Thursday, September 1, 2011

Land Leave 18


The two ships pulled in tightly on the pillars. They took a survey of the damaged area. They had switched to an unused Navy channel, “This looks extensive, methodical,” James could tell that there was significant structural damage to the central frame and the supporting pillars. He saw people trying to escape on the slanted edge of the pillar. James saw people running to the edge of the impact zone or trying to climb higher. The two groups were stopped by the flames or the sky respectively. “How can we get them out of there?”

Bill was circling the third pillar, trying to assess entries and exits. At that moment a body fell from the edge of the building. People were jumping to escape. “I have people jumping above the impact. I have temperatures at 350 celsius and rising.”

“I see something, I'm still getting a field from the magna-rails. Point of entry?” James looked around.

Bill came around to the slanted edge. “There.” He saw the distinct rows of plexi-glass running to the base of the structure, “but how do we get them there?”

James flew low to the edge of the impact zone. As he did so, his thrusters blew away the smoke revealing the extent of the damage. It looked to be a thirty foot gap. He flew in to within three feet of the surface of the building, creating a bridge with the ship over the gap. The proximity sensors in the ship were going crazy. The bottom of the ship was heating rapidly and taking on new weight could bring the ship down into the structure. It was reckless, but also functional. People clambered onto the ship and crossed to below the impact zone.

Bill fired a low caliber shot at the plexi-glass panels and directed people to crawl into the magna-rail space and fly down. “How are you holding up?” Bill asked.

“It's tight, not sure how much longer I can do this,” James' hands were sweaty and clenched tight. He saw a largely orderly line heading toward his position. Then a man, frantic to escape, broke the orderly line. He rushed through, pushing several people nearly to their deaths. He jumped on the James' ship, tipping the nose sharply down and to the left. It scraped the edge of the building and flared the aft thrusters into the air. It happened too quickly for James to respond. Suddenly his ship was blasting into the center of the wreckage.

“James!” Bill called frantically over the comm. He couldn't see if James had come out all right but he knew that the situation couldn't be good, “James!” He hovered around the blast zone, seeing if he could see in. His thermal enhancement camera showed the ship, still relatively cool compared to the sweltering heat inside. If James was still alive after the impact then he was safe. At least he hoped so.

Bill turned to try to face the problem before him, he was now the only navy vehicle to help with rescue operations. He scanned his radar for any other mobilized craft. It appeared that there was no air traffic. Bill noticed the peculiarity of that situation. No rescue ships meant that something was wrong with the their take-off points. He evaluated the situation, above the blast zone there appeared to be about two dozen or so people that still needed to traverse the gap.

He was evaluating his ability to mimic James' action when he noticed the entire pillar above the blast zone was tilting. The top piece was going to collapse and fall into the top level, where the replica city of Boston was placed. If that fell huge amounts of sensitive equipment would be lost—the military kept major offices on the top floors of every mega-structure—and millions of lives could be in danger. The collapse of one section could precipitate the collapse of the rest. Bill thought about what he could do, he switched his comm channel to emergency response. He screamed into the comm, “evac mandatory. Mayday. Mayday. Repeat imminent collapse, get everyone out. Mayday. Mayday,” he put his call on a loop and transmitted over every channel he could. Then he pulled into the Boston commons, landing where a group of police vehicles were gathered, he popped open his cockpit and yelled at the cops, “what the hell? The top is collapsing! Get everyone out! Where are the copters, why am I the only one airborne?”

A police chief turned to him with a look of terror, “there's no one else. The hangars were bombed first.”

Bill cursed, “we need evac. The place is falling!”

The chief looked at him somewhat blankly, “what's falling?” Bill thought that was a pretty self-explanatory statement until he considered the blast zone.

With a ray of hope, “at least 4 stories at the joint, how much weight can the other A-frame pillar hold?”

“Not sure, how much do you think we need to amputate to save the body?”

