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Rayford Steele's mind was on a woman he had never touched. With his fully loaded 747 on autopilot above the Atlantic en route to a 6 A.M. landing at Heathrow, Rayford had pushed from his mind thoughts of his family.
Over spring break he would spend time with his wife and twilve-year-old son. Their daughter would be home from college, too. But for now, with his first officer dozing, Rayford imagined Hattie Durham's smile and looked forward to their next meeting.
Hattie was Rayford's senior flight attendant. He hadn't seen her in more than an hour.
Rayford used to look forward to getting home to his wife. Irene was attractive and vivacious enough, even at forty. But lately he had found himself repelled by her obsession with religion. It was all she could talk about.
God was OK with Rayford Steele. Rayford even enjoyed church occasionally. But since Irene had hooked up with a smaller congregation and was into weekly Bible studies and church every Sunday, Rayford had become uncomfortable. Hers was not a church where people gave you the benefit of the doubt, assumed the best about you, and let you be. People there had actually asked him, to his face, what God was doing in his life.
'Blessing my socks off' had become the smiling response that seemed to satisfy them, but he found more and more excuses to be busy on Sundays.
Rayford tried to tell himself it was his wife's devotion to a divine suitor that caused his mind to wander. But he knew the real reason was his own libido.
Besides, Hattie Durham was drop-dead gorgeous. No one could argue that. What he enjoyed most was that she was a toucher. Nothing inappropriate, nothing showy. She simply touched his arm as she brushed past or rested her hand gently on his shoulder when she stood behind his seat in the cockpit.
It wasn't her touch alone that made Rayford enjoy her company. He could tell from her expressions, her demeanor, her eye contact that she at least admired and respected him. Whether she was interested in anything more, he could only guess. And so he did.
Thay had spent time together, chatting for hours over drinks or dinner, something with the coworkers, somtimes not. He had not returned so much as one brush of a finger, but his eyes had held her gaze, and he could only assume his smile had made his point.
Maybe today. Maybe this morning, if her coded tap on the door didn't rouse his first officer, he would reach and cover the hand on his shoulder- in a friendly way he hoped she would recognize as a step, a first from his side, tword a relationship.
And a first in would be. He was no prude, but Rayford had never been unfaithful to Irene. He'd had plenty of opportunities. He had long felt guilty about a private necking session he enjoyed at a company Christmas party more than twelve years before. Irene had stayed home, uncomfortably past her ninth month carrying their surprise tagalong son, Ray Jr.
Though under the influence, Rayford had known enough to leave the party early. It was clear Irene noticed he was slightly drunk, but she couldn't have suspected anything else, not from her straight-arrow captain. He was the pilot who had once consumed two martinis during a snowy shutdown at O'Hare and then voluntarily grounded himself when the weather cleared. He offered to pay for bringing in a relief pilot, but Pan-Continental was so impressed that instead they made an example of his self-discipline and wisdom.
In a couple of hours Rayford would be the first to see hints of the sun. A teasing palette of pastels that would signal the reluctant dawn over the then, the blackness through the window seemed miles thick. His groggy or sleeping passengers had window shades down, pillows and blankets in place. For now the plane was a dark, humming sleep chamber for all but a few wanderers, the attendants, and one or two responders to nature's call.
The question of the darkest hour before dawn, then, was whether Rayford Steele should risk a new, exciting relationship with Hattie Durham. He suppressed a smile. Was he kidding himself? Would someone with is reputation ever do anything but dream about a beautiful woman fifteen years his junior? He wasn't so sure anymore. If only Irene hadn't gone off on this new kick.
Would it fade, her preoccupation with the end of the world, with the love of Jesus, with the salvation of souls? Lately she had been reading everything she could get her hands on about the Rapture of the church. 'Can you imagine, Rafe,' she exulted, 'Jesus coming back to get us before we die?'
'Yeah, boy,' he said, peeking over the top of his newspaper, 'that would kill me.'
She was not amused. 'If I didn't know what would happen to me,' she said, 'I wouldn't be glib about it.'
'I do know what would happen to me,' he insisted
'I'd be dead, gone, finis. But you, of course, would fly right up to heaven.'
He hadn't meant to offend her. He was jsut having fun. When she turned away he rose and pursued her. He spun her around and tried to kiss her, but she was cold.
'Come on, Irene,' he said 'Tell me thousands wouldn't just keel over if they saw Jesus coming back for all the good people.'
She pulled away in tears. 'I've told you and told you. Saved people aren't good people, they're-'
'Just forgiven, yeah, I know,' he said, feeling rejected and vulnerable in his own living room. He returned to his chair and his paper. 'If it makes you feel any better, I'm happy for you that you can be so cocksure.'
'I only believe what the Bible says,' Irene said.
Rayford shrugged. He wanted to say, 'Good for you,' but he didn't want to make a bad situation worse. In a way he had envied her confidence, but in truth he wrote it off to her being a more emotional, more feelings- oriented person. He didn't want to articulate it, but the fact was, he was brighter- yes, more intelligent. He believed in rules, systems,laws, patterns, things you could see and feel and hear and touch.
If God was part of all that, OK. A higher power, a loving being, a force behind the laws of nature, fine. Let's sing about it, pray about it, feel good about our ability to be kind to others, and go about our business. Rayford's greatest fear was that this religious fixation would not fade like Irene's Amway days, her Tupperware phase, and her aerobics spell. He could just see her ringing doorbells and asking if she could read people a verse or two. Surely she knew better than to dream of his tagging along.
Irene had become a full-flegged religious fanatic, and somehow that freed Rayford to daydream without guilt about Hattie Durham. Maybe he would say something, suggest something, hint at something as he and Hattie strode through Heathrow toword the cab line. Maybe earlier. Dare he assert himself even now, hours before touchdown?
Next to a window in first class, a writer sat hunched over his laptop. He shut down the machine, vowing to get back to his journal later. At thirty, Cameron Williams was the youngest ever senior writer for the prestifious Global Weekly

