‘'Revenge: Part One - Coming in for a Landing’
A Glimpse into the World of 'Emergent Pattern'
by Troy Blackford
Gwendolyn Petrie was disgusted. Most of the men at the hospital seemed to regard the urinals in the bathrooms she was tasked with cleaning as a ‘thing to stand in front of while you piss on the floor.’ As she finished scrubbing another floor clean of the tacky, half-dried stuff, the noise first reached her ears. Gwendolyn groaned as the sound of rotors faded up from silence. Soon, she knew, it would be a deafening cacophony – whoop whoop whoop whoop – that would set her back teeth jittering.
Gwendolyn always felt nervous when a medevac helicopter got close to the hospital. When they came in to land, the sound got so loud – particularly on the seventeenth floor, where she was now. The helipad was just two floors above. She could sometimes make out the faces of the EMS copter pilot and nurse when they passed by the windows. They were that close.
To Gwen, the helicopters underscored the unpleasant truth of the hospital – that it is the last hope for desperate people. In many ways, the medical helicopter was the ultimate exemplar of the emergency room - only ever used in the case of extreme emergencies, they were brutally expensive for the patients who needed them. Unlike the ER, however, these copters ran the risk of killing everybody on board. It didn’t happen often, but it had just the month before – one crashed and exploded outside of town while on the way to pick up their charge. The nurse and pilot on board had both died in a fireball, and the patient passed half an hour later from delayed medical treatment.
On top of all these dark associations, the helicopters were loud, unnatural things that made Gwen nervous as a matter of principle. This one, however, seemed louder than most of the others. The intercom burst out with a scratchy message, and she could only just make it out over the approaching sound of the rotors.
“Electronic infrastructure maintenance staff – report to the infrastructure control room now.”
‘That’s odd,’ thought Gwen. As a member of the building’s staff, she knew that such requests were seldom broadcast over the intercom. The heads of each department had walkie-talkies, and ordinarily requests like that would be sent to the leaders, who would then rally their staff. The only time Gwen could remember the intercom being used for such a request, in fact, was when the laundry works in the sub-basement had nearly blown out in a steam boiler overload.
A moment later, the oddness of the widely-broadcast request was driven out of her mind – a loud thump rattled the travel-sized toiletries lining the shelves in the patient bathroom she was working in. Gwen staggered, shocked, back into the room. There hadn’t been an earthquake here since the time of the dinosaurs, she was sure. Yet the whole room had seemed to judder. The rings on the privacy curtains around the beds were still jingling.
The intercom again crackled. “Code six. Report to points Delta, Gamma, and Epsilon. All SECDEPT hands, report to points Delta, Gamma, Epsilon.”
Now that, Gwendolyn was sure, she had never heard before. What on Earth was a 'seck depped?' For that matter, what the heck was going on? A moment later - loud even over the harsh blat of the helicopter rotors above – came a sound that instantly turned her legs to jelly.
* * *
“Transmit medical case code, please,” said Corbin Kellerman, the hospital’s air traffic controller. At this point, he didn’t have much hope for a response. The helicopter had been approaching for five minutes, and hadn’t responded to any of his requests for information. Every bit of protocol had been breached. Corbin had already dispatched the security team to the roof, which was proper protocol in the case of a non-responsive helicopter approach.
That was as far as his training could take him, however. This was one of those situations one was trained not to expect. The most likely explanation, of course, was that the transmitter in the helicopter had a malfunction. Yet that didn’t feel quite right to Corbin. There was nothing professional or scientific about it, but Corbin’s instincts told him that there was something very, very "off" about the approaching helicopter.
He shook his head. That strange, nagging feeling wasn’t something he could put in a report. He stood on the roof, arms crossed tightly, and stared at the landing helicopter with a stiff lip. The security team stood forth, as close as they dared to the whirling rotors. Just behind them was the normal medical team – EMTs with gurneys, nurses ready to make a rapid diagnosis. In the absence of prior communication regarding the patient’s situation, they were going to have to play treatment by ear.
‘If there even is a patient,’ thought Corbin darkly. He shook his head, trying to clear away these thoughts. His heart settled in his chest when he saw the copter touch safely down on the helipad. He took this as a very good sign; watching the pilot actually land the thing instead of simply crashing it into the building significantly reduced Corbin's sense of danger.
An EMT knelt down, checking the straps on the gurney, when her hand vaporized. A second later, her back blew out in a plume of crimson. Corbin stared blankly, utterly unable to process what he was seeing. A moment later, he realized his ears – blocked by muff-style hearing protectors - were ringing above and beyond what he could expect from the familiar din of the copter. His memories caught up with his reason, and he was finally able to grasp that the two loud cracks he had just heard had been gunshots.
Two of the three members of the security team keeled over as though they had fallen prey to an instant-action sleeping gas in a cartoon. They hadn’t, though. Their bodies were covered in a disgusting spume of innards, and continued to gush out blood. The third guard ran for cover.
