This story is by B. Shaun Smith and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Rio Grande Arena, Albuquerque New Mexico
“Breathe!” Luna screamed in Dillon’s face. She finished chest compressions, then began mouth to mouth. He coughed back to life.
“Stay awake!” she yelled. They were near center court on the Rio Grande Arena, home of the Albuquerque Coyotes basketball team. His shirt was ripped open, so she could administer CPR. A smartphone had wires running from it, into his chest. A digital clock display on the smartphone’s screen read two minutes and seven seconds. It had started with fifteen minutes. A small heart monitor was attached too.
Earlier, Dillon called the police with a threat to the arena. When they arrived and locked it down, he collapsed on the court. Having induced cardiac arrest with various drugs. A note taped to his chest warned not to use a defibrillator.
“Clock stopped! Two minutes seven seconds,” Luna said into the microphone headset of her radio. “Command, how much longer until the building is evacuated?”
“Ground zero, we’re going as fast as we can. Thirteen thousand people take time to clear.”
“You…can’t save them all.” Dillon uttered.
“You’ll never…” his voice trailed off as he flatlined again.
“No!” She began chest compressions. Keyed the radio “All units! Clock active.”
Another voice across the radio. “Shooter east exit.”
“Come on!” she pleaded. “Stop evac!” Said Command.
Luna could hear the exchange of gunfire as she breathed into him. The gunfire soon stopped.
“Medics to the East exit!”
“I should be helping them, not you!” She slapped Dillon across the face, before beginning more chest compressions. He sputtered back to life.
“Clock stopped. Minute forty-three seconds.” She said into the radio.
“Why you…here?” he asked a minute later.
“To save lives. Why do this?”
“Ch…I…can…save lives too.”
She held a scalpel to his neck. “By placing six bombs around the arena you’re saving lives? By making the timer active when your heart stops, you’re saving lives? Your eleven followers with handguns in the crowd slowing the evacuation, you are saving lives?”
“Two of the six.”
“Resume searches and evac.” Said Command.
Luna looked up at the bleachers. People were treating them as stairs. Some pushing and shoving. Firefighters and police were herding them slowly out of the arena.
“Northeast exit breach! Fifteen to twenty!”
“Outer perimeter, rubber bullets only. Lethal force at fifteen feet authorized.” Said Command.
“How can you do this to these people? They came for a basketball game.” She pushed the scalpel a little deeper.
“Third bomb found.” said a bomb tech.
“Maybe…my…surprise.” Dillon’s voice trailed off. His breathing was shallow.
“What surprise?” She withdrew the scalpel.
A smirk curled onto his face.
“This one’s biological…Sarin!”
“You bastard!” Luna screamed at him.
“Lethal force used on three people at perimeter…one dead.”
The smirk grew to a smile.
“First bomb disarmed!” said the bomb tech.
“Thank god.” She breathed a small sigh of relief, until she saw the clock on the smartphone.
“Clock just lost thirty seconds…one minute thirteen seconds left.” Announced the bomb tech.
Dillon coughed out a laugh. “Bomb disarmed…thirty second loss…not…surprise.”
She choked back tears. “Please…no more.”
“Suckers…” He murmured.
“Kids?” Luna stood. Turning in a circle, looking at the crowd. Moms and dads were trying to keep their kids calm. She then noticed one, two and more.
She keyed her radio. “Get the suckers, the lollipops out of the kids mouths!”
“Say again ground zero…why?”
“I think he did something to the candy handed out tonight.”
“Happy Halloween!” Dillon smiled again.
“Help! Help!” Cried out a man’s voice from the stands.
Luna turned toward the cry. People stood back so the man could lay his son down on a bleacher. The boy looked to be six or seven years old. His body was convulsing. She could make out white foam coming from his mouth. Two, three, four more kids collapsed and convulsed. Their parents screamed for help. Some looked at her with pleading eyes.
“I’m going to help those kids.” She said to Command.
“Negative! Keep Dillon alive. We’ll help them if we can.”
“Hate it…helping scum like you.” Luna felt demoralized.
