Disaster: Day of Prototype
"Damn it, Olson, I'm not interested. We're on the other side of the country. No, I'm not interested in ticking off the Biological in NBC. Yeah, I've done the other two. That's exactly why." The boss went silent for a bit, and then hung up. The room was very quiet, we just kind of waited on him.
"Seven million potential casualties," he said. "It's New York."
Had to be big if they were calling out-of-state rescue teams in. We got the rest as the team tooled up. Biological attack at Penn Station. Casualties? Unknown. Cause? Unknown. Culprit? Unknown. Clean-up? Unknown.
This is gonna be one hell of a month.
Just turned midnight. We've been on the transport for two hours now. Touch down in three, and hope that they'll have the gear on scene. Boss has done the maps, ops and team assignments. Looks like the Manhattan teams are already in position, main HQ's set up to handle it near the site, but they need manpower to handle the knock-ons to Brooklyn, Staten Island and the rest of New York.
News has been haywire all day. Whatever went down in New York is big. Freyson has family out that way, but the lines are jammed. No frikking signals even when we need them.
Day 1 PM - Got our boots on the ground and got them shunted straight off again. We've been assigned to Staten Island. Boss had us set up triage points and rescue stations. Spent a lot of the day getting lay of the land. I'm on spotting duty, keeping an eye for transports or people fleeing Manhattan. Looks like we're the fallback position, out of the action. Let the guys who know the ground go in first, we make sure they have the tools they need.
Limited contact with the Manhattan teams. That's normal right after a disaster. Guess they must be swamped, treating the Penn Station casualties.
Helicopters going over all day. The marines are setting up checkpoints on the bridges and patrolling the waterfront. They must think the terrorists are still out there. News reported a bomb blast at an apartment block in downtown Manhattan. I'm hoping its the marines catching up with the terrorists. No confirmation so far.
We should have been rotated in to relieve the Manhattan team by now. It's been seventy-two hours. I'm getting antsy for some work.
The marines shut off Manhattan, won't tell us what the fuck's going on. Claim its a precaution. Bullshit.
The boss put some pressure on, but the marines aren't allowing anything through the cordon, not even first responders. Boss said fine and requested they pass supplies in for the casualties. Marine command says there weren't any casualties. Corpses aren't casualties. What the fuck? Five thousand people dead, just like that? A hundred percent kill ratio in minutes. What the hell could do something like that? The hell are we dealing with here?
Manhattan HQ went silent. Looks like the boss has seniority, so we just got devolved authority to manage all New York operations. Expanded the HQ to co-ordinate across the regions, and people have been coming and going all day. Comms finally back up for the regional bases but Manhattan control's just dead.
What the hell could make them have to isolate Manhattan, and what use are we gonna be if we can't even get in there?
Still blocked off from Manhattan. The government must think the terrorists have another weapon, but what the hell is it? Bioweapons don't kill that fast. Ebola, rabies, or even cholera have incubation times. Can't think of anything that would do this unless it was already an epidemic, and even then death is hours, not minutes. Chemical weapons kill that fast. The leak at the chlorine factory last year was the only thing I've seen like it - fifty dead, and I can't forget the bodies. This thing, whatever the hell it is, makes it look like a pup.
I'm getting worried about the Manhattan team.
Day 4 - PM I can't. can't even. OK, I'll write this as best I remember it. We got sent on a supply run to the Brooklyn team. We were unloading when. When. When it, it all went to shit.
Crowd of civilians on Manhattan made a run for the Brooklyn Bridge. They were a mess, looked glad to see the solders. Boss took one look and started ordering setup for triage and treatment holding areas, as the Brooklyn team leapt to it. Then the loudhailer started: turn back or you'll get shot. I dropped the crate I was holding, not the only one who did. This is America. That shit doesn't fly here. Boss felt the same, pulled the marine back and told him we have triage and holding set up here, and what the hell was he doing? The marine shoved him off. The rest went:
- "You can't just shoot them."
- "Our job is to quarantine Manhattan."
- "My job is to save lives. Get out of the way."
- "You can't save everyone."
