Tensions are running high as the fires of war spread from the Vanduul front lines to the streets of UEE, Banu and Xi’An homeworlds. As the resources of law and order are sucked increasingly into the war effort, intrepid journalists risk life and limb to beam video of crime and terror. It has become a daily event that citizens across the galaxy hear the dreaded words “we interrupt this program…”
WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM
Baachus : Astaroth City
INN COMLINK 27A-PR1
LIVE FEED: RIGGS/SAMANTHA 00324
[CLOSED CAPTION INCLUDED]
[STATIC] “-onditions in the streets of Baachus, the Banu homeworld, are understandably tense. With the G3 Summit on Refugee Relocation only days away, the timing of the Co’Ral Incident could not have been any worse.”
“The exodus of populations from all along the edge of Vanduul space, most notably systems like Elysium and Odin, continues to overwhelm immigration authorities across the G3. Add to that the lack of UEE public policy with respect to unclaimed, developing or contested systems and ‘The Displaced’ have become one of the most serious civilian issues facing the current administration as it struggles to cope with the growing war effort.”
“To make matters worse, the theft of the Co’Ral, which the Xi’An are calling a crime of ‘immense cultural proportions,’ threatens to throw gasoline on what is already a large fire. While delegates from each of the primary G3 partners are quick to point fingers around the table, public resentment has largely focused on the UEE, whose glaring foreign policy failures have been characterized as to blame for the influx of piracy in the region. Given the disproportionate number of humans involved in this predation, and the permissive nation-state created by the tear-away Outsider republic, the crowds here in Baachus are looking to the Empire for answers. In the meantime, the UEE State Department has issued a travel advisory warning all non-essential UEE personnel to avoid the following regio—”[LOUD EXPLOSION]
“Sam are you all right?” Owen sounded like he was under water. He death-gripped the handle on the back of Sam’s tac vest, hefting her to her feet.
Samantha looked him in the eyes and nodded, still trying to clear the cobwebs that wrapped her brain in fuzz. She blinked several times before she realized that the static across her vision was the AUG, trying to stream scrambled visor-overlay from the camera in her helmet. With a growl she smacked the heel of her palm against the side of her head and the AUG stream cleared.
Her brain cleared as well. Training kicked in and Sam dropped to one knee, yanking Owen down behind the solid bumper of the INN SatCom van. She had earned her stripes covering two different warfronts and knew all too well what happenes to people who stand up and gawk when the shit hits the fan.
“Kenny!” She barked, “are we still on?” No answer. She reached back, thumping her fist on the van’s back door.
“I’m alive!” Kenny’s muffled shout echoed from inside the metal box. “Thanks for asking.” Just a heartbeat passed before he added. “Main dish is fucked, I’m trying to get an LOS-Link off one of the towers. But we’re recording local — so go!”
Sam didn’t hesitate. By the sound of things, Kenny was fine. She was far more concerned about Owen, who despite his immediate heroics was looking a little woozy. Her alarm rose when she spotted a thin trail of blood working its way down from his left ear, crawling towards his shirtcollar.
Not a frag wound, she assessed, a little skill she had picked up from a medic on Centauri. Owen wasn’t wearing a helmet when the blast hit; shockwave probably busted one of his eardrums.
She leaned in, watching closely as the spotlight on her camera swept across Owen’s eyes. Right pupil tightened up, left one hung open. Fixed and dialated. She thumped him on the chest with an open hand. “You’re done. In the van, now.”
Owen tried to push her back, then gazed at his own hand as he flexed his fingers several times. He looked up, wobbled unsteadily, dawning concern rising above his confusion. Still, he managed to force a stern, paternal look. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
Sam fired back a quick grin. “Me? Never.”
As Owen climbed into the van Sam turned and broke off at a dead run, keeping her head below the height of the vehicles parked up and down the street. She maintained the headlong pace for a good hundred meters, pulling up beneath the plaque on a memorial statue of one Gul’ DuThar, the blah blah blah of some historic Banu… thing. Long ago. For now she was just thankful ‘ol Gul merited an onyx pedestal that made for decent cover.
