMCC, Mr Vice President. The Acting Premier has now disconnected.”

“Yes, right.” Stearman took off the headset and handed it distractedly to Carmel who placed it quickly on his head.

“Major Arnold, this is the NSA. Standby on this line please. I’ll get The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to confirm which vessel will be rendezvousing with the Russian submarine and that information needs to be relayed to the Kremlin immediately.”

“Got that Sir, standing by.”

Carmel waved Packard over and handed him the headset.

“James, I need a vessel to rendezvous with that Russian submarine A.S.A.P. I don’t know what we have in the area but can you coordinate with NMCC for an estimate of their arrival?”

Packard scanned his data slate before nodding. “We’ve got the Gerald R. Ford about an hour out from that position. I’ll see if I can get the Russians to move south west to speed up the rendezvous.”

“Right, thanks. I need to deal with this imbecile before he blows something big time.”

Packard placed a hand on Carmel’s arm, and keeping his voice low said, “Gently Bob. He’s got the right sort of temperament to start firing people and I need you here. We need you here.”

Carmel nodded, though his personal thoughts were that if Stearman was about to take up residence in the White House, he wasn’t at all sure he wanted to be here.


FAV AVARICE
DEEP SPACE
DATE UNKNOWN


“They’re not going to be in time are they?”

For a Ferengi who was about to see his life savings evaporate in the blink of an eye, Damon Lom seemed particularly calm. Morose perhaps, and the tears in his eyes were genuine, but his first officer was shocked that Lom could have forgotten the 18th Rule of Acquisition - A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all.

In fact Jeg had only signed on with this fool because there was a generous profit to be made with little chance of anything going wrong, or so he’d thought at the time. If he’d factored in that Lom had cut corners at every available accounting point to maximise his profit, he might have seen something like this looming on the horizon. That actually made him just as culpable as Lom in the long run.

He checked the boards on the Avarice’s bridge and saw that Lom was right in his supposition, the rescue vessel was going to be late by…well it didn’t really matter how long. Late was late in this case.

They’d withdrawn to a safe distance, far enough away in fact that the cargo drones were nothing but specks of light on the small ship’s forward screen. Each one of the five drones carried a healthy cargo of antimatter that would have netted them an excellent profit. Except for the fact that Lom had gone to the cheapest bidder (for cheapest read least reliable) to obtain the automation circuits.

When the circuits had failed, the drones had mindlessly argued themselves into a stupor over which vessel was designated lead locking out any input from the Avarice. The end result had been fused drives and the drones locked together by tractor beams which refused to disengage.

The Avarice had tried to tractor them a short distance which would at least have put them out of the path of destruction, but the dullard drones had actually resisted tractoring and burnt out the Avarice’s tractor circuits into the bargain.

Within minutes, a rogue asteroid would reduce their cargo to scattered atoms, and Lom hadn’t even insured it.

“You know I’ve tried to work out the probability that this could have happened directly in the path of an asteroid.” Dull and lifeless, Lom said it as if he was reading it off a flaked blood fleas packet.

To be honest Jeg couldn’t care less about the odds of the incident, it had happened. But then his mind got to working on the problem.

Space was vast, as anybody who watched Marauder Mo could quote. Apart from the standard space lanes where traffic tended to concentrate, space was big enough and generally empty enough to make concerns about deep space collisions almost negligible. So what were the odds? he wondered.

He tapped out the equations on his pocket profit calculator and his eyes went wide. The figure made the Nagus’ private fortune look miniscule by comparison, and that’s when another more sinister thought entered his mind.

“Lom? Who did you say provided the automation circuits for the drones?”

The question was asked quietly so as to avoid the chance of any other member of the crew overhearing.

“Hmmm? Oh usual supplier. Nem’s Recyclers like the rest of the equipment.”

The sinister thought exploded into full scale realization accompanied by anger at this soon-to-be bankrupt moron.

“Oh right,” he replied with quietly restrained fury. "That would be Nem’s Recyclers, the company that has Bolak Raan as its majority shareholder if I’m not mistaken.”

Lom’s face froze and then turned ashen to its lobes. He mouthed the name Bolak Raan silently then placed his head on the desk, banging it repeatedly with a dull rhythm.

“The same Bolak Raan, I believe, whose daughter you groped at her wedding? Remember?” He continued, his voice raising an octave. “The same Bolak Raan who promised he’d see you destitute rather than dead?”

Thud, thud, thud.

When the giant asteroid arrived it wasn’t aware of the machinations that had placed thousands of tonnes of prime antimatter in its path. Being a lifeless rock it wouldn’t have cared anyway. However, the explosion as it ruptured the containers was enough to achieve three objectives.

Firstly, Damon Lom was indeed destitute as Bolak Raan had planned.

Secondly, the huge nickel/iron rock was shattered.

And finally, a sizeable, fault riddled piece of it was flung off in a direction that placed it on a course towards a tiny oasis of life known as Earth.

Not that Jeg cared. He’d just left the Avarice in a shuttle pod. Lom was on his own in this one.


THE NEAR EARTH OBJECT NOTIFICATION (NEON) CENTRE
HOUSTON, TX USA
EARTH
22nd January 2026 – 1610 EST (2110 UTC)


Many organisations were now active in detecting potentially hazardous asteroids and comets and the NEON Centre had been established in 2020 to collate the gathered information at a central repository. Information gathered by such bodies as the NEAT programme at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the LINEAR programme based at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and the University of Arizona's SpaceWatch team was all now regularly funnelled to NEON.

The simple fact was that Earth had suffered some very close calls in living history and detection and analysis had at last reached the point of plotting likely threats quite early. Sadly, though detection had improved by leaps and bounds, a unified strategy to deal with an incoming threat was still not in place.

Even Hollywood had had fleeting stabs at entertaining the world with a vision of how to stop one, though the plots had been more fiction than science.

More forward thinking and scientifically aware minds had feasible proposals to offer. The B612 Foundation, a non-profit organisation comprised of scientists and astronauts concerned with the lack of response to the threat of Near Earth Asteroids, proposed an initial test to significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015.

In 2016, just one year late, they succeeded using a newly developed NEA-Tug which heralded great promise not only for deflection of smaller asteroid threats, but opening up the asteroid belt for commercial and industrial opportunities.

The problem was that although serious ideas weren’t in short supply for dealing with the eventuality, funding and cooperation lay at the heart of the lacklustre response.

Who would pay for this? cried the politicians, often citing that there was plenty of time to deal with the threat as and when it arose and besides, there were more pressing problems right here on Earth. To a certain extent they perhaps had a point, though right thinking scientists knew that the Earth had to be prepared and you couldn’t levy a price on the survival of the human race.

John Malcolm, the NEON administrator, was one such scientist and as the sun dipped low towards the winter horizon he was preparing to leave the office for the day when he received the call that he’d been preparing for since NEON’s inception. The one he’d been dreading.
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