tagSci-Fi & FantasyIntrusion Ch. 08

Intrusion Ch. 08

byFuinimel©

The paramedics were loading the still unconscious Georgina onto the ambulance when the call came through. Without telling them anything much about the reasons, Room 42 had given the Cheshire Constabulary a list of key-words to look out for in incident reports, something that they would want to be informed about. And one of them had just scored a hit.

The word was 'drone', and it seemed from Helen's reaction to the call that this was, indeed, likely to be relevant to their investigations. Since the paramedics had been unable to wake Georgina, and any detailed diagnosis of what the problem was would have to wait until she was at the hospital, the new incident had to take priority. If Georgina took as long to recover as Emma had, they had plenty of time, and the hospital they were taking her to was barely a mile out of their way.

Helen filled them in on the short drive down to the site of the incident. A man had reported being attacked by what he described as a 'drone'. Apparently, it had crashed through the window of his house and had somehow 'shot' at him - the brief police report wasn't clear on the details. Evidently, unlike Denzel, he was still alive, and the drone itself had flown off.

The police, naturally enough, were hunting for a hooligan, or at least somebody dangerously irresponsible in charge of an expensive piece of remote-controlled equipment. Helen had done nothing to dissuade them, but it was obvious to the team that this would be fruitless search, and that Curtis had been proved correct in his earlier warnings.

When they reached the location, the emergency services were still present, parked up outside a nondescript terraced house in the poorer part of the town. In addition to a bored-looking police officer, a paramedic was standing next to a casually dressed young man with dark hair and a short beard. Both of them looked irritated at being detained, and the civilian had a heavy bandage covering his lower left arm. An upstairs window of the property was very clear smashed to smithereens.

"Can we get this over with?" asked the paramedic when they approached, "I need to get this man properly checked out at the hospital."

"We won't be long," Helen promised him. "Now, Mr... Prendergast, was it?"

"Matthew Prendergast, yes," replied the man, "I don't know what I can tell you that I didn't already tell your colleagues." He evidently assumed that they were detectives, although he did cast an odd look at Rebecca, before apparently deciding that she must be some sort of forensic examiner.

"We'll try to keep it quick. Now, can you confirm that this is your house?"

"No! I've already told you all that. Don't you... oh, sorry, it's been stressful, never mind. This is a house of a friend of mine. I was staying over."

Rebecca could imagine exactly what he had been staying over to do, if the alien they were chasing was involved, which only seemed more likely when Prendergast confirmed that his 'friend' was a woman.

"Her name is Raina," he said, "we know each other from work."

"And her surname?"

"Ah... I... uh..." he looked embarrassed.

"We've got it here," offered the policeman, and, rather than just reading it out, showed Helen his notebook.

Helen looked at the notebook, and then looked back at Prendergast. "How do you pronounce that?"

"Um..."

Helen sighed, took the notebook off the officer, and showed it to the others. Rebecca looked at it.

"Gruszeckyj," she said.

"Really?"

"I'm pretty sure."

"Okay, we'll go with that," she handed the notebook back, and motioned to the officer to back off again. "So, Mr. Prendergast, you stayed over at... Raina's... house last night. But I understand that you were attacked in the morning. Can you tell me what happened then?"

"I don't know... this thing just crashed through the window of the bedroom. I was on the landing at the time, but I went back into the room, and there it was. One of those flying drone things that you hear about on the news."

"Can you describe it?"

"Sort of metallic, with smooth edges, and those 'copter blades at the top. Three of them, I think, but I didn't get a really good look; it might have been four. But then it shot me with... well, I don't know what with. A hot pellet or something, it burned my arm.

Then, well, I admit that I panicked a bit. I ducked behind the bed, in case it shot at me again."

"But it didn't?"

"No, I thought it would, but it didn't. It hovered for a while, went out onto the landing where I couldn't see it, and after a while, it came back in, and flew out through the window again. That's when I called the police."

"That was the right thing to do," Helen assured him. "Where was Raina while this was happening?"

"I don't know," he said, sheepishly, "she must have left the house before I got up, and I haven't seen her since. I was looking for her when the thing hit the window, and I didn't get a chance to look for a note."

