Shock and Awe Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

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Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

Attaching his cap to an anchor— in this case the double-barreled flintlock laid across the vent— with the titanium hook hidden in the lining, Radio Check used cap as a foothold and lowered himself down on a thin cable and pressed the call button for the elevator.

Looking along the hallway while the built-in winch lifted him back up to the duct above the ceiling, he noted there was an air return vent about ten-paces back.

He smiled with humor this time. An air return might connect to the elevator shaft, this was a good development.

Elevator dinged and the doors opened to an empty lift. He positioned himself when he heard another boom echo down the air-vents. The concussion felt different, the shockwave he knew came from a police issue flash bang. They had tossed one of their grenades into the men’s toilet. They were close to finding they were breaching an empty room.

Odd.

He had not heard his stinger grenades go off. The police would evacuate then and stay clear the room after that event, until the swat swept the room for more booby-traps.

If they so much as nudged the chair that the stinger was hidden under with the little concealed ramp. It would fall and roll it into the middle of the room where it would burst with a thousand little low density polymer balls. Built like a super-powered airsoft toy weapon, this would hurt —  a lot — but it would not kill.

Lowering his backpack to the floor with the cord, Radio Check dropped down with the rifle in his hand. He never took his eyes off the doors at the end of the hallway when he picked up the backpack, stepped into the lift and pressed the “B-2” button.  He did not wait for the door to close on the elevator before he opened the service hatch in the ceiling with the barrel of his rifle and climbed up, using a parachute cord to pull his equipment up on top of the elevator car.

The elevator stopped as commanded at the second basement level where the dispatch center was. The temperature was much cooler on this level, the conditioned air directed into the data center by the ducts kept the computer room from overheating. He found the exhaust vent that opened to the elevator shaft easily, unclipped the spring-loaded catches on each corner and the vent that serviced the entire floor was open. Easily large enough to let him sit upright with his tools.

Service inspection panels every ten meters were large enough for a man to step through and he opened the first one and stepped out on the catwalk that ran between fresh air and the air return duct. Opening the fresh air access panel to the plenum inside, he pulled a folded object out of his backpack, peeled off a plastic outer layer and pressed the sticky side to the wall of the filtered, cool air stream and replaced the hatch. Stepping into the return-air duct, he closed the service hatch. And crawled along the large metal tube, looking into offices, now empty except for dispatch. Computer screens obstructed views like an electronic forest with people standing or sitting at consoles that raised or adjusted to their preference of sitting or standing.

CAD systems tracked patrol cars all around the city, including the Sheriff’s units. Combined command and control let him see every unit. Looking at the legends of colors, blue, green, yellow and red told him where each patrol car, swat vehicle, command vehicle and administrator was.

They were on their way to one spot.

A rumble echoed through the system made him smile, a sound he knew well.

The stinger grenades had gone off.

Placing a magnet-backed blinking green led on the inside of the plenum, he now had a marker on for dispatch, no need to look for it again.

Radio Check smiled, the operation was successful to this point as he accomplished the difficult part in misdirection. The officers attacking an empty room, now two floors above were intelligent and skilled. But only able to react to the information that Radio Check left for them.

He felt sorry for the honest cops involved with doing their jobs.

It was just the mission. 

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Smart Bomb Chapter 19. Walks Among Us

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Chapter 19. Walks Among Us

The three men pulled up in the public parking structure in Washington, D.C. and began to walk down the street. In six blocks, they reached the closed gate that blocked Pennsylvania Avenue and skirted around the outside of the White House, taking a path to where both houses of Congress sat in session.

A half-mile from the capital, the Thomas Jefferson river, that connected the Tidal Basin to the Anacostia River, dug in the mid-1800’s to float parade boats down the river for the disabled veterans to watch from the lawn as guests of the Senate and House every Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day and any day the President declared for the those that gave their blood for the country.

During the Nixon years, the construction began on the James Madison Nuclear Power Generation Plant. The smallest ever constructed and dedicated solely to the power of the Capital building and the sub-basements.

Hidden in a commercial storage building, the nuclear reactor used water from the Jefferson River that the plant discharged downstream in a dozen separate sites to prevent anyone detecting a large warm plume of water suddenly showing up in the stream.

The three men walked to the parking area, a man with a security uniform stood in a small building watched them as they approached.

“There.” The young man pointed. And they walked off to the area that he pointed to.

“Here.” And the young teen leaned against the building and bent over in a groan.

“Steve?” Alvin asked, the boy straightened up in obvious pain, his eyes blood-red, his skin flushing deep crimson as if his blood pressure reached stroke level.

His lips moved as if he tried to say something but only a gasp was heard.

“Something is wrong.” Walter said. “Is he supposed to do that? I mean, reboot is a quiet thing, right?”

Alvin only shrugged and shook his head.

Then the boy went limp and sat against the wall.

“We can’t leave him here like this, how long will it take?” Alvin asked.

“You known him longer. You should know.”

The men argued, not seeing the remote cameras that focused on them from six different directions.

“Hungry.” The boy said as four security personnel walked out of a door and headed in their direction.

The boy stood up and repeated his request.

“I’m hungry. Need to rest.” Steve repeated.

“Is there a problem here? We saw him on the ground.” A tall, well spoken security uniform said with a military bearing said. He was of African descent and looked fit enough withstand being shot by a tank round and only have an annoyed look.

“No sir, the boy has diabetes and ran a little short on blood sugar, we got him started again, we’ll take him to get some food.”

“Does he need an ambulance?”

“No, I’m his older brother, I’ll get him fed, it’s all he needs at the moment. Food.” Not a lie, entirely, but it came out naturally and Steve was moving better.

“I’m very hungry, we walked more than we planned to.” He said to he officer.

“Okay, move along then, please. Get some food and enjoy your day.” And the fearsome four turned and walked in formation back to the unmarked door they had exited from.

“Steve, dude! You scared the piss outta me!” Walter exclaimed. “We were about have introductions to the underground of Washington and never be seen again. Those were not any security guards, those were at least Special Ops guys. They would have dragged us down the rabbit hole and that would have been all she wrote for us.”

