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Airport Security

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Jamal Askebaezianis, flying under the name Roger Thomas, handed his picture ID to the girl behind the American Airlines counter.

"Are you checking any luggage today, Mr. Thomas?"


"One way to San Francisco on AA 246. Leaving in two hours, gate 12A. That'll be $312, Mr. Thomas."

"My credit card OK?" The colloquial language was just what he"d been taught to say. Still, 'credit' came out as 'creedit'. The soft 'creh' sound had always been a problem for him.

"Sure," she said, smiling.

The transaction completed, he walked through the ID check, and then toward the security check. A drop of sweat formed on his forehead, then became a rivulet, but he'd been well coached. He kept a smile on his face; his walk was natural and unhurried. He had nothing to worry about. Nothing would show up on the X-ray, or a pat down, if he were subjected to either. The explosives were spread very thin and sown into all his clothing. Everything he wore had bits of it. Nothing was thick enough or reflective enough to be detected. Even if the silly Americans had dogs sniffing the passengers, he'd be safe. But they wouldn't do that. Some people were afraid of dogs. Silly.

He didn't like the fact that, if he were chosen for a body scan, someone would be looking at his private parts, perhaps even a woman, but he was serving Allah, and he himself wasn't important. They'd told him that, over and over again. He wasn't important. What he accomplished was.

His end would be glorious, a brilliant flash of light, and the Western infidels would feel Allah's wrath and see his own blaze of triumph. He'd be a martyr for the cause of Allah, and his family would be given a new, heightened place in society. And money. They'd be paid handsomely for his sacrifice.

There was a line at security. He'd been told there always was, it was normal, and not a cause for concern. His was a new way of doing this. He was the first. But all the explosives were undetectable; he had nothing to fear. The American methods were crude, and former martyrs who'd been caught had been mostly low level idiots who didn't know how to act. He'd been schooled for months.

Even so, that rivulet of sweat had been joined by several others. Training was one thing. The real thing was another. He wanted to pull this off. He didn't want to be the subject of ridicule by his handlers. By his family. He had the stuff of heroes in him. They'd told him that. He wanted everyone to know.

The line edged forward. He knew what to expect: several little gates set up with metal detectors with alarms on them. Rows of horizontal rollers set on stanchions where he'd set his hand luggage to be X-rayed. A few booths where body scans were done. A separate area if you were to be fondled by the inspectors, many of whom were women. He was told that women would only fondle women. He'd be fondled by a man. Both were repulsive and an insult to his manhood. But he'd grit his teeth and allow it without protest. For Islam.

He turned a corner and could finally see the inspection area ahead. But, what was this? There were no metal detectors. There were no baggage X-ray machines. There were no TSA agents waiting to touch his private regions.

There were only four substantial-looking booths in front on him. Each person in line stepped into one when his turn came, taking all his carry-on items with him. He stepped in, remained briefly, then stepped out on the other side. Odd. Well, it didn't matter. It was probably a new type X-ray system, different from what he'd been told to expect.

There were signs with pictures of the booths all around. Probably explaining the new system. Maybe giving instructions. He didn't know. There'd been no need to teach him to read English. He'd just go in and out like everyone else was doing.

The line moved forward. There were more signs. They all said the same thing. He couldn't read them, but he could see they all had the same letters in the same arrangements on them. Perhaps Americans were stupid, he thought. Maybe to understand, they had to read whatever was printed several times.

He stepped forward into his own booth when the time came. It wouldn't be long before he was in the air, and martyrdom would be his.

o 0 o

There was a brief announcement over the airport loudspeakers. "Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to announce that there was a detonation in one of the new security booths just now. The booths detonate any explosive substances carried into them, as the many signs in the security area make clear. As is our regular procedure, that booth will be temporarily closed for cleanup. We regret any delays this may cause."

That was followed almost immediately by another announcement. "American Airlines announces an opening on Flight 246 for San Francisco, leaving on schedule at 2 PM."

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Cole, I think the booths you describe in your story would be very useful. Better than the grope pat-downs some travelers are subjected to.

