COLLABORATED BY MALACHI GIBSON, LUKE CROUCH, AND CARTER PIERCE
Ivan Molchalin waited. He looked out the window. He scrolled through the news. He pretended to take a nap.
It had been too long. After the radio had gone out, he’d overheard enough to gather that the passengers thought there would be a quickly ensuing explosion or toxic gas attack. But for half an hour, nothing had happened. They’d calmed down a little, reassuring one another, growing quiet.
And Ivan took his time. He had three hours until the plane landed, and three hours was plenty of time to move. He moved so slowly that no one noticed. He covered his hand with his iPad, letting a video play on the screen, but not paying attention to it. His fingers found a small cylindrical object in the white bag which accompanied his oxygen tank. It was small, disguised as a prescription bottle. It even had some vitamin E tablets inside, in case anyone checked. But the bottle itself had reinforced carbon fiber walls and could hold pressure up to 1,000 psi.
For the next five minutes, he carefully screwed the bottle onto the top of his oxygen tank. If anyone looked in his direction, they might have thought he was simply adjusting the knob on the tank itself.
The bottle screwed on sideways so that the bottom stuck out. The bottom was reinforced as well, but not quite as strongly. He’d had to install some interesting components along with the carbon fiber.
But he’d tested the bottle hundreds of times, and it had worked perfectly so far. He wasn’t worried.
He flipped a tiny switch on the oxygen tank’s regulator, sighing as if he was very tired. A few heads turned in his direction as he leaned back comfortably in his seat, and turned away again disinterestedly a moment later.
Time mattered now.
As soon as he’d flipped that switch, the plane no longer had three hours until landing.
He began counting seconds.
At his side, the bottle began filling with pressurized liquid oxygen. The things that looked just like vitamin E tablets dissolved slowly, certain elements inside them connecting magnetically and moving toward the tiny components at the bottom of the prescription bottle. A spherical bullet slowly formed. The oxygen mixed with other gasses contained inside the tablets, creating a chemical reaction that solidified the magnetic dust into a hard object.
The apparatus at the bottom of the bottle engaged on a timed que, and the bullet was blasted at exactly 981 psi across the cabin.
It didn’t hit anybody.
But it didn’t have to. Ivan Molchalin didn’t want it to. He had only one bullet, and it had to kill everyone.
He’d aimed it well.
The window directly across from him shattered, the force of the wind outside along with the air pressure creating a vacuum that sucked every loose object inside the cabin toward it.
The rest of the glass in the plane imploded instantaneously, covering the passengers in tiny shards and splinters. Someone’s very small child was sucked out by the vacuum. Screams erupted everywhere.
The wind roared inside the cabin, deafening Ivan. He stood slowly, grasping the top of his seat with one hand to steady himself. The man in brown tweed also stood, looking around wildly. Ivan shouted, “What happened?” but only for effect. No one heard him over the wind. He had one last trick up his sleeve, and this one would be the master stroke. It was no time to give away that he knew what was going on.
Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved