The aircraft sped over Spain at five hundred miles an hour, passed rather gracefully over the Northern coastline and changed ground miles for sea ones. If he had a specific agenda he was leaving things a little late, ninety minutes into the journey and it still appeared as though he was indecisive. It was distracting because his irregular movements kept getting picked up in peripheral vision. Eventually he found the courage to move, perhaps he was going to attempt to chat up one of the flight attendants, it was a little surprising that he had barely even glanced in her direction. If he was focussed on any female form he was going to find rebuttal swift and definite. That notion faded rather rapidly when he lifted a large book from his carrier bag, ripped open the flimsy wrapping and pulled a handgun from a cavity which had been carefully cut from the pages, before rising to his feet and moving into the aisle.
"Oh Hell," murmured Emma. "What is it about me that attracts all this crap?"
The young man, well he looked about twenty five, with his lank dark hair doing nothing to enhance his appearance

was to be frank rather nondescript. Almost immediately he levelled his weapon and pointed it at the face of the uniformed female who had just started to walk towards him. "This is a fucking hijack," he spat angrily. The woman froze instantly, it was unlikely that a budget European airline held serious classes that tackled the problem of terrorists and attempted hold-ups or ransoms. No doubt they don't consider it cost effective as there are probably too few American tourists to get the terrorists adequate media coverage. Stepping forwards almost awkwardly had caused the air hostess to all but stop breathing. When he was close enough he pressed the barrel against her forehead and she needed to hold onto the adjacent seats for support. "Take me to the captain!"
The attendant's mouth flapped uselessly, her lungs unable to propel sufficient air to produce a sound. Pressure from the gun whitened her forehead, causing her throat to spasm and sobbing sounds rise up rather dramatically. Eventually she almost squeaked a response. "The door can only be opened from the other side."
"Fuck off. How does that make sense, the pilots had to get inside in the first place?"
"Once the main door is closed there is an automatic deadlock," she offered. "When we are on the tarmac and the steps are in place we can enter the cockpit, just not during the flight." That may or may not have been true, it could have been their only line of defence. On long haul flights the cockpit is sealed but it is always possible for one of the flight crew to open it from the inside. So long as that didn't cross the guy's mind too soon.
The angry man looked from side to side, almost as though he was desperate for guidance or moral support. All around him the faces expressed confusion and even fear, it was something of a surprise that nobody had started screaming. Either they couldn't believe what they were seeing or they were just too tired. Give them time. During at least one of the 911 flights passengers had used mobile phones to send messages, their last words, to loved ones, maybe that would begin as the odd passenger calmed enough to enable their brain to work.
Well it was somewhat obvious that there wasn't an air marshal on board and procrastinating would only cause impatience in every quarter. What was needed was a decisive action on behalf of everyone there. It wasn't going to be difficult working out that there was probably only one person within fifty miles with the required level of courage and bravado.
"Do you know the first thing about hijacking aircraft?" The voice from behind him was crisp, piercing and rather feminine.
Emma had placed the paperwork on the seat beside her, forced herself awkwardly upright and stepped into the aisle. "Well, from where I stand you have as much chance of success as we have of reaching America, combined with the intelligence of a rat on amphetamines."
"Bitch, what are you on? This is real fucking gun."
"It had better be or you will end up with your balls roasted on an open fire. Did you give this pathetic enterprise any thought at all?"
The man was more than a little shocked, the woman didn't look anything more than a young bimbo but apparently had either more balls than the whole of Chelsea football club or absolutely no common sense. "What the fuck do you mean?"
"Look arsehole," she spat vehemently. "You have ruined a perfectly simple flight to England. In case it had escaped your notice this is a low budget airline, that means that nobody on board is worth shit and as you have acted like a two year old I doubt you could spell the words fucked up."
As colour rose in the man's face he swung around completely, levelling the weapon in Emma's direction. "You are pushing your luck you stupid cow."
Emma laughed loudly which stunned most of her audience. "Would you like a lesson in simple statistics, logic and technology?"
