Welcome to this week's original short story! This is another amazing tale told by the great Christopher Clarke!
This story shows us the perspective of the hostages being attacked during the A Dam Shame Otherworlds adventure.
We also wanted to try something new with this one and had it voice recorded, if you'd rather listen to the story play out than read it.
I staggered forward, shoved by an unseen hand. I stumbled several times before someone else caught me by the shoulders, abruptly pivoting me around and forcing my rear-end down onto a flat surface that felt like a stool. Synthetic cord pulled against my wrists, binding my arms behind my back. My hot breath was pushed back into my face by the thick cloth sack over my head.
Someone pulled the sack free. I gasped as bright light punched into my eyes, dazzling me momentarily. For the first time in what felt like ages, cool air touched my lungs. I blinked several times and took stock of my situation.
Two masked, unnamed assailants stood in front of me, armed and armored to the teeth. One was adjusting a camera and light rig that looked like the sort employed by media outlets. I suspected it was stolen. Advanced military equipment, far more advanced than even the weaponry carried by our security officers, hung from straps and hooks about their persons. Each had a rifle of some sort hanging from their shoulders by a tactical harness.
Several dangerous-looking attack droids loomed over their shoulders, filled to bursting with advanced weaponry, explosives, and sharp-pointed implements that I knew were used for torture, death, and other ill-intentioned activities.
They’d hit us out of the blue, just at security shift change, about an hour before most of the workers usually arrived. I’d come in early, as I nearly always did, to get a start on the day, get the coffee machines working, and to go over the daily plan with Doctor Kaffa. As the morning security team was entering, several droids attacked the employee entrance, catching them off-guard. Their weaponry was too advanced. The droids were ruthlessly quick, gunning down our friends and protectors before we knew what hit us.
We tried to call for help, but they’d somehow managed to jam our communications to the outside, a feat that I didn’t even think possible considering the size and importance of the facility. Doctor Kaffa had suggested in a dismayed sort of way that perhaps they had help from someone working on the inside, but ultimately it didn’t matter. What did matter is that we watched in horror as these masked figures and their hulking droids entered the facilities, murdering anyone that opposed them and swiftly taking the rest hostage.
The morning shift of workers hadn’t stood a chance. The terrorists were too clean, too efficient; they’d cleaned and sanitized the initial attack area, which gave the employees no indication that something was amiss. Once they were inside, they were easy prey to a wall of firearms pointed in their faces and became hostages.
In total, the terrorists had killed at least twenty of my friends, and had five times that number held hostage in a room filled with explosives. I couldn’t believe how easy it had seemed for them.
One of the terrorists pointed a finger in my face, snapping me out of my thoughts and planting me back in my grim reality. “The insignia upon your lapel seems to indicate that you are someone of importance in this facility. What is your name and occupation here?”
I swallowed and nodded. “Yes. I am Doctor Weldon Ocano, assistant chief engineer. I am… I suppose the second-in-command of the dam.”
He nodded once, a gesture that betrayed only the ruthless efficiency of the man performing it. “Good. We have your facility completely under our control. Explosives have been set along key structural points inside, explosives which are set to detonate after any of a great number of different triggers occur. I’m telling you this not because I need you to know it, but because I want you to understand your predicament. Resistance is not recommended; it may result in the accidental destruction of the damn, which would be… unpleasant, for the people of New Glory.”
Unpleasant was a severe understatement. The destruction of the dam would unleash a wall of water that would kill tens of thousands of people. The loss of power supplied by the dam would leave the remainder of the city mostly unpowered, preventing medical facilities from providing care and preventing the authorities from providing support. It would be an unmitigated disaster and would set New Glory back in ways that even a mind like mine couldn’t begin to predict.
The terrorist held up a large square of tagboard with some writing on it. “You are to be our messenger, Doctor Ocano. You will read our message from these cards and we will relay it to the Meeters. If you cooperate, you will live to see your family again. If you refuse, we will shoot you and bring the third-in-command in to sit in your place.”
I swallowed again. “What happened to Doctor Kaffa?”
The terrorist cocked his head. “He refused to cooperate.”
My stomach fell. Doctor Kaffa had been my mentor, had taught me everything I knew about practical science. He’d been the one to design this facility, to give it the passion required for such an important place to function. And now he was gone, just like that.
“Who are you?” I whispered, my mouth dry, my mind racing. I was never one to give in to fear, but this was testing even my own considerable abilities to cope with stress.
“We are called the Bridgebuilders,” he replied. “You have, no doubt, heard of us.”
I licked my lips, trying to work some saliva back into my mouth. “I thought you were called Bridgeburners?”
I didn’t even see him move, but I certainly felt it. The butt of his rifle rammed squarely into my face, sending me toppling backward off of the stool to land hard on my shoulders. My head whacked painfully into the floor beneath me, sending stars spinning around my head. The coppery taste of blood filled my mouth as I gasped for breath, struggling to stay conscious.
After what was either a few moments or a few hours, gruff hands hauled me to my feet and placed me back on the stool. I spat out the blood and blinked the pain out of my eyes.
The terrorist had returned to his nonchalant stance. “Bridgebuilders,” he said slowly, careful to ensure that I heard every syllable. “No more questions, doctor. Do as you’re told, or you will be hurt again.”
