Chapter 5: Aftermath
Amanda and Zach were deep in conversation when the Autobots arrived. The woman's eyes were puffy and red, though it was hard to see through the flashing lights of the assembled rescue vehicles. Spotting the convoy, Zach gave her a tight hug before hurrying to the fire chiefs' truck, which had become the temporary headquarters for the rescue teams.
Jazz was the first to roll up and transform. "Mandy, you alright?" He knelt and set a finger on her shoulder. She scrubbed at her eyes with her sleeve.
"Yeah, I'm fine." She took a deep breath. "Thanks for coming so quickly. This is a real disaster."
Prowl transformed and crouched beside Jazz. "What happened?" He demanded, turning her mind away from her sorrows.
"Bombs," she straightened up, "Big ones. At least six, probably more. All five wings of the hospital have been decimated." She glanced behind her at the wreckage. "Eight floors, five wings, two large conference halls, and a fully equipped laboratory that took up the entire basement, not to mention the ER and the ambulance bay."
The other Autobots, who had transformed and crowded around so they could hear her, turned to Prowl as the asked the question they were all dreading. "How many estimated dead?"
"At least a thousand," Amanda's voice was trembling, and she focused at the debris at her feet. "There was an international conference being hosted here this week. Tonight was a banquet in honor of the leading surgeons who worked with cancer patients. Five hundred attending doctors, plus the press and some political figures looking for photo ops," she took a deep breath. "Add the patients, nurses, doctors, and visiting family and friends, and you have your final count."
Zach joined the group just as she finished, a man in a yellow fire fighters uniform following him.
"Prowl," the man nodded in greeting, running a hand over his jaw, which was covered with thick salt and pepper stubble.
"Chief Turnstele," the SIC nodded. "I've brought as many troops as the base could spare. Where do you want us?"
Turnstele looked at the gathered mechs. "You know their talents and strengths better than I; put them where they'll do the most good." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Though if your friend Skyfire is near, we need help getting the wounded airlifted to Portland General. Not enough helicopters in the area to take care of everyone."
"I'll see how quickly he can get here," Prowl promised. The fire chief nodded and returned to the truck, shoulders slumped under a weight that no man should carry. Prowl stood and turned to face his men. "Ratchet and First Aid, I want you to scan the building for any signs of life. Jazz, go with Turnstele and help the rescue teams communicate with the other hospitals, and each other. Inferno, keep any hotspots and flames at bay. There may still be flammable or compressed gasses within the wreckage, and we don't need another explosion." Prowl looked at the other soldiers – the Twins, Bluestreak, Hound, Trailbreaker, and nearly all the minibots. "The rest of you, start clearing out the rubble!"
With only a quick salute to acknowledge their orders, the Autobots went to work. Before he moved to join them, Zach caught Prowls attention and motioned for him to lean down.
"Jane is here somewhere," he explained. "She and her family were just leaving when the bombs went off."
"Are they alright?" Jazz butted in, looking uncharacteristically worried.
"Yeah; Conner – her husband – and their baby are at Portland General being treated for shock. Jane is looking for survivors with the rescue teams." He looked at the remains of the building. "The basement was heavily fortified – a lot of lead in the walls for their x-ray machines and biohazard storage. She and some of the others are looking for survivors."
"If you see her, tell her to report to me," Prowls door wings twitched – he was agitated by the situation, but doing his best to hide it.
"Of course Prowl," the man ran a hand through his hair. "But you need to know – her father in law was being treated here. That's why they moved here, after all," he motioned to what was left of the hospital. "The International Oncology Research Institute is known across the world for their technological advances in fighting cancer." He glanced at Amanda, who had followed Jazz to the truck and was gulping down a bottle of water. "This is where Amanda was treated, too."
"That I knew," the mech reminded him, surveying the building with new optics. "I highly doubt that Jane's father-in-law survived the explosion."
"That's why she went charging in headfirst to look for survivors," Zach couldn't help but grin. "She nearly ran in without a mask or a flashlight. Turnstele had to yell at her for almost five full minutes before she gave in and put them on." He shook his head. "You 'n' Brice can really pick 'em, Prowl."
"She cares about people; about saving lives and keeping civilians out of danger. Isn't that what being a police officer is all about?"
The man sobered, "Yeah. It's supposed to be." He pushed his glasses up his nose, wiping dirt off his cheek. "I'm gonna go see if those forensic guys have hacked into the hospitals security cameras yet. Maybe that can give us a clue to chase."
Prowl nodded and watched as the man wove a path through the rubble to a large white van parked by the HQ truck. For a moment, he allowed himself to become lost in his own thoughts, before an excited shout from Ratchet brought him back to the present. He moved to join his soldiers as they began to dig out the first of what would turn out to be very few survivors.
Jane couldn't breathe and couldn't see, and it was making her very annoyed. The fire and rescue chief, Turnstele, had forced a white cloth mask and a hardhat into her hands and told her that if she was going to help, she would have to be prepared, adrenaline be damned. The light on the front of the hat was flickering like a firefly with the hiccups, and the mask filled her nose with the scent of Clorox with every breath. Ahead of her two other rescue workers were tromping along, blasting the dark and dusty air with high-powered flashlights that looked as though they weighed a ton.
The basement, which was comprised of several small labs and storage rooms stretched out along twisting and turning halls, had withstood the explosion quite well. Debris still fell from the ceiling – chunks of cement and plaster alongside electrical wires and broken fluorescent rods – but all in all it was still solid, for the time being.
