This was very bad. This was very, very, very bad. From what I understand, in a hostage situation, the ideal is to have the negotiators be calm, rational people who can talk the other person down. If that fails, you want them to be able to be fast and surgical, able to take all the hostage takers out without hurting the hostages.
Ulfric did not meet either set of requirements. With a normal person, he might be able to intimidate them into surrender. However, if that failed, I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to tell the difference between the people holding me and, well, me.
Then there was Eliza. She was too much of an unknown factor for my liking. I knew she didn’t enjoy killing. I knew that she also could be extremely brutal when provoked. However, I was unsure what she wanted with me. I also only had a vague feel of her negotiating style. The one time I could claim I saw her negotiate, she had definitely been in control of the situation.
Here, however, as far as I could tell, no one was in control. One side had hostages. The other side had three nukes. At least people had stopped kicking John. I watched as he tried to get up before someone, a woman, put her foot on his chest and told him to stay down.
Disturbingly, a crowd had begun to gather in the silence that followed Eliza’s introduction. This was bad because no one likes to back down in front of a crowd. If everyone was going to come out of this intact, people were going to have to make compromises which often times looks like weakness to stupid people.
Eliza spoke up. “You wanna let my mate go? I’d really appreciate it.” She looked up and smiled her normal Cheshire-cat grin. “Besides,” she said, “You know you can’t win, Salim. You’ve got what, fourteen half-starved guerrilla soldiers? I’ve got a living legend and Mr. Giggles.”
Ulfric gave his high-pitched giggle again and smiled. To my amazed disappointment, Salim’s gang did not immediately break. Also, I found it weird that my nickname for Ulfric had caught on.
“If it is the incidental,” Salim said reasonably, pointing at John, “I am perfectly fine with letting him go. I have no quarrel with him, only with Nathan.”
Eliza’s smile dropped. “Listen mate,” she growled, “I tried bein’ nice, but I actually rather… I actually rather you didn’t kill Nate. Let him go, and I won’t rip ya to bloody little shreds.”
With that, she popped her claws. I could hear the wet crack they made as they pushed her knuckles apart and pierced the skin. They were made of white bone, like well-brushed teeth. Eliza then shifted into the position of a runner. “You’ve got five seconds.”
“Wait!” I said. Everyone stopped and looked at me. “Now, maybe it isn’t my place to speak up…”
“It isn’t,” Salim said.
“But you haven’t even made one of those ridiculous offers for my safety!” I said excitedly. “I mean, look at the three people you’ve got right there. Now, I know you guys are willing to throw your lives away…” one of Salim’s minions yelled something at me. I ignored him and continued anyway. “…but why waste all your lives on me when you could get something from them? I mean, these guys are accomplished killers. Ulfric alone could probably kill all of you.”
I turned to Eliza. “I mean, surely there’s some deal you two could come to, at least temporarily.” I turned between both of them. “I mean neither of you guys like those ISIS bastards, right?” They were both nodding, like what I said was making sense.
“Interesting offer,” Salim said, “But you are just stalling for time.” I noticed something strange. The entire time I had been talking, Salim had been glancing at the crowd. I wondered why.
“Salim,” I said nervously, “you haven’t made a deal with ISIS, have you?” Salim smiled nastily. “And you’re stalling for time, too.” Salim’s smile faded a bit. I turned back towards Eliza to yell, “They’re behind you!”
Salim yelled out something in Arabic, but his reinforcements had already been moving. Five people jumped onto Ulfric and another two began to run at Oro. Both were fast on the draw. Oro pulled out two knives and threw one at one of her attackers. Then she stabbed the other attacker in the jugular and twisted, simultaneously taking their knife. Ulfric clotheslined three of his opponents, then grabbed the arm of a knife-wielding opponent and pulled. The fifth, however, climbed up onto Ulfric’s neck and hung on for dear life. Eliza used the opening to charge.
She was stopped by a rush of six Al-Qaeda grunts. Salim smiled nastily. “Your friends failed,” he said. He then stabbed me in the chest.
I opened my eyes. I hadn’t even realized I had closed them. A quick look around and it seemed like some other people had joined on my side. Also, three of the Al-Qaeda guys sent to intercept Eliza were on the ground, bleeding from the stomach and face. Two more came in to support the remaining three, the rest moved to stop Ulfric and the people who had moved to support Oro. However, that wasn’t what was important. I wasn’t bleeding! The vest had stopped it somewhat, though I could feel a bruise starting to form.
“Ha!” I said. “You suck!”
I regretted that decision immediately. A look of hatred passed over Salim’s face and he began to stab me repeatedly. The only good thing about his new-found rage was that he kept stabbing me in my vest’s ceramic plates, not realizing that stabbing there with his switchblade was like shooting a tank with a .22. Suddenly, the two people who had pinned me let go. I could see them run off to deal with something, but I didn’t care. Instead, I used the opportunity to grab a chunk of dirt and mud to fling it into Salim’s face.
It hit him in his good eye. He stumbled back, and I got to my feet. My feet must have fallen asleep because by the time I had done this he had wiped his face.
I ran at him but he countered by stabbing me in the side of the head, then pulling a second knife to stab me in the stomach. This stab got me right in the stomach. Salim then pushed the knife forwards and upwards, causing a shooting pain in me. I could also swear he was twisting the knife as he went.
I gave him a shove and staggered backwards, blood dripping out through the wound. Shoving Salim off probably was a mistake as that had created a much larger hole. Salim smiled triumphantly, his face twisted by hate and his hand stained with my blood. I staggered back and fell, one hand trying to staunch the blood, the other raising to protect my body.
