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The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Wins Again

 

The calf was sacrificed with hopeful and makeshift ritual beside the raised Sky Chefs trailer and the blood flowed to the further drain which meant that the wind gods were happy and the deadly localized heat would somehow subside and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Wold-Chamberlain International airport could re-open.

It was almost nightfall. The day had been a blur for Routh. Looking back at most emergency situations, he was like a watchmaker, rebuilding the temporal machinery just so. A then B then C happened. Instead, this was like a blob of letters, bleeding into each other. There was earlier and later and then and now.

Earlier...

There was surprisingly little damage to the buildings, as the Representation - which is what the remaining authorities were calling it - spent most of its time hovering and dragging its tail into the far end of runways 12L and 30R.

-it had a tail?

-it acted like it had a tail. The bottom end part of it dragged.

That was the gist Routh got after he had been interviewing witnesses four hours after The Representation - really? Of all the names who let that one stick? Even 'The Thing' is better than that - had gracefully shimmied out of existence. Now he had other problems.

-and then like it just disappeared.

-okay.

-it moved like a fish but it wasn't, y'know?

-I don't, actually.

Routh had flown in from Chicago. Didn't land here, obviously. Some smaller airport north of the city that he'd already forgotten the name of. And then he was recklessly driven to a command post had that been setup in one of the suddenly evacuated terminals after what happened to the first responders at Wold-Chamberlain.

Now SWAT teams and emergency personnel don't like falling back or retreating unless absolutely necessary and with the firepower the former is usually packing these days, 'absolutely necessary' has more or less slipped from their vocabulary.

But that's for when they're fighting people. Or even fucking monsters in movies (which feels like where most gun-toting security teams get their inspiration from). Shoot first and ask questions much later if some goddamn lawyers making a big stink about it.

When it's time to confront...something... and your only plan - firing tiny steel projectiles at it - is completely useless, you look like a moron with your dick in your hands right quick.

Which is what happened, and when that happens, everything that happens afterward is usually an embarrassing and tragic trial by fire clusterfuck.

Routh was finding out about this clusterfuck as it happened, but second hand, through whoever was on the phone in Minneapolis as he was driven to Chicago Midway Airport. He was trying to think outside the box while listening to Stowe chew out his team.

-'it looked like', 'it looks like', just tell me what the fuck it is!

But Stowe was in the hospital now, with second degree burns to his extremities.

Routh had never met Stowe, but imagines he'd met plenty of men like him. Wrapped a bit too tight, married to a thin blonde with some self esteem issues, pushes his kids a bit too hard into sports when he actually remembers he has to do something resembling parenting. Can do a good job, but a bit of a pain to go have a beer with.

No wonder Stowe was raving. Routh wondered if he should have been more reassuring over the phone as Stowe screamed from half a mile away at his men to move forward, to reload, to not just stand there doing shit all. Instead someone else listening in from Washington tried to give advice and was angrily told to shut the fuck because you aren't here right now, asshole.

So everyone heard it go from bad to worse, but that didn't stop people from treating it like they were the only ones privy to this information.

When nothing is certain, you get the same points over and over again, although over time it seems to be said with much less and panic and more pseudo-educated solemnity.

'We can't shoot it!' becomes 'gunfire appeared to be useless' becomes 'traditional methods of neutralization remains ineffective'. And then theories began, and because it was a hazardous scenario where kneejerk ideas can be transmitted through secure channels by anyone with a cell phone, Routh found himself having to consider and quickly discard ideas like terrorist holograms, as if it was an image somehow projected by some troublemaker who was hiding at the end of the runway.

Might work for 'em, Routh found himself briefly thinking, freak out some pilot who pulls up or left or right at the last minute and crashes into a field or terminal.

At least Routh kept his mouth shut. Some bloodthirsty goons in Langley seemed eager to pontificate on the idea of what they were already calling virtual warfare.

But that was all thrown out the window when they saw or heard about the physical damage to the runway, and these long distance armchair theorists had to give up on all of this when they listened to the soldiers getting closer to The Representation, and even more hell broke loose.

Hearing tough as nails men scream could really make your stomach turn.

Routh interviewed some of the soldiers when he arrived. They had a chance to calm down, but none of them changed their story.

-it was hot suddenly. Like it was normal, then one step and you were burnin' up.

-it was like walking into a furnace.

-Sergeant Cruz was lead and he just started screaming in pain and we didn't even think we just rushed to him, and that was it, everyone started to scream too as they got close.

