No one believed it was possible to commandeer an airliner in flight from a land-based location, then Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared over the Indian Ocean, giving rise to The Drone Theory among U.S. intelligence agencies. Since that fateful flight, dozens of other airliners have gone missing without a trace. Is it coincidence? Or is there something sinister at work?
The Drone Theory Taskforce has one directive: Determine whether U.S. Top Secret technology—lost when a CIA drone went down in Iran—is being used to hijack airliners in flight, and if so, recover the technology.
Air Force Intelligence Officer Major Megan Sloan doesn’t believe in coincidences. She’s determined to get her hands on the technology and the person(s) responsible for this current reign of terror.
When a U.S. Government jet carrying top-level officials to Guam is rerouted mid-flight to Pyongyang, The Drone Theory shifts from supposition to cold, hard reality. The stakes have never been higher. Will they locate the source of the signals controlling the aircraft? Will Major Sloan be in time to recover the technology and return control of the plane to the flight crew before the incident escalates into World War III?
“Talk to me, Jude.”
“It was sheer luck, ma’am. I could be wrong.”
“But you don’t think you are.”
“No, ma’am. It’s the same ping as before, only this time the intercept program we added recognized it and began the trace immediately. Not like the other times when all we could do was sit here with our thumbs up our asses.”
Jude’s phone chirped. He picked up the receiver and handed it to me. “Hello. Director Lowell?”
A less than friendly voice came over the line. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”
I refused to flinch at the gruff remark. I’d roust the president and his entire cabinet out of bed if it meant preventing another plane from going down. “Sorry to bother you, Director Lowell, but we’ve got a situation here.”
“What kind of situation, and where is here?”
“You’ve been read in on The Drone Theory?”
There was a pause on the line. I imagined the man mentally sorting through his intelligence briefings for the appropriate reference. “That’s rubbish. An impossible scenario.”
“Not impossible, and we’re about to prove it.”
“Who did you say you are?”
“Major Megan Sloan—Air Force Intelligence. I’ll have someone from the Pentagon call you to confirm.” I glanced up at Sanchez who stood sentry. He nodded and picked up the nearest secure line. Lots of people were going to lose sleep tonight. “When they do, I need your full cooperation. We have reason to believe another plane is about to go missing, only this time, we know which one it is.” I heard another phone ring in the background.
“I’ll hold while you answer your other line.” I nodded my thanks to Sanchez who stood with a phone receiver pressed to his ear. Sanchez smiled at me. After speaking to the person at the end of the line, he hung up. While I waited for Lowell to get his ass chewed on his other line, I waved Sanchez over.
“Get me the info on the flight.” Other members of the task force were filing in now, looking sleepy, tired, and pissed off. “Grab as many people as you need. I want everything.”
“Aren’t you jumping the gun?” Jude asked. “We aren’t even sure the plane is in trouble.”
“Do you really believe everything is fine?”
Jude shook his head. “No.”
“I didn’t think so.”
The director clicked back on the line. “What do you need, Major Sloan?”
Amazing what a phone call from the right person could accomplish. “Global 2455. Somebody needs to make contact with the flight deck. Try the radio first. If it doesn’t work, try the secondary system.” Every airliner came equipped with the text-based Aircraft Communications and Reporting System (ACARS). While radio communications were mostly restricted to talking with air traffic controllers, ACARS allowed ground-to-aircraft communications regarding weather, routing, and gate assignments, as well as functioning as a backup system if radio communications were lost. “We need every commercial aircraft within five hundred miles of Hawaii to try to contact Global 2455 on Guard Frequency. That’s 121.5 if you don’t know.”
“I know what it is, damn it,” the director grumbled. “I’ll get right back to you.” He clicked off.
I passed the handset to Jude. “Sanchez! What have you got?”
More office manager than analyst, Sanchez hustled over with his familiar yellow pad.
When Jude swore, it almost never meant anything good. “What?”
“It’s gone. Disappeared.”
I searched the wall of monitors for the tiny pinpoint representing Global flight 2455. “Just like that? It’s gone?”
“Just like that,” Jude confirmed. “Just like the others. Here one second, gone the next.”
Except we hadn’t been watching the others when they disappeared. We’d found out after the fact on the others. This was different. Because we’d been watching this particular radar blip, we might have a chance of locating the plane in a timely manner. And, if our operating theory proved correct, we might find the person or persons behind the missing planes.
“Last known position?” I signaled Sanchez to write it down. With no radar image to draw from, Jude rattled off the coordinates. “We need eyes on this plane, or what’s left of it, right now. Sanchez, get Rodgers on the horn again.”
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