Author's VERY IMPORTANT Note/Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
This story might be very hard-hitting, so please be advised that you may be
shocked. I'm not sure if this story is timely, but I was moved to write it.
It is a fictitious piece about what might have happened at the World Trade Center on that Terrible Tuesday-
September 11, 2001. If you are emotionally unable to cope with the impact
of this recent horrendous tragedy, please do not read this. If you are still coping,
you may find this story very painful. It has been tough as hell for me to write
this, but it has also been very cathartic for me. I say again: the beginning
is VERY hard-hitting. Keep in mind it IS fiction! It is based only on accounts
I have heard and the facts released by the media. I do not subscribe to the
ideas of all these fictitious characters nor do I think that the ideas expressed
by these characters and the narative are true. The beginning deals with what
the hijackers might have said/done on the morning of that fateful day. I think
I should also note that I do not believe, IN ANY WAY, that Islam is to be blamed
for what happened. These actions were committed by very sick people. It should
be noted that Timothy McVeigh was Christian and no one is pointing fingers
at Christianity for the atrocity in Oklahoma City- I am not Muslim,
but I feel that the teachings of Islam and the Quran should be treated with
respect as well as its honest and loving followers. There are many good people
in this world, just like there are many evil animals. The views expressed in
the beginning of this work of fiction are NOT my own!
Read this at your own risk!
6:00 AM, Tuesday, September 11, 2001
He walked into the hotel room with his flight bag slung loosely over his shoulder.
He had his own key to the room, as did all of his brothers. He was the team
leader for his group and today's meeting was meant for all four team leaders.
Today they would discuss the plans and what Allah had implored them to do in
the Mother Book. All of them were committed in their task, ready to forfeit
their lives for this spectacular honor. They were silent martyrs, all of them,
and they were happy to give their lives in the name of Allah. They had been
in this despicable country for far too many years already- and now they were
being called home. They were insured a bounty like no other, with hories and
plentiful divine foods.
"I am sorry I am late, my brothers," he told the room's occupants.
"I had an argument with one of the infidels nearby- apparently I am a
danger to others on the road," he smiled knowingly and shrugged at his
private joke. The other three men nodded back at him understandingly. The
Americans were always easy to argue with over the most foolish of notions.
But they will soon learn that Islam will no longer broach anymore arguing.
They were assembled to make a final statement to all infidels around the world.
"Have I missed anything?" he asked.
"No, Omid," Aram answered. "We were waiting for you. It is well
that you are here. We were worried that you wouldn't make it." He stood
up and spread his arms open, inviting a hug. "It is good to see you again
after all these years."
Omid Nazir crossed the room and embraced his Islamic brother gladly. It felt
good to be in the company of others like him, all focused on the same mission
of Allah. When they parted he looked at the other two men and nodded somberly.
"Before we get on with the plans I wanted to make a suggestion," he
told them. Aram bade him to sit and speak his mind openly. Omid did so. When
he was sure that he had the other men's attention, he took a deep breath.
"I know that our leader, praise be unto him, is a wise man and that
he has his own agenda. He wants America to suffer terribly. I think we are
all agreed that this must happen or we would not be here today." There
were silent nods of agreement. "We have been enjoined to take over our
planes and collide them into each other, yes? Well
I have been doing some
research. Their government satellites are not currently overhead. We will already
be disabling the transponders, so they have no hope of tracking us at all.
Instead of mere midair collisions, why do we not make a lasting impression?"
"Like what?" Biq'ar asked.
Omid smiled grimly. "Bin Laden was clear that he wanted to attack America
where it hurts them most. From all points, this means money. Their financial
institutions are almost more revered than their monuments,"
he informed them. Of course, they already knew this, but he felt it clear to
build up to his idea. "In particular is their Fort Knox, which is more
heavily guarded than their infidel president. What if, instead of a collision,
we flew their precious planes, with their infidel slaves aboard, right into
Fort Knox? It would be highly symbolic."
The other three men were thoughtfully quiet for a long time. Finally, Aram
said, "I like it. It is a harsh act and these Americans deserve
harsh treatment. But it contradicts our leader's orders. He may not be pleased.
It may anger them too much."
