Chapter Four: Strategy

Bryce clenched his teeth against a cry that would certainly get him shot a second time. The pain radiated from his knee to his toes. A whimper escaped him. The barrel of a gun pressed against his skull and for what seemed the longest of moments he waited for a bullet to enter his brain. He felt no fear, only a numb acceptance of his coming death.

The barrel of the gun moved away. But a moment later a shot rang out. Bryce whimpered at the sound of what he was sure was the first kill. His heart sank at the thought of his former classmates dying decades before their time. It was no longer a threat. Now it was a reality.

Still hearing nothing from Jenny, Bryce wondered if she had also been frightened into silence, or if she was also dead.

He wondered how long he would hold out before shock and death claimed him.

Was he already in shock?

Reg opened the door before Edison had even knocked.

"Rik told us what happened at ACS," he said. "Sorry about your Bryce."

"We don't know he's dead yet," Edison said. "I was hoping you'd be able to help us get him and the other kids out of there."

"They might get mad at you if you call 'em kids to their faces," Reg pointed out. "And yeah, I think I can help. We're gonna have to figure out a way to knock 'em all out."

"Know anywhere we can score a few cannisters of sleep gas?" Edison asked.

"Not me personally," Reg said. "But a mate of mine was in the military for a bit before she became a Blank. She might be able to find something we can use."

Reg tapped a few keys on the Blank Vu Phone.

A blonde woman appeared on the screen. She had the lean muscular look of a special forces fighter who hasn't let retirement ruin her.

"Shelby," he said. "Reg. We got a situation. Edison Carter's here. He's got a friend who's in serious trouble and needs your help."

"What sort of trouble?" Blank Shelby asked.

Reg moved aside and let Edison speak.

"ACS, you've heard of it?"

"The Academy of Computer Sciences," Shelby said. "Yeah, my kid sister went there, Class of 2000."

"Bryce's class," Edison said. "Your kid sister might be involved, too, then."

A look of worry came over the ex-soldier's face. "Involved in what?"

"Terrorists have taken over ACS. We think it's only the Class of 2000 in danger right now."

"And the metrocops haven't done anything," Shelby snarled.

"Too risky," Edison said.

"Have they made any demands?" Shelby asked.

"Yes. But they were written in a foreign language." Edison said. "Max."

Max Headroom appeared on another screen. "What is it? Have you got B-B-B-Bryce? Is he okay?"

"Not yet," Edison said. "Max can you show Shelby here the demands made by the terrorists?"

Max made a huffing sound and brought up the ticker-tape.

Shelby read it for several moments, then shook her head. "It doesn't make any sense," she told him. "It's just the name of extinct roses."

"Could they refer to women's names?" Theora asked.

"No," Shelby said. "The names are too generic. Double Delight. Cottage. Glamis Castle."

"So the demand is just a red herring," Murray realized. "They don't intend to free those kids."

"It doesn't look like it," Shelby shook her head. "Max, can you see inside the building and find out where the terrorists are located?"

"The TV in the room where Bryce is has been des-des-des-destroyed," Max said. "But I might be able to access the securicam."

"Good," Shelby said. "Give us full access, both sight and sound. I want to hear what those bastards are saying. Never thought those two years in Hindustan would be useful."

"That's where you were stationed?" Edison asked.

"Yeah. In the Big Three," Shelby explained. "And believe me, when you know it means the difference between life and death, you learn a language real quickly."

"So, what are we going to do?" Edison asked. "Reg said you might have access to some sleep gas?"

"The Museum of Military History had Russian exhibit," Shelby said "They have several weapons on display, including a few cannisters of Kolokol-1. Assuming the cannisters are actually full, we can use them to knock out everyone and rescue the hostages."

"And if they're not?" Murray asked.

"It's the only chance we've got, I'm afraid." Shelby told him. "Because they're going to kill all of those kids one way or the other if we don't."

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