In Case Of Emergency: an action-packed short story, p.3Jack Heath
‘It won’t open.’ The blonde train attendant was pushing the door handle down, putting all her weight into it.
‘Leave it,’ Cormanenko said. Into her mobile phone she said, ‘How far away is the helicopter?’
‘Eighteen minutes.’ Noelein’s voice was simultaneously urgent and lifeless. Cormanenko could picture her, pacing around her office at the Library, or studying a map with her owlish eyes. In the nine years Cormanenko had worked for her, Noelein had never once raised her voice.
‘I don’t have eighteen minutes,’ Cormanenko said. ‘Everyone on this train is in danger.’
‘Your mission has changed,’ Noelein told her. ‘Your first priority is now to protect Senator Grigieva. Your second priority is to bring Maschenov in. Alive if possible.’
‘And the other passengers?’
Predictably, Noelein was silent. A few dead civilians probably meant more money in the defence budget. But a dead senator would mean getting replaced as Chief Librarian.
Cormanenko didn’t waste time arguing. She would never convince Noelein that a group of civilians were more important than one senator, just as Noelein would never convince Cormanenko that they weren’t.
‘I don’t have eyes on Maschenov or the senator,’ Cormanenko said. ‘I’m trapped.’
‘Not my problem. Get untrapped, agent.’
Cormanenko ended the call. She should have hung up as soon as Noelein told her the helicopter was too far away.
‘We can break the door down,’ the attendant said, pointing to a nearby fire extinguisher. She was surprisingly resourceful for a civilian. ‘This lock is fragile. Just a single bolt. Not like the one on the driver’s cabin door.’
‘Maschenov is probably armed, and definitely quick,’ Cormanenko said. ‘If we come through that way he’ll kill us, or the other passengers, or both. I need to sneak up on him.’
‘We can’t stop the train without him noticing,’ the attendant said. ‘Even if we did, there’s nowhere to disembark.’
Cormanenko ran over to a mounting bracket on the wall, where there was a red plastic hammer with a steel tip. A sign said in case of emergency, break glass – although there were no windows in the antechamber. Cormanenko wrenched the hammer off the bracket and tucked it into the back of her jeans.
‘Is there a knife in that food cart?’ she asked. ‘The bigger the better.’
The attendant handed her a table knife. It was small, but at least it was steel, and moderately sharp.
Cormanenko stabbed the rubber curtain which shielded the antechamber from the outside world. The knife sheared straight through. Freezing wind howled at the slit.
She sawed at the rubber, lengthening the hole. The deadly drop to the valley below came into view outside. Perhaps she should have cut through on the opposite side. No time now. The train was going so fast that if she fell, she’d be dead either way.
‘Which seat is the senator in?’ she asked, yelling to be heard over the wind.
‘Eleven F,’ the attendant replied.
Cormanenko didn’t waste any time on goodbyes. ‘Count to a hundred,’ she said. ‘Then try to break the door down.’ She widened the gap and hauled herself through the rubber curtain, out of the train.
The icy air hit her like a fist. She clung desperately to the rubber, trying to climb up onto the roof before the wind tore her loose and sent her tumbling down to the rocks of the valley below. The outside of the curtain shuddered in her grip, but held her weight. Her fingers were already numb from the cold. She kept counting in her head.
28, 29, 30.
Teeth clenched, Cormanenko hauled herself up onto the slippery metal of the roof. The gale was even worse up here. Her eyes stung. Her nose ran. The mucus froze on her lip.
The train was going too fast to stand up, and she didn’t want Maschenov to hear her footsteps. Instead, she lay flat on her belly and crawled along the roof like a crocodile, fighting the wind.
56, 57, 58.
She wondered if her brother would recognise her – a spy, a stooge, about to die for a country she had never really cared for. Wherever he was now, she hoped he thought this was funny.
Soon she was halfway up the first class car. She peered over the edge, trying to ignore the long fall, and counted the windows. Nine, ten, eleven. The senator’s seat was right below her. So was Maschenov, she hoped.
Cormanenko had no stun grenades, no gun, no backup. Just a table knife and a plastic hammer. She told herself she’d survived worse odds in the past.
Leaning over the deadly drop, she sneaked an upside-down peek through the plexiglass window. There was the bodyguard, unconscious in his seat. He would be fired, and possibly executed, for endangering the senator. Maschenov stood next to Grigieva, holding an MP5. It was a two-handed gun, but he was holding it one-handed. He probably had other weapons under his jacket. Up the other end of the carriage, she could see all the other passengers huddled near the driver’s compartment.
A phone was in his Maschenov’s other hand. He seemed to want Grigieva to make a call. An order to a subordinate, or perhaps a message to the media. Either way, Maschenov would kill her once she made the call. Cormanenko didn’t have much time.
Maschenov whirled to face a sudden sound.
Cormanenko swung the hammer.
The steel tip did exactly what it had been designed to do. It punched through the glass like it was rice paper. The plastic handle protected Cormanenko from the shards as her fist rocketed into the gap.
She couldn’t reach Maschenov from here, but she didn’t have to. Her arm still in motion, she let go of the hammer. As Maschenov turned to face the sudden sound, the hammer spun towards him and cracked against his temple.
