22 Jul YC124
Steel Towers Manufactorium, Dam Vishen Industrial District 3
When asked after the incident, no one could remember when the man showed up. The morning shift swore that the man had already been there when they arrived for work that morning. The night shift, when called in by the Municipal Guard, could not recall ever seeing the man. And even though the facility grounds were covered with cameras, not a single one caught the man entering or leaving. The Guard and the Legion alike were bewildered - it was like the man was a ghost.
What everyone could agree on was that a group of workers on the day shift had noticed the man, sitting on the bench by himself, during their midmorning break. They thought little of it, until they saw the man again during their lunch break and pointed him out to a foreman. The foreman notified security, who requested the Municipal Guard respond to investigate. And after that? Well … everyone remembered the incident vividly.
Detectives Hosha Behzati and Tarabod Bhaccus, and Officer Terosh Komarzi exited their silver holocar and walked towards the squat, drab building. They were met at the door by a young, uniformed Deteis, who wore the blue polo uniform of the manufactorium’s security corps.
“Afternoon. You guys the Guardsmen?”
“Yes, I’m Detective Behzati. These are Detective Bhaccus and Officer Komarzi,” Detective Behzati said, pushing his jacket aside slightly to reveal the badge clipped to his hip.
“I see. The chief is waiting for you in the courtyard,” the Deteis said, turning away. “Please, follow me.”
The plainclothes officers followed the guard as he led them down a maze of corridors until they emerged in a tiled courtyard lined with trees and benches. A small group of men wearing jeans and safety vests or the polo uniform of the security corps stood near the entrance.
A grey bearded man wearing a polo noticed the Guardsmen enter and walked over. “Afternoon, I’m Zakalatai, the head of security for the Towers. You’re the Guardsmen?” After Detective Behzati nodded, Zakalatai continued, pointing to a man sitting alone on a bench in the center of the courtyard. “He’s the reason we called you guys. He’s not employed here, and he’s not supposed to be here. We’ve tried talking to him, but he didn’t respond. Didn’t acknowledge our presence at all. Very unnerving, so we called y’all.”
“Alright. Stay back here, we’ll go ahead and approach,” Detective Behzati said, nodding to his partners. “Clear the courtyard.”
“Excuse me, sir, can you go inside please?” Detective Bhaccus said as he walked toward a group of workers milling around under a tree. He reached under his shirt to pull out his badge. “Municipal Guard. I just need you to leave the courtyard for a bit. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, Detective Behzati and Officer Komarzi approached the man. “Excuse me, sir, I’m Detective Behzati, and this is my partner, Officer Komarzi,” the detective said, positioning himself to the right of the man’s bench. Officer Komarzi stood a few feet to the left of the man. “What’s your name, sir?”
The man sat statue-like, both hands hidden inside a large brown messenger bag. Detective Behzati frowned as he repeated his question. “Good afternoon, sir. What’s your name?”
The man remained motionless and silent.
“Sir, take your hands out of your bag, please,” Detective Behzati shifted his line of questioning. He brought his hand closer to the butt of his gun and waved for Detective Bhaccus to join him. “Sir, please take your hands out of your bag, and place them where I can see them.”
The man remained motionless. “Sir, take your hands out of your bag!” Detective Behzati said, pulling his pistol “Hands where I can see them, now!” He nodded to Officer Komarzi, who stepped up to the man and dragged him off his bench. Detective Behzati reached in and tugged the messenger bag away while Officer Komarzi and Detective Bhaccus forced the man to the ground and wrestled his arms behind him to cuff him. Detective Behzati took one look inside the bag, cursed, and angled the bag towards his partners to show them the contents while reaching for his radio. Detective Bhaccus swore, holstered his pistol, and reached down to frisk the man. His face fell as his hands felt hard, brick shaped objects under the man’s jacket.
The man turned his face to look at the Guardsmen on top of him, and he smiled.
The security personnel had finally finished shooing all the workers into the complex when Officer Komarzi spun on his heel and sprinted towards them, gesticulating wildly. “Get back, everyone get,” he shouted before disappearing in a ball of roiling flame. The shock wave rattled windows and threw the guards to the ground, but it seemed minor. Compared to the four that followed, at least.
Two hours after the explosions, the loading docks of the Steel Towers Manufactorium was a hub of activity. Legionnaires, Guardsmen, MIO agents and other government officials milled around. Marked and unmarked HoverCruisers were parked everywhere, and a pair of gunships rumbled overhead, barely visible through the thick pall of smoke that hung low over the complex.
Sector Director Hojir Taufisi was walking past a Guardsman in plainclothes standing at the trunk of his car who was donning his armor and loading his rifle, when he heard, “Director!”
He turned to see a man wearing the distinctive “turtle plate” of the Guard’s Special Response Unit jog up to him. Director Taufisi recognized the man as he came closer - it was one of the Bomb Squad supervisors, Sergeant Saliriwala.
“Bomb Squad and Legion EOD have completed their sweep, sir,” the sergeant reported. “Complex is clear.”
“Do a second sweep. I want to be absolutely sure,” the director said. He held up a hand to forestall the sergeant’s protest. “I know your teams are excellent, sergeant, but I don’t want surprises. Just make sure, will ya?”
The sergeant nodded and jogged away. “Dijafi! Get the press back ten yards!” The director shouted to a uniformed Guardsman as he jogged towards a large blue and white truck. He was met by the rear wheel well by a man wearing light combat armor over a dress shirt with a shotgun slung across his chest.
