April 13, 2014
This short story is entirely a work of fiction, all the names and characters are fictitious. Written and dedicated to pilots, passengers and all involved governments for their efforts in search and rescue of a flight that recently disappeared without a trace.
When the secret agent from Iran’s military delivered a sealed letter in his hand he could not believe his eyes. Irans ex president himself had called him for a secret meeting! The people called the ex president ‘Khalifa’ in hushed tones. Though he was no more in power, he commanded greater respect than the current president or all the earlier presidents of Iran put together. They all secretly believed this Khalifa had a divine mission to destroy the enemies of Iran. He worked behind the scenes planning and preparing for the mother of all battles against Israel. The democratically elected president was known for his liberal non radical views. While his selection as president kept the world community at ease, it gave Khalifa the needed time to finish their clandestine nuclear project.
The location of the meeting sent shivers down his spine. It was the most secure underground fortress which not many were aware of. It was a fortress, deep in the very bowels of the earth and looked like a science fiction with its advanced security gadgets. The security personnel looked in awe at this simple old retired general who was one of the few privileged ones to enter those secure gates. There were rumors that many who disagreed with the Khalifa never made it back through those gates. What could it be…? He wondered. There was not much common between him and Khalifa except the fact that they both shared the same ideology of Jihad against Israel. Both were childhood friends. The Ex president had his roots in Turkey where they both grew up. While he joined the Iranian defence, Khalifa climbed the ladder of success in politics. He had served for several years in Iranian military and naturally the Khalifa had great respect for his friend.
But he knew this was not a casual friendly meeting. What could it be?
As he walked past the news stand he read the bold headlines which confirmed that Israel had finalized plans for a pre-emptive strike on the nuclear sites of Iran. Was there anything they could do to prevent it? he sighed. Khalifa was their savior. He was never short of ideas. During his last session Khalifa had indeed discussed with him his plan of using a civilian plane, painted with a neutral country flag to fly above Israel and dislodge a smaller version of a nuke. The idea had impressed the top brass. It was simply a brilliant plan. Who would suspect a civilian plane? By the time Israeli military gathered their wits, Israel, their sworn enemy would be no more on the world map just as the Khalifa had predicted openly. The only problem they faced was that none of their planes were reliable to fly on such important mission. Due to sanctions the spare parts and upkeep of the planes was a huge challenge.
The meeting with Khalifa was an unforgettable experience which he would remember till his death. It was like an induction ceremony among the Mafia or some secretive gangs. Khalifa had solemnly assigned him his role in procuring a good plane from Turkey. They knew it could be easy for him since his cousin Mustafa, a Turkish pilot was already groomed by him with ideology of jihad. Mustafa was almost like his foster son. All he had to do was to use his paternal tone, religious sentiment, and convince the pilot of his reward in paradise for handing over the plane for jihad. The people and its cargo would be taken care of by other generals. Responsibilities were distributed to all with precision.
It was past midnight when he finally walked towards his home after the five hour grilling with Khalifa and his top generals. He could see the secret agents of Iranian defense escorting him from a distance in the cover of darkness till he reached the safety of his home. He felt proud and satisfied that they had trusted him. He resolved that he would do his best performance in getting what they wanted.
The sequence of events were all well planned. As soon as the plane exited the airspace of Turkey, the captain would say his good bye to the ground staff, and then switch off the transponders and disable all communication gadget. The plane would dive to just few hundred feet from the ground, to evade any radar from tracking them, and head towards Iran. A flight simulator was already made available to the pilot to practice landing in the unknown Iranian desert. A secret runway in the Iranian desert would suddenly be ready for landing, and once the plane landed, the tents and huts of nomads with camels will completely cover the runway and make it invisible. It was easy to hide the plane under a huge tent till it was re painted, loaded with the bomb and ready to fly.
There was an Iranian submarine assigned to plant the debris to divert the attention of the search and rescue teams. There was another ship with the flag of a neutral country assigned by Khalifa to get rid of the debris as soon as it was sighted by the search teams, so that they could never certify what it was. The Iranians desperately needed time, till the plane was securely hidden, repainted and loaded with a nuke, ready for its assignment. Even a simple error could destroy their long planned project.
The final call for departure of Turkish Flight 370 sounded over the public address system, sending the passengers hurrying towards the gate. Captain Mustafa, the elderly pilot and his assistant Bashir swiped their security cards at the entry and walked towards the aerobridge leading to Flight 370.
Mustafa was preoccupied in his thoughts which was quite normal. Being a very religious man, he always pondered with philosophical questions, and kept his thoughts to himself. Bashir was just the opposite by nature. He was young, in love with Ruby, a girl who too worked with the same airlines as an air hostess. He was particularly happy that she was assigned to this long flight and he would have some quality time with her in the cockpit when captain Mustafa went for a nap in the business class as he usually did. His face brightened up with as soon as he saw her at the door. She was smiling at passengers with folded hands. “God, she looks so pretty in that uniform” he thought. She secretly shot a passionate look at him with that special smile much different from the plastic smiles that were reserved for other passengers. Bashir grinned like a mischievous boy. He was soon going to marry her and Ruby would be all his. Humming a song he went about checking the control panels of the cockpit and went through the routine protocols before the flight could take off.
