The Quickest Way
by Ken Dean
forum: The Quickest Way
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Quickest Way


           Damn. Okay…does this day suck or what?

           Jim Pinella had just exited the San Francisco Civic Center complex near Larkin Street and was walking towards Market Street to his parked car. He had just been a privileged guest at a Domestic Relations hearing on his divorce from his now ex-wife Jenna. The divorce had been rushed through at the last minute, to him and his attorney's total surprise.

           Jim and his attorney had been trying to hammer out an equitable dissolution that would have been fair to both parties. Suddenly the judge called everyone involved into the hearing room and pretty much handed his ex-wife everything. Full custody of their two children, Matt and Sandy. All assets that were jointly owned were now Jenna's. That included the house, his business, and all financial assets. Plus he was ordered to pay spousal and child support. Jim felt as though his genitals had been neatly severed from his body, placed on a lace doily, and handed to him on a silver platter while being forced to say; "Thank you, Maam…may I have another?" Even his honorable service in the Air Force Special Forces hadn't helped his defense.

           Yeah…BEST day of his life. He was now walking down Market Street, still in shock. The female judge must have had one hell of a day, plus the fact that his attorney mentioned the judge had just gone through a nasty divorce herself. And since you can't pick the court docket, he had the outstanding luck of landing a judge that was extremely biased and loaded for male bear.

           His emotions were rampaging. He didn't know what to think or do at this point. His brain was trying to assimilate too much damaging data, and his mind was swirling with all types of thoughts - revenge, murder and suicide and extreme hatred at the system that had handed him this life-blasting hit. Jim definitely felt like he was at the bottom of the barrel…scrabbling to keep some sense of control over his life.

           He continued walking down Market Street. Before he had left court, his attorney had mentioned some sort of appeal based on the extreme bias involved in this type of judicial decision. He hoped she could pull it off; otherwise he would have to build his life back up from ground-level. There was…

           What was that noise? A loud shrieking sound above. Jim just caught a glimpse through the buildings of a large jet too big to be a fighter, but definitely not an airliner, hauling ass at low level just above the downtown buildings before it was out of sight. It happened so fast he didn't have time to identify it. Several pedestrians were yelling, "Look!" He looked in the direction they were pointing, which was up, and saw a parachute descending towards them with something silvery twisting back and forth as it fell.

           A cold chill ran up Jim's spine. The shiny object now looked like a torpedo-shaped device, possibly a bomb. With his training in the Air Force, Jim could only think of his own countries tactics in low-level nuke attacks, where a bomber would come in low and just below the sound barrier. This method would allow for more surprise as the aircraft would evade some radar detection. A nuke would then be dropped by parachute, and would immediately be slowed from five - six hundred miles per hour to thirty-five miles per hour in about three seconds. As the chute dropped, the bomber would then increase speed to rush away from the detonation as quickly as possible.

           The device was nearing the ground. Jim began running towards the impact point. He was joined by a few other pedestrians while most of the others were running the other way or to their cars realizing that it just might be dangerous. Have to hand it to them…at least they were smart.

           Jim and the others arrived at the landing point just as it hit. He heard a large crunch as it impacted with the street, not a good sign. That sound meant it was designed to take the landing crunch of impact on its nose so as to protect the contents inside. It was a possibly a delay-detonation bomb. This allowed the bomber aircraft to egress the target zone quickly before it went off.

           The other onlookers were asking a flurry of questions.

           "What is it?"

           "Who dropped this thing?"

           "Is this a terrorist attack?"

           "Are we at war with someone?"

           All valid questions. Jim said to them all, "I don't think it's a terrorist attack; they wouldn't have this level of capability or the weapons and planes to carry it out."

           A balding man with a loser look who was shaking and sweating profusely spoke up: "It's Chinese!"

           Jim answered "How do you know?"

           "I took a short course in Chinese language for a business trip recently; I only know enough to see what looks like an 'Extreme Caution' warning on the casing."

           Chinese? Jim couldn't recall any tension going on at the moment between the US and China.
Possibly a Pearl Harbor-type attack?