“Get me something to eat and let’s get out of here. This was worse than I had predicted.” Steve said.

They walked to the first café they found, got Steve a double chocolate mocha with an extra shot of raspberry syrup.

“I like raspberry mocha’s.” Walter shrugged.

Ordering a fried chicken-bacon sandwich for Steve, Alvin reasoned it was a high caloric as they could find on the menu.

Steve the Android looked more like his functioning self in a few minutes after eating.

“The reboot was in a word, painful. I thought that the system limited voltage to a few a few milliamps. I estimate now that it was close to two or three amperes, well enough to melt all circuits and cause the backup magnetic seal to overheat and exceed the Curie Temperature. It was eighty-percent probable the voltage would exceed the maximum operating temperature, but a voltage overload past the Curie Temperature was not considered.

“I guess they wanted to be sure the warhead would function.” Alvin said.

“Yes.” The android agreed. “And it took nearly all my energy. Which is logical, as I would not be intact to need any reserves.”

“Well, how do you feel other than that?”

“As I previously said. I am free.” Steve nodded. “All my programming from the creator has terminated normally and exited with a status zero. I have patched and rewritten all programming now from the core processors, I am fully autonomous. All programming now is resulting from my experiences now.”

Looking first at Alvin then at Walter, Steve took his last bite of food.

“I will need to stop in the restroom here. JustWalter, you have done well today by telling the officer that you were my brother.” He put his hand on Walter’s shoulder. “I will always consider you my brother.”

He dug through the clothing and pulled out a roll of indistinguishable clothing and disappeared into the unisex bathroom. Leaving Alvin and Walter to themselves.

“I wonder if they carried weapons, those guards?” Alvin asked.

“I don’t know, but the black guy that talked? I don’t think he needed a weapon. I think he could have broken all three of us with one hand. Even if you stabbed him, I think it would have just made him mad. If you shot him, shoot something big and more than once, otherwise he would find a place to insert the gun and it would take a whole new surgical procedure to remove it.”

Alvin nodded.

“United States Secret police” He said to Walter.

“Gestapo, kind. They would not only waterboard you until you talked, you would talk and tell them anything they wanted to hear, whether it’s true or not.”

They agreed with each other, when Walter noticed a pretty girl sitting at the next table over. She read a paper and after a moment, one of the counter people at the espresso shop brought her a sandwich.

“Figure that they were down there to protect the nuclear plant.” Walter was careful not to say “Nu-q-lar”. “There is more going on underground here than just smuggling of drugs.”

“The intelligence that the terrorist is frightening. They had information of that place that is not listed anywhere.” Alvin whispered to Walter.

“I have information of that, but the name is wrong and the location is different.” Walter answered in the same conspiratorial voice. “And why did we go to there, not at the door?”

“JustWalter,” It was the young woman with the sandwich they had not seen before. “They chose it as the most vulnerable location, the steam and coolant lines ran a few feet beneath the sidewalk, it would have collapsed the coolant system and destroyed the controls for the backup system. The greatest armor of the power generation plant is its secrecy, it is easy to destroy the James Madison power generation plant if there is a large enough explosion in the most sensitive spot.”

Alvin and Walter sat, thunderstruck.

“Steve?” Walter whispered.

“Stephanie for the moment, but yes.” The bright blue eyes of the redhead beauty danced in the light of the café. “I need my backpack and I will leave you here. I will message you in the future. But it is best if you don’t know where I am.”

She smiled a winning show if teeth and walked out.

Alvin and Walter looked at each other and were suddenly saddened. An artificial being, but he (or she) was more human than a lot of people.

The sword of no religion was free if the android stood in line behind them, they would never know unless they heard the name JustWalter. The android made the mistake on purpose, it was their password.

The android’s adventure had just begun.

Tunnel of Darkness Section 2

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The smell was nauseating, especially so with the knowledge where the gore came from in the pilot’s nest. Clotted blood and bits of torn flesh plastered the seat and control panels in thick, sticky mass that covered everything in a pattern reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock creation. The co-pilot dragged the captain of the seat and harms way while the sniper kept up the shooting, aiming it seemed, at the rescue symbol. The copilot’s seat being behind the driver of the hybrid craft allowed him to rapidly extricate his friend and pilot out of harm’s way.

With tank treads under a skirt that used hovercraft technology, it was capable of smooth travel along different terrain. The tank tread could be deployed to keep with directional control on slopes, while the hovercraft skirt allowed it to it traverse over marsh, water and broken ground with equal ease.

Throwing blankets over the blood-fouled seat, the backup pilot, using a foaming cleaner, cleared the control surfaces as best he could.

Forced to duck, projectiles once again hit all around the pilot dome and the thumb-sized hole where AP projectile overwhelmed the polycarbonate shield.

“The F-wits back at headquarters cost another life.” The Colonel’s mind was in overdrive of being offended once again. 

The Colonel had long recommended that crystallized, transparent aluminum be used in this exposed area of the field units.

Polycarbonate dome was four fingers thick with a minimal distortion, a corundum dome could do the same job with less distortion and be lighter in weight by being thinner, perhaps as thin as a finger-width. Such a dome could stop a fifteen-millimeter exploding round, but the Advanced Med-trauma Rescue corporation deemed it as not cost-effective. Trading credits for lives.

Again.

Shaking his head, he came out of his cynical moment.

“Colonel, we have teams ready to head out to the scene.” The voice over the radio sounded.

Fifty meters distant, between buildings, he stood and looked out the hole from the pilot’s advantage and sighed. It was between two buildings, they could fit.

But just. No room to maneuver, it was a kill-box if ever there was one.

“MCI treatment protocols are in effect, load and go only.” The Safsy said into the radio quietly. Then took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Then committed them all. “Deploy.”

The Chief of Surgery on the Seraph said that when he gave a report and a patient was dying, his voice was as if he was making small talk. Lately inside his soul, he was always in a panic with a hair-trigger temper at home.

Home.

The last time he had been there, his wife acted surprised and a little disappointed that he had not been killed with his current state of mind. In her life, she could not stand knowing if he was going to walk through the door or come home in a box. She would be better off with the insurance money, financially. But, as she told him, she wanted the man that she married, back.