Corbin thought – with what little reason was still flitting around inside his head like a bird trapped in a high-ceilinged grocery store – that he should do likewise. As he ran for the stairwell, the whole roof seemed to shudder as the copter touched roughly down. Corbin felt as though he were moving through a viscous gel, like a child fleeing a monster in a dream. Everything passed him by with painful slowness.
The security guard was ahead of him, and Corbin saw - with the excruciating pace of a slowmo instant replay - the man reaching up for the handle of the door leading down into the hospital building. As Corbin’s legs churned through air that felt like gelatin, he watched in slow-motion horror as the guard yanked at the handle to no avail. The door wouldn’t budge.
Remarkably, Corbin watched his viewpoint swerving off to the side, away from the staircase doorway in a swiveling motion like the awkward, unnatural movement in a video game. Without any awareness of his actions, something deep inside Corbin had grasped that the doorway had somehow been locked, and altered his plan. As he watched - as though at a great remove - the input of his own eyes, a sick dashed line of dark red cut itself into the hapless security guard’s body.
Corbin had already installed himself behind the massive rooftop air conditioning system – itself as big as several studio apartments – before he realized what he had done in the front of his mind. Peeking around the edge of the metal box of the HVAC unit, he watched in horror as first one, then three, then five riot-gear clad men and women in black leapt out of the chopper. His worst fears – so deeply buried inside, so irrational seeming that he hadn’t been able to fully acknowledge them – were confirmed: the helicopter had nothing to do with saving lives. Instead, it was here to claim them.
The first of the people to debark the copter was also the largest. It was to this towering man that the others turned. He spoke.
“We’ll go inside now. The doors will all be sealed. You have your transponders?” The others nodded. He grunted in assent. “There are seventeen floors. Three of us will clear the security from five floors – I will take seven. The bottom seven. You two,” he said, indicating the leftmost pair, “will remain here. Assemble the surface-to-air cannons. I imagine you won’t be left alone for long.” He smiled a wan smile, a look of sick pleasure that was somehow more like a grimace than a smile.
“Make sure to engage your transponder immediately after clearing any doors,” he continued. “We don’t want escapees. I’ll signal you before Phase Two begins. We’ll need to clear out fast.”
Corbin shuddered – the man pronounced the words ‘Phase Two’ in such a way that the capital letters were inescapable. Whatever was going on, it had been heavily orchestrated.
“Yes, Pygmalion,” said the remaining four people in staggered unison.
“Excellent,” the tall one, this ‘Pygmalion,’ said, his self-satisfied smile widening. “We go.”
With that, most of the group followed him to the stairway. Corbin repressed a gasp when they viciously kicked the decimated corpse of the security guard, slumped against the stairwell door, out of the way. The tall man, the man in front, pressed something on his belt that looked like a garage door opener, and the door opened. The remaining two went back into the chopper and pulled out a pair of large cases.
Corbin ducked back behind the HVAC system, his head spinning. He heard a series of clicks and snaps as the pair on the roof snicked parts together. He thought he could guess what they were doing. In the meantime, the pneumatic wheeze of the closing door drifted across the open space of the rooftop. In the now silent stillness of the nineteenth story hospital roof, Corbin heard a sharp click, carried over the closer sounds of huge, tripod mounted anti-aircraft guns being assembled, and knew that the electronic door lock had been re-engaged.
He breathed deeply through his nose, the frightened whistles of air sounding horribly loud in his blood-pounding ears, as the realization of what was happening dawned on him like a blood-red sun rising over the arid desert. The memory of a dozen or more sensational newscasts – newscasts he had never taken seriously for a moment – echoed and ricocheted through his mind.
“Criminal Syndicate Thwarted – Massive Crime Group Unmasked,” The KANE newscast had trumpeted. “Conspiracy, Collusion, and Corruption,” Galaxy Messenger – the biggest of the local papers – had blared from the headlines. “The upper levels of the city police force have been infiltrated by a sinister group of international terrorists,” the radio had reported as Corbin drove to work, “as part of a daring, flagrant plan thwarted by only a handful of officers.” Corbin had changed the channel to the classic jams hour on a station focused on ‘the best of the ninties, noughties, and now-ties.’ He hadn’t bought it for a second. Sounded too fantastical, too like an action film for his sprawling but quiet city.
Nor had he believed that the further claims of all these reports: that the criminal syndicate which had seen its medical black market and drug ring thwarted was so furious at having its well-laid plans unmasked that it was determined to strike back at the city at all costs. Well now, on the roof of the hospital building in which he worked, with a pile of dead co-workers and a contingent of terrorists roaming throughout the building, he knew better.
The so-called ‘revenge attack,’ revenge for the disruption of an organized crime-ring he hadn’t even believed in, was real. It was happening right now.
And he was stuck in the middle of it.
TO BE CONTINUED IN ONE MONTH