Routh was in the air in a tiny Lear Jet when the sputtering Stowe decided to take matters into his own hands and have someone drive him out to Cruz's now incapacitated team like a conquering hero.

This time Routh tried to tell Stowe to hold on, but getting in the way via cell phone has its limits and he was told in great detail how to go fuck himself.

And then Stowe starts shrieking like a banshee about his skin.

Routh realized then that he wouldn't have minded if the pilot turned around for Chicago then and there.

Instead he barked orders about containment and barriers and cordoned off areas. No one else on the party line objected.

According to the folks at the airport, The Representation disappeared as he crossed the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, and when he arrived on scene just over half an hour later, it was surprisingly calm, people seemed to have taken his pronouncements to heart.

It also meant that nobody knew anything else and there was nothing much to report, other than microwave cameras picking up incredible amounts of heat around where whatever it was had hovered.

-a signature, Routh murmured.

Someone recommended putting people in heat-proof suits but then it was discovered that he was thinking off fire-proof suits, which is not nearly the same thing. Another suggested a robot of some sort, but that quickly became the idea of people holding high quality cameras as close as possible to the hot zone (no longer a figurative term) to see if anything could be gleaned from a close study of where The Representation decided to make its temporary home.

-how long will all this take? A high ranking FAA official that shall remain nameless asked, hovering over the emergency workers like a vulture.

It quickly became an almost-shouting match between the same two sides that Routh had become exhaustedly accustomed to. The People Pushing for Business as Usual vs. The People Who Get Tarred and Feathered in the Public Forum for Eventually Succumbing to the Whims of The People Pushing for Business as Usual. He didn't even take part. Het let some young hotshot who had just arrived from Washington to match wits.

-you're crazy, we can't-

-do you know how many people are breathing down my neck? How many companies? This is a Delta hub, one of the busiest airports in the nation, and we are holding it up for-

-you want to risk a plane flying through that?

-then let's close that runway and open up the others. There's no reason to close the whole airport.

On the whole it was a half-decent diversion from the more terrifying problems at hand (what the fuck is that thing? What did it come here for? Is it going to come back?). By the time two sides reached for a glass of water or excused themselves for quick cigarettes, a tech guy shuffled up to Routh and mumbled that the cameras were ready.

The set up was as low tech as it got. A couple armoured personnel carriers backed up to the hastily guesstimated 'do not cross' caution tape line and soldiers held up high quality cameras and aimed them at the damaged and most likely 'invisible heat' (another garbage term, he thought to himself, we really need an English major on staff to quickly name these sorts of things) area about one hundred feel away. When Routh or a hastily labelled expert wanted to see something to the left, an order was given to the soldier to turn a bit to the left. If they wanted to get a closeup on something that caught there eye, then it was, 'press the zoom, Sargent'.

No one had any problems with this system.

That didn't mean any answers were forthcoming.

The damage to the runway looked like damage to a runway made by very large excavation machines. That something unexplainable did this was not the matter of any debate. But seeing it up close didn't change much at all.

On the second or third sweep, FAA people began to grumble again.

Routh kept asking to zoom in until one couldn't zoom in no more. Some soldiers muttered that there arms were getting tired.

Routh later claimed that he saw the markings but from his vantage point - through a shaky video feed - it just looked like random dents in the concrete.

It was one of the soldiers holding the cameras who absentmindedly said that some of those grooves and shapes left in the runway looked like the stuff he saw in an Indiana Jones movie.

A professor from Minnesota State was brought in to read the hieroglyphs.

Nobody liked him. He was curt, moody, and asked too many questions that he kept insisting he felt were relevant. Routh kept insisting that he just wanted a translation of the markings.

-I can do a better job if I know the larger context of what's going on, Moretti said for something like the fifth time.

Routh wasn't going to be figuratively burned by sharing classified information, so he hedged.

-I can decide what I can tell you if you simply tell me what kind of basic phrase these... hieroglyphs... spell out.

You don't become a tenured professor without knowing a bit about the occurrence of smoking being blown up your ass. Routh could tell by the look on Moretti's face that both of them knew Routh wasn't going to tell him anything until he unloaded his PhD laden brain upon the room.

Moretti sighed and looked down at the screen. He cleared his throat.

-the way of the blood

spilled from a young cow

will make for the east

and the land will be calmed

Well, no one said anything for about ten seconds.

-the fuck does that mean? Someone finally barked, summing up the mood of the room.

-like I said, Moretti said adjusting his glasses that certainly must have cost at least fifteen hundred dollars, I can be of more help if you tell me more about the situation at hand.