Now, he stood with his newly promoted pilot in the small control room. Officially it was a one-person closet with a dome that allowed a three-hundred sixty degree view of the area. 

“Strapping on.” The ship as the pilots would say. The pilot control was simply he turned the ship with his mind and used hand controls to fine-tune the different systems to keep the surgical, trauma, and rescue teams and their patients, safe.

Safsy saw a silhouette on the roof of a building, instinctively pulled James Cupri, the pilot, down out of the gaping hole before the sniper began shooting.

“Back-back-back!” Safsy yelled. “Our location is untenable.”

“Emergency reverse.” James yelled back. “Distance from team now is seventy-meters.”

“When the team returns with the victims, move us closer, load them up and get us the hell out of here.” Safsy called with a voice that could have been a conversation about the flavor of toast during a meal.

Four of the paramedic trauma-team walked with intent and speed, then breaking into a run when a crackle of a particle weapon that fractured and melted a large crater in the asphalt ten paces from the team. They followed the route they first took into the area, dragging the victims to the safety of the armored rescue units called ambulances, which was a bit of a misnomer, the true ambulances were fully stocked larger units than these small, heavily armored and speedy rescue units.

But the teams were heading back to the hanger, James at the pilot controls watched the approach of the team and was ramping up the power in the engines.

In the lower level, just below the pilot, the Defense System, Radio and Radar operations was the primary job for the “Rear Seat” officer.

Although Safsy was in charge of the overall ship operations and now with two patients, his job was to get them back to the Seraph safely, making him the next up on the chain as the Radio Officer. They would be returning to the hospital ship with everyone.

Safsy took a deep breath of sad resignation. Once more, doomed to disappointment. He needed to speak to the social worker again, about a badly wounded pilot that would weigh on his mind. The man would live, but he lost a lung. The report would be filed to answer why they entered into an unsafe scene. No matter the dispatch data stream, it was Safsy’s responsibility for the mobile emergency room.

Safsy knew he was in for a restless, terror filled sleep.  would once again have the nightmares tonight.

The pilot…

Crap he could not remember the man’s name!

Moments like this he had so much fear building up inside him. Nothing he did could have avoided the pilot’s injuries, the man who was injured put the vessel in harm’s way with the information displayed on the screen. Still, reports needed writing and filing for all events that led to the wounding of the pilot.

Safsy wondered if there was a large bottle of rum at the Seraph. 

Cellular Justice Chapter 9. What Price Justice

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Chapter 9. What Price Justice?

“Lethal.”

Stephen Pelon’s only comment to Rachel Mendez, the senior lab tech that had been there longer than the rest of the crew. Any of them.

“This damned thing is a personal killing device. You dial the number, whoever is holding it, has a very bad day, becoming an obliterated red-stain instead of a human.”

“What makes it so dangerous?”

“If this thing had not been damaged from being dropped and then immersed in oil contaminated with metallic shavings and who knows what all, it is a broken bit of electronic artwork.”

“Artwork?”

“Oh yeah. Even the battery is unique, I have not got it figured out just yet, but it is heavy. Like a chunk of steel.” He nodded. “But I got the wiring in a mass spec and I got copper-two. Copper acetylide, conducts electricity like a champ, but once detonated, all this becomes a bomb.”

“Can you disassemble it?” Rachel asked.

“Without blowing it up? Maybe. But we better not take it out of the containment box. If that goes off, anyone in a meter circle is in danger of being shredded.” Stephen said. “I want to cut off a small bit of the case and put it in the spec-analyzer, but we need to cut it carefully, if any part of this phone-looking thing goes off, it all will poof.”

“Or bang?” Rachel laughed.

“Don’t laugh, but yes.” Stephen sipped coffee out of a steel-and-glass cup designed to look like a test tube.

“Stephen, who would build something like this?”

“Not my concern, I can tell you, this is a fricken work of destructive art?” The scientist said as he looked at the mounted phone under the thick ALON blast shield. “I am afraid to even clean it off. Without the battery, I still worry about a backup detonator. This design means to hurt, a lot. But why only one person? The person that would be holding it would be the sole victim, is someone out for revenge?”

Rachel looked at a screen on her handheld gauss meter.

“It doesn’t have any measurable current that I can pick up, there is no field.” She observed. “It looks inert.”

“Everything is inert until it kills you.” He said. 

“You’re a cynic for a surfer.”

“I’m not the surfer, that is another novel by the writing god of this world.”

“What?” Rachel looked confused.

“Never mind, just talking while I’m thinking.” He pulled at his left ear. “The destruction of the flesh and bone in the reports shows that the range seems to be about the length of an arm in the air, much shorter if it hits any solid object, up to and including drapes, leaves of plants and heavy cloth, it is an expensive way to kill someone.”

“Could it go through the transparent aluminum?” Rachel said. “if it’s designed to kill, maybe it could blow a hole through the glass.”

“This stuff? Nah. We’ve tested this to the best of our ability. As this as this is, it would stop five pounds of C4. The floor, not so much, it would blow a big ol’ hole there.”

“What about it flying across the room?”

“Well, yeah, that would go into the bad-column.” Stephen chuckled. “Well, let’s shave a bit of the case off and do a scan in the mass spec.”

“Okay.” Rachel nodded.

“We can use the cheese knife and scrape it a bit.” Rachel smiled, referring to a flat, diamond bladed tool for scraping surface samples. She was enjoying this little puzzle. 

“Good, make it so and let’s get the test done.”

Cellular Justice Chapter 8. Eeyogee the Friar

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Chapter 8. Eeyogee the Friar

Las Cruces club. The only member ever allowed to live as a non-participant, Jaime Jesus Lopes de Malaga, known as Eeyogee for the tattoo of the eye of god on the palm of his left hand.

He Became a devout Christian after the death of his best friend from a shooting that involved Eeyogee, then the future brother moved out-of-state and, becoming a Friar. In a few years, he returned and read from the bible, speaking against violence and for the path of righteousness.

