Authors: Morgan Bell
CLASSIFIED HDMP INCIDENT ROCHESTER ROAD
DMP ground forces had cordoned off the block around the residential neighborhood and rerouted traffic. A regional command officer greeted Blaise and his team when they arrived in their transport. “Lieutenant, I was told to expect you.”
“What happened?” Blaise asked.
“I’ll walk you through the incident scene,” the regional command officer said courteously.
Blaise, Rosen, Agent Ganos and Agent Drake were led past the officers standing guard around the incident scene and past the vehicle barriers. What they saw was the blackened, smoldering remains of the Mustang, strewn across more than a block. “What we’ve got is strange, sir. Stone age almost. An ancient car with Sergeant Wolinski in it was heading south bound toward Big Beaver Road and was intercepted by another ancient car.”
The command officer pointed to a pair of burn marks on the road twenty meters in front of where the remains of the Mustang were smoldering. “Street level surveillance systems failed for an area of five blocks. But with distance surveillance systems,” he pointed to some of the taller buildings that could be seen from the street, “and regional drone recordings, we’ve got a fairly good idea what happened. The thing is…it doesn’t make much sense.”
“What have you got?” Blaise asked.
“Well, now I know you’ll think this is crazy. But it looked like a guy in an ancient limo used an antique rocket propelled grenade to blow up the red car.”
“You have the recordings?” Drake asked.
“Yes,” the command officer said, and handed them a viewer.
The recordings showed the Mustang sailing down the street, and then it showed the presidential limo, being driven by Lieutenant Marshall, cutting it off. Marshall had the top off and he had a weapon on his shoulder.
“What do you make of it?” the commander asked.
“That wasn’t an RPG. That was a shoulder mounted missile system,” Drake said.
“And the guy in the limo?” the commander asked.
“No idea who he is,” Rosen replied, “but the limo is the one Kennedy was shot in.”
“They guy who won the civil war?” the command officer asked.
“Something like that,” Blaise said. “What about Wolinski?””
“Any idea where the limo went?”
The command officer made a face. “The rest of the surveillance systems crashed and then we picked him up on an interstate monitor. He’s heading toward downtown…we think.”
Marshall was smiling as he sped past the amazed passengers and drivers in the e-cars that were strung out along the highway. “Pow, pow, pow,” Marshall said, making a gun with his finger and pointing at individual drivers.
“What the hell was that?” a disembodied voice asked from a satchel he had sitting on the seat next to him.
“Like it? I thought there was a certain karmic balance to it,” Marshall observed cheerfully.
“You were supposed to draw them down to us,” the voice said.
“I told you to hit the mall, blow up the substation. That’s why we gave you the missile.”
“You know, you are getting a little bit controlling. We never picked you as leader,” Marshall said.
“This has nothing to do with being a leader. We have the plan, the plan we all agreed on.”
“A plan always changes when it is put into action. You want them down there. They will be down there. On schedule. Don’t tell me how to do my part and I won’t tell you how to be a megalomaniacal fuck,” Marshall snapped.
“We will talk after this.”
“Sure Dad, looking forward to it. But first I’ve got to add some urgency to this.”
“What are you doing now?”
“We will talk after this,” Marshall said, and pulled the car to the shoulder of the road.
The team was silently working in the transport that Blaise was driving. The presence of all the tech was making everyone, except Jamie, edgy. Jamie was fine tuning settings in a data array and measuring peak signal levels.
Rosen broke the silence. “You really think you’ve got it, Doc?”
“Hmm?” Jamie muttered distractedly. “Oh…yes, I’ve got it. I can shut down all the KVs. I’ve just been tweaking it and running it through some language loops.”
“Captain Blaise says we will drop 300 thousand KVs in metro Detroit if we can get the transmission done,” Rosen said.
“At least that many,” Jamie said.
“Doesn’t that worry you?” Rosen asked.
“The KVs? No, not really.”
“But the public doesn’t even know about them. They are going to freak the hell out.”
“So no worries at all?”
“About the KVs or public opinion? No.”
“About what then?”
Jamie looked at the frequency peaks. “Collateral damage.”
If the municipal surveillance and defense systems were working, they would have registered the flash and the spiraling path of the missile as it streaked across the Detroit skyline into one of the city’s oldest and tallest buildings. A series of defenses would have been mobilized and forward based drone systems would have intercepted it. Instead, drones hovered in hibernation mode around the city when the first explosion reverberated throughout downtown. The second and third explosions, with walls of debris sent raining down on the open streets, saw the emergency response units trying to activate response systems, transport units, and traffic management protocols. Nothing was working. A group of fire responders, in frustration, broke into an antique display of 20th century firefighting tools and tried to open the transport bay doors with axes. The doors, designed to survive level seven terror attacks, could not be budged. Three more missiles struck downtown. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it stopped. There was fire, there were the delayed and small explosions in the buildings that were struck by the missile attack, and there were the screams and cries of humans terrified and injured. What there weren’t were sirens or sounds of emergency vehicles.