Omid nodded. "I understand that, but it may also strike absolute fear
into their hearts. These people are cattle, thinking that they are invincible
and perfectly secure. Their security, in some areas, is strict, but everywhere
else they are prone to attack. They kill themselves twice as easily as anyone
else in the world! They are fools! Perhaps it would be a service
to them for us to make it clear that they are not so safe, that they are easily
blinded by their false sense of security. Bin Laden is a man, leader or not,
but Allah has made it clear that we must educate everyone, regardless of their
religious beliefs. Bin Laden wants us to teach these fat cows that they are
foolish for attacking the faithful, but what if we were to teach them a more
meaningful lesson? Would not Allah be even more pleased?"
Farbruz spoke up. "I believe He would," he said simply. The soon
to be martyrs sat in considerate silence as they gave thought to the suggestion.
After a long pause, Aram said, "Very well. I see your point and agree.
If none of you has a problem with this, then we will go ahead with Omid's idea.
But I have something to add. I have seen much documentation on this Fort Knox
on their television. Foolish as they are, they have made it clear that Fort
Knox is like a shrine to them, an impenetrable fortress. Perhaps another
target would be better?"
"New York," Biq'ar said quietly. The other men looked at him expectantly.
"New York City. That is the location of their World Trade Center, a target
that our order has already tried to destroy as a symbol of their imperialistic
capitalism. Perhaps we could finish the job? A couple planes would bring their
twin towers down to rubble."
"Yes!" Omid exclaimed, pointing a finger at Biq'ar. "Perfect!
My brother, you are brilliant!"
"What of their military?" Farbruz asked. "They have been a thorn
in everyone's side across the globe," he pointed out. "Two planes
would devastate the World Trade Center, yes, but what about the other planes?
Do we collide those or do we use them in much the same way?"
"The White House, the home of their leader," Omid said coldly.
"The bastard would burn in the fires!"
"No," Biq'ar said. "He travels much. We may destroy their White
House, but he may not be there if we do. Aides and other people might perish,
and it would certainly be symbolic, but it might prove pointless. Besides,
their government is set up so that someone would replace him immediately. The
only good thing about their democratic process is that people are replaced
easily. Perhaps Congress? If we destroy their lawmakers, then they might be
legally decapitated. Kill as many lawmakers as possible and it will be harder
to replace them."
"Hmm..." Omid mused. "That is wise."
Aram sat forward. "The House of Congress is small. Only one plane is
necessary. We are to take four. Three planes are now reserved. What of the fourth?"
"Taking their mindless governors is all well and good," Farbruz said.
"But it does not inflict damage to the heart of their military. If we cannot
eliminate their Commander in Chief, then there is another symbol of their
military might that we can destroy. The Pentagon, the location of their
military intelligence command. If it can be destroyed or at least paralyzed
then their military brain would be rendered useless."
The other three pilots looked at each other for a moment. "You would fly
the plane headed for the Pentagon?" Aram asked.
"I would," Farbruz confirmed with a nod. Before coming to America
for their training as pilots, he had long studied how the US military command
worked. Through all of his studies, the Pentagon was worthy of repeated mention.
If any part of the infidels' military might could be cut away, it should be
the brain. He reached that conclusion when he was still in his teens. Without
the CIA always interfering in their plans, his faithful group could move freely
to do the work of Allah.
"Then it is agreed," Aram announced. "I will try to make contact
with Bin Laden and inform him of the change. We will go ahead as planned, in
the name of Allah. I and Omid will head for New York. Farbruz will have the
Pentagon. Biq'ar will take care of Congress. Inform your men and work out the
flight paths. We will board our respective planes in a few hours. Here are your
tickets." He handed the boarding passes to his compatriots. Each man
took the parchments for their respective planes like they were drawing cards
from a lottery and read them. Aram stood up and spread his arms again. "We
must now depart and meet downstairs in an hour. Consult your maps and make sure
your crews are aware of these changes. We are in this together, until the end."
The other three men embraced him and he held them back. "Peace be unto
you, my brothers." The four men said, together, a single word in their
own language, which hadn't been used yet in that room. "Allah'u'abha."
Aram felt the tears of his brothers run hotly down his neck and his own tears
rolled down his cheeks. It was good to be among the faithful again.
Do not look here.
The words were printed, in small arial typeface, on the top lid of a Rol-a-dex
that sat on Marie's desk. She was thumbing through it when she felt strong,
large hands grasp her shoulders and knead her neck gently. "Mmmmm,"
she groaned. "God, that feels good."