- "Already did." The rifle butt hit hard, and the boss went sprawling. The marines' guns clicked and we froze. They fired. They swept the bridge one side to the other, shot the crowd as they tried to run. The boss tried to get up, and they kicked him in the ribs, kept him down until they'd finished. Once they'd finished wildfiring they went back through and headshotted each of them.
I'm ashamed. I just stood there, just because there was a gun on me. I should have done something. Grabbed a gun, but then I'd be dead. I failed. Should resign. Think I should, but the crew are counting on me.
There's a squad of marines coming in for medical treatment, like they hadn't done anything. Stay professional.
Boss caught me writing my resig. Told him it was for afterwards, because I'd been so useless. He said I shouldn't, that the number one rule of rescue is don't need rescue, and he'd forgotten that. If I'd got myself shot, corpses and casualties are problems, they don't solve them. Bridge made the news: a rescue guy in orange gear getting clubbed down by marines looks bad. The rest of us looked useless, just gaping, but its damn clear where the guns are pointing. They cut the story before the gunfire on the crowd. The boss was on the phone late last night. Something about making sure he had the authority to do his damn job. Looked mollified when he came off it, and the printer's been churning non-stop since.
The USS Reagan showed up. Overkill, but its a floating hospital, and trained bodies on the ground are useful. I might even get to go onboard an aircraft carrier. A few of the guys said they'd heard Black Watch were coming. Good. Boss says he worked with these guys in the sandbox, so I looked them up online. Funny costumes, but reliable backup in the field, and some extra eyes on the marines might stop them - no, not going there. Not sure what the Scots are doing here. Has this gone international?
This isn't Black Watch. Boss asked them where their kilts were and if the Highlanders knew they were using their name. The officer wasn't happy, best I could see behind the mask. Looks like someone didn't do the research before they named their unit.
They confiscated my binoculars. How the hell am I meant to do spotting duty without them? I'd love to see these dicks getting their asses kicked by drunk highlanders. They claim they're Special Forces, here to deal with the terrorists.
Boss said last time the special forces were the terrorists.
Day 6 - PM Grabbed a minute to write this before sleep. The head of the marines turned up in some black uniform. Looked like a Nazi. Pardon my Godwin. Name's easy to remember - rhymes with Braggart. Anyway, says that the marines are taking over, and he's now in command. Swept the boss's maps off the table and started to set out redeployment, putting our teams in with the marines at the waypoints. We're not armed, so not sure what the hell the genius thought we'd do there. Scream and die?
Boss said he'd co-ordinate the response, but he wasn't having SAR guys used as bullet-catchers. Taggart said that if it got off Manhattan people would die. Boss reminded him people were dying right now and he was trying to get on with rescuing them.
Taggart said some shit about reactivating the boss's commission. Boss said he could screw it - phone someone called Olson if he had a problem with it, and if he wasn't here with a casualty report to get out of the way. Taggart got very quiet and I couldn't hear much through the tent, and then he came storming out. Boss was standing there, arms crossed, shaking his head. Said something about surge being easier to deal with. Know I'd take a flash flood over a bioweapon anyday. We have fucking typhus cases coming in. What's next? Cholera?
Didn't know the boss used to be a marine.
I know reporters are scum but -
Ok, from the start. Spent the morning patching up Marines. Odd that its all light injuries and shrapnel. The heavy injuries must be being treated on site. Couple of nosy reporters kept getting in the way, until the marines chased them off. They fucked off, threatening legal action, they'll get the story, yadda, yadda, I have patients to fix, so fuck off, thanks, you're welcome.
Hour later this little light aircraft came over, heading straight for Manhattan. One of the marines grabbed a radio, and the helicopters came in for the cordon. Waited for them to be turned back.
They shot the plane down. Didn't even warn them, just raked the thing with bullets. Came down so near us, the splash hit me. The boss jumped off the edge, dived after it as it sank as I got the oxygen tank and followed. We dragged one guy to the surface, left him to choke on the side. The second one was drowning, trapped in the wreckage. We got his heart restarted on shore, but brain damage, burns, and explosion damage? He didn't make it to the hospital. The navy divers took over. They didn't get anyone out alive. After the first thirty seconds, you don't.
