COLLABORATED BY MALACHI GIBSON, LUKE CROUCH, AND CARTER PIERCE
Ivan had to wait longer than he’d thought necessary. Maybe the captain was indisposed, or perhaps he was a coward. At any rate, it took him approximately twenty-seven seconds to make an appearance. Much longer than Ivan had expected.
Ivan held his iPad at his side in one hand, loosely, as if he’d forgotten it. He allowed his head to swivel back and forth in mock confusion with the rest of the passengers’ and let his face to attain a look of terror and uncertainty. But his finger was positioned right over a red button on the screen, hovering a centimeter above it, calculatingly steady. Waiting for the perfect moment.
So, when the captain stepped through the door to the main cabin, unwittingly positioning his head within two feet of the speaker that Ivan had digitally disrupted, Ivan was ready for his master stroke. The car battery that had helped him fry the circuits in the onboard communication devices was still operational. And it was also still charged. It hadn’t taken much energy to melt those wires.
Something Ivan had learned during his self-assigned missions was this: never waste material. It was precious. The less one had to pack to get the job done, the faster and more efficiently he could move. The more uses a single item had, the fewer of items were necessary. So it was that he’d used the battery as a melting component . . . and also as a football-sized grenade. The aluminum wall itself would provide the shrapnel: all he needed was the explosion.
The battery wasn’t inherently explosive. He needed something to react with the acid inside to create the explosion. A spark. A tiny ignition within the battery itself. Something he could trigger wirelessly from a safe distance away. Say, from his seat on the plane.
His finger touched the button.
In his mind, there was a prolonged moment of stillness. It seemed to last forever and a day. The passengers’ shouting and waving and clutching each other in fear seemed to stop. It was like he was viewing everything in slow motion.
A girl’s long hair whipped and snapped in the violent rush of wind, covering her face . . . then it was moving painstakingly through the air, like a distant plane one sees in the sky.
Someone’s glasses had flown off his face and were tumbling crazily through the air toward the open window . . . then they stood still, like they were waiting for something. Their lenses glinted with the light of the sun. The arms spreadeagled, reaching for something but catching nothing.
Then the still air exploded. Suddenly. Violently. The wall shredded into a million pieces as a fireball tore into the cabin. The captain vanished along with the stewardess and the nearest passengers. Glowing hot aluminum shrapnel shot outward like fireworks, taking down dozens more. Ivan was the only person who was ready for it. He’d ducked down behind his seat.
The man in brown tweed beside him screamed in agony, jerking backward. He was still for a moment. Then he toppled limply into the aisle.
The rush of wind had tripled in strength. Ivan stood. He saw that his bomb had torn a huge hole in the side of the plane. Through the decimated dividing wall, he noticed that half of the cockpit was missing. The co-pilot slumped forward on the controls, unmoving.
Ivan didn’t allow himself a smile. Even now things could go awry. Even now someone could spot him if he was standing out. He had to keep up his act.
The plane was tilting steeply now, the controls pushed by the co-pilot’s dead body. It was going into a nosedive.
If his calculations were correct, it would crash in a forest exactly thirty minutes before it was supposed to arrive at the next airport.
And he would be on board. That had always been the plan: as long as he avenged his brother, he didn’t care if he died.
But did he have to?
Now a new idea came into his fertile mind. There was a hole in the wall of the plane. It was maybe ten steps from where he stood. The plane was flying over forest. Lakes and marshes abounded. It was getting lower all the time.
And the passengers? He looked around him. None of them were paying the slightest attention. They were clutching at anything they could get ahold of, trying not to be swept out a window or the gaping hole. Most of them had their eyes tight shut.
All besides one.
The man was tall and lean. Physically fit. He had dark hair and a neatly trimmed mustache. He was wearing a black suit with a white shirt, and there was a fancy silver watch on his wrist. He stood with his arms crossed, in the middle of the aisle. He wasn’t holding onto anything, but it looked like he was perfectly stable. He was looking steadily at Ivan with one eyebrow raised, a cold, sad look in his eyes.
From where he stood, Ivan Molchalin could see the capital letters printed on the man’s silver businesslike nameplate. RAUMMI, JACK.
Ivan cursed under his breath. That was the man he was after.
And he was already stepping toward the hole in the wall. Ivan moved to intercept him. Jack moved faster. He was ahead by several steps. The tall man leapt, flying gracefully through the vacuumed air inside the plane, and was sucked out into the open sky. Ivan was only a moment behind.
Weightlessness overwhelmed him. Air pounded in his ears. Trees rushed up at him, still three hundred feet away.
He looked around him: Jack Raummi was nowhere in sight. Then he looked down.
Trees filled his vision. Rock-like branches whipped at his body, slowing him down a little. The ground rose like a fist throwing a punch, and slammed into him with incredible force. Something cracked. Probably something important.
Seconds later, he registered the last echoes of an explosion. The plane had crashed.
He hurt all over.
Somewhere he was bleeding. And he was sinking slowly into soft mud. He lay there for several long minutes. But he couldn’t wait forever: the bog would claim him.
Slowly he got to his feet, crawling out of the marsh.
His thoughts and vision whirled, flashes of memory going through his head as his eyes struggled to stay open.
But one thought pervaded: one thought was consistent.
Jack Raummi is still alive.
Then everything went black.
End of the INFILTRATION mini-series.
Keep an eye out for the next mini-series with Molchalin and Raummi: DIABOLICAL.
Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved