|Steve Harper stood by the large window of his apartment looking out at the panoramic views it offered.|
Usually he could look out over the city to the mountains that flanked it. Usually at this time, as day bled into dusk, the city was just starting to sparkle as the lights came on, though the buildings could still be seen, golden in the setting sun. Usually at this time the mountains were coloured a deep purple, darkening to a black as they met the city skyline. Usually at this time the sky looked as though it was on fire, a fascinating mix of reds, yellows and oranges that Steve thought beautiful.
But not today.
Today it was not the sky that burned, but the city. Everywhere he looked buildings were alight, down at street level cars and trucks spewed thick, black smoke into the air. Dark specks that were people ran in all directions, sometimes alone, sometimes in big groups. Where they went, fire followed. A pall of smoke hung over the city like a shroud. What a fitting description, Steve thought.
The wail of sirens filled the air and every now and then Steve could see a police car or fire truck dashing in response to another outbreak of violence, looting or arson. The city’s emergency services stood no chance, they were powerless to hold back the tide of anger that was sweeping through the populace. In some cases, Steve was sure, the services themselves would be joining in.
The outbreaks were steadily heading from the south to the north and he knew it wouldn’t be too long before they reached his neighbourhood, his building. This wasn’t just a riot, not just a brief show of rebellion that would soon be quelled.
No, this is it. The end game. Tonight the city burns and tomorrow it will be nothing but a shell. The ice in the drink he held rattled as his hands shook. He took a deep swig of the amber liquid to calm himself.
The call would come soon. As a member of TRU - Tactical Response Unit - it would only be a matter of time before Steve’s pager went off, calling him to do his duty. He was surprised it hadn’t come already, but he supposed the Captain had his hands full at the moment. In truth, he should have headed to Garside - TRU headquarters and home of all the city’s enforcement teams - hours ago. Most of his team would already be there. Yet he hadn’t and he was beginning to wonder if he would respond when the call actually did come. He turned to look at the closed door at the far end of the room.
Behind it his daughter slept. He couldn’t imagine leaving her with Mrs Harman two floors down as he usually did when he was called in. Not today, not when he knew there would be no stopping this plague reaching his building, not when he knew that even those on the eighth floor, as Mrs Harman was, wouldn’t be safe.
He turned back to the window and saw more fires had begun a block closer. What was it now, thirteen, fourteen blocks away? It wouldn’t be long. Two or three hours at most before his own neighbourhood was beginning to burn.
The pager attached to his belt beeped twice. Steve Harper took another swig of his drink before looking down and checking it. It was Garside and the 911 code was tacked onto the end of the message. Urgent, it meant.
He looked back outside and watched the chaos unfold. The smoke drifted closer.