All it took was a man and a cleaning cart. That was it. The man was a
typical janitor, such as you might see anywhere in the world, at any airport:
grease-stained blue work shirt, ragged mustache, pants heavily worn at the
knee, and a sweaty baseball cap without a label. The cart was equally
nondescript, with a metal section holding cleaning materials, and a blue denim
bag holding a worn out deck broom, a lint-covered sweeping mop, and some wadded
up paper. Underneath that there was a nylon satchel.

He walked slowly, but not too slow, casually, but with just a convincing
amount of exhaustion in his stride. The cigarette dangled just so, and the
traditional red rag stuck out of his back pocket. He moved down the terminal,
pausing every now and then to collect some piece of debris with the black
dustpan and small broom hanging on the cart's side. People walked by or around
him, one pausing to flick his own cigarette butt into the bag. That man was
not a keen observer, or maybe he was preoccupied with his own affairs, for he
did not notice the hastily-controlled stiffening of the janitor's muscled back; the sudden
wariness in the formerly-blank eyes. No matter. The cigarette-thrower hurried
up the terminal, while the janitor followed at a slower pace.

The older an airport, the less likely more modern security measures are
to find an ideal place for the fulfillment of their function. Bottlenecks are
needed to funnel people into the scanners and detectors, and alternate routes
simply cannot exist for security measures to be completely effective.
Architects, like guards, must be alert to possible flaws in their barriers.
Tired guards and careless architects, completely human and therefore imperfect,
have much in common.

The Janitor could see the barriers ahead, and the uniformed men, some
with holstered pistols, standing next to the monitors. The Janitor had been
watching them, off and on, for some weeks now. He noticed how the false alarms
drained their senses of their sharpness, how the petty complaints of those they
stopped made them sullen, and withdrawn. They were not used to such duty, for
the rotation scheme that switched them daily, like the hallway in which the
barricades were positioned, was meant to keep security tight and had failed.
The Janitor looked for a moment. Then, perhaps a bit more quickly than he had
moved previously, he unlocked a wooden door on the left side of the terminal
corridor. He took a moment to hang his red rag on the doorknob, and then
pushed his cart through the doorway.

He was in a janitorial closet. He switched on the bulb in the ceiling
and locked the door behind him. There was just enough room for himself and the
cart in the dusty little cubicle. He spent a moment transferring the broom and
the mop from the bag onto hooks in the far wall before he removed his satchel
from under the papers and ashes. It was tightly zippered, and only a little
smudged. He moved very quickly now. Reaching under a box labeled "Toilet
Paper" in his language he pulled out a blue windbreaker, with the name of an
airline printed on the back. The screwdriver was still in the pocket. He
donned the jacket, zipped it up, and tossed his hat and cigarette into the sack
on the cart. From behind a can of cleanser and some disinfectant on the cart's
shelf he removed sunglasses and some ear-covering hearing protectors, also with
the airline's name upon them. He put the ends of the "earmuffs" around his
neck, and the sunglasses in his pocket. He needed his eyes and ears for the
moment. Pushing the cart against the door, he knelt upon the floor with his
screwdriver. He looked as if he was praying, and perhaps he was, but primarily
he was loosening the grommeted screws holding a linoleum panel to the floor.

The long hallway of the terminal had originally been planned to rest
directly upon the marshy ground of the runways and docking areas. Subsidence
had forced the builders to support the hub on concrete piers. Their desire for
level construction had made an even higher set of piers necessary for the
support of the terminal. For aesthetic reasons, the piers had been hidden from
view by siding, some of the spaces used for garages or miscellaneous storage.
Under the main hallway, the flooring was quite thick. The closet rested in
sort of a nether section between two terminals and the hub. When the linoleum
tile was removed, all that kept the "janitor" from a small privy directly on
the level of the airport's loading area was an already partially-sawed layer of
wood, insulation, and some fiberboard ceiling tiles, which the man in the
windbreaker, now, quickly cleared with the small saw he had placed on top of
the doorjam yesterday. Soon he was through the floor, satchel and all, and the
only possessor of the keys to the closet and the privy.

