Shadow of Fear: City in Flames
Posted By: Archangel_7<email@example.com>
Date: 31 October 2008, 8:49 am
City in Flames
From the Journal of Raoul Acosta, October 28, 2552.
I find myself awakened with a distinct pain in my head, an ache in my neck, and the taste of cold ash in my mouth. 'Where am I?' I whisper to myself. It was only several hours ago that I had been sitting in the lounge of this very hotel, sipping from a piña colada I had stolen from a passing waiting tray. What had transpired, between then and now? Why could I not remember?
I trip over a large black suitcase as I get out of bed. Why is this here? I try to open the suitcase, but some demented trickster has the latches locked, with no way of opening them. I toss it aside, and try to make sense of my surroundings. Luggage was flung all across the room, most which I was sure was not mine. One of the curtains was torn from the window and draped over some mound in the corner. Ashtrays with half-burned cigarettes litter the tables. A wheeled rack of uneaten food stood over the floor, strewn with garbage and women's undergarments.
That must have been it. Or at least I hoped it was. In my acid-fueled haze, the worst I had done was to take a woman in the throes of passion. No crime there. Not unless she was the one draped under the curtain.
At that moment, I spied a .45 caliber pistol lying on the dresser drawers, next to the TV. 'Oh god,' I breathed, praying to any heathen god listening that the pistol had not seen recent use. I came to this city with the idea that I was the last gleaming hope of incorruptible sanity (or insanity) in this wretched place. What would come of me, if I found that I was responsible for some irredeemable act? I am Don Quixote, staring down the proverbial giants. I have to maintain my grip, or else fall off the horse and into the same disillusioned fear and hatred as everyone else.
I hear the patter of the shower in the bathroom starting up, and I slump over in relief. She was still alive. Whatever was under that curtain, however, probably wasn't.
I pulled my slacks and Acapulco shirt on quietly, not quite sure when the owner of this room would come out, if at all. I decided it was best if I take a small hit of Oxy, grab the suitcase, and escape before she could blame me for this horrific crime and sic some government cronies on my trail like so many English hounds on a crippled fox. I grab the pistol and a box of hollowpoints and stash them in my tote. No point in letting a good .45 go to waste, no matter the consequences. Now I can make my escape
"I'm sorry, sir, but the police have requested that all guests remain inside until the situation is under control." Raoul glared deep into the eyes of the lithe, brown-skinned woman.
"Listen, goddamnit, this is serious!" Raoul screamed, the hastened tempo of his voice slurring his words. "It's imperative that I get out of this building as soon as possible!" Raoul slammed his fist repeatedly on the busboy bell, drawing fearful stares from the hotel patrons walking past. "Who's your manager? Get him out here; I want to talk to him."
"Listen, sir, I understand your concerns, but we just can't allow you to walk right out into the middle of a riot. Please, we're only doing this for your own good."
"Shit," Raoul groaned. "You listen here. I know what I'm doing, and I know what is good for me and what isn't. I've covered wars, for god's sake. And I know what wouldn't be good for me is staying cooped up in this hotel while some dingbat whore calls the damn Rio Secret Police on me. Now if you don't mind, I'll be leaving."
He stormed off through the middle of the crowd of people that had gathered in the lobby. They were all huddled around the front windows, watching from behind the reinforced glass as rioters on the street were gassed by the police crouching behind the concrete barrier separating them from the beach. Raoul grimaced. He trudged through the crowd, making a break toward the hotel bar.
Raoul took a seat, hoping to calm the panic of fleeing the crime scene with a couple rounds of mezcal. Perhaps if he plunged himself into alcohol, rather than adrenalin, he'd be able to relax. Maybe even take his mind off of the mound rolled in the hotel curtains.
The news on the television still broadcasted in simplified Portuguese. Raoul found it amusing how even now, with the whole world held under the UNSC's thumb, the closest the nations on Terra had gotten to cultural unity were mandatory courses on English and the ironing-out of their various language's quirks. Raoul only had a passing understanding of the language, but although he could not follow the rapid-fire speech assaulting him from the speakers he could read the subtitles just fine.
". . . UNSC has declared a state of emergency following leaked news concerning the sightings of several large unidentified craft hovering over local airspace. Rio and the surrounding area has been declared officially under the UNSC's military jurisdiction. Citizens have been advised to remain indoors as the UN Police Forces attempt to control the outbreak of violence that has erupted in the wake. . ."
"Jesus God Almighty," Raoul whispered. "I need to get out of this godforsaken city." The cards had been dealt. Out on the street those pigs were trying to usher in the Sixth Reich. Above him, in a pantie-strewn hotel room, a murderous wench might have been waiting to call out the dogs and use him as a scapegoat. He needed out of this city. He needed to find a way to escape this madness.
Grabbing the suitcase, he quickly forced his way through the bar, weaving between the multitudes of patrons sitting at the glass tables. "Out of my way. . . Você vai, Você vai, goddamnit. . . "
"Sir!" a voice called out. Raoul stopped, growling under his breath as he turned to face the tall, rat-faced waiter stumbling over a set of tables to reach him. "Sir! You can't leave the hotel!"