Cautiously, Sam peered out from behind that cover, the camera on her helmet sucking in the scene. Although she wasn’t streaming live, she knew to narrate in a real-time style. That made for hi-drama replayability. It made for award-winning journalism.
“Some sort of bomb has just detonated in the crowd.” She swept a wide establishing shot before zooming in to pick up details of the carnage. “Easily a dozen dead and wounded are littered around the plaza, suffering from injuries consistent with an anti-personnel weapon.”
Her time on the Vanduul front had given her a first-hand lesson on the power of frag. Today’s IEDs placed less emphasis on burns, instead betting the house on filling a crowd of soft targets with dense little pellets humming along at supersonic speeds. She focused her lens on the side of a plumber’s panel truck where a handful of neat round dents had been punched into the sidemetal. Good B-roll material.
The blare of sirens rolled up from the west; a stampede of police, fire and EMS personnel. Given the multi-national nature of the G3 Summit, the response would likely include military units as well. She looked up, noting three of the black, high-speed drones already circling the plaza.
Shifting her weight Sam rocked around the opposite side of the stone pedestal, giving her an unobstructed view up the rust-colored grass to the capitol steps where Secret Service personnel hustled half a dozen dignitaries away behind a moving wall of quick-deploy shield bots. While the bomb wreaked havoc along the edge of the parking lot, it failed to reach across the hundred and thirty meters or so to the dias.
“Once again, the politicians walk while the working man takes it in the teeth.” Sam didn’t record that statement; there are some truths that don’t make for good holovision. Or good careers.
The first cop vehicles slid into the parking lot, low level blue-suiters who likely were half a block away pulling traffic detail. But the SWAT guys were right behind, their up-armored trucks built to survive a blast like the one that just took place. Black-armored stormtroopers bailed out of the van, compact carbines at the ready, forming a perimeter around the parking lot.
Sam rolled tape on the whole process, running color commentary on the growing crowd of cops, paramedics, firefighters and onlookers. Somebody spotted fuel leaking from three or four vehicles parked along the street, internal storage cells perforated by what was almost certainly a vest-full of ball bearings.
Fearing that some spark would start a conflagration, the fire guys rolled in a bright yellow MagLev with the word SUPPRESSANT stenciled along the side. A guy in white Level-C’s clambored up the tail ladder and swung twin chrome nozzles that, with the yank of a lever, began to belch a thick expanding foam. The response was textbook, picture-perfect.
So why are the hairs crawling up the back of my neck?
Sam had learned to trust her instincts, to rely on they way her brain processed small details. That instrinct was twitching like mad. She spun the AUG stream in reverse, backpedaling through the sequence of events. Foam sucked back into the nozzles. Medics backpedaled from the dying. Black-suiters flowing ass-first into the armored SWAT van. Cops reverse-fishtailed out of the parking lot. Slow sweep across people, pause on the dented truck panel.
Sam froze, the image hanging in front of her like a ghost. The white plumber’s truck was dimpled, not perforated like every other vehicle. SWAT armored their vans to absorb that kind of damage, why would a plumber’s van be armored? Her eyes went wide.
Adrenaline hit her system as Sam rolled from behind the cover of the monument and screamed, to everybody at once:
INN COMLINK 27A-PR1
LIVE FEED: DELMAR/KENNETH 887235
[CLOSED CAPTION INCLUDED]
“We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news from the scene of today’s terrorist incident at the site of the G3 summit. Following a suicide-vest attack at 1632 EST, a second and much larger explosive device, confirmed now to have been hidden in what authorities have described as a white panel truck, detonated at 1644. The attack, apparently staged with an intimate knowledge of emergency responder protocols, has claimed 62 lives, largely police, fire and medical personnel. Twenty-six-year-old Samantha Riggs, a beloved member of the INN family and two-time Zelnik Award Winner, was one of those killed in the attack.