XBN Studios, South Mumbai.
‘THE NATION DEMANDS TO KNOW!’ Prakat screamed.
The bright studio lights blurred into one giant mass of illumination from behind Prakat Samacharwala as he screamed again. ‘India wants to know!’ God was questioning the three men sitting across him on the other side of the table on judgement day – A salt and pepper haired, French bearded God who had a weakness for huge Rolex watches that hung limply on his thin wrists.
It wasn’t a total exaggeration. In his own way, Prakat, news anchor extraordinaire’ was God. He could build or destroy people’s reputations as he wished. The “idiot box” continued to mould popular opinion and his show ruled the airwaves. Movers, shakers, washed-out politicians, wannabe rulers, criminals, law makers, law breakers, everyone who wanted to be famous made sure he was clued onto their next ‘big’ thing. After all – the nation hung on to every word he said.
Today, of all the days though, he really did want to destroy the three sitting across him. It wasn’t personal – it just had to be done.
‘Gentlemen, are you denying that this mail was written by you? Isn’t this the ultimate proof of your nefarious intentions? Proof of your conspiracy against innocent passengers on an airline? And that’s all we know for now. Maybe it was part of a deeper conspiracy.’ Prakat screamed looking in the direction of the cameras. He rarely looked at the people he interviewed. He just didn’t care about them.
Across the table from his interrogator, Srinivas moved his chair up a fraction and opened his mouth to say something but before he could get started, Prakat cut in ‘Let me read it out again. Maybe it will help refresh your memories which conveniently seem to have been erased like a bad quality USB drive.’
The dismal analogy was lost on his victims and his camera team. The producer shrugged her shoulders and asked Camera 1 to zoom in on the anchor.
‘You wrote to the hijackers saying, and I quote, “we have developed a cutting edge communication mechanism that can be used with any device and will ensure a degree of encryption so far unmatched…”‘
‘And then you go on to boast, and I quote, “…once installed on your devices there is practically no way anyone can trace your communications”‘
‘There’s a context…’
‘Wait! I am not finished. And then you write and I quote “We request your good self for a meeting to discuss the possibility of starting a mutually profitable relationship. Please let us know your feedback of the results. Such information is the lifeblood of our setup.”‘
The cameras pivoted smoothly to face the three crestfallen faces seated across the table from the news anchor, who on his part didn’t lower his pitch for even a second.
Prakat screamed an octave higher ‘Goodself? Is that even a word anyone uses any more or were you so caught up in praising your controller that you even made up your own words? What was the mutually profitable relationship, gentlemen? Money to satisfy your greed and hundreds of innocent lives in exchange huh?’
The cameras zoomed again in for a close up of the three men.
Prakat continued ‘And then there is the last line of the mail which is the ultimate proof of your culpability. Again I quote from the mail only XBN has gained exclusive access to. You say that you “look forward to their leadership, guidance and support in the relationship!”‘
Srinivas moved his arms wildly, a sure sign that he had finally found something to say. ‘Terrorists? Controllers? What nonsense. Can I please say something?’ he even raised his voice by several notches but was promptly shouted down.
‘Leadership! Guidance! Support!’ Prakat was going red in his face from screaming. ‘You are practically asking the would be hijackers to guide you and support you in your evil schemes. Was the hijack a part of a larger terrorist plan? Was it? The nation demands answers. We have a right to know!’
‘But you are not letting me answer!’ Srinivas leaned in closer to the table and waved his arms more vigorously.
‘Is this the state of the nation? Are we at the mercy of misguided people who support enemies of the state?’ Prakat was now going red in his face. If it was an act, it was a very good one.
‘Look at them’ Prakat pointed furiously at the three men. The cameras swung again ‘they might seem like ordinary looking men but these are the new faces of terror. The kind you might run into at the bazaar, on the road, in the bus. Ordinary! Middle Class! Looks like you and me! But could this be the new face of terrorism? The advanced gen-X, no longer content with explosives and subterfuge, they have now entered the world of the technology and they raise funds from you in the garb of entrepreneurship.’
‘Prakat, please, can I…’
‘Who knows, you just might be funding a terrorist plot every time you invest money in a business? XBN has gained exclusive access to three plotters of the sensational hijack – the first time ever on live television in India. After the break we ask them to answer the questions the nation has today. India demands to know, why they did the heinous things they did.’
‘Heinous? What the…’
‘Don’t go anywhere. We are going into a quick break. And after that we will be talking to actress Rupa Rattee, who has acted in several gangster movies, on her insights into the minds of the modern terrorist. Enter our poll now – Do you think hijackers and terrorists are getting smarter by the day? You are watching Trial by Fire only on XBN news. We will be right back!’
The red light on the television camera in the studio stopped blinking.
In thousands of living rooms across the country, people who had been glued to their television sets, afraid to even breathe, finally took a deep gulp and blinked at each other in disbelief.
[This post is the second part of a longer work of fiction. All people and events described are figments of the authors imagination. Resemblance to anyone or anything is coincidental. In short Nothing is True. For more questions on what, why and copyright stuff refer this post which introduces the book]
Related Posts: Fragment 1: Prologue