The Unexpected


There was an open writing competition at the college of a friend of mine. She told me about it and it sounded fun to me. I needed a little push to write since I’ve been writing less lately. Maybe this was it. So the basic requirement for a fiction piece was for it to be under 2000 words. Here’s what I managed to cough up. Its not my best, I agree but I hope you like it. And just btw, the comment section could use some activity 😀 Thanks!


Derek presented his boarding pass to the woman at the gate. She flashed a warm and lively smile at him and took the ticket from him and having checked it, handed it back to him with a cheerful “Have a nice flight!” Derek thanked her and walked down to the plane.

Derek studied Physics at the city’s university and though he hadn’t exactly been a star student through school or early college, he came through when it mattered. He was headed to Cape Town to see his parents who lived there. His family was of South African descent. He had a seat in Economy and as he walked towards his seat he noticed how empty the plane was. He walked past three seats, which were all occupied by conspicuously well-dressed individuals, all in perfectly tailored suits.

***

Walter had just settled down in his seat in Economy Seat 52(G) in the 74-row plane. The aisle seat allowed him easy access to the aisle whenever he felt the need to stretch his legs a bit. He was pretty used to long flights now, but that need still hadn’t perished.

Walter was plugging in his phone into his laptop when he saw a kid walk by him. He looked like he was in his early twenties and he had a backpack on his shoulders. He held a book in his hands. ‘A Clash of Kings’. He wore thick-rimmed black spectacles and had a faint hunch in his gait.

Walter kept looking at him till he could no longer see him. He just wondered how many other youngsters and kids must be on the flight and what would happen to them if this all went south.

He switched on his mobile phone and pressed 7.

“You got something Bradley? There’s ten minutes to gate-closing time.” He asked to the man on the other side of the line.

“Negative. No network activity, no suspicions on the passenger list yet. Nothing much on the airport cameras either. I’ll keep you posted.”

Walter sighed and put his phone into his pocket. He decided to take a stroll and just have a look at the passengers. He buttoned up his jacket and corrected the dimple in his tie as he stood up.

***

Derek was sitting in his window seat and playing a game on his iPad. He had the urge to continue reading his book but he decided to keep it off till he was airborne. The airhostess came by to ask him if he needed anything, and he said he could use some water.

He heard the footsteps of somebody approaching from behind at a relaxed pace. He put his iPad aside just as the loud-footed, dark-skinned individual came into view. Derek looked at him and he looked back. They both smiled at each other. Derek noticed he was one of those guys in the back who he noticed earlier – the ones with the expensive-looking suits.

Walter noticed that the kid put away his tablet away just before he walked into view. He looked back at the kid when he had walked to four seat rows ahead of him. He had his tablet in his hands again. Almost suspicious, Walter thought.

***

The plane was four hours into its journey. Walter had finished his observational tour of the plane but hadn’t really caught anybody suspicious. He didn’t expect he would either. His phone screen suddenly lit up.

“Walter! It’s happening! We intercepted a data transfer from the plane’s network a minute back. It’s from a blocked line and we can’t get past its firewall. We can’t track down its serial number or check who it belongs to. Nothing.”

“Can you track where the data is being transferred?”

“Blocked number. Same story.”

Walter cursed under his breath.

Suddenly, the entire plane shook. And it shook again, harder. Right on cue, Walter thought. He could feel it slightly turning to the left and then, all of a sudden it turned a full ninety degrees to the right and Walter was thrown out of his seat. Walter fell into the seat. His head crashed into the window and his laptop fell on his stomach. He let out a groan. He touched the back of his head. It was bleeding and he felt dizzy. He could see a handful of other people who had been flung in a similar way.

A guy in a similar suit as Walter’s walked up to him and helped him up. He was clutching his right shoulder.

“I’m 72,” he said.

“I’m Walter.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Pretty crazy turbulence, this.”

Walter and 72 started waddling up to the front of the plane with the support of the seats. The plane was still not completely aligned and they hadn’t completely recovered either.

“Bradley what’s going on?” Walter barked into his phone.

“Not much. What you had was just your standard turbulence. But the pilots did lose control for a moment there, that’s why the plane suddenly rotated onto its side.”

