2.33 AM, 27th March 2010, 41,000 Ft. Above Sea Level.
“This is Capt. James Di Guero on flight number AM 3425, en route to Rio De Janeiro. Maintaining a constant altitude at 40,500 Ft. ASL. due to bad weather conditions, as per instructions. Awaiting rerouting to avoid the thunder storm.” said the Captain to the air command centre in Rio, the closest one in contact with the cockpit. This unexpected storm was a result of the cyclone “Anita”, which had already affected most parts of Southern Brazil, changed its’ course towards the Caribbean islands. The Captain ordered the safety lights in the cabin to be turned on, to avoid undesirable circumstances to any of the 253 passengers and crew aboard, including 34 children.
There was an unknown gloom spelt on the aircraft. The occasional thunder strikes and the glowing clouds scared the adults while they amused the children who were awake and peeping through their windows with the scintillating rays of light. There was an unusual turbulence, a really strong turbulence by any standards to maintain a smooth flight.
“This is Air command centre, Rio International Airport. Request copied. Please re route the flight by 68˚ South East for a clear sky. You might see some issues with the communications as the new flight path might take you off the range of this command centre.” replied the flight officer who took the shift three hours ago.
With a failed link between the weather satellite and the command centre, no one knew that there was an even bigger danger awaiting on the new path. The reports used to reroute were outdated by 19 hours, but no one really noticed that.
As he received the rerouting instructions, Capt. James ordered his fellow pilot, Roger to set the flaps and redefine the course of the flight. His white wrinkled skin showed his age while his rock-steady hands showed his experience and confidence even at this hour of danger looking down upon them. That was the time to use all the training and experience he had gained over his thousands of hours of flying experience and he did. Capt. James with his equally efficient co-pilot steered away from a potential catastrophic threat. Their escape brought an imminent smile on their faces. The passengers felt relieved after a short announcement by the crew about their rerouting and the news of a subsided danger. They thought they escaped, but not completely so.
Although the attempts to avoid thunder strikes were successful, there were a few occasional lightning strikes that struck the plane. But, they weren’t considered serious, as there was no visible damage reported by the state-of-art equipment on the dashboards of the cockpit. Every engine and system were working perfectly fine as per the dashboard indicators. But there was one strike that didn’t miss the plane. A rupture on the wing near the engine was only minutes away from tearing into a deep crack. The crack resulted in a fuel leak from the wing and then it started to show up on the fuel level indicator.
“Captain, we are losing the fuel on the left monitor” shouted Roger, the co-pilot alarmed at the unexpected change in the readings.
The buzzing alarms and the red lights flashing in the cockpit reported the rapid fuel loss. Added to this was a spark due to the mishaps in the turbine engine that caught a fire because of the leaking fuel on to the engine. Boom. The engine was down with an explosion and debris flew away towards the rear of the aircraft.
“Damn, we lost an engine on the left. Roger, check the thrust and set the flaps. We are dropping fast.” clamoured the captain in horror. He assumed that they could fly somehow to an airport with the reserve fuel in the fuselage to compensate the loss.
There was rapid fall in the altitude and but could still fly with the other three turbines trying to compensate for the lost engine. A huge rotor blade from the exploded engine flew away and hit the fuselage with a heavy impact, damaging the reserve fuel tank. With the rapid loss of altitude and flying debris, the fuselage got torn apart from the plane, leaving no chances for the plane to stay up in the air. The communications with the command centre were lost as warned.
There were prayers on every lips, tears in every pair of eyes and no hope on any of the faces. The newly weds had their palms clasped, the children hugged their mothers out of fear and the mothers held them out of pain, the businessmen took a last hopeless look at their family photos in their wallets and on mobile phones, the elderly looked at their dearest and prayed to save them. With all the odds stacked against them, there was nothing that could be done to stop this struggling aircraft from touching the ground.
“Varun, your father loves you more than anything else. He always wanted to tell you this, but he never could. Whatever he did was for your own good.” said a mother as her last words to a son detached from his family, looking into his emotionless, but moist blue eyes. It was only his sister Dhairya who has always been either verbally or emotionally connected to him, who was sitting next to him holding him tight.