"Dinner tonight?" Mark asked. This would be their third date together.
For a year he and Marie had been dancing around their attraction to each other,
never sure if they should risk dating at the workplace. Most companies and floor
managers frowned upon it, but last week they'd both gotten the unofficial green
light from Dan Moransen, their floor's manager. He'd noted that they got along
well together, during breaks, and openly asked them why they weren't dating.
Dan hadn't said anything more on the subject, but when he noticed them talking
animatedly during their coffee break, Mark caught Dan winking at him. The
subtext, and it was never spoken about, was that as long as they weren't too
obvious about their relationship, it was okay with him and he wouldn't say
anything. Mark and Marie had slept together on their first date after dinner
at a nice restaurant on Broadway. Since then, they'd been looking forward
to seeing more of each other. Even after the sex, they just sort of... clicked.
After a year of waiting to be with each other, all their hopes and dreams of
where things might go seemed to be fully realized.
Marie nodded subtly, hoping that Mark would never stop rubbing her neck muscles
or that one of their coworkers wouldn't notice their physical contact. "I'd
like that a lot," she said quietly. She'd been hoping he'd ask her out
for dinner again. After their last night out she had decided to ask him back
to her place for dinner, instead, and offer herself up for dessert when the
meal was finished. She had no illusions about herself, physically. She wasn't
a knockout gorgeous woman, but she wasn't ugly either. Mark's attention
to her, his attraction, was about as real as anything she'd ever experienced.
He wasn't exactly Adonis, either, but he was definitely handsome by her
standards and he had so far presented himself as a nice guy. Foreplay in
a cab, sex at his place and waking up next to him in one piece was also a plus
in his favor. Marie had no complaints about his abilities as a lover... and
potential love. She wasn't yet counting on the whole "love"
issue to come up yet, but the idea of it wasn't so alien anymore. "How
about I make you dinner this time? At my place."
Mark's hands stopped for a moment as he considered the implications of her
offer. Marie squirmed a little under him, a clear sign that she didn't want
him to stop the massage, so he renewed his efforts on her neck. "Sure,"
he said, forcing himself not to leap for joy. "Send me an e-mail with
your address and I'll get it when I get home to change. Meet you there at eight?"
Marie groaned. "This means the end of the conversation, doesn't it? You're
going to stop rubbing me and go back to work." She hated the idea of
him going away from her. His hands felt great and her neck was just starting
Mark chuckled. "Unfortunately, yeah. Believe me, I don't want to, but
we can't have anyone getting hip to us right now. Too early in the day."
"It's only eight-thirty in the morning, Mark. Ten more minutes. Please?"
Mark looked around surreptitiously to make sure no one was watching them
and then leaned down to kiss her gently and quickly on the earlobe. Then he
whispered in her ear, "I give great body massages, hon.
Think of this as breakfast." He pecked her neck, just below her earlobe
and felt her shiver beneath his hands. "Send me that e-mail. Back to work."
With that, he stood and left her alone.
"But I don't want to go!" Susie cried. She was only
five and didn't understand that her mother had a job to do, that her mother
had to work in order to pay for the Oshkosh coveralls she was wearing. This
was a daily ritual, but this time there was a sincere urgency behind the young
girl's protests at being left in the day care center. It was less about being
left alone and more about being separated from her mommy.
Kathryn sighed in exasperation and knelt down to hug her daughter. "I'm
sorry, honey, but I have to. We've been through this a thousand times before,
Suze. I have to work. I promise I'll pick you up right on time today, okay?"
Susie shook her head emphatically. "But you won't,"
she implored. "Something's not right, mommy! I don't even
want you to be here. It's bad today."
Kathryn leaned back to look at her daughter carefully. What has she been
watching? the woman thought to herself. She looked at the child's eyes
carefully, checking for dark circles, a clear indication of nightmares. She
normally wakes up from nightmares and they usually end up affecting her the
day after, but the dark circles weren't there. Susie stopped waking her mother
up about nightmares six months ago, two years after the divorce. Maybe the nightmares
were fading or Susie simply wasn't waking up from them anymore. Doctor Kelper
did say that the five-year-old would eventually outgrow them,
probably before the end of the year. Just to be certain, Kathryn asked, "Honey,
is it another bad dream? Did you have one last night?"