"Have you tried ringing her?"

"I, uh, lost her number."

"Right," said Helen, sounding doubtful, but not pressing the point, "Was she acting unusual the night before?"

Matthew went a little red, and stumbled over his reply.

"Never mind. It's not a crime. We can fill in the blanks. You said you knew her from work. Where is that exactly?"

"The local secondary school," he said, sounding glad to get a less embarrassing question for once, "I teach English."

"And she teaches...?"

"Oh, no, she's not a teacher. She's a domestic; a cleaner."

Helen nodded, "and is there anything else about what happened that you can remember? Anything else strange happening?"

"No, I think it was quite strange enough. But I'll let you know if I remember anything."

"You do that. Thank you; we'll be in touch if we need to know more."

After letting him go - to the evident relief of both the man himself and the ambulance crew - Helen turned back to the police officer to check the information they had on the property. It turned out to be owned by a Jerzy Gruszeckyj, but had two separate bedrooms, so he was likely a brother or other relative of Raina, not her husband. They had not, as yet, been able to contact him, since he, too, was out of the house, and hadn't taken his work phone with him - the only mobile number they had.

There was no note to explain where Raina had gone, and no evidence that the 'drone' had done any more than Prendergast had said. On the other hand, there was no car outside the house, either, so the assumption was that she must have taken it when she left that morning, apparently without bothering to wake her lover.

It all seemed to fit the pattern, although what Rebecca still wasn't sure where the drone fit into the picture. This was the second one they had identified, and neither seemed to be acting in the same way as their initial target. Why were they so hostile? And why had it ignored Prendergast, when its fellow had not done the same for Denzel? Nonetheless, she did at least have a theory.

"I think I'm seeing a pattern here," she told the others, once they were out of earshot of the police. "These drones, whatever they are, don't seem to like our sex-mad alien much. It looks to me as if they're following around the people it controls, and then wiping them out. It left Prendergast alone, after the initial attack, because he wasn't controlled. It's obviously a Han Solo fan, but..."

"What?"

"It shoots first. But what I mean is, once it realised that Prendergast wasn't a threat, and wasn't controlled, and that there was no better target in the house, it just left. It didn't care about him, it must be Raina it's after, but she had gone before it got here."

"So, if it's still controlling just two people," said Kate, "one of them must still be Marcus Freeman, at least, so far as we know, and the other is this Raina woman."

"It's decided a school janitor is a step up from a film studies major?" asked Curtis, "okay, so I wouldn't call that a step down, either, but what the heck does it want? What's so special about this woman?"

"That," said Helen, "is what we need to find out. I'll put Brandon and Richard onto that. And if you're right about these flying robots following the targets about, Rebecca, we need to try and get ahead of it. Go back to the service station and see if you can find what Freeman and Haywood were doing there. I'll go the hospital and see if Haywood is able to talk to us yet."

"Kate, you go with Rebecca. Which I guess leaves you with me, Curtis. It's your lucky day."

"Yes ma'am."

***

"I am afraid you just missed him," said the woman at the hotel desk.

"Freeman was here?"

"Yes, he was just checking out. In he in some sort of trouble?"

Rebecca ignored the question, "was he with anyone?"

"Yes, a different woman than last time," the receptionist sounded disapproving, "this one was blonde. No better than she should be, I don't think."

"We'll need to see their room," broke in Kate.

"They've left now, I told you. Half an hour ago, it was."

"Have you cleaned the room yet?"

"Well, no, but it's due very shortly," said the receptionist, glancing at the clock, "we keep a good hotel here."

"I'm sure you do. We need to see the room."

"Oh, very well. But only because the police said I had to help you. I really don't know what..."

At that moment, a loud bell began ringing, a continuous sound echoing throughout the building.

"Fire alarm!" said the receptionist, eyes widening, "I have to ask you to leave. Evacuation is to the car park."

"Which room?" asked Kate firmly, leaning across the desk to emphasise her insistence.

"We have to leave!" the receptionist said, as she bolted from her seat, and made to move around them to the front entrance, trying to usher them out as she did so.

