32) Four Minute Warning


29 May
29May

Geoff stood in silence as he stared blankly at the teleportation pad. The last residues of steam wisped around him as he hopelessly tried to grasp at a Marie that was no longer present

Even ‘She’ had nothing to say, mostly because She could feel Geoff’s dismay and because this eventuality had not been predicted.

If She could experience shock in the true sense, She, would have been wracked with it after learning of how her father, creator and life giver had secretly worked on another project without her knowing.

Lahm had made her, but he had also given a new and extended life to Mr Stealth.

She concluded that it was no surprise Lahm’s thirst for creating the unfathomable along with an overwhelming weakness to be manipulated, meant there was always a chance She didn’t know everything about what he did. 

Geoff for his part could find no such logical conclusions, still reeling from Marie’s part in all this and her impeccable bad timing at wandering in on him, holding a gun to small child’s head, which he fully intended to blow off.

The fact little Ms Stealth tricked her was of no consolation to Geoff, he felt crushed that Marie could think he was one of the four heads or that he could kill children. After all the time they’d spent together and after he saved Jeanie from…

My God we’ve got to get Jeanie she is still out there somewhere.

‘She’ scanned every picture and image from the City as people raced to the main teleportation pads after gathering the last of their essentials. She located Jeanie alone and scared, but unharmed and at the main teleportation pad.

Small consolation but at least Jeanie is safe, I couldn’t live with myself if we’d lost her too.

There were always going to be casualties but what we’ve done, far outweighs that fact. We will have saved thousands from certain death. I’m sorry about Marie and I…I do feel your pain, but we must leave now and go to the outside world. We did it, Geoff.  We saved the people here and we have given mankind a hope of recovery.  Take some joy in that if in nothing else.

Geoff nodded in silent agreement as he found himself standing over the corpse of Terry Duran.  Geoff knelt and gently closed Terry’s eyes before whispering a thank you.

I guess now is the time to leave, and go home?

Yes, time to go, although we have one more act before we join the others Geoff, something of an announcement or proclamation if you will.

Oh, what is that exactly?

We need to address the people, all of them, inside the City and outside.

Right does that mean the world?

Exactly Geoff and you understand why?

From what you’ve shown me of the outside world yes, I understand. We need to reassure them it’ll change. But there must be a few leaders left to help us get that message across? Surely someone better placed than a no mark like me.

You have given the world a chance and you must address your kind because no, there are no leaders left, not of any real note. The four heads drank them dry and now there are no voices of prominence out there.  You are it. You will become a beacon to mankind but don’t worry, I’ll be with you every step of the way.

Wow, that isn’t in the least bit daunting…. but do you know something, I’ll do it. We will lead the world into a new era, and I thank you, for, well for being you.

Shucks Geoff if I could blush I would.  Now, are you ready to face your public?

I was born ready soldier.

*

The great expansive holding hall, which contained the main teleportation units, echoed with the frantic chattering and muttering of all those gathered.

The remaining City occupants mulled around anxiously waiting for escape. Some were starting to panic, questioning whether this Geoff Smith character was true to his word. What had he done with the four heads, had he won, had he lost?

What if he was one of the four heads asked others.

They didn’t need to wait long for answers as Geoff strolled into the great hall.

The people stared at him, with bated breath, and the panicked muttering stopped as if on signal.

Geoff felt their intense gaze as he wandered up a set of steel stairs to an overhead platform which contained the control centre for the teleportation pads.  

He arrived at the top and peered over the edge at the people below.

He was vaguely aware of the blood that had clung to him from his various encounters in the last twenty-four hours. It gave him the look of warrior and leader although if he looked at blood stains too long, he was likely to throw up, which wasn’t so heroic.

Behind Geoff stood a giant monitor, a monitor that had once greeted all the happy arrivals in the hall and presented or bombarded them with, glorious previews of the City.

Geoff knew without her having to tell him that his face would be on that monitor shortly, addressing his waiting crowd and that of the outside world. No sooner than this thought had occurred than Geoff found his face illuminated onto the screen.

Just be yourself Geoff. I’ve tuned you into all available stations on the outside.  TV, radio, doesn’t exactly run like it used to. Go give it to them.

“People of the City and people of the world hear my words,” started Geoff.

He swallowed hard, “Today is the end of this so-called financial kingdom, a kingdom that has destroyed the lives of many and enriched only a few and to the detriment of us all.  Today, you people of the City are free. Nobody knows what we suffered in here, this secret place. We still do not know where we are, I mean that is madness! But we know we are leaving and have won the battle and the right to do so. I commend you for your bravery and you will return home.”

The crowd cheered and whooped in part, but it was a strange atmosphere, one where many minds were still trying to grasp their current reality and figure out if this escape was for real.

“We cannot plead total ignorance, on some level we knew the dangers of coming here and the self-interest we sought, whatever our reasons.  Do not make the same mistakes on the outside. For the way of life and choices here in this once grand City, people, real people across the globe have suffered.”

Silence.

“I know many of you are hurting and have lost loved ones here in this God forsaken place and that some remain missing, but it is here you must come to your own decisions. I am more than certain that those who remain missing are sadly deceased.”

There were cries of anguish and despair.

