- What is COTTON FBI?
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What is COTTON FBI?
Your name is Jeremiah Cotton. You are a small-time cop in the NYPD, a rookie that no one takes seriously. But you want more. You have a score to settle with the world. And anyone who calls you “Jerry” will be sorry.
A new time. A new hero. A new mission. Experience the birth of a digital cult-series: Cotton FBI is the remake of JERRY COTTON, the most successful series of German novels with more than one billion copies sold, and it tells an entirely new story in e-book form.
Cotton FBI is published twice a month, with each episode a self-contained story.
Peter Mennigen was born in Meckenheim near Bonn. He studied art and design in Cologne before he turned to writing fiction. His novels have been published by Bastei Lübbe, Rowohlt, Ravensburger and other publishing houses. He also writes scripts for graphic novels and audio dramatizations as well as screenplays for TV shows and series.
A metal monstrosity descended over New York City. The clock in the cockpit of the Boeing 787 showed four minutes after midnight, Eastern Standard Time. None of the three hundred passengers on the Dreamliner knew that the pilot was sending a distress call to the tower at JFK. The crew could no longer steer the plane; the controls weren’t responding at all, and this just as the plane was about to land. The co-pilot pushed and pulled all sorts of knobs and switches, but to no avail. Every warning lamp in the cockpit was flashing and alarms were sounding. And then, bizarrely, after a few minutes the plane stopped descending and leveled off at an altitude of around four thousand feet, flying on its own.
As if controlled remotely or by a ghost, the plane suddenly changed its prescribed course and headed towards Manhattan. The brutal maneuver forced the Boeing into an acute angle, and if the passengers hadn’t been buckled in, they would have been thrown out of their seats. Carry-on bags flew out of carelessly closed overhead storage bins, and other loose objects were tossed around.
It was then that most of the people on board the plane realized in horror that within minutes they could be crashing right into the heart of New York City.
Cursing under his breath, Jeremiah Cotton went through the baffling security procedures at the entrance to the G-Team’s headquarters. His hair was unkempt, his black sweater and leather jacket looked like they had been carelessly tossed on, and the stubble on his face was further proof of his hasty departure from home.
Shortly after 0100 hours, he stepped into the control center of the special FBI unit. Its headquarters occupied the vast majority of the basement of this featureless gray building complex. There was a whole collection of high-tech gadgets, mostly high-performance computer terminals and HD monitors, which cast a ghostly glow over the large, semi-darkened room.
A first glance into the room, which resembled a cross between a NASA command center and a futuristic spaceship bridge, would give the impression that it was ruled by chaos. People incessantly scurried back and forth, moving hurriedly between the chrome-and-glass desks. Telephones were ringing constantly. Information usually came in twenty-four hours a day, from all over the world. There were experts on hand to analyze all the different types of information coming in and to determine whether they were of any relevance to national security. Only a very few of these experts had served outside of the complex and/or fired a weapon; those sorts of tasks were left up to the Special Agents.
It was only recently that Cotton had joined this elite group as its latest member, still on probation. But even he would have guessed at first glance that something was amiss, if he hadn’t already been warned by phone. There was an almost tangible tension in the air. Every member of the G-Team was present, and given the time of night, this could mean only one thing: Code Red!
Special Agent Dillagio was standing together with another agent by a water fountain. The two men were whispering to one another. On the gallery surrounding the room, John D. High, chief of the G-Team, sat at his desk behind a transparent door. As usual, he was wearing a tailored suit, but tonight he was without a tie. If High hadn’t even taken the time to put on a tie, then it was clear that very important things had to be done in a great hurry.
Standing across from High, on the other side of his desk, was Special Agent Philippa Decker. Her stance, a mixture of arrogance and poise, was impressive to behold. Both attributes were emphasized by her attire: black pantsuit, unbuttoned blazer, and a light beige blouse underneath.
Cotton couldn’t hear what the two were discussing. He could only see that Decker was speaking to High. The uneasiness that Cotton had felt since he entered the headquarters increased.
Zeerookah noticed Cotton. He waved and gestured for him to come over. Cotton ambled over to the IT genius.
“What’s up?” Zeerookah was lounging by a huge computer terminal that could compete with a mixing board for a Pink Floyd concert in terms of complexity. There were items on his desk that normally would have no business being there: a greasy pizza carton, a giant cup of diet coke, and a coffee cup with the words “I’m too sexy for this world”, filled with a liquid that looked more like muddy water than anything else. “What’re ya up to, Jerry?” Zeerookah looked like he’d been up all night, and now more than ever he seemed to embody all the stereotypical features of a nerd, with his pale face and hair so tousled that he looked like he’d just emerged from a wind tunnel.