. The envy of the rest of the veteran staff, he either scooped them on or was assigned to the best stories in the world. Both admirers and detractors at the magazine called him Buck, because they said he was always bucking tradition and authority. Buck believed he lived a charmed life, having been eyewitness to some of the most pivotal events in history.
A year and two months earlier, his January 1 cover story had taken him to Israel to interview Chaim Rosenzweig and had resulted in the most bizarre events he had ever experienced.
The elderly Rosenzweig had been the only unanimous choice for Newsmaker of the Year in the history of Global Weekly

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. Its staff had customarily steered clear of anyone who would be an obvious pick as Time's

Man of the Year. But Rosenzweig was an automatic. Cameron Williams had gone into the staff meeting prepared to argue for Rosenzweig and against whatever media star the others would typically champion.
He was pleasently surprised when executive editor Steve Plank opened with, 'Anybody want to nominate someone stupid, such as anyone other than the Nobel prizewinner in chemistery?'
The senior staff members looked at each other, shook their heads, and pretended to begin leaving. 'Put the chairs on the wagon, the meetin' is over,' Buck said. 'Steve, I'm not angling for it, but you know I know the guys and he trusts me.'
'Not so fast, Cowboy,' a rival said, then appealed to Plank. 'You letting Buck assign himself now?'
'I might,' Steve said. 'And what if I do?'
'I just think this is a tecknical piece, a science writer on it.'
'And you'd put the reader to sleep,' Plank said.
'C'mon, you know the writer for showcase peices comes from this group. And this is not a science piece any more than the first one Buck did on him. This has to be told so the reader gets to know the man and understands the significance of his acievement.'
'Like that is in't obvious. It only changed the course of history.'
'I'll make the assignment today,' the executive editor said. 'Thanks for your willingness, Buck. I assume everyone else is willing as well.' Expressions of eagerness filled the room, but Buck also heard grumbled predictions that the fair-haired boy would get the nod. Which he did.
Such confidence from his boss an competitions from his peers made him all the more determined to outdo himself with every assignment. In Israel, Buck stayed in a military compound and met with Rosenzweig in the same kibbutz on the outskirts of Haifa where he had interviewed him a year earlier.
Rosenzwieg was fasinating, of course, but it was his discovery, or invention- no one knew quite how to categorize it- that was truly the 'newsmaker of the year.' The humble man called himself a botanist, but he was in truth a chemical engineer who had concocted a synthetic fertilizer that caused the desert sands of Israel to bloom like a greenhouse.
'Irrigation has not been a problem for decades,' the old man said. 'But all that did was make the sand wet. My formula, added to the water, fertilizes the sand.'
Buck was not a scientist, but he knew enough to shake his head at that simple statement. Rosenzweig's formula was fast making Israel the richest nation on earth, far more profitable than its oil-laden neighbors. Every inch of ground blossomed with flowers and grain, including produce never before concievable in Israel. The Holy Land became an export capital, the envy of the world, with virtually zero unemployment. Everyone prospered.
The prosperity brought about by the miracle formula changed the course of history for Israel. Flush with cash and resources, Israel made peace with her neighbors. Free trade and liberal passage allowed all who loved the nation to have access to it. What they did not have access to, however, was the formula.
Buck had not even asked the old man to reveal the formula or the complicated security process that protected it from any potential enemy. The very fact that Buck was housed by the military evidenced the importance of security. Maintaining that secret ensured the power and independence of the state of Israel. Never had Israel enjoyed such tranquility. The walled city of Jerusalem was only a symbol now, welcoming everyone who embraced peace. The old guard believed God had rewarded them and compensated them for centuries of persecution.
Chaim Rosenzweig was honered throughout the world and revered in his own country. Global leaders sought him out, and he was protected by security systems as complex as those that protected heads of state. As heady as Israel became with newfound glory, the nation's leaders were not stupid. A kidnapped and tortured Rosenzweig could be forced to reveal a secret that would similarly revolutionize any nation in the world.
Imagine what the formula might do if modified to work on the vast tundra of Russia! Could regions bloom, though snow covered most of the year? Was this the key to resurrecting that massive nation following the shattering of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?
