The Murderous Descent

It was the second Tuesday of 2019.Robert Horner hadn’t done much today.He arrived at his office like any other day at nine.As per the routine he was about to get a call from Susan Roy, his manager.”Sir we have got the meeting scheduled with Mr. James Wood at two post lunch.I have prepared all the files and the data about the solid drive deal.I will drop in a call once we are ready.”

“Thank you Susan.”He smiled as he put the phone down on his desk.His deal with WD was just hours away which would boost his net worth by a couple of millions.Being the CEO of Horner Electronics and the sixth richest man in the world, this deal would reward him a place amongst the top three.

Horner had just finished his Tuna Sandwich when he heard the xylophone playing on his handset.His custom made Mercedes with bulletproof windows and a black tinted windshield was waiting for him thirty four floors below.In fifteen minutes, he was on his way to the deal.He would invest a little time catching up with the news on
his little black cellphone his company had manufactured.Minutes later, an invitation popped up in his inbox.The Global Business Summit at New York awaited his presence eight months ahead.

Meanwhile 3400 miles away, a computer engineer was on the way to an old abandoned airstrip on the outskirts of New York.”Munrow Fields”, a board on the left of the highway read as he drove past it. After spending over two months on a Swiss vacation, he was ready to embrace his next mission.Eric Hall, tall and slim with bright green eyes stopped in front of a small two storey building at the corner of
the field.Few minutes later, a text flashed on his black smartwatch, a five digit pin.He swiped his keycard along the scanner at the entrance and entered the pin he had just received and got into the elevator which took him to an underground facility.The lift opened to a large dark room which had rows of computers on either sides.It was a secret organization which hired Eric three years back.
”Welcome back Eric, we have got the next mission ready”, a deep voice spoke from the corner and signaled him to enter the room at the last.Inside was a table and on it sat a large Airbus A320 model.A projector attached to the ceiling switched on and beamed the next target along with his bio on the white wall a couple of feet away.He had to study the airplane’s wings and its structure in detail as he
would be working for an airline in three months.For this mission the man had demanded two hundred thousand dollars which were to be paid into a bank account in Germany, half now, half on completion of the task.They had to pay whatever sum he had demanded with their employee being one of the most successful contract killers in the world.His employers wanted Horner to be eliminated as soon as possible and most importantly, it had to look like a mere accident.After eight months, he would be landing his private jet at NYC and this was the chance they wouldn’t afford to miss.Hall would spend five hours of the day on the scraped aircraft in a small hanger of the field with a personal instructor hired to train him.As the evening fell, he would study the software which powered the autopilot system he would be hacking into.

After months of rigorous training and practice, he applied to work as a technician at LiteAir, an American low cost airline which had commenced operations just two years ago.Though the interview lasted a couple of hours, it seemed like a cakewalk to the mastermind to crack the test and win the job.Hall seemed pretty
happy as this move had already done most of the work the plan needed.The next few months were easy, keep his head low and work hard.

Eight months later on a bright morning, Horner left the lands of England with his Bombardier C 601, eighteen seater business jet.He studied the plans and the agenda for the summit sipping on the vintage red wine from the minibar.After spending over seven hours above the Atlantic, it was finally the time for touchdown.While
working in the hangar, Hall’s watch produced a small beep which indicated that his target was only hundreds of feet away.Once the business tycoon entered the gate, his compact jet made its way to a small rented hangar at a corner of the airport.The man watched the jet carefully as it taxied to the place where it would rest for the next two days. ”Hangar 7B”,he said to himself while returning inside
his hangar.

Two days after, it was finally the day of action.Hall and his employers had been looking forward to this day since months.After the flag carrier’s departure to Melbourne, LiteAir flight 721 to Chicago was the last to leave New York.Two hours prior to departure, a faulty flap on the right wing was reported which would cause a delay if the team were to fix it.A quick and effective solution would be to simply replace it with one from their other aircrafts parked along the gates.Hall took the suv parked in the hangar and rushed towards the workshop almost a mile away.Once he made sure he had lost sight of his hangar, he drove towards the hangar 7B isolated in the darkness.He opened the backpack he had put in the jeep a day before and opened his most powerful weapon, a black and heavy laptop which helped him crack one of the toughest digital locks.Being a cyber security expert, it was a matter of minutes to connect his laptop to the hangar’s security mainframe and with a few keyboard taps, the master door opened just enough for the man to break in.With just seven stairs to climb, the route to the cockpit was
easy.Once aboard, he hacked into the autopilot system and modified the automatic pitch assistance.Producing a small beep, the system ensured that the changes had been saved and loaded into the machine.With this, he quickly disconnected his computer and trudged towards the door.With a few clicks, the enormous door
closed and he was back on his way to the shop leaving the scene clean as if nothing had happened.He returned to the hangar with the replacement complaining about the jeep’s ignition problem as the reason for being late and quickly replaced the part he had tampered with.Soon, the flight took off without any issues and the team could finally call it a day.

The Summit had been good.It witnessed lots of deals, plenty of plans and a pool of ideas.All the top executives and leaders had their eyes fixed on Horner.When you are a part of the entrepreneur world, not everyone shares your joy but after all these years, it didn’t matter much to him.All he wanted was to expand his empire he had planned to since decades and finally it was all coming together. ”I dream of being the world’s richest man at least once be it for a day or two”, he
said with that joyful smile as his car went through the Times Square back to the hotel looking at his headline sliding on a building next to the Broadway, ”Robert Horner on the podium!”, little did he know it would be his last dream tonight.
Horner had a busy morning the next day.He was yet to pack some of his stuff in his brown suitcase.He carefully wrapped the polyresin statue of liberty he got for his son back home.”Gregory’s going to love this”,he said as he put the souvenir inside, without knowing it would never reach London.It was eleven when the intercom rang.The car was ready for his airport transfer.Two hours later, his
jet was on the taxiway waiting for the clearance to hit the runway.The two small General Electric power units let out a roar as the jet ran down the runway and started climbing, slowly vanishing in the clear blue sky.

Everything seemed to go on well until the captain engaged the autopilot knob to set the altitude.The plane started losing altitude slowly but the descent became steep few minutes later.The nose kept pointing downwards as the flight progressed.”Mayday mayday, we are going down!”, a distress signal was received by the ATC minutes after takeoff.The plane kept diving with the pilots completely puzzled and scared.The plane lost manual control as the jet was surrendered to the hands of the computer bringing it down.The pilots could see the land rotating in front of the windshield as it came closer and closer.”Too low terrain, pull up!”, the machine voice kicked in as the jet began losing elevation at a much higher
rate.Twenty seven minutes from takeoff, the tycoon’s jet crashed into a farm near Greenville.

Robert Horner’s sudden death went on to become the most trending topic only this time, in his absence.Top safety engineers and investigators studied the flight in detail from top to bottom.After a month of deep study and analysis, the expert panel came up with the final report. ”Flight BC601 suffered a crash on losing altitude control after engaging the autopilot.A major software issue made the sensors convey wrong altitude readings to the elevators and the plane followed a sharp descent.The pilots tried disabling the autopilot but the computer simply prohibited the pilots from doing so.It was really unfortunate that it was Mr. Horner’s jet who became the third victim of such a system failure”, read the front page of the New York Times Hall was reading as he waited patiently for his plane
to Las Vegas at the terminal.The mission had been finally accomplished and it was now time to take a break and gamble.Moments before boarding, a message flashed on his smartwatch. ”A presto!”

– Aditya Date