Travel Advisory

Najib Khan saw it happen with his own eyes and still didn’t completely believe that it had happened. Not one, not two, not three or even four… at least ten… autonomous passenger vans with holes in their roofs, firing off a full magazine of grenades. He’d used a Mk19 grenade launcher before, fighting the Naxalites, so he didn’t have to count how many grenades each van fired off. It was either 32 or 48, most likely 48, given where he stood.

He didn’t stand long in his room in the DFW Airport Hyatt Regency, with its view of the gritty service roads and the parkway that ran through the middle of the airport. He was already in the hallway when he heard the first screams of horror and in the elevator before anyone hit the fire alarm. Let the others take the stairs.

It was obvious, so obvious… automatic grenade launchers in passenger vans. Nobody checks the shuttle vans as they go back and forth from the terminals to the remote lots. They’re so boring, so predictable, so beneath the contempt of the CISOs and security architects. When hackers hit, they figure, they’re going to come at us right through the firewall, you can bet your boots on that. Trouble is, when physical security is compromised, those vans are the weakest link in the security chain.

The elevator opened out to the lobby where there were people milling around, wondering if it was just a drill or the real thing. Most of the staff were disoriented, not expecting alarms to go off in the middle of the day. Nobody expects alarms. They’re either showing up once in a million years or so often they’re ignored. Najib made his way to the parking lot entrance, hoping to get out before somebody noticed the Muslim from India at the scene of a terrorist attack. If he took time to flash his badge, it would possibly mean the difference between life and death for some innocent.

Najib did a little math in his head as he jogged towards his rental car. If those vans were cruising at normal speed, they would have fired all their grenades over a length of 2 kilometers – two terminals, one grenade per 40 meters or so from each van. Ten vans meant a grenade every 5 or 6 meters, spread out over the length of the airport.

Najib’s car had been backing out to meet him. It stopped near him and opened a door. Najib got in and said, “Terminal E. Arrival gates.” He took a chance that the vans would double back into the airport after their southbound grenade run. Whether they were programmed or under remote control, it didn’t matter. Job one with a rogue vehicle was shutting it down before it went into a crowd like a vengeful bull in Pamplona. Forensics would figure out the how after men like Najib put an end to the what, thereby limiting the how much…

Najib rolled down his window and then reached for the large suitcase next to him. Just his luck, he was in Dallas to show his wares in a training session for a local cadre of federal security agents. Time for the live demo. He pulled out an EMP gun and put a suction cup on the back of his phone and mounted it so it would have a good view of whatever he took a shot at.

It would have been ideal for the rental to be able to go against the flow of traffic, but rentals were always sticklers for traffic laws regarding that sort of thing. But there was one edge he’d have over the passenger vans. A single word, uttered by a human. “Emergency.”

Now the thing would drive faster than permissible. Najib was in for a rough ride if a pedestrian stepped in front of his vehicle, but at least the walker would live. If the pedestrian avoidance system was deactivated in those vans, the same person wouldn’t stand a chance, even at low speeds.

Najib’s car pulled up near one of the vans in the arrival level. It was making straight for a family entering the crosswalk. Just in time. Najib yelled out “Slow!” and as the rental slammed its brakes to match the speed of the van, side by side, Najib fired his EMP gun at pointblank range. Two seconds of rattling electric sounds, and the passenger van failed closed, slowing down to halt gently in front of the crosswalk. The family had halted, not knowing what to do, and Najib barked out “Terminal C, Arrivals. Emergency!” Off the rental sped.

As the rental lurched around a corner, it came up directly behind a passenger van, leaving E on its way up to C. Najib waited until the road joined with the main artery and his car could pass it and then – whammo! Directional EMP at its finest as a second van rolled off to the side, immobilized.

As the rental entered the curve for Terminal C, Najib heard a collision and the tt-cheh, tt-cheh! sound of antipersonnel rounds ahead of him. Smoke rose from the arrivals area. Najib knew he was too late for Terminal C, so he shouted, “Terminal D, Arrivals, Emergency!” and the rental swerved away from what Najib knew would be a grim scene of twisted metal and bodies both crushed by the van and then ripped into by the flechette of the explosives.

The rental sped across the overpass to D and Najib could see more smoke coming up, both near and far. Given the density of the ordnance, it was likely that multiple planes were on fire along with their gates, luggage, and anyone unfortunate enough to be onboard. Further off, what was most likely a storage tank fire belched particularly acrid and odious clouds of doom.

But there was no time to think – Najib’s rental was pulling alongside another roofless van and Najib nailed it from 50 meters. It was stone cold dead by the time the rental passed it. Najib had one more shot and he wanted to make it count. Terminal D hadn’t been hit, and it was the furthest along from where the vans had been. The rental parked at an available spot near a pickup area and Najib rolled down the other window and shifted to fire out of the left side of the car. No van appeared, so Najib took a chance and moved his camera to cover that back angle.

Luck was with Najib, no question. Not ten seconds after his camera was in place, another van of death came around the curve. Najib saw the mines mounted on its sides and bit the inside of his lip. It approached at normal speed… 100 meters… 90… 80… 70… 60… good enough.

TATATATATATATATATATATATATA, and it was all over for that van. Four for four for Najib. That was all he could do, so he took his phone down and left his rental for the nearest security station to report on what he had seen and what he had done.

Given the state of alarm, Najib held his federal badge up high, as that was the best way to reduce the chance that a supervisor would have to explain to the FNG why it was best to not shoot at fellow government employees…

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