"No," Frannie Jurdens called from the kitchen. "They're still in a holding pattern." She capped the jug she'd been filling, and placed it beside the others on the counter.
Len glanced at the reporter on the living room TV in passing. "...the ticket counter behind me, air travel in our city has ground to a halt. This same "ghost-town' scenario is being played out at airports across the country, in the wake of this morning's thwarted terrorist attack in Cincinnati."
Frannie looked up as he entered. "I don't know, Len. The media's crawling with rumors."
The TV, which they could see beyond the pass-through, now showed a jerky security video. People were running everywhere, and over near the wall, a teary little girl screamed soundlessly. "This was the scene in that city's airport shortly after two suspected terrorists were shot. Panicked travelers were contained at the airport, along with what authorities say are other members of the terror cell, when Homeland Security locked down the facility. Intelligence analysts fear that they were part of a coordinated effort to disrupt air travel throughout the country. This is Allen Wu."
She shook her head, then craned for a closer look at her laptop, perched on the pass-through. "Hmm. Judging from the network traffic, I've got some large email coming in."
A grim studio newsreader continued. "At the urging of the White House and Homeland Security, several governors have already declared a state of emergency. As of this moment, Governor Fletcher has not yet joined them, but we have a reporter standing by at the capitol. We have also learned that the president is due to make a statement shortly. But for now, we urge all citizens to return to your homes if at all possible. Stay tuned for further developments."
Len put the last of the cans away, and fell heavily into a chair. "How did all of this happen?"
"I wish I knew. By the time I called you, the Cincinnati airport had already been locked down. They say when the security checkpoint got several positives on TSA's video facematch system, they sent a team to stop some already cleared passengers on concourse B while they validated the reports. Two people refused to cooperate, so they called for backup. But because an alert had been raised, the agents who responded were acting under a different protocol, which gave them authority to preemptively act against suspects. You know. For the greater good, and all."
"For the greater good."
"Yeah. Anyway, the noise of the shots and the shouting set off a panic throughout the airport." She glanced at the TV. "They've been running that clip endlessly. It didn't take long for the news services to pick up the terrorist story, and when they did, it was fed into the airport cable systems, including the one in Cincinnati. Airport management then panicked and killed the feed."
Len chuckled humorlessly. "I'll bet that was helpful."
"It was like trying to put a fire out with accelerant. The first thing everyone there did was to hit their cell phones, which overwhelmed the system. So there they were, with no cable news and no cells, supposedly sharing an airport with who knew how many terrorists. There was a stampede for the exits. By the time they reached the doors, Homeland Security had already locked them to corral the terrorists."
He nodded. "That was the first I heard of it. As soon as people at other airports got wind of what happened in Cincinnati, they dropped their own flight plans and headed home, lest they get stuck in the same pickle."
"Yeah. By then, of course, it was completely out of control. Rumors were flying faster than they could be squelched. The stock markets went berserk. Which was all the suits in D.C. needed to spur them into action."