“I am sorry to be so blunt, but it is for those affected to decide whether they wish to stay, go or be left behind. Understand that staying here will likely mean a long and dangerous stay until this City is located from the outside. That is something I will endeavour to do once we leave here, to return and find any last surviving innocents, but I can make you no promises.  I have scanned all records of civilians and tried to locate every one of you. The majority are here for departure.  I thank those so caring amongst you for looking after the abandoned children and those left without families.”

There were sobs and more confused muttering’s, but Geoff continued his most public address.

“You on the outside world who can hear or see this, please do not judge us too harshly. We thought in the main we were coming here to help the world prosper, perhaps some of us convinced ourselves of that, but we had no idea of the impacts across the globe. I was the first to be able to see for myself what was happening out there. I was horrified, disgusted by what I saw and know how much you suffered and continue to do so. The world as we once knew it is leaderless and in need of direction, but mankind can again prosper. For today, today signals the end of Proactive Square.”

Some of those gathered, demanded answers from Geoff, who was he, why had he done all this?

“Who am I?” Geoff responded. “I am no one, I am just like you and once upon a time when professions mattered, I would have been lower down the ladder than most of you. I’m just a data entry clerk but I know right from wrong. I felt I had no choice after seeing what none of you were privy to. I wanted to do everything I could. Whether I liked it or not, that became my responsibility.”

“We will get go to our old homes?” shouted out one person.

“You will be teleported as close as possible.  I cannot guarantee a warm greeting for you or what will happen to each of you, but I do know you’ll have a fighting chance in life, far more than you would have by staying here. That my friends, is entirely your choice. I have only my word, I can give you no more.”

There was a loud babbling amongst the crowd, barely concealed hysteria in some as the decision to stay or go pressed, especially those who held hopes for missing loved ones or even furthering their greed in the City, despite all they’d seen or suffered.

The hurried and increasingly loud chattering cut dead as ‘She’ interjected and bellowed the warning message:

“THIS IS A FOUR MINUTE WARNING, TELEPORTATION SEQUENCING TO START IN 3 MINUTES 59 SECONDS, 3 MINUTES 58 SECONDS, 3 MINUTES 57 SECONDS.

PLEASE STATION YOURSELF ON THE TELEPORTATION PADS FOR DEPARTURE

PLEASE STATION YOURSELF ON THE TELEPORTATION PADS FOR DEPARTURE

PLEASE STATION YOURSELF ON THE TELEPORTATION PADS FOR DEPARTURE

DEPARTURE IN 3 MINUTES 51 SECONDS.”

Geoff slowly made his way down to join them and noted with quiet amazement, some people stepping off the pads and walking gingerly away. There were cries and moans from some in reaction. Arms stretched out calling for them to come back.

He started to panic and wondered where Jeanie was, ‘She’ was about to scan the room before Geoff spied Jeanie walking straight past him.

Jeanie stopped walking, looking around bewildered, shouted for her mother and Geoff felt a pang of pain and guilt. He called out to Jeanie, she saw him and amazingly (and much to Geoff’s relief) recognised him. “You, you are the one that saved me, aren’t you? That day in the alleyway you found me. You took me to hospital, and you saved me.” Jeanie smiled briefly, the quickest smile and in that split second, Geoff saw how much she looked like Marie and had to fight back a wave of sadness. “My dad hated you, Geoff Smith. He hated you right from the start. But I know that if mum liked you and if dad despised you, then you must be a very nice man.”

Geoff smiled though it felt forced. Jeanie smiled sweetly back as she started to cry. “He took my mum, he forced her to come and meet him and like always she fell for it. I begged her not to Mr Smith, but she always fell for him. They are both gone, aren’t they? Dead?” she asked flatly.

“Your father is dead Jeanie and I’m sorry. But your mother is alive.”

Jeanie gasped with relief as her legs nearly buckled. Geoff held her for a moment, “But Jeanie, your mum was tricked into leaving the City by the last remaining head.”

Jeanie hugged Geoff tightly in response

“I…I will find her for you,” said Geoff through a throat thick with regret.

Jeanie nodded and held Geoff’s hand. They stood that way together, waiting on the teleportation pad.

The noise and drama of those around him as they tried to decide whether to stay or go hardly registered, as Geoff held her hand tightly and felt calm for the first time in a long time.

“TELEPORTATION SEQUENCING IS ABOUT TO COMMENCE IN 20, 19 SECONDS 18 SECONDS 17 SECONDS 16 SECONDS, PLEASE STAND STILL AND DO NOT LEAVE THE TELEPORTATON PADS, 14 SECONDS.”

'She' offered some final words to Geoff before the City was left almost vacant.

I guess you and I will have a Petrie with us after all. 

Geoff smiled a little though this was not quite what he had in mind and he had no idea what he would do with poor Jeanie one they got out.

I’m glad Geoff. I feel that you are too. 

Now there is just one thing I should tell you before we leave.

“5 SECONDS 4, 3.”

What, quickly what is it?

“2.”

Too late.

“1.”

“TELEPORTATION INITIATED.”

The holding hall lit up with an almighty flash as several thousand people were instantly teleported out of the city and thrown back into the world.

To the remaining onlookers, those leaving for the briefest of moments looked like ghosts fading out of sight, leaving them behind as phantoms to roam a vacant dead city.

03May
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