Colin :hug:

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I was so looking forward to being groped too.

Hmm...I wouldn't feel safe going into one of those booths with my highly charged sex drive, but I guess it would be good to go out with a bang.

And I have always wanted to blow up myself.

Oh, and a terrific story it is too, Cole. Gives a whole new meaning to an explosive tail, er...tale.

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Thanks, guys.

I saw a joke cartoon showing booths like that, and thought it a perfect idea. No more inspection folderol. Just walk in, shut the door, and if there are any explosives on youor in your carry-ons, they detonate. Talk about an effective prevention procedure!

I'm sure the ACLU would find some reason to object, but I can't for the life of me think what it would be.

I'd feel safer, flying, if we all had to go through those things. Wouldn't you?


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Wow, that caught me by surprise! Good job, Cole.

I really, really hate the whole TSA vs. terrorist thing, because anybody who really knows about it will tell you, it's all just an illusion. Any really determined terrorist, who's well-funded and well-organized, can bring down a plane -- there's no way to stop it. The good news is, most of them so far only get one out of three right.

Read this piece on Security Theater, and tell me it doesn't scare the crap out of you.

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  • 6 months later...

I didn't see that coming, Cole, which is, along with not having to wait, what I love about Flash Fiction. All the fun of a good "prank", without humiliation.

I have to agree that the idea is exceptionally well-suited to the task, and recognition of such things amidst the barrage of daily living must share some portion of the overall credit of a good idea put to good use by capable hands.

But well-substantiated claims of comparative safety aside, for mitigation of this particular risk alone to contribute at all to actual security or in any measure to your sense of it, there would have to first be mitigation of the factors responsible for virtually all but 3 of the total number of incidents who's causes form the basis of the risk that our fear and need for security are born of.

Pec's conclusion is to my mind, the only reasonable one, and for all it's potential gratification, that groping is one small part of an overall costly knee-jerk response, who's only hope for effectiveness would be in its pandering to a desire for immediate relief from the concerns that accompany the conveniences we scramble after like candy spilling from a pinata.

If this is a high-jacking, and I'm not saying it is, it is not without defense.

The door was open. :icon_geek:

If it was a set-up of sorts, I was certainly born to it. Never underestimate the power of Flash Fiction to spark the imagination, or an author to incite a riot.


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  • 6 months later...

BTW, I'm now watching the American TV show Homeland, about a group of zealots plotting to assassinate a U.S. official and blow up part of a government building, and it's a harrowing, nerve-wracking, very realistic show. Really well-acted and directed, too. I like the fact that nothing is black and white in the show: the CIA agents have very human flaws, despite their best intentions, and there are noble, understandable aspects to the Jihadists. Terrific show.

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Oh, Pecs... you need to watch a BBC TV series 'Spooks' but called MI-5 in the US. It's on at ten p.m. on KCET Public Television on Wednesday nights. It is the best and most exciting show I have EVER watched. Yeah even better than GLEE with Damien McGinty. :icon_thumleft:

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Oh, Pecs... you need to watch a BBC TV series 'Spooks' but called MI-5 in the US. It's on at ten p.m. on KCET Public Television on Wednesday nights. It is the best and most exciting show I have EVER watched. Yeah even better than GLEE with Damien McGinty. :icon_thumleft:

It is a truly amazing show, and the first I've ever seen where the routinely knock off the good guys, generally around the time you're really behind them and pulling for them. What other show has ever done this? Repeatedly.

But the tension in the show is real, and acting is great.


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I remember a feedback programme on UK TV some years back; a viewer had written in to complain that so much of the output was poor quality stuff bought in from the USA - he wanted more high production value home-grown programming.

The reply from the TV executive was something like "If you don't like the quality of the the US programmes we buy, you should try watching the ones we don't buy!"

Sadly, although I think it's still true that the UK industry is capable of producing world-leading programming, the budgetary constraints mean that these days there's very little new, original, high quality stuff being made. We have 100 TV channels or something, and there's probably three hours per week of truly excellent new drama broadcast across the lot of them.

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