"What?" Emma's confidence and forthright manner had him totally confused.
"Look, dickhead." Emma laughed again, attacking what little of his own confidence remained. "Anyone can see you are working alone and you formulated, do you know such a big word? Thought this pathetic little plan out while spaced out smoking some obscure Mediterranean weed or sucking the rancid coagulated blood out of three day dead goats. First of all you need to realise that these days hardly anyone attempts kidnapping or a hijack for the simple reason no sane person will pay. Security is there to prevent a repetition of the Twin Towers disaster. The moment money changes hands it sets a precedent and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. If Easyjet gave you even one million pounds, by next week there would be a dozen more attempts at extortion. If you had an ounce of common sense you should have tried on the outbound leg. All these weary people are returning home from holiday, I doubt they have a thousand euros between them. I mean, look around, it's bloody obvious that the aircraft is less than one third full anyway." As the words left her lips he looked further down the aisle and almost automatically nodded in acceptance. "I think you need a little education in the facts of life." Emma took a step towards the lonely figure. "I am assuming that you are a rather pathetic life form who is too lazy to work and too stupid find a way around that. Well, that is obvious, you are waving a gun around in an aircraft. If you intend this to be a get rich quick scheme you have overlooked more than just the obvious. Is the gun loaded?"
"Of course it fucking is," he screamed, waving it around vigorously.
"Have you any idea what would happen if you started pulling the trigger?"
"Yea, people would die."
"Well you would, that is guaranteed. This is a pressurised aircraft and we are at the cruising altitude, 38,000 feet. In case you don't know how high that is let me give you a clue, there are a little over 5,000 feet in a mile. You may have left school at twelve but even if you didn't realise that is more than seven miles you could have seen the film US Marshals. If you make a hole in the skin then you get explosive decompression, that is exactly what it sounds like but difficult to recreate in a movie. If you are lucky and hit a window that is all that may break, only anyone here, even that massive lump of whale meat on your left will slide out like butter off a hot knife. If you don't believe me try it, commercial divers work under pressure and are susceptible to similar dangers, ten years ago a habit broke a seal, eight divers, no bodies."
The man shook his head. "Fuck off, there must have been bodies."
"No, explosive decompression means that if the pressure drops all pressurised matter instantly tries to stabilise at the new level. In that case every part of each man equalised at sea level. Every single cell in each body burst and covered the metal lining with a pink paste." Emma was talking slowly so that with any luck a horde of gory images were forming in his feeble mind. A picture is worth a thousand words after all and it often only takes a few for one to be retrieved from memory. "You don't have to believe me but you will have seen it a few times. You shake a beer can for a minute and open in, all the gas forces the liquid to foam and it floods out. I'm not guaranteeing everybody will explode," she was struggling not to laugh as all it would do was give the odd person earache and maybe cause a couple to break wind, "there may not be enough differential, but most people are sitting down wearing seat belts, there are three people on their feet, all of whom will be the first out. In another incident, two men were sucked out of a diving bell through a two inch pipe. Mind you, if you hit anything else all hell will break loose. Aircraft are Aluminium, that's a brittle metal, it will tear apart in seconds, that would be worth filming. If the bullet exited behind me, over the wings there would just be a gaping hole, as you are standing in front of the seam and you made a serious opening there the whole nose section would probably break away, apart from losing the pilots, the plane would spin out of control as everyone died in their seats."
The terrorist was losing a little colour from his cheeks. "That wouldn't happen."
"No? I'd put money on it, I have a morbid sense of curiosity, it's the type of thing I study. You know the long white plumes planes leave in the sky, they are ice trails. The air outside is maybe forty degrees below freezing, that will instantly crystallise all the water inside your lungs. Not that it would matter, there isn't enough Oxygen to support life. So, you have a variety of ways to die."
"Bitch, if I shot you the bullet wouldn't hit the side of the plane."
