5 of 7 | Chapter 4

 

“Thank you for your honesty, commander,” said Steersman, releasing the button. The commander, now free of the controller waves Steersman had directed at him, shook his head slightly and looked blearily up at Steersman.

“Okay, I'm ready. What sort of test is it?”

“The test has been done,” Steersman answered. “Get your men in place. The TV staff will be arriving in a moment.”

The commander left the office, slightly confused, wondering what had just happened. Meanwhile, Natalie Garner and her colleague were escorted up to the office by security personnel. As soon as the elevator doors opened, the commander stepped in front of them.

“What equipment are you carrying?” he asked the reporter.

“Two cameras and a satellite transmitter,” she replied, and Frank opened his bag to show him the equipment.

“What is it all about? Mr. Steersman didn't really tell us anything. He only said that he had an important guest,” said Natalie, grilling the commander.

“I am not at liberty to say, Ma'am. Mr. Steersman will tell you what he feels you need to know.”

Without any further word, the commander led the journalist and the cameraman towards the office entry, where a guard opened the door for them and allowed them in.

Steersman was waiting for them.

“Good evening, Sean. What's it going to be this evening?”

“Good evening, Natalie, thank you for coming.” Steersman moved towards them. “Let me just outline the situation for you. This evening a terrorist was caught by our security staff. He was in the process of assembling and arming a robot-missile on the outskirts of the city.”

“Oh my God! What was the target?” Natalie asked, shocked.

“We don't know for sure. Maybe the new construction work at the industrial site, but then that doesn't really make sense. Maybe the city center. These types of missile can be programmed very precisely. Our security analysts are still working on it to find out what the target was.”

“Does that mean the terrorist is here?” Natalie stopped suddenly.

“Not yet, but he will be. When everyone is in their place he will be brought in to be interviewed. Go in and get ready! You have five minutes!”

Natalie and Frank went in and began to prepare. Natalie tugged Franks sleeve. “Listen, if we don't make our names with this story, then we won't be able to with anything. This is gonna be huge!” she whispered excitedly.

“It's gonna cause a shitstorm, that's for sure,” Frank whispered back, getting excited himself.

“Let's make sure that everyone sees it!”

 

The interrogation

Steersman switched off the electronic jamming signal that protected his office so that Natalie could use her phone to let her producer at S.P.A.N. know that the show was about to start.

They got the green light.

The reporter and her cameraman placed themselves in their usual places. Security personnel spread themselves around the portico, invisible in the darkness. Only a couple of them were visible in the room.

A moment later three men appeared at the entrance, two huge men in black combat fatigues escorting the slight figure of the Latin American prisoner.

As they walked closer it became apparent that the terrorist had been given a new image. He was washed and dressed in a light blue shirt and gray trousers. They hadn't bothered to shave him, though. They weren't running a barber's shop after all.

The commander made him sit down in the prescribed place, pushing him into the chair. The prisoner sat down somewhat stiffly, his knee apparently injured.

Maybe the guards worked on him a little to soften him up a bit, Natalie wondered, watching the entrance with a horrified fascination. She stared rigidly at the prisoner, leaning back further when the commander stepped away. She didn't trust him not to cause any trouble, despite the fact that he was chained to one of the soldiers. She was able to calm herself with the reflection that they were surrounded by trained commandos.

The commander nodded towards Steersman to let him know they were all set.

“Let's get started,” he said to the reporter.

Natalie turned to the front camera, that was set on a heavy tripod. In the background, Frank was operating it by remote control. The reporter indicated to the studio, via headset, that she was ready to begin. At that moment, the show being broadcast was cut, and the picture shifted to Natalie.

“Good evening to everyone. We are broadcasting from Excolopolis where, as I speak, the winter festival is underway with millions of people enjoying the festivities. However, while the city has been celebrating, another more sinister event was taking place, one that attracted the attention of security personnel who were able to prevent a certain catastrophe.” Natalie paused, allowing the tension to build. “Today, at around 9:30 pm, a man was caught in an open territory on the outskirts of the city, with an armed robot-missile capable of being fired with pinpoint accuracy.” Natalie took a breath, then continued. “We are on the top floor of the Steersman tower, under strict guard. We are in a room with the festival host, Mr. Sean Steersman and the man security forces apprehended earlier. We know nothing of his motivations, his intentions or his confederates. In front of us sits a man from whose hands an armed robot-missile was torn, less than two hours ago.” Natalie turned to face Steersman. Frank switched cameras and Steersman came into view.

“Mr. Steersman, this news is shocking, to say the least. Someone with a rocket was able to get this close to the city and come within a hair of causing a deadly attack, killing millions of revelers. What do you intend to do with the terrorist sitting here, next to you, and what do we know about him so far?”

Steersman began softly, “Well, Ms. Garner, my aim is to hand him over to the appropriate authorities who, incidentally, have already been informed. What we need to do now is to ask him the right questions.”

“You believe that he will answer honestly and willingly, just because you ask him to do so?” asked Natalie in a skeptical tone.

“Give it a try, Ms. Garner,” Steersman said calmly and turned towards the man. The camera zoomed in on the man, who was obviously bothered attention. In his eyes, humiliation and anger battled to the surface and his body remained tense and defiant. He stared arrogantly back at the camera.

Steersman switched on the device in his pocket.

For what seemed like an eternity, the stark closeup of the terrorist's gaunt face filled the screen. People staring at the TV screens could see the aggression and defiance build in his eyes, the lines of his face frozen as he sat like a cornered wild animal. An overwhelming tension radiated from the screen.

“Tell us your name,” said Natalie, her voice cracking.

The man fumed, battling against the impulse to speak. Steersman started up, worried for a moment that the man might be able to resist the mind alterations that were being induced by his device, with some sort of mind control technique.

“My name is Asmara Alem,” the terrorist said unsteadily. He spoke with a forced tremor in his voice. The room went deathly still. The commander raised one eyebrow, for him an expression of wild surprise, and Natalie Garner stifled a gasp. She paused, unable to ask her next question. She certainly hadn't expected such a direct answer. Steersman felt no surprise, only relief that his device was working, and he took the initiative. He had to be fast because he had no idea how long the effect of the device would last.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH