It should be effectively impossible to disappear in the modern world. There are no frontiers. No unmapped places. Nowhere to hide from ubiquitous surveillance, be it corporate or government. Perhaps an individual — at best, a small group — could hide from the eyes of the world, or perhaps be forgotten. But we all know that hundreds of people cannot vanish without a trace. Planes cannot simply slip from sight, lost to the world in a blink of an eye.
Except, of course, when they do.
The Disappearance of MH370
A Malaysia Airlines operated Boeing 777 — MH370 — disappeared somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing on Saturday, 8 March 2014, at 5:21pm local time. The plane had been cruising at about 35,000 feet, about 40 minutes into an otherwise uneventful flight, when flight radar systems suddenly and inexplicably lost contact with the aircraft. The last location transmitted by MH370’s ADS-B system is basically the middle of nowhere: a nondescript patch of air and ocean in the Gulf of Thailand, roughly equidistant between Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. About two minutes before it disappeared, MH370 turned 25 to 40 degrees East, possibly attempting to turn back toward Kuala Lumpur, though it issued no distress call and its pilots made no apparent attempt to contact ground crews anywhere. Recent reporting from Malaysian authorities indicate that air defense radars picked up something — possibly MH370 — continuing in a similar course all the way back over Malaysian peninsula to the Straights of Malacca, almost 250 miles from where the plane was when it effectively vanished. Even if the radar contact was MH370, it disappeared again shortly thereafter, taking its 12 crew members and 227 passengers with it.
So Where Did It Go?
There is, of course, speculation that MH370’s disappearance is the result of a terrorist attack, an idea made more credible by the fact that at least two of the passengers on board were apparently traveling with stolen or forged passports. However, if the disappearance of MH370 was an attack, whatever group was responsible has been remarkably reticent, avoiding the usual public claims of responsibility for a successful operation.
At least one other source indicates that a UFO made radar contact in the same area minutes before MH370’s disappearance, though there appears to be little or no current evidence that the UFO directly crossed the airliner’s flightpath. This has prevented absolutely no one from speculating that the plane was abducted, in its entirety, by said UFO.
One should not forget more mundane explanations, of course. Potential explanations include mechanical failure, a serious pilot error, an undocumented missile test or naval exercise that interfered with or destroyed the flight, and/or that the plane simply disintegrated in mid-air. One should not forget the possibility that it was pulled into another dimension through a previously undocumented Sandersonian Vile Vortice (not unlike the Bermuda Triangle), though we find it hard to believe that no one noticed a transdimensional portal in such busy airspace until now.
Or maybe it was eaten by a larger, Southeast Asian version of the Crawfordsville Monster…?
And Then Things Get Weirder
Perhaps the strangest development in all the conflicting reports and esoteric speculation have been the claims from family members of at least 19 of the flight’s passengers, alleging that they were able to make contact with the passengers’ cell phones well after the flight disappeared. However, the families explained, the calls were silently answered and then hung up each time, at least broadly hinting that the passengers are alive and being held — somewhere within range of a cell tower — against their will.
If true, these reports essentially kill the alien abduction and transdimensional portal theories, but do lend some credence to the idea that “the aircraft may have been hijacked by terrorists bearing fake passports and is now secretly stationed at an abandoned Vietnamese airport at this very moment.” Honestly, this last seems a little more like a Bond villain than al-Qa’ida, which is probably good if you’re planning to build a game around this mystery, anyway.
So, dear reader, what really happened to MH370?
…and how are your players going to find that out?