“Well, you’d better get something. The whole plane is in a tizzy. God knows how many casualties there are.” Walter turned the phone off again. He clutched the back of his head and grimaced.

They were almost at the end of Economy when Walter saw the kid, Derek dabbling away on his laptop sitting in his seat as if he was completely unfazed with what was going on.

“Something’s up with that kid,” Walter said under his breath.

Walter and 72 were walking in the aisle between the middle and right column of seats. Derek’s seat was a window seat in the left column of seats. Walter looked at Derek for a moment and then in a single, coordinated move he used his hands to lift his body’s weight against the seats and thrust himself into the left aisle, three seat rows behind Derek’s seat. 72 was left slightly gaping at Walter.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Walter reprimanded Derek.

“I..uh… nothing much, really. Just… Facebook. This doesn’t seem like your average air trip, you know?” Derek blurted out with a nervous laugh.

“Kid, just cut to the chase. What are you really doing?” Walter knew he had the kid in a spot. After a little authoritative coaxing, Derek told Walter he was eavesdropping on ATC communications with the cockpit, which was all pretty futile because there was nothing wrong with the communications. Derek said, in his words, that he ‘knew his way around stuff’ and that he just wanted to know what was going on. He apologized for doing what he did. Just then the Captain started speaking and gave the obligatory ‘Sorry for the turbulence, but everything’s just fine speech’.

Walter was initially headed to the cockpit to see if there was something in there that could feed his suspicions but now those suspicions had been doused altogether, at least for the moment.

He and 72 headed through Business to the front galley where they saw two female crew members. One had a deep gash on her forehead and the other had a bruised forearm. The latter was helping the former clean out her wound. Walter signaled 72 to stay with the two and assist them in looking for other passengers who might need any kind of assistance, while Walter headed to the cockpit to speak to the pilots. He turned the knob but the door was locked. He knocked on it and then looking into the camera above the door, he declared himself to be FBI and he displayed his badge. The door unlocked and Walter went in.

“I’m Walter Sullivan, FBI.”

“Gregory Driver,” said the Captain solemnly and looked at his co-pilot.

“Phillip Huston,” said the co-pilot.

“We have a suspect of some pretty serious crimes. And we believe he’s on this plane. That’s all I can say about him at this moment. We intercepted a data transfer from a device on this plane a while back and my men are on it at the moment. We will have to move a few people around in Business to give me and my partner some room without disturbance.”

“I will allow that. What do I tell ATC?” the Captain inquired.

“Let’s keep it quiet for now. They have no need to suspect anything. I’ll keep you guys updated.”

Walter’s phone buzzed. It was Bradley again.

“You’re looking for a guy named Jeremy Spear. Airport camera picked him up as wearing blue jeans, a green polo t-shirt with a grey hoodie on top. Also had a blue cap. Caucasian, black eyes, dark brown hair, about six feet tall.”

Walter scanned the Business section and quickly went through the passengers in Economy too. As he got to the end of Economy, he saw an attendant trying to calm people down and coax them into returning to their seats. He asked her if she’d seen somebody matching that description.

“I think I saw a guy in a green polo go into one of the lavatories at the back,” she replied almost immediately.

Walter ran to the lavatories and flung all of their doors open. The third one had a familiar figure lying on the floor, blood flowing through what looked like a knife wound in his abdomen. Walter kicked the lavatory door in frustration.

Just then, the plane shook heavily again. Walter started sprinting to the front of the plane and when he was near his seat row, the plane shook again and then he heard a loud sound coming from his right. Turning to his right, he could see orange flames erupting from the right engine. Almost immediately the plane dipped to its right and then started falling quite steeply. He could see people running about, screaming frantically before he slumped to the ground in a heap and hit his head on an armrest.

***

Meanwhile the real Jeremy Spears sat in a hotel room with an aluminium briefcase by his side. The briefcase had a small screen that displayed a series of commands that Spears had typed in. He then picked up his mobile phone, opened up the Messages application, typed in ‘It’s done’ and sent it to a number which he had memorised. He pressed the ‘Delete’ button and deleted the message he had just sent. He then pressed a button in the briefcase that shut down the secure network which he had just used to send the message.

Finally, he turned on the television and waited for the news of the crash to come in.

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