Rebecca dodged her and swiftly darted back into the abandoned space, noting with relief that the panicked woman hadn't thought to shut her computer down. It still displayed Freeman's room number, which she read out to Kate.

"You can't stay in the building! There's a fire!" shouted the receptionist.

They ignored her, and headed for the door that lead in towards the guest rooms, Kate drawing her pistol from concealment as she did so. The receptionist let out a squeak of fear when she saw that, and then ran for the exit, presumably on the grounds that staying in a burning building in order to argue with a madwoman with a gun probably wasn't the best use of her time.

"I have a bad feeling about this," muttered Rebecca.

The corridor beyond the door ran the full length of the building, with a single row of rooms on either side, and two sets of stairs leading to the upper stories. It was already devoid of people; at this time of day, few guests would be in their rooms, and any staff had likely fled through the fire escape at the far end of the corridor.

There was no sign of smoke, or any other disturbance, so they headed to the nearest stairway, Kate leading the way, with her gun held out before her.

As they approached the bottom of the stairwell, a sudden flash came from above, and Kate threw herself to one side, aiming the pistol upwards. Rebecca ducked back, but saw, to her relief, that there was only a scorch mark on the base of the stair; the attack had missed.

"Drone," said Kate, tersely, "couldn't get a clear shot at it."

"We don't need to antagonise it," Rebecca whispered back, "remember that it left Prendergast alone once it decided he wasn't a threat."

"There could be people up there," Kate pointed out, "and it's already started a fire."

"Crap. Good point."

"Stay down here," said the security officer, "I'll deal with it."

"No way, I'm coming too. You may need the extra pair of eyes." And, she thought silently to herself, she really didn't want Kate to get herself in danger without anyone nearby to help.

"Okay, then... but stay behind me. You're not armed."

That she was willing enough to do, and, her heart beating, and her legs feeling like jelly, she crouched down and followed the army officer up the stairs. She had to grip onto the handrail to steady herself, and hoped that she would be more useful than she felt once she got up there.

Once they reached the first floor - which they had already established was where Freeman's room happened to be located - Kate motioned for Rebecca to be still and cautiously approached the now-closed automatic fire door that led onto the next corridor. With a sudden motion, she hurled herself at it, throwing herself to the far side.

Rebecca heard two gunshots in rapid succession, then a thumping sound. It was hard to make out more, with the fire alarm still ringing away at full volume, but she could see, through the small window of the fire door, that Kate looked uninjured, and was crouched down, aiming at something further down the corridor. Kate fired again and there was a louder thump as something seemed to hit the door.

Rebecca froze in place, staring at Kate through the door window. After a moment, the army officer rose to her feet, still aiming her gun, and Rebecca tentatively opened the door, and stepped through.

A metallic device, apparently identical to the drone that they had seen earlier back in London, lay smoking in the corridor, sparks of light occasionally flashing from within it, but otherwise seemingly inert. A short way behind it, one of the guest room doors had clearly been smashed open and blasted - Rebecca wondered why the drone trapped in the cupboard back in London hadn't used the same technique to escape. Wisps of smoke drifted from the room beyond, accompanied by the sound of an active fire sprinkler.

Kate stood over the damaged device, watching it for signs of further activity, but unwilling to get too close in case water from the room managed to soak across the carpet and reach its electrics - something that evidently hadn't happened yet.

Rebecca saw it before Kate did, turning as she heard a sound behind her, only to spot a second drone coming down from the second floor up above.

"Look out!" she screamed, and did the only thing she could.

Surprising herself at the sudden burst of strength in her previously weak legs, she unthinkingly threw herself at the drone, trying to push it on its side, and stay out of the way of its weapon. She smashed it against the wall, a loud whirring grinding sound drowning out even the fire alarm as the blades of its rotors chewed up the plaster, chips flying everywhere.

It fired, but she was well out of the angle of its beam. Grunting with effort, she held it in place, its ridged metal underside pressed hard against her, as it continued to destroy the wall. She had expected the rotor blades to break long before this - evidently they were made of more solid materials than they looked.

