Police cars surrounded the school. Sniper teams were positioned on the nearby roofs of fast-food joints, and a SWAT team waited in the bushes near the front door. The Special Agent Hail stepped out the car and her heels knocked over the wet asphalt.
She just arrived at the scene. With a fast look around, she saw the situation has escalated more than they told her. It was the fifth hour after classes and the crowd of worried parents was simmering outside the blue barrier.
Reports in her hands, documents, and assessments described the boy inside. It seemed like just another case, yet the reality was speaking on the contrary. If this was just another active shooter scenario, the SWAT team would’ve dealt with it by now, not call her.
“Special Agent Scarlet Hail of Mithrian branch. What changed in the past hour?” She asked the police Captain who was restraining the press.
“He barricaded himself in. The parents are growing more hostile. You know how emotional they can get in this situation. The assailant let his colleagues message their farewells on their phones before the school went dark. That’s how we knew we had a problem.” The Captain looked at the front door.
“Body count?” She grabbed her waist and ran her eyes over the building.
“We heard shots, but no reported casualties.”
“Have you made contact with the assailant?” The Agent made a step forward and the Captain pulled her behind the yellow line sprayed on the asphalt.
“No. That’s why we asked for you.” The Captain frowned while Scarlet gapped her jaws at the yellow line – a blast radius mark.
“He rigged the school?” She exhaled in horror.
“That’s why we asked for you.” The Captain repeated.
Her mind went to all of the previous cases, looked for a way out of this situation and her attention was reserved only for this particular situation. Captain’s words fell to the background while she tried to figure out the next step.
“Call the bomb disposal squad, bring me his parents, find me someone who knows the school inside out.” The Agent rubbed her forehead and spun restless in one place.
“His parents are waiting in the surveillance vehicle. We did the rest.” The Captain proclaimed and pointed at the huge SUV in the corner.
They both approached the opened door where she saw a man in a checkered shirt and an old sports hat on his head. Officers were at their stations while an operator wired in the changes.
“You son of a bitch! What sort of a father you are?!” Scarlet blasted the poor man, shouted at him in a frenzy. “You think a fist is a right way to educate your son on what a real man should be like, huh?” She kept staring at the man who shamefully twisted his arms.
“But I never hit my child. He is a good kid. Who the fuck are you to tell me how to parent my!…” He rose up and the Agent changed her approach completely.
“Alright, it’s not the family feud that triggered this. It’s something else.” She said it to the Captain. “I am sorry for coming like this. I wanted to find out if your son has a functional family. It is not your fault.” With open palms, she called the father to calm down and the man swallowed the spit to ease the hurt feelings. “Does your son have best friends, a girlfriend that he broke up with recently? Has he mentioned some problem that bothers him? Anything?” These puppy eyes she gave the parent did the charm and the father leaned in.
“He never mentioned he had a girlfriend. He is a quiet boy. If he had any problems he won’t tell it to me. The last few months must be hard for him. He joined that ROTC camp a month ago to get his mind off of something, I don’t know what that could be.”
“Is he spending a lot of time on the internet? Does he speak about the camp?” Again, the Agent interrupted the father.
“Not really. He likes books, he spends most of his time in the city library. When he is at home, he plays online games and does the modeling. He likes building replicas of items from his games for the school projects.” The father proclaimed, his voice shaking while uttering the words.
“Alright. Books. Find me his reading list from the city library. I need to know what he read. Call in the tech-operators and get me his son’s device. Tell him to pull the search data. I need to know what was he looking for.” She shook her finger at the Captain and started walking closer to the line of guns pointed at the school.
Hours later, Special Agent Scarlet Hail sat by the table in the garden of a fast-food joint. Bunch of technicians and Special Unit Operators patrolled by. She focused on the front door of a school where a troubled boy held the pupil’s hostage.
By the territory he locked down, it was clear he was working alone. The door on the west wing was barred and obstructed with desks and chairs. He wrapped a box over the handles. One pull could activate the charge he filled the box with, so that was five specialists guarded post.
Windows, they were taped with layers of paper. Before the police cut the power, they could see a shadow on the window, stretched like on a crucifix – touching the frames of a window. To enter, they would have to injure the hostage. That plan went in the bin. East wing was a serpentine of corridors. Every angle had a pile of desks made for cover. To get in there, the specialists would be in a narrow throat, so the defender would easily overpower them.
A tactical shield could be an answer to get close to him, but the sniper teams located sensors and trip wires linked with the doors. To enter, it would be a walk in a death trap.
