The two days after the Program went officially online were hell. After everyone from military and police underwent the magic baptism, it was the turn for civilians. Darius didn’t understand how did they do it, but the police, with the support of soldiers, managed to periodically split some small groups from crowd and let them inside the barricades.
After the civilian’s were let into the square, assistant’s from PA, Darius included, lined them up and kept an eye on them so they wouldn’t do anything stupid. Many civilians would argue with each other or assistants, sometimes fights broke out. Many had mental breakdowns and most were stressed about the baptism. Every third person was not sure what they wanted to choose and asked the assistants for their opinion.
Darius was happy when someone asked. He got a chance to explain the whole process, mentioned some ideas why elderly had problems with choosing the Body, the benefits it could provide in comparison with Control. When in discussion, the person who he was talking to would calm down, at least for some time, and people around would quite down and stop arguing so they could here every drop of information someone who went through baptism could provide.
The assistants had to remind every batch that they would be given a maximum of ten seconds to make their choice so they wouldn’t slow the others. One person in twenty would leave without undergoing the baptism, either because they were too scared or they crossed the limit. It was not like they were given ten seconds to make their lifelong choice. They had time to think about it since the Program’s third announcement which was countless days ago and the ten seconds limit was only so they wouldn’t make the same mistake as the first tester did.
Another problem was cold and tiredness. When civilian’s entered the square, it was the PA’s duty to provide them with everything they needed. That meant everyone who was dehydrated was given a hot tea, which helped with the cold too. The temperate didn’t go higher than ten Celsius. Some people were given blankets, someone even brought portable radiators.
All in all, in these two days, Darius had about five hours of sleep. The other assistants weren’t in a better situation. The only thing that kept them in serviceable shape was the arrival of PA A unit’s captain and B unit’s vice captain Clark. They came by helicopter with some other higher-ups and to the poor assistants they did not give more rest than needed. Other than taking care of civilian’s, there were many documentations needed to be filled in, notes to be taken and many other little things to be done. The helicopter also brought, from time to time, some influential people to the square so they could undergo the baptism without the need to be in the crowd in front of barricades.
Darius yawned. It was the third day and the voices of the people before barricades were fortunately a lot quieter than they used to be. The situation was stabilized.
‘Maybe I will get some sleep, just four hours, that would be awesome,’ wished Darius. Despite everything he was required to do, he was happy that he wasn’t policeman. By the third day, every one of them looked like half dead zombies with bruises on every part of their body.
“Hey, Darudaru,” said a voice behind Darius.
“I told you not to call me like that,” he replied, the pure irritation that woman could bring him fueling him with energy.
“But it sounds sooooooo goood, Darudarudaru,” said Lena with a grin.
Darius simply ignored her, not willing to reply to that, and turned to Adrian who came with Lena.
“Adrian, how is the stock of the tea bags looking?”
“ Well, we have only half of the previous amount, but I think it will last for two, maybe three days since there are not coming so many people as before.”
“Darudarudaruuuu, are you ignoring mee?”
“Then I will pass that to vice captain. He will probably pull some strings, the streets are looking better so maybe we could go out to get more supplies soon. Honestly, without tea this would be a nightmare.”
“Hey you hear that?”
“No, I can’t hear anything.”
“….I meant the helicopter,” said Adrian.
“Ah. You are right. And I see the vice captain is going there, lets have a look too.”
The three joined the vice captain who gave them a quick nod and then looked back to the landing helicopter. There were other people around them, and from their talking Darius understood that the mayor with his family came for baptism. Unfortunately, Lena heard them too.
“Ohh, I heard the son is really handsome!“ said Lena and stood on her toes. Helicopter landed and exiting it was mayor with his family, his son walking behind his parents.
Seeing the shy looking young man, Darius had to silently agree with Lena, who tried to get closer but got stopped by Darius holding her uniform’s collar.
“I NEED to SEE him !” she said, wiggled herself from Darius’s light grasp and darted to the front.
Darius sighed. If he looked behind himself, he would be able to see a rare smile from his vice captain.
