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Sasha's second day back at school went far better than she cared to admit. Aalekz was nowhere to be seen, though his friends were giving them dark looks.
“Ah, don't worry about them,” said Brightpaw. “They're just jealous, that's all.”
“Jealous of what,” asked Sasha, curious.
“The fact that none of them can throw me in wrestling match,” replied Brightpaw, smugly.
“The fact that you weigh twice as much as they do doesn't hurt, you know,” replied Jinx, poking fun at hir sister. “While I'd normally say they'd forget about it,” shi said, glumly, “it's not likely with that crew. Don't let it get you down, though,” shi replied, perking up. “There are plenty of people our age out there, and not all of them are as closed minded as they are.”
“I guess,” Replied Sasha quietly, “I'll just have to deal with it.”
“At least the session with Ms. Casull went OK,” said Jinx, walking backwards while she talked. “At least you didn't scare half the school this time.” It was uncanny, watching hir walk backwards and avoid obstacles easily.
“No,” Sasha answered, “I just made them jump out of their seats in fright when you startled me!”
“The commotion caused in the neighboring classrooms was amusing,” noted Brightpaw, chuckling. “But it took me nearly half the day to get my tail to look normal again.”
The three laughed and chatted on their way out to the tube, and then during the ride to the next station, where they would part ways. “Want to stop at Taggart's for a soda,” asked Sasha, adding, “My treat?”
The restaurant was busy this time of day, people on their way home grabbing a bite to eat, or getting something to drink, or perhaps just unwinding before going home. Sitting back in one corner was a canine morph, fairly nondescript. He had recently lost his job; because of the way he'd mistreated a 'taur customer, he had cost his employer a major contract.
He'd listened to the talk of some of his friends, and the day after he'd been let go, they'd asked him if he'd like to get back at them. With no mate, and no family left on the planet, he'd reluctantly agreed. They gave him a package, and told him all he needed to do was place it in a place crowded with 'taurs. So there he sat, with his briefcase sitting next to him, and the most expensive dinner the place had to offer in front of him. 'Taurs were everywhere. He wondered what would happen next.
Inside the briefcase was a homemade grav bomb. 20 minutes after he'd set the case down, the device armed, and began its countdown.
Haven had been on station, 320km above Okina, her scanners 'listening' for any trace of gravitic activity. So far, it had been a boring three hours.
“Priority, Priority!” yelled a scantech from his console. “I've got a live trace.”
“Active scan,” ordered Haven, “I want a look at the area, and get Kryslin on the line!”
The image of the restaurant, packed with people, appeared in the holodisplay of the ship, the armed device highlighted in the view, along with estimated time to detonation. “Screw the Captain,” called Haven, “raise local emergency services, tell them what we've got, and that they've got 10 minutes! Get on the line to the restaurant, too! Tell them to get the people out of there!”
The ship's comm officer handled the calls to Okina's emergency services and to the Restaurant, while Haven called Kryslin.
“Kryslin,” said Haven, “Code Zulu. There's a live bomb at Taggart's.”
Many interstellar powers would be very nervous of private individuals owning advanced military equipment, and rightfully so. Pandora was no exception; despite the strict laws governing who could and could not own, or be licensed to own, operate, and maintain such equipment, there was no shortage of independent military equipment in the system. The Pandoran government watched it all.
Part of their surveillance network included a system of satellites, ostensibly functioning as weather satellites. In truth, they were a part of an “Eye-In-The-Sky” network that monitored things of interest on the planet, and carried sensors many times more sensitive than those carried on most spacecraft. More often than not, those sensors were used to monitor the weather, and locate lost small craft at sea.
Okina Emergency Services got a phone call from the MIIO office a moment before Haven called in.
Kryslin had gotten the message, and was running for all she was worth into town. She had a 'crash kit', an EMT trauma kit, strapped across her upper back as she pelted her way down the road. An adrenaline spike kept her going, not feeling the pain in her paws, or the ache building up in her chests as she ran, the activity far more strenuous than any her physicians had advised. At the moment, that didn't matter.
Moira Taggart had taken the phone call from Haven, thinking it was a prank until she had told her how many people exactly there were in the restaurant and where the bomb was located, and even what it was in. That was all the proof Hugh needed, as he and the wait staff went around, quietly asking guests to leave in a calm and orderly fashion…
Until they found the exits blocked.