           "Can you see any description about 'megaton' or 'strength' combined with a number anywhere?"

           "No…I can't make out anything else. Our course was limited."

           Great, Jim thought to himself. He knew Russian from training in the Air Force. Why couldn't his training have been in Chinese? Not that it would make a whole lot of difference where they were all standing at the moment.

           Jim went into command mode.

           "Okay folks, this is most likely a nuke, but it may be a chemical or biological weapon." He wasn't going to share the fact that he saw a '10' along with some other bold Chinese script on the casing. No one else had noticed. In his mind that meant it could possibly be ten megatons.

           "Anyone who wants to run for it should do so now! I'm not sure of what the strength or type the weapon might be," he lied, "and most likely it's a weapon. But you may want to put as much distance between it and yourself as possible."

           All of the others rushed away or towards their own vehicles and took off…he had a feeling it was futile. Even if the better part of San Francisco didn't know what was going on, and these few were able to make some distance away, it still wouldn't make any difference. These devices don't usually wait long to go off. The fireball (if it was a nuke) would reach out to all of them, tap each one on the shoulder, then warmly grab their ass and kiss it goodbye for them.

           "I'll stay with you…if it's okay," said the balding man from before.

           "Sure…Jim's my name."

           "Artie here."

           Artie may have the loser look, but you had to admit he had major guts.

           "Thanks for staying, Artie. You realize we are putting ourselves very much in harm's way, right?"

           "I understand."

           Jim sat down on the casing of the weapon…what the hell. It most likely wasn't a biological/chemical device. The pattern for deployment didn't match. Most of those types of weapons were air-dispersed.

           "Artie…I think this is one of the big ones, possibly ten megatons."

           Actually…it wouldn't matter what size it was, the blast radius would be impossible to escape. Might as well stay to enjoy the show.

           "This will have to go down as the quickest way to check out ever."

           Not to mention all the problems he just inherited today would be gone for good! There would be nothing but pain and suffering ten to twenty miles away, but for Artie and himself it would be over in a millisecond. No pain.

           Jim realized he was being fatalistic. But what the hell, his life had been turned upside down in the past few hours. And now this piece of crap had to fall out of the sky.

           Hang on! How long had it been since this egg roll hit the ground? Ten minutes? It shouldn't take that long to go off, unless it was a bigger weapon than he thought, or a dud! That could happen…nothing is one hundred percent reliable. Or it could have been damaged on impact.

           He was trying to think…tools!

           "Artie! Your car close?"

           "Yeah, over by the curb. Why?"

           "You have a toolbox in the trunk?"

           "Just a bunch of assorted crap."

           "Run over and bring it all here…as fast as you can!"

           Artie took off running. If Jim could get this thing apart somehow, get inside and get to the A-bomb trigger, maybe he could tear things up enough to keep it from going off or at least disarm it if it was truly a dud. Duds could still go off at a later time…just ask any young boy brave enough to hold a firecracker in his hand that had failed to explode.

           Artie slid down beside Jim at the weapon, rusty metal toolbox in hand. "Let's see what you have.

           "Where are you from, Art?" Jim asked as he hurriedly examined the toolbox contents.

           "Wisconsin…Milwaukee area, you?"

           "Born and raised here. Good to meet you." They shook hands quickly.

           Jim saw screwdrivers, a hammer, vise grips, Robo-Grips, etc.

           He grabbed a slotted screwdriver and the hammer, hoping it would match a screw or fitting, or at least be enough to drive a wedge into an opening. Wait. "Artie…hand me the Robo-Grips. I think I see a lug with



The End




copyright 2005 Ken Dean.

Ken Dean

My name is Ken Dean and I live in Hilliard… a suburb of Columbus, OH.

Previous publications have been The Intelligent Master, Fate, Direct Line, The Gift, The Quickest Way, and Tattoo Ink at Also published several stories in different issues of Down in the Dirt magazine, the anthology collection Chaos Theory, both from Scars Publications (

You may contact Ken Dean at: