This story was written as a gift to my dad for his retirement, he loved it and I hope you all do too.
Alan approached the telephone exchange with steely determination, this was it, the culmination of all his efforts, everything he had been working towards for the last forty four years would finally pay off. He could finally retire.
Today was his last day and he couldn’t keep the beaming smile off his face. Not that he didn’t like his job, he loved it; why else would he have stayed there for his whole career, but he would finally be able to relax, spend time with his wife Christine and go on holidays all over the world. He would miss his friends he had made over the years and it would be sad saying goodbye, but many of them had already retired and he kept in contact with them outside of work.
As the main gate rattled open he reflected back on his history with this very building, built in 1973 just as he was joining the company it was a marvel of its age. Towering eight stories high it contained all the necessary communications equipment to keep the whole of North East Lincolnshirein communication with the rest of the world. The communications array on its roof still worked as hard as ever but other things had changed, broadband and fibre connections had been added alongside the telephone system and slowly but surely less and less space was needed as the size of technology got smaller, until only really the first and second floors were now in use. Alan had fond memories of the café on the sixth floor where he used to take his children when they were younger, but that too now was gone and his children had left home. There were many memories he would look back on fondly but he also was looking forward to making new memories with his well-deserved free time.
Parking up he opened the back of his van and pulled out a cricket bat, it was a present for a young colleague who had many years of work still ahead of him. He had expressed an interest in cricket, and Alan was keen to support any interest in the sport he loved. Many of his other fond memories came from his days playing cricket and helping to run the local club. As he walked through the main doors onto the ground floor something felt off, he could hear the familiar hum of machinery but nothing else, nobody was here. That wasn’t the strangest thing in the world, he was always in early, but the security guard should have been around somewhere.
He walked through the racks of communications equipment and was about to call out when he heard what he thought was the sound of a radio clicking on. He moved slowly towards the noise and then froze as he stepped round a corner, quickly taking a step back and keeping himself hidden he watched as a man cradling an assault rifle spoke briefly to someone on a radio and then walked into their break room. Alan waited a few seconds and then crept closer, he didn’t understand what was going on, why was there a man with a gun? Were there more of them? Why were they here? The telephone exchange wasn’t exactly a terrorist hotspot, what could they want?
Approaching the door he leant against it to try and hear what was going on, he could hear a few people moving around inside and someone talking on the radio but he couldn’t understand what they were saying. Very carefully he opened the door, just a crack, enough to see inside and hear what was going on. His breath caught as he saw one of the men stood just a few feet in front of the door, thankfully with his back to him but too close for comfort. Beyond him was something that shocked him just as much, five of his colleagues knelt down on the floor, hands tied behind their backs. Clearly whatever these men wanted they weren’t messing about, the man by the door had his gun trained on the kneeling men and he looked like he meant business. The voice on the radio was clearer now, and he realised why he hadn’t been able to understand, the man wasn’t speaking English, he was speaking German.
While not a fluent speaker Alan could pick up the odd word; his sister lived in Germany and he had spent a lot of time there. He managed to pick up the word “Übertragung” meaning “Transmission” and the word “Dach” meaning “Roof”. Clearly something was happening on the roof related to the comms array, but what he wondered. The man was still muffled so Alan tried to open the door a bit further but it wouldn’t budge, it was stuck on something. As he looked down his body suddenly felt very cold as he stared at a big black boot blocking the door…from his side. Alan’s eyes travelled up the body attached to the boot until he met the man’s eyes, the man smiled at him as he casually aimed his gun at the bridge of Alan’s nose. All the blood seemed to have left his body and his mouth hung open in shock, he couldn’t say or do anything and the man just kept on smiling.
“Having fun?” he asked in heavily accented English. “I promise you its more fun inside, why don’t you come in and join the party?” Alan couldn’t help but nod weakly. The man reached out and fully opened the door, calling to his colleagues. “I’ve found another sheep, tie him up with the rest, we’ll deal with them later”.
Sheep, Alan thought. Sheep to slaughter, they were keeping them alive in case they proved useful but they had no intention of leaving them in the same state, as soon as their business was done, whatever it was, they would all be disposed of. That brought the blood rushing back around his body as quickly as it had left, he was the only one not tied up, the only one that could do something, and if he was going to die anyway he might as well try. Clutching the cricket bat tightly in one hand, while the man was distracted talking to his colleagues, he brought the bat up and straight into the man’s wrist. The gun flew off across the floor and the man cried in pain, without pausing Alan now grabbed the bat with two hands and swung it into the side of the man’s head. He went down like a sack of potatoes but Alan didn’t hang around to find out if he was dead or simply unconscious, he dived out of the doorway just as bullets from the other men in the room ripped through the air around him.
Quickly getting to his feet again he made for the stairwell only a short distance away, even so as he swung round the door he again heard the smack of bullets hitting the wall just behind him. Blood pumping, heart going at a rate of knots he sprang up the stairs three at a time, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do next but the roof seemed as good a destination as any, whatever they were doing that was where they were doing it. He could hear footsteps on the stairwell behind him but was surprised to only hear one set, he thought he had counted four armed men in the break room, leaving one behind to guard the prisoners that left three…where were the other two?
Arriving on the fourth floor landing he swung himself onto the next staircase only for the area in front of him to become a swarm of bullets. He half dived half fell backwards, landing in a heap on the floor. Dammit, he thought, they must have radioed some friends on the upper floors. Both directions now blocked there was only one place to go, so he quickly got up and ran out of the stairwell door onto the fourth floor. It was almost empty, hardly anybody came here anymore as there was no reason to, unfortunately that also meant there was very little cover, only a few large square stone supports, so he had to be quick. Running as fast as he could he made a bee line for the elevator on the opposite wall, he got about halfway there when he froze…the elevator was on its way. Suddenly he realised where the other men had gone, they had taken the elevator to make sure he had no other way to escape, now he was stuck in the middle of an open room with no cover and nowhere to go.