Soon a typical groundscrewman walked toward the 747, pausing a moment to
lock the door behind him. He had planned well. Mechanics and service personnel
had to undergo checks of their own before being allowed on the docking area.
Anyone entering the terminal was likewise checked, and yet he had circumvented
both defenses against him. Carrying his satchel, he walked straight toward the
gantry leading up to the monstrous Boeing jumbo jet. When he left his prey, he
was no longer carrying the satchel. When he left the airport, he no longer had
an identity.

He had left the satchel in the First Class Men's restroom. This was not
due to any personal taste, of course, but because that section of the aircraft
was nearest to the control section. So intent was he on his purpose that he
had not tried to get into any of the other sections of the aircraft. It would
have been impossible. Soon after he had walked down the boarding gantry, the
plane came to life with an intensity of its own.

Nervous men are alert men. The two walking down the terminal some hours
later kept looking anxiously from side to side, their movements jerky. One was
slightly older, and he clenched a key in his fist as he headed toward the
security station. When he saw the red rag on the doorknob, he nudged his
companion, palmed it, and quickly broke off the key in the lock. The end of
the key and the rag were tossed into the next trash can.

The younger man had crawled out of the ruins of a ramshackle shed in a
city ghetto one morning, dragging his little sister's body behind him. He had
what could have been a pleasant, intelligent face. Years of starvation-fed
hatred and a misaimed artillery shell had banished that man forever. Much
could have been made of him besides the hate-filled creature he had become.
The unsteadier of the two, he wanted others to feel his hurt. He had found a
way to force them to. Like that shell, he had become dangerous to all in his
vicinity. The older man's venom came from a different source. He had always
been a rebel, first against the imperialists, then the capitalists, then the
vaguely defined "Satan" he was stalking now. He fought because he liked to,
and killed because he had no desire to stop. He really did not know how to do
anything but revolt. Here, he was the leader.

It was night at the airport now. The guards, tired as the first
terrorist had thought, still looked at the two with the slight distrust every
authority figure has for young men. An old one with a fat belly straining
beneath his uniform shirt carefully moved his hand near the flap on his pistol
holster as the first of the pair went through the checkpoint. No buzzer.
There was no carry-on luggage for either man. The second went through with no
incident. The old guard was still not satisfied, but he stayed leaning against
the wall. He was old, they were young, and they looked as full of hatred as he
had once been. He had learned that ease was not to be wasted on every
suspicion. Somebody else would find if something was wrong with the two, and,
if not, he would not have been the only derelict.

Meanwhile, on the plane, lights flashed deep inside the hull. Some
machines turned themselves on, some others off. Men moved in response.

The two walked down to the waiting area. The younger man was still
nervous, still jerky, and both were full of much more hatred than the old guard
had thought. Hatred was their substitute for courage, and it kept them going.
Hatred, as it had for many down through the ages, made it easy to do the

The waiting area had the usual hodgepodge of people, very many in this
case. Waiting for the 747 were elderly businessmen, tourists, women in cotton
blouses with large handbags, some well-dressed students lounging in one corner,
a family with children in another. A younger mixed group talked of social
issues in front of one of the windows overlooking the docking area. All these
people were Americans. Against the far wall sat a few people from other
countries, a few merely staring at the other group without interest, a few
curiously, and some, seeming to the questing eyes of the younger man, with hate
like his own. The older man was more relaxed. Once they were on the aircraft,
it would be easy. It had always been before. The talking from across the
aisle seemed so arrogant, so complacent. Swine. Make them crawl, make them
grovel. Pigs.

More time passed. More cliques formed on the American side, while a few
people, not Americans but Westerners of some sort or another filtered in among
them, some joining in conversation, the rest looking with some impatience at
the sign next to the gantry door. A few more people trickled into the other
group. Soon the hands of the clock agreed with the time on that sign. Some
delay, then. A little later a voice, in two languages, told the passengers to
board, even as a smiling (American) stewardess opened the gantry to the crowd.

People began filtering through the door, a few trying to hand the
stewardess their boarding passes before she was able to wave them down the
passageway to where other women waited to handle that job. The two men, one in
a leather jacket, the older wearing just a heavy shirt, smiled, forcedly, at
the stewardess' greeting, and hurrying without seeming to hurry, made their way
to their seats in the back of the First Class passenger compartment. The plane
was fully ready for its passengers.

After the usual preliminaries, the jet took off. It made two stops,
traveling west, before the hijackers made their move.

