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With a metal thud which would garner a safety engineer’s interest, the tram’s doors brusquely slid open, letting Maverick J. Lawson enter its confines. “8:45,” he mumbled, checking his watch. “Fifteen minutes late. Now where was this presentation?” His assistant whispered in Maverick’s ear. “Oh right. 22nd station. That’s quite-a-ways off.”
The screen on the wall flashed station 5 as the tram rolled to a stop. Two men wearing white lab coats entered. He took careful notice of the two, clean cut, young scientists (at least he assumed they were scientists, they certainly dressed like ones). The men worked for Odemen Industries, which was a rather “unusual” company. It required a constant dress code of white lab coats, issued by the company. The facilities took up an entire city block, in the center of downtown. Rumors always spread of most “peculiar” experiments taking place there, but city leaders never looked into it. It was well known that the company donated extremely generous sums of money to charities around the world, and was never in any sort of legal issue at all. What could they possibly be doing wrong?
The tram slowed to a stop again, this time at station 11. The Odemen employees promptly stepped out, moving at a brisk pace to their building above the station, chatting about some sort of complex chemical equation. “Science. I never really was much of a science person, really. Much too irrelevant for common use. Stocks. Now there’s something that I can relate to.” Now you have to understand, Maverick was a well respected high ranking employee at one of the country’s largest stock brokerages; he was making a fine paycheck, even if he was ignorant of science. “That’s why I’m here, anyway. Might as well enjoy what I’m doing.”
“Last stop. Last stop.” bleated out a mechanical voice, bringing Maverick back to reality. “Here we are,” he spoke softly, whispering his thoughts out loud, “Station 22.” Maverick and his assistant stepped on the platform’s linoleum floor, and made a jog, the kind of jog one makes when they are late to one of the most important keynotes of their life, to the nearest exit. Maverick took one long glance up to the roof of the office building where he would soon be giving his keynote, exhaled deeply, and pulled open the large brass handle of the great wooden door. He walked with perfect stride down the hall, stopping in front of conference room. 42B. “…one of our finest employees, Mr. Maverick Lawson” was the only thing he heard before he opened the door.
Thunderous applause greeted him as he stepped in front of his audience, appearing powerful and welcoming at the same time. As he began his introduction, he surveyed the conference room, appreciating the view of the city from the floor to ceiling windows on every wall around him, along with the Odemen Industries campus across the street. The room was obviously not made for anyone with a fear of heights. He continued on with a bit of history from the company, until the middle of his sentence, “…our annual net income has doubled sinc-” when he paused, catching sight of an Odemen Industries worker sprinting down the street, away from the company building. “What in the-”
In the next 1.76 seconds, time, as perceived by Maverick, ground to a halt. As the shockwave produced by the explosion hit the far end of the conference room, Maverick gripped the podium with all the strength he could muster. As the shockwave passed through the audience, sending metal chairs ricocheting off the ceiling and walls, Maverick’s face slammed into the solid wood podium. As the shockwave exited the building, Maverick’s traumatic wound knocked him unconscious, and sent him somersaulting to the floor. 1.76 seconds was the time it took for Maverick to go from successful businessman giving a presentation, to unconscious refugee in the midst of a horrible disaster.
As Maverick awoke, he tried to take in his surroundings, to no avail. “Why is it so dark?” he thought aloud. As he attempted to let his eyes adjust, the room slowly, but surely, came into view. As he stood to look out the windows across the room, he felt a cold draft, and a shiver ran down the entirety of his spine as he realized that bodies flying against the glass had broken these windows. He tried to ignore that fact, and suddenly realized it was now night. Maverick checked his watch, for the second time that day. “10:53?? How was I out for that long?? God knows what I could have missed in the 14 hours I was up here,” he thought aloud, with a tone of anxiety. He would not let his worries get the best of him, though, and decided to try and find a way out of the building.
Stepping out of the conference center, he stepped out onto the street, and surveyed the leveled ground where Odemen Industries stood on that fateful morning. He was so stunned by the image of the clearing that he did not take notice the clicking of heels on pavement, nor did he take notice of the shadowy figure that came out of the alleyway behind him. In fact, he assumed that he was the only person left in the city, right up until the moment he found himself pinned to the ground, with a pistol against his left temple.
“Don’t make any movement or sound” hissed the man with the gun. “If you want to live, you will come with me.”
“But I don’t underst-” started Maverick.
“NOW!” he screamed as he dragged Maverick to the alleyway. “Your one lucky man, you should be glad I found you before they did,” said the man with the gun in a hushed voice, as he peered out toward the street. “Name’s Henry Sampson by the way.” Maverick, coming to his senses, noticed the man was talking with a perfect Oxford accent. “And you are?”
“Oh, um, Maverick Lawson,” he replied, still not quite at ease. “Now, if you don’t mind telling me, what exactly happened in the last 14 hours?”
“Well, well, well, where do I begin? You have to understand son, first, that not any one person has the entire story. But what I have gathered from the streets is that something, and I mean it could have been anything at all, but something happened at that Odemen Industries over there. Now, these soldiers, if you could call them that, have been patrolling the city, and killing anyone they find in their midst. Whoever these men are, they certainly want no witnesses of this event, and they certainly won’t hesitate from stopping anyone from trying to escape. These men aren’t out to kill, they’re out to exterminate.” Henry stopped talking and motioned with wide eyes toward the street, and Maverick turned to see what it was.
Maverick watched in awe from the alleyway as men clad in trench coats and steel-tipped boots paraded down the streets in groups of five and six, stopping periodically to make certain that there were no survivors in the area. The carried very menacing rifles in their arms, and wore full-facial masks, which seemed to only serve the purpose of frightening grown men into submission. They certainly weren’t a rescue party.
“My God…” mouthed Maverick, barely audible to the human ear.
“Magnificent, aren’t they?” said Henry. “Superbly trained killing machines. Now, on how to get out of this. I say we go down to station 22 and walk out of the city underground. It’s our best bet on getting out of this madness.”
Maverick and Henry silently trekked through the back alleyways, managing to stay clear of all mercenaries in the area. As they came upon the entrance, which was across the street from their position, Henry could not control his impulses any longer.
“FREEDOM!” he screamed from the top of his lungs as he sprinted to the station. At that very moment, a group of soldiers walked up from the entrance. One gestured with a gloved hand toward Henry’s direction.
Another fired of a single shotgun round, which seemed to echo through the entire city. Maverick watched as Henry’s body flailed and crumpled out onto the street, carried its own momentum. Another soldier walked over, gave the Henry’s corpse a kick to make sure he was dead, and continued down the street with the rest of his comrades. Silently, behind cold, grey, emotionless eyes, in a dark, pitiful alley, Maverick J. Lawson realized that there was no hope left for him.