"No," Susie answered with a shake of her head. "This is different,
mommy. I want us to leave. Now."
Kathryn hugged her daughter closely, regretful of the fact that she had to
deny her wishes. "I'm sorry, honey. But I have to." Susie whimpered
into her neck. "I love you, honey. You know that, right?"
Susie leaned back, breaking the hug. "I know, mommy. I love you, too."
Tears began to form in her eyes for reasons she couldn't comprehend. "I'll
"Oh," Kathryn replied, her heart breaking. She kissed Susie on
the cheek. "Don't cry, baby. I'll miss you, too. I'll see if I can leave
work early. Maybe we can go to a movie tonight, after your nap. What do you
Susie just sagged under her disappointment. "I guess so," she said
Kathryn stood up and turned around, her leather attaché case held tightly
in her hand, and walked out of the day care center. Her eyes drifted to a clock
on the wall. 8:41. She was already running late. Who knew how long the elevators
would take to reach her floor? She rounded the corner to the elevators and saw
one starting to close, her daughter forgotten for the moment. "Hold it!"
she shouted and picked up her pace. She thought that she might have been too
late when she came to a skid in front of the doors, but the parted a heartbeat
later to admit her.
A man dressed in a dark blue suit, one face among thousands that work in the
World Trade Center, leaned back from the elevator control panel. "Just
in time," he commented.
"Yeah," Kathryn said breathlessly as she entered the carriage. "Thanks
for holding it for me."
"No prob," the man said as the doors closed them in with a few other
people. "Nice day," he said conversationally.
"Humph. Tell that to my daughter," Kathryn rejoined as she felt the
car jolt slightly, bound for the sky upward. "Seventy-three, please,"
she requested of the person closest to the control panel. She looked up and
saw the floor number light up. God, these things are slow.
"Marie!" Mark shouted when the smoke cleared. Marie
was leaning against the wall behind her cubicle, screaming and crying. Other
people were running around the aisles like they were crazy. The explosion,
whatever it had been, was devastating. Mark wasn't too sure, yet, what had
caused it, but whatever it was had to be something huge. When the floor shook,
he thought it might have been an earthquake, but common sense told him immediately
that New York simply does not have earthquakes. Besides, the explosion
came before the shaking, so it had to be the explosion that caused
the floor to rattle. People immediately started screaming after that. One person
was mumbling something about an airplane as he passed by.
Marie looked up from her knees, her white skirt stained with her tears. She'd
been thrown out of her chair when the floor shook and decided not to move from
the wall when the chaos began. When she heard Mark's voice call her name, somehow
well above the cacophony of other hysterical voices, she looked up, not sure
if she'd heard it correctly. But there he was, rushing towards her with his
brow furrowed in concern. Amidst all of this insanity, the first thought that
came to her mind was, My God! He does love me! She started to
get back on her feet, but was bumped back against the wall as a frightened co-worker
ran by. In a flash, she felt herself being steadied by Mark's strong hands.
"What happened?" she cried at her lover and hugged him
Mark held her firmly. "I don't know for sure," he answered honestly
with a shake of his head. "I think, maybe, a plane crashed into the building.
Are you okay?" He asked with concern.
Relief washed over Marie when the question was asked. "I'm fine,"
she said. "What about you?"
Mark nodded. "I think we should get out of here, if at all possible. At
least we should try to find out what happened." The electricity had gone
out and all they had to see by was the sunlight that came through the windows.
Thank God it was a beautiful day outside and relatively cloudless. A rainstorm
would have only contributed to the panic that everyone already felt. Mark guided
the woman he'd only just recently come to have feelings for down the aisle,
an anchor of calm in a sea of madness. People continued to rush past them,
headed for the exits and stairwells, but they were being buffeted less and less
as the people emptied the floor.
When they got closer to the stairwells, they bumped into Dan, who had somehow
gotten a cut on his forehead. He was standing alone, barking orders to people
that they should evacuate the building immediately. He noticed the couple
approaching. "Mark! Marie! I saw it when it happened. Got knocked off my
feet! An airplane hit the building. Elevators are down, so hit the stairs! Now!"
Mark stopped cold, his heart almost in his throat. "Shit,"
he breathed. "We're on the ninetieth floor, Dan! Where'd
we get hit?"
Dan froze as realization dawned on him. "Oh, fuck," he gasped.