Russia had become a great brooding giant with a devastated economy and regressed technology. All the nation had was military might, every spare mark going into weaponry. And the switch from rubles to marks had not been a smooth transition for the struggling nation. Streamling world finance to three major currencies had taken years, but once the change was made, most were happy with it. All of the Europe and Russia dealt exclusively in marks. Asia, Africa, and the Middle East traded in yen. North and South America and Australia dalt in dollers. A move was afoot to go to one global currency, but those nations that had reluctantly switched once were loath to do it again.
Frustrated at their inability to profit from Israel's fortune and determined to dominate and occupy the Holy Land, the Russians had launched an attack against Israel in the middle of the night. The assault became known as the Russian Pearl Harbor, and because of his interview with Rosenzweig, Buck Williams was in Haifa when it happened. The Russians sent intercontinental ballistic missles and nuclear-equipped MiG fighter-bombers into the region. The number of aircraft and warheads made it clear their mission was annihilation.
To say the Israelis were caught off guard, Cameron Williams had written, was like saying the Great Wall of China was long. When Israeli radar picked up the Russian planes, they were nearly overheard. Israeli's frantic plea for support from her immediate neighbors and the united States was simultaneous with her demand to know the intentions of the invaders of her airspace. By the time Israel and her allies could have mounted anything close to a defense, it was obvious the Russians would have her outnumbered a hundred to one.
They had only moments before the destruction would begin. There would be no more negotiating, no more pleas for a sharing of the wealth with the hordes of the north. If the Russians meant only to intimaidate and bully, they would not have filled the sky with missiles. Planes could turn back, but missiles were armed and targeted.
So this was no grandstand play designed to bring Israel to her knees. There was no message for the victims. Receiving no explanation for war machines crossing her borders and descending upon her Israel was forced to defend herself, knowing full well that the first volley would bring about her virtual disappearance form the face of the earth.
With warning sirens screaming and radio and televison sending the doomed for what flimsy cover they might find, Israel defending herself for what would surely be the last time in history. The first battery of Israeli surface-to-air missiles hit their marks, and the sky was lit orange-and-yellow balls of fire that would certainly do little to slow a Russian offensive for which there could be no defense.
Those who knew the odds and what the radar screens foretold inrterpreted the deafening explosions in the sky as the Russian onslaught. Every military leader who knew what was coming expected to be put out of his misery in seconds when the fusillade reached the ground and covered the nation.
From what he heard and saw in the military compound, Buck Williams knew the end was near. There was no escape. But as the night shone like day and the horrific, deafening explosions continued, nothing on the ground suffered. The building shook and rattled and rumbled. And yet it was not hit.
Outside, warplanes slammed to the ground, digging craters and sending burning debris flying. Yet lines of communication stayed open. No other command posts had been hit. No reports of casualties. No thing destroyed yet.
Was this some sort of cruel joke? Sure, the first Israeli missiles had taken out Russians fighters and caused missles to explode too high to cause more than fire damage on the ground. But what had happened to the rest of the Russian air corps? Radar showed they had clearly sent nearly every plane they had, leaving hardly anything in reserve for defense. Thousands of planes swooped down on the tiny country's most populated cities.
The roar and the cacophony continued, the explosions so horrifying that veteran military leaders buried their faces and screamed in terror. Buck had always wanted to be near the front lines, but his survival instinct was on full throttle. He knew beyond a doubt that he would die, and he found himself thinking the strangest thoughts. Why had he never married? Would there be remnants of his body for his father and brother to identify? Was there a God? Would death be the end?
He crouched beneath a console, surprised by the urge to sob. This was not at all what he had expected war to sound like, to look like. He had imagined himself peeking at the action from a safe spot, recording in his mind the drama.
Several minutes into the holocaust, Buck realized he would be no more dead outside than in. He felt no bravado, only uniqueness. He would be the only person in this post who would see and know what killed him. He made his way to a door on rubbery legs. No one seemed to notice or care to warn him. It was as if they ad all been sentenced to death.