“I am sorry, maa. I love you people. I am sorry for everything.” said Varun to his mother in the last minutes of their life and held her tight, with tears welling up in his eyes. His mother could not stop her tears for that was the first time she saw anything close to tears his eyes in 10 years.
The plane touched the ground the nose first and flipped on its’ body after getting dragged for at least a mile before it came to a halt in hundreds of pieces and a thick blanket of smoke and flames. There was a never ending darkness and silence except for the chirping sound of fire, burning its way through the remains of the aircraft. Despite of such horrendous accident, Varun and his family, along with 23 other passengers, got out just alive and heavily bruised. Lying half dead on the ground, bleeding, crying for help, moaning with pain, they could hardly see anything around except for the burning debris and scattered bodies of the dead passengers in the little light of the dawn. This is was just the beginning of the horrors of their life. They would rather wish to be dead than to be in that forbidden and forgotten place on the planet.
Varun Singhania, the Indian born 27-year old heir to the multi-billion dollar valued, Sterling Industries, was not like any other billionaire son. He was not the typical party type bully billionaire who drove a Lamborghini and used Armani and Tom Ford suits. He drove a Lexus and wore anything that made him comfortable. He was a tall, well-built and groomed man, who could immediately impress anyone with his looks. His fair complexion and square jawline would fall in place with his clear blue eyes. He graduated from Stanford University with majors in Mechatronic engineering with 6 patents in 4 years in advanced robotics and a PhD in the same. He also earned his minors in Native Symbology, for he was passionate about ancient literature and culture. He was a genius in himself and devoted most of his time for research in Andro-humanoid robots and exploring new undiscovered places.
If there were a few things he loved in his entire life, they would be Dhairya, his 16-year old younger sister and Nisha, the love of his life. He loved his family and valued them. But their story of detached attachments go a bit back in time, when he made a breakthrough discovery that could’ve changed the world, had it not been for his father to stop him. Dhairya is the only one who always stood by him and is one of the two people whom he actually talked to. Nisha, his love and a childhood friend has been with him almost through his entire life.
It was 9.30 PM on a Sunday night and Varun was sitting in the family’s penthouse lounge in New York, staring at the city that never sleeps. Meanwhile, there was a knock on his door bringing him back from the endless thoughts that were pouring into his head about the vibrant city life and the stark differences between the countries he has been to.
“Varun, I know you are in there. We need to talk, son. It is important.” said Karan Singhania, his father.
Karan Singhania, a business tycoon who built his empire single handed and is considered one of the best CEOs of the modern world by the Forbes magazine. He had everything in life, everything he ever wanted, a caring wife, lovely children, supporting friends and what not. But he also got something that any father would never want. A son who despises his father. Deep inside he knew that whatever he did was ought to be done to save his son. He kept knocking on the door, with a little hope that he might just get a chance to apologise to Varun for everything. Varun stood there near the window without any emotion in his eyes and looked at his buzzing Casio G-Shock that was strapped to his right hand. That watch meant a lot to him. It was a gift from someone very important in his life. The door kept on being knocked and the watch was buzzing.
The buzzing alarm of his watch snapped him out of his memories and made him conscious again. He found his left leg seriously bruised, but just fine enough to let him walk. He slowly pulled himself up from under the debris and walked a bit, dragging his leg.
“Maa. Dhairya. Where are you?” called out Varun with a weak dying-out voice, just getting back to his normal senses.
“Maa! Dhairya!” shouted Varun again, coughing out some dust and a little blood, but trying to shout at the top of his voice.
He hopelessly moved examining the bodies to find them around the crash site. It was the first time he was praying for something after many years. He just wanted to see them safe enough in the unknown forest in the broad daylight that was shining on him and he could see a thick canopy of trees around the crash site. it looked like the area was cleared due to the accident. There were half burnt trees and fallen trunks on the ground all around the crash site. Varun tried to understand where he was, but he had no clue. His only possible guess was that it could be the Amazon forests, the thickest and most dangerous tropical rain forests on the planet. His wildest nightmares were about to come true.
There was a twitching of twigs near the trees towards the forest. Varun turned back to see what it was, but could see nothing. He assumed it to be a wild animal. Again, there was a small twitch in a different direction. This time, he was quick enough to see a silhouette, something that he has seen somewhere. But there was one thing that was clear. He was sure that he was not alone. Not anymore.
To be continued…