That’s when we heard the howl. We both looked for the wolf. Instead we saw Eliza. The seven Al-Qaeda members who had tried to stop her were on the ground in front of her. One or two were lucky and had died quickly from their throats being slashed or hearts stabbed. Some were bleeding from multiple cuts and stabs on their legs, others were dying slowly from stabs to the gut. One poor girl, I think the one who had restrained John, was desperately trying to keep her intestines from falling out.
Eliza herself was a sight to behold. She was drenched in blood. While I guessed most of it was from her mutilating her… I suppose at this point it would be fair to call them her victims, some of it was hers. After all, she had part of an ear missing, an eye was swelling shut, and her nose appeared to be broken. One of her claws was also snapped off, as well. However, as I watched she began to crouch down, like a wolf about to pounce. Her face was contorted into an expression of animal fury.
Salim turned around to face Eliza. Instead of looking worried, he laughed and shouted a challenge in Arabic. Or maybe it was English. I was starting to lose consciousness and black out due to blood loss. You know, because of being stabbed in the stomach. Oddly enough, I thought I heard a rumbling in the distance.
With a wolf-like growl, Eliza charged. They exchanged blows as quick as lightning, Salim blocking with his knives, Eliza furiously slashing and stabbing with her claws, both their faces contorted with rage and pain.
From the start it was obvious Salim would lose. It became even more obvious when Eliza slashed his face, cutting his eyepatch off and shredding that side of his face. If this were a movie, Eliza would have paused, giving Salim time to gain a second wind. Instead she swept his feet, knocking him to the floor.
Before she could press this advantage, Salim kicked her in the stomach. She was staggered, but it didn’t give Salim anywhere near enough time. Eliza lunged as Salim struggled to get up.
Then something large sailed through the air to hit Eliza in the chest. Then, with a chest-rattling explosing, my world turned white. I was blind and bleeding, which made it somewhat disconcerting when people started to try moving my hands from my stab wounds. I could also feel the ground shake with explosions.
Oh God, I thought, this is the end of the world.
Eventually, my hearing and vision returned. I saw that the people trying to get me to move my hands were Campus Security Guards wearing heavy armor and gas masks. “Sorry,” I said.
“That’s ok,” one of them said, “You didn’t punch us, so that was nice.”
In the camp, the chaos was becoming brutally controlled. Where there had once been a crowd was now a billowing cloud of smoke. Yells, screams, chest-rattling thumps, gunshots, and bright flashes of light constantly came from the cloud, but the only people who exited were Campus Security Guards in riot gear and gas masks dragging hog-tied students. I noticed Ulfric was on his knees far away from the ruckus with several guards standing about ten paces to the rear of him, guns trained on him.
Another thing I noticed, which was much scarier, was that my vision was starting to blur. Also, I was pretty sure I should be in a lot more pain then I was currently in and that the yells and gunfire should be louder. “Hey guys,” I asked as the people working on me began to stuff gauze on my wounds, “how bad is it?”
“Don’t know,” one of them said. “You feeling funny, hermano?”
“Everything’s getting echo-y and blurry,” I said.
The guy opened his walkie-talkie. “This is Gravedigger 2 to Gravedigger Actual. We got a possible immediate here. Did you scoop up that expectant yet?”
“Ja,” a voice on the other end said, “she’s just about to head out, actually. Hurry up with your immediate, though. Those Mengele wannabes say they want her fresh.”
“Good news, man,” the medic said, “You’re going to be alright. We just gotta put you on a stretcher and get you to the ambulance, ok?”
“Sounds good,” I said. “Why aren’t you taking off my vest?”
The other medic spoke up. I suddenly realized that she was a she. Also, possibly from India. “Standard procedure. We do not want to take off your vest only to find out it was the only thing keeping your insides from spilling out.”
“Ok,” I said as they began to move me onto a stretcher. “Can I go to sleep?” The two medics exchanged worried looks. “Guess that’s a no.”
“Yeah,” the male medic said, “we don’t want you sleeping yet, buddy.”
They carried me out. As they did so, I noticed the vehicles that they had come in. First there was a row of some strange mix of fire truck, snow plow, and Bearcat (you know, those armored cars SWAT use whenever they want to play soldier.) There were only three of them, and the next few rows were the more traditional, lower-to-the-ground paddy wagons, you know, the kind that look more like delivery vans than armored cars. There were also a few two-and-a-half ton trucks as well. All three types were painted black with the blue-and-white NIU Campus Security logo.
Finally, we got to the rear. Ambulances (both normal versions and Bearcats modified to be ambulances) were parked there. A driver in one of the Bearcat Ambulances leaned out and said, “Put him in here!”
When they got me into the Bearbulance, I could see why they used it. Normal ambulances can probably only carry one or two patients. This could fit four patients, plus the medical staff required to fix them. In this case, I judged the staff to be one or two professors from the medical program and a bunch of students.
“How is the expectant?” asked the female guard.
“The experimental,” one of the professors growled, “needs to move soon or our procedure won’t help her.” Since I was being placed right next to the other patient, I could see that it was the girl Eliza had eviscerated. She was unconscious and hooked up to all sorts of gadgets.
“I apologize for using standard terminology,” the guard said sarcastically as some of the students began hooking stuff up to me. They would occasionally look up, because the fight between the security guard and the professor was getting good.
I, on the other hand, much as I wanted to listen to what they were saying, was starting to black out. I mumbled something along the lines of “I can’t hear you and I’m really tired.”
Instantly, there was a response. One of the students working on me yelled something and some of them began to gather around me. The two guard/medics quickly got out, with one of the doctors shooing them out. People kept trying to talk to me, or shouting to each other. I could feel the Bearbulance start to move as well.
I didn’t care. I was tired. I just wanted to go to sleep.
So I did.