1 of 4 | Chapter 5

The source

 

Twenty-four hours after the attack the chaos had grown to mammoth proportions in the city's Business district and in the world media. Everyone, from the highest political levels to civil rights activists, to janitors, every one of them was speculating, wondering whether to condemn what they had witnessed or glorify the event for having to uncover the unseen puppet masters of a global criminal organization.

Because of the lives that had been so tragically lost, Karen could appreciate both points of view. It was true that a soldier expects to face the heat of battle and risk losing everything, but still.

The next day Karen was informed of the victims' status. It seemed that Natalie Garner had had a lucky escape with just a broken arm. When Karen saw her she was surprisingly calm and was asking about her colleague. It fell to Karen to tell her that Frank had been hit in the shoulder with a high caliber bullet and had undergone emergency surgery to save his arm.

During the attack five of the security guards had lost their lives, half a dozen were injured, including the commander, but the rest of them had survived. None of the mercenaries had escaped. They had come with a formidable arsenal, and thirty-eight bodies were found. The European Bureau of Investigation agents, Crime Scene Investigators, and military intelligence officers that were at the scene were identifying them. An unprecedented global investigation had begun with agents from all over the world working together to uncover and dismantle an entire criminal organization, starting with the names in the TV interview. Even states where terrorist organizations were notoriously strong also participated in facilitating the investigation. Nobody wanted to be the black sheep, despite the fact that the witness had already named names.

As for Karen, she was forced to move into the public eye, holding press conferences and taking over the management of company affairs while Steersman was fighting for his life.

Even after two days she still hadn't been able to get to the hotel where her parents were staying, so that morning she met them for the first time after the attack a few blocks from the office. They hadn't even been able to speak by phone and all she had been able to do was to leave a message for them at the reception.

When they finally met, her parents were obviously trying to hide their worry, but they greeted her warmly.

“Hello, darling, at last!” Mrs. Colella hugged her daughter warmly. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, Mum, I wasn't there myself. I was at home.”

“Thank God! Otherwise … how could something like this happen?”

“I don't know, Mum. I haven't got all the information yet.”

“I knew something was going to happen,” said Mr. Colella, turning to his wife, “remember? I mentioned seeing helicopters flying around the towers, and lights flashing.”

“Yes, I know, dear … I thought that it was part of the spectacular,” she replied.

“Well, some sort of party at least,” said Mr. Colella, smirking and trying to hide his own fear.

“Very funny, Jason.” Mrs. Colella slapped her husband on the arm. “You know, sometimes his cynicism drives me mad,” she said turning to her daughter.

“I am not happy that you have to be involved in all of this. You weren't there this time, but next time you could be at the wrong place, at the wrong moment, and ….” Her father paused, looking at her intently.

“There won't be any more trouble, Dad. I was always exposed to risks in my last job, around the labs. There was always the risk of an explosion, or of an infection.”

“Karen, that's not the same and you know it! It was a military attack, dammit!” Mr. Colella exclaimed.

“It's going to be okay, don't worry.”

“I would like to have met your boss. I was hoping you would introduce him to us at the festival,” said her mother, changing the subject.

“I will, Mom … I hope,” said Karen unconvincingly.

“After all the excitement, I am even more curious to see what kind of man he is,” he growled.

“How is he doing?” asked her mother.

“Not too well. He is still unconscious. He was badly injured.”

“So, darling, what are going to do?”

“Well, I have to carry on with work. I have to meet people and give a formal statement to the companies affected.”

“Karen, honey, you need to rest too. You look exhausted.”

“I'm fine. How are you both doing?” Karen changed the subject. “Do you need anything?”

“No, sweety, don't worry. Your dad and I are doing just fine.”

Karen had been considering all of the ways she could help her parents. She had been thinking of asking them to move to Excolopolis, but after the terrifying events of the past few days, she'd begun to think that maybe it wasn't such a great idea. It wasn't because she considered the city unsafe, rather, it was that she didn't want to cause her parents' unnecessary worry. It would best for them to know as little as possible. Everything is going to be fine.

 

In the hospital

The gentle sweetness of perfume caressed his nose. It seemed real. It was the first thing that he sensed. His chest was buzzing and something was lifting it up and down as he breathed. Breathing exhausted him. He strained his eyes open, just a crack, enough to let the light in. He wanted to find the source of the scent: magnolia, lily of the valley and citrus, such a vibrant blend of aromas. He felt himself analyzing his senses, breaking things down into their component parts.

The pure white light that attacked his vision slowly began to split into shades. Chartreuse green and beige, colors that he recognized immediately, from which he deduced that he was in the city hospital. He turned his head to the side and saw the source of the enchanting fragrance.

“Good day, Karen,” he croaked painfully.

Karen smiled reassuringly, with her hand on his arm.

“How are you feeling, Sean?” she asked.

“It seems that I'll live,” wisecracked Steersman, the painful grimace behind his smile giving a lie to his levity.

“The surgeons weren't too hopeful … you were lucky,” Karen told him bluntly. “Not many people recover from head shots.”

Steersman froze, shocked. He had no idea what had happened. He closed his eyes as pain shot through his head.

“Sorry,” murmured Karen.

“What, that I stayed alive?” Steersman smiled again.

“Hmm, maybe …,” Karen teased, smiling.

Steersman began to laugh but it turned into a groan.

“No, I'm sorry that I told you so suddenly,” she finished.

“It wasn't a such a great welcome for your parents, was it?”

“You could say that.”

“Well go on, tell me! What have I missed since … how long have I been here?”

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
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