Moving through the crowd was like rolling a ball bearing through a river of molasses.
By now, the explosions had rocked the Bronx. The Jumbotron monitors throughout Times Square displayed the CNN feed featuring images of smoke rising into the sky over the Bruckner Expressway and people scrambling up the aisles of Yankee Stadium to escape.
Greyson didn’t notice the screens overhead. Nor did he find it unusual that the crowd moved so frantically. He heard the blaring sirens in all directions. But he was so focused on getting to the subway, it never occurred to him that an attack may have taken place other than the one in the hotel room at the Marriott Marquis.
With his lean physique, Greyson darted and juked nimbly through the crowd with surprising effectiveness. He turned his shoulders to the left and right to wedge through tiny gaps in the crowd and weave his way to the subway station.
When he approached the entrance to the staircase, he sensed the danger below immediately. The crowd largely fled from the direction of the station and he had to slice through a wave of bodies just to descend the stairs. He could hear even more sirens in the distance and angry voices filling the air ahead of him.
He bound down the stairs and heard the jolting sound of gunfire just as he reached the opening to the trains. He could see Ruben and Brad Halsey pressed against two corners of the tiled chamber and several lifeless terrorists only a few feet from their positions. He recognized one of the bodies as the bearded thug who cracked Cidalia across the skull.
The fire fight continued in the foreground. In the background, Greyson could make out the forms of Hakim and another one of the terrorists on the other side of the turnstile along the cement train platform. They struggled. Hakim appeared to be trying to free Olivia. The light from the shuttle approached from around the bend. Hakim took a vicious punch to the face and fell to the ground. The terrorist screamed something in Arabic to Brad and Ruben and flung Olivia onto the tracks in front of the oncoming train just as Ruben dropped him with a bullet to the forehead from 50 feet away behind a wall and through the fencing around the turnstile.
Traffic on the Bruckner moved well in the direction toward Yankee Stadium. On the other side of the expressway, cars sat nearly idle, edging a few feet at a time.
Major Devin Patel propped his phone onto the dashboard with the video of Melanie Johnson bound, gagged and whimpering like a wounded puppy. He kept his firearm in close view to remind Michael that he completely controlled their environment and fates.
“You will get me through security and into the parking garage next to the primary transport vehicle,” said Patel, “I have the plans on my phone. You will do exactly as I say. Or I will simply move my thumb over this red button and press down.”
“Why are you doing this?” Michael asked his captor.
“Jaio must die,” Patel replied. “There is only one Lord, God, Jesus Christ. He has no brother. No successor. The people must know that he is false.”
“Let my sister go,” Michael pleaded as he changed lanes toward the exit 5 off-ramp.
“When this false idol is dead,” Patel spoke in low, ominous tones. “Maybe…”
Michael considered lunging for the devise. But Patel held it closely in his far hand. He thought about trying to wrest the gun from his grip, but worried that Patel could blow his sister’s head off well before he could have a slim chance of overpowering the nefarious Marine Major in his brother’s passenger seat.
He felt sweat run down his cheek. He had no viable options.
And then, he made a split-second decision so opportunistic in its swiftness, it caught Patel off guard enough to lose control of the clicker in his right hand.
As he decelerated down the exit ramp, instead of maneuvering to the right and following the contour of the road, he suddenly floored the gas pedal and rammed directly into the side of a brick warehouse just adjacent to the end of the ramp.
The front of the car compacted. The engine mushed forward into the dashboard. Windows shattered. The airbags deployed and with a nanosecond to react, both Michael and Major Patel disappeared within the mangled ball of warped and twisted metal.
In the Times Square southbound subway station, there was no time for Brad or Ruben to save Olivia. Greyson could barely move, paralyzed with fear and pressed up against the ticket machine in the corner. He flinched as the train roared into view.
Hakim sprung up from his knees and jumped onto the track, temporarily disappearing behind the cement of the platform. The subway cars roared by, one after the other, squeaking and screeching as the metal rail on metal wheels propelled the 10-car behemoth past the cement platform.
Ruben, Brad and Greyson all made it to the edge just as the train stopped. They saw no sign of Hakim or Olivia. Ruben held a gun up to the conductor in the first car and instructed him to back up slowly. At first, he resisted, but with the barrel of a gun aimed between his eyes, he opted to comply.