Darius decided to wait for Lena where he was. If there were problems with baptism, there were more qualified people than him to solve them. The soldiers probably wouldn’t even let him go close. The assistants were at the bottom of the military hierarchy.
A few minutes later, the family boarded the helicopter again. Darius could see how the family waved at the people from inside. The rotors slowly came back to life and the helicopter started gaining height.
Suddenly, the vice captain behind Darius shouted with urgent voice.
“THEY MUST LAND BACK!”
Darius turned to him and could see how he took out a gun with practiced movement. The vice captain pointed it into the sky above himself and shot twice into the air.
The people started turning to him with puzzled expressions. Some of the soldiers rushed to the vice captain, but others started looking around.
The pilot of helicopter heard the shots too and looked at the vice captain who wildly gestured him with his free hand up and down. It took the professionally trained pilot only a moment to understand and without hesitation he stopped gaining height and prepared to land.
On the roof of a building behind the helicopter, a man with rpg fired at the helicopter. A second later, it exploded.
Someone pulled Darius to the ground. A second passed. Above his head rushed massive air wave mixed with metal pieces. Another two seconds passed. Darius felt as someone pulled him up. It was the vice captain. He was saying something. Darius didn’t understand. The vice captain slapped him.
“….right NOW! Doctors, bring them!” then, not wasting any more time, the vice captain rushed to where the helicopter crashed, ignoring the fallen people around him. Darius looked up. The man on the roof was gone. He then slapped himself once again.
‘Doctors! Where was the tent?! THERE, that direction!’
He ran as fast as he managed to, twice he fell because of his shaking legs.
“The helicopter exploded! Need doctors!” he shouted frantically as he ran past medical tents, around the confused people not understanding what the loud noise was.
Darius quickly entered the main tent with patients, ignoring the guard besides it. A nurse look at him with stern eyes.
“Young man, you can’t rush in h…!”
“We need doctors! The helicopter.. mayor..!”
The nurse quickly became focused.
“DOCTOR ABERNATHY! BRING THE OTHERS AND COME HERE QUICKLY!” she shouted, gasping the seriousness of the situation right away.
“Yes. They shot the helicopter down. Mayor was in it. There were people around it too. More than 20.”
A group of nurses and doctors rushed from the back of the tent, the nurse quickly telling them the situation.
“You go now, we will be right behind you with stretchers,” commanded one of the doctors and throw a bag at one of the nurses.
“Lead the way!”
The group quickly rushed to the site of catastrophe. Darius knew that every second counted.
When they arrived, one thing was obvious right away. The people previously inside helicopter didn’t need the medical care anymore. Darius caught a sight of a blackened arm ripped off of the rest of the victim’s body.
The doctors and nurses quickly ran around Darius as he started vomiting. It took him a while to get a hold of his stomach. There wasn’t anything left in it. He cleaned his mouth into his uniform’s sleeve.
Never before has he seen a dead body. His mind wandered idly, not having strength to think rationally. After a minute of pure blankness, his brain remembered something he missed.
‘Wait. Lena, she ran here.. where is she?!’
Darius looked around, panic taking control of him.
‘That.. if she was right under it.. no the soldiers wouldn’t let her go that close. She must have survived,’ rambled Darius to himself and started looking around, despite his stomach not managing to cope with the tremors that ran through his body.
There were many other people, looking around as he was. But the place was just too small for their hopes of finding some surviving person hidden under debris or in a smoke.
Then, Darius saw her. Or, what was left.
Her arm around vice captain’s neck, who supported her battered but breathing body. He legs that were even weaker than Darius’s own. Her charred hair, under which was one very terrified eye gazing blankly at the ground. From the other, only dark blooded hole gazed back at Darius.
The vice captain dragged the injured Lena to the medical tents. Darius followed behind them, not being able to catch up.
He was stopped before the tent’s entrance by a young calm nurse. He could see that Lena was placed at a white bed and that the doctors quickly started to take care of her injuries. Next to her laid a dead body of a girl who chose to follow Darius’s advice.
She would never be able to see the companion she wished so much for.