And he hasn’t made contact yet. Could it be that he doesn’t want anything from the police? But why then closing in the school? Why so silent? He must want something. Something made him do this or someone.
“The technicians came back from his home.” The Captain said and blew vapor from the cup of coffee in his hand.
“What did they found?” Scarlet moved her head in a worried manner and the Captain could see her pearly neck, cleavage and tight pants showing her build.
“Well, the library card says he is into guerilla warfare. Vietnam War. Now, those guys knew some tricks. He also has a field manual for a saboteur printed during the Cold War on his table. The kid knows his stuff. He deleted his web search. Of course, he did. He prepared for months.”
“Alright, he is a quiet, antisocial guy. He likes art and building stuff. He has no friends and those he has probably driven him into this. He is not into sports. He is a gamer. We have no personal trait of his. We know nothing about him, personally.” Scarlet proclaimed like she has already given up the hope when the Captain chuckled.
“I have a teenage son. They are all pretty much the same in those years. Show him a naked girl and a boring class and see for what he will reach first.” The Captain said and Scarlet smiled. “I guess he searched a lot for porn and maybe a tutorial on how to make a trap. Those are quite popular searches. With the internet, they can learn pretty much anything they got their curiosity fixed on. If I were you, I’d unbutton your shirt just a bit, put my hair over the shoulders and get my tone more feminine. Also, I’d use a ton of that sweet girly perfumes, you know the kind… The scent of ten-buck hookers. I’d stimulate his brain out of touch and get our men to defuse the west wing.” The Captain took a sip from the plastic cup and looked at the building lit by searchlights while Scarlet buried her eyes in her bra, evaluating the advice.
“That could backfire. He never had a girlfriend and he is into books. I might not interest him as much as you think.” Scarlet added.
“So, he likes his girls smart. You are an adult. You must be smarter than him. Smart and hot? He would be a fool to pass on that.” The Captain had another sip of coffee. “You should also know he’s an emotional young man.” He added, and an Agent Hail squinted her eyes at him.
“How do you know that?” She asked running her nails through the hair.
“We cracked open his X-Box profile. If he is a gamer, he is a lousy one. At first, I found it strange, because he has a lot of gamer friends on the web. But why then being friends with a looser, right? Gamers are a special breed of people. As it turns out, he never played offense. He always chose to be a medic in the team.”
This was a personal trait she was looking for. Now, it’s time to act.
Scarlet’s heels clapped in long pauses. She was reluctant to approach the door. Who knows what kind of a maniac took the school hostage. She knew he was a teen who liked arts, games and currently – guerilla tactics.
Some sort of ghostly cold radiated from the door frame, must be the appeal of metal reinforcement built in case something like this happens kept her away. The security failed at protecting the school. Shots were fired and nobody knows who got injured. It fell on her to find out.
Once more, she checked if her cleavage is showing. She hated to be the bate, try to seduce a minor, but boy’s minds are easily tricked. Numerous cases of a teacher sleeping with their student haven’t made the idea slide with ease. This will buy time for the bomb squad to dismantle a device in the West wing and barge in.
That was the danger part. This boy was smart enough to secure the weak spot. What if that is a trap? He would lose all trust in her and this situation could go on for days.
She exhaled, standing at the foot of the stairs and saw a masked police officer aiming at the door. Sniper teams were hidden, but she knew they were there, waiting for a clear shot.
“Special Agent Hail. We have a thermal signature in the hall. He is there.” The Captain said on the radio. “Stop near the frame. He might shoot. And don’t block the line of fire.” He added and Scarlet confirmed.
She went up and again, her legs stopped moving. The lights went on in the school when the signal for that was issued and she could see an empty hall littered with paper, sides secured with furniture stacked to the ceiling.
“Hello!” She shouted and tried to find the assailant in the room. “My name is Scarlet Hail. I’ve been sent to talk to you. Can you show yourself?” She leaned over and set her face in between the palms laid on glass, but the target hasn’t shown up.
“Your snipers are blind when I stand here.” The deep voice replied and then she spotted a speaker on the desk and a camera’s red light blinking.
“Now that is smart. You’ve built yourself a command center. Now you can have contact with us, but not really be in the same room. You also have a visual on the door if anyone tries to get in.” Scarlet smiled, complimented the lunatic to soften him. “I assume this is rigged to go off when you press the switch?” She pointed at the box tied for the doorknob. “Can you tell me… why? Why all of this?” She crossed her hands over the bulletproof vest and made her breasts go up, luring his eyes to be fixed on her.
“Violence is not an answer until you are only left with violence as an answer.” He said.