He forced open the door against a furnace blast and had to shield his eyes from the whiteness of the blaze. The sky was afire. He still heard planes over the din and roar of the fire itself, and the occasional exploding missile sent new showers of flame into the air. He stood in stark terror and amazement as the great machines of war plummeted to the earth all over the city, crashing and burning. But they fell between buildings and in deserted streets and fields. Anything atomic and explosive erupted high in the atmosphere, and Buck stood there in the heat, his face blistering and his body pouring sweat. What in the world was happening?
Then came chunks of ice and hailstones big as golf balls, forcing Buck to cover his head with his jacket. The earth shook and resounded, throwing him to the ground. Facedown in the freezing shards, he felt rain wash over him. Suddenly the only sound was the fire in the sky, and it began to fade as it drifted lower. After ten minutes of thunderous roaring, the fire dissipated, and scattered balls of flame flickered on the ground. The firelight disappeared as quickly as it had come. Stillness settled over the land.
As clouds of smoke wafted away on a gently breeze, the night sky reappeared in its blue-blackness and stars shone peacefully as if nothing had gone awry.
Buck turned back to the building, his muddy leather jacket in his fist. The doornob was still hot, and inside, military leaders wept and shuddered. The radio was alive with reprts from Israeli pilots. They had not been able to get airborne in time to do anything but watch as the entire Russian air offensive seemed to destroy itself.
Miraculously, not one casualty was reported in all of Israel. Otherwise Buck might have believed some mysterious malfunction had caused missiles and plane to destroy each other. But witnesses reported that it had been a firestorm, alon with rain and hail and an earthquake, that consumed the entire offensive effort.
Had it been divinely appointed meteor shower? Perhaps. But what accounted for hundreds and thousands of chunks of burning, twisted, molten steel smashing to the ground in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Jericho, even Bethlehem-leveling ancient walls but not so much as scratching one living creature? Daylight revealed the Middle Eastern mations, primarily Ethiopia and Libya.
Among the ruins, the Israelis found combustible material that would serve as fuel and preserve their natural resources for more than six years. Special task forces competed with buzzards and vultures for the flesh of the enemy dead, trying to bury them before their bones were picked clean and disease threatened the nation.
Buck remembered it vividly, as if it were yesterday. Had he not been reread seen it himself, he would not have believed it. And it took more than he had in him to get any reader of Global Weekly to buy it either.
Editors and readers had their own explanations for the phenomenon, but Buck admitted, if only to himself, that he became a believer in God that day. Jewish scholars pointed out passages from the Bible that talked about Gad destroying Israel's enemies with a firestorm, earthquake, hail, and rain. Buck was stunned when he read Ezekiel 38 about a great enemy form the north invading Israel with the help of Persia, Libia, and Ethiopia. More stark was that the Scriptures foretold of weapons of war used as fire fuel and enemy soldiers eaten by birds or buried in a common grave.
Christians friends wanted Buck to take the next step and believer in Christ, now that he was so clearly spiritually attuned, He wasn't prepared to go that far, but he was certainly a different person and a different journalist form then on. to him, nothing was beyond belief.
Not sure whether he'd follow through with anything overt, Captain Steele felt an irresistible urge to see Hattie Durham right then. He unstrapped himself and squeezed his first officer's shoulder on the way out of the cockpit. 'We're still on auto, Christopher,' he said as the younger man roused and straitened his headphones. 'I'm gonna make the sunup stroll.'
Christopher squinted and licked his lips. 'Doesn't look like sunup to me, Cap.'
'Probably another hour or two. I'll see if anybody's stirring anyway.'
'Roger. If they are, tell'em Chris says, 'Hey.' Rayford snorted and nodded. As he opened the cockpit door, Hattie Durham nearly bowled him over.
'No need to knock,' he said. 'I'm coming.' The senior flight attendant pulled him over into the galleyway, but there was no passion in her touch. Her fingers felt like talons on his forearm, and her body shuddered in the darkness.
She pressed him back against the cooking compartments, her face close to his. Had she not been clearly terrified, he might have enjoyed this and returned her embrace. Her knees buckled as she tried to speak, and her voice came in a whiny squeal.
'People are missing,' she managed in a whisper, burring her head in his chest. He took her shoulders and tried to push her back, but she fought to stay close. 'What do you m-?' She was sobbing now, her body out of control. 'A whole bunch of people, just gone!'
