Project Contact, chapter 6

Howard knew there was no time to lose. The assailants outside weren’t going to let them a few moments to mourn, breath, or pull themselves together, but he found himself unable to muster the energy to rally the people around him, or even himself, out of their glum stupor. He tried to latch on a plan, a course of action to spur everybody, but his thoughts were constantly interrupted and diverted by the faces and names of the men and women down below.

Some of the scientists were starting to stir, or were trying to call those in the lab, to no avail; others were curled against the walls, looking nowhere in particular. Svoboda was talking to someone on the phone, in Dutch, and two junior scientists were sitting down a desolate and silent Wickerman. The cops, although still shocked by their friend’s treason, looked level-headed enough, so Howard focused on them.

After repeatedly telling the scientists that he was not going to leave them, to stay put, and that everything was going to be OK, he ordered the policemen and Oliver to follow him. It was time to set up a defense.

“Couldn’t we use the back door to escape?” Oliver asked him.

The chief of security stopped on his tracks and looked at the camera feeds again. For some reason, the terrorists had not bothered to shoot or destroy the cameras, but he soon discovered why. At the front, they were still trying, unsuccessfully for now, to pull out the security door. The back door seemed clear enough, an almost too-inviting escape route, with two hundred meters or so before reaching the apparent safety of the jungle. However, the sensors in there, which the attackers most likely weren’t aware of, indicated that there were people lurking along the edge of the jungle.

“No. There’s likely an ambush waiting for us to leave. Let’s go, we’ll hole ourselves up by the entrance, and we’ll be the ones to set an ambush. “

They got to the foyer, and by the noise coming from outside, they knew the driver of the truck was aggressively gunning the engine and trying to rip off the security shutters, which were embedded deep into the ground like steel roots and were still holding up, even if groaning. Hastily, Constantin Howard told them his plan, and he made sure the cops understood it well since he would have no easy and fast way to communicate with them later.

Oliver was sent back to the corridor to hide in one of the doorways. The hallway was a perpendicular line straight into the entrance doors so he would have a clear line of fire against anyone trying to get inside. Two of the cops went to the second-floor gallery overlooking the entrance, where there were enough tables, furniture, and vending machines to build a small fort. Finally, the last cop and Howard went to opposite sides of the foyer; Howard in the bathroom, the other man in an HR office. Howard had only a pistol and the other man a shotgun, so their role would be to support the others and pester the incoming attackers from the flanks or shoot them if they tried to flee towards their positions.

Howard pressed a button on the lug of his watch, a device designed in the shape of an old-fashioned, XVIII-century watch. He had never had to use it for any threatening real-life situation before and he was glad when a pleasant ping on his earplug told him the link had been established successfully.

“Palas, are you there?” He said.

“Always.”

Howard couldn’t help but smile. “All right, turn off all the lights in the foyer and adjacent areas except emergy lights.”

Immediately, the room went dark.

“Done,” the program said.

“Excellent. When I say ‘luce’, turn them on again, and blast some extra noises through the broadcast system, same area, in the foyer, for two or three seconds.”

“Noises? Are you sure?”

“Yes, any noise. Now, Oliver, what was your code…” He said to himself. “Ah, yes, link me to Raspberry Prunt. Are you there?” A ping rang.

“Yes. I hear you, loud and somewhat clear,” Oliver said.

“Good. I’ll be your eyes, but keep hidden and remember, start shooting only at the right moment.”

“I will.”

“And Oliver?”

“Yeah?”

“Good luck… And take as many as you can.”

“I will.”

 

 

 

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