“So, you think violence is the answer?” She realized she had to move, distract him and give enough time to the bomb squad to find a way to get in.
“There are two separate groups of people. Smart and assholes. Assholes have a different way of thinking than smart people. Smart people are being silenced by the dumb majority who is vociferous enough to suppress the intelligent thought. Assholes are fluent in violence and the only thing they do understand is violence. It is useless to argue with an idiot.” The voice… was full of hate.
“If I stop talking to you, that would make you an idiot. Clearly, you are unable to be reasoned with. You gave in to violence. I mean, that’s what you said.” She laughed at it.
“Please, keep talking. I am amused by ignorance.” He replied chuckling.
“Scarlet. The Sergeant found a way to disassemble the bomb. Keep him occupied.” The Captain noted on the radio.
“What do you want to talk about? Would you like me to tell you about your parents and how shaken they are? Or tell you about the parents whose children you have tied up in their classrooms and what are they thinking of you? I can tell you how is this going to end. For an example, you can starve here for days until you become weak and become susceptible to illusions your undernourished brain starts playing with you. Eventually, we will come in there and when we do, be sure it will be guns blazing.” Scarlet knocked one of her eyebrows, training her authority over a boy.
“We have food to last us a week.” He added.
“Us? How thoughtful. You brought the food for all you in there.” She leaned in to let him see her two lumps squeezed together.
“And a forty pounds of plastic explosive your men are trying to disconnect.” This, petrified her.
“Abort! Abort! Stop, god damn it!” The Captain screamed into the radio.
Police officers rushed for Scarlet and snatched her away from the door. She was on the floor with other policemen, shaking in fear for her life as the bomb could go off any moment, but instead of a bang, they heard the boy laughing.
Everybody slowly backed up to the safe distance. Scarlet’s legs had trouble finding a firm ground to stand on and her lips could never be fully closed. Shimmer held her for a few hours, all the way through the Captains lecture about picking the words to address the attacker.
As soon she gets a grip, she will give it another shot. She must inspire his trust and see what is she dealing with. One hour later, her heels were at the door.
It was the tenth hour since a teen boy took the school hostage. Press and crowd of worried parents were almost simmering to the point of rushing into the object to save their children. Police officers were hailing in more support from the nearby districts, just to contain the crowd.
Using the parents to speak with an aggressor over the megaphone hasn’t made any progress and Special Agent Hail talked a few more times with the kid. He hasn’t released the hostages.
The Captain lost all of his spare nerves and ordered Agent Hail to give this guy a final warning before the breach. She had to do it out of unexplainable compassion she developed for the poor guy. It seemed obvious that he was pushed over the edge and now everybody had to deal with this problem. At some level, she was there with him, fighting his cause.
She came to the door for the final time.
“I’m here!” She yelled when she was near the metal frame and the camera went on. “Hey. This really went too far! Come on! It is enough! Everybody is suffering already! We really don’t need more misery in the world! Think about that! Whatever the reason you have to do this, let it go! It’s beyond all of us! I’m sure you understand that! Come on, you are a smart guy!” She pleaded, but red lamp blinked and there was no reply rustling in the Bluetooth speaker.
Out of nowhere, she saw a glimpse of a jacket and then a mask came out the corner. It was him. A thin young man in a light sport’s jacket came to see her in person. He was tall, taller than her and the mask was faceless like he wanted to be anonymous, distanced from the act he committed.
“They will accuse me of manslaughter. I shot a security guard. I could’ve gotten out when you let my father get to the microphone. I know I am not coming out of this alive. I made my decision. I will follow this through.” He said and this was the first time she heard his real voice.
“I can help you.” She made a face, but he dared not to believe it.
“If I live, this will be classified as a terrorist attack. They will write about me in the papers. People will speak about it on YouTube, some will defend my actions, call me a ‘guy with mental issues’, some will use me as a prime example to push some political narrative even this has nothing to do with it. Other things inspired this! NOT THE FUCKING REGIME!” He growled and in a second she stepped aside but came back, hiding she was afraid. “Society will crucify me. If my file leaks out and journalists find out my gamer codename, I’ll be marked as a religious fanatic. I know that. This is the point were even God can’t help me.”
“He is in the corridor. Relocate to the East Wing.” The Captain uttered in the radio and special unit advanced at the upper level, their guns pointed downward.
“Tell me! Tell me who did this!” She banged at the glass, using little time she had before the team goes in for the kill.
“Ask the hostages!… If any of them survives.” The last one, he said in a deep raspy whisper when the ceiling exploded and shock grenades flashed before gawking operators approached him, guns doing their job.
