“What do we have here? My name is Otto, Otto von Kerbal, and you are?” he asked with a casual breeziness, when Alan didn’t answer he continued, “have we been having some fun downstairs?” He was also obviously German but his accent wasn’t as strong as the others. It was mildly concerning that he was taking the loss of so many of his men so well. “I know my men aren’t the brightest bunch, but I would have thought they would have been able to take care of an engineer with what….a cricket bat?” he asked, gingerly picking it up from where it had fallen out of Alan’s grasp.
Not knowing what else to do Alan nodded.
“A ridiculous game, but apparently it seems to have its uses,” he chuckled. Just then the last man appeared in the doorway, seeing Alan on the ground but still alive he began yelling at the top of his voice in German. Otto rolled his eyes and turned to address his underling, Alan couldn’t catch any of it but he got the idea the man was somewhat more pissed off than Otto was about the men that had been killed.
While they spoke Alan tried to get his bearings, he was on the roof about five meters away from the doorway, meaning he must have flown a decent distance when he got hit. Looking around there wasn’t much to see, the roof was as it always was, lots of metal towers holding up satellite and microwave dishes at varying heights above the ground, each based in a solid block of concrete. The one difference was a computer of some sorts which had been attached to one of the transmission towers, putting two and two together Alan realised their plan. The communication systems on the tower were very strong, able to broadcast over the whole of Lincolnshire and likely some way into neighbouring counties, they were also, crucially, very old. If these terrorists (he assumed that’s what they were) wanted to they could probably hack into any computer in the transmission area, the system had the ability to broadcast on old network protocols, protocols which weren’t even guarded against any more as nobody was using them. It was a backdoor into any computer system they wanted.
While this was all going through Alan’s head he realised the men had stopped yelling at each other, in fact they were now talking quite casually, and to his dismay agreeing with each other. This could only end badly, he thought. Knowing that he had moments before he was in all likeliness, executed, he looked around for some sort of weapon, but there was nothing. He had to hide, but where could he go, he was completely out in the open, there was nothing he could do.
“I’m sorry whoever you are, but my friend here is quite keen to see you dead, and I have no reason to disappoint him”, Otto said almost with a sigh of regret as he turned. “But I shall make it qui-“, he looked around in bewilderment. “Where did he go?”
With nowhere to go Alan had done the only thing he could do, roll away from danger. Having only rolled a meter or so he was surprised to feel himself fall for a second before sharply hitting stone again with a bone jarring thud. He had fallen off a small ledge only about half a meter high that separated the main platform on the roof from the rest; Alan had completely forgotten about it and with everything being the same dull grey colour it hadn’t stuck out in his dazed state. He breathed a sigh of relief before hearing Otto speaking again, tension returning as he realised he only had seconds before they realised what had happened and came after him.
Scrambling into a crawling position he moved behind the ledge as fast as he could, his chest aching and his leg stinging. It felt like hours but he knew it had been less than thirty minutes since he arrived. Now all that was left was this Otto creep and a single henchman, he could handle this he told himself, almost laughing as he did. The situation was ridiculous, but at the same time he wasn’t planning on giving up, people were still in danger.
As he reached the edge of the roof he hid behind one of the concrete tower bases, he couldn’t see much but he heard as someone hopped down from the ledge and started to walk around. He had landed heavy, that meant it was probably the henchman. He wasn’t stupid either, instead of charging round looking for him he was moving slowly, Alan knew he wasn’t going to get the drop on this guy, he had to think of another plan. For now he moved from block to block, keeping as far away as possible while trying not to make any noise.
As he neared the far end of the roof he caught his shoulder on the edge of a block and cursed, then almost cursed again for making a noise. Straight away he heard the footsteps quicken and get closer, he had to move, now. The only place to go was into an area cordoned off by a railing with danger signs hanging on it, but he had no time to worry about that when death was already lingering right behind him. Crawling under the railing he hid behind a larger block of concrete which based one of the two main towers, the other was several meters away and sat almost on the edge of the roof.
He tried to slow his breathing and listened for pursuit, at first he heard the footsteps approaching the railing before they paused. He must be reading the danger sign he thought, Alan kept his fingers crossed and hoped that he wouldn’t check this area. For one very tense moment he thought his pursuer was ducking under the railing, but then he heard the footsteps drift off to the side. He let out a sigh, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do now but at least he was out of immediate dange-
“Get up” a gruff voice said as Alan felt the cold barrel of an assault rifle press against the side of his head. His body suddenly turning very cold Alan did as he was told and stood up, he looked appropriately devastated and wasn’t sure which felt worse, the certainty that he was about to die or the thought that his friends would likely soon follow him, not to mention any other horrors these guys planned to unleash.