They pointed their guns at us, said it wasn't worth taking blood samples, if we'd got it we'd be dead. Boss pointed out the plane was going in, not out. No contamination. They grumbled, shut up, and fucked off. Thank god. Asked the boss how he got enough pull to back off the Super Secret Special Squaddies. Boss said he saved the world once, and they want him around to do it again. Think he was joking. Not sure. Also accidentally dubbed not-Blackwatch the double-SS among the team. Didn't mean that to catch on. Boss thinks its hilarious. Hope the not-Nazis don't find out.
Trying to hope the reports of stab wounds on the recovered corpses weren't right. They tagged and bagged them so fast we didn't see and then they got taken away. They'll have to release them to the families soon.
Boss has started carrying. I think we feel better for it.
The boss crossed the bridge when some marines called in trouble. Yelled at us to hold the barricade - with what, I don't know. Lot of gunfire on the other side, and something growling, and then the marine squad came back to the quarantine in ones and twos. The marines seemed confused rather than hurt. Most of them at least. I was patching up a stray-fire bullet wound when they started chatting. Mostly they were asking why the hell a SAR guy was carrying a Gatling gun. The boss came back slightly later. He looked smug.
Asked him why he wasn't still in the marines. He said it was a honourable discharge, after he kept trying to bandage everyone he shot. Not sure if joking.
Some officer showed up from the black uniform brigade. Cornered the boss about some 'Colonel Haynes'. Boss said something that calmed him down, or made the guy let go of his collar and put him down anyway, and then they noticed me counting the purification tablets and went for a walk'n'talk. Is Haynes the guy in charge of this mess?
Boss came back more relaxed. Maartins asked about Haynes, boss said he'd died in early 2008, US Special Forces. Guess this mess isn't his fault then. Boss laughed, said if it had been Haynes, things wouldn't have got this far.
That Blackwatch Captain - don't know what he and the boss talked about, but afterwards the boss let the marines string live electrical cables across the roadway and up the bridge supports. It won't let ambulances through. Guess it just hit me there won't be any. He's started carrying this weird gun over his shoulder which sparks.
"You went through a gunfight with special forces in hi-vis orange and they didn't shoot you?"
"They might have been aiming round me." Yeah, right boss. I think if you're shooting at them it probably outweighs any 'don't shoot the rescue team' training they had.
Watching Manhattan burning by night. It might be fire drums the residents are using to keep warm, but the smoke smells like burned flesh.
Got a call about a tank on the fourth floor of a Brooklyn apartment block. Thought it was a water tank breaking until we got there. Nope, somehow a tank had got embedded in an apartment block. Looked like it hit two floors above and scrapped its way down to hang up on support beams on the fourth. Barrel was sticking out of the tower block, half the siding cracked and gone with the residents above open to the air. Floors were at crazy angles. We only brought the chopper to bring us, but guess it's going to be on active rescue. Poor bastards on the floor above didn't realise they were trapped. Fire escape and stairwells severed. Thanks for no fire, Mr Murphy.
Not-Blackwatch turned up as we started the evac of the lower floors. They claimed the tank came from the hot zone, everyone needed to be shot, and the building burned, so they'd just start now.
Boss said he knew damn well they had ways to detect it, and told their guy in charge to remind General Randall that a Q3-P1C scenario doesn't care about red lines. Guy on the ground made a command decision, and next thing we know they've got drones swarming the place through the entire rescue. Nearly swatted one of the damn thing when it buzzed me four floors up on the ladder with a casualty over my shoulder. Not the time, jarhead.
Pushed a wheelchair up to the roof so Freyson could play 'dope on a rope' and lashed a wooden ladder to the broken fire escape for the able-bodied to get down from above it. Nothing we could do for the poor bastards in the apartments it hit. Smeared. Fuck. Whoever was transporting the tank, thanks for the fucking nightmares. Two families. Kids.
When we got the last one out, they burned the block. Don't care, wasn't stable anyway.
Damndest thing though. Through the entire rescue it felt like something was watching us. We're by the shore, and there weren't any boats but I just- Ever had the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Gave me the creeps.
We're a team down now. Boss insisted it was our job running triage and managing the quarantine camp. Doesn't trust SS-SS. Nor do I.
It sounds like World War Three on Manhattan. I don't need binoculars to tell there's something badly wrong over there. By night there's not enough lights, and the ones there are are odd. Seeing the helicopters flashing between the buildings I expected, but look ahead of them and sometimes something makes the apartment lights wink out, like its eclipsing them. Twenty floors up? It always ends in explosions.