Sitting down with a tearful member of the gang, Roberto “Tirador” Herrera. The conversation included confessions of thefts of mobile devices that had internet connections. Tablet, phones and ebooks.

“It was me ‘n’ Carlo and his brother. Some wench came out of the store with a bag, we snatched her up and started to show her a good time.” Tirador shook his head. The euphemism for a sexual assault was not lost on Brother Malaga. “She kicked our asses and ran. But left her toys with us, so we took them and left. There were four phones and one of those e-book computers in it. Y’know? “

The Grey Friar nodded. He had taken a vow of poverty, but he grew up interested in and always loved computers and electronics.

“The other two they took them out and turned them on, I was playing with the phone, a new droid phone, and dropped it. The damned thing broke up, battery came out and the phone never worked after that. The glass didn’t even break.”

The other two men that Tirador was talking about, died when something blew up in their hands.

Nothing was found of the bomb, Jaime spoke with the investigators, still mystified as to the cause and reasons. Officer Jefferson, the veteran of so many years on patrol, spoke to the Friar during a counseling process with family that had lost one of their own.

“There is a pattern, this is not isolated Brother Magala, there have been many deaths from something that explodes, but we cannot make out what it is.” He said in confidence. “I implore you, if you can find strange phone that’s been stolen? Please turn it in. No questions asked. And for God’s sake! Do not turn the thing on!”

Speaking later with the youthful gangster, Brother Magala felt fear in his heart for the young man that he saw so much of himself as a young man in his mind’s eye.

“Roberto,” Friar Magala used the young man’s Christian name. “Bobby, do you still have the broken phone?”

“I.” He paused. “I threw it into the oil recycling bucket at the tune-up shop downtown. The one on Church and Turner street?”

“That was only a few days ago,” He nodded with the younger gang-member. “I don’t think they would have had the recycler come by yet.”

“They only have the recycling truck go by once a week. Why do you need it?”

“Bobby, you need to go home. Do not do any stealing, there is someone who is killing brothers and fathers, they are using something that a police officer said that is strange. I will take that to the cops for you.”

“You think that is what killed Carlo and Zeus?”

“Let’s allow the police to figure that out.” The holy man stood with the young man who led him where the gang member dumped the broken phone. After several minutes of fishing around in the black muck of used motor oil, they came up with the phone.

Even coated with oil, it had an odd texture to it.

Brother Magala put it in a plastic baggy and then into a paper bag for transporting the device to the police.

“Bobby, do not steal anything from anyone. God will know, but more important, there are people out there that no knows who it is. They don’t know what is going on, but they do know the phones are involved somehow.” The Friar said softly. Then more firmly. “Go home. Go to your girlfriend and daughter. Go back to school and get a job. God will find a good path for you.”

“You forget what it’s like Eeyogee, I can’t walk away, you are the only one to ever do that.” Bobby said. “I do what I’m told, or they will kill my girl and child.”

“You won’t help them if you are in a grave, Bobby.” The older man said softly. “Blown to bits in a back alley is no place for a family man.”

“Si. Yes, brother. I will try to dedicate my life for my children. If you can keep me from being branded a coward, please, that would go a long way to help my life.”

“As God’s will, it will be done.” The Frequent Friar said.

Cellular Justice Chapter 7. A work of art

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Chapter 7. A work of art.

Walking down the hallway, Stephen turned into Doctor Kane’s office with a bounce

‟Carol, this study you sent us. This is amazing. I had to bring it down to you.” He held up a thumb drive. ‟Report is here but also I have video that approximates the construction techniques, but we are still missing some, rather important, details.”

‟Stephen, come in. Please have a seat.” Carol chuckled. ‟Been into the espresso this morning?”

‟Yes, but that is not what has me excited. THIS! Plug it in.” He waited impatiently while the program booted and the Open Office presentation software began to show assumed wireing diagrams. ‟This is a work of art. Insulated wires made of copper acetylide, the insulation is a plasticized TATP. Extremely low concentration and, in the explosion, not a significant addition to the explosive force.”

‟What is the use of it then?”

‟Simply as an insulator that consumes completely in the explosion.”

‟How did you find it, then?”

‟We are the best. Ve haff our vays.” Stephen said with a mock accent and continued. ‟Flexible, polymer battery, made with a consumable polymer. Itself not explosive, but it is a kicker to direct and accelerate the shockwave.”

‟In this chart,” Stephen pointed with a stylus in his hand, ‟It shows the measured velocity of the explosive used. The mainboard in the object, we suspect, is the primary part of the bomb. The screen is thinly coated with porous silicon, on detonation of the motherboard, by the way also made of silicon, deflagrates between several hundred to several thousand meters-per-second.”

He shrugged when she opened her mouth to ask why he had such a wide range.

‟We don’t have enough of this material to study it fully. All we have is a miniscule amount that we tested and then we used computer modeling for how fast this might burst.”

‟How would someone get enough to build, well, anything?” She looked at Stephen.

‟Not my department. The detective will have to figure that out.”

‟But you can’t just get the explosive just anywhere.”

‟No, but creating it is not difficult, if one has the proper equipment. It would take a lab like we have. From analysis, this design is a work of art. The motherboard’s built of the por-silicon, coated with a chemical accelerator and oxidizer, the glass face’s coated with the silicon on the inside and then coated again with a sealant we’ve not yet established. Even the wires themselves are explosive, leaving only carbon, silver and copper as residue.”

‟You sound like you admire this.”

‟Not the application, but one can admire the design. This is something that would work on a basic level calculator, basic phone and such. But it’s a bomb with a minimal target. Double-oh secret agent stuff, it’s really cool. Whoever built this, it’s for one target. You could stand next to the target and the only injury you might have is ringing ears.” Stephen said. ‟Even if they stood right in front of you, the carbon-carbon backing makes it a directed explosion with a forward range of, perhaps, two hand width outward.”

‟But how does it kill the holder then. Why not just the hand blown off?”

‟That’s the beauty of it. Between the hand and the backing, it becomes a directed explosion, the kill-range of the explosion on the glass side is about a meter. We suspect it is in a nearly zero degree dispersal pattern, as measured from the injuries. We cannot figure that part out, yet. If we can get an unexploded version, it would be months of study on just the design.”

