Jason Willey stood patiently waiting for the basket containing his property to slide down the track. He had removed his belt and his shoes and put them in the basket along with his carry-on bag, passed through the scanner and now waited for his things to pass through x-ray.
He had done this all before, here at the John Wayne International Airport and several others. Jason remembered times of easier travel, prior to the expansion of international terrorism and a catastrophic direct attack on the United States. It was inconvenient, and it made him a bit angry, but the changes in security seemed necessary and he could put up with it all.
This time the basket was a bit slow in exiting the x-ray tunnel. Jason looked up at the operator and noticed the man looking rather concerned, staring at his screen. The man looked up, looked past Jason and waved over another security officer. They consulted for a moment, and then the second officer picked up Jason's basket.
Jason felt some sympathy for the man. He looked haggard, and as he approached he also had a look of apology on his face. A look of apology, Jason mused. Not one of the most common expressions, but that is what he saw in the countenance of the man walking his direction.
"We seem to have a problem, sir." said the security officer. "I will need to examine some items in your carry-on." The officer indicated an open table. Jason nodded and followed.
The man moved a few things around in the basket, and handed Jason his shoes and belt. Jason always wore slip-on shoes when he flew, and these he slipped quickly on his feet. He watched the man respectfully probe through the carry-on items as he threaded his belt through the belt loops and fastened the buckle.
"That's a teapot, from Disneyland." said Jason as the man opened a bag that obviously could have come from no place else. "Alice in Wonderland. I collect Disney."
The man nodded, but did not attempt to open the box. Instead he picked up a paper wrapped item and glanced at Jason.
"Oh, that's just a snow globe." Jason said. He nodded toward the officer, who began to unwrap the item. "Kind of a last minute purchase. I thought it would look cool on one of my shelves at home."
The snow globe was revealed. It had a Pirates of the Caribbean theme, and the "snow" was actually bits of material intended to look like gold pieces. The security guard turned the snow globe over and ran his thumb over a small label.
This item cannot be carry on baggage. Jason's jaw dropped. He vaguely recalled reading about this but it had simply slipped his mind as he made the purchase.
"Throw it away, I guess." Jason said. He sighed and gathered his things from the basket as the officer wrapped the snow globe back up and placed it in a box under the table.
Not looking at Jason the officer said in a low voice, "When is your flight?"
"An hour and a half."
The officer nodded and said, "Have a nice flight, sir."
Jason made his way to the waiting area adjacent to gate two. He sat and contemplated just what went through the mind of the airport designer who placed so many windows facing the setting sun. It was a bit warm and the light of the waning day was too intense, even through the tinted windows between where he sat and the tarmac apron upon which the arriving and departing aircraft sat.
He realized that he was just distracting himself. Though the price of the snow globe was less than ten dollars it angered Jason that some terrorist without a face had cost him his relatively meaningless treasure. Sure, the terrorists probably fought for some obscure ideals of which Jason knew nothing, but that mattered little. They had touched his life and offended him.
Jason went back and forth in his mind for most of an hour before he realized that someone was standing behind him. He glanced up and saw the security officer that had confiscated the snow globe standing there, looking out at the tarmac.
"I dropped a slip of paper under your seat." said the officer. "It has a web site and a phone number on it. Wait until I am gone before picking it up. I shouldn't be doing this, but I am very tired of these people impacting our lives. It's just a small thing, but at least it is something."
Jason nodded, saying nothing. He waited until he was sure that the officer no longer stood behind him. He bent down, adjusted his pant leg, and then swept up the slip of paper. He tucked it into a pocket, not even looking at it.
He felt better, knowing that the officer felt some sympathy for his small loss. The remainder of his wait went quickly. Soon he was winging his way home.
It was late the next morning when Jason remembered the slip of paper. He had been tired when he got home, and had not even fully unpacked his things. He picked up the cast-off pants from the floor and went through the pockets to find the paper.
There it was. A web address and a phone number. Jason took the slip of paper to his desk, sat down at his computer and typed in the address. Soon a rather simple website loaded. It at first looked like a news and opinion page relating to the activities of international terrorists. However, a theme appeared as he scanned the articles. Following a few hints Jason made his way through a couple of linked pages and found what the officer had intended him to find.
There were short articles relating small inconveniences others had suffered as a consequence of the activities of these faceless terrorists. Most writers seemed angry and felt powerless. Here and there on the page were links associated with one question.
"If you could strike back, would you?"
"Yes." said Jason, under his breath.
He followed one of the links. The page was simple. All text. No images. No links. One page address written into the text. The article referred to pieces of paper similar to the one he held. Then Jason came to the critical paragraph.
You can strike back, in a very small way. Somewhere in the world a terrorist is being held, captured by a private security concern. This particular terrorist is linked to the Internet through a remotely initiated electronic device. That device is constructed from a cell phone trigger taken from him as he sought to kill men, women and children with a backpack bomb. Now that trigger sends seventy thousand volts of electricity through his body whenever someone calls.
Jason glanced at his slip of paper. A web site and a phone number.
Jason copied and pasted the web site address embedded in the text of the article he was reading. He hit go. The screen opened on a live video feed. A young man sat in a chair. He was naked from the waist up, and looked quite haggard. Jason had expected a mad man, a representation of every nightmare a child might have. This man just looked like some young guy. Like anybody.
Anybody who happened to carry a backpack loaded with explosives, intent on blowing up a bus or train station or ice cream parlor. Jason visualized the children who would have been dismembered or burned in the explosion, had this man succeeded in his task.
He opened his cell phone and punched in the number. Jason paused, staring at the number on the screen. This man had been acting on a set of ideals. From his own perspective this man had seen his intended actions as noble and right.
Jason looked at the man on the computer screen. Yes, the man had ideals. Jason acknowledged that. In the context of his own world the man was noble. Jason acknowledged that.
His thumb poised over the send button. Yes, he had his own nobility and ideals. But the man was wrong! Wrong, and no longer faceless.
It was not dismembered old ladies that Jason visualized in this moment. Neither was it burned children. It was a snow globe.
Jason pressed the send button, and watched the image on his computer screen.