“Walk over there, now”, said the henchman, anger very much apparent in his voice now as he pointed towards the second tower base. Doing as he was told Alan turned around and walked where the man had indicated, the edge of the roof getting closer with every step. He could see that the man was wearing no shoes, this made his footsteps so quiet Alan had no doubt that was how he had managed to sneak up on him. Looking at the roof’s edge looming ahead of him he tried frantically to come up with a plan, but he had nothing going for him, without a weapon or the element of surprise he stood no chance against the man leading him to his doom. He had to be at least 6”2’ and was obviously very strong, not to mention the gun he had pointed at Alan’s back. No, he thought, there was no way to take him on directly, he would have to wait for the opportune moment, but with him fast running out of roof, would that moment come in time.
“Turn around”, the man said as Alan stopped right on the roof’s edge, giving his shoulder a sharp tug and spinning him around. Some part of Alan’s mind complained that it was pointless to tell him to turn around and yank him round at the same time, but he suppressed it, he had to stay focused. “You think your some kind of superhero? Trying to rescue your friends? Well you’re not going to die like a superhero, you’re going to die screaming as you plummet towards the ground with a nice stomach wound to go with it”, he said angrily, his words chilling Alan to his core as the man lowered the pistols aim. “And when I’ve watched you splatter on the pavement, I’m going to go down and kill all your friends like you killed mine, except I’m going to do it real slow and make them suffer to their last breath”, a wicked smile spreading over his face.
Hearing those words and looking at the sickening smile enraged Alan and rid him of the fear that had controlled him only moments before, whatever happened to him he couldn’t let that happen to his friends. His mind whirred as he looked around for a solution, he watched as the man’s finger slowly tensed on the trigger, there was still no way to take him on directly, but maybe he could use his knowledge of the environment against him. To his left on the concrete block he saw a bracket with a cable attached to it, the bracket looked very old and worn and Alan imagined that with enough force it just might come loose from the wall. It wasn’t a good plan but it was the only one he had.
He kicked the bracket as hard as he could, the man in front of him almost pulling the trigger in surprise, only stopping as he realised the kick wasn’t aimed at him. He looked perplexed as he eyed the bracket, which to Alan’s dismay hadn’t quite managed to detach itself from the wall. The man followed the cable up the tower until it connected to an object which looked like a big drum, figuring out that Alan had intended for the drum to drop on him he turned back to Alan and smiled, “nice try”.
It was at that point that the bracket lost its battle and detached from the wall, whizzing upwards which in turn caused the drum shaped object to slide downwards on its pole mounting. It zoomed down at what seemed like a phenomenal speed, anything it hit would have been smashed without question…only it didn’t hit anything. It came to a dead stop with a sharp clank just to the left of the man’s head, stunning the man in surprise for a moment but then he just laughed, he laughed so hard he could barely keep the gun trained on Alan, “you thought”, he breathed through the laughter, “that would work?”, he said attempting to recover and wipe a tear from his eye.
Alan just stared without emotion.
“At least you gave me some entertainment before you died”, he said, the wicked smile returning, the gun rising again and the trigger finger tensing. Then something strange happened, the man froze, his whole body went as stiff as a board and his face started to go slack. It started with his mouth, that smile that had seemed so menacing a moment before slid away and his mouth drooped open, this was followed by his cheeks as they became undefined and lifeless, and finally his eyes. As he eyelids began to close Alan could see the change in the man’s eyes, they went from violent and gleeful to panicked and confused, and then finally, slowly, to dull and lifeless. As the life drained out of the rest of his body the man who had seemed so threatening a few moments before, crumbled into a heap on the floor.
Alan stood aghast at what had happened, a part of his brain had known that if the drum hadn’t hit him directly the focused microwaves it emitted would hopefully do some damage, but he hadn’t quite been prepared for this. The man’s eyes, they would stay with him, he knew that even now, today he had killed so many people but it hadn’t mattered, it was to save his friends, kill or be killed, and it still was…but the way this man had died, it somehow brought home the reality of it all. And the worst thing was that he wasn’t done, he had to pick himself up and get moving because he still had to stop Otto carrying out his plan, whatever that was.
Trying to push thoughts of death out of his head, and carefully ducking under the microwave dish, he quietly made his way back along the roof towards where he had last seen Otto. Sure enough when he got there he could see him working on the computer he had seen before, the cricket bat at his feet. From his hiding spot crouched by the platform ledge right at the edge of the roof, Alan thought he could probably sneak up on Otto, the man had his back to the fire door and was facing the roof, but was focused on his task and wasn’t likely to see him unless he looked directly in his direction. Taking his shoes off, a trick he had learnt recently, he carefully climbed up onto the platform and moved quietly round him in a big circle, ending up near the fire door.
A part of his mind considered running, he had the perfect escape route and could free his friends on the way, but he quashed that thought, whatever Otto’s plan was he had to be stopped otherwise other’s might pay the price. He moved as slowly as he could towards Otto and readied a punch he hoped would knock out the thin man in one go, but he never got the chance.