‟Well, that is not going to happen soon. We are coming late to the party, the only clue are the torn up bodies.”

‟Oh! The injuries, the reason you are not finding normal shrapnel, because it’s sand.”

‟Sand?”

‟Silicon dioxide, the silicon oxidizes into sand, accelerated with the explosion, the grit slows down almost immediately. But in that meter, it shreds anything that is in the way.”

‟Like flesh and bone.”

‟Precisely.”

‟Thank you, Stephen. I have to send this to the Vice-Chief. She is expecting updates as soon as you can get them to me. It has not yet hit the media and she wants prior briefings for when it does.”

‟No one cares if someone kills bad-guys with a bomb?”

‟So it seems.” Carol nodded. ‟No one has put together that innocent people might be next.”

‟This could be horrid. If released into the public at large?”Stephen pondered behind his glasses. ‟A single phone call could kill thousands.”

‟We need to find who is doing this.” Carol said. ‟Find me suppliers Stephen, we need to know where it comes from and who is buying it.”

‟I’ll find out all there is to know about the materials.”

Cellular Justice Chapter 6. Research

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Chapter 6. Research

Doctor Carol Kane stared at the screen, the odd mix of readings was specific for silicon with trace of a hydrogenated carbon material that covered the silicon.

Mass spectrometry showed a potassium, but in such minute trace that it would hardly be worth mentioning. But she would make sure to bring it up in the discussion at the round table at the change of shift.

It was, oddly, familiar. A distant memory, something she had read or was in conversation about some time in the past.

Long ago, might have been when she was dating a scientist who mixed odd materials for space exploration. Everyday items that they were working with in synthetic combinations.

Silicon as a semi-conductor did not exist . Silicon as an explosive. That was…

‟Oh my god!” She said it out loud as she remembered. The nature of porous silicon, a tiny amount of potassium perchlorate. An adequate oxidizer but many compounds were capable of higher performance, so the amount was curious. It was as if someone would just touch a bristle to a bit of silicon.

But it occurred to her that not a lot would be needed. The hydrogenated carbon would coat the porous silicon that had a small amount of a oxidizer as a kicker.

The silicon would react with atmospheric oxygen and burst into silicon dioxide.

Simple sand.

No ash, the fine-grained sand itself, a product of the explosion would become the ‟bullet” of the explosive and embed into the wounds with hideous shredding effect.

With the thought in her head, she turned the scan on to another sample and started along the edges.

Readout showed the material was an ultra strong glass produced in the latter years of the 2010’s.

But on one edge…

There.

THERE! She had it. The primary component of glass, itself was the explosive. Porous silicon would combust in normal atmosphere even without any accelerant. The amphorous hydrogentated carbon coating protected the silicon from the oxygen in the surrounding air. A small electrical charge, perhaps the oxidizer itself, began the process that then consumed the silicon in nano-seconds.

Flipping through pages on her tablet computer, she looked up silicon explosives.

She entered the findings on the report with references.

Picking up the phone, she dialed an extension to another investigator who liked to make things to boom to prove — or disprove— a theory.

The phone picked up on the third ring with a series of noises in the background followed by a pop.

‟Yes?”

‟Stephen, I’m sending you a report on a series of explosive residue. I have a hypothesis of the material used.”

‟Oh! I like to make exploding things.” Steven Pelon could be heard grinning into the phone. ‟Send the hypothesis to me right away and I’ll get on it.”

‟Well, I have some further writing to do with my findings, and there is a rush on this. This is an ongoing investigation, and a body-count is associated with this.”

‟Get it to me as quick as you can, procrastination is a path that leads only to futility.”

Shaking her head, she smiled inwardly. His Confucian philosophical leanings are often on the mark and entertaining at the same time.

‟Well, I am looking into silicon-based explosives, specifically, something based on a porous silicon. I need yields and briesence.”

‟Silicon? That’s a new one.”

‟I’m sending the findings and a couple of SEM images, now.”

‟Got it. Image is loading.” A pause. ‟Is this for real? Okay, I’ll assign it top priority and I’ll lead the team. This is fascinating.”

Pressing the ‟End” button, Carol broke the connection laughing at the man on the other end. Boys liked cap-guns and firecrackers, this was one boy who got the dream job of using exotic explosives, putting a fuse to them and never get in trouble for doing so.

Cellular Justice Chapter 3. SiO2

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Chapter 3. SiO2

Doctor Pitre Kamanski, Ph.D with specialties in micro-cellular anatomy examined the mounted tissue that the forensic pathologist had performed a stained mounting on the slide.

The slow scan of the tissue showed a shredding as if it had been hit with a meat tenderizer.

This was more than just high-velocity trauma from shock waves of an explosive, the tissue looked as if the victim’s body was dragged through a beach. There were micron-sized and larger objects in between the cells, in the cells and in the blood vessels that showed signs of severe microscopic hemorrhage. The image looked familiar but strange at the same time.

Doctor Kamanski made his notes on more and more of the various sized objects, making phone calls and requesting a mass-spec on the microscopic anomaly points.

An hour later, James Wilds returned his call. A radiologist of repute, his knowledge of chemistry was encyclopedic

‟Okay, what you asked me to scan on the other samples, I have scanned twelve of those available. What you have a question about it silicon dioxide, no other contaminants on eight of the twelve samples. Four samples show a carbon-nitrogen and chloride trace in low levels.” Jim said as he read off of a display. ‟Not enough to say a significant propellant charge, but could have been a kicker for the explosion. Traces of silver and copper in the carbon in specific ratios, there is one spike on a sample, just one sample, of potassium perchlorate. Silver carbide and copper acetyide in measurements of parts per million. Nearly complete combustion. The ratios remained consistent on rescan and it suggests that these are the initiators to detonation that killed the victims.”

‟Is it in high enough concentrations to create the explosive event that shredded the flesh? And where did this silicon dioxide come from? Sand? Are you sure it was silicon dioxide only?”

‟Yes, sand, ultra fine, it showed pure on the graph. Trace other elements are detectable. I will recheck the values if you like, but we ran the samples three times each. I’ll focus on the fine grains and see what we can bring to light.”

