In the Near Future
In a small warehouse in Howard Beach, a few miles outside the fence of JFK International Airport, Hassan was going over the details with his two partners. He stared into the eyes of Farhat, the young Turkish man who was fidgeting with a set of car keys. Hassan had his doubts about him but kept them to himself. The mission was too important to risk just because Farhat hadn't given himself completely to the cause. Farhat's level of commitment had to be probed. Hassan was afraid that his young recruit was more concerned about his pretty girlfriend back in Istanbul than he was about the mission.
"Farhat," Hassan began, "the time has come. Are you with us?"
"Yes. Why do you doubt me?"
"I don't waste time doubting. I believe. I decide. Then I act."
Farhat nodded and looked over at the third man, Ramzy, a Palestinian on loan from Hamas. With his arms crossed, Ramzy looked uninterested until he spoke up. "Fine. Then we start." Ramzy motioned to several large fuel tanks in the corner of the warehouse. "But what about those?"
Hassan smiled and said, "Don't smoke." He held a sat-fone, the newest generation of digitally encrypted satellite cell phones. He clicked it on and waited until a woman inside the terminal answered.
"Talk to me," said Hassan.
"National Airlines Flight 433 to Denver is boarded, waiting on the tarmac. Clearance has not yet been given. I will tell you when it starts taxiing down the runway."
"I will be waiting," said Hassan. "Remember. We'll need two minutes lead time."
The woman said, "I will make you proud."
After clicking off the sat-fone, Hassan barked to Farhat, "Recite your role in the plan again."
Farhat swallowed hard and spoke, "I wait inside the van. I do not start the engine until I see your text on my Allfone. I have ten seconds to read it before it self-deletes. Then I turn on the ignition. Wait for you and Ramzy. If I see police or security, I turn off the van, get out, and walk over to tell you, but I don't run. If the mission is completed, then we all get in, and I drive exactly three miles per hour over the speed limit --- no more, no less --- to our destination. Don't run red lights. Obey all stop signs."
"Shore Parkway to I-278."
Hassan put his face close to Farhat's. "One correction," said Hassan.
"Not if the mission is completed. Get that straight. We will complete the mission. We must not fail." Then, to put a point on it, Hassan poked a finger into Farhat's chest and said, "Sha-Ja-'a . . ." Farhat wrinkled his brow. Hassan smiled. His one-word mandate to Farhat to "have courage" was meant as a warning.
"Allah Ackbar!" Hassan yelled out.
Now they would wait. But not for long.
Deborah Jordan settled into seat 14A, next to the over-wing emergency exit on the 797 parked on the tarmac of JFK. First class was filled, so she had settled for coach on her flight to Denver. At least she had extra foot room in that spot and no overhead storage compartment above her seat. Too bad, though, that her father's private Citation X jet was getting security upgrades and was unavailable, otherwise she'd have asked for a ride. Not that commercial flights bothered her; she didn't have a rich-kid attitude. She just wanted to get home to her family's sprawling log mansion in Colorado. It was their family retreat. Sure, she loved their New York City penthouse, which was close to her father's Manhattan office. But the place in the Rockies held a special attraction for her.
She studied the slow pack-animal parade of passengers as they shuffled down the aisle and stuffed bags into the overhead compartments. As she put her purse on the floor by her feet, she stuffed her hand into the embossed leather bag and pulled out a small magazine, National Security Review. After buckling her seat belt, she sat back and tried to focus on her reading.
Just then, a man in his early thirties shoved his carry-on into an overhead, took the seat next to her, and flashed her a smile. He wore a golf shirt --- too tight, she thought --- maybe to show off his biceps, which, she had to admit, were impressive. A chiseled face and something interesting about the nose. It was off-kilter, like it had been broken.
Short hair. Blue eyes. Uh-oh. He caught me looking.
The man smiled again. Then Deborah, after tossing a tight-lipped nod in his direction, turned her attention back to the magazine. When the jet was full, an attendant bent over in her direction. There was a courteous smile and the standard question: was Deborah willing and able to activate the emergency exit door next to her if the need arose?
"Absolutely. No problem."