Springing up from behind an overturned table, Rufus nailed three gunmen who were dumb enough to stand close together. The fourth shot went wide, adding to the wild scatter of holes in the walls and displays. Diving full stretch, he hit the floor and skidded behind another overturned display.
Sitting up, he reloaded before turning his attention to the burning sensation in his leg. About half way down his right calf, the fur of his suit was starting to turn blood red. Pulling the loose outer layer up, he winced at the sight of a neat hole drilled right through the muscle. Digging in his bandolier pouch again, he wrapped a linen strip around the wound and tugged his fur suit back over it. That would have to do until the battle was over.
Staying low, he crawled along the row of overturned displays and scattered merchandise, trying his best to recall his training on urban ground combat. He was a pilot, ground ops weren't his thing. Shaking his head quickly, he paused behind one of the big displays to catch his breath. Listening for threats, he felt a definite chill in his blood as he overheard a brief conversation in Farsi. His understanding wasn't the best; he'd never really needed to know more than the absolute basics.
Pausing a heartbeat for the talking pair to get closer, he burst out of hiding and lunged. Grabbing the scrawny young man by the back of his shirt, Rufus heaved back hard and sent the little bastard flying. He made an ugly wet cracking noise as he collided head first with the brick wall behind them.
Reaching out again, he snagged the hooded woman that had been talking with him and wrapped one hand around her throat. Twisting to avoid a blow to the knee, he turned his pistol and cracked her at the base of the spine. She instantly went limp, semi-auto dropping to the floor beside her.
'Boss! Tick-Tick!' He roared; dropping the woman and diving clear as yet another terrorist took a shot towards him.
Across the hall, Aloysius yanked his boot knife and let fly, sending it spinning across to slam to the hilt in the eye of the bitch trying to shoot Rufus. This situation was already out of hand, the latest warning from Rufus just made it even worse. He just hoped that the bomb was down on the ground floor. If not…well best not to think about that too much.
From above came another wave of gunfire, punctuated by the deeper bass of Schofield's Eagle. With a choked scream, a woman smashed through the glass balustrade above and landed with an ugly splat. That of course caused the nearest civilians to start screaming again, pushing and shoving to get away from the grizzly scene.
'Knight, down!' Mother barked, levelling her Colt in his direction.
Flipping over, pistol pointing between his feet, Aloysius witnessed the last seconds as another pair of crazed terrorists crashed to the floor. One had a hole where his nose had been. The other had a double tap straight to the heart. Scrambling up, he hustled across to stand back to back with Mother.
'Any idea if Scarecrow did any EOD training?'
'Not that I know of. Why?'
'Now I know you aren't dumb, Mother. You heard Rufus' call surely.'
It took a few seconds before Mother swore softly and turned her attention up towards the mezzanine where Buck and Scarecrow were still doing battle with these nutcases. Pushing Aloysius towards cover, she started her own sweep of the crowd.
'Scarecrow, there's an eraser.' She called, confident he'd understand.
'Shit!' Scarecrow responded; voice tinted with pain.
Still putting the pieces together in her head, Mother spotted another with an MP5 in his hands and charged. Dropping one shoulder, she collected the hapless terrorist and kept going. With a sickening thud, she smashed him into the very same brick wall Rufus had used to kill one of his targets. Backing off and watching him fall, she turned back to the crowd and groaned.
'I'll feel that in the morning.' She groaned, stretching her back carefully.
Distracted by his search for the bomb, Aloysius went down with a roar of pain, blood rapidly spreading across his shirt from two ugly wounds in his right shoulder and bicep. Flipping over, he returned fire up towards the mezzanine, missing one asshole and dropping the second with a near perfect headshot.
'Boss!' Rufus called, briefly sticking his head up again.
'I'm good, just a wing.' Aloysius confirmed, sitting up slowly. 'Any sighting?'
'Negative, still searching.' Rufus answered, shrinking back behind cover.
Rocking up onto one knee, Aloysius holstered his sidearm and pressed against the wound to his shoulder. Teeth grit, he heaved up onto his feet and drew his pistol again. Surely they were getting close to eliminating all the terrorists in here. Moving through the cowering crowd, he went back to searching for the bomb but this time he made sure to scan for enemy gunmen as well.
Moving through the crowd slowly, doing his best to reassure everyone that the situation was under control, Aloysius spotted one of the other Cosplayers reaching for a dropped MP5. Closing the distance in two strides, he put one foot on the weapon and shook his head.
'I may know you Rich, but in the heat of the moment, I cannot guarantee your safety. Just stay down until this is over.' He warned, glancing up quickly.