Why? The unpleasant thing about civil wars, no matter where they are,
is that they tend to involve other countries. Factions arise, increasing in
numbers as the war goes on. One particular faction in one particular country
had gained its strength by a common resentment of Western intervention on the
side of their enemies. Perhaps they had some justification. They had foreign
support of their own, but rational judgment does not keep a revolutionary
organization going very long. These two had a very complicated plan, part of
which the "janitor" in the airport had handled, part which they would do, part
which others would finish. They waited until the plane was over the Atlantic,
relaxing comfortably in First Class. The older man even enjoyed the movie.
Waiting for a particularly dull moment, he slowly got up and proceeded to the
men's room in the back of the section. As the stewardess began to serve
drinks, the younger man followed him.

The satchel had been placed in a usually-locked compartment behind the
bowl. Cramped as they were, the men soon removed two rifles with collapsible
stocks, two grenades, and a pair of automatic pistols. They pulled spare
ammunition from the hollow centers of toilet paper rolls. Sensors quivered.
The door suddenly locked itself and gas began spraying from concealed nozzles.
There wasn't enough room to collapse.

"No firing pins."

The younger man's head felt light. He was strapped on some kind of
table, electrodes attached to his wrists, forehead, and temples. He could see
electronic readouts of some kind, but not very clearly. He felt like he wanted
to giggle, but he was bathed in sweat.

"No firing pins. No explosive, either. Dummy ammo, too. You could put
on one hell of an act with these things, but not much of a fight. We wanted
you to think that every thing was going perfectly until we could get you in

The mocking voice belonged to an American Air Force officer, sitting on
a stool to one side of the restrained terrorist. He waved one of the rifles
idly, and smiled.

The young man strained at his bonds, thrashing wildly before he realized
how tired he was.

"Liar! Satan! You torture me, and get nothing!"

He tried to spit, but his mouth was too dry.

The American leaned over him, still smiling. His breath did not smell
particularly good.

"You've already told us everything we wanted to know, my psychotic
little friend. We know you. We know your organization. We know where you
were going to take us. With the right methods, you little bastard, you are a

He smiled almost paternally down at the bound youth, suddenly grabbing
at his chin with a powerful hand, compressing the captive's cheeks in a painful

"Poor little boy. Your buddy was even easier. People like him just
like to dish it out, they can't take it. You, you haven't even got the guts
for that. You walked right into it, idiot. We got you."

The American looked at his watch.

"Oh dear. I've got to go. I'm gonna leave you right here for a little
while, so you can be enjoying yourself. If I were you, I'd feel really good.
You're going home, fella. Isn't that nice?"

Even alone, in the darkness, it took the frightened hijacker some time
to realize that he was still on the plane.

"Control, we have to land, repeat, have to land. The hijackers have a
gun at my head and they are threatening to kill the female crew members. Out."

"We cannot allow you for landing. We have vehicles parked on all
runways. You cannot, repeat, cannot put down here. Please leave our airspace
immediately. Out."

"The hijackers have started to slit a stewardess's throat. She's
screaming. I am landing now. Out."

"We cannot be responsible. Do not land."

There were no vehicles. Massively, showing no sign of a careful mid-air
refueling and certain other preparations, the 747 lurched into a passable
landing and taxied to the middle of the shell-cratered runway. The lowermost
hatch opened, revealing a masked figure holding a pistol in one hand and a
struggling woman in the other. The arm holding the pistol pumped up and down
twice. Instantly, an old truck roared onto the runway, and armed men poured
out of it and up a rope ladder let down from above. To the watchers in the
war-torn hills above, everything had gone according to plan.

They were grinning and shouting cries of victory, waving their weapons
above their heads as they moved down the aisle looking for booty. The leader,
wearing a makeshift uniform, began shouting at the passengers in broken

"You will put passports, papers, money, jewelry in bag. No one to move.
You will not raise heads, you will not move bodies, or we kill. You our

Only one of his commands were obeyed. No one moved. He stared at them
incredulously. He turned to the masked figure behind him, and grabbed the
woman in his arms.

"I will provide an example of what will happen if my orders not obeyed

"You sow what you reap," someone behind him said. It was in his own

He was still pondering what those words meant as the woman reached up
and effortlessly snapped his neck. Drugged darts dropped his men through holes
in the armored ceiling.