I watched mutely as they finished setting up their little production studio. They did a few test recordings, checking the audio levels and picture quality on a small, portable computing device they’d set up in the corner. Eventually, they held the first of three cue cards up in front of me, clicked the record button on their camera, and pointed their guns at my face.
I guess that was the sign that I should start reading.
“I am Doctor Weldon Ocano,” I said slowly, careful to pronounce everything properly and not misspeak. I didn’t want to risk a mistake and have them decide I wasn’t worth the trouble. “Just after the toll of the sixth hour this morning, the patriotic group known as the Bridgebuilders seized the New Glory Dam. We have control of the entire installation, have disabled the security systems entirely, and have placed explosives along key structural points within the facility.
“This is not a drill, a prank, or a publicity stunt,” I continued, my voice quavering. I spoke with the detached numbness of someone deep in shock. “We have taken the entire engineering team and the surviving members of the security force hostage. This video is a declaration of intent.
“To the Meeters, we give a simple order: withdraw from negotiations with the Dyahri Federation. Call a vote to end our agreement with their ambassadors. The people of Anthos do not answer to these alien outsiders and have no business dealing with them. If you comply with this directive, the hostages will be released, and the facility will remain intact. But if you do not comply, the New Glory Dam will be destroyed, and much of New Glory along with it.”
The leader swapped to the last cue card, giving me a moment to take a breath. A trickle of blood tickled at the skin on my face, running down the bridge of my nose from where I’d been struck. Some small voice in my head suggested that it probably looked very dramatic on camera.
“Any attempt to overtake us before this vote can be called and the Dyahri can be rejected will lead to the death of hostages. They will be killed, their deaths broadcast to every media outlet in New Glory, deaths that will hang upon your shoulders. Any incursion by a sizable force will result in the immediate detonation of the explosives.
“We do not want money. We do not want technology. You cannot bribe us, cannot deter us, cannot stop us. We will not communicate with you again until after the vote has passed. We will be watching. We will be waiting. We urge you to do the right thing.”
The terrorist leader set the cue cards down and turned to discuss the recording with his comrade as my fears began to break through my resolve. What would they do with me now? Would I be returned to the chamber where they’d stored the rest of the hostages, or would they kill me on camera? Would I ever see my wife again? My children?
“We got it,” said the second Bridgebuilder, the smaller of the two. “A bit of editing and this will be ready to go. I’ll get it streamed to the Meeters in about ten minutes.”
The leader turned back to face me, the thick burlap bag reappearing in his hand. He forced it over my head, sending me back into the suffocating darkness of its interior. “You did well in listening to our instructions. You will be returned to your colleagues, where you will await your fate.”
A vicelike hand clamped around my arm as he hoisted me up off of the stool and pushed me toward the door. Two mechanical sounds stirred from either side, no doubt those mechanical droids moving to follow their master. My legs were weak, shaky, and suddenly I was aware of just how much pain I was in after being struck.
It wasn’t long before the bag was ripped off of my head and I was shoved through a doorway. I could see faces on the other side, the terrified and beleaguered faces of my friends and coworkers, looking to me for some kind of hope or guidance. But all they saw was their friend, bloody and broken, stumbling and falling on his face between them.
“You’ll wait here until the end,” said the Bridgeburner leader from behind me. “Nobody do anything stupid and this is going to be just fine. But if you try to get smart or brave, understand that we will not hesitate to kill you.”
The door closed behind him as he left, but the two droids remained, their weapons swiveling lazily over the clusters of people that had been left in the room.
“Weldon, are you alright?” whispered a voice from beside me. “What did they do to you?”
I managed to roll to my side and sit up, my face flaring again with pain and my head throbbing. I blinked blood from my eyes yet again. “Yes, I’m okay. They roughed me up a bit, but I think I will survive. I may… I may have a minor concussion, so perhaps you should not allow me to go to sleep if I seem so inclined.”
“What is happening?” asked the voice again as Raya, our facility manager and one of my oldest friends, scooted into the dim light. “Who are these people?”
“Bridgeburners,” I muttered grimly. “Terrorists. They’ve rigged the dam to explode. They want the Meeters to call off negotiations with the Dyahri and reject them. If they don’t, they’re going to blow up the dam.”
“Heavens,” she whispered. “That… that would…”
“Destroy most of New Glory. Yes, I think that’s the point.”
She blinked away tears, her hands bound behind her in the same manner as my own. “Now what?”
I took a deep breath. “We are scientists, not warriors. The Meeters will put out a call and someone will rise to answer it. We will do as we our told until help arrives.”
“Do you really think that?” she asked quietly, obviously as scared as the rest of the whispering voices in the room. “Do you really believe that someone will want to risk their lives to help?”
“I do,” I said simply. “I believe that good exists, even on Anthos. And where good fails to rise, there are always those willing to risk life and limb for a payday. I think our salvation will lie somewhere between them.”
“Do nothing, then?” she asked quietly. “Just… just wait?”
“Yes. For now, we wait, and hope, and pray.”
Did you like Assault on New Glory Dam?! If so, you should check our Otherworlds adventure A Dam Shame, where you get to take out the terrorist and rescue these hostages!
Until next time,