Then they heard a whimper. It sounded like a kitten. Ruben jumped down to the track and disappeared below the cement as Hakim had.
He popped back up. Greyson saw only his head at first. Then Olivia’s tiny body appeared in his arms. She had an arm wrapped around his neck and buried her face into his massive pectoral muscle. She seemed to be crying, but his chest completely muffled any sound she may have been making. He handed the bundle to Brad and then lowered himself back down.
Next, Greyson saw Hakim emerge from the same spot, propped up by Ruben’s massive arms. They had managed to roll off the tracks and under the shallow overpass between the train’s deadly wheels and the cement of the platform.
Hakim had blood streaming across his face where he had taken the punch from the terrorist that Ruben killed. He had soot stains all over his neck and clothes. Olivia’s wailing filled the ceramic cavern of the 42nd street subway. The sirens grew louder.
Ruben pinned Hakim to the ground and screamed; “Why?”
“Why did you do it and who else is out there?” Brad joined him, yelled directly into Hakim’s face.
Hakim squirmed, but Ruben torqued his arms behind his back, pushing his bloodstained nose into the filthy cement. He tried to speak, but Brad and Ruben were distracted by the sound of oncoming Police.
“I had nothing to do with it,” Hakim said. “I spoke their language and convinced them that I was a part of their team. I don’t know what I was doing. I just figured I might have an opportunity to help. That’s all. I swear. I just wanted to help.”
The horn for the local rang out. Light filled the tube.
Brad carried Olivia over his shoulder and Ruben lifted Hakim off the ground. He shoved him to walk in front. Greyson followed. The sound of police flooding the subway station behind them echoed across the tile and cement.
The train whizzed by them, slowed and stopped. They all pushed past the outgoing crowd of people coming through the doors. The crowd of bodies surged forward and occupied every inch of available space between the train and the turnstile. As police poured down the stairs, hundreds of people from the train clogged the chamber moving both in and out.
The train doors closed behind Ruben, Brad, Greyson, Hakim and Olivia and they left the police squadron behind, disappearing into the dark black hole of the southbound subway tube.
Gina crawled from her hidden alcove in the tunnels beneath Yankee Stadium and felt along the ground for the limp body of Cael Block. She found his flashlight and scanned the ground. He lay face down, immobile on the dirt covered floor of the tunnel.
Gina stifled her scream and cried softly. She rubbed Cael’s back and stroked his face. As she ran her hand along his curved back muscles, she thought she felt movement. He seemed to heave for air. Was he still alive?
She moved her face closer to his, lifted his arm and strained to roll him to his side. Cael gurgled, convulsed and took a large gasp of air.
“Cael,” Gina shrieked in a loud whisper, still attempting to dim the volume of her outbursts. “You’re alive?”
Cael moaned and finished rolling over onto his back. As soon as his back touched the ground, he winced in pain and his whole six-foot frame shriveled in agony. Working through the pain, he tried to get to his knees, but he had no strength and couldn’t support his own weight.
“They shot you in the back from ten feet away,” Gina whispered in exacerbation. “How are you even alive?”
Cael reached, tugged at Jaio’s cloak from his back and held it up to the light.
“This,” he said in a hoarse, strained wisp of a whisper. “Jaio knew. And he saved me with this. It’s the highest grade bulletproof material there is.”
Gina stared blankly as Cael laying curled in a fetal position felt along the ground for his gun.
“Which way did they go?” he asked, with barely any sound escaping from his mouth.
“I don’t know,” she trembled. “This way, I guess.”
Cael took out his phone and looked at it with a puzzled expression. He handed it to Gina.
“The blue ball should be Jaio,” he explained. “You can zoom in or out. Where does it say he is?”
Gina’s hands trembled as she held the phone up to her face in the dark, dank corridor.
“It looks like he is right here with us,” she said. “How is that possible?”
Cael tried again to move, but every inch of movement sent shocks across his nervous system. His muscles failed him, and he fell back down after each attempt.
“We have to find a set of stairs,” he said to Gina. “They’re directly above us.”
At that, Gina took one last look at Cael. She considered staying by his side. But a new thought overtook her mind. She picked up Cael’s gun, said she was sorry and took off down the hallway looking for a way up to find Jaio.