"Below. They hit us below."
The unmistakable sound of another plane filled their ears and shook the windows,
making everyone nearby scream, men and women alike, and some of them crouched
in reflex. Another explosion rocked the building, but the impact seemed less
insistent and the shaking wasn't as severe as the first one. "What the
fuck?" Mark shouted above the noise. He raced over to a window
and what he saw chilled him to the bone. Tower Two was spewing red flame and
smoke a few stories below them, on the other side of the building. Marie came
to his side and gasped, with Dan behind her. "Another one?!?"
Mark shouted. "Has this place turned into a fucking plane magnet
or what?" His rage and confusion leapt into high gear, but
his mind was strangely clear. There was only one explanation that made sense.
Both he and Dan said the same thing in perfect unison.
"Terrorists." It had happened before. It's happened again.
The second explosion could be heard in the elevator, stuck somewhere between
the thirtieth and thirty-first floors. They'd just dropped a passenger off at
twenty-eight, so they elevator hadn't picked up any speed yet. The shaking started
all over again and the only thing that Kathryn could think was, Oh my God.
This is what Susie meant. Oh God. Oh God. Please keep my baby safe.
Oh God. Someone next to her, a person they picked up on the fifteenth, was
talking on his cell phone to his wife, telling her that he was okay, that
he was trapped in an elevator.
Kathryn looked down at her feet absently. She had no spouse to call anymore.
Her husband, her ex-husband, had split with her two years ago.
The asshole had cheated on her with three women on one night. She wasn't going
to be calling him. She wouldn't. She wanted to call downstairs, to speak with
Susie, but for some reason her cell phone wasn't working like that of the guy
next to her. A couple other people were trying repeatedly to use their own cell
phones but to no avail. Kathryn considered asking the gentleman if she could
use his phone, but decided that it would be the height of rudeness
to interrupt. The fact of the matter was that they were trapped in an elevator
in a building that was, apparently, falling apart or exploding. Bombs? Accident?
War? What the hell was going on out there? Kathryn replayed her conversation
back with her daughter. Yes, she had told her that she loved her. Damn, she
even said she would miss her.
The child somehow knew but couldn't say. She didn't know details. She just
knew that it would be wrong, that "it's bad today."
Kathryn had never missed her daughter more in all her life. She hadn't missed
anyone more than at that exact moment.
The elevator car rocked, creaked and then bounced like a paddle-ball. The obvious
sound of cable falling and coiling above them on the roof of the car echoed
and rang loudly. She hadn't even heard the twang and snap of the cable. This
is it, Kathryn thought as the men started asking questions and real
panic began to set it, the cable's going to be too much weight for us.
We'll drop like a rock. I love you, Susie. God, please take care of my baby.
As the cabling continued to fall on them, they suddenly lurched downward some
more. The other cable was being strained and snapping strand by strand. The
people who could use their cell phones began talking more furtively, urgently
saying their I-love-yous. The next second was one of blissful weightlessness
and eerie silence. The other cable had snapped. They would reach the elevator
shaft's floor in a few seconds. Kathryn was aware of all of this with a strange
sense of detachment. She and the people trapped in the car with her were going
to die. There was no use in hysterics, in finding blame or screaming pleas
for help. Any second now-
Marie and Mark looked at Dan, the only person who had decided to wait with
them. If the bottom floors were decimated, it was only a matter of time
before helicopters would come for them at the roof. There was the clear rise
in temperature below them. Obviously a fire had broken out below them, where
the plane had hit. Jet fuel burns for a long time, Mark remembered hearing
once. If the temperature got too hot, they would move up some floors or maybe
go to the roof to wait for rescue. The trio looked at each other in silence
for a long time. They had been waiting for more than an hour, watched the South
Tower fall away from them at an impossible angle and then collapse. The rescuers
should have been there by now.
"Let's face it," Mark said. "If they haven't come for us now,
they probably never will." It was the first thing he'd said in twenty minutes.
The trio had watched the fall of the South Tower in stoic silence, almost
reverently. No one had said anything until then.
Dan pointed a finger accusingly at Mark. "You don't know that," he
said coolly. "They'll come. They have to.... right?"