"Asshole, that is a semi automatic, full metal jacket, it could go through three people and unless it hit bone would barely slow down. I'm in free space, if you shot me in the head or chest all the bone would do would be to alter the trajectory. The only people you can point that thing at with any hope of survival are those sitting down. Then you will need to pray that you hit the framework of the seat before a wildly spinning lump of lead punches a hole somewhere delicate and kills us all." To be honest the chance of catastrophic disintegration was rather minuscule but she wasn't worried about accuracy, merely to induce a little paranoia, even fear.
"Shit woman, I know you are making all this up, air security uses guns."
"Yes, peabrain." The man flinched, the continual flow of insults was slowly getting to him. Emma was scared of nothing, least of all death. "But they have special ammunition, if you are lucky rubber bullets, the others are like mini shotgun rounds. Tiny beads of soft lead. They would need to use at least three to bring you down, but the first would be in the face. Nothing would get through the skull but your eyes would be paste and you would suffer more intense pain than you could imagine."
"I don't care, nobody is going to rush me."
"I wouldn't put money on that," she laughed. "Apart from anything else, getting shot would produce various drugs to reduce pain and awareness. If you are stupid enough to fire and bring the plane down I imagine most people would prefer to be unconscious or dead rather than being terrified for ten minutes as everyone one else froze or suffocated as we plummeted earthwards. If you show incredible restraint, what do you think will happen when we land? There will be more armed police than passengers. How exactly are you going to slink away?"
"Now you are being stupid, we are not going to land at fucking Bristol."
Once again Emma laughed. "Don't put money on that. As you needed so much Dutch courage you left it too long, weren't you listening to the Captain, we'll be flying over the South coast in minutes."
"Crap, it took three hours on the way out."
"Then there must have been a strong headwind, today it is behind us, the man in the driving seat suggested a little more than two, your brain must have been on another planet at the time." That was hardly surprising. "This is a scheduled flight on a regular route, they carry enough fuel to travel for an additional fifty miles in case of a problem at the destination. At the moment we are over the Bay of Biscay so the only places that have a long enough runway will be in the UK. Brittany isn't bristling will international airports. Paris is the nearest French one that can take a wide bodied jet. We wouldn't make it. Due to the current climate although we could land at say Cardiff or Birmingham, even Exeter, this is the last flight of the day. Only Bristol or Birmingham will have ground crew due to pathetic restrictions on flying over populated areas after ten at night." Emma was smiling, fairly sure that they could land at Le Mans, or for that matter Edinburgh. Not that there would be any fewer police. Sweat was beginning to form on the man's skin. "I suggest you give me the gun and sit down again."
The man pointed his weapon directly at Emma's head. "If I am going to die at least I'll have the pleasure of your company."
"I don't give a shit." Casually she began to strip off, it wasn't just the gunman's eyes that began to bulge. Standing in a bra a number of things were obvious, not least of all some recent scars. "These are bullet wounds, I was shot in Sevilla during an attempted armed bank robbery. I killed six men though, well five and a half. I'm not scared of death, I have an aggressive inoperable brain tumour, stage three cancer. I'm flying to England to die, two months at the most. Being shot somewhere fatal will be a gift from God. I didn't want to come home too early as I am on the police most wanted list. I have killed more men in the UK than I can count, maybe that is why I have the Big C."
"Fucking liar."
"I understand your reservations, the details of most didn't reach the media. Where do you live?"
"Like I'd be stupid enough to tell you."
