Project Contact, chapter 4

Constantin Howard began to holler orders as he flipped through the menus and sub-menus of his tablet. He was activating his audio broadcasting privileges, but nobody else had seen the visual feed of the incoming attackers, so the people around looked at him as if he were a hobo who had suddenly started yelling about the end of the world.

“There’s a terrorist convoy coming this way!” He shouted. “Everybody to the lab elevator now!”

He didn’t know what they were. Terrorist or something else, but the word worked and their previous passive confusion gave way to a hurried but well-drilled flight towards the bowels of the building. Both  Wickerman and Svoboda signaled to him but he waved them off, telling them to go with everybody else. He switched on the compound-wide broadcast system and began talking in the most relaxed tone of voice he managed to muster. As he talked, he ran to the policemen posted outside, who were even more oblivious of the approaching threat.

“This is chief of security Constantin Howard speaking. There’s a group of armored terrorist approaching the compound. Leave whatever you are doing and run to the main elevator to the underground lab. If you are in the middle of a task or experiment that doesn’t allow you to leave your area, barricade yourselves and hide. We’ll get you out of there. Keep silent and do not try to communicate with anybody outside. Howard out.”

He switched off and then spoke to the security AI.

“Palas, translate into Dutch and French the magenta-code message I just broadcasted. Lower all the shutters and initiate a wide lockdown, minus the main door. If there’s anybody outside, send them a text message telling them to hide.”

“Done,” the feminine voice coming from the tablet said.

Inside, the building grew dark as the security shutters dropped, meanwhile, a polite woman’s voice repeated Howard’s message in Dutch. Anti-car bollards shoot up from the ground on both sides of the entrance. The cops outside, some of whom probably didn’t know much English, looked at those things that had just jutted up with puzzled expressions, but the message now being broadcasted fired them up. They rose their weapons as if someone was going to pounce at them at any moment.

The chief of security pointed at one cop and then at the distant dots down the road. They were approaching dangerously fast. Then he pointed at the cops’ truck.

“Block the entrance with that now!” He shouted and motioned with his arms, mimicking a large object against the entrance and then the use of a handbrake. “Everybody else, come inside!”

Luckily, the policeman didn’t vacillate, grabbed the keys one of his pals threw at him, and immediately set to block the entrance by placing the vehicle sideways. The distant dots were already discernable and there was no doubt about their intent. He finished the blocking maneuver as the reinforced black truck, almost a tank, was just thirty meters away from the building. It didn’t slow down.

The driver had barely enough time to jump through the opposite door inside the now almost completely dark main hall. As soon as he touched the ground, the vehicle truck shook savagely against the walls of the building, which thankfully held up against the ramming. Constantin doubted it would hold up against another, but he kept silent.

With all the cops inside. Howard smashed the emergy button by the door, which shut itself with magnetic locks. Two heavy ‘snake‘ shutters slid down and enveloped the door like a second skin. Green emergy lights came on throughout the entire building.

“Lockdown complete,” Palas announced. “As per standard protocols, local police has been alerted. Stay put. Help is on the way.”

Some of the workers had been so startled by the truck attempting to smash through that they stood still and cast fearful looks around or watched with their mouths agape at the blocked entrance. Howard barked the same orders again and they snapped out of their trance.

From the outside, he could just make out the sounds of the enemy vehicle backing up and people shouting in an indeterminate language, yelling indistinct orders and swearing. They were clearly determined, and they would try to find another way in, but at least now he had a few minutes to think up a plan.


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