A Hacking Cough

Writing Prompt: You have a hacking cough. If you cough on an electronic device, you are able to control it for a limited amount of time.

Agent Moffat had been striped of his gun, his badge, his glasses, hell even his tie. Protocol. Just a precaution. Or so the guardsman said.

Moffat’s next interview was rumoured to have some sort of telekinetic ability, that’s why Moffat was here, to get to the truth of things.

“Good luck in there, sir.” the guardsman offered a hand, Moffat ignored it.

Ain’t nothing like a drip to guard against a God damn fire. Moffat gave a grunt as the guardsman buzzed open the bolt door of the suspect’s holding chamber, the red light overhead switched to green, Moffat stepped through, and the door locked fast behind him. Thud-click-shudder.

“Who’s there?” a dry voice came crackling from out the shadows, there were no lights in this chamber, even they were considered a danger. There was instead a hole, somewhere far over head, with a heavy grate fixed in place above a sheet of thick, perspex glass. Upon the glass lay a strange array of shiny objects, treasures that the surface dwellers had perhaps intend to drop down into the chamber, hence the reason for the glass itself.

“My name is Agent Moffat.”

The voice laughed.

Moffat stepped further into the room, catching a waft of something putrid from the corner. There was a pit dug out meant as a toilet, and the husk of a rat lain beside it.

Bones, could be dangerous. 

Throughout the rest of the room there was nothing more than a mattress meant as a bed. No sheets, no pillows, and the mattress itself had been striped of all its springs. Hardly a comforting thing.

A thin shape scurried across the back wall. Moffat stopped, groped at a gun that wasn’t there, then asked, “What’s so funny?”

“My name is Agent Moffat.” the voice mimicked in deep repetition, “Only that’s not your name, that’s your title. I won’t speak to your title. I might speak to a person. Might. But not a title.” from the back of the chamber the thin shape crept forward, only its eyes visible under the trickle of a setting sun sent down from above. They were eyes that glowered with hate, bags running rings around them, tiny red vessels snaking across the sickly white balls. “So tell me, Agent Moffat, who are you really?”

“I’m not here to play games.”

“Neither am I.” the thin frame of a prisoner replied.

“Alright then, let’s start over. My name is Chandler, Chandler Burnes Moffat.”

“That’s more like it.” the figure crept closer, stalking from our the shadows. Moffat fought against the urge to back away. “Do you have a family, Chandler Burnes Moffat?”

Chandler shook his head, wetting his lips, “It’s just me. Parents died four and five years back, father first, mother shortly after,” why the hell was he spilling his guts to this degenerate? People maybe… “I have a sister, but we rarely talk.”

“I have a sister, too.” the figure came half into the light, so that its chest and feet were visible. Both were bare and bone-ridden things, with skin wrapped taught around what little fat or muscle stilled remained. There were claws marks, or bite marks, covering the left side of this figure’s chest, and a small puncture wound in their right foot, “Had. I should say had.” the figure bowed its head, revealing the hairless scalp above, “I suspect she’s long since left this world. I’ve stopped receiving letters, you see. But they won’t tell me sh*t.” the man hissed at the bolted door, raising his voice to be heard at the very least by the few birds scattered beyond the perspex glass on high, “I know you can hear me! All I’m asking is that you check whether she’s alright, whether she’s still alive. Is that so much to ask?” he growled in so much as he was able to with so little strength within him, “What an utter bunch of…”

Moffat stepped aside from the man, searching the wall from where he’d come, “I might be able to help with that. Your sister, I mean.” he met the man’s sickly eyes and had to fight again the urge to back away. This place, this man, made his skin crawl as if soaked in filth.

The frail man coughed, “Excuse me, how rude am I? Would you like to sit?” he gestured for the bed, “It’s not often I have guests.”

“Thank you.” Moffat sat himself down and took a deep breath, “You know why I’m here, what I’m going to ask you about?”

The man nodded.

“Good, that’s good.” groping at his pocket Moffat circled his shoulders in an agitated motion. They took them, too. Remember? Nothing but the shirt on your back, so long as the buttons aren’t sharp. Moffat smiled to himself, “How about you start with what you were doing on the plane in the first place, and then we can work back from there.”

“And if I don’t want to talk?” the man stuck his tongue out through his cheek, “What then?”

“Listen, Fabien, if you don’t talk soon then you’ll rot in this chamber. You’ll die, simple as that. Maybe from starvation, self inflicted of course. Or maybe from a sickness of the mind. And let me tell you this, past me there isn’t a soul out there willing to help you find out what’s happened to Katherine.”