With a choked scream, another terrorist crashed through the glass and splattered down near the woman who had gone flying earlier. This one had a k-bar imbedded in the throat from the left side. Briefly wondering who had made that kill, he flicked his attention back to Rich on the floor. He'd taken the smart option, withdrawing his hand and turning his focus back to the people around him.
'You're a good man Rich; I don't want you hurt in all this.' Aloysius nodded, moving past the older man in his slightly bedraggled Lando costume.
'Check the east pillars. Thought I saw something over there.' Rich guided, scooting over to offer comfort to a terrified young woman and her son.
Reorienting in the room, Aloysius glanced up to check for any more falling bodies before hustling toward the eastern end of the room. This was getting a little too close to where Rufus had stashed James when the shit hit the fan. Breathing past the pain building in his chest, he holstered his pistol awkwardly and stooped to pluck his boot knife from the cooling body it had taken down.
Coming back to the stage where he'd been dancing earlier, he spotted an abandoned bag leaning against one of the decorated pillars supporting the mezzanine level. Trusting his friends to watch his back, he headed for it and hoped that it wasn't going to be overly complex. Careful not to jolt it, just in case there was a hidden pressure switch, he checked for wires or any other external clues before starting to cautiously open the bag.
'Han, behind you!' a young voice shattered his focus.
Spinning and diving to the right, Aloysius automatically started scanning for the newest threat. Only to see Mother bring her hammer down on the exposed back of yet another terrorist with an ugly, wet snapping noise. Nodding his thanks, he shifted his attention back to the bomb by his side. Pausing for a moment to let the adrenaline dissipate, he opened the bag and gulped.
'Cover me! I need to focus!' He barked, trusting his allies to get the message.
'Make it fast!' Shane called from above.
'I can do fast or safe.' Aloysius countered, grip shifting on his knife.
Folding back the open flaps, he swallowed heavily as he examined the device. He recognised some of the components from his training but he'd never seen them put together in this fashion. Multiple blocks of C4, rigged together with a rainbow of wires and a couple of nasty surprises. Pushing the flaps open a little more, he made another attempt to sort out which wires connected to the tilt switch mounted on the side of the device.
In a rare moment of near silence, he heard the distinct sound of ticking. Checking again, he swore under his breath. He couldn't see the damned clock anywhere. What he did spot was another trap in this nightmare. Right down the bottom, easily ignored if not for the way the overhead light shone past his shoulder, what appeared to be a pressure plate under the entire device.
Rocking back on his heels, he paused a moment to steady his breath and stop his hands from shaking again. In that moment, the pain from his wounds seemed minor. Swallowing hard and swiping at the sweat beading on his forehead, he set his knife down and flexed his hands. His right arm felt heavy and weak, fingers slick with a mix of sweat and blood.
Plan solidifying in his mind, he cautiously steadied the whole device with his right hand and used his left to sort through the wild network of wires leading every which way. Best guess, the red wires were attached to the pressure plate and the green ones were likely for the tilt switch. Either the white or yellow wires were connected to the timer, wherever the hell that was in the mess. That left the blue wires leading from a hidden power pack to the C4 blocks. Wiping his left hand on the seat of his pants, he started easing the first detonators out of the blocks. It wasn't much of a plan but right now, he didn't have many options.
Letting out a shaky breath, Aloysius eased his hands off the bomb and just stared at it as he tried to will his heart to calm. He was certain he'd flinched from those last two gunshots, he had no idea who had fired or where they'd been aiming. Concentrating on his breathing, he waited precious minutes for his hands to steady and his breathing to level. That had been far too close for comfort.
Getting to his feet slowly, right hand wrapped over the bullet wound in his left trapezius, Shane looked around slowly at the chaos they'd been part of this time. All around him people were gradually lifting their heads, swapping terrified looks and reaching out to reassure one another. Strangers leaning on each other as they wept in relief as others scrambled to try and help the wounded.
Wiping his bloodied hand on his pants, Shane popped his mask off and stuffed it in his jacket safely. For a moment he focused on keeping his breath steady, trying to swallow past the lump in his throat. Deep down, he felt sick. This had been intended as a day off for them all, not a blood bath.
'You good?' Buck asked, left hand pressed to his gut as he stood.
'Not really.' Shane admitted, shaking his head briefly. 'This wasn't meant to happen.'
'You gonna reassure 'em or should I?' Buck grinned, trying to distract Shane's thoughts.
'I'm the senior officer, it's my responsibility.' Shane sighed, looking across the frightened people again. 'Mother, you clear?'
'Not yet, Knight is still clearing the eraser.' She replied, stepping into view below them. 'I'll let you know when he's done.'
