Disclaimer: in the Globall War of Terror, far down the Rabbit Hole, we have survived the Firecracker War. America's land invasion of China continues, "Zero tolerance is the price we pay for victory," and the protagonist's silence is the price he pays for survival. But as this story shows, not the only price.
Prior posts in this storyline:Proven By The Body
| Post 7
| Convoy Operation
[all take place after the present story]
GloBall War of Terror – Pink Terror
We had set up the new security office in a first floor corner of the nearest undamaged building. For some reason, regular employees no longer wanted to occupy first floor space.
My own office, set apart from the main work area, nonetheless had a commanding view of the crater where the Shipping & Receiving Dock had been. A work crew normally from Space Planning was filling sandbags and placing them, diminishing my view with each lift and thump of a filled bag.
A wastebasket overflowed with empty cans of energy drink. I hate energy drinks, but two half-drunk cans sat next to my computers, and I had just slammed and started to toss a third when I got up and placed it gently – and precariously - on top of the the wastebasket.
I couldn't blame the janitors for the state of the wastebasket – they were presently mopping the dust and dirt, and not a few bloodstains, from a wide swath of corridor.
In the outer office, two quietly angry men sat, as heavily armed and armored as we could get them on short notice. We had run leads to the remaining cameras.
One of my computers was hooked up to the digital video recorders, which we had removed from their usual home and installed in a rack in the corner of my office. They were no longer live. We had a lot of information to get off of them first, and new ones were not going to be easy to come by.
Another computer showed camera views, including at my insistence a view of the corridor outside the new Security Office and a view of what was now our only entrance/exit gate.
The laptop had a document open. I was writing the incident report for the events of the prior day.
I pressed 'PLAY' on the DVR and saw – back in time – the truck approach the access gate. The gate arm went up as it approached. Not after it stopped. While it was still rolling.
I checked one of the thirty or so windows I had open on yet a fourth computer. Control officer Golf-281. Opened South Access Gate, 0750 hours.
I looked out my doorway. There he was, Golf-281. One of six looking at cameras and wearing headsets for radios, where there had been only one yesterday. Him.
As I looked at him, I saw a bead of sweat run down the side of his face.
I changed DVR recorded camera views, to a camera G-281 didn't know existed. It showed him as he reached for the gate arm control. He clearly recognized the truck, and grinned fiercely as he jabbed the OPEN button.
I calmly looked back at my computer and waited for G-281 to look away. Then I checked the flap on my holster.
It was about to be showtime.
24 hours earlier
I tapped my badge against the cafeteria card reader and it whined.
The cashier was embarrassed. “It doesn't usually do that.” It was not accepting my payment, for the tray of green eggs and dried out bacon and a sliver of tomato.
She waved me through, “Go ahead.” The cafeteria was going to eat the loss.
“I need you to note down what I owe. I need to set a good example.”
She added my total to a running tab the cafeteria staff kept in a notebook behind the cashier.
A lot of amenities had slipped since the Wet Firecracker War, but we tried to keep things appearing as normal as possible. A lot of those tabs would probably never be paid.
Before, which some people called BEFORE, you didn't need to go over cafe deliveries with a geiger counter to make sure they were fair salvage and not contraband.
As I picked up my tray, the world slapped me in the face.
To be specific, the cafeteria floor – tile – came up and whacked my entire body, but especially my chin.
I realized that I had been knocked off my feet, and that what had knocked me off my feet was a powerful explosion. Not nuclear, I'd been there and done that. Just explosive, but a lot of it.
I shook my head, which hurt a lot, and wiped my eyes, which needed them.
The cafeteria staff were hiding. Good.
The windows of the cafeteria were shards mostly held in place by plastic laminate film. The cafeteria was full of shocked and dazed employees, at least fifty.
We had installed the film last week. My mind insisted on painting the results if we hadn't. A spray of high speed glass fragments into a crowd of employees guilty only of wanting to get some third-rate food in between frantically coding to meet quota.
As it was, we had people bleeding and screaming. But I had no time for them.
I stumbled out the doors and my hands went to the two most important items I carried. A handpack radio with extended microphone, and the holstered handgun.
What direction did the blast come from? Loading dock area. What was it? Very powerful. Something had come on board. Vehicle based improvised explosive device. VBIED.
As I sliced the pie around the corner, I saw a dirty column of smoke and dust where the loading dock had been. But I also saw a battered taxicab with half a dozen men standing around it. They had items in their hands. Both hands. They had weapons. Longarms. Rifles.
I ducked back out of sight around the corner. Hopefully they hadn't seen me. Five on one was going to be bad odds. But I was not going to let anyone else get killed today if I could help it.
I reached for the radio. “Golf-18, Emergency Traffic, Explosion and Armed Intrusion. I say again, emergency traffic, explosion and armed intrusion. Five suspects, repeat numbers five suspects. Rapid reaction, time now. Rapid reaction, time now.”
What should have happened was a calm, soothing Public Address system announcement calling for employees and contractors to respond by hiding and locking their doors. What I should have heard back was a calm acknowledgment followed by an advisory for the response team to assemble (where?) and respond (also where?)
What I heard was silence. I checked my radio. Transmitting. The little red light came on when I pressed the button. So I called it in again.
No reply. So I immediately headed to the Security Office, because I might have called for the reaction team, but I was already part of it.
When I reached the corridor, I saw two men in black fatigues – we were in khakis – stalking down the corridor. One had just thrown a bulky backpack into our office through the service window.
I ducked right back around the corner and drew my handgun. I waited open-mouthed for the inevitable. Open because … and the blast rippled through my body. If I'd tried to hold my breath, it might have done lung damage.