“Don’t you say her name.” Fabien snarled, coming fully into the light so that his almost skeletal face drew within an inch of Moffat’s own, “Don’t you f*cking dare.”

Moffat pawed at his pocket again, “Let’s not make this any harder than it has to be. Answer a few questions. Christ, Fabien, just talk to me. You never know, we might even be able to arrange a visit. Imagine that, you could see her, Fabien.”

“She’s alive?” Fabien’s knees shook in a way that caused the bones to grind together.

“Katherine? I have reason to believe she’s alive and kicking. But if I’m going to help you, then you’re going to have to help me, too.”

Fabien hissed his protest at hearing Katherine’s name a second time, but he said nothing, he simply brooded on her unknown existence.

“Talk to me, Fabien, that’s all I’m asking. Help me understand what happened up there.”

“Alright.” Fabien nodded, caught in spiraling thoughts of a long life underground without another soul to ever grace his presence, “I’ll talk if you promise…”

Fabien needn’t finish. Moffat held out his hand, “I promise.”

Fabien took Moffat’s hand, his eyes boring deep into the Agent’s, “We departed around a quarter past nine, as you already know. There were only forty seven of us on board, and six of them were hijackers, as we’d soon find out.”

**

Several years earlier.

“We’re gonna die, oh gods we’re all gonna die.” a man in his late thirties, in a business like suit and tie, was whimpering upon the floor of the aircraft beside Fabien. The man had spent the first hour of their flight sipping slurping vodka martinis, but ever since the take over he’d been an emotional wreck.

“Keep your mouth shut and we might not.” Fabien urged, keeping his eyes fixed on the front of the plane. He was watching the hijackers through a slit between the chairs.

“I was never a good husband, I wasn’t even that good a lawyer.” the man wept endlessly, snot dribbling down over his chin, “I might have been a good father though.” the man nodded to himself, “Yes, if we’d decided to have kids, I might have been a good father. But it’s not the right time.” he cried out, “Oh, sweet Caroline! If I make it out alive let’s start a family!”

“Sh*t.” Fabien threw his head down to the floor and urged the drunken suit to do the same. One of the hijackers had turned back into the aisle and was headed toward them.

The hijacker stopped beside Fabien.

The drunken suit started singing.

There was no warning, the hijacker took a knife from the sheath by his boot and stuck it through the suit’s throat, wiping ripe ripe blood on the recently deceased’s balding head.

Jesus F*cking Christ.

Fabien’s heart jumped in his chest, he was holding his breath, he could feel the hijacker’s gaze boring down upon him.

Wait, what’s that? That was a radio, strapped to the hijacker’s thigh. Fabien was torn between staying silent, and taking a chance on survival. Not just his survival, the whole God damn plane’s survival. And the plane’s got a target, too. So many lives, just one chance. F*ck it, I have to do something. He coughed.

The hijacker jumped, the knife flew through the air, but it stopped by Fabien’s ear. The radio started buzzing, static reared up, and that static became a voice:

“Quit your bullsh*t and get back here.” 

It wasn’t much, but it was enough. Fabien had control of the device, and he’d managed to send the hijacker on his way. But he’ll know, he’ll ask them who it was, they won’t be able to answer. Unless…

Fabien pressed his eye against the chair, watching the three hijacker’s at the front of the plane, waiting for the forth to join them. Four here, two more in the cockpit, that’s one against six. I really don’t like those odds. He’d have to time this perfectly, he couldn’t give the hijackers any time to talk, to even think, it would have to be an instantaneous intervention.

Five, four, three, two…

The static on the hijacker’s radio cracked back into life just as the man rejoined his crew:

“I want you to check the back of the plane. I don’t care if you’ve checked it once, or twice, or even eight f*cking times over. Check it again. We can’t afford to make any mistakes.”

Using a voice distorter when they spoke had been their first mistake. Fabien might not have been able to trick the hijacker’s if they’d been using their own, natural voices. They’d have recognised the difference.

Fabien watched the masked faces of the hijacker’s exchange glances with on another. Gods, just do it, please, just do it. He’d need to divide and conquer the four if he’d have any chance of storming to cockpit, but first they’d have to buy into his little charade.

Sweat was beading down Fabien’s forehead, and his breath sounded unsettlingly loud in his own ears. For a moment the hijackers simply stared at one another, and Fabien felt the game was up before it had even begun, but then two of the armed men separated and started walking for the far end of the plane.

This is it. Fabien turned quickly over the body of the suit beside him, patted down the pockets, and took out the man’s phone. He coughed on it, and the screen burst into life, then he slid it several seats back behind him along the floor.

Now wait for it.

To be continued?

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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