On a section of highway, east of downtown, an ancient car rejoined the flow of traffic and made its way south to the old Comerica field.
“Are you happy now?” the disembodied voice in the satchel asked.
“I’d have been happier if this were Dallas,” Marshall said.
“Hold tight!” Blaise yelled, and wheeled the transport sharply to the left.
“What’s happening?” Agent Drake asked.
“The grid is locked south to downtown,” Fenwick answered. “There was a missile attack and the entire municipal grid shut down. No shield, no responders, nothing. It’s all just burning.”
“We’re getting off the street level and running south,” Blaise said. “Fenwick, do what you can to take us off system.”
“I’m on it,” Fenwick replied.
“Damn, now what?” Blaise asked, as traffic came to a stop.
“Get into the priority transport lane!” Fenwick shouted.
Blaise maneuvered the transport from the halted traffic. In car after car he could see terrified people trying to get out of their vehicles.
“Municipal response systems are still offline,” Fenwick reported. “But it looks like the transport suppression codes were issued. E-cars and non-priority transports are all shutting down.”
“We’ve got trouble ahead,” Blaise announced. “Give me heat signatures. I count fifteen. I need to know. Are they alive?”
Fenwick pulled up the scanner. In the street ahead of them was a group of people, angry, with communications tech, and they were all rushing at the transport.
“Signatures are all still in the high reds,” Fenwick reported.
“Turn on the announcement system,” Blaise said.
Fenwick brought up the crowd dispersal announcement system.
“THIS IS HOMELAND DOMESTIC MILITARY POLICE, YOU ARE ILLEGELLY ASSEMBLED AND IMPEDING OFFICERS; DISPERSE IMMEDIATELY!” The system broadcast was at nearly deafening levels.
“What the hell was that?” Blaise asked.
“I don’t know,” Fenwick said. “I think it’s the pre-programmed crowd response protocol. But I didn’t activate it.”
“Fix it!” Blaise yelled.
“I’m trying!” Fenwick said, and entered information into the data stream furiously.
“SURRENDER IMMEDIATEY! YOU ARE PLACING HOMELAND OFFICERS IN A STATE OF APPREHENSION AND WE WILL BE FORCED TO USE LETHAL MEANS IF NECESSARY,” the system broadcast.
The crowd grew larger and was now swarming forward at the immobile HMDP transport.
Agents Ganos and Drake drew their weapons. Sergeant Rosen was crouched near the transport exit, ready to spring out at anyone who might be on the other side of the door. There was a deafening explosion, and another, and another, and then the sound of gun fire. The transport shook.
“They’re shooting at us?” Rosen asked.
“No! The vehicle is shooting at them!” Blaise yelled out over the sounds echoing through the transport.
There was silence. Before the transport were the torn and bloodied bodies of over thirty people. The panels lit up and the face of Lieutenant Marshall appeared. “HDMP has all the best toys, don’t you agree?” he said. “So, Team Lemming, are you starting to figure this all out?”
“Damn!” Blaise exclaimed, hitting the panel near him.
“Take a look out the window at your handiwork. Thirty dead unnamed citizens, mowed down by HDMP’s finest tech. You will have to agree that this is an infinitesimally small number of casualties for an HDMP ‘community interaction’.“
“Fenwick!” Blaise shouted.
“I’m on it,” Fenwick said, scrambling at a release catch next to a data panel.
“Sorry about the ’Stang, Jericho,” Marshall said, bringing his face closer to the camera. “It was so cherry. Wolinski was up early this morning polishing it and everything.”
“Fenwick -” Blaise started.
“Just a second…” Fenwick said, and then there was a popping sound. The panels blanked out.
“What did you do?” Agent Drake asked
“I disconnected our data connection and rebooted the system. Marshall, or whoever the hell he is, loaded something into our vehicle,” Fenwick replied, climbing beneath the dashboard and into a compartment. “I had taken us off the network and grid monitors just after we left the incident scene. Marshall or his people must have loaded up a virus or override on our system before then.”
“Will the reboot clear it?” Blaise asked.
Fenwick came up from under the console. “No. Which is why I’m switching all the tech to factory spec.”
The interior of the transport darkened for a moment and then the lights flared brightly. The panels all displayed an access screen that was without the HDMP logos or menus. Fenwick entered a series of codes and the images from outside of the transport came back up. “Go ahead and see how it handles for you.”
