Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Home-field advantage: The last tent-pole

Ethan watched as the Marxist's victory slipped from his grasp. One minute all of the momentum was going their way. The next minute they were getting knocked back on their collective asses.

Ethan could see that the rioters who had been battered by the water-cannon were totally spent. The bruising, the broken bones, the onset of hypothermia had turned them into zombies.

Ethan’s only hope was to inject fresh-meat into the battle in some, high-leverage way. The only fresh meat he had were the munitions-porters.

He made his way to the back of the crowd where the munitions-porters had congregated.

“I thought I told you guys to start throwing fire-bombs?” Ethan railed at them.

The men shook their heads “No” and started backing away. They had seen what happened to the last six men who had thrown fire-bombs. They didn’t want any of that.

“It not that fucking hard” Ethan said. “Hand me a fucking bottle.”

Ethan was speaking with BIG arm motions. Leadership is 80% theater.

Lawton watched from three-hundred yards away. With his scope cranked up to 20X, the big arm movements had caught his attention immediately.

Ethan patted his pockets. Of course he had handed out all of his lighters. “Anybody got a fucking lighter?” he demanded.

The man who handed him the lighter quickly backed away. He didn’t stop backing until he was more than thirty feet away, but Ethan never noticed, intent on his 'job'.

The other men discretely did the same. They weren't afraid of Ethan, but they didn’t think it was healthy to be too close to him.

Ethan struggled to ignite the lighter. The flame blossomed and then the wind blew it out. Ethan had been so focused on projecting his personality he had not been paying attention to the wind. His second try was more successful and he started to light the Molotov cocktail in his other hand as his skull exploded. The bullet entered one inch behind his right ear and exited through his left temple, spraying a chunk of bone, blood, and brain tissue down wind as he crumpled to the ground, the lit Molotov cocktail underneath him.


One side-effect of the incredibly bright environment is that the smart cameras had adjusted. They shrank the aperture which vastly increased the depth-of-focus. The resolution maxed out and the frames-per-second also increased.

Lawton’s shot won the internet.

It was captured from multiple angles.

Gary was the first to see the implications. He zoomed in and ran the clip in slow-motion from all of his angles. If you had enough imagination, you could almost see the bullet strike. You could certainly see the gobbets of brain-tissue exploding out of the side of his cranial cavity. You could see lobes of red mist expanding out from the site of impact and exit. You could even make out some of the larger droplets.

CZZ’s camera also caught the footage.

Brice Cunningham happened to be watching the monitor slaved to that camera and watched the entire sequence unfold.

Cunningham lost it. He went bananas.

He pulled out his Glock and started shooting at defenders on the ground. On live television. Transmitted internationally. From a CZZ chopper.


There I was, just taking up the last quarter ounce in the trigger when I was struck in the back with a sledge-hammer.

I am a good Catholic boy and I rarely swear. Profanity, yes. Swearing, almost never. But sweet Jesus, that hurt.

And just like that I was out-of-the-game.

I vaguely remember Vince asking if I could wiggle my toes. When I said I could, I remember him rolling me up, into a fireman’s carry.

I may be big, fat and ugly but Vince is big, fit and ugly.

I also remember a crazy ride in the back of a pickup truck, but it all went gray after that.


Pilot Doug Lykios's first clue that things had gone sideways was when the cameraman transmitted "Our passenger is shooting a gun at people on the ground."

Between the noise of the chopper and his head-phones, Lykios was essentially deaf.

Lykios's gut instinct was that aircraft that fire at the ground become magnets for return fire. Instincts took over. Lykios rolled the chopper to put the fuselage between the people on the ground and the vital bits that attracted Manpads. Vital bits like engines and tail-rotors, for instance.

Habits from flying over in the sandbox die hard, don’t you know.

Then, as he was dropping the collective to lose altitude he heard more shooting from the back seat.

MUTHER-FUCKER. God, how he wished he had never met Brice Cunningham. The prick had been nothing but trouble from the very beginning.

Cunningham was carried by CZZ as a long-term, unpaid intern. It quickly became clear he was far more than that and that he had somebody upstairs pulling his wagon. Somebody WAY upstairs.

The first month Cunningham worked at CZZ world-headquarters, a mid-level manager called Cunningham’s boss onto the carpet because Cunningham didn’t seem to be doing any of the tasks outlined in his official job description. Three days later the executive learned that he was being loaned out to an overseas affiliate...in Damascus, Syria with no bump in pay or title.

Word got around.

When Cunningham said he was riding along, Lykios didn’t kick. A man has to pay his bills.

So here he was with a non-manifested passenger and that asshole had fired on civilians from his helicopter.

He was in deep, deep shit. He knew this was the last time he would ever be piloting an aircraft.

Lykios did the only thing that made sense to him. He reset the transponder to 7500 and started flipped a switch that sent all external and internal comms to the onboard black-box.

Streaking just above ground level and putting the bulk of the high school between him and the shooters on the east side, Lykios muted the helmet mic, turned and Yelled to  Cunningham, “Where do you want us to put you down?”

Cunningham was slowly coming out of his rage. “Huh? Whaddya mean?”

Lykios responded, “The cops will scoop you up if we land back at the port. Probably in your best interest in getting dropped off somewhere else first.”

Lykios did not add that he didn't want to be anywhere near Cunningham when the cops found him. He was allergic to bullets whether from Cunningham's gun or the cops'.


Back at the Lansing Control Tower, Pete put down his cup of coffee. He had a blinking, red icon on his monitor.