I stopped thinking. If I'd been thinking, I'd have run away.
But I wasn't going to run away. Not today. Not now. Not after seeing that.
I came around the corner again and the two in fatigues were admiring their handiwork, looking at the ripped-out wall and hanging ceiling tiles and ruins which minutes before had been my home away from home, the center of the work I did.
I didn't remember what happened next. I only learned from the DVR that I had calmly walked towards them, and as they looked, smoothly shot them both, five rounds each.
I pocketed the empty magazine after reloading. I then did something that would have horrified me only a few short months before, before the Firecracker, before someone had driven a VBIED into the site.
I executed each with a single round to the head.
Then and only then did I go into the Security Office, to find two of mine dead, a third badly hurt, and Golf-281 hiding behind the bank of lockers.
“Get the first aid kit,” I ordered him, and he cowered.
“I have to cover the door. Get the first aid kit.” I paused, and barked. “NOW! MOVE!”
He got the first aid kit and took it over.
The guard at the service counter hadn't had a chance. The satchel charge had neatly taken his legs off, and he'd bled out. The guard preparing his breakfast with the microwave – yes, we still have power, aren't we special – had a long metal sliver of something, probably a cabinet, through his neck, and was surrounded with enough blood to sate a gluttonous vampire.
The shift supervisor had been protected from some of the blast by his desk. He'd probably tried to drop for cover. He'd been a Marine, and the only reason I'd been able to keep him after the Firecracker was that his knees were totally, completely blown out.
Golf-281 stood there with the first aid kit.
“Go on, assess his injuries! Do it!”
I was still staring at the door, the door that two attackers had come in by, and more would be coming soon. Nothing in the room worked except the emergency lights which had been plugged into power, and were now on battery. No cameras, no alarms, no sensors, no computers. This room had been the living brain of the site, and it had just suffered a stroke. Now it was nothing more than a trap.
But the room next door was just a little bit different.
I hated to do it. I longed to rip the first aid kit out of the shell-shocked guard's hands and render care. But I couldn't. If I stopped to do first aid, the outcome might end up being very bad.
My badge did not work to open the door. That was OK, I had a key. I keyed in. That didn't work either – the force of the blast had warped the door.
So I kicked open a waste-high cabinet and removed a sledge hammer. I holstered then slammed the sledge into the frame, once, twice, again. The doorknob popped off, the door flew open.
I dropped the sledge, half-turned and fired eight times at the enemy entry team coming through the door. Golf-281 stared as I dropped my second mag and reloaded with my last one.
I stepped into the room. The carpentry shop had knocked up several racks. Now my key was good for something, it unlocked the padlock holding the cable down.
I picked up the rifle and a bag with a sling, what law enforcement types call a war bag and what military calls a bandolier. I shrugged on a heavy vest, day glow orange, because I was one of the good guys.
Now I would go hunting.
24 hours later
I watched on the DVR as the man in the day glow orange vest stalked through the wreckage. He calmly walked, sometimes along one side of the wall, sometimes the other. He seemed to be inhuman, invincible, unafraid.
I knew better. I'd had to clean out his underwear. But I didn't remember most of what I'd done until I saw it on the digital video recordings, and we needed to know how it had all gone down.
Were all the suspects accounted for? How had they gotten into the site? Why did our reaction plans fail? It should have been two teams of five, not a single guy too lucky for words, completely unbelievable in a movie or a story.
If your knowledge of such things is from Before, you may be wondering at this point where the police were. This is AFTER the Firecracker. They weren't coming. Simply that, they weren't coming. Too much going on, too bad.
Two patrol officers and a detective had finally shown up two hours later, after we'd organized triage for the wounded, both screaming and quiet. (Two of the quiet ones quietly died.) They'd taken a report, printed the dead suspects with their electronic field identification device, taken a brief statement from a few witnesses, assigned an event number and raced off to the next call.
If we'd had prisoners, they might have taken charge of them - and perhaps let them go later, if they had enough bribe money. Or transported them for internment. Or shot them there, to save the trouble of calling in for a larger vehicle. I'd heard of it going all three ways.
I went back. I reviewed the man's entry into the Security Office, before the day glow vest. I looked at the one surviving camera covering the supervisor's office, before the blast.
Golf-281 had seen the satchel charge come flying through the door, and he'd hid behind the lockers.
But he'd grinned while he'd done it. He only stopped grinning when I came through the door. The whole time I'd thought he was frozen in panic, shell shocked, he was afraid that I was about to kill him. With excellent reason, because he knew something that I did not.
I knew now.
So I got up from my desk, around the overflowing wastebasket with the empty cans of Red Bull, and walked easily and quickly over to the camera monitoring stations. As I passed, I tapped one of the heavily armed angry young men on his shoulder. He watched me very closely and held up four fingers. A question. Code 4?
I shook my head. Not Code 4. Not OK.
As I came up behind Golf-281, I could smell the fear sweat pouring off of him.
“Put your hands on the desk,” I said to him quietly.
“Sir?” he asked.
“Put your. Hands. On. The desk.” I said, and all other extraneous noise from everyone else in the room - stopped.
He slowly put his hands on the desk, the gun toter I had signaled pointed a rifle at him, and I took my handcuffs from my belt and wrenched his right hand behind his back, then his left, applying them with absolutely no concern for anything but my safety.
Right there in front of everyone (and a camera), I frisked him. I didn't expect to find anything but I did.
A bundle of worn $100 bills, in a front pocket. Now freshly smelling of urine.
“Is the office area around the corner to the right still empty?”
“Yessir” someone said to the air.
As I pushed the former Golf 281 out the door, now a terrorist prisoner, I said over my shoulder.
“Bring me the sledge.”