Back in 2001, I had some issues with dealing with the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, The World Trade Center, in my fan fiction. A couple of other writers wrote the tragedy into their stories and that made me rethink my first decision. This is how two SHADO characters deal with the assault and the aftermath. This is not my usual UFO universe.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be. Not for prophet … er … profit.

After the Fall

September 2001

NYC/Washington, DC

Outside the Attack:

Morning. Get up. Set the coffee to perk. Shower. Shave. Shove the grumpy teenaged daughter out of bed and into the bathroom. Glower at the bright morning sky. Inhale steam off coffee cup and wonder how your predecessor managed to live with English coffee having grown up on this dark, bitter American stuff. Wonder how you're going to live with it until they let you go back to England where you belong.

"Dad ?"

"Yes?"

"TV?" plaintive request from sleepy eyed daughter.

Roll your eyes and turn on the TV. Remote control the size of your cell phone with more buttons than a scientific calculator, you think. CNN. Smoke coming out of a tall building. Another disaster.

Then you both focus on the site. The Twin Towers. The World Trade Center, the top floors of one of the towers engulfed in black smoke. Jaws drop. You both feel for the people involved in the incident. Then the plane zooms in, stage left. What the Hell? A cold, cold pit develops where heart and stomach used to live as the jetliner slams into the second tower, fiery balls of ignited airplane fuel exploding outward from the shimmering surfaces so inviolate a few moments before.

Time seems to stop. The words on the TV are incomprehensible sounds with no connection to what you've just seen.

The phone rings. On autopilot, eyes still glued to the devastation on the TV, you answer the phone. "Foster." A curt, clipped word, delivered in the same tones you've heard someone else use a million times. Virginia Lake, in England, calling to see if you've heard the news. Oh, yes, you've heard. A part of your mind is already running through the local contacts to see where you can get information. Mind control, a nasty slither of a voice in your memory brings forth those hated and terrifying words.

The installation beneath the WTC has been out of contact since the first plane hit the towers. Tucked into the substrata around the subway tunnels that run to the center, it should be safe, but there has been no word, no contact, nothing. If the aliens are not directly responsible for this disaster, they may be working under its cover.

"Keep Ford on the communications for another hour. After that, I want the Col. and one of his teams on their way over here. We need to be in on the investigation. I'll get it cleared."

The connection is severed. You wish it was a decade earlier. You wish he was still here, still in command. You wish his right hand was still here. But they're not and you are. Tears streaming down her face, your daughter turns to you for comfort as she has not in a couple of years. The very, very adult, independent young woman is again a child in need of comfort and reassurance. Her world has been assaulted, again.

You put your arms around your pride and joy and hold on as she cries and asks for answers. Who did this? How could they do this? Why? Why? Why? You don't have the answers for her any more than you do for yourself. Why do they come? Why do they steal humans? Why do they hunt us for our organs? Why are they still so elusive?

You shake your head and leave her for a moment to walk over to the windows. Pulling the drapes aside, you look toward the towers. You can see the smoke, black and unknowing, beginning to roll over the skyline. You tremble, hoping she doesn't see it. You suspect the enemy you have fought for twenty years, longer than she has been alive, is not responsible for this atrocity, but you aren't certain. There are still no answers for the questions that plague you both.

Ninety minutes later, the towers come down, one after the other. The world is in shock. Ford and his team are on their way in the fastest plane SHADO can field. They will transfer to a military ship to enter the U.S. All air traffic is shut down. The Pentagon has suffered an attack and another plane is down in Pennsylvania. Some terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack and is now backing down, proclaiming innocence.

Terrorists. And the SHADO installation beneath the WTC is still silent.

The phone rings.

"Foster." Pause. It's the UN committee chairman calling. Due to the events unfolding before the eyes of the world, they wish to postpone today's meeting. "Understandable. I'm at your service when you are ready for me."

Back to the TV. Helpless. That's how you feel, how everyone feels. Beneath it all is a nagging feeling that this is not the last incident, that this is not all the work of normal human agencies. The installation has food, water, resources that the floors up in the air did not have. The people should be alive and well. Yet the continued silence denies these thoughts.

You leave her watching, appalled, entranced, terrified, as the drama unfolds. You place the calls that will let Ford and his team through; that will give them access to the tons of rubble clogging the streets around the WTC plaza area. The calls that express your horror at the activities of a few misguided individuals and that advise you and your organization stand ready to assist in any way possible.

No. At this time there is no indication that these are the acts of the enemy you fight. Just a handful of pathetically dedicated, misguided, fanatic adherents of a soon to be much maligned religion, just a few men who believed their god desired the death and destruction they have engendered; death and destruction which will unite the people of the country under attack as it has not been united in a long time. In the back of your mind, you almost feel sorry for the men who perpetrated this act. If there is an afterlife, Allah may be merciful, but fools are not appreciated or tolerable. They have sacrificed themselves, the innocents on the planes and those in the buildings for nothing.

Then the call to those off world. Moonbase. Marsbase. The SHADO platform. Col. Ellis is dry eyed, resolved. Yes, they've seen the news feed. If the Commander needs them, the Moon can go to skeleton crew and activate the drones for defense. There is no sign of alien activity.

Col. Barry on Mars is not so calm. Her son is currently assigned to the installation under the WTC. She is controlled, but expecting the worst. SHADO does that to you. Mars is too far away to offer more than condolences and assurances that they stand ready.

Lt. Yeoh on the platform looks sleepy. Her almond eyes are dark, unreadable. "We stand ready, Commander," she assures him in her accented English. She is all official and crisp in spite of the heavy lidded eyes. Then she relaxes slightly. "Commander, we are far away, but this is … we have no words. As we stand ready to protect, know that our hearts and spirits support you and those who have been harmed."

Her words, stilted and formal as they sound, touch that glacier within you. For the first time since you turned on the TV, you smile. "Thank you. We'll keep the lines open."

You have investigators on the way. You have volunteered all but the most basic resources. You will have answers when they have gone over the area. You will share your data then, and only then.

The last of the calls made, the last strings pulled, you return to your daughter. She is dry eyed for now, but you know that will not last.

Somewhere in the cold, dark depths of the earth beneath the rubble, you hope that your people have survived. And your thoughts are cold and dark with vengeance if they have not.