Out the corner of his eye he saw two men open the door from the stairwell and take aim. Without thinking he darted behind the nearest pillar which shook with the impact of bullets a split second later. Panic threated to overtake him, he had nowhere to go, no way to fight back and the pillar wouldn’t help him once the men in the elevator arrived. The world seemed to shrink around him but he forced himself to breathe, Alan was a practical man and panicking wouldn’t do anything, what did he have on his side? A cricket bat, great he thought to himself sarcastically, that’s going to be loads of help against guns. What else? The pillar, again that wouldn’t be much help. There must be something els-
His thought were cut off when he heard two noises almost simultaneously, first was the ping of the elevator as it arrived on their floor, and the second was the smallest of clicks. He risked a glance towards the stairwell and watched in horror as a grenade flew out of its owner’s hands straight towards him. His mind whirred and panic threatened him once again but a third sound suddenly brought perfect clarity to his mind, the sound of the elevator doors opening. Almost casually, his mind now steady and focused, he stepped out from the pillar into the path of the oncoming grenade. The men by the stairwell were confused for a second before their confusion turned into a look of horror, with one clean sweep of his bat Alan intercepted the grenade and sent it flying on past him at lightning speed, straight towards the elevator. The men inside just had time to see what was happening and attempt in vain to close the elevator doors, but ironically that actually sealed their fate. As the doors began to close the grenade slipped in between them, hit the back wall and dropped to the floor. Their colleagues at the stairwell looked on aghast as the doors silently came together and a muffled explosion was heard inside, smoke leaking lazily from the now ruined elevator.
It took them a few seconds to realise that Alan had disappeared, they assumed he had hidden back behind the pillar and so advanced on it, rifles ready, they were angry now. What they hadn’t seen was Alan quickly advanced one pillar closer to them and hide behind that instead, so as they drew close, totally focussed on the first pillar they were unprepared for that bat which swung into their faces. The closest man took the brunt of the blow, blood exploded from his nose and he went down hard, while the other man caught a glancing blow, enough to make him drop his gun and clutch his face, but he wasn’t out of the game yet. Not wasting any time Alan lunged at the man, swinging the bat left and right, his stunned opponent barely able to block his strikes. Suddenly feeling a stone pillar behind him the man was trapped, but as Alan swung the bat in for the knockout blow the man just managed get his arm in the way, the sickening crack of bone breaking followed the bat connecting with his elbow. Even while screaming in pain the man grabbed the bat with his other arm and pulled Alan close, in close quarters it was a more even fight, Alan was uninjured but had no training, where as the man had plenty of training but was in all likeliness concussed and had only one useful arm. Alan gasped in pain as several blows jabbed into his ribs, the man tried to sweep a leg out from under him but he quickly kneed him in the thigh to make him reconsider that strategy.
A bullet suddenly slammed into the stone a foot to their right, making both men stop for a second. Looking round Alan could see the man’s partner on the floor where he had fallen, clutching his rifle in one hand and attempting to aim at him. This was no easy task considering his was in agony, his nose was shattered and there was blood in his eyes, but Alan knew it was just a matter of time. Not waiting for the man to make another attempt he used the distraction to regain control of the bat and bring it up between the two men, before pushing it into the man’s throat. His opponent’s eyes went wide as he gasped for breath, trying in vain to push the bat away but to no avail, moments later his body went limp and he slumped to the floor.
As soon as his partner was down Alan knew the other man would happily open fire at him on automatic, he quickly swung and threw the bat as hard and as accurately as he could towards the gunman. The man managed to get off a couple of shots, one of which grazed Alan’s leg and caused him to swear, before the very end of the bat hit him square in his broken nose, driving the broken splinters directly up into his brain and killing him instantly. Alan, half stunned by the bullet wound half by the fact that he had actually hit the man with that throw, just stood there for a second before gathering his wits. For a moment he considered taking one of the men’s guns, but dismissed the idea, he had no idea how to fire a gun, he’d probably do more damage to himself than anyone else.
Picking up his now bloody bat he headed back towards the stairs and began to climb again, only to hear footsteps several floors below him. Dammit, he swore, the last one guarding the prisoners must have heard the explosion and decided that coming to help was more important than guarding a few helpless civilians, he thought. With his only advantage at this point being his lead, he ran up the remaining staircases as fast as he could, his leg throbbing as he did but he pushed through the pain. He reached the top floor and after a quick check darted into the room, nobody was there, it was just another empty room. Hearing the footsteps getting louder behind him he quickly kicked open a door next to the one he had come in moments before, this one led to the roof staircase and he rapidly ascended those too.
Hearing the man coming up fast behind him he ignored the warning signs plastered ahead of him and shouldered open the fire door at the top of the stairs. With the sunlight burning his eyes he didn’t see the arm flying towards his chest until it was too late, and he caught the full brunt of the blow. As his chest suddenly stopped his legs kept going, almost resulting in a comical summersault, but instead he landed painfully on his shoulder blades, causing him to cry out in agony. As he tried to control the pain his eyes adjusted to the sunlight and a smiling face loomed over him, he bore similar features to the others but had a different air about him, thin framed and poised with intelligent eyes, Alan knew that this was the man on the radio, the man who had orchestrated the whole scheme.