“I’d stop right there if I were you”, Otto said.
Alan froze, how had he heard him? And why should he stop-
It was then he noticed that Otto was only typing with his right hand, the other was holding a pistol hidden under his right armpit so only the very end of the barrel was visible.
“It seems you have bested the last of my men”, he continued, “interesting, how exactly did you do that?”
The eyes came back into Alan’s head for a second but he shook them off and said nothing.
Otto finally turned, switching the gun to his right hand, “not the talkative type are you? No matter, they weren’t important and my work is almost finished.”
“What are you doing?” Alan couldn’t help but blurt out, he tried to fool himself into believing it was to buy time to come up with a plan, but he had already pretty much established he was doomed.
“He speaks! Congratulations” he said chuckling. “So you want me to do the whole evil genius tells you his plan thing then? Well……ok, I’ll summarise. I’m sure you already know what these transmissions towers can do since I assume you work here?” he gave Alan a questioning look.
“Good, then you will know that I can effectively use them to create a backdoor into any computer I like within range, and whatever isn’t in range will become infected as the code I’m implanting propagates throughout the web.” Otto explained.
“What are you going to do?” Alan asked.
“Me?” Otto said with a mocking tone, “I’m not going to do anything my bat-wielding friend, I’m simply an enabler, I create the backdoor and sell it to the highest bidder, I love to help people you see” he said smiling, “and the money doesn’t hurt either”.
Alan should have been stunned but with everything that had gone on today he simply accepted it, that kind of power on the black market where anyone could get their hands on it wasn’t good.
“Once the programme on the computer behind me completes then the information will be out there and there will be no stopping it, but you my friend will be dead long before that”, he said re-aiming the pistol at Alan’s forehead.
Alan had no plan, no weapon, and he was in an open space and had nowhere to go or hide, after everything he had done today it would all be for nothing. Otto would kill him, and then likely go downstairs and kill all his friends, coldly, efficiently, before disappearing off to some island somewhere as a very rich man. Alan stared into the face of his demise and closed his eyes.
Death didn’t sound like a gunshot however, it sounded strangely like the squawk of a bird. First once and then again, confused Alan opened his eyes just in time to see a Peregrine Falcon swoop down and land on Otto’s face, claws raking across his skin and causing him to cry out in pain. He dropped the gun to try and get the bird away from him and Alan knew this was the only chance he would get. Dashing forward he grabbed his cricket bat off the floor, then swung it as hard as he could at the computer, it took a few hits but eventually it fizzled and died, the last thing on its screen before it faded to black was…
Otto, finally having detached himself from the bird, his face torn to shreds, screamed with rage as he saw what Alan had done and lunged at him. But Alan was ready and quickly brought the bat around in a powerful swing that connected directly with Otto’s temple, knocking him out like a light.
With a big sigh of relief Alan took a breath and looked around for his saviour, he found him sitting on a nearby railing, cleaning himself after getting ruffed up a bit in the encounter. Alan nodded to the bird in thanks and he could have sworn the bird nodded back. The warning signs for the roof weren’t just there to warn against microwaves, they were also there because a family of Peregrine falcons had recently taken up residence on the roof and were raising their young. Officially the roof was off limits entirely while this was going on but Alan had snuck up a few times to feed them and take pictures. Whether the falcon had actually seen that he was in danger and helped him or he was just protecting his family and his nest he didn’t know, but he was thankful that he had helped nonetheless.
Making his way downstairs he was greeted by some initially startled friends, until they realised who it was. Alan untied them while they asked him a million and one questions about what was going on, he tried to answer them at first but tiredness and pain soon caught up with him. The wound on his leg, the bruise on his chest, plus general exhaustion soon left Alan barely conscious on the break room sofa, the last thing he heard before falling asleep was the sounds of sirens getting closer and closer.
He awoke in an ambulance with a paramedic checking him over thoroughly, obviously concerned for his health, and a police man sat opposite. He tried to get up but the paramedic held him down.
“Oh no, you aren’t going anywhere in your condition, you took one hell of a beating”, he said sternly. “Plenty of rest is what you need, you’ve done enough”.
Alan laid back down without protest, his body still ached all over. Instead he turned to face the policeman, “what happened?” Alan asked in a strained voice.
The policeman smiled and laughed gently, “Shouldn’t I be asking you that? Don’t worry we found all five bodies, you really did a number on some of them”, he said with a slight grimace.
“But don’t worry, your friends told us the whole story, and I’m sure you can fill in the rest once you’ve recovered. You’re a hero, you deserve some rest.” He said, putting a hand gently on his arm to comfort him.
In his current state Alan couldn’t summon the will to argue, so instead he just closed his eyes and let his mind go blank. After everything that had happened today Alan was looking forward to his retirement more than ever.
Just before the gentle caress of sleep overcame him he had one last thought.
Did he say five bodies?