The days are worse. A red haze is hanging over the city, and even the clouds look red. I'd say chemical weapon, but if I squint in places there's something webbing the buildings together. The civilians on Staten can see it. The marines move them on, but the little groups keep forming, muttering, and staring by the water's edge. Like they don't want to look but have to. I know exactly how they feel.
When we get access, is there going to be anyone alive on there to save?
Its clear why they called us in. We're not local. They don't want people with attachments.
We lost Maartins today. Something in Manhattan threw a car. I know it was a car, caught a glimpse of it before it hit the helicopter. Found the number plate in the wreckage. If the copter had hit the water - but it clipped the bridge going down and shattered. We've been fishing out bodies. Glad there were no casualties onboard, Maartins wouldn't have wanted that. Left us to do recov and evac without backup until they can scramble a new copter, and they won't do that until things have died down, whatever things are.
None of the marines will say shit about what threw the car. They're all on edge.
Bunch of kids in a little rowboat out of Manhattan got into trouble trying to head for Staten. They'd got a boat off the docks, crossing towards the island, when they lost the oars. I called it in, on the rescue channel, but the marines must have been listening. I thought they'd turn them back.
They shot the kids. Guess they'll burn this if they find it, but-
They shot the kids.
Got word that the boss is furious. The marines are evac'cing, deserting the barricades and leaving the civvies to cope for themselves. We threw up medical stations to receive fast as we could, but in the first rush from Manhattan we're gonna get swamped. Then their chief got on the radio and started demanding medical evac for himself. Boss told Taggart all the teams were on station here dealing with casualties that actually did have life-threatening injuries and didn't have a tank wrapped round them. Taggart told him his life was in danger, and we had to send a copter. Marines have their own, so god knows why he wanted our bright orange rustbucket.
Boss said he'd put Taggart on the list if he detailed what actual injuries he'd suffered and he'd get rescued when triage priority said so. Taggart started shouting at him and the Boss put the radio down and went off to handle triage for the incoming marine squad. Taggart didn't shut up, but no one's listening. There were a lot of screams and then the radio went silent a few minutes ago. Guess he's learned we're busy.
Break over, got two marines to stabilise for medical evac: broken arm, burns, and shrapnel from a rocket launcher backfire. Fuck and I thought things were getting better.
Boss threw up FEMA barricades at the ends of the bridges, with triage points beyond. The marines seem to be following his lead after their command went silent yesterday: he's from the government and he's got a badge and someone in this mess knows what to do. Too damn true: when the military pull out, SAR goes in.
Guess the military command doesn't like the boss much: each time we run into brass he's flashing FEMA authority and taking over their troops. Gotta be pissing someone off, but the troops are going with it, so why not? If Taggart wants his shit back, he can ask in triplicate, if the boss doesn't shoot him on sight. Heard the infections beginning to tail off. Fuck me, we stand a chance. We'll recover to the second barricades, stabilise the situation, and then make inroads on resupply and civilian rescue.
We stripped the marine's supplypoints and caches ready. Learned a lot doing this.
If these Blackwatch fucks can detect the virus, why did they shoot the kids?
All kinda seems irrelevant now. Last night, right at sundown, the sun came up again. It was a nuke. There's a dark spot in my vision. I guess I was unlucky. The EMP knocked out power and medical tech across New York. God knows how bad it is on Manhattan island. The Reagan got hit hard by something last night. Massive casualties, flight deck's a mess. The aircraft carrier's still included in the quarantine zone, so they can help the situation if their systems are hardened and they don't sink, or we just hit the motherload of casualties, but the hell- Word is it was one of their nukes.
The boss didn't seem too bothered, more pissed off but I don't- I mean- I- a real nuke off the US coast. I saw a nuke. Doc says I'll be seeing its shadow for the rest of my life, it is burned on the retina, but some of the guys got it worse. The third nuke on a live civilian target in history and I got a front row seat.
They've fixed the chopper so back to work. Medical evac from the Reagan. Wish me luck.
Zombies? The marines were fighting mother-fucking zombies!?
Glad the boss has a gatling gun. Hope he has a spare.