Blaise engaged the transports’ engines and the vehicle moved forward slowly, rocking slightly as it rolled over the bodies that were blocking their progress down the highway. Soon they were past the bodies and traveling along the highway at speed. The transport was bucking, shaking and rolling violently.
“What is wrong with the suspension?” Blaise asked.
“Without the advanced settings on the system, we are having to use the regular power suspension system,” Fenwick explained.
“You mean this is what Detroit commuters experience every day?” Agent Ganos asked, her teeth being knocked together by a sudden dropping motion in the back of the vehicle.
“Afraid so,” Fenwick said. “And it’s only going to get worse when we get back to street level.”
Fifteen kidney jarring, spine compressing and nerve rattling minutes later, the transport came to a stop before the old Comerica field park. The facilities, long ago abandoned and briefly used as a federal internment camp, were now locked behind a gate with notices of the ongoing federal budget impasse posted around it. Sergeant Rosen was the first one out of the transport and was walking unsteadily for a short distance before he took up a position near a rusting steel fence and an ancient lamp pole.
FORMER FRB EMERGENCY SERVICES CENTER
head poked out of the transport and then agent Drake appeared, closely followed by Ganos. Rosen signaled them and they moved to cross the street toward the fence, behind which the old park, with its two shattered white tiger statues standing guard over the original fence at Witherel and Adams corner, could be seen. Agent Drake stood watch as agent Ganos opened the federal fencing. Nothing happened.
Fenwick stuck his head out and signaled to Rosen, who in turn signaled to Drake and Ganos. The team pulled back, leaving the gate open. They boarded the transport and Blaise drove it around to the open gate.
“We’ve got no activity,” Fenwick announced.
“Let’s hope it stays that way,” Blaise said. “Agents Ganos and Drake, you two stand guard at the gate. I’m going to escort Doc down to the interchange Hub. Fenwick, you hold tight with the transport. Rosen, you’ll come with me and Doc. Everyone load up and be ready for anything. Check your ammo, your armor and your bladders.”
“My bladder was blown out back on the highway,” Rosen smiled.
“I expect there will be somewhere to go inside,” Fenwick said.
“A tree or a curb is good enough for me,” Rosen added.
“Thanks for sharing,” Blaise said. “We go in on three.”
Rosen did a silent count, the vehicle door opened and they went out again. This time with Ganos and Drake taking the lead. Rosen moved ahead and on through the open gate, and then followed Jamie and Blaise.
Jamie looked up at the broken statues that stared out over the entrance of the park. From the flagpoles hung the tattered remains of the Federal Reorganization Bureau flag. On the walls was graffiti from the park’s time as an internment camp; “FRB Go Home!” and “Michigan Not Homeland!” could be seen in faded paint.
“This isn’t the main entrance,” Jamie whispered to Blaise as they moved past the original gates.
“No, it isn’t. Why?” Blaise asked, stooping to scout for any vantage point that might be had.
“The hub isn’t on this side.”
“Nope. It’s about a hundred meters from here. But this was the best way for us to approach,” Blaise said.
Rosen was waiting for them inside. “I heard that the best way in was through the beer hall,” Rosen grinned.
“Doubt there is anything left there. The FRB used this place for the culling. I doubt anything in the way of any alcohol is to be found here.”
Rosen moved out ahead on point and stopped. He made a signal.
Jamie ran his scope along the direction where Rosen was looking. He didn’t see anything.
“Check heat signals,” Blaise whispered.
Jamie changed the setting on his scope and saw them, in the distance, red shading to blue in the dark ahead of them. Blaise signaled Rosen that they would move up through the stands to avoid them. Rosen confirmed this and started up, then stopped. Rosen shook his head. Blaise and Jamie saw it too, three low blue ones, standing.
Rosen drew his knife and went up ahead of them. Jamie saw Rosen slip into the darkness, then heard the sound of a knife being buried in something hard, followed by a grunt and another dull thud. Blaise motioned for Jamie to follow him up into the stands. They found Rosen wiping his knife on the shirt of a body that was stretched out across several seats.
“KV?” Jamie asked.
“No. I think they were KVB. They tried to take my gun. They fought. But they didn’t have a lot of strength,” Rosen said.
Jamie looked at the bodies. “The heat signature and the decay would suggest they’ve been gone a long time. Maybe that’s what happens with KVBs. If they don’t hit an initial target, they wait around.”
Rosen shrugged. “Whatever they are, they aren’t it anymore. Let’s keep moving.”
Rosen walked up the stairs to the level of the second floor arches. Jamie and Blaise followed closely behind.
