What Once Went Wrong
Dedicated to everyone who was a victim of the September 11th attacks, either by losing their lives, or by losing family.
"Go ahead, Frank," came the tinny resonance of Talmadge's voice over the phone connection.
"We've got a big problem," Frank said to start off with. And if that isn't an understatement, Ramsey isn't an asshole.
As if on cue, he heard Nathan Ramsey, head of Security for Never-Neverland, and personal thorn in his side, snort in the background. "No, shit, Sherlock."
"Shut up, Ramsey," came Donovan's grumble. "Go ahead, Frank," his old friend said louder.
Thanks, Craig; I don't know if I could do this with Nate riding me, Frank said silently to his old friend. "Over six thousand people are going to die tomorrow. At ten hundred tomorrow morning, Pacific Standard Time, nineteen kamikaze raiders who have boarded four different flights across the country, all heading to California, will hijack them," Frank reported, haggard eyes roaming across the mostly deserted gas station to make sure no one was listening to him. If only Ballard could figure out a way of safeguarding cell phones from the electrical interference of the sphere, he wouldn't have wasted an hour hiking into this small town. "Two will be crashed into the World Trade Centers; one will be crashed into the Pentagon…"
Ballard's gasp of horror echoed through the speakerphone into his ears; Frank tuned the older man out, knowing he'd break down if he didn't complete his report soon. "The third will be hijacked by the passengers on its way to a Pennsylvania steel factory and end up crashed in a cornfield."
"Were there any survivors?" Talmadge asked gruffly, covering up his pain with atypical brusqueness.
Frank swallowed and stared at the ring on his left hand. I just need to get through this call, then I can go… "None on the planes themselves; a couple hundred thousand were saved from the rubble of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. They hadn't found everybody yet when I got sent back."
"It was the damn Russians!" Ramsey's voice came over the line. Angry as always, even Frank could hear the ragged edge to his nemesis' voice.
A sharp pang of loss shattered another piece of Frank's heart as he was forcibly reminded of his own fiery redhead. The chrononaut sighed heavily; he didn't have time for this.
They didn't have time for this.
"No, Ramsey, it wasn't the Russians; it was one Iranian with nineteen suicidal followers," Frank stated firmly.
Frank could almost picture Nate deflating in his mind, the wind being taken from the man's communist-hating sails at his words.
"What Iranian?" Talmadge asked, the strained tone of his voice belying the calmness of his words.
"Osama Bin Laden," Frank supplied. "Our Intel says that he orchestrated the whole thing. But Interpol can't get a fix on him."
"What are they armed with?" Nate asked, having shaken off his shock and moved on to security matters.
Snorting, Frank said, "Box cutters." Amazing what the threat of being knifed can do to people… "They snuck in as loading dock workers and then boarded the plane when no one was looking."
"Which flights, Frank?" Talmadge asked. "We can send in undercover agents to hopefully catch the revolutionists before they board."
"American Airlines Flight #11 and United Airlines Flight #175, both going from Boston to Los Angeles, hit the Twin Towers," Frank replied, waiting for the scratch of Bradley's pencil to cease before he continued with, "American Airlines Flight #77 from Washington to Los Angeles hit the Pentagon…" Frank paused to take a calming breath. "And United Airlines Flight #93 from Newark to San Francisco crashed in Pittsburgh."
There was silence on the other end of the line.
Mentnor was the first to speak, albeit tentatively. "Frank, wasn't that the flight that Olga is…"
"Yes," Frank interrupted the older man. Why couldn't all those conferences have been held in the same place instead of three different ones? If she'd just stayed in Boston…or New York City… "And I know what you're going to say," he continued before any of the others could get a word in edgewise. "I'm not asking for permission, because I'm not going to chance that you won't give it to me," he stated bluntly. He knew how Nate's mind worked, and though it might have been the logical thing, he couldn't just sit back and do nothing.
He'd done that tomorrow in the last timeline and it had nearly killed him. He hadn't had any choice; now he did.
"You have all the pertinent information; Conundrum signing off." With that, Frank hung the phone up with a 'click' of finality. Even without his photographic memory, there was no way he would have forgotten any of this information. It was too important.
Pulling his wallet out of his pants pocket, Frank flipped it open to the picture he'd been staring at quite a bit this past – or future, rather – week. He'd memorized it right after it was first taken – the simple Polaroid commemorated such a joyful event in their lives – but every time he saw it lately it bought a fresh wealth of tears to his eyes.
Olga Parker, nee Vukavitch, smiling at the camera – and the cameraman, himself – one hand placed protectively on her just three-months pregnant middle. She wasn't showing yet, but they'd just gotten the results back from the doctor confirming her pregnancy and had wanted a photo to mark the occasion.
Frank clenched his eyes shut and let out a deep, shuddering breath. When he was more in control of himself, he opened his eyes once more, stuffed his wallet back into his pocket, and steeled himself for the next part of his mission, before setting off with determination.
Maybe it wasn't fair to the other passengers – though Frank had no doubt that the NSA would keep them safe; the civilians would most likely be taken off the plane and replaced with undercover agents if the NSA wasn't able to catch all the insurrectionists before the plane started boarding – but Frank wasn't about to stand back and do nothing.
Olga hadn't… She'd been the one to lead the revolt against the hijackers on her plane. All he'd gotten was a five minute cell phone call – "I'll always love you…" whispered before the line went dead – before she was gone.
In six hours, his four-months pregnant wife would get on a plane to head for the third in a series of three physics conferences in Los Angeles. Come hell or high water, Frank Bartholomew Parker was going to make sure the two newest lights in his life were nowhere near that plane.