Ahead of her, the two workers paused and one tugged off her mask. "I'm not getting any readings down here." She waved a little remote-like device in her hand, which had a screen covered with a grid and blinking lights.
"What is that?" Jane pulled off her own mask as she caught up with the two. The woman handed over the device, and she noticed there was a red Autobot symbol stamped into the back.
"You're buddy Ratchet made it," the other rescuer, a man in his late thirties, fiddled with his radio. "It picks up carbon emissions from human breath. Super powerful little doohickey."
The officer glanced at him, an amused look on her face despite the severity of the situation. He winked at her and raised the radio to his mouth. "Hey chief, there's nothing in the basement. We aren't getting any signs of life."
There was a heavy sigh that made the radio crackle. "Alright," Turnstele's voice filtered through the airwaves, "Do one last sweep the come on back up. The teams searching the auditorium need help."
"Sure thing, chief. Rescue Team B out." He clipped the radio to his belt and the three started forward once more.
The woman shuddered as they passed another x-ray room, which held another eerily-still body. "This is awful. So many people dead…"
Jane reached out and touched her shoulder. "Don't think about it," she told her, "Right now we need to focus on finding the people that are still alive. There will be time to mourn later." The woman nodded and the three continued on.
They had nearly reached the center of the basement when the man paused, peering through the darkness. "Hey, there's something shiny up ahead."
"What are you, ADD? There's shiny stuff everywhere." Jane motioned to the destroyed lab equipment that surrounded them.
The man ignored her quip. "This is different," he insisted as they clambered over the rubble. The light caught the object once more, and they could see he was right.
The large freight elevator, which was the very center point of the hospital and used to carry down patients in beds and heavy medical equipment, was wide open and apparently occupied. A man was sitting in the back of the elevator, head slumped over his knees. In front of him was a heavy fire-proof file box on wheels with a bright red label on the side that declared the contents to be hazardous bio-waste. The top of the box was wide open, revealing an intricate number of wires and thick pads of what appeared to be putty. On the inside of the lid was a large, angry purple face.
Jane stared at the putty, face draining of all blood and turning an ashen white. "C-4," she took a step back. "It's a bomb!"
The rescue workers jerked back in surprise. "We've got to get that man out of there!" The woman took a step forward. Jane reached out and jerked her back.
"He's already dead," she pointed out, squinting through the flashlight beams at the corpse. "We have to radio this in and get a bomb squad down here." She continued to backtrack, pulling the woman with her. The man followed, rapidly calling codes into the radio. In no time at all they had made it back to the outside stairwell that led up to the parking lot, in between what was left of the ER and the Ambulance Bay. Men in heavy black armor with 'Bomb Squad' spray painted in bright yellow across their backs were waiting for them.
As soon as they had relayed what they had seen to the group, the squad tromped down the stairs, spot lights blazing and wire clippers in hand. Jane followed the two rescue workers towards the Chief's truck, pulling off her helmet and mask and taking deep breaths of fresh air. Beside the truck, several coolers of different colors and sizes were stacked together, filled to the brim with ice and bottled water. Jane picked one up and finished off half of it in one gulp.
"Careful, kiddo, you'll choke."
Jane jumped, spilling water down the front of her borrowed jumpsuit, and spun on her heel to look up at Jazz. He was grinning, optic band flashing in the setting sun as he sat cross-legged beside the truck. "You've only been here a week and you're already in the thick of trouble."
She looked at up his visor. "You're Jazz, right? The one with the really good hearing?"
He bobbed his head. "Yep, and you're Jane, the new kid."
"I'm not a kid."
He grinned. "Darlin', I'm over a million years old. To me, you're a kid."
Amanda, who was sitting on one of Jazz's knee, silent and still, glanced over at the new officer with a small smile. "Ignore him, Jane. He'll call you kid until he finds a fitting nickname."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Jane smiled at the younger woman. "We found a bomb in the basement. It hasn't been detonated yet; hopefully we'll be able to use it to trace whoever did this."
She shrugged. "This isn't really our jurisdiction. The Portland PD will probably take over as soon as everything settles down, and the government will definitely get involved since it's an international hospital."
Jazz caught Jane's disappointed expression and couldn't help but grin. "Cheer up, kiddo. We'll be keeping close tabs on this place. So did you get a good look at the bomb?"
She nodded, grateful for the distraction. "Yeah; it looked pretty straight forward and simple. C-4 wired to a sparkplug, hidden within a rolling file box. Didn't look like there was a timer on it. The bomb squad will know better than me, though." She ran a hand through her hair, dislodging dust and plaster fragments. "There was a weird symbol on it though. Like a face. It looked familiar for some reason, though for the life of me I can't remember why."
"What did it look like?" Jazz grinned, "Maybe I can Google it."
"It was purple, and looked like a face, although all the edges were sharp." In the fading light, she didn't see the saboteur and officer pale.
Amanda jumped off Jazz's knee and dug out her wallet. "Did it look like this?" She pulled a small piece of paper out of the billfold and held it up. Sketched on it was the same ugly, pointy face Jane had seen in the basement.
"Yeah," she nodded, "That's it. What is it?"
"Jazz," Amanda crumpled the paper in her fist, "Call Optimus. The Decepticons were responsible for this attack."
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