“Afternoon, director,” MIO Marshal Superior Hujir Khotta said. “Absolute shitshow.”
“Yeah. At least the Code 1 drills worked,” the director replied as he jogged over.
The marshal sighed. “Twenty nine dead, fifty seven wounded. Forty three critical. Hospitals are going to have a devil of a time.”
“Hell of a critical incident. And the first EOWs for the Guard.”
“Yes. I’m sorry. Good men?”
“Didn’t know them. Consequences of being a supervisor, can’t know everyone. Officer Komarzi was pretty new, though. I think I remember approving him for the fast track to plainclothes patrol a few months ago.”
The marshal nodded. “Well, you going inside the command center? They’re mainly running through security footage. Trying to trace the suspect’s movement through the building.”
“No, I think I’ll wait. The superintendent’s on his way, and I expect some other VIPs will be showing up …,” the director was interrupted by the arrival of a convoy of black HoverCruisers. “Speaking of which … .”
The doors of the cruisers opened simultaneously and men in suits and sunglasses stepped out. One walked over to a Guardsman standing by his marked HoverCruiser and talked for a bit before flashing a thumbs up to his fellows. The driver of the second cruiser nodded and reached back to pull open a door.
Duke Shasta Ardeind exited the HoverCruiser and looked at the complex. Thick, black clouds of smoke continued to rise from the blast zones, though the fires had long before been extinguished. The superintendent of the Municipal Guard, Farara Agada, walked up next to the duke and said, “The blasts were something. EOD and Bomb Squad are still processing to see what the bomber used.”
The duke sighed. “Have we identified the bomber yet?”
“Not yet,” the superintendent said. “Analysts in the CC are trying to trace the bomber’s movements through the complex.”
“He had to have known the facility well, right?”
“His placement of the devices implies familiarity with the layout of the facility, yes,” the superintendent replied as the two men walked towards the command center in the center of the loading docks. “The devices were placed in the perfect position to wreck the assembly line for the gunship autocannon rounds.”
Shasta sighed. One week before the gunship crews graduate. Can’t be a coincidence, can it?
“Milord, this is the Guard’s Sector Six Director, Hojir Taufisi, one of my top directors,” the superintendent said, stopping next to a pair of men standing behind the command center. “And this is Marshal Superior Khotta, one of the MIO supervisors in this district.”
Shasta nodded absently, still deep in thought about the bomber and his potential motives. Why would someone want to wreak such havoc? For what?
“Milord, information is still coming in,” Director Taufisi said. “Analysts inside are trawling the security footage, looking for how the bomber entered the complex. If we can figure that out, we can trace the bomber to see where he lived and potentially identify him.”
“My marshals are also interviewing the workers, but that’s been mostly dead ends so far,” the marshal interjected. “We are confident that this was a lone wolf attack, however.”
Shasta nodded. “When can we get an ID on the bomber?”
“Depends, milord,” another man said. Shasta turned to Senior Analyst Emmetrik Bevimaki, who continued. “My team and I have watched hours of footage. The perp appears out of nowhere, and then disappears again. Come, I’ll show you.”
The analyst dumped a clump of smoldering dryweed leaves on the ground and stamped out the embers before putting a small bowl back into his pocket and turning towards the command center.
Shasta raised an eyebrow at the analyst’s bluntness as he followed the lanky Deteis into the massive command center. The interior was loud and crowded with people. Analysts sat before computers, and every square inch of the wall was covered by a holoscreen. More analysts stood in the narrow aisles, talking on phones and to each other. An agent awkwardly nodded to the newcomers in the doorway as she squeezed through the central corridor, one eye on the holoscreens above, the other on the datapad in her hand, a phone pinned to her head.
“Over here,” the senior analyst said, pointing to one cluster of analysts. Notepads and chalkboards littered the tables and floor. The analyst pointed to a heavily annotated map in the center of the table. “We’ve been tracing the perp’s path all over, but as you can see, there’s a lot of blank zones, and what little we do know makes little sense.”
“Sir,” one analyst looked up from the intense discussion. “We think we’ve got him setting one of the devices.”
“Let me see, Jukha,” Emmetrik said, leaning over a computer. “Mark it. Rest assured, milord, we’ll find him. But it’ll take time, so take a seat.”
The duke raised an eyebrow at the analyst’s dismissive tone. The guy’s busy, let him be. He forced down the burst of annoyance and found an out of way spot to sit down and wait.
Meanwhile, across the street, in the Acantin Houses, Building B, Apartment 7E
The three men were sitting before an elaborate setup. One man sat before a computer watching feeds from cameras set up on the balcony. The other men sat on stools on the balcony, peering through spotter scopes. A holoscreen hung on the wall displayed live feeds from security cameras in the apartment and the hallway outside.
“Well, lot of cops, for sure. Definitely triggered the hornet’s nest,” one man said, panning his scope over the scene. He reeled off a string of bearings. “That truck. What ya reckon it is?”
“The blue and white next to the van?” His partner asked
“Yeah. The one that looks like a larger HoverCruiser, not the one that looks like an ambulance.”
“Says Special Response Unit on the side. Might be an equipment truck,” the other man replied. He turned inside. “’Bias, can you run the tape back? Focus on the truck, tell me what activity happens round it?”
“‘Kay, give me a sec,” Emmebias replied. “Lots of turtle plate walking around it, looks like they’re taking out and replacing duffels. I agree with Maxi, it might be an equipment truck.”
“Alright,” Maxiklas replied. “I think that’s enough for the boss. Let’s pack it up before someone notices we’re here.”