'Hattie, this is a big plane. They've wandered to the lavs or-'
She pulled his head down so she could speak directly into his ear. Despite her weeping, she was plainly fighting to make herself understood. 'I've been everywhere. I'm telling you, dozens of people are missing.'
'Hattie, it's still dark. We'll find-'
'I'm not crazy! See for yourself! All over the plane, people have disappeared.'
'It's a joke. They're hiding, trying to-'
'Ray! Their shoes, their socks, their clothes, everything was left behind. These people are gone!' Hattie slipped from his grasp and knelt whimpering in the corner. Rayford wanted to comfort her, to enlist her help, or to get Chris to go with him through the plane. More than anything he wanted to believe the woman was crazy. She knew better than to put him on. It was obvious she really believed people had disappeared.
He had been daydreaming in the cockpit. Was he asleep now? He bit his lip hard and winced at the pain. So he was wide awake. He stepped into first class, where and elderly woman sat stunned in the predawn haze, her husband's sweater and trousers in her hands. 'What in the world?' She said. 'Harold?'
Rayford scanned the rest of first class. Most passengers were still asleep, including a young man by the window, his laptop computer on the tray table. But indeed several seats were empty. As Rayford's eyes grew accustomed to the low light, he strode quickly to the stairway. He started down, but the woman called him.
'Sir, my husband-'
Rayford put a finger to his lips and whispered, 'I know. We'll find him. I'll be right back.'
What nonsense! He thought as he descended, aware of Hattie right behind him. 'We'll find him'? Hattie grabbed his shoulder and he slowed. 'Should I turn on the cabin lights?'
'No,' he whispered. 'The less people know right now, the better.'
Rayford wanted to be strong, to have answers, to be an example to his crew, to Hattie. But when he reached the lower level he knew the rest of the flight would be chaotic. He was as scared as anyone on board. As he scanned the seats, he nearly panicked. He backed into a secluded spot behind the bulkhead and slapped himself hard on the cheek. This was no joke, no trick, no dream. Something was terribly wrong, and there was no place to run. There would be enough confusion and terror without his losing control. Nothing had prepared him for this, and he would be the one everybody would look to. But for what? What was he supposed to do?
First one, then another cried out when they realized their seatmates were missing but that their clothes were still there. They cried, they screamed, they leaped from their seats. Hattie grabbed Rayford from behind and wrapped her hands so tight around his chest that he could hardly breathe. 'Rayford, what is this?'
He pulled her hands apart and turned to face her. 'Hattie listen. I don't know any more than you do. But we've got to calm these people and get on the ground. I'll make some kind of and announcement, and you and your people keep everybody in their seats. OK?'
She nodded but she didn't look OK at all. As he edged past her to hurry back to the cockpit, he heard her scream. So much for calming passengers, he thought as he whirled to see her on her knees in the aisle. She lifted a blazer, shirt and tie still intact. Trousers lay at her feet. Hattie frantically turned the blazer to the low light and read the name tag. 'Tony!' she wailed. 'Tony's gone!'
Rayford snatched the clothes from her and tossed them behind the bulkhead. He lifted Hattie by her elbows and pulled her out of sight. 'Hattie, we're hours from touchdown. We can't have a planeload of hysterical people. I'm going to make an announcement, but you have to do your job. Can you?'
She nodded, her eyes vacant. He forced her to look at him. 'Will you?' he said.
She nodded again. 'Rayford, are we going to die?'
'No,' he said. 'That I'm sure of.'
But he wasn't sure of anything. How could he know? He'd rather have faced an engine fire or even an uncontrolled dive. A crask into the ocean had to be better that this. How would he keep people calm in such a nightmare?
By now keeping the cabin lights off was doing more harm than good, and he was glad to be able to give Hattie a specific assignment. 'I don't know what I'm going to say,' he said, 'but get the lights on so we can make an accurate record of who's foreign visitor declaration forms.'
'For what?'
'Just do it. Have them ready.'
Rayford didn't know if he had done the right thing by leaving Hattie in charge of the passengers and crew. As he raced up the stairs, he caught sight of another attendant backing out of a galleyway, screaming. By now poor Christopher in the cockpit was the only one on the plane unaware of what was happening. Worse, Rayford had told Hattie he didn't know what was happening any more than she did.
The terrifying truth was that he knew all too well. Irene had been right. He, and most of his passengers, had been left behind.