"Yeah?" Raoul replied, a cigarette hanging from a Marlon Spike in his lips. "Well, try and stop me." He kicked open the door, much to the chagrin of the waiter, still wailing and forcing his way through the crowded restaurant. Raoul stepped out into the back alley.
Immediately he was overcome with a sudden wave of sound. Terrible cries of pain and anger came wafting through the air just as thick as the stinging mist of tear gas. Several gunshots cracked through the clamor. Raoul quickly ducked behind the nearby green dumpster.
The alley was fenced off from the street. On one side lay the familiar Avenida Atlantica, now crawling with fleeing tourists and rioters. Raoul reasoned that where there were rioters, there were police. Where there were riot police, there were bound to be trigger-happy psychopaths, and it would only be a matter of time before one of them decided his head would make an appealing target.
Opposite the beach lay Domingos Ferreira, another main drag lined with shops and tourist traps. Luckily, the wall of hotels lining the beachhead would keep the UN forces from advancing much further. At least until they called in the dropships.
Heading west would be the safest route, he decided. Out into the mountains, away from the frightened tourists in the south. Heading north would also be a treacherous route. The city would be riddled with angry locals, ready to slaughter any foreigner on sight, military or otherwise. Escape was the only instinct, the only urge driving him on. How long could he maintain? Could he break free before the chaotic city swallowed him whole?
He leapt up and scrambled over the eight-foot fence. Dropping to the other side, he quickly took in all the necessary information: the wavering blue and red light of a police barricade to the right; a cloud of angry voices and tear gas to the left. Without hesitating, he quickly removed his outer shirt and wrapped it around his head, covering his nose and mouth.
He charged to the left, into the heavy throat-burning mist. There was screaming, and objects flying past his head in every direction. He had to get off the main streets. He stumbled around, his visibility limited to a few steps in any direction. "Oh god," he moaned. Gunfire clattered in the distance. The pavement quaked as some huge aircraft rumbled overhead. Finally, Raoul collided with a storefront. Throwing open the door, he rushed in.
The store owner blocked his path, throwing up his arms and yelling incomprehensibly in Portuguese."Fuck off," Raoul mumbled, snatching the .45 from the front pocket of his tote. A look of terror struck across the shopkeep's face as Raoul brandished the gun, waving it as though it were a crucifix warding off some indescribable evil. He backed towards the rear exit, crashing through a pair of doors to the inventory room, and finally broke through the outer doors.
He was met with the sight of an apartment building burning directly across the narrow boulevard. Smoke billowed from the entire height of the structure, saturating the air with suffocating, noxious fumes. The fire roared on, bright red flames lapping at the darkened sky. Raoul found the heat unbearable. Sweat poured from his face, down his neck, down his arms. Salty tears stung his eyes.
Before Raoul could regain his bearings, another roar ushered from above. A pair of blinding lights appeared from the darkness, forcing him to shield his eyes as he continued running. His chest heaved, his lungs cried out in pain. "The fucking pigs are on to me!" Another heavy rumbling shook the ground, tearing his feet from beneath him. He keeled over, scraping his arms and knees against the concrete. The Marlon Spike dropped from his mouth, rolling down the sidewalk to parts unknown. Overhead, hovering thirty or so feet above the street, was one of the UN's birds, a gunmetal behemoth known as the Pelican. A blast of hot air washed over him as he struggled to his feet. "No! Not like this!"
"All civilians move indoors immediately!" boomed a disembodied voice from a bullhorn up above. "We have been authorized to use any force necessary. Return to your homes!"
A spotlight swept across the smoke-choked street, revealing the silhouettes of several dozens, Molotovs and pistols in hand, stunned by the dropship's sudden appearance. "Return to your homes and places of business immediately!" At that instant a pair of ropes descended from the rear of the Pelican, and Raoul could see dark, formless masses poised to slither to the bottom. Marines.
Gripped by adrenalin, Raoul ran, staying within the scattering crowd. Strength in numbers, let the weak fend for themselves. A pair of muffled cracks broke above the wailing. Another tear gas salvo streamed overhead, landing directly in his path. Desperate, he sprinted toward the nearest building he could see. Crashing into the wall, he scrambled for the front door's handle, only to discover, much to his despair, that the door had been locked. "Damn you, let me in!" he screamed, smashing his fist into the heavy steel door. Another round of muffled cracks. "No!" he sobbed between gritted teeth. "God damn you..."
Raoul dropped to his knees, a painful nausea gripping him from the very bottom of his stomach. "This is it," he said, submissively. "They're going to find me like some punk on the side of the street. If I'm not slammed outright for disturbing the peace, they'll check my connections, they'll search my possessions, and let's not forget about the hotel room. They'll see what kind of rotten bastard they're dealing with, and then they'll leave me in some dank backwoods prison to rot. This is it, man. The whole fucking city is burning, and I'm just going to burn with it."
"Quick, in here!" Before Raoul could see the source of the low, husky voice, pair of large hands gripped his shoulders, pulling him to his feet and tossing him inside. His temple smashed against the dark oak leg of a table, jarring him from conscious reality and sending him sinking slowly into darkness.