'Ladies and gentlemen, I am Captain Shane Schofield, USMC. I know this has been a horrific experience for everyone involved but right now I must ask you to remain calm. Rest assured, the authorities are aware of the situation and are standing by to assist. As this is now an active crime scene, I ask that you do not touch any weapons that you find laying about. Please be patient, we will start the evacuation once the ground floor is clear of threats.' He called, pushing aside his exhaustion for the moment.
'What about my child?' a woman called, stumbling to her feet. 'She fell over the railing when you shot that man.'
'Your daughter is safe, ma'am.' Aloysius replied, walking into view below them.
Easing closer to the edge, Shane looked down to be sure Aloysius was okay. He looked like hell, shirt stained red and half hidden under a short brown cloak someone had handed him. He cradled the little girl on his left, shielding her from the worst of the gore around them. Aside from some dried blood on her back, she seemed unharmed by the whole mess.
'Alright folks, I need everyone listening to me now. If you follow my directions, there's a good chance no one else will get hurt today. It is on every one of you to help the wounded, the paramedics will not enter the building until it has been rendered safe by SWAT so it falls to us to take the wounded outside. Use the eastern stairwells and make your way out to the forecourt.' Aloysius continued, calm and in complete control to the casual observer.
Doing his best to protect James from the carnage around them, Rufus cradled the scared youngster against his chest as he led another group of survivors out of the convention centre. At his side, a shell shocked teen girl pushed James' wheelchair, currently occupied by an older man with at least three bullets in his belly. On his other side, two teenaged boys practically carried a heavily pregnant woman, uttering reassurances as she wept for her husband, killed in the crossfire.
Outside was controlled chaos, emergency personnel and support teams vying for space on the forecourt. Volunteers from a dozen organisations came forward to assist in whatever way they could. Medical teams took the wounded away to the triage area set up nearer the street. Some came around with blankets and reassuring words. Others were focused on reuniting terrified children with their families in the chaos.
Adjusting his hold on James and reaching out to snag his wheelchair before someone else borrowed it, Rufus made his way off to the side to a bench that was miraculously empty. Setting James down in his chair safely, he plopped down and peeled off the heavy fur hood with a groan. Disconnecting the control wires, he lifted the headpiece off and set it in his lap.
'Oh, so that's what you look like under the mask.' James grinned, looking up at him.
'Yeah, though I probably look a mess. Gets real hot under all this.' Rufus nodded, running one hand through his sweat soaked hair.
'Here, you need this more than I do.' James offered, holding out a water bottle. 'Then maybe we can find my parents.'
'Thanks James. You doin' okay after all that?' Rufus asked, accepting the bottle gratefully. 'Don't worry, we'll find your parents. Just gonna take a little break.'
'I'm still scared. But I'm not hurt, at least not that I can feel.' James uttered, looking down at his legs. 'Why did they do it?'
'We'll never know, James. That's the worst part of massacres like this, we'll never know why those people decided to unleash their evil today and here.' Rufus shrugged, reaching out to rest one hand on James' shoulder. 'I know it's tough but try not to think about the why too much.'
'James! Thank God you're safe!'
'Momma!' James cried, brightening up as the bloodied woman ran to him.
Carefully folding the fur up and under the complex mask, Rufus tucked the headpiece into his satchel and stood. As much as he wanted to find a shady spot and peel off his furred shirt, he knew there were people that still needed help. He settled for opening the top two fasteners and snagging a cold drink from one of the support teams. His comfort could wait, these innocent civilians had to take preference right now.
'Rufus, over here!' Shane called from the wide stairs leading up to the convention centre.
Manoeuvring through the thinning crowd, helping the lost find where they needed to go, Rufus really did try to hide his growing limp, shifting his weight a little and hoped no one noticed. Sending another woman towards the coffee van set up in one corner of the forecourt, he hurried up and took a knee beside the woman Shane was currently tending.
'This is Susan Broadhurst, age 26. Currently nine months pregnant, her due date is next week. The stress of the shooting induced her though. I've tried flagging down one of the medical teams but they're all focused on the seriously wounded.' Shane briefed, voice a little shaky as he spoke.
'Hi Susan, I'm Rufus. You're in good hands, I'm trained as an emergency midwife…I know, I don't seem the type. Do you think you can hold on long enough to reach the medical tents or are you having your baby right now?' Rufus soothed, all business as he tugged off his furred gloves and tucked them into his satchel.
'He's coming now. I can feel him moving down. I need to push.' she panted, grabbing his hand in a vice grip.
'Shane, go find one of the blanket groups and get at least three of their softest blankets. We'll need a few clean towels too, ask around the catering teams to see what can be found. I'll need a bucket of warm water, cord and scissors. Oh and a clean plastic bag of some sort.' Rufus directed, giving Susan a grin.
'I'll see what I can come up with.' Shane nodded, getting up and taking off at a steady lope.