Cameron Williams had roused when the old woman directly in front of him called out to the pilot. The pilot had shushed her, causing her to peek back at Buck. He dragged his fingers through his longish blond hair and forced a groggy smile. 'Trouble, ma'am?'
'It's my Harold,' she said.
Buck had helped the old man put his herringbone wool jacket and and felt hat in the overhead bin when they boarded. Harold was a short, dapper gentleman in penny loafers, brown slacks, and a tan sweater-vest over a shirt and tie. He was balding, and Buck assumed he would want the hat again later when the air conditioning kicked in.
'Does he need something?'
'He's gone!'
'I'm sorry?'
'He's disappeared!'
'Well, I'm sure he slipped off to the washroom while you were sleeping.'
'Would you mind checking for me? And take a blanket.'
'I'm afraid he's gone off naked. He's a religious person, and he'll be terribly embarrassed.'
Buck suppressed a smile when he noticed the woman's pained expression. He climbed over the sleeping executive on the aisle, who had far exceeded his limit of free drinks, and leaned in to take a blanket from the old woman. Indeed, Harold's clothes were in a neat pile on his seat, his glasses and hearing aid on top. The pant legs still hung over the edge and led to his shoes and socks. Bizarre, Buck thought. Why so fastidious? He remembered a friend in high school who had a form of epilepsy that occasionally caused him to black out when he seemed perfectly conscious. He might remove his shoes and socks in public or come out of a washroom with his clothes open.
'Does you husband have a history of epilepsy?'
'I'll be right back.'
the first-class lavs were unoccupied, but as Buck headed for the stairs he found several other passengers in the aisle. 'Excuse me,' he said, 'I'm looking for someone.'
'Who isn't?'
Buck pushed past several people and found lines to the washrooms in business and economy. The pilot brushed past him without a word, and Buck was soon met be the senior flight attendant. 'Sir, I need to ask you to return to your seat and fasten your belt.'
'I'm looking for-'
'Everybody is looking for someone,' she said. 'We hope to have some information for you in a few minutes. Now, please.' She steered him back towards the stairs, then slipped past him and took the steps two at a time.
Halfway up the stairs Buck turned and surveyed the scene. It was the middle of the night, for heaven's sake, and as the cabin lights came on, he shuddered. All over the plane, people were holding clothes and gasping or shrieking that someone was missing.
Somehow he knew this was no dream, and he felt the same terror he had endured awaiting his death in Israel. What was he going to tell Harold's wife? You're not the only one? Lots of people let their clothes in their seats?
As he hurried back to his seat, his mind searched its memory banks for anything he had ever read, seen, or heard of any technology that could remove people from their clothes and make them disappear from a decidedly secure environment. whoever did this, were they on the plane? Would they make demands? Would he become a victim? Where would he find himself?
Fear seemed to pervade the cabin as he climbed over his sleeping seatmate again. He stood and leaned over the back of the chair ahead of him. 'Apparently many people are missing,' he told the old woman. She looked as puzzled and fearful as Buck himself felt.
He sat down as the intercom came on and the captain addressed the passengers. After instructing them to return to their seats, the captain explained, 'I'm going to ask the flight attendants to check the lavatories and be sure everybody is accounted for. Then I'll ask them to pass out foreign entry cards. If anyone in your party is missing, I would like you to fill our the card in his or her name and list every shred of detail you can think of, from date of birth to description.
'I'm sure you all realize that we have a very troubling situation. The cards will give us a count of those missing, and I'll have something to give authorities. My first officer, Mr. Smith, will now make a cursory count of empty seats. I will try to contact Pan-Continental. I must tell you, however, that our location makes it extremely difficult to communicate with the ground without long delays. Even in this satellite age, we're in a pretty remote area. As soon as I know anything, I'll convey it to you. In the meantime, I appreciate your cooperation and calm.'
Buck watched as the first officer came rushing from the cockpit, hatless and flushed. He hurried down one aisle and up the other, eyes darting from seat to seat as the flight attendants passed out cards.
Buck's seatmate roused, drooling, when as attendant asked if anyone was missing. 'Missing? No. And there's nobody in this party but me.' He curled up again and went back to sleep, unaware.
The first officer had been gone only a few minutes when Rayford heard his key in the cockpit door and it banged open. Christopher flopped into his chair, ignored the seat belt, and sat with his head in his hands.