Keying his microphone, Pete asked the pilot-in-question “You are transmitting code seven-five-zero-zero. Repeat, seven-five-zero-zero. Is that intentional?”

Pete heard the tower had one other 7500 back in the late seventies but it was a fat-fingered pilot.

“Affirmative. Squawking seven-five-zero-zero.” Doug transmitted back with no emotion in his voice at all.

He had just confirmed that he was being hijacked. The way he saw it, he had just been forced to deviate from his filed flight-plan by a lunatic who had demonstrated he was not afraid to use his pistol. By a narrow definition of “hijacked” that is exactly what was happening.

“Roger” Pete radioed back. “Per protocol, will support as needed. You are running the show.”

Looking at the elevation and air-speed and vector information, Pete blanched.

“Lost contact due to terrain, strongly advise add seventy feet to elevation” Pete said in the patented, clipped, laconic drawl used by all flight-controllers.

Pete transmitted to all aircraft in Lansing airspace. “7500 in progress. Avoid chopper traveling due east at 1020.”

That was not going to be too hard for the other aircraft. There wasn't much traffic 150 feet above "the deck". Only the suicidal, the extremely desperate or craft that were landing or taking off were likely to be found at that elevation.

Then Pete’s phone started ringing. Apparently, President Bower had been watching CZZ footage and Gary’s live-stream on side-by-side TVs. That shouldn't have been a surprise. The President was a notorious TV watcher and news junkie and only slept three hours a night.

When the President, even one who might be a lame duck, calls then things happen fast.

Back in the chopper, Cunningham asked “Who were you talking to?”

“Lansing tower. They thought we were having an air-emergency based on how our flight changed” Lykios replied using the helmet mic.

“What did you say?” Cunningham challenged.

“I told him we are a newsie chopper and we fly like this all the time” Lykios said.

Cunningham seemed satisfied with that answer.

Lykios muted his mic and repeated his original question. “Where do you want to be dropped off?”

“Isn’t there a college near here?” Cunningham asked. He figured a college was the best place to fit in. There had to be a cell of “his kind of people” there who would hide him.

“Roger. Michigan State” Lykios said, this time using the helmet mic so it was recorded.

When he had turned his head to yell to Cunningham in the backseat Lykios saw that the slide of the Glock was not locked-back, indicating that Brice had not shot the gun dry. Even if the slide was locked back, there were no guarantees that he didn’t have another magazine.

“Put me down on campus” Brice said.

Lykios set down in the middle of the intramural field south of Munn Ice Arena. Cunningham lost his phone as he exited the aircraft. He didn’t notice.

Lykios lifted off and rapidly climbed to 1500 feet.

Then he transmitted to Lansing Air Control. “High-jacker deplaned at following GPS coordinates.”

“Waiting for further instructions” Lykios transmitted.

“What is your fuel situation?” Pete transmitted. “Do you have enough to cover 70 nautical miles to Detroit Metro?”

Lykios did some mental calculations. He had refueled the AS350 B2 helicopter three hours earlier. Wind was fifteen knots out of the southwest.

“Barely. At cruise my ETA is 30 Mikes. I will only have 10 minutes of fuel remaining. I Need weather for DTW.” Lykios transmitted.

“DTW is reporting winds SSW variable 14 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, 10000 broken, temperature 27F, Dewpoint 23F time 23:24, altimeter 30.01. You are cleared VFR direct to Detroit Metro. You will proceed to a hot spot by the Sped-X terminal in the northeast corner of the airport. The hot spot will be marked with three, red, rapid-strobes in an equilateral triangle. Contact Detroit approach control 118.95 this time, ” Pete transmitted. Then Pete did the most unprofessional thing he had ever done in his life. He added “Good luck.”

Detroit tower instructed Lykios as he air taxied to the hot spot, “Do not touch any of the evidence in the aircraft. Shut down as directed, remain in the pilot seat until directed. Nobody may leave until released by authorities. Understand you and one passenger are the sole people on board.”

Lykios sighed and read back the instructions, confirmed it was just him and one passenger then added, "Hijacker was dumped at lat-long provided to Lansing. I have strobes in sight."


Hat-tip to Old_NFO who helped me with the lingo. All errors are mine, primarily from additions I made after Old_NFO looked it over.


  1. I'm liking this series - a lot! This is some engaging writing.

    One comment, no controller says 'Ten-Four'. They might say, 'Roger that' like Hollywood but that's as far as it gets. Also, all altitudes are MSL so saying 'MSL' is redundant, even silly. And to say good luck is not unusual given the circumstance and not an unpardonable breech of professionalism.

    1. Thank-you.

      I tweaked the text a little bit. I wanted it to be clear that the chopper was flying close to the ground, not 1000 feet above it.

      Again, thanks.

      ps: Pete is a tight-azz.

  2. Nicely done, and I should have caught that too. My bad.

  3. If Brice left his phone in the 'copter then Katie Bar the Door. No more Plausible Denyibility... Even if it is on the ground at the drop point he's in a heap 'o trouble.

    1. Tomorrow is the last installment.

      It ties off some of the loose ends. Others are left dangling.

      I decided to end it with a bang rather than drag it out. It may restart depending on future events or if the voices in my head start beating on my skull and want to get out.

  4. Oh, great. Now Brice is going to be teaching Gender Studies.

  5. I just have one question. What is the difference between profanity and swearing ? I thought they were the same thng.


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