It was beyond cold.
“This can’t be good for me,” Jon thought, as the 737-700 started its descent into Long Island’s MacArthur airport. That thought was immediately followed by an “I got this,” albeit to himself. No one else would be crazy enough to go along with this idea, even if he had proposed it to his small circle of friends, which he wouldn’t since he only worked with one other person.
He had heard of people stowing away in wheel wells of jets before and, although he knew the dangers involved – hypothermia, asphyxia, et cetera, he was certain he would survive the trip. He wasn’t quite sure how he knew; after all, he wasn’t super-human. But he was prepared, at least in his mind. Jon had weighed the pros and cons of this method of transportation and made a quick determination that the good outweighed the bad. Good: get to Long Island from St. Louis in about two hours. Bad: get caught, get arrested, die; or worse, let word get back to his father, mother, and step-mother. Can someone say grounded? Not to mention the pointing and laughing he would inevitably get from his sister when she found out that her big brother was restricted to his room. So, yes, of course shorter transit time over hitch-hiking was way more beneficial than the downside of death. But the thought of being in trouble at home, ugh.
The roar of the next-generation CFM56-7 turbofan engines was deafening, even while the wheels were up. He had a pair of earplugs in, but they were barely doing their job. Even the custom form-fit foam noise reduction earplugs he had opted for had only been slightly more beneficial than the ones they give out to everyone inside the cabin, he guessed. The noise was getting more tolerable as the pilot pulled back on the throttle to initiate their decrease in altitude. It was getting warmer too, even though warmer was a relative term. Going from below freezing to the temperature of a thawed out chicken breast was of little comfort. By curling up in the fetal position within the one square foot area into which he had contorted his body, along with the insulation blanket he brought along from his father’s first-aid kit, allowed Jon to maintain just enough body heat to survive. That, along with his self-taught meditation process, of course.
The landing gear rotated out of the wells in the aircraft’s belly and in an instant Jon was looking down at the terra below. He managed to brace himself between the hydraulics and the bulkhead for the remainder of the drop. Matchbox sized cars started growing exponentially and before he knew it, a loud screech of rubber on concrete accompanied a much more tolerable air temperature. He could breathe much easier than he did above 10,000 feet too. Luckily his oxygen system worked during the harrowing flight. He had utilized his invention once before while evading rent-a-cops back in Missouri while hiding in a retention pond. It worked so well they had no idea they were looking right down at him. He figured his rebreathing system led them to believe that lack of bubbles meant he was either not there or dead. But for $7.50 per hour, they didn’t really care.
Before the free ride came to a stop, Jon ensured he had his running shoes laced up and his motorcycle apparel covering all of the places on his body that he didn’t want grated like cheese.
Most twelve-year-olds didn’t have a set of riding leathers, but Jonathan David Thorper wasn’t like most kids his age. He loved to ride on the back of his Dad’s 2015 Harley-Davidson Street Glide, along with other adrenaline-inducing activities. The open road, the rushing air, and the Mountain Dews at the biker bars were part of what gave his body a super-charge. He couldn’t wait until he could get one of his own and ride next to his old man. But for now he’d have to settle for stowing away on a one-way Southwest red and blue painted 737. The Wright brothers were smiling down on him, no doubt.
After the initial jolt of the jetliner hitting the runway, Jon waited until just after the cloud of rubber-burnt smoke cleared and the crew started to deviate from their heading onto the taxiway. Then he made his move. In one perfectly choreographed push off of the landing gear’s shaft, Jon flipped his torso 180 degrees to position the back panel of his armored jacket flush to the hard surface below. Like a turtle sliding and spinning down the highway whirled from an SUV flying by while trying to cross the road, Jon rode out the rest of his own landing. Before coming completely to rest, he managed to get one of his legs into the same position he took to slide into second base. Using his knee like a pole vaulter would stick their pole into the planting box, he maintained enough momentum to seamlessly get to his feet and start a dead sprint towards the barbed wire.
He encountered the six-foot chain link and sprang over it like a gold-medal gymnast, although he had never even taken an introductory class at his local gym. Once he was safely over the perimeter’s security fence, Jon found a cluster of bushes in which to hide, making sure no big vehicles labeled “Homeland Security” or “Airport Police” were speeding his way. Then he took inventory: head, check. Arms, check. Legs, check. So far, so good. There were some other things he needed to make sure he didn’t drop, break or forget. His Samsung Galaxy S3 was securely in his jacket pocket.
He extracted the device, opened up the back panel, and inserted the battery. To his delight, it fired up immediately. He was mad at himself when it played the nice little Samsung tone letting him know it was operational, but since no one was within earshot, he forgave himself for that oversight. While he didn’t think his radio signal would cause interference with any of the cockpit’s instruments before takeoff and landing, he knew that anyone looking to track him could only do so with the battery inserted. Despite his self-written encryption program that was installed on his old device, he took no chances. The ability to remove the battery on the old model was part of the reason he didn’t upgrade to an S7 – or heck –an S4, 5, or 6, for that matter. But he knew that his phone, with all of the things he did to it, was a better piece of hardware than anything his peers were having their parents get them from Best Buy. Next he felt down his leg for the cargo pocket in which he kept some handcuffs and an expanding baton. The ASP could be a rather lethal weapon if he ever had to defend himself to the extreme of deadly force; although, he hoped it never came to that. He didn’t keep a key for the ’cuffs since most of the people onto whom he applied them had to wait for the locals to find them. By that time, they earned a free ride to the clink and an extra set of ankle bracelets.
Jon dialed the 636 area code that was pre-programmed in his S3.
“Yo,” greeted Jon with the excitement of paint drying.
“Casey? It’s me. I’m here. I’m alive.”
“Shut up, Casey,” Jon shot back.
“Bro, did you really think I saw your number and thought, ‘oh damn, maybe he’s dead and this is a baggage handler calling to tell me’?”
“Whatever. Listen, get online, fire up the crypto and call me back.”
Casey took a dramatic pause, waiting for his best friend to panic just a tad. “Already done, brother.”
“Do you have the new keys loaded onto the KG?”
“Yup. Uploaded them today. But dude, we gotta talk. It’s getting harder to get into the NSA’s database every day. It’s like they’re starting to hire people who actually know what they’re doing.”
“Fine, we’ll talk about that later. For now, make sure the encryption codes you borrowed from them aren’t being traced back to us.”
“Jonny, dude, I know you’re the ‘brains’ of this operation and I’m just your super-awesome, not to mention good with the ladies sidekick, but I swear if you don’t stop questioning my abilities…”
“Ok, I get it. My bad. You da’ man. Better?”
“Yup," Casey smirked to himself.
“Alright. So, like I was saying… since you are ‘da’ man,’ and since we’re good to go, go ahead and send those NGA images of the place.”
“See ya," Jon said, not fazed in the least, as he was used to his buddy's shenanigans.
The National Geo-spacial Agency, otherwise known as the NGA, was the only reliable source of the most up-to-date imagery with which Jon would work. Yeah, Google was pretty good, and they were getting better every day. But Jon knew nothing beat an NGA satellite image when he needed to get into and around a place. Heck, sometimes he would get lucky and depending on the time the birds shot their photos, he could get a good idea of assets on the ground and adjust his plan of attack.
In this case, the target, Real Gaming Technologies (RGT), was the biggest place he’d ever encountered. He knew with the popularity of the biggest video game creator it wouldn’t be an easy task getting in. Finding the schmuck who was responsible for the leak would be even harder. But Jon was up for the task. He was the best, and his clients paid well for his bite-sized services, making his six-figure fee a drop in usually a multi-billion dollar bucket.