“Why is it so dark?” Jamie asked.
“FRB covered the stadium seating so that no one would see the culling,” Rosen replied.
“Shh,” Blaise said.
“You mean people sat here waiting to be processed?” Jamie asked.
“Then taken out on to the field and culled,” Rosen said.
“You mean killed,” Jamie corrected.
“Killed, culled. It comes to the same thing. The FRB didn’t want a panic.”
“And people just sat and waited for it to happen?”
“They didn’t know what was happening, now did they?” Rosen said. “They were told they were getting federal emergency services and no one they saw knew otherwise. Thousands of bureaucrats feeding people into the machine and none of them knew what was going on.”
“How is that even possible?” Jamie asked.
“Ever been to an IRS office?” Blaise countered.
Jamie shuddered. “No.”
“Don’t, if you can manage it. After thirty minutes of sitting in the waiting room you will lose the will to live. It’s something to do with the music they play, the color of the office and the chairs,” Blaise advised.
“Shh,” Rosen said.
There was the sound of someone running. Rosen stepped through the arch, and then stepped back. He signaled to Blaise and Jamie to take up positions around the arch. Jamie stood on the other side of the arch and Blaise stood before the entrance. The three of them trained their weapons on the open doorway. The sound of running feet grew louder.
Jamie saw the heat signatures, three of them. They were mid-red and they were coming fast. There was a flash as Rosen took the lead runner out with a shot through the center of the temple. The other two kept running and Jamie found it unnerving to see that their mouths were open and their eyes were wide in the darkness. Blaise’s shots hit the second and the third runner and they dropped. Rosen looked over to Jamie, wondering why he hadn’t taken the shot on the third one. But realized that Jamie’s weapon was pointed at him. His heat signature scope went dark when the flash happened. Then he heard the thud behind him. Rosen saw the KVB on the floor, its head blown open, its eyes gone.
“Six more coming fast,” Jamie said, still looking through his scope past Rosen.
“No point standing around,” Blaise declared, and rushed through the archway. “Follow me.”
Rosen dropped two of the six and waved Jamie into the darkness behind Blaise.
Jamie heard another two shots behind him. He was now jogging along to keep up with Blaise, who was moving further into the building and toward where the KVBs were coming from. Blaise waved Jamie forward and Rosen joined them.
“It’s just up ahead on the right. Doc will have to hook up the array and transmit from there so that we can get the signal out onto the grid,” Blaise said.
“We’ll have to get past all of that, first,” Rosen pointed out, looking through his scope at a cluster of people whose heat signatures were in the low red range.
“That is where you and me come in,” Blaise added. “I’m going to make my way to that far wall and you are going to flank them. Doc, when you see a break, you run in behind. You’ve got an access pass for the hub. Flash it and it will let you in. Once you are inside you’ll be safe.”
Jamie felt the access pass in his pocket. “Ok. Let’s do this,” he said, bringing his weapon up.
Blaise looked around the corner then ran for the far side of the hall. The bodies moved slightly, but they continued to be gathered around the entrance for the grid hub interchange.
Blaise shot one. It fell, but the bodies continued to stay around the entrance. Blaise fired again, this time hitting one further back in the crowd. The bodies continued to sway. Blaise signaled Rosen. The two of them now started firing and the crowd started to move forward. Unlike the runners that had attacked them in stands, these were moving slowly, deliberately, but they were not making themselves easy targets. For the ones that were shot through the head and were falling were being lifted by the others and carried forward like a shield.
Jamie watched as Rosen and Blaise were forced back. From beneath the wall of KVBs, one would spring forward and run hard at them. Rosen and Blaise managed to hit them before they got too close. But the sheer numbers of the bodies were such that it would only be a matter of time. Then Jamie saw the break. There was a narrow corridor between the KVBs and the entrance to the hub. If he could get over there and get in behind them he could transmit the signal and shut all of this down, now. Jamie took a deep breath, got the pass from his pocket, took one last look and then ran hard.
The distance was little over thirty-five feet between the pillar he’d been hiding behind and the hub entrance. The KVBs that hadn’t joined the surge against Rosen and Blaise were moving slowly forward to fill in the gap left by the others, and Jamie could see the path closing. He didn’t slow down. He ran full force until he nearly collided with the entrance scanner. He waved his pass at the scanner and the high pitched whine of a siren began to chirp. Jamie looked behind him and saw the entire mass of KVBs turn as one to face him. He looked back to the entrance and saw the green light flash. “Hurry up,” he muttered, willing the door to open faster.
The door slid slowly open. Jamie saw the hub access point, and saw half a dozen KVBs were in with the hub and were now moving toward him. He was surrounded.