Later that morning, Preston and Kyra
prepared to investigate Storage Depot 4, accompanied by the usual
security detail. Kyra disappeared to one of the Basement areas, where
It took her awhile to find the necessary items, cannibalising various
boxes to assemble a comprehensive Evidentiary Kit.
By the time she returned to the office,
it had become apparent that circumstances had changed dramatically.
Preston was grim faced and the fact he was adjusting one of his sleeve
holsters told Kyra everything she needed to know.
'Want me to drive?' she asked.
'Absolutely,' he replied.
With the Kit safely stowed in a drawer,
Kyra plucked her topcoat from its hook, rapidly checked her sidearm,
then called to her startled assistant.
'Mind the store, Ted. Looks like we have
On their way down to the Transport bay,
they were joined by two more of the Free Cleric, Grammaton First Class
Josh Stannard and his grey-coated Subordinate, Cleric Karl Freimann.
Preston outlined the situation as they waited for their cars to be
fuelled and brought to the covered boarding area. A Sweeper truck and
several motorbikes were already rolling toward the open bay doors.
'It appears that an as yet unidentified
group has taken control of the Broadcasting station in Sector 7. We
have cut power to the station but according to one of the Technicians
who managed to escape, it won't take long to hook up to one of the
independent generators. Other Technicians are working on ways to jam
any signal they do manage to get out.'
'So…what do they intend to do?' queried
a puzzled Freimann. 'I mean, who's going to listen to a bunch of
radicals trying to turn the clock back? Most people just tune in for
the music and updates these days.'
'As yet, we have no concrete
information,' replied Preston. 'But since it possible that we may be up
against our former colleagues, the whys and wherefores can wait until
we have the situation contained.'
Freimann nodded and glanced at Stannard,
who was trying not to smile at the politely phrased rebuke. Maybe
that's why I'm still wearing a grey coat, he thought wryly.
The first of the white cars drew
alongside. Kyra waited for the driver to alight, then slid into her
seat. Preston took the other front seat and indicated she should set
off. In her rearview, she could see Stannard and Freimann preparing to
get into the rear of the next car. Security procedures remained tight
and no more than two Clerics were permitted to travel together.
As usual, the Sweeper team had reached
the destination first and Kyra was surprised to see a swathe of
standard Enforcement cars forming a barricade. Officers in riot gear
were poised and ready behind the cars and it was obvious from the
broken glass and gun smoke, that shots had already been exchanged.
The Broadcast station was non-descript
grey edifice sandwiched between similar buildings. Unlike them, it
bristled with antennae and shiny dishes. Although all pre-Revolution
media had been controlled centrally from the Palace of Justice, certain
sectors had outstations which could boost signals or take control if
anything untoward happened. These were housed either in separate
buildings, or in selected Equilibrium Centres, such as the one now
occupied by the FLC. As soon as Preston had destroyed the nerve centre,
the Resistance had stormed the outstations, allowing Jurgen remote
access to the confused population.
Since then, certain freedoms had been
granted to the outstations which meant that licensed individuals could
broadcast music and disseminate useful information or even host
discussion programmes and report news items. However, they were still
subject to regulations as laid down by the Council and failure to
observe these would result in an immediate revocation of their licence.
As expected, there had been some initial dissention and graffiti about
the Council being as bad as the Tetragrammaton, but in the end, most
citizens accepted the need for regulation.
Nevertheless, it was being kept fairly
quiet that eventually, the Free Librian Council's official media
announcements would be broadcast from the studios in the Palace of
Justice, once the building had been cleared of all the various lethal
nasties the retreating Councillary forces had left in their wake…a
further headache for the already overstretched Free Librian Security.
Although Preston had been silent during
the journey, his mind had been envisaging possible attack scenarios; a
natural response to his years of training. Today, and every day since
he had come off the dose, the major difference was that he considered
possible losses and tweaked the plans accordingly to minimise death or
injury, something which was previously of no real concern.