"You were stupid enough to try and hijack this flight. Maybe you remember a child murderer being shot dead on the steps of the Crown Court in Bristol." Facial movement proved that he did. "If it wasn't for the fact that the police would be more interested in me when the doors opened I could frighten you enough for you to crap in your underwear. Now, put down the damned gun." It waved menacingly in the air as she moved even closer. "Look shit for brains." He was, mainly at her breasts, that was the principal reason for exposing so much flesh. "When we land the aircraft will be surrounded by armed police, anti terrorist squad. There is an always on voice link to the cockpit so the crew can hear everything we are saying. Think about it, if your brain can work on two things at once, the good guys will have every piece of kit they need. You must have seen the odd police chase on TV, thermal imaging. Well at airports they have stuff that can see though planes and pick out the sex of the passengers. Then there are toys like American fifty calibre sniper rifles. Look at your thumb, that is about the size of the bullet. A marksman could take you out from two kilometres, so shooting through the flimsy skin of this metal tube wouldn't be a problem. Even if you hid between the trolley carts all your blood would be on the carpet before the screaming died. As the round passed through the first layer of metal it would start to flatten out, by the time it hit you in the chest it could quite easily be the size of a Clementine. The entry wound alone would be fatal, only as it popped out of your back it would cavitate your chest, what was left of it. All tissue, heart, lungs, spine, everything would spray into the cabin."
It wasn't only her victim that was feeling nauseous. All around her faces had paled and there was even the odd sound of people struggling not to be violently sick. "See through metal?" drifted into the air.
"Not to recognise you, match you up to the photograph they took in security, just an outline. Only if one of the flight attendants, Abi is closest to the microphone, whispered ‘row 4' they could distinguish between us, apart from the fact that your gun will stick out like a neon light."
After briefly relaxing muscles his arm tensed, the barrel once again pointed at Emma's face. "So if you are close enough they wouldn't dare fire."
"You are so slow. Just how much cocaine do you snort? There will be a cherry picker, an aerial platform above and in front of us. A marksman could take out anyone he chose, either by an allocated seat or heat signature. If you decide to leave the aircraft you will need to walk down the steps, there is no way my body would shield you. A high velocity round would take out your brain so quickly your body wouldn't work, your finger wouldn't be able to squeeze a trigger and kill me. Would you like to give me the gun yet?" Emma had moved so close he was beginning to drool.
"It's all fucking lies."
"No, every word is true. Like I said, I like to research things like death. I've never seen a scar that even remotely resembles a bullet wound so it is obvious that I have been shot rather recently. If I lunged forwards and grabbed the gun I wouldn't give a toss if it went off, but by pulling it into my thigh the leg bone would slow the bullet down. Then I would have to pray that when it came out it hit something hard in the luggage hold beneath us. I would be smiling as from an obliterated femoral artery I would be dead in three of four minutes. Rolling on the floor you would be temporarily defenceless. Abi or Halle, probably both would be on top of you in less than a second, pummelling you in the head with the heels of their shoes." Glancing to one side she noticed the senior figure slip off her footwear. "I imagine after a few seconds you would be unconscious." The look of astonishment on his face was worth photographing. The fact that he was continually swallowing and unable to look away from Emma's chest entertaining, that everyone else was entranced understandable. Emma reached behind her back and unfastened the bra. Breasts seemed to leap towards the man and his mouth fell open. Emma grabbed the gun and pulled it against her chest. "I don't imagine you even have the balls to pull the trigger."
It took several seconds for the feeble man to respond, realise that naked flesh had destroyed his defences. "Fuck you bitch, I am not going to go to prison easily, and you are going to die now." As he pulled hard on the trigger his mind reeled in confusion. The barrel did not erupt and blast a hole in Emma's body.
Bringing her knee up sharply into his groin loosened the grip on the weapon and she tore it from his hands as he collapsed onto his knees. "Dickhead," she laughed. "If you are going to play with a gun you need to understand how it works. If you push the barrel back on this toy it thinks you have fired already and is in the reloading cycle, the hammer won't work. Even pressing the barrel hard into my chest would probably have been enough, by the time you began to pull hard I had a finger behind the trigger." As he hadn't pulled back the hammer and it had not been fired the trigger would need to be squeezed back a fair distance to cock the weapon. The man began to shake, looking down the barrel of his own gun was not rewarding. "Say goodnight."
"NO!" he screamed, assuming she was going to blow his brains out.
As if, safety on she pistol whipped him, a sharp fierce blow to the side of his head rendered him unconscious. As he collapsed to the floor there was spontaneous cheering and applause. "Any chance of tying him up?"