“Don’t call me Jerry,” Cotton said. “I’m already irritated enough. What is so damn important that I have to be hauled out of bed at this ungodly hour?”
“I haven’t got as clue,” Zeerookah said, shrugging his shoulders. “Didn’t Decker tell you what’s up on the phone?”
“She only told me to get my ass over here for a meeting as soon as possible, and that it’s very urgent.”
“Get your ass over here? Those were her words?”
“More or less. Can you at least tell me what sort of meeting this is?”
“I saw some guys from Homeland Security and the chief of the NYPD paying High a visit a little while ago. I’m supposed to set up a video conference for someone in Washington.”
“Who — some sort of chief of staff?”
“I think higher up.”
“A security advisor from the White House?”
Zeerookah remained silent and pointed upwards with a finger.
“Wow! And what’s my job as a member of this illustrious crowd? Why does Decker order me to come in instead of, say, Dillagio, who’s been here longer than me?”
“Dillagio has other responsibilities. Besides, he’s got all the charm of a bulldozer; not exactly ideal for a meeting of this magnitude. Watch out — the pretty one is approaching.”
Zeerookah went back to tending to his computer. He clamped a phone between his head and shoulder and pretended to be very busy.
“And … had a short night, Special Agent?” Decker gave Cotton a smile with a hint of empathy, which seemed about as genuine as the counterfeit money in the evidence room. “I’m sorry about that.”
“I appreciate your compassion, dear Philippa.”
“Great. Go and wait for me in the conference room; I’ll be there in a second.”
“I’m going to speak with the president? Then I think a dark suit would be more appropriate.”
Decker looked perplexed. “How did you know that the president will be involved?”
Zeerookah pulled his head closer to his shoulders like a turtle and made himself seem smaller than he was, hiding behind Cotton.
“I have my sources.” Cotton gave her an innocent smile that was anything but.
Decker looked at him with cool, narrowed eyes. “I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t spread such sensitive information around. Now go.”
Cotton entered the bug-proof conference room. In the middle of it stood the biggest table he had ever seen. It was brand new, stainless steel with a satin-sheen finish and a black glass tabletop that was completely bare. There were none of the refreshments and glasses that were usually to be found on top of such a table. Which might be a bad sign for this unusual meeting.
Hanging on the right wall was a 70-inch monitor. The connections for the video conference were already set up and the screen was split into various segments. The conference participants hadn’t taken their seats in front of the cameras yet. The sections of the monitor only showed the seals of the different government agencies involved: CIA, FBI, NSA, and the president’s seal in the biggest square.
Cotton picked out a place to sit on the long side of the table. He sat there for a while, and then dozed off a bit. A few minutes later, the chair beside him was moved. He opened his eyes and saw Decker, who was looking at him as if she could strangle him.
“Get a grip! You can sleep when you’re at home,” she said as she sat down. “Various high officials from the government, law enforcement, and national security agencies will be gathering here shortly, and whoever can’t make it due to the distance to New York City, or whatever other reason, will take part by video. Listen and learn while you’re here, and try to gain some experience on the subject of crisis management at the top levels of government. But don’t get involved in the discussion. Regardless of what is discussed, you just keep your mouth shut. Got it?”
“I heard you,” Cotton said.
A short while later, high-ranking officials from various government agencies entered the conference room, shuffling in one after another. Altogether, there were twelve directors sitting around the table when John D. High, the last to enter the room, arrived, carrying a thin file. He closed the door and sat down at the head of the table. His face was as hard as granite. He opened the file and read it in silence for a moment, while the other people in the room kept their conversations at a subdued level.
Cotton stole a glance at each of the other people around the table. Some he knew from photos, but he had not met any of them personally before. Everyone was making sure to avoid direct eye contact. Now there was a pressing silence in the room, which was interrupted only by throats being cleared or by a chair being re-adjusted here and there.
Finally, Mr. High looked up. “Please excuse the delay,” he began. “I’d like to wait to start the conference until everyone is present on video, which should be very soon.”
Although most of the people in the room already knew one another, Mr. High introduced them, primarily out of courtesy. He ended by saying, “I think it may be superfluous to mention that whatever is said in here should not be taken outside of this room. No one else is to know what was discussed in here tonight, no wives or husbands, boyfriends or girlfriends.”
The seals on the monitor screen disappeared one by one, and the faces of the various directors appeared in their places: the director of the FBI from the agency’s headquarters in Washington; the head of the NSA from Fort Meade; and the CIA director from Langley. The president, sitting in the Oval Office, appeared last. He thanked all those present for being there, and then allowed Mr. High to take over.