Kyra's black-gloved fingers jabbed the
radio button then immediately adjusted the volume as an almost
incoherent voice raved about freedom and flying. The Cleric and
Administrator exchanged resigned looks.
'I think we may be dealing with more
than just radicals,' Preston sighed. 'Too many incidents recently have
'White Magic' as their trigger.' He shook his head. 'We have got to put
a stop to this…'
'But where are we going to get the
manpower? There's hardly enough to deal with the problems we have now.
Regular Enforcement is struggling to keep up with petty crime…unless we
can recruit more….'
John's pained expression told her he
really didn't need reminding just now of the desperate position they
were in. She waved a hand at him apologetically and returned to more
'Seems like someone in there's obviously
rational enough to fire up a generator.'
There was a slight squeal of brakes as
Stannard and Freimann's car pulled in behind them. Kyra and the three
Clerics got out simultaneously, each surveying their surroundings
carefully. A fine drizzle fell from steel grey clouds above, reducing
visibility just enough to make everyone even more cautious. The Sweeper
Captain approached respectfully, visor raised, and directed the Cleric
teams towards the main entrance of the broadcast station.
'Clerics, we've secured the ground floor
and most of the first floor, but a group have locked themselves in the
control room and are still broadcasting. We should be able to disable
the generator shortly.'
'Excellent,' replied Preston. 'But warn
your men to be vigilant. The situation could become volatile.'
Once through the door, their ears were
assailed by the incessant ranting of whoever was now in control of the
microphone. Kyra could make very little sense of what seemed to be pure
At each of the kicked-open doors along
the corridor, a leather clad officer stood guard. Preston and Stannard
stepped carefully over the debris. They stopped abruptly as the
background babble took on a more desperate tone and an obviously
terrified voice was heard pleading…until a single shot silenced it.
Other voices began yelling and screaming as further shots rang out.
Both men made brief eye contact and Stannard's grim expression mirrored
Kyra followed close on their heels,
keenly aware of the prickle of apprehension as the fine hairs rose on
the back of her neck. Her throat was ash dry and with an
uncharacteristic movement, she reached nervously forward and placed a
worried hand on Preston's left shoulder. As if this action underpinned
his own assessment, the Cleric turned his head towards her. He pressed
his lips together and nodded.
'Kata pattern,' he confirmed quietly.
The three Clerics withdrew their
signature pistols and flicked off the safety. Kyra took out her own
gun, smaller, but no less lethal. Several moments passed, then,
slightly up ahead, they heard a grunt from one of the guards outside an
open door. Almost in slow motion, he slumped forward, twitching
violently as arterial blood spurted out from around a large knife
jammed to the hilt into his neck.
A wild-eyed creature, saturated in even
more blood, staggered into the corridor, tripping over the dying guard
and falling to his knees. Three guns followed his descent, but no-one
fired. The man was now unarmed, his face distorted by pain and terror.
He cried out at the sight of the black coats, flung both hands behind
his head, then curled up into a ball, shaking and moaning. In contrast,
the guard was now completely still. Nothing further could be done for
him in this world.
From a higher floor the staccato firing
became more sustained, accompanied by increasingly hysterical screams.
Stannard and Freimann prepared to move towards the door, only to be
halted by Preston, who had cocked his head to one side and was
'They're heading this way. Get ready.'
He pointed to the man on the floor, who had started to crawl towards
them, whining and begging for his life. 'Administrator, can you get that
out of the way?'
'Done,' Kyra replied, stepping
purposefully forward. She placed one black-booted foot between the
man's shoulder blades and pushed him to the floor. The whining became a
muffled wheeze as his face was briefly buried in the surrounding
debris. None too gently, Kyra hauled first one arm, then the other
behind his back and deftly snapped a lightweight double nylon cuff
around his grimy wrists. Then, she grasped the man by his equally grimy
collar and yanked him unsympathetically to his knees, wrinkling her
nose at the redolent stink of body odour, blood and fear. 'Move it!'
she hissed and shoved the gun muzzle hard against his neck. Still
whimpering, the man lurched to his feet and stumbled along the
corridor. Her concerned backward glance at Preston received a confident
nod in reply, but she felt unnerved all the same.