As the terrorists fell, the passengers replaced their concealed weapons
into pre-cut compartments in the shielded seat backs of their neighbors, and
dragged their victims out of the compartment. One cut the rope ladder loose.
Before anyone on the ground could react, the plane, engines suddenly screaming
back to life, took off again. It was soon circling the city at 50,000 feet.

They awoke bound, gagged, and strapped into steel frames in a hollowed
out rear area of the aircraft. The Air Force officer and some American Marines
were covering them with submachine guns. All were smiling slightly. The racks
were positioned on aluminum track leading to a sheet-steel box on one side of
the aircraft. In the rack nearest the box stood the body of their commander,
his neck askew.

"Doesn't this seem so cute?," asked the officer, a Colonel, some
realized. "'Aint this all amazing? I bet it makes you all feel real proud to
know we built this just for people like you." The paternal smile was still on
his face.

"A 747's a big aircraft. You can put a lot of things on a big aircraft.
You can put in interrogation rooms, weapons chambers, armored compartments,
and even rooms like this." He looked around appreciatively. One of the
Marines pushed a button on the bulkhead. Two more racks appeared through doors
on the ceiling and positioned themselves on the track. In them, the younger
hijacker was still struggling, the older one lay limp in his bonds. He wasn't
breathing. The Colonel walked over to him.

"Oh my. We've had an allergic re-ac-tion. Dear dear. Sigh."

He looked each one of them over carefully, smiling a little. His
command of their language was flawless, and his inflection, although dripping
with contempt, seemed to hide an undercurrent of pain. Mostly, though, he
seemed to enjoy what he was doing.

He looked at them again. They were all sweating, looking wild-eyed at
him and at each other. The young one stared at him like he was some kind of
monster. And so he was.

"You see, boys, it is all a matter of hate. Hate, hate. We didn't hate
you at first. Maybe we got involved where we shouldn't have, maybe we backed
the wrong people, but we didn't hate. Most of us still don't. I don't care.
What I do care about is that someone very much like you killed my brother in a
little restaurant while he was on a business trip. That man taught me to hate.
See this boy?" He pointed to one of the Marines. "You people killed his
daddy. Does anybody remember that cute little stewardess you all saw up front?
Her fiancee got all blowed up by a bomb that killed her kid sister too.
Matter of fact, everybody on this aircraft, more or less, has a reason to hate.
You're good teachers, boys."

He began walking in front of them, lecturing them, as a few of the Marines
watched him with tight grins on their faces.

"So you see, boys, unless you do something about hate, you get ulcers.
You get upset. You boys know all about that. You're always acting on your
hate. Hell, you people'll vent it on anybody who comes along. We're like you,
now. Didn't used to be, but we are, finally. Now, don't be holding this
against every American. America's just a big, well-intentioned country that's
easy to pick on because we're slow to hate. But you taught some of us."

"You all know what a Q-Ship is? They were ships people used to have
that looked just like regular ships until you attacked 'em. Then all sorts of
bad things could happen. Congratulations, boys, you've made some of us mad
enough to build a Q-Plane. You humiliated some people in Washington, got them
mad enough to pay for this thing. We'll just keep it flying until you people
get wise. Then we'll think of something else."

By this time the terrorists had quit struggling, just staring at the man
while he paced and talked. He smiled at them again.

"I'm rambling, 'aint I, boys. I understand. Guess I'll finish up now.
Listen. You hate someone hard enough, they start to hate you back. You give
the good guys enough bloody noses and they start fighting dirty too."

He nodded, and a Marine pushed another button on his panel. A door in
the steel box opened, and the dead leader's rack lurched inside. The door
closed. There was a sliding sound, then a sound of rushing air before the
door opened again. The Colonel smiled again.

"You all know what a cuckoo is, boys? A cuckoo's just another egg in
some other bird's nest, till it hatches. And because it's bigger and meaner
than the other birds' chicks, it just topples them out of the nest. That's the
whole story, boys. We're just like you, now. Only bigger, and meaner."

He nodded to the marine, and the racks started lurching into the
airlock/drop chute.

"Cuckoo," said the Colonel. Soon the room was empty.

Copyright 1987 by Rob S. Rice. Permission to print and recirculate is granted provided original authorship maintained.