Sandra – 10:35 P.M Bridge
Unrelenting winds whipped across the concrete and wire enforcements holding the suspension bridge thousands of feet above the river below. Underneath her thin yellow raincoat she wandered towards him, that boy, her son, standing there in a quiet trance. His eyes were fixed on the ongoing horizon and into the sea that went on forever beneath the crackling light flickering and flashing brilliantly above their heads.
Cars roared by, sending a thick mist of oil, dirt and water across the walkway. The soles of her sneakers held her steady amongst this, chaos, her son, her little boy was helpless.
“Jared.” Sandra attempted to yell over the roar of passing cars, each individually on there way to an unknown destination. The louder she called his name, the more cars passed, more dirt slapped along the leg of her jeans, more water splashed up against her coat.
The cold was biting even more relentlessly with the thick layer of her clothing gripping her skin, her hair stringing along her face, blonde streaks turning white with the crystals of near frozen rainwater. It was desperately cold, but she continued on, walking to her son, as if a balancing act between the guardrail to her left and right. One clearly lead into traffic, a traffic moving so blindingly fast in between the large moving sheets of rain, the other a black abyss gently smeared with a blanket of mist from the rain.
She tried to smile, to bring warmth if not more into her body, at least in her smile. Jared, her son only stared into the darkness, unmoving amidst the rain whipping back and forth, almost simultaneously.
“Baby, we’ve been through so much already, please, we can make it a little while longer.” She tried to soothe him, only steps further towards her son, to her baby.
“Come on dear,” she continued, she would have been talking to a concrete wall, but to her, he was coming around. He didn’t move, not a muscle or a twitch in his pale face. Blue eyes lost within that perfect white cloud only inches away from the bridge, with the rain so hard, it felt like gravity was approving him to let go, to finally fly forever.
Michael – 10:00 P.M Undisclosed headquarters
Bullet proof vest were always heavy on his chest, a sign that he was getting either weaker or that they gave him the wrong size again. He gave an exhale, as his thick fingers fiddled with the combination lock to his locker, looking at the blue metal reflected the badge, the uniform. None of that mattered now, he would soon be on his way to the Hospice Pub, hell, and maybe he’d get lucky enough to win this week’s football pool.
His locker swung open, a thin whine of the hinges as he stared into his face in the mirror, it had been raining since that morning and his face was now drying with dirty rain-water. The angry pedestrian, the drug abuser, small blue patches and swelled red lumps on his lower jaw. Michael gave two lengthy jerks of his head, amber hair flicking down loosely from its coif into his eyes.
“fuck.” He mumbled, and jerked his head as wildly as he could, loosening the entire style down into one wild mess. He exhaled again and started to slip out of his navy blue, button up shirt came off again then he was to the god forsaken Kevlar vest pressed so indefinitely into his chest as if it would push out of his back.
One Velcro strap after the next and he could breathe much easier, he exhaled and let his muscles relax and he laughed, the night was beginning to look up after all.
“Sauron.” A commanding voice bellowed from the end of the locker-room, his senior by several ranks and years strolled in with papers, a look on his face told a story to long to get into. The papers had paper-clips, markings, pictures. “Shit,” he thought, and apparently his ‘night’ would be far from over.
“Hate to give you overtime,” out of the corner of Michaels eye, his commanding officer didn’t even shrug, only held those documents in his hands loosely, tight here and the next moment not, as if a child that would wander away if his grip would loosen.
“Get in the equipment locker and suit up, well be leaving in twenty minutes.” He paused, “It’s her.” His commander said, the low clod of his boots echoed as Michael took one last look into his mirror, strained skin and tension lines were forming at the ends of his mouth. His forehead wrinkled and relaxed gently as he at first gritted his teeth then slammed his locker shut, following the path his commander took without another word or thought.
Tonight would be one to remember.
Sandra – 11:15 P.M Bridge
“I’m sorry.” She whispered to no one, “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, suddenly everyone could hear those small words that escaped her pink lips. The world seemed to shrink around her, all the eyes and heat bore down on her, and the rain was still hard as ever. A thick vale shifting back and forth in front of her, glaring so many oncoming spot-lights and bodies of the advancing soldiers. The man groaned beneath that rubber mask, the pen was still lodged deep within the circular vision cap of his mask but no blood, no twitch of life that seemed to leave him. On the contrary, he seemed to alive to have endured such a traumatizing injury, perhaps shock was taking this poor man that as was advised, she stood to close too.