Scarlet Hail could only watch operators killing a young man she came to link with, within the past few hours. He laid on the floor, his weapon empty and the bomb technician called in that the bombs were fake.
Fake bombs? His father mentioned that his son loved making replicas from the games as a school project. He loved games and art, poetry and movies. To make a replica of a bomb and fool much-experienced men, people who dealt with the real war in Third Caliphate? The kid was out of his league. In a way, she admired his skill to make a wild goose chase last for hours.
She was crying and laughing while coming down the stairs, disoriented, confused.
“He is alive. The target wore a DIY bulletproof vest.” The sound of an operative rejoiced her in a weird way and she laughed like crazy, but stiffen up when she noticed that everybody was watching at her.
Their next conversation will be very exciting. She picked up the pace and everybody ran up to the school.
On the third day, Scarlet was headed towards the interrogation room. She read the file containing the preliminary reports about the hostage situation that took place two days ago. The school officials disband the students and closed down the school. Media used this to launch shocking headlines and yes, it all got political, just like the assailant has predicted.
While the hole in the school’s ceiling was being filled, the investigators swooped the school for explosives. Those game-inspired replicas the assailant made; models of a bomb, five crates and an object which could be used as a cold weapon ended in the lab. The technician wrote that none of them had illegal compounds in their build. All five of the crates were additionally refurbished, but nobody could hide the cracks – signs that someone previously smashed them.
This could be the reason why assailant retaliated. It seemed so ridiculous at the moment but given time and constant provocation, anyone could turn into a monster. Everybody had a threshold for tolerance.
Hand-made bulletproof vest on the attacker was Level 4, almost military grade type protection. He was skillful. No wonder he tricked everybody with those bogus bombs. Even like that, broken in pieces, the bombs looked mean.
Scarlet entered the room and there were three boys, assailant’s classmates. Fine young boys, athletes, football players, all of them handsome and stylish.
“Alright, boys. Tell me what did you do to him?” Scarlet exhaled and ran her eyes over the suspects who stared at each other, reluctant to speak.
“Shouldn’t we have our lawyers here?” One of them asked.
“You are underaged and all legal rights go through your parents and your parents believe you are great kids, so… Your lawyers are on the other end of that glass. Come on. Let’s not waste time. Tell me what did you do to him.” She continued with the same tone, but boys defied the authority.
“Why do you think it’s us?” The same boys replied again and Scarlet read the situation in the room.
“What we call an event like this is a ‘Wyrm warrior’.” Scarlet started rolling up her sleeves. “So, what does that means? It means that, under a certain influence, a man can become something he is not. For an example: A man witnesses his family being slaughtered before his eyes, and instead of going desperate, sad and powerless, the death of his family causes an immense rage and he goes berserk and then you have a lot of dead bodies to count. It’s that story about a mother lifting up a bus to save her child, just with more blood and death. An untrained eye could call this a terrorist attack and it is similar, I can’t say it isn’t, but this is different. See, your friend, had a lot of time to prepare. This made him more dangerous than a sleeping cell. If we had a Marine with these symptoms during the war, we usually let him go in a suicide mission. We point him to the most dangerous place there is and pull back. In a week, the terrain was clear and that Marine went onto the next objective. There is no way of holding him down. Only death can stop him and these men are very, very strong and cunning. Last time we had this in a war mission, we engaged with the Third Caliphate. Do you understand that? He is like a Wyrm, slithery and quick, deadly at all accounts. This condition doesn’t happen out of nowhere. We know that for sure. Someone made it happen and it happens in your school, in your class. Your grades are very good, but you also have many visits to the principles office. So, I’ll ask you one more time. What did you do to him?!” She showed them the teeth and slammed the table.
All three of them jerked back, their faces vividly pale and hands shaking. They told her everything: every spiteful remark, every prank, humiliation, every time they poured something on him, ridiculed him, broke his projects, burnt his essays and hacked his social profiles, they said everything and more.
Her story did the trick. Of course, it was all a lie, but it made them speak.
After the interrogation was over, she analyzed the data. Scarlet took the bottle from the cabinet, filled the glass and pressed the button on a remote to mute the news about the attack. She stopped next to the blinds on her window, took a long gulp from the glass and looked at the opened file on her desk.
Tomorrow, she will have to visit the boy who did all of this. Even he is chained to the bed and weak, she trembled in her thoughts.
The door of his room was open. Special Agent Scarlet Hail walked in and he turned his head to see her. Without a word, she continued for the chair next to his bed. A clank over the bed’s frame made her breath easy. The boy looked at her with a blank expression on his face, while she tried to decide if she should smile at him or be made of stone.