There was a flash of bluish light and Rebecca felt a firm thrust against her chest and a sudden blast of warmth. She stumbled backwards, unable to maintain her grip, and tripped over to land ignominiously on her backside, her glasses flying off her face. Just before they did she saw that the pale blue light emitted from what looked like vents on the thing's underside. Some sort of auxiliary propulsion system, she thought to herself groggily as the drone righted itself.

She couldn't see clearly what happened next, as she scrabbled on the floor to find her glasses. She wasn't exactly blind without them, and she would reflect later that it hadn't been the most intelligent thing to do under the circumstances, but she was operating on instinct, not reason. What a rubbish Vulcan she would make!

Although the exact details weren't clear to her, Kate had evidently been reluctant to shoot the newcomer, because of its proximity to her colleague. She too had been forced to engage with it hand to hand, and, by the time Rebecca managed to put her glasses back on and look over, the two were struggling on the edge of the stairwell, perilously close to tipping over the railing, as the device blasted away futilely at the wall over her head.

She glanced around, not sure what she could do, and frightened that, at any second, the drone would push at Kate as it had at her, either knocking her free to get a clear shot at her, or pushing her over the edge and down the stairwell. Then she saw, lying among the chewed up bits of plaster, one of the rotor blades, snapped clean off.

So it hadn't been quite as indestructible as it first appeared.

Frightened for Kate's wellbeing even more than her own, she grabbed the rotor and jammed it as hard as she could into one of the narrow vents on the drone's underside. There was a loud bang, and an electric shock propelled her backwards, smacking her down on her behind again. Something fell on top of her, and there was an almighty crashing sound, followed by a muffled explosion.

At which point, the fire alarm also decided to stop ringing.

Rebecca realised that whatever was lying on top of her was soft, not metallic, and opened her eyes, finding herself staring straight into Kate's blue orbs. She became acutely aware of the other woman's body pressed against hers, the shape of her, and the feeling of warm breath on her face. This was, she dimly reflected, not a good time to start becoming aroused... but Kate's lips were so, so close to her own... all she would have to do was...

The moment passed, and they both scrambled to their feet, Rebecca blushing as Kate turned away to look at the ruin of the second drone, now smoking at the bottom of the stairwell. It no longer seemed to be moving. She let out a long sigh, and collapsed back against the nearest wall, body shaking with delayed shock.

"Are you all right?" asked Kate, concerned.

"Just need to get my breath back."

There was a long, awkward, silence, and then Kate walked away to check on the remains and make sure that nothing else was approaching.

"We're clear," she said, as she returned. "And... we probably need to talk."

"Not now. Besides, it wouldn't be appropriate... my life is complicated enough already."

Kate nodded, looking disappointed. Rebecca realised that she hadn't protested her heterosexuality this time, but it seemed to late to bring it up now. Instead she fumbled for her phone and was relieved to discover that it was still intact. She had to call this in.

***

Helen had managed to purloin the use of a side-room to take the call, not wanting the police or hospital staff to overhear any potentially confidential parts of the conversation. Curtis had followed her in, unbidden, and leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his chest as she listened with alarm to what the others had to tell her. As he reaction became more obvious, and she began advising Kate on securing the scene, he began to look more anxious, standing up and leaning forward slightly, his blue eyes intently focussed on her.

Which was kind of distracting, given that the man looked more like a film star than an actual CIA operative. Hollywood TV's idea of what government agents should like than the real thing. Possibly his American colleagues ribbed him about it; he would hardly make an unobtrusive spy. In fact, she'd seen two nurses eyeing him up already this morning.

"Two more of those drone things attacked the hotel where Freeman and Haywood were saying. They managed to take them down, and they're both unharmed, thankfully, but if Rebecca is right, and these machines are tracking down whoever the alien is in contact with, they could be coming here next."

"Nah, there's only three of them..." said Curtis absently, his mind evidently on something else.

"What?" said Helen sharply, rounding on the American.

"if they just got the other two then..." he suddenly realised what he'd just said as he caught the fire in Helen's eyes, "aww, crap."

In a sudden burst of aggression, Helen grabbed the agent by his lapels and slammed him bodily against the wall. "What do you know about this? What have you and your bloody government been keeping secret from us?"

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