All eyes were on her, everyone of them unsure of a coarse of action, a plan, not since one person decided to snap and put one of their own on the floor with a pen rammed somewhere in the mans face and three inches to deep. The traffic closest to the walkway was halted as men awkwardly approached the situation, hands out with their left hand tightly clutched on matching semi-automatic rifles, the short barrel in line with a flashlight just beneath it.
At the fear of being riddled with bullets she quickly made out the outline of the weapon, the rail on top, the strap crossed over his shoulder and tightly pulled, stressing it along his back. The approaching lead of the three or four men approaching from the left, the stronger side of the guard rail that separated the traffic from pedestrians was growing thin as he moved into one of the openings.
All signs of peace as the most of them approached her as she backed up one step for every two or three that they made. Her yellow coat felt heavy with all the harsh rain water, her skin was suddenly hot. The lead, the man in front near took those eyes off of her as he got to the foot of the fallen man; Sandra was suddenly the only separation between her son and the soldiers.
He touched his foot, quietly kneeled to a final position at the body, pointing that black barrel dead into her chest. Soon, a red tracing beam was centered on her sweater, pointing both through her almost into her son. She stopped completely, her blood was running thinner as the seconds grew closer to one another before she finally lost her breathe.
One more joined the ranks, taking the left rear so two men were on each side of the fallen, they all gently and meticulously grabbed a built in strap at the shoulders and legs that straightened him to a standing position on the ground. What appeared to be clips stretched from his spine and his legs, they clipped them between his ankles and his back over his chest. One more set connected around his waist, there were six straps total, but only four men. The man at the foot of the fallen stood up straight, not wavering at all with his weapon, carefully trained from any funny business.
Sandra found herself breathing in extremely scarce and short intervals, her chest gently convulsing as she watched them. The ‘hard’ part came at the four men, plus one putting their rifles at the side, the men up front took two of the straps on the mans side, the other two grabbed at his legs, got a good grip on it, then all at once they all heaved to a standing position holding the man up straight.
As if challenged to a quick draw each man at the rear took up their rifles to the backs of the men in front. Three perfectly made ‘periods’ all sat on her chest as they backed further into the vale of uncompromising rain that hollered around them. She closed her eyes and counted slowly to ten, at the end of ten, they were gone, only leaving the spotlights to gaze upon her.
Aaron – 1:50 A.M Southwest Medical Center
Focusing on the tile ceilings, it worked for a minute or two before he looked back down at the tips of his feet underneath the white sheet. Counting them one by one until he focused on the small rail along his hospital bed, it came in clear, then he stopped, closing his eyes as best as the newly formed wound would allow. It wouldn’t however, tightening loosely at the weakest parts of his torn eyelid, along the side the stitches promised hours of medicine, but, the gash would be a story to tell.
In the darkness behind his eyelids he saw the flash, the hand moving so quickly, blindingly then nothing at all except the heart rate monitor in the back of the van. He opened his eyes to the door sliding open, some expensive shoes clicked along the polished laminated floor and a grey haired man entered, mustache trimmed down as well as his goatee. He had a gentle face, almost ageless besides the hair color that he wore similar to a crown of wisdom. Under his left arm was a leather portfolio, folded upward, it matched his suit from nearly head to toe. This man had pale green eyes a nice smile, he was handsome in the most heterosexual way he could come to accept, and it might have been the (drug name here).
Aaron tried his best to sit upright in the bed, every part of his body was stinging with pain, and it’s quite interesting to have your eye nearly eviscerated from the side of your skull with a pencil. That would be the story; he repeated it in his mind to be brief, exact regardless of this drug induced stupor.
When sitting up didn’t work he pressed a button and the entire bed folded into a crude recliner, the back keeping him upright with enough room for him to be presentable but, kept his head from swimming into a nausea state.
“I understand that you’ve had quite the ordeal.” Surprisingly, this older man sounded American, Aaron was expecting someone not of this country to have class, he smiled dryly, his face still in patches and it felt awkward so he relaxed to the mans concerned gaze.
“I guess you could say that,” Aaron started, “How can I help you mister”,
“Johnson, I am, Craig Johnson, executive legal representative for your department.” The two of them exchanged the briefest of hand shakes and he got right into business.
Aaron leaned back into the slightly slopped bed,
“So, I take it you’re here for a statement since I wasn’t conscious a few hours ago right?”