“I guess you are here to see if the stories you’ve heard check out.” He said and a long pause made the room feel awkward. “Arnas, the blond guy, he was the one pulling the strings on the other two. Ninior, the one with a busted lip, he sometimes wanted to hang out, but always changed when Arnas was around. You’d be amazed by the speed he goes from a really dumb friend, to kick me in the guts.” He smiled and Scarlet relaxed, held off the scoff.
“I know everything.” She broke the peace and entered the conversation. “The girl they used to prank you with, was Arnas’s sister. She is married and has a family of her own. He used her old photos to fake a love interest.” Scarlet mentioned it distant in thoughts, and her resting face tensed with curiosity. “I’m disgusted by what they did to you. I knew boys in your age can be difficult, but this is beyond normal. Funny, these were the words older folk told me when I was your age. We have no sight for those things when we are younger. Hormones, lust, emotions cloud our vision so we think everything around us is a due course. When you reach 21, you finally start seeing the world as it is. And you don’t like the world you live in, but you realize it is too late to change it, so you move on and despair you missed your chance.” Scarlet explained, somewhat philosophically describing the process of growing up.
“I’ll have a lot of time to despair in the prison cell.” He added.
“Listen, Varo…” She went to touch his hand, but he moved it.
“Call me Crucifix. My friends call me Crucifix.” He added.
“Listen. You barely grazed the guard. He is fine, but still… You’ll be charged to multiple accounts of the attempt of murder, civilian imprisonment, causing panic and disorder, taking hostages and a few other things. No sane judge will let you go on a minimum sentence. You are looking at life in prison without parole.” The compassionate voice made him tear up.
“I know.” He said briefly and swallowed the bitter spit.
“You are not a bad guy, not really. You are uncorrupted, your soul is clean, but this, this looks bad. They will throw you among the vilest criminals and there you’ll become something you are not. I can’t think of the worst punishment.”
“It’s my fault I couldn’t hold it off. I broke. It’s my fault.” He said, tears running down his cheeks, unable to wipe them.
“It’s not your fault. Nobody should suffer the stuff you’ve been through. They made you do this.” Scarlet squeezed his hand as tightly as she could but he turned his head away – shamed because she was there.
A few more word she tried to exchange, but he had no strength to voice his thoughts, so she left. That was the last time she saw him as a free man. The next time they met, it was in court. Media did it’s part and made everything speed up, and the public demanded a conclusion to this story.
It was the second week of a trial and his classmates went to the witness stand. The lawyers made an effort to leave the most gruesome parts out of the testimony, securing a bright future to these assholes, while all blame shifted to Varo and his actions.
A few days later, sentencing was scheduled and Scarlet sat in the waiting room when the Captain approached her.
“Come on. Let’s go.” Captain twitched his head and Scarlet frowned at him.
“But the sentencing.” She said.
“There will be no sentencing today.” Captain proclaimed and they looked at each other for a while. “I’m so sorry. They told me to inform you. He is not coming. They found him in the containment with his wrists cut open up to his elbows.” The Captain spoke like under a threat and Special Agent Hail shivered before tears came running.
The Captain gasped, helped her get up and placed his hands around her. She trembled in his arms, every step she made insecure and slow.
Captain drank his whiskey just to keep himself occupied, but Scarlet drank for the both of them. Her swollen face was drained of emotions, where only a mascara threaded her facial outlines.
She heard a joyful remark from the table behind her when the news announced Varo’s death. Someone in the crowd even paid the drinks for the whole bar, saluting to the death of a monster, saluting to the death of a boy he never knew. She drank it up, honoring the fine artist who couldn’t bear the humiliation and miserable life. She drank it up, on the contrary, like a rebel, just like Varo would.
Even his burial was a spectacle. Angry mob stood near the fence with protest signs in their hands, chanting, and media covered it. Varo’s father yelled at them when he couldn’t hear a word from the priest, and it was clear from whom his son got that sense of righteousness.
Saying her goodbye’s, Scarlet left a small crucifix over his casket and police Captain left a patrol near the graveyard so nobody could vandalize it. It was very thoughtful of him to do that.
She took a few days off work and spent it on a gravel shore, looked at the waves and a grey sky on top of it. Scarlet tried to reflect, contemplate on life and summon herself back to normal. Such a thing demanded time to heal, involving work or a hobby to switch off for a second. When she came back to the city, the first thing she did was going to the store. Her basket was full of materials, necessary to build a replica of a crate.
G A M E O V E R
This story is little over 5 000 words.
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