Tuesday 26 February 2013
‘I can’t get through, Gus,’ Hilary was panicked.
‘What do you mean you can’t get through? Do you have cell coverage?’ he replied. She looked at the screen of her cell phone, analysed the signal bars, and then redialled Verity Flynn’s cell phone number.
‘Still nothing,’ she told Gus. He drummed his hands on the steering wheel but continued driving out of town.
‘I’m not going back, Thoms. I’ve got no intention of dying for Blackwood,’ Gus snapped.
One thought hung in the air between them: Blackwood had initiated Hawkwind knowing that his own flesh and blood was going to be in the middle of it.
‘Seems that my uncle is willing to sacrifice me as collateral damage.’ Hilary was the first to raise the idea. ‘I, like you, have no intention of dying for my uncle. Keep driving, Gus, as fast as you can. The sooner we get the hell out of here, the better for us. And you can mark my words: I will have Terence Blackwood’s head on a platter when we get back. I’ll speak to whoever I need to speak to in order to get this out into the open.’
Gus was quick to respond. ‘Try that investigative journalist from The New York Times. Eden Gross. She’s been banging on Blackwood’s door for years trying to get the truth out about the corporation.’
They drove in silence for around ten minutes before Gus spoke again.
‘Try Verity again. See if you can get through.’
Hilary redialled Verity Flynn’s number once more and was greeted again by a computerised voice informing her that the call could not be connected.
‘Still nothing,’ she said.
‘It’s Hawkwind,’ Gus blurted out startling his passenger. ‘Part of the Hawkwind initiative is to jam all incoming and outgoing communications. That’s a component of part one. Most people within the town won’t be aware of that, and by the time they are, they’ll assume there’s a cell tower down, and it’ll be too late. We still need to put more distance between us and them.’
Gus Portland pressed his foot harder on the accelerator. They had passed the town limits ten minutes ago but having roughly calculated the approximate reach of Hawkwind, Gus wanted to be further away. Much further away.
* * * * *
Nicholas Kent slyly glanced at his wristwatch. By now, his wife Sheri would be at least two towns away assuming that everything was going to plan and highway patrol officers hadn’t pulled her up. He really wanted to be on his way as well, but Eden Gross and Dr. Felicity Evans weren’t easing up on him. Carlo and Anna Lucciano both sat placidly on the sofa not paying any attention to the tennis match of insults that had started flying around the room again.
‘Dr. Kent, please,’ said Eden, ‘there’s got to be something that you know. Any ideas where we might find cultures and specimens to so that you and Dr. Evans can create some basic cures?’
‘Basic cures?’ Kent snapped. ‘What fucking planet are you on? There’s no such thing as a basic cure, and sweetheart, any cure would take weeks, maybe even months to properly cultivate.’
He stood and paced around the room. His body ached from sitting so long, his mind would not stop trying to find a way out of the current situation, his stomach growled from hunger, and his head had begun to pound. His legs, now feeling shaky and weak, decided to stop working and felt them go before his body could correct itself. The thump of Nick’s body hitting the floor drew everyone’s attention away from the conversation. Dr. Evans rushed to his aid.
‘Kent? Kent, are you okay?’ asked Dr. Evans. Sprawled out on the floor, he lay paralysed, no part of his body following the instructions of his brain to work or move or speak.
‘Get me a pillow or a cushion for his head,’ Evans called out. Carlo was the first to react, tossing a cushion from the sofa towards the doctor. She snatched it up from the floor and slid it under Nick’s head.
‘His breathing’s slowing. This isn’t good,’ she said.
‘I’ll call 9-1-1,’ the journalist replied.
Eden grabbed the cell phone from the coffee table in front of her and dialled the emergency services number.
The number you have dialled cannot be connected.
‘What the fuck?’ Eden screamed and redialled the number only to hear the same recorded message. ‘I can’t get through. The call’s not connecting.’
‘TRY AGAIN,’ Evans shouted.
Eden dialled the number a third time.
‘Same thing,’ she replied.
Dr. Evans pulled her phone from her jacket pocket and dialled.
‘Jesus, I’ve got the same,’ she said.
‘Me too,’ added Carlo who had tried dialling out from his cell phone. ‘Anna, check the phone.’
Anna vacantly got up from the sofa and disappeared from the room, returning within seconds with the phone receiver in her hand.
‘Nothing,’ Anna whispered.
‘Something’s up,’ Eden said.
‘It’s probably just a downed line from the explosions,’ offered Carlo, ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine when they get that mess cleared up at Facility Five. We should get him into the car and drive him to the hospital.’
Dr. Felicity Evans turned her attention back to Nick and slowly shook her head.
‘No need,’ she said, ‘he’s gone.’
‘He’s dead?’ asked Eden. Evans nodded but checked his pulse again just to be sure.
‘Yeah,’ Evans said.
* * * * *
‘Get Portland and Thoms on the phone, Best,’ demanded Verity Flynn. Drew Best scrolled through the contact list in his phone, found Gus Portland’s number and hit speakerphone and dial. He and Verity heard the same recorded message that had been playing for every resident in the town.
The number you have dialled cannot be connected. Please check the number and try again.
‘That’s impossible,’ Best said as if expecting the phone to reply.
‘No,’ said Verity, ‘not impossible. More likely it’s a result of a contingency plan. Check the glove compartment. There should be an A5 sized black book in there.’
Best followed her instruction and opened the glove compartment. Its contents were a service book and manual for the vehicle, and the A5 black book that Verity had mentioned.
‘Go to the last chapter in the book and read to me the names of the contingency plans available to Terence Blackwood in case of an unsalvageable catastrophic event.’
He flicked through to the last chapter and began to read aloud the options available to Blackwood.
‘Contingency plans A7, A10, D5, R9. Second tier plans DF6, SN23, XT4. Third tier plans Brubaker002, Helgenberg3, and Griggstone8. Final tier plans Dorper, Ballast, Doppelganger, and Hawkwind.’
‘That’s it,’ Verity snapped, ‘Hawkwind. Jesus, we have to get out of here now.’
A formation of five drones passed overhead. Verity leaned closer to the windscreen tyring to get a better look.
‘SHIT!’ she screamed. ‘We’re still too close.’
* * * * *
General Clayton Darnell rubbed his sweating hands up and down his pant legs. Initiation of the Hawkwind protocol was a serious matter, but the President might very well deem initiation of Hawkwind on home soil an act of terrorism. Sensing his hesitation, Major George Platt stepped closer to Darnell.
‘Sir, I don’t mean to question your orders, but are you absolutely sure that this is the right thing to do?’
Darnell considered the Major’s question, doubts filling his mind about the suitability of Hawkwind for this particular situation. He replied with caution.
‘No, Major, I’m not absolutely sure, but this location needs to be contained. God forbid anything has managed to escape.’
A voice from the other side of the room called out, ‘Approaching the drop zone, General Darnell. Your five minute window begins now.’
A timer counting down the five minutes appeared in red on the bank of television screens against the back wall of the room. Darnell hesitated momentarily.
‘Unload Hawkind. Fire immediately.’
. . . To be continued . . .