The Boeing 727 was one of ten aircraft operated by the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, otherwise known as Con Air. Capable of transporting 200 prisoners under a crew of just 12 US Marshalls, it was the cheapest and most efficient means of federal prison transfer. This particular flight was bound from Alexandria to Connecticut, a coastal route that would take it directly over Rapture City. That was their first mistake. The second was serving lunch. The passengers were restrained with handcuffs as well as ankle and waist chains, triple locked. Some even wore reinforced mittens and face masks to isolate hands and teeth. FAA regulations ensured the inmates were not physically restrained to their actual seats by anything but a standard seatbelt. But the crew of Marshalls patrolling the aisles ensured that no one took advantage of this luxury. Most passengers today were low riskers. Members of rival prison gangs would be transported on later flights, or individually if they posed a threat. It was safe to say there was a relaxed air. No one had caused any problems, the food had been good, the in-flight movie acceptable, and the weather outside was a soothing kind of rain. Most of the inmates had drifted to sleep when the tannoy came on. "Welcome to Rapture City, brothers and sisters." "The fuck is that?" asked one of the Marshalls, looking up at the speaker. He turned to his colleague, who frowned likewise. "Gerry, who's on the tannoy?" "You are now halfway through your transfer, from one penal facility to another. For such is life. We are shifted between our prison cells, in body and spirit." The voice had the strain of old age in it, wavering and slow. One of the Marshalls keyed an intercom. "Cockpit, this is Siler. What the fuck are you guys playing at?" "It ain't us, Sir," came the co-pilot's reply. "Most of you won't recognise my voice. An old man's hard to notice, even in jail. You mighta seen me at times, pushing library books or serving in the kitchens. Some of you might even have called me Merl... Old Merl, that coot who spent two-thirds of his life behind bars." There was a soft chuckle. "Well, that's me alright. But lemme tell you, brothers and sisters - I never forgot what life was like on the outside. In fact, I've made it my personal hobby to keep myself informed on events in the real world. See, before they put me away, all those years back, I had a lot of friends. And those friends have kept me in the loop on all kinds of things." "Shut it off. Get that shit shut off!" The Marshalls were rushing up and down the aisles now, trying to work out how the tannoy had been hacked. Others had drawn weapons and were watching the prisoners. Tension was mounting, despite the gentleness in Merl's voice. "And what I've heard, well... hell, it just ain't good enough. The world's going to shit, and it's time we made some changes. I need your help, brothers and sisters. I need you to find something for me. Something that'll change... all this." "Everyone be calm!" one of the Marshalls motioned with his shotgun, his gaze sweeping the unsettled inmates. Behind him, two Marshalls were opening a wall panel and looking at circuit boards. "Now listen up, cos this is the important part. It's a cure I'm looking for. Lab Cure IX. And it's down there somewhere in Rapture City. You get hold of it and you dial 555-692-1423. That's 555-692-1423. My friends will take care of the rest." "How the fuck did he do this?" shouted a Marshall, who began reaching up and trying to rip out the cabin speaker. "Oh, and one last thing. I may be old, but I ain't stupid. I know most o' you boys would rather run for cover than help make a real change in the world. So here's a little incentive for ya. Remember that tasty lunch you had a few hours back? Well, the secret ingredient was something I've been working on for some thirty years... something I traded in a lot of favours for to get on this plane... I won't bore you with the deatils. It's a slow acting nerve poison." Some of the Marshalls froze. Some of the inmates began to mutter. Some even turned and reached for their seatbelts before the guards pushed them back. Panic was starting. "Takes 48 hours to work, if the rats I tested it on are anything to go by. I watered it down some, of course, to give you boys a fighting chance. The concentrated version... well... we all know how those Marshalls like to take separate meals, don't we?" Almost on cue, one of the Marshalls stumbled in the aisle. He doubled over, clutching his head, and from a gasp lifted into a full, deafening scream. His eyes were wide, his mouth stretched in pain. All the tiny blood vessels on his face had opened up, flushing his skin red. Then there was blood, from his eyes, from his ears, from his nostrils. Some of the other Marshalls rushed to him, but not before there was a wet sound of haemorrhaging in his throat. And only seconds passed before the other guards doubled over in the same manner. "This is DOJ2491," the pilot's voice cut in over the intercom, interferring with Merl's transmission. "Co-pilot is down, I repeat... AAAGH!" The man screamed and retched as he tried to speak. "I'm initiating emergency, AAAAGH... God... uuuugh.... going down!" The plane dropped abruptly, lurching stomachs and making oxygen masks deploy overhead. As the Marshalls curled over in pain some of the inmates got out of their chairs, stumbling with wrists and ankles bound. The lights flickered. Shout and screams filled the cabin. There was a gunshot as someone disarmed a Marshall. Merl's voice cut back in. "Get Lab Cure IX to my friends, and they'll administer the anti-toxin. This is your run for freedom, brothers and sisters. And who knows? We may just change the world tonight." And with that the plane tipped, plumetting towards the city below. Any not in their seats were slammed against the cabin walls, and blood of the Marshalls ran in the aisles, their heads torn open from inside. Another shot blew out a window and the wind and rain came howling in. Lights of high-rises flashed by. There was a third gunshot. Then a shudder as something large and metal snapped. The cabin rolled. A freeway, far below, showed cars piled up in a traffic jam. The plane was falling parallel to the stretch. An overhead bin burst open and Marshall kit went crashing through the cabin, smashing into inmates and causing further damage. Sirens could be heard in the distance, between the pops of breaking equipment. The plane struck the freeway with a bone shattering quake, and sparks flew as hull and concrete met. The wings snapped and the fusilage skidded, spinning around and colliding with cars and trucks. There was a military convoy amongst the traffic jam. The soldiers were fleeing their humvees with the other drivers. Screams and metal squeals drowned the world and for a few minutes it was like the roar of Hell incarnate. Then the plane shuddered to a halt, and smoke and sobs filled the cabin. The prisoners had arrived in Rapture City.