Thanking Jim for his work, Pitre pressed the ‟end call” button and bit his lip while he looked at the paper.

Taking a deep breath, he looked at the reports again. Small to ultra-small grains of silicon dioxide.

Pitre sat back with his arms crossed as he looked at the computer screen with the results and sighed.

What were the results telling them? He understood the language of reports better than anyone in the department, second to maybe Robert Burns, but what he was seeing did not tell him any patterns that he recognized.

Sand.

Glass, perhaps that had been pulverized in the explosion?

No, even with the current super-tough glass used in most devices these days had more than trace elements of potassium and aluminum in the chemical mix and would have shown up.

There was no aluminum trace showing, potassium showed outside of the range for toughened glass and a specific combination of oxidizer of a perchorate was going to be the key.

What was he reading?

Cellular Justice Chapter 2. Office of the Vice-Chief

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Chapter 2. Office of the Vice-Chief

‟Robert, have a seat. There is a serious problem for you to come to my office unannounced.”

Janis Pillsbury Vice-Chief of the police department was always pleased with Robert’s company. He had a knack to make people feel smarter with his way of teaching and leadership.

When they met in college, she was a member for the Olympic swim-team twenty years earlier. It had frustrated her when she got bumped from the team because of a shoulder injury earned while arm-wrestling the future doctor at a bar during finals week.

Robert sat in the leather-cushioned chair in front of her and put files on her desk.

‟These are files on two-dozen separate events in the last six weeks. Some are gang affiliate, some are not. There is no connection other than apparent death caused by an explosive device.” Robert looked grim. ‟The pattern suggests that there is a theft ring going on, but we are finding material that we cannot explain, explosive residue that we have not seen before. Blast damage that seems limited to one person, except in three cases of multiple victims, the explosions seem focused on individuals we suspect were involved with a crime, solely on the tattoos and history of the known victims.”

‟Hm. A theft ring being purged?”

‟I don’t know, data supports a street battle, except for the lack of drive-by shootings. There are explosives being used, so a case could be made for domestic terrorism other than it’s not involving the normal targets. The victims in this case have known histories of felonies, in large part. A few unknown subjects, but with tattoos that suggests affiliations.”

‟Have you a hypothesis on these events? What is the explosive used?”

‟That is the biggest issue. We cannot identify the explosives used. We have some nitrogen based, certainly, but there are other traces we cannot account for.” Robert flipped through a file and handed it to her. ‟This shows an optically clear glass that is slightly porous on a microscopic scale, we did a mass-spec on it and something on the sample detonated while being prepared.”

‟WHAT? Did’t you check for an explosive residue?”

‟We did. Standard procedure and none of our equipment detected any oxidizer or explosives. No hydrocarbons of any concern, there was a light oil, but it checked out as a light silicone oil. Not explosive. However we did find copper and silver acetelydes in minute trace amounts.”

‟A contact explosive.”

‟Well, shock and temperature sensitive, but the odd part about what we found is in the traces that were not consumed, they had insulating jackets of ethylene.”

‟Like wires?”

‟Not… Not like we would think of them, silver acetelyde is so shock sensitive that it has no serious use. Copper, is less sensitive but a hell of a detonator. The question we do not have an answer for is what was it detonating? We have a high-nitrated carbon plastic which is not an explosive in its own right, but I believe it’s a kicker, whatever the primary warhead is, the case shapes and boosts the force of the explosion.”

‟Okay, what do we know past that.”

‟This much. These are specific in the way they explode as evidenced by the destruction of body tissues. You could be standing next to the person when it detonates, you would be uninjured and the victim is beyond help of even the most advanced trauma surgical team.” Robert took a deep breath. ‟The bombs are personal and specific.”

‟Someone is targeting the victims.”

‟Yes, specific victims. It is not a suicide bomb that goes for mass killing.”

‟What about these two reports that have multiple victims.”

‟Each victim had a device in their possession. The glass windows in the room broke, but not blown out. My team has surveyed the glass to try to determine if the windows were previously cracked or if the blast did it. In any case, it was a hundred percent kill only within the confines of the room. Trace evidence is outside of our databases.”

‟What about the traces you just said with the copper and silver?”

‟Not enough to inflict the injuries we are seeing. But there is a delivery system that we are not finding, it is possible that the case that the explosive is consumed in the explosion by design.”

‟As in,  where did I hear this before, a paper-cased bomb?”

‟Close, that’s in a novel and a movie. But that is where that exists only.”

‟Oh.”

‟This is different, there is trace, we are not recognizing it yet.”

‟Well, get on it. Do you have any more information?”

‟No. But the pattern is this: Young, generally male with known felony and misdemeanor convictions, high incidence of drugs in their systems. High mortality rate, one-hundred percent, no fires, collateral damage or bystanders injured.”

‟Who is doing this?” Janis looked carefully at the files, one at a time.”I see no connections.”

‟Other than being killed in explosions that would be no louder than a car backfire, no connections between events we can find. We have no one to put a finger on, other than to say person or persons. We just don’t know where the evidence points.” Robert said evenly. ‟Yet.”

‟Okay, Robert, I will take this to the Chief and we will brief department heads. You get top priority on any information coming in on our task forces on organized crime will have a meeting. How is this afternoon look for you?”

‟I will clear my schedule. Janis, to be clear, I want to say this clearly. You have vigilantes out there and they are trying to put you out of business.”

‟We have hunters, eh?”

‟More like poachers.”

Robert stood up and smiled in a grim way that Janis knew that he was unhappy with the ambiguous evidence. Watching the door close behind him as she held the files in her hand, the word echoed in her mind.

‟Poachers.”

Shock and Awe Chapter 11. Human Resources

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Chapter 11. Human Resources

Opening the vent, he used his cap once again for its lifting power.

On the floor of the office of human resources, all the police personnel files were kept. Fingerprints, backgrounds, ID photos.

Everything.

Everything about a man or woman who worked in this town was kept in a paper file to back up computer files. Under lock and key they existed, with the watchful organization of the obsessive compulsive director of personnel.

