Chapter Twenty-Nine

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The broken glass crunched under his feet as he made his way across the room. The shoe covers he'd been made to wear to protect the evidence were slowly being torn to shreds.

"Mr Matheson, all available video and audio footage from last night has been sent to the labs for investigation. Biologicals and prints are collected. I'm now going to take them back get started on the analysis. Is there anything else you require or can I send in the cleaners?"

"Thanks" replied Zeke, "send them in."

Zeke watched the Head of Forensic Collection pick up a large samples bag and tread carefully back across the room.

"Charlie!" Zeke called out to him. "Put a full team on this. We need answers straight away. I need to debrief Briggs asap."

"No problem...rather you than me."

Zeke responded with a quick nod; he didn't relish the thought of having that particular conversation later. He went over to the stage area and picked up a chair lying on its side, positioning it in the only spot free from glass or blood. Sitting down, he looked back at what had been the resplendent banqueting hall and found it almost impossible to believe the destruction he saw now. Only two chandeliers remained hanging and the beautifully hand painted ceiling was now littered with gunshot. Not one table remained upright; a few had even been placed on their sides to be used as shields. Pools of dark blood collected behind them, illustrating the futile level of protection they afforded.

Blood was spilt in every direction and on every surface. It looked as if a hundred people had been massacred, not fifteen. The blood appeared in greatest quantity nearest the top tables. Five of the Council had been shot dead within the first few minutes of the assault. Reports confirmed that they were shot by two members of the waiting staff attending the top tables. These were not accidental shots, but cold-blooded executions. Luckily, one of the body guards had stepped in just as Briggs was at the centre of some cross-hairs. The guard had shoved Briggs out of the firing line and he was not fortunate enough to be alive, suffering just gunshot wound to his right arm. Zeke couldn't help but feel sorry for that fact. But as much as he would have liked Briggs to be removed from power, he couldn't excuse the terror these people had brought on innocent civilians.

"What a mess!" came a voice from the end of the hall.

"Shouldn't you be resting," said Zeke, looking over, seeing Scott limp in, using a pair of crutches.

"I hate hospitals," was Scott's reply.

"Here, I'll get you a seat". Zeke got up and found another chair and positioned it next to his own.

Scott slowly traversed the wreckage of the room, hopped gingerly up the steps and sat down heavily.

"So what's the cost?" he asked Zeke.

"Fifteen dead: eleven of ours, four of theirs. Three with life threatening injuries and twenty-seven walking wounded. Spoken to Briggs yet?"

"No, you?"

"Putting that off till later, once I have my facts straight." Zeke rubbed his face with his hands, trying to stave off tiredness. He had been up for thirty hours straight and didn't expect to be sleeping anytime soon.

"How did they pull it off, was it an inside job?" Scott asked.

"It's beginning to look that way! We got reports just after eight o'clock of a riot near Edgefield. Briggs ordered me to take a unit and sort it as quickly as possible. He didn't want it to spoil the coverage of the banquet. When we got there, the riot was hardly anything, just a twenty or so Flawed making a disturbance. We put it down in minutes, but long enough for them to get in here. They were organised, well supplied and somehow used our signal blockers against us. They must have had help."

"I hear we lost five of the Council, including Sandler. Who were the others?"

"Three guards; Reeves, Hogan and Stabler."

"Damn, more good men lost!" Scott shook his head slowly.

"If it hadn't been for Hogan, Briggs wouldn't be screaming his head off at the medical team right now as they try to fix him up!"

"Who else?"

Zeke dropped his head and kicked at a broken wine bottle on the floor in front of him.

"Naya, Paul and Dan," Zeke answered quietly.

"Aww, hell! Poor buggers. They would have been better staying off Flawed. Did they target them?" Scott asked.

"We don't think so, just wrong place at the wrong time. Two of them were sat on Sandler's table. He was the target, him and his program of power cuts. Two of the insurgents, or whatever we're going to call them, were dressed as waiters and another eight stormed in, taking down our security too easily. Most of the guests got lucky and made a run for it in the first confused moments of the attack. By the time we got back the damage was done. We took down four of them, but the others escaped." Zeke turned to look at Scott straight in the face. "They were looking for Hannah, it was lucky you managed to get her out safely."

Scott looked back at Zeke. Something flickered in his eyes.

"Apparently she was the prize of the day." Zeke continued.

"But she IS a Flawed, she grew up there!" Scott said angrily.

"Not anymore she isn't. How is she?"

"As far as I know she's fine. Actually, I've got to say she handled herself really well. In fact, if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be here now. Tucker would have happily left me there to bleed out. So what happens next?" Scott asked.

"War," Zeke replied.

Outside, Zeke waved off the car waiting to pick him up and take him to the Page family's house. He needed some fresh air; the cloying smell of congealing blood had turned his stomach. The streets in the immediate vicinity of the hall were deserted, except for the armed guard stationed at every corner. For the foreseeable future there would be a curfew operating here too. His phone rang. He took it out of his pocket and checked the screen. Recognising the number, he stopped walking, surveilled the immediate area and satisfied he wasn't being watched, pressed the receive button.

"Why are you calling me, you should never call me on this phone."

"Did you like the message we sent?"

"What message? All you've done is create a bigger pile of shit. I told you to wait, I told you we were working on it," Zeke replied, glad the call was on his secure line.

"We got bored of waiting Matheson. As we keep telling you, this problem isn't going to be solved by discussion or negotiation."

"So killing three innocent teenagers is going to help your cause?" he questioned.

"In every battle, one must expect some collateral damage," the female voice replied.

"You sound just like Briggs, both as mad as each other. Where is this going to end?" he asked, tiredness now falling heavily upon him.

"When Briggs and the regime are dead, the Flawed are free and I am avenged" came the response.

"God help us all" said Zeke.

He abruptly ended the call.

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