Stannard and Freimann turned to Preston
and in deference to his seniority, waited for instructions. From
directly above, vying with the gunfire and screams, there was the sound
of panicked running along the corridors. Occasionally there was an
agonised shriek followed by the ominous thud of a body hitting the
floor and more chaotic stumbling towards the nearby staircase. They
were probably two or three floors up.
Preston rapidly assessed the situation
and decided they were in a less than ideal position to return effective
fire, since the corridor was too narrow and visibility beyond the door
'We'll move into the stairwell. It'll
provide some cover, should we need it, and allow us to gauge numbers
and tailor our response accordingly. We'll have no idea who we're up
against until almost the last moment, so be prepared and don't squander
Freimann swallowed hard. He very much
wanted to make a good impression on Preston and finally wear the so far
elusive black coat. Screwing up was not an option. He followed Stannard
through the door, stepping carefully over the body of the guard, still
leaking messily from the neck wound.
'What do we do about the mob being
chased down the stairs?' he asked, as the thudding and screaming got
'Haven't got much option,' Preston
answered grimly. 'If any one of them is waving so much as a BB gun,
take them down,' He had both pistols drawn now and his breathing was
slowing as his perception and reactions sharpened. He murmured almost
distractedly, 'If they're unarmed, let them run…we want the ones doing
As if on cue, a group of five
dishevelled and obviously frightened men rounded the last corner then
skidded and tripped down the last few steps into the stairwell,
colliding with the wall and each other in their desperate attempt to
escape the fate pursuing them. Pupils already the size of saucers
dilated further as the men struggled to comprehend their new
predicament, but abject terror and a bloodstream boiling with 'White
Magic' rendered them irrational and unhinged.
The men surged forward towards the
doorway, forcing the Clerics back into the corridor. In a
pre-revolution encounter, Preston would have had no compunction about
shooting them all, but these men were unarmed and petrified, acting on
instinct. He sidestepped and allowed them to scramble past Stannard and
a worryingly startled Freimann, in their effort to make a dash for the
door. However, the question of whether or not they would be contained
by Enforcement teams outside could not be his concern as the gunfire
above ceased abruptly and the Cleric was all too aware of how badly
they were placed. There was no time to regain the advantage lost.
Stannard's face was expressionless, his
body still and prepared. He nodded briefly at Preston and adjusted his
stance to maximise his firing potential, whilst maintaining a position
of relative safety. Preston glanced towards Freimann and felt a slight
tingle of concern. The young Cleric's eyes were wide, darting
everywhere, his breathing was too fast and there were beads of sweat on
his upper lip. He had not moved from the open doorway.
Much later, when he was writing the most
depressing of reports, Preston was forced to admit that the shot which
killed Freimann was stunning in its accuracy and delivery; a precision
head shot from an almost impossible angle. Such a shot was a painful
reminder that the Free Cleric were perhaps not being as meticulous with
their Continuing Professional Training as their single-minded new enemy
…in fact CPT was hardly mentioned and even though Preston himself
maintained his rigorous sessions, he had noticed the Hall of Precision
empty on many occasions.
'We're becoming soft,' he thought,
Preston had reacted instantly, as had
Stannard, bounding up the steps following the retreating footsteps of
whoever had fired the shot, both knowing the perpetrator to be as
skilled and therefore as lethal as them, but also knowing they had no
Unfortunately their adversary also had
the advantage of prior knowledge and a 5 second lead…more than enough.
The frustrated Clerics had to negotiate the prostrate bodies of those
already mowed down in the initial fire fight whilst trying to determine
their quarry's path.
Their pace finally slowed as they
admitted defeat. The return journey to where Freimann lay was somewhat
slower as they checked each body for life signs, to no avail. Most were
still unnaturally warm, a known side-effect of high levels of 'Magic'
in the system. Perhaps the Technicians would be able to salvage
something from the survivors…anything that could give them a lead.
Preston slammed down the lid of his
'Time to get pro-active!'