Aaron asked, to this Craig Johnson laughed, shaking his head,
“Ah-yes, I suppose after the blast,” he sighed, adjusting his demeanor in the chair a bit as he continued,
“ It was quite hard to rally anyone up now would it?” Johnson said, Aaron simply nodded, and so, he continued as per business as usual,
“It seems that, within the primary attack,” Johnson started, sitting down in a chair close to his bed on the left hand side, pulled open his portfolio and took a look through a collection of papers. The crude scratches and various signatures were accounts from others there.
“The – attacker, one Sandra, felled one Aaron and retrieved a high explosive device, do you remember what that was?” Johnson worded it very simply, a statement of the events to jog ones memory, then the honesty test. Aaron was drawing a blank, staring past the man in the chair and into a void; the legal ‘representative’ studied his face, as if cogs or gears were processing the information.
“My god, boy, do you even know what happened after you were attacked?” he asked, leaning back. Aaron took his time, closing his eyes as he attempted to sort out the clouded memory. The grasp of so many arms around his body, turning weightless as if a good portion of the men there threw him overboard, only shortly after was the eventual bite of freezing cold, a gusting wind and then being swallowed kicking, fighting screaming by a large hairy beast. As he slid down into this monstrous beast mouth, he was drenched in cold acid fluid, he couldn’t breathe in the belly of the beast or move, he felt despair before waking up here in reality.
He sighed, eyes still closed even though the darkness was thick and the vision had come to a cease.
“I got hurt; whoever hit me moved to fast, I couldn’t even react.” Aaron started; he could make out Johnson’s scribbling pen, taking down carefully a few of Aaron’s words to describe his first hand experience.
“I remember being in pain, I couldn’t blink and I was crying inside the mask, first, I couldn’t feel anything for awhile. Then, my unit put into protocol the personnel evacuation emergency straps, they are a kind of clip and handle system built into my suit, make it easier to carry someone or drag them. The same system is used when they air drop us into the water, supposed to take the impact off.” There was a silence, Johnson’s writing did not cease,
“Yes, the suits were apart of a new protocol to help injured soldiers in Iraq to be easily identified, it actually activates a number of vital signals in you’re suit that tell us how soon we need to get you back to medic.”
Aaron nodded quietly, eyes still tightly closed, “I remember, the heart monitor, a lot of noise. Like, a talking noise or a murmur, then I heard someone talk about evacuation, then I heard a gunshot and then I became weightless. Almost like I was flying, and it became really dark and cold, so cold and then, I woke up here.” Aaron opened his eyes, staring solemnly into that man who was intensely focused in finishing the statement. He nodded his head down into the paper, pen going in cursive at a comfortable pace before he looked up at Aaron from his writing. For a moment, he seemed to tell Aaron everything that transpired on the bridge after he was attacked, in that explanation was why he floated, what the hand grenade had to do with anything and why he was there.
“Well?” Aaron asked, the man nodded and for a moment there was nothing more than a silence between them. The man closed the portfolio, he seemed quietly perplexed but stood up, and fished into his pocket, the one hand pulled out a cell phone and a wallet which he laid very gently on the bed stand beside Aaron who never took his eyes from Johnson.
“I took the liberty in getting your personals replaced that you had on you at the time, I also programmed my number into your directory, give me a call should anything come up. Alright?” he sounded sincere and kind. Aaron nodded, underneath the scars, the patches of white bandages that were along his face and the pain he watched him, watched until he left the room, leaving him in silence.
11:47 P.M Bridge
Silence, crying in the silence was similar to a fairy-tale, you can’t believe it would come to such, but these shallow tears amount to nothing against the bend of rain drops rolling down her face. Her arm was outstretched as far as she could, her eyes swelling with anger, but, she wouldn’t turn away from any of them. It was just like before, all of those familiar barrels, every one of those cylinder shaped cast of iron or metal were directed at her.
“Ma’am, please, put the grenade down.” Michael was at the top of his lungs, if there was one thing they didn’t need, it was this, a woman so morally distraught that it came to losing her life and possibly the life of others.
She held it out in front of her, like a handgun of her own, grown men shuddered all at once backwards into each other.
“Sandra!” he was yelling at her, “Put, the grenade down.” He had no other words; he had nothing else to say with the wind beating against his still mildly swollen face. She was shaking visibly now with the grenade loosely gripped in her hand, outstretched once more as if the point of the pin would strike them all down if she released the lever.
As she backed up to the slumped body of her son, she tried to grasp her situation, waving the grenade from in front of her and back, exercising her arm, if one moment would go by that it waved below her waist, it felt as if she would be shot down.