MIIO's HELIOS spysat network was going wild; live grav bomb traces were showing up all over the planet, straining emergency services over an entire continent. As locations were pinpointed, and time to detonation determined, they transferred as many devices as they could via Pandora's portal network, priority being given to those devices closest to detonation, in the most crowded areas. The devices in the areas where they would do the most damage were transferred first.
Connor and Hugh Taggart both pushed against the doors with all their considerable might, trying to get them open. The frames creaked, but held. “Any one who's strong, come and help!” Connor called, hoping he'd get someone. Sasha and the two chakats began to push as well. The doors began to buckle after an eternity, and finally, the frame itself gave way. Continuing to push, and losing valuable minutes doing so, they found themselves pushing a trash dumpster as well as the door.
With some more help, the open became wide enough for people to begin to evacuate.
Kryslin arrived at Taggart's, panting heavily, and her head soaked with sweat. Despite the pain she felt, she immediately saw that someone had pushed a loaded trash dumpster in front of the door, trying to trap the people within. Knowing what she had to do, despite her weariness, she ran over to the dumpster, put her hands in to the gap forming between the building and the door frame, and pulled back, not caring if she hurt herself in the process. She could hear the munition cycling up to detonation, and put her back into it even more. Soon, the door was open, and people began running out, heading for the street.
Emergency services began to arrive on the scene, and started moving people away from the building.
The last people ran out of the building, running across the street.
Grav bombs are frighteningly silent. There is no flash, no explosion, just bone crushing force. The only noise made is the sound of the structure being pulled in on itself. Which is exactly what happened to Taggart's: The building came down with an earthshaking rumble. Emergency services started in with the firefighting equipment, hoping to get any fires under control before any secondary explosions went off.
Unlike grav munitions, normal explosives have no charge up to detonation. A little sugar, some ammonium perchlorate, and a bunch of nails thrown into a can, with a simple fuse designed to fire when something disturbed it. There were two explosions, and two cans were in the air, where they promptly exploded, showering the crowd and emergency personnel with shrapnel.
People began screaming, sobbing. Kryslin could smell the blood over the stench of the explosives. Firefighters were pulling their comrades out of harm's way, others performing their duties, despite being injured. Kryslin turned her attention to the injured near her.
Sasha was with Brightpaw and Jinx, and Sasha was trying to help Jinx help Brightpaw, who'd been badly injured, shrapnel making her lower torso look like raw meat. Kryslin noted one of Sasha's arms was hanging limply, and yet she still struggled to help her new friends. She made her way to them, and set to work.
“This is Holly Leone, Pandora Network News, with breaking news. Multiple bombings have been reported across the planet, occurring mainly in mixed population areas... We've got a live feed from the Arnau Area...” The signal broke into static as something happened, then the signal was regained. “What the hell is that?”
The image being shown was a black globe, which rapidly collapsed, leaving a sphere shaped hole where it had been. Where a thriving community had been. Where most of an Island had been. Water began filling the void, and a cloud of steam began to rise, obscuring the scene.
“Arnau is … gone. The MIIO is getting ready to have a press conference. We're taking you there live.”
“Multiple terrorist attacks have occurred across the planet,” said an elderly vixen. “Most of the devices were located in time, and detonated in isolation, however, some were not. It appears that the terrorists had gotten a hold of an experimental weapon, and used it with frightening results. The perpetrators of these ghastly deeds will be found, and punished, no matter how long it takes.”
“Director Mae!” called a reporter from the crowd, “Do you know who is responsible for this?”
“Not yet, nor can I reveal any information that I have without interfering with our investigations. When we have something concrete, we'll be happy to tell you. What we can tell you is in the press packets you've been given Good day.”
|Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission||Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw|
|Sallie Bernard* Albert Enayati, B. S., Ch. E., M. S. M. E. Heidi Roger||The Project Gutenberg ebook of George Bernard Shaw, by Gilbert K. Chesterton|
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|Discussion draft. Please do not cite without permission||Not to be copied without the express permission of the authors|
|This work is a compilation drawn, with permission, from the best on the||James P. Chambers1,*, Bernard P. Arulanandam1, Leann L. Matta2, Alex Weis3, and James J. Valdes4|