Routh never thought of himself as an excessively proud man, nor a man who would but personal feelings ahead of the situation in front of him.

But fuck this guy.

-Professor Moretti, thank you for your help, if there's anything else we believe you can assist us with, we will contact you immediately.

The professor opened his mouth to protest, but Routh put on the face he'd perfected which magnificently encapsulated the following:

You will have to be satisfied with the knowledge that you helped in your own particular way and thats all. You will getting nothing more from me. I owe you nothing. Every sort of politics aside, I represent the will of the people and right now the people thank you for your service to the continued health of the community. That is all. Now fuck off or I'll nod and someone will drag you out.

The professor murmured something resembling an acknowledgment and headed for the door.

People watched him go, and some nodded in appreciation, but within ten seconds of his departure he was long forgotten.

-so what the fuck does that mean? Another person reiterated.

-bring the prof back in here and tell him everything, peanut gallery two announced, we'll take his phone and keep him under lock and key so he doesn't tell his wife or staff or something.

-if we need him, we'll get him, Routh replied, but let's see if we can't take a crack at this.

-you're Indiana Jones now? A bald and thin as toothpick FAA official asked.

-blood of a young cow. A calf. We kill a calf. Which way does the blood go? We want it go east. You need wind to find out. Shit, we can just set that up right where our guys are with the cameras.

Everyone let those nuggets of common sense sink in.

Common sense relative to the situation at hand, of course.

-like a sacrifice.

-if you want to call it that.

-getting a bit goddy in here Routh, peanut gallery three (they seemed to be multiplying) observed.

Let the theological implications be staggering tomorrow, Routh thought. Instead the people around him heard:

-if plan A is to sit around and wait for something else to happen, let's make this plan B. And start prepping a plan C.

-plan C?

-more cows.

-you don't want to think about fighting The Representation?

-that's what people in the basement of Langley are for. Let them create some sort of death ray. I'm here working with what I got.

-an order for a couple hundred pounds of sirloin.

The room snickered at that and the tension and/or confusion broke and even Routh grinned briefly. He turned to a random FAA man.

-you going to give me any static on this? Messing up your nice clean runway?

-everyone wants this resolved, so just do what it says.

-fine. Where the hell do I find a calf?

One of the local higher-ups stares at him, genuinely surprised.

-for god's sakes this is Minnesota, Routh. Ask anyone around you to call an in-law.

Sure enough, the wife of the head of the airport's security team knew a co-worker, who, in their spare time helped run a co-op farm south of Burnsville.

-how many can they spare?

Halverston asked his wife over the phone (who would then whisper to her friend in the next cubicle over), and had to again add he couldn't say what this was about.

-three.

The call was more a formality than anything else. As soon as Halverston mentioned the name of the town, Routh had dispatched a convoy for Burnsville, telling them to use one of the trucks for police horses to transport the animals back to the airport. If the farm owners were reluctant to hand over the animals, well tough. But Halverston talking it out with his wife and her friend made everything easier.

Round trip would be about an hour.

Plenty of time for prepping and second guessing.

Should we get a priest or holy person to do it? Since it's apparently Egyptian should we call Moretti back, since Egyptian priests are in short supply these days, especially in the mid-west? What happens if The Representation comes back because of this? Hell, what if it comes back no matter what?

And the always popular: What if this just doesn't work?

Routh fielded most, punted a couple.

-we'll get a butcher, get one of the airport food trailers to prep it in. That's about as holy as we're going to get on this run. We'll worry about the thing if it comes back, and right now the plan of action is there is run away from it. And if it doesn't work and there's still a magic oven over 12L and 30R, we'll bring the prof back maybe have him powwow with the brains in Washington.

-maybe we can blow the heat away, like with a fan.

-or a jet engine!

-let's call that plan J, Routh observed drily, imagining a house, forest, or prompt taxpayers catching fire or burning to crisps.

A butcher was chosen with a google search partially based on proximity to the airport. He was confused but game and offered to drive himself, but was assured that someone would pick him up.

Everything converged at the end of 12L and 30R. A convoy for the security personnel, for the three calfs, and for Aaron Dishner, veteran butcher. A Sky Chefs trailer was slowly driven up right beside the caution tape. Soldiers totting rifles warily circled the perimeter. It looked like preparation for a very strange adventure. All that was missing was an airplane.

But with blood lazily flowing across the runway in a vaguely eastward direction, the planes would return soon enough.

 

 

END

 

A combination of stupid, disgusting, and slightly funny: Pabst's Goo Ribbon