Bill sickened at the thought. He was discussing the destruction of part of the A-frame, a move that would surely kill those stranded and anyone below. “How fast can you clear below the impact zone?”

“Use channel four. You tell us when to clear it out.” And with that the chief moved to create an evac route for exiting civilians.

Bill briefly looked at the damaged building and held in a bowel movement. His skin went clammy and his hands shook violently. He tightened his helmet, closed the cockpit and headed back to the impact zone. He fired up his laser cutters and targeted the pillars eight stories above the impact site, “hope you made it out James.”

break---

James woke up in total darkness. He knew that his life support systems must still be working because he was awake in heavy smoke and quite comfortable in temperature, “God damn it!” He pounded the console and pulled the trigger on his machine gun. It fired three rounds and jammed. He clenched his fists and hit everything. He tore off his seat-belt and activated his survival suit. It was heavy, but it would protect him. He activated his thermal enhancement layer and exited the building.

He looked around and saw the direction of the window and the emergency doors. The ceiling shifted above him, huge panels fell, crashing around him. He noticed a cool spot in the corner and headed toward it. It was an emergency exit. He pulled it open, seeing only the dim red light from the exit sign. His screen showed that it was relatively free of smoke and he assumed it was a way through the blast. He quickly ran upstairs, jumping over debris. Two flights up he burst into the room and headed straight for the slanted angle of the pillar. He had found an exit and could get anyone stranded off the roof-top levels. James saw the window where someone had crawled out and went to it, “hey, over here! I found a working exit!” The people saw him and started crawling back to exit. “Keep calm but we have to go now! I just got a mayday on this building, it's going down.”

A piece of steam ducting dislodged from the ceiling and slammed James' helmet. He cursed, picked himself off the ground and did an emergency exit from the suit. It was too heavy and he should be ok in the stairwell. The first civilian had reached the window and he helped her down into the building. He then motioned to the open stairwell and asked if she could guide a group down. She nodded calmly.

A man came through next, “there are injured people six stories up, I was on that floor.”

James nodded to him, “ok. This building is going to collapse. Get out now. Take this group and go.” James let 14 people in and looked out the window. He noticed that Bill's fighter was using its laser cutter to shear through the pillar eight stories up. The building shifted again and James was knocked off his feet. He saw 9 more people waiting to come down, “c'mon. There's no time!” James pulled the remaining people down, did a double-check and headed for the stairwell. He ran up the stairs and gave the evacuation order on every floor. Each floor there seemed to be a bewildered group of people waiting for instruction. They were so high up and communication was shut off so rapidly that many had been paralyzed with fear.

He reached the floor the man had mentioned and saw the damage. It was right below a magna-rail fuse arrangement and had basically exploded down when the bomb had gone off. There was twisted metal and debris everywhere. In the center of the room stood 4 giant capacitors. James looked at the sprinkler system and breathed a sigh of relief that the system hadn't activated, otherwise he would surely be fried.

“Help!” James heard a voice, “help!” He looked around and saw that under a heavy duty mesh of wiring was what appeared to be a Secret Service agent. James ran to help him, and lifted the heavy cables off his crushed legs.

“You ok?” James asked.

“I'll be f--” the man stopped mid-sentence, “you are Rojas' boy. He's here. You're here. Wait, there's this,” the man pulled out a small storage card and handed it to a bewildered James, “get this out of here and keep it safe. Trust no one.”

James looked at the storage card and looked at the injured man, “who's here?”

“Your father. He was investigating senatorial corruption and then this explosion happened. I lost him in the commotion. Keep it safe.” James helped the man to the stairwell, “I can take it from here.”

“Where is he?”

“We were headed to the Navy offices. He might be there.”

James headed up a flight of stairs. As he neared the next flight he felt the deep rumbles and shakes of more explosions rocking the mega-structure. Then he heard the thundering clap of two sonic booms. There were ships in the air, and they were attacking the mega-structure.