“Poisons…got to have the right antidote, or…”
“Shut up! Just shut your mouth!” She kicked him in the legs, causing him to moan.
An announcement went over the Public-Address system to throw all candy to the ground. Gun fire erupted on the concourse.
“Shooter! Southeast entrance!”
“Shooter! West concourse!”
The radio garbled with more calls.
“He’s got a knife!” someone in the stands yelled. Luna turned to see a man stab a woman in the back. People moved away from them. Shoving her away, he slashed a man across the stomach. The report from one of the SWAT Sniper rifles echoed throughout the arena. The knifeman slumped to the ground.
“Gunmen, chaos. Knifemen…minus ten seconds,” Said Dillon.
More shouts of knife attacks echoed through the arena. The shouting and movement of the crowd made it hard to see how many there were. Men and women were attacking the Knifemen.
“We lose ten second for each knifeman that dies. Minute three seconds left.” She relayed through her radio.
They announced over the PA system to try and subdue the knifemen. She watched as several groups of people were successful. One knifeman was stomped to death, another had his throat slit.
“Forty-three seconds left…” Luna forgot to key the mic.
With shallow breathing he asked, “Want to…stop this?”
She looked at him warily. “How?”
“They left you…a gun?”
“That will stop everything?”
“Someone watching…will disarm the bombs, the gas…attackers surrender.”
Luna surveyed the crowd. Some people were looking at her. Others were praying. Parents held their children close. Most moved up the stairs and bleachers, as the slow evacuation continued. Medics worked on children and those with knife wounds.
“Why you here?” Dillon asked.
Her gaze flicked back to him. “Like I said before, to save lives.”
“I have no family. Parents or siblings.”
“Signifi…” his voice trailed off.
“No significant other. Fiancé or boyfriend,” She took a photo from her back pocket, of her, three men and a woman in military fatigues. “I was a Marine. After two tours abroad, became a paramedic”
“One life…for many.”
After taking one last look, Luna slid the photo back into her pocket. She pulled her medical equipment bag over. In one of the pockets, her fingers wrapped around the grip of the handgun. Once out of the bag, she turned it over in her hands. Her eyes went back to Dillon. He nodded. She knelt a couple of feet away from him. Her breathing increased as she put the barrel under her chin. She closed her eyes, pulling the trigger. The gun clicked. She breathed heavily, noticing the safety was still on. She flipped it off, put the muzzle back under her chin. Hands shaking a little, she inhaled and exhaled a few times to steady herself.
Her eyes opened wide. “Save lives too!”
“Pull…trigger.” Dillon urged.
Clicking the safety on, Luna put the gun down next to her. “You die slowly, the bombs countdown. You die instantly, the bombs disarm.”
Dillon held her gaze, then gave a slight nod.
She dug into her bag for a vial and syringe. When the syringe was filled, she moved right next to him
Luna smiled at him, before stabbing the syringe into his chest. She pressed the plunger. As the liquid took effect, Dillon’s eyes widened.
“Adrenaline. I want your heart beating well before I kill you.”
She retrieved the gun, flipped the safety off and stood over him. She aimed the gun down at his mouth.
“Did this…for chaos…” Dillon did not turn away, but opened his mouth.
“Ground zero, what are you doing?” asked one of the snipers.
Luna pulled the trigger before she could think about it or be stopped. Blood and brain matter blew out the back of his head.
“It’s counting down double time!” one of the bomb techs said.
She watched as the seconds ticked by faster than before.
“He tricked me.” She fell to her knees, looking up as the timer grew closer to zero.
It held at three. The digital timer blinked three times, before turning off. As she breathed a sigh of relief, she began to cry.
“The countdown is gone!” announced the bomb tech.
“Two women and a man are surrendering at the South entrance.”
More reports of people dropping their weapons and letting police arrest them came over the radio.
Luna keyed her radio. “Dillon’s dead.”
“How? Why did the bombs turn off?” asked Command.
“I’ll explain later. He’s gone, people need my help.” She put the gun back in her bag. Hefted it onto her shoulder. She spotted a woman holding her shirt to a man’s arm. Luna ran to them.