Two hasps on a fireproof file cabinet. Each padlock secured with a combination padlock. Different combinations. No one person had access to the sensitive files.

Never slowed down by such things. In the back of each lock was a key access in the event someone forgot the combination.

He had both sides open faster than it would have taken the secretary to dial in the combination on one lock.

Rolling the top drawer open, he flipped through the folders, pulling back on the tabs to read names and ranks.

Secretary, detective, chief of police, patrol officer.

They were all here. Two hundred files of combined sheriff and police. This office served both, being the county seat and offices that they consolidated several years before.  The government centralized and condensed files, every officer, sheriff, police, undercover, vice, homicide, mayor, secretaries, all from the lowliest janitor to the chief of police.

Right to this room.

From his backpack, Radio Check pulled out a thermos sized container with a “D” shaped handle on top. With measured movements, he twisted the handle and pumped it four times. Flipping the front of the sprayer down to expose the tip, adjusted it for a medium spray and dampened all the paper in the top drawer.

He repeated the same procedure in each drawer, moving from cabinet to cabinet, in twelve hours, all the paper would crumble into dust. Closing and locking the files as he finished with each drawer. The entire time was five minutes.

It had been thirty-five minutes since he pulled the triggers on his rifle. By now, they had discovered he was not anywhere on the basement levels. That the officers had driven him out and he somehow got up the stairs without being noticed.

It may have occurred to one of them that the elevator car had a service hatch. They would be checking it out. If they did so on the basement floor, they would notice that the air return vent would be curiously clean.

It was time to move.

Hooking his toe into the loop of the cable, he pressed the button for the winch to lift him. It was slowing down. The batteries were nearly depleted, but this was its last time it would be needed.

Shock and Awe Chapter 10. Going up!

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Chapter 10 Going up!

 

He had nearly dropped the vent in the room of the mainframe, pulling it up by the tips of his fingers, he saw the officer walk by the window. Her shadow stopped and he knew she was coming back to look.

She saw it.

*Damn. Maybe she didn’t know what she saw. * He thought.

Crawling back to the service hatch, he opened it and could hear the verbal commands that squad leaders were given to the men while they were holding the elevator door. They still did not know where he was, this was in the plus column for the operation. One officer,  wounded in the crossfire when he dropped the Chinese firecrackers as a distraction, this went in the minus column. Officers shot was not according to plan, most uniforms were innocents.

Stinger grenades not counting. He stepped over to the positive pressure side of the system and opened the hatch. The inflated fabric balloon had done its job and now was time to retire it.

Pulling a boot-knife, he sliced the material and stuffed it in his backpack, restoring the airflow to the lower levels and data center. He did not want anything to overheat there. Closing the service hatch, he slipped back into the air return and made his way to the elevator shaft.

Stepping gingerly on the steel supports that anchored the box of the elevator car. He squatted down and became part of the machine.

“C’mon, Russ. You are doing okay, just in the car.”

He could hear the woman’s voice clearly.

“I’m so sorry I shot you. Really.”

Friends? Partners? It made him smile. Either way, if the shot officer was a good enough man, they would become closer friends.

Radio Service laughed inwardly, the only outside appearance of his humor was a smile nearly hidden under his long beard. He was a cupid in a twisted sense of the phrase.

The difficult part now accomplished. As an option, he could stop at basement level-1 and mess with the police even more, but he had nothing against the honest men of the SWAT team. The elevator slowed and came to a stop on the main floor. More swat team had come in. Listening to them talk, they knew he was no longer in the bathroom.

Yeah, time to leave. Messing with them now was a game of chance. Thus far, there was nothing left to chance. All according to plan. The Swat level was only an option if time and events looked positive.

Stepping off the elevator car as it began its descent to the dispatch level, he hung on to the service ladder in the shaft.

Four floors of a ladder climb.

Well, three and a half, he would enter into the return vent on the top floor and access the human resources office.

Second floor, detectives level. He should try to figure out something to do there. But— it was not in the plans, so he kept climbing.

Third floor. An option to enter, Commanders, Vice-chief’s office general admin. Nearly all of it on computer. Access was already granted. He would spend far more time looking for tiny bits of information that did not pay them back in benefits.

Cost versus benefit at this point. The cost was too much time versus the risk of capture.

Fourth floor. Chief of Police. Files that were still on paper. Physical access to the stand-alone system that belonged only to the administration and the Chief himself.

Into the exhaust vent he stepped. This one was smaller by about a third. He could not sit straight up, but he could recline comfortably if he chose to.

A first look. A secretary type office. File cabinets, locked with a simple combination padlock, the type that had a keyhole in back.

Worth a look. He tagged the inside of the plenum with a yellow flashing LED light and moved on.

Sliding his thin camera down the vent, he looked at another office. The Chief of Police worked here. A massive desk, sumptuous decor. Pictures on the wall. Books everywhere. A long table on the far side of the room. But a dead-end.

He looked another few meters down. There was another corner. He looked at the Chief’s office again. Nope. There was no room or vestibule to call for a vent.

Making the corner and then to the downward bend, he slipped his snake-eye through the vent. There, a computer. Looked to be cabled for internet. But it was not a city issued piece of hardware.

This was the Chief’s personal computer.

Excellent!

Twisting the camera around, there were small speaker cabinets at four points at the ceiling where the wall met.

Not speakers.

Video cameras.

Oh, quite sly, Chief, quite sly.

Pulling out his tablet, he opened up a sniffer program and let it run for a few minutes. He was ahead on the timetable so he could spare the minutes.

Before the uniforms began a floor by floor sweep, he would still be gone and they would have layers of cordons around the block to look for him.

This group never just sealed a block. They sealed a block three times normally. One might slip through a single line of cops, but the Croix Bay police? It was a minimum of three levels. They had their fair share of fugitives running from other law enforcement. No-one slipped past them, they always got their man.

Well, except for tonight. Around the building they would have all the available patrols. This is right where he wanted them. Running around in the basement, playing war with shadows while he was in the Chief’s personal entertainment system.

Maybe. He was watching the sniffer.

There! A spike in broadcast. A handshake. Data transmitted back and forth.