Michael was persistent as ever, over the past hour or so, he had seen a lot, most of which he never thought possible. In the end however, she was another mother protecting her child, no matter how old or primitive the position, she was keeping him away from harm. She balanced biting and sucking her lower lip until her sneaker heel bumped the boy’s body. Sandra felt a jolt inside her body, her breathing began to increase as she slowly but surely kneeled at her son’s body, her free hand gently caressing for a sign of life.
All of their eyes fixed on her, as if she would jump, pull the pin in a sweeping motion quick and precise or simply pull another act equally mesmerizing.
She sighed, that one hand extended out so strong as she slowly kneeled beside him, Jared was a cold quiet lump on the ground, unmoving from the shock from earlier, she inhaled sharply as a forceful push to turn him over failed as her hand fell into a small fist size hole in his side. Her eyes were wide with disbelief, and the words she wanted to scream were caught in her throat, she couldn’t move.
Michael kept steady, his muzzle at the ready. If she were to move, he’d want to end her quickly if it were possible at all. He called out to the dazed women, eyes wide like silver dollars.
“Sandra, if you don’t let us get to that weapon, you could hurt a lot of people.” He screamed out, trying to keep his voice from breaking. The cold was becoming a negative factor in all of this. She was standing, her legs buckling beneath her already drenched sweater beneath that yellow rain coat. It had become useless at this point to keep warm; the light in her life was just taken away from her.
“A lot of people.” Her voice was a slow murmur, suddenly he couldn’t feel his fingers, the only thing he could see was a blur, her hand moved, twitched beside the grenade. It was so fast that many of the men screamed in terror, another fired three shots just beside the dead body and her coat.
“HOLD YOUR FIRE.” Michael alerted and finding himself back on planet earth yelled as best as he could.
There was an uneasy twitch to all of them; she had pulled the pin, her hand, fingertips just applying enough pressure to keep it from releasing. The bullets had done nothing to shift her, to move her as she stood there stern, but, the look in remorse sank deep into her face.
“Kill me…” she whispered, “kill me. I have nothing left, KILL ME” she yelled, Michael again hesitated, at that moment, his life was passing in front of his eyes, faster then anything else. He couldn’t hold on anymore, his arms were heavy so he lowered his weapon. The muscles in his neck tightened and began to ache for relief, for any relief. His rifle was now in pointed down at the ground as one hand quietly unstrapped the Kevlar straps and buckles of his chest.
“Sir?” one of the amateurs next to him sounded, questioning exactly why he was going through with all of, at the time, didn’t make sense. Michael was now pulling off his helmet, dropping it onto the concrete sidewalk of the bridge; the rain was amazingly cold against his hot skin.
“Evac.” He said in one, very calm word, the man next to him didn’t know what else to do or say, he was confused until Michael raised his voice to yelling at everyone.
“Evacuate, NOW!” his voice roared as he turned his head to every one of them still standing, for the love of god, move it!
Michael – 10:34 P.M En Route to Madison Bridge
This was a different commanding officer, the leadership did not feel the same and for a moment, everything felt out of place for some reason. For the state of(I don’t know yet) to deploy armed forces for a near remedial situation such as this seemed silly. Still, there were a good seventeen in the van itself, one length long bench stretched from one end to the other with a single weapons cage in front of them, dividing the two groups evenly if possible.
The ‘van’ was a box truck, black, with their unit displayed along the side as it raced through the city streets. Michael had his head back against the metal of the van, it was suited to transport, not comfort so his beating from earlier was swelling from the cold on his face. He exhaled before he was bumped lightly with an elbow to his side.
“hey, you’re Sauron, lieutenant?” Michael opened his mouth to correct the boy until his face became like a mosaic, he had to put all of the abstract colors of the flickering van siren lights together before it made a face.
“Yeah.” He said hesistantly, immediately he was taken by his gloved hand and shook vigorously.
“Tis an honor sir, to meet you in person.” The boy, as Michael would have mistakenly referred to him as, was a junior grade in their division, Aaron Bailey, his father was a Marine, the real deal and not some government specific task force that worked on and off the clock for a state.
“Aye, I remember you,” Michael, who finally was catching on to everything, regardless if the boys name and grade weren’t plastered on the suit. Aaron’s face seemed to light up, he was African-american, and from what Michael took time to read raised in California and moved around a lot until his father left the marine core ranks when he suffered an injury for six months. Aaron took up the trade along with two younger sisters and a younger brother, only child for roughly a couple of years, his mother was a government official that believed in certain ‘means’ to be met for funding in non-lethal activities, it was a funny idea that there would be so much difference in one household.
