Right about now, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Richard A. Manuazzi, didn’t feel like he was in charge of anything. Switching his walkie-talkie from a closed-conversation to an open-conversation setting, he raised it to his face, bellowing down the line. “Can anyone tell me, what the hell is going on right now? If any of you pulled off that stunt, or know anything about it, I’ll have your badges for this fiasco! I didn’t authorize the use of…! Whatever the hell that was…"
Richard trailed off, the furrows on his forehead deepening as his vision cleared, and he surveyed the scene. No smoke, no residue, no blast damage. Come to think of it, he couldn’t even recall any noise at the time of the flash whatsoever- his hearing was still perfect, flawless. He hadn’t seen anyone actually making any threatening sudden movements at the time, anything that could mark any of the people in the crowd as potential suspects.
Well, with the sole exception of this weirdo mayor, breaking that loaf of bread of his- and Richard dismissed that niggling suspicion in an instant. That was just crazy talk, grasping at straws. He wasn't superstitious. Hell, he hadn't even gone to church for the last twenty-five years. There's no way that breaking that loaf of bread had anything whatsoever to do with this, even it was Cuban. If it was Haitian voodoo bread...? No. Not even then. Besides, the bread itself still looked perfectly normal, undamaged, unburnt. Even if it had been soaked in kerosene or some shit like that for dramatic effect by these fools, it'd still have been smoking and smouldering from the improviso pyrotechnics, wouldn't it?
<"SAC Manuazzi? Come in, over? This is McFaul- the crowd over here's getting really, really agitated, sir…"><"This is Walker; I can report plenty of people getting really restless over in my watch sector as well, sir. I'm trying to keep them calm, but there's one woman over here who's really getting hysterical, and she's driving everyone around here into a frenzy! Don't know how much lon-"><"Manuazzi, this is Mireles- requesting authorization to use reasonable force against the troublemakers, sir! Sir?! And all of the rest of you saw that flash as well, didn't you? Did anyone get a fix on the source?">
Richard snapped out of his musing, put his hectic train of thought to the side for the moment, and raised his walkie-talkie to reply. From the replies coming back through, it seemed like everyone else was just as clueless about what that had been as he was. But everyone, absolutely everyone, had been disorientated by it. No, there was no way any of his men, any of his agents, had anything to do with this either. But then, who had? What had? “Report! Special Agents Mireles, McFaul, Walker; you are authorised to intervene in order to keep this crowd under control. We don’t want a full blown riot on our hands. But proportionate force only, you hear me? If any of you dare to squeeze off even a single shot, you'll never work another field assignment for the Bureau again! You got that?”
“I’m right here, Manazzi. Got you, loud and clear…” Richard whipped around as Special Agent- Edmundo? Mireles, walked across towards him. “Mireles, what the fuck did I just say? Crowd control!” Richard Manuazzi gestured out towards the crowd, glaring at Meireles with a stare which would have melted lead.
Unfazed, Edmundo Mireles Jnr. cast his senior officer a furtive glance for a fleeing moment. “With all respect sir, that’s what I’m here doing. All of the crowd’s attention was focused here, immediately prior to whatever it was that just happened- and this seems to be the biggest pocket of civil unrest right now. Not too hard to work out why…”
Mireles trailed off for a moment, turning away to face the crackpot mayor as he came barging in, shoving aside whoever happened to be standing in the way, pompously marching towards them and bellowing at the top of his voice. "What the hell were those? FLASH BANGS!?”
Richard groaned, rolling his eyes. “No, it isn’t, is it? Fine, Mireles- have it your way. Just remember, you asked for this…”
“…Freedom of Expression! Mark my words, they're gonna eat you alive for this!"
Relegating Mireles’ ongoing battle to keep the Mayor contained to background noise, Richard Manuazzi turned his full attention to the comms. Special Agent Marie Walker had been talking about not being able to contact the FBI HQ back in Tampa, and not being able to get a phone signal to contact anyone at all- and it only took a couple of seconds to confirm that she was right. But the high-powered, radio voice pagers still seemed to be working just fine. Better than fine, come to think of it- uncannily, there seemed to be virtually no interference at all.
There was no way he’d have been in range to get in touch with the team at the U.S Route 1 Highway checkpoint, all the way up by the Skeeter’s Last Chance Saloon in Florida City, otherwise- but while it was pretty faint, he could somehow hear the recognizable voice of Special Agent Jerry Dove perfectly. After hearing what Dove was saying though, Richard felt like he would’ve been a hell of a lot happier with nothing but static.
<“It’s, it’s… All just, gone. All of it. That shockwave, after the flash- we all saw it, right? God, if I was standing just a few metres closer, any further away from the checkpoint, I’d have… Oh, God…”>
Manuazzi’s blood ran cold. Are they saying what it sounds like they’re saying? The Cubans- but they couldn’t have. They don’t have any nukes there any more, do they? But then again, those damned Soviets didn’t need the short range missiles there any more- not when they had ICBM’s that they could launch from home, and from subs in the open ocean, which could get the job done even better. The Cold War’s gone Hot- and we’re on the front lines…
“Wait. So- what, we’re talking World War Three here? Those Fucking Commie bastards- they actually went and did it, pressed the red button? And nuking Miami?! What the fuck’s in Miami? Sons of bitches- wait. Oh, Jesus Christ- we’re next! The Key West Naval Station, we have to get the people out- but there’s no time, no road left, nowhere left to go- Christ, we’re all gonna die, we’re all gonna die…!”
<“Sir! Special Agent Manuazzi…! RICHARD! Snap out of it! We're NOT GONNA DIE!”>
“I’m, I’m so sorry, Agent Dove… Wait, you said that you were all alright? That you were just outside the blast wave? So, that’s- if we get as much of the population up there, up to Key Largo, then out into the Everglades, as we can, then they could survive. We, could still get through this- we have to impose martial law, get those sirens going, and get these blasted fools to evacuate yesterday, forcing them at gunpoint if we have to…”
<“No! God, just listen to me! It wasn’t a nuke! There wasn’t a blast wave-”> Special Agent Dove was cut off in mid-speech by a furious, frantic cacophony of voices in the background, and for a minute or so, the line was drowned by the raucous of their angry debate. Eventually, Dove’s voice could be heard again above the rest, reasserting himself, as the other voices slowly faded away into background mutterings once more.
<”Look, I know, I KNOW! I saw it too, we all did! But that, wave, whatever that was- that wasn’t a blast wave. Not a proper one, anyhow. No concussive force, no heat- if anything, the temperature’s dropped a couple of degrees in the last few minutes. No way that was nuclear. We’re not in WW3, we’re not under…”> Another call in the background- followed by the unmistakable sound of more than a few weapons’ safeties being unlocked, and a few seconds of silence from Dove. When he spoke again, the increased tension in his voice was audible.
<”We're, not, under attack. At least, not right now- God's willing… Just, whatever this was, whatever actually happened, there’s one thing that all of us up here can agree on. There’s no way, no way in heaven or hell that the Soviets were responsible for this. No way that they, or anyone else on Earth, could have been capable of doing anything like this. Matter of fact, if you’re looking for the likeliest culprit, heaven and hell are just about your safest bets when it comes to finding them...”>
Another interjection in the background. This time though, it was accompanied by a round of muted laughter, with Dove joining in. <"Haa...! God, I needed that. Good on you, Brown. Stick with that aliens theory...">