Marie sat forward, making sure not to spill her Coke, which they had liberated
from Dan's mini fridge. "Dan... I think Mark's right. South's gone. It
fell. The same thing is probably going to happen to us if the
fire doesn't stop. They probably can't rescue us now. The weight
of a helicopter might be too much." She was feeling insanely scared,
but her voice sounded calm and rational. She wouldn't allow herself to succumb
to fear. Mark had been a perfect rock through all of this and she would take
her cue from him. She looked down solemnly. "We're dead, either way."
Mark hugged her with the arm that was draped around her shoulder in comfort.
He didn't like hearing it, but it made sense. Burn or drop with the building,
they were probably not going to live. Marie began to weep softly into his
"You're wrong," Dan snarled. "We're going to live. You two
love birds can do what you want, I'm going to the roof to wait for the rescue
choppers. I'm sorry to sound so cruel, but that's where everyone else is going.
People have been poking their heads in here on their way up there to check on
us. I'm going with them. It's better than sitting here and waiting for death.
Mark nodded with understanding at the floor manager. "It's okay, Dan,"
he said gently. "Go on. We'll talk about it, maybe join you, too. Thanks
for staying as long as you have, man."
Dan's mood softened. "Hey... um... good luck, all right? We'll get through
this. When we do, I'll come to your wedding."
Mark smiled. "Right. And we'll invite you. Now get going, man. Be careful."
Dan nodded, turned and left the couple alone. He cast one last glance behind
him before disappearing into the stairwell. "See ya soon!" he called
to them and then began to trot upstairs.
Mark stroked Marie's hair softly and made soothing noises. "It's going
to be okay," he proffered.
Marie sat up straight and looked at the man carefully, for a quiet moment.
"I think I was going to fall in love with you."
Mark blushed and looked down. Marie leaned forward and kissed him softly. "Marie..."
Marie nodded subtly. "I know, I know. Me, too." She looked out the
window and saw helicopters flying far away in the distance, in circles. She
decided that they were probably news helicopters, under no obligation to make
a rescue attempt. She looked back at her lover. "I don't want to burn
Mark grimaced. "It's not exactly my idea of a decent death," he
agreed. "Being buried in rubble isn't all that great, either." A part
of his mind shouted its disbelief that he was actually discussing his own
impending demise with this woman, a woman he was already in love with.
"Jump?" Marie asked casually, like she was suggesting a dip in
Mark was silent for a minute. "Together?" Marie nodded. "Honey,
no matter how we die I would be honored to hold your hand through
The building buckled for a second, making both Mark and Marie go ram-rod straight
with momentary terror. When the shuddering stopped, Marie forced herself to
breathe. "Now? Please? Before we don't have a choice. If I'm going to
die, Mark, I want to be in control."
Mark gave a curt nod. He jumped to his feet, looked around him and saw an office
chair that had toppled over. He went to it and picked it up. It seemed to weigh
just enough to crash through the window, given enough force. "Think this'll
do?" he asked the woman.
Marie shrugged. "Only one way to know for sure," she said.
"Stand back," Mark ordered. He hefted the chair over his shoulder
and took a running start at the closest window. When he was about ten feet away,
he threw the chair with all his might at the glass. The window merely cracked
and the chair bounced back to the floor. "Well," he said as he picked
the chair up again, "at least it cracked. Maybe another shot might do it."
Marie stayed silent as she watched him walk back across the floor to the point
where he'd started before. He repeated the action, this time sending the chair
through the window with a loud crash.
Sounds of the outside world filled their ears. Sirens and shouts and screams
drifted through the window along with the foul stench of burning rubber. Helicopters
could be heard in the distance and the world seemed to erupt through the window's
opening. Marie approached the shattered window carefully, making sure that a
stray shard of glass didn't penetrate her shoes and cut her feet. She looked
out of the gaping hole and peered down. Below them was a world of chaos and
crisis. People, tiny little specs, scattered like ants and fire engines began
to pull away from the building. Smoke obfuscated a lot of things, but Marie
was able to see enough. The implication was clear. Quickly she turned back to
Mark. "I think it's going to collapse," she said urgently. "They're
pulling away and running."
"Then it's now or never," Mark said quietly. He reached out his
hand to Marie. She came to him and held it tightly. "Together?" he
"I always dreamed of flying. How morbid is that?"
"Considering the circumstances? Not very. On three?"
Marie steeled herself with resolve. "One."
The pair tightened their clasping hands almost to the point of it being painful.
Who knew how many seconds they had left?