“The reason this conference was convened is an impending act of terror against New York City,” the chief of the G-Team began. “The focal point of the threat is an American Airlines Boeing seven eighty-seven. The plane went off course about forty minutes ago and has been circling over Manhattan ever since.”
“Do we have contact with the pilot?” the president asked.
“Yes, sir,” High confirmed. “He was the one to inform us that he no longer had control of the aircraft.”
“Is the number of terrorists on board known?” the FBI director wanted to know.
“There are none,” High answered.
“Have I understood correctly?” The chief of police of the NYPD looked bewildered. “There’s no terrorist on board that plane?”
“According to the information currently available, that is correct,” Mr. High confirmed.
“Then what’s the problem? Why doesn’t the pilot just fly the plane to the nearest airport and simply land?”
“Because the flight controls don’t work. Someone’s hacked his way into the plane’s computer system and is controlling it from a distance, somewhere on the ground. The aircraft and the people on board, they’re all at his mercy. Considering the facts we have, it is safe to assume that this is an act of terror, although the actual act has yet to happen. That will take place when the plane crashes into Manhattan.”
Alarmed, everyone present remained silent. No one quite knew what to say about this unique situation.
Cotton had followed the conversation as a mute witness. He knew that he was supposed to remain silent, but there were questions he was burning to know the answers to.
“Is anything known about the people behind all of this? What sort of terrorists are they? What are their motives?”
Decker cringed at Cotton’s intervention. Mr. High, however, acknowledged the questions with a nod and answered, “At the moment, we assume that it may be an Al-Qaida cell.”
“What makes you so sure?” Cotton asked.
“They called us.”
“The terrorists called the G-Team?” Cotton seemed surprised.
“Yes,” High said, “shortly after midnight.”
“They didn’t call the NSA or the CIA?”
“I’ve already said who they called,” High said, getting irritated.
“Amazing,” Cotton said.
“A presidential declaration gives the G-Team jurisdiction to investigate any cases involving acts of terror against the United States of America,” High said, explaining the team’s authority.
“Which we greatly regret,” the director of Homeland Security threw in. “Our anti-terror team in Washington is at least as brilliant as the G-Team. My people are specialized in cyber-attacks.”
“Gentlemen,” the president interrupted, trying to cut short a discussion that was threatening to become a fight over territory and competences, “now is not the time or place to argue about prerogatives. In this case, the G-Team is in charge. Period.”
“We may be smaller than Homeland Security, but we have better investigators and experts.” High just couldn’t help firing this broadside before continuing. “So, Special Agent Cotton, please enlighten us with your wisdom. Why is it so amazing that the terrorists contacted us, instead of the CIA or Homeland Security? And do try to keep it short.”
Cotton tried to explain his thought process: “I’m surprised by how much the terrorists know about our internal organizational structure. If I were them …”
“But you aren’t them, Cotton,” High interjected. “Can we please continue by focusing on the facts instead of speculations?” He pressed a button on the intercom, “Zeerookah, play the tape of the terrorist’s call.”
The voice from the taped phone call emerged from the speakers embedded in the ceiling. The person speaking stated his demands in perfect English, but with a definite Arabic accent. He wanted the immediate release of Seif al-Bakkai. Otherwise, there would be a rude awakening for the inhabitants of New York City. The caller ended the message with the typical jihad battle cry, “Allahu Akbar!”
High spoke up, “The good news about this is that instead of dealing with blind fanatics, who seek to create terror for terror’s sake, we’re dealing with fanatics with a purpose, who are usually more predictable.”
“Is there a deadline by which the terrorists want their demands to be met?” Decker wanted to know.
“No, but that’s actually irrelevant,” High said. “We know that the plane circling above the city carries enough fuel for a maximum of six hours of flying time.”
“What options do we have?” the president asked. “Other than … eliminating it with a fighter jet.”
“We have no options.” High tried to remain calm; the president’s words had not been well thought out. “The option you mentioned shouldn’t even be taken into consideration. It doesn’t matter whether the plane crashes due to a lack of fuel or from being shot down. The results would be exactly the same.”
“What about evacuating Manhattan?”
“That would take far too long. Besides, the terrorists could adjust their plan easily enough and simply have the plane crash into Queens, Brooklyn, or anywhere else. The people who have the plane under their control must be somewhere in the city and they would definitely notice a whole section of it being evacuated.”
“Should we just sit around, then, without trying to protect the city from the impending catastrophe?” the head of Homeland Security bellowed.
“We can do several things,” High said, restrained.
“Really? And what would those be, if I may ask?