Bashir had a vague feeling that captain Mustafa was unusually quiet that night. “The old man is exhausted”…he thought. Again a smile appeared on his face when he realized captain Mustafa will take a longer nap in the business class seat as usual and he would have the cockpit all for himself and his fiancee.
There was an unusual festive atmosphere inside the flight that day. Among the passengers there were 13 scientists working for a US company, and none of them knew the others would be flying in the same flight. The company always kept assignments a secret since they dealt with defence related contracts. But this was such a surprise to see twelve of them in one flight. As the screams of joy and hugs with colleagues went on, the stewardesses served food, ever smiling. Then it was time to put off the lights and take some rest.
Just as expected Captain Mustafa went out of the cockpit. Ruby who was waiting for a chance entered the cockpit. Bashir locked the cockpit door. The Plane was on auto pilot mode. Unexpectedly in a minute Ahmed was back knocking on the door. Did he know what Bashir was up to? Not likely. Mustafa never let air hostesses inside the cockpit. He had even warned Bashir not to do it. As Ruby hid behind the seat and covered herself with a blanket, Bashir dimmed the cabin light, opened the door and walked out of the cockpit as if nothing had happened.
Unaware of a hidden airhostess in the dark cabin, Mustafa locked the door to the cockpit. He initiated a steep climb above 45,000 feet. He switched off the transponders, changed the course of the flight towards the holy city of Mecca and he bowed down to pray. The oxygen supply was already disabled. Ruby could hear her own heart pounding wildly. There was a panic and commotion in the passenger area for a while, but soon all became quiet as they all passed out due to lack of oxygen. The plane now descended with a steep nose dive. The ear splitting noice of engines against air was terrifying.
Ruby trembled under the blanket. She guessed the purpose of the pilot. He was probably going to crash the plane….? She was the only one beside him who could do something. As she remembered Bashir and the rest of the unconscious passengers, an uncontrollable panic came over her. Taking a briefcase lying nearby she suddenly plunged at Mustafa, delivering a fatal blow on his head. She had only watched these violent scenes in the movies. With trembling hands and pounding heart she started typing frantically on the keypad of the flight computer as she had seen Bashir doing sometimes, to change the course of the plane manually. The plane erratically changed the course again towards the southwest. She then passed out. The auto pilot was on. The fuel tank was gradually empty and alarms of every kind were ringing in the deadly silence of the cockpit.
Unknown to the rest of the world the giant plane gently glided over the water, floated for a while and slowly disappeared in to the bottom of the sea. Mercifully there was no pain in drowning as the people had already passed out. As the impact was minimal, the plane did not break in to pieces, so no cargo floated out. As the fuel was already spent there was no tell tale evidence of an oil slick.
There was panic in the CIA headquarters. The news of a missing plane brought the top brass scrambling to the board rooms. The most worrying part was that it had some of the best scientists working for the defense department of United States. They were involved in the top secret research involving semi conductors. The research was at its final stage, and could revolutionize the American defense.
The teams of specialists worked overtime to track the invisible plane on their radar screen. They could not afford to lose the best brains along with their research to a country like Iran or North Korea. All resources of satellites were pooled and in a few minutes there were some thousand odd scientists working grimly, their eyes glued to the screen of their radars and computers.
The special phone in the American embassy in Turkey rang several times that night. The top secret news was conveyed to the prime minister and transport minister of Turkey. They were to reveal nothing to the public. When the big brother US said “ it is a national security issue” all nodded without asking a question. For over four weeks the transport minister of Turkey was to read out the progress report sent by CIA, speaking in multiple words to anxious families of passengers, but telling nothing.
Two high speed submarines with latest laser guided weapons headed towards the Arabian sea once the US president signed the secret order to shoot down the plane. For the greater good of the world they were willing to shoot down the plane before it reached enemy hands. Thus the research done by their scientists would rather die with them than reaching the wrong hands. But where was the plane?
It was the fourth week of the search. The teams of scientists at CIA kept it a secret that they were bluffed by the fake Debris and fake reports from fictitious non existing satellites. It was too humiliating to admit they were taken for a ride and had wasted precious weeks researching fake data. The second search zone had apparently found the most probable debris and was declared as a probable site where the plane might have crashed. But again, they were fooled by the orange fishing floats that were purposely planted to misguide the search teams.
The families of the passengers were exasperated by the stale report that was read by the transport minister of Turkey day after day. It told them absolutely nothing. Tempers ran high, they screamed, shouted, cried, but they could do nothing. The search teams admitted they had wasted precious time already. The route taken by the plane was reviewed and corrected again, based on the calculations of satellites. No one could pinpoint where and how the initial wrong data came from. The US submarines with laser guided weapons quietly returned to the base as there was no more hope of finding the plane.
The search teams had now abandoned the search. Millions of dollars were spent in the search, looking for a flight that evaded the best of the radars and equipment. Khalifa and his generals met to say a silent prayer for their martyr pilot, who probably tried to carry out his assignment but they never would know what hit him.
The Big Brother US and his scientists continued to scratch their heads and decided not to boast anymore of their ability in scientific advances. Despite all their advance in technology to scan the galaxies they could do nothing to find a simple stupid plane.