'What's going on, Ray?' he said. 'We got us more than a hundred people gone with nothing but their clothes left behind.'
'That many?'
'Yeah, like it'd be better if it was only fifty? How the heck are we gonna explain landing with less passengers whae we took off with?'
Rayford shook his head, still working the radio, trying to reach someone, anyone, in Greenland or an island in the middle of nowhere. But they were too remote even to pick up a radio station for news. Finally ha connected with a Concorde several miles away heading the other direction. He nodded to Christopher to put on his own earphones.
'You got enough fuel to get back to the States, over?' the pilot asked Rayford.
He looked at Christopher, who nodded and whispered 'We're halfway.'
'I could make Kennedy,' Rayford said.
'Forget it,' came the reply. 'Nothing's landing in New York. Two runways still open in Chicago. That's where we're going.'
'We came from Chicago. Can't I put down at Heathrow?'
'Negative. Closed.'
'Man, you've got to get back where you came from. We left Paris an hour ago, got the word what's happening, and were told to go straight to Chicago.'
'What's happening, Concorde?'
'If you don't know, why'd you put our the Mayday?'
'I've got a situation here I don't even want to talk about.'
'Hey, friend, it's all over the world, you know?'
'Negative, I don't know,' Rayford said. 'Talk to me.'
'You're missing passengers, right?'
'Roger. More than a hundred.'
'Whoa! We lost nearly fifty.'
'What do you make of it, Concorde?'
'First thing I thought of was spontaneous combustion, but there would have been smoke, residue. These people materially disappeared. Only thing I can compare it to is the old Star Trek shows where people got dematerialized and rematerialized, beamed all over the place.'
'I sure wish I could tell my people their loved ones were going to reappear just as quickly and completely as they disappeared,' Rayford said.
'That's not the worst of it, Pan Heavy. People everywhere have disappeared. Orly lost air-traffic controllers and ground controllers. Some planes have lost flight crews. Where it's daylight there are car pileups, chaos everywhere. Planes down all over and at every major airport.'
'So this was a spontaneous thing?'
'Everywhere at once, just a little under an hour ago.'
'I was almost hoping it was something on this plane. Some gas, some malfunction.'
'That is was selective, you mean, over?'
Rayford caught the sarcasm.
'I see what you mean, Concorde. Gotta admit this is somewhere we;ve never been before.'
'And never want to be again. I keep telling myself it's a bad dream.'
'A nightmare, over.'
'Roger, but it's not, is it?'
'What are you going to tell your passengers, Concorde?'
'No clue. You, over?'
'The truth.'
'Can't hurt now. But what's the truth? What do we know?'
'Not a blessed thing.'
'Good choice of words, Pan Heavy. You know what some people are saying, over?'
'Roger,' Rayford said. 'Better it's people gone to heaven that some world power doing this with fancy rays.'
'Word we get is that every country has been affected. See you in Chicago?'
Rayford Steele looked at Christopher, who began changing the settings to turn the monstrous wide-body around and get it headed back toward the States. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' Rayford said over the intercom, 'we're not going to be able to land in Europe. We're headed back to Chicago. We're almost exactly halfway to our original destination, so we will not have a fuel problem. I hope this puts your minds at ease somewhat. I will let you know when we are close enough to begin using the telephones. Until I do, you will do yourself a favor by not trying.'
When the captain had come back on the intercom with the information about returning to the United States, Buck Williams was surprised to hear applause throughout the cabin. Shocked and terrified as everyone was, most were from the States and wanted at least to return to familiarity to sort this thing out. Buck nudged the businessman on his right. 'I'm sorry, friend, but you're going to want to be awake for this.'
The man peered at Buck with a disgusted look and slurred, 'If we're not crashin', don't bother me.'
When the Pan-Continental 747 was finally withing satellite communications range of the United States, Captain Rayford Steele connected with an all-news radio outlet and learned the far-reaching effects of the disappearance of people from every continent. Communication lines were jammed. Medical, technical, and service people were among the missing all over the world. Every civil service agency was on full emergency status, trying to handle the unending tragedies. Rayford remembered the El-train disaster in Chicago years before and how the hospitals and fire and police units brought everyone in to work. He could imagine that now, multiplied thousands of times.