“You don’t need to worry about your father, when I work, I work on the first impression.” Michael eased him, Aaron seemed excited, his left leg jittering and he couldn’t let go of Michaels hand until he spoke up,
“I need that hand back son.” Aaron looked confused, glanced down and made a kind of surprised look in his eyes quickly letting go of the hand.
“S-sorry.” He nodded to Michael, who, returned the gesture kindly. Up ahead, right in front of the weapons locker was a Plexiglas and steel enforced door that sealed and locked on both sides. He stood up, taking hold of the rings of the truck and moved past a few of his would be teammates, most of them tour veterans from iraq, others police officers or in the rare occasions, ROTC.
He pressed a seven digit combination into the keypad of the door. It slid open sideways and he was now in the cabin with the driver who was surrounded by the lights and gauges of the van. I guess there is more to driving this thing to a gas pedal and a transmission.
Michael tapped the co driver, a person who was as always asked the questions first, he was a middle aged man, unlike all the other tactical gear riding in the back of the truck, the driver and co driver were the only two dressed down.
“What’s our ETA?” he said, his voice just one more step to yelling. The man had a keypad in his lap; in the dash in front of him were two screens, one 11.5’’ LCD screen that matched the other beside it. One was scrolling some technological babble while the other had a map, the co driver typed in a length of words or something and he turned his head upwards to Michael, his voice just below a yell.
“About twenty minutes, headquarters and the local police are trying to clear traffic to the Madison Bridge, I think it’s time you brief your team sir.” Michael nodded, and for a moment stared into the passing lights, time had certainly changed for a large ‘bus’ to whirl through downtown at near top speeds and cars actually moved out the way or an officer ahead helped move the oncoming traffic.
Michael leaned back into the length of the truck, the clearing was chock full of folks that were either ready for another night, or, like Aaron would be their first real experience with any real ‘danger’.
The lot of them looked in his direction while others seemed to be religious and in prayer, Michael let the sliding door close shut behind him and flicked a small switch that lit track lights along the bottom and top creases of the truck.
“Alright, listen up, this is going to be a code-3 situation, we have two identified on the Madison bridge which we are en-route to. I know a lot of you haven’t been informed as to what a code-3 is, well, mainly because we have never seen anything like it before.”
Michael licked his lips, swallowed something to keep his throat from forming a knot and continued,
“Because of the situational danger, I want everyone on there P’s and Q’s. Do not move unless I say so, do not fire or change from the plan as follows. If that should happen, it might be, disastrous in the very most. Code-3 as follows by the mandate of our squad, hostile in the public environment with intent to either hurt or capable of destroying any remaining matter within a couple kilometers.” He sighed, “I don’t want any casualties, so please, everyone follow my lead and let’s make this a simple clean retrieve, let’s ease these individuals down before the main gets upset. Her name is Sandra Collins, her age is unknown, she is a Caucasian female, around one-hundred and forty pounds, dirty blonde, and eyes shouldn’t matter because she is in fact dangerous. We lost track of her son a few days ago, he’s a level 2 according to the manual and headquarters, if anything, when I say so, and we want to put the son down with lethal force only.”
He was able to watch a few of the men’s faces turn in confusion, but, like the good men they were or claimed to be, none of them flinched in any kind of dissention, no one complained the fact or questioned it. This was business as usual. He cupped his lips, trying to keep the four or five paper brief on the two as short, sweet and relieving as possible, no use in scaring people out of this division.
“I think that if I lead, we can atleast talk the mother into getting her son the help he needs, if not, we put him down with lethal force only, then we believe that we can take the mother without any real problems, so take the tranquilizer cartages and CO2 for you’re AR-547 semi automatic rifle. I don’t expect anything out of the ordinary so safety on until I say otherwise.”
There was a unison of nods through the cabin, as if everyone at once simply ‘agreed’ to staying safe, ‘agreed’ that if the worse came to they would do there best to stay professional. Michael looked at his watch, and then took his helmet from a wall hook in the van’s cabin.
“Full face protection with breathing apparatus, to keep the confusion down, I will be going in, no face protection and ocular enhancements. We good men? Let’s get this party started.”
11:53 P.M. – Bridge
When a catastrophe hits, say, similar to a hurricane a tornado or an earthquake, it’s relatively hard to keep ones thoughts in line with the fear that grips any one in that state of mind. Humans by default deal with fear in a number of ways, for Sandra, immediately defending her son, even in the face of death here; it was fear holding that firm piece of rugged steel in her hand.