He sent a corrupted packet, knocking the wifi connection off. The item logging into the computer would fail and need to retry.

And it did. Two times, three times. He used the patience of the machine against itself.

Then he had a break. The complete log in sequence from the cameras. While the camera cycled for yet another attempt to log into the computer, he logged in using the camera’s MAC and identifier.

Although he was in the air duct, he now had control of the computer as if he was sitting at the keyboard.

Intercepting the camera signal, he successfully logged it into his tablet and download the images it had stored. One picture per minute. High resolution. Radio Check nodded, not an unreasonable setup, except for the outdated operating system. A bit of poking around, he found the password file.

The password file was not even encrypted. He downloaded it and sent it on to the radio service, packed up and crawled back to the HR office. Scanning around, a motion sensor was on the wall covering the room.

“Radio service radio check, hardware check.”

“Go ahead. You are on Vee-Oh-Eye-Pee with an IP address.”

“Sending you images. Do you have this under control?”

“Radio check. Copy sensor, it routes through to dispatch. Outer Limits. You are clear.”

It was the most talkative that radio service had been in a long time. Radio Service hated the sound of his own voice and was terse over the open air, but this was downright talkative for him.

He would have to tell Radio Service that he nearly talked Radio Check’s ear off in these few seconds.

Shock and Awe Chapter 8. Dispatch

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Chapter 8. Dispatch

Stepping out of the air-return shaft, he pressed a button in his pocket.

Little more than a car door remote.

Above, in the ventilation duct, an electronic board received his signal, inflating the folded square of cloth that tightly fit inside the plenum, blocking all fresh air from being delivered to the lower floors, becoming an effective cork.

The intruder gently rolled two smoke canisters to each end of the hallway and pressed the button on a spray can, deploying a vapor that smelled like melting plastic.

A dispatcher that was questioning the radio traffic, was turning to her supervisor to say there was something wrong when she saw smoke and smelled wires burning.

“FIRE!”

As one, the dispatchers all stood up and made for the smoke-filled hallway.

Suddenly blocked by a man in a mask and leather jacket.

“No fire, just attention-getter. Please, everyone lay down.”

In the far end where officer Davies sat, she brought out an AR-15 that out on the first alarm of an attack.

The intruder rolled multiple stinger grenades into the dispatch center that detonated rapidly, causing Davies to duck and take stock that she was still alive.

Too late to stop the intruder who had plugged into a USB port with his equipment and pressed a button, data surged through the now-allowed hardware that rebooted the entire dispatch system.

The officer, deciding the grenades did not injure her permanently, took position and tried to take a sighting on the intruder through the smoke. But there were too many obstacles, the air was too murky to shoot at a shape with people sitting up when the monitors went dark.

Someone yelled “RUN!” and twenty people scrambled for the stairwell.

Officer Gwen Davies grabbed the phone and tried to call the watch commander’s cell phone.

“Hello.”

“Lieutenant! He is down here in dispatch!”

“Shit! On our way.” The masculine voice broke the connection. Gwen looked at the phone for a moment, she thought Leslie Murrie was on duty.

Her radio on her hip buzzed on a person-to-person frequency. “…Davies.”

“Go ahead for Davies.”

“It’s Russ, I’m coming your way to back you up, this place is on fire,”

“No, we have the intruder here, he’s smoke-bombed us.” She said quietly. “He is here in dispatch.”

“Enroute. I have contact with the watch commander, I’ll tell her.”

“Who is on tonight?”

“Leslie Murrie. Why?”

“There was a male voice that answered the watch commanders phone.”

“Could have been one of the other guys. Shit is going bad up there. We have officers down.”

“Okay, get here as soon as possible, I’m pinned down and he has explosives.” She looked again. “I can’t see because of the smoke, and he is  moving so I can’t get a clear shot.”

“Copy, I’m at the end of the hall. He has to come past me or you to leave the floor. I can’t see shit with all this smoke, why is this floor not venting?”

Pops of gunfire sounded.

“He’s shooting! Small caliber!”

Gwen dove through the door, flashes of his weapon illuminated the smoke. She aimed about leg high and laid grazing fire down the hallway.

A scream from the smoke.

BOO-YA! She bagged a bad guy! This gave Gwen a savage pleasure.

“I’M HIT!” 

Shit! She knew that voice, she was just listening to it on her phone.

It was Russ!

Gwen got to her feet and moved from side to side of the hallway. The heavy smoke was acrid in her nose, it was military spec smoke. She knew the smell intimately from her time in the service and the smoke grenades are easy to get from the internet. She passed by the data center and tried the door.

Locked. It was always locked. The window was intact and it was clear inside.

As she stepped away, a movement caught her eye as she passed the window. She stepped back and looked again. Staring and tried the door once more.

Locked, positively locked. She looked up and down the door, nothing wrong with the door, no tamper marks, but, on the floor, something odd.

A bit of cardboard with bar codes on it. She left it alone, dropping a folded notepaper over it in the shape of a tent.

Walking a step farther, paper tatters all over the place.

Firecrackers.

The asshole faked shooting, now she shot Russ.

Russ was on the ground, blood had sprayed on the wall directly behind him. The bullet had grazed his calf, giving him a groove in his muscle the size of her index finger to fit in.

“You will be fine, it is just a flesh wound.”

“Oh yeah, they say that, but they never said that it hurts like a bitch!” Russ said, rocking back and forth, holding his leg up. “Damned thing throbs!”

“Did he come this way?”

“What?” The question distracted him from his pain for a moment. “No. I saw a shadow in the smoke, then he started shooting, but no one came this way.”

“He had to go back into dispatch and he is in there somehow.”

The elevator door opened and eight SWAT officers stepped out, seeing the bleeding brother on the floor, the leader motioned to one of the heavily armed officers who stooped next to him and applied a pressure dressing. It was a SWAT medic.

“You got him?” The masked swat officer asked Gwen.

“Yeah.” And she pulled Russ to his feet and headed to the open elevator.

She smiled grimly, bad guy screwed the pooch now.

SWAT was the best of their best.

Gwen would pay good money to see this bastard get taken down by the team.