Even the newscasters' voices were terror filled, as much as they tried to mask it. Every conceivable explanation was proffered, but overshadowing all such discussion and even coverage of the carnage were the practical aspects. What people wanted from the news was simple information on how to get where they were going and how to contact their loved ones to determine if they were still around. Rayford was instructed to get in a multistate traffic pattern that would allow him to land at O'Hare at a precise moment. Only two runways were open, and every large plane in the country seemed headed that way. Thousands were dead in plane crashes and car pileups. Emergency crews were trying to clear expressways and runways, all the while grieving over loved ones and coworkers who had disappeared. One report said that so many cabbies had disappeared from the cab corral at O'Hare that volunteers were being brought in to move the cars that had been left running with the former drivers' clothes still on the seats.

Cars driven by people who spontaneously disappeared had careened out of control, of course. The toughest chore for emergency personnel was to determine who had disappeared, who was killed, and who was injured, and then to communicate that to the survivors.

When Rayford was close enough to communicate to the tower at O'Hare, he asked if they would try to connect him by phone to his home. He was laughed off.

'Sorry, Captain, but phone lines are so jammed and phone personnel so spotty that the only hope is to get a dial tone and use a phone with a redial button.' Garmin etrex h updates : free programs, utilities and apps.

Rayford filled the passengers in on the extent of the phenomenon and pleaded with them to remain calm.

'There is nothing we can do on this plane that will change the situation. My plan is to get you on the ground as quickly as possible in Chicago so you can have access to some answers and, I hope, some help.'

Publication Date: 09-15-2011

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Free download or read online Tribulation Force pdf (ePUB) (Left Behind Series) book. The first edition of the novel was published in 1996, and was written by Tim LaHaye. The book was published in multiple languages including English, consists of 452 pages and is available in Paperback format. The main characters of this fiction, christian fiction story are , . The book has been awarded with , and many others.

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Tribulation Force PDF Details

Left Behind Series Free Online

Author: Tim LaHaye
Original Title: Tribulation Force
Book Format: Paperback
Number Of Pages: 452 pages
First Published in: 1996
Latest Edition: January 9th 1997
ISBN Number: 9780842329217
Series: Left Behind #2
Language: English
category: fiction, christian fiction, christian, religion, seduction
Formats: ePUB(Android), audible mp3, audiobook and kindle.

The translated version of this book is available in Spanish, English, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Bengali, Arabic, Portuguese, Indonesian / Malaysian, French, Japanese, German and many others for free download.


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