Maschenov staggered backwards but didn’t fall. The window had sapped the hammer’s momentum. It had hit him hard enough to shock, to hurt, to enrage – but not to knock out. He would recover in seconds.
Grigieva fled up to the driver’s end of the carriage. Cormanenko was already ripping out blunt chunks of plexiglass and dropping them into the valley. Soon the gap was wide enough to fit through. She grabbed the top of the window frame with both hands and somersaulted off the roof of the train.
Her boots crashed through the remains of the plexiglass and she landed inside the carriage, right next to the senator’s empty seat. But she had been too slow. Maschenov was already lining up the MP5 with her skull.
He was out of reach. Cormanenko would have to step across the unconscious bodyguard to get to him, giving him plenty of time to shred her with bullets.
‘Wait,’ she said, with no idea what she could say to stop him killing her. Probably nothing.
Maschenov pulled the trigger.
Crack-crack-crack-crack! The sound was deafening in the enclosed space. A row of holes ripped through the carriage wall, one right near Cormanenko’s head. The shot would have punctured her skull – if someone hadn’t clobbered Maschenov with an emergency fire extinguisher.
It was the blonde attendant. She hadn’t just broken the door down – she had attacked Maschenov, which took guts. She was raised the extinguisher for a second strike.
Cormanenko leaped over the comatose bodyguard as Maschenov rounded on his new attacker. The kid was fast, or at least had a thick skull – two blows to the head and he was still on his feet.
The attendant swung the extinguisher again. Maschenov ducked under the blow. He drew his right fist back, as though preparing for a big roundhouse punch – then he quickly jabbed the attendant in the throat with his left hand.
The woman collapsed, wheezing.
Cormanenko lunged at Maschenov from the other side. Too slow. He pointed the MP5 at her and pulled the trigger–
Click. That two-second burst had used up the whole magazine.
Cormanenko grabbed the MP5 so he couldn’t bludgeon her with it. He let it go and shoved her back against the wall. While sh
Troy Maschenov dived onto the floor.
‘Down!’ Cormanenko screamed. ‘Get–’
The explosion ripped through the carriage, knocking Cormanenko off her feet. The flames stripped the padding from the back row of seats. The shockwave punctured both Cormanenko’s eardrums. A horrifying agony filled her head. It felt like her brain was getting sucked out her ears. The floor shook beneath her as the wheels fought to stay on the rails – or maybe there was no movement, and she was just concussed. Either the world was shaking like jelly, or her brain was.
When she rolled sideways, she saw Maschenov staggering towards the back of the carriage. The explosion had destroyed the antechamber and separated this carriage from the others. The rest of the train was slowly falling behind.
Cormanenko tried to stand but immediately fell back down.
Noelein’s voice swam through her mind. Bring Maschenov in. Alive if possible.
Cormanenko grabbed one of the seats and hauled herself to her feet again. Moving towards Maschenov was like walking across a soft mattress. She tried to ignore the painful whining of her shredded eardrums.
Maschenov stood in the torn-open end of the carriage, his burned clothes flapping in the wind. Without the gun in his hand, he looked like an ordinary twelve-year old. Then he looked back at her with those pitiless, calculating eyes and the illusion disappeared. He might have been a normal kid once, but the Bank had turned him into a psychopath.
This carriage hadn’t slowed down at all. If Maschenov tried to jump out, he would certainly be killed when he hit the sleepers below. He had nowhere to go.
‘Lie down on the ground,’ Cormanenko yelled. She pointed the MP5 at him, then remembered it was empty, and brandished the table knife instead. She could barely hear her own voice over the wind and the muffled roar in her ears.
Maschenov didn’t look concerned. He turned to face her head on. Then he reached into his jacket.
Cormanenko crouched, ready to dive sideways if he pulled out yet another weapon–
But he didn’t. He tugged a hidden strap and a parachute exploded out of his back.
Maschenov was sucked backwards out the back of the carriage so fast that it was like he’d been kicked in the stomach. A split second later he was shrinking into the distance, hanging in the air over the icy valley.
Grigieva yelled something, but Cormanenko couldn’t tell what. She watched Maschenov disappear behind Mount Kharsum as the train rounded another bend in the tracks.
He was alive, but so was she. Elite espionage was a small world. They would meet again. And when they did, she suspected that one of them wouldn’t be so lucky.
The Cut Out
Fero isn’t a spy.
But he looks exactly like someone who is: Troy Maschenov – a ruthless Besmari agent.
What starts as a case of mistaken identity quickly turns into a complicated and dangerous plan. Fero is recruited to fight for his country. He will have to impersonate Troy, enter enemy territory, find Dessa Cormanenko – a missing agent – and bring her home in time to prevent a devastating terror attack.
Fero is in way over his head. Hastily trained, loaded up with gadgets and smuggled across the border into Besmar, he discovers the truth about espionage.
Getting in is easy. Getting out alive is hard.
Praise for The Cut Out
"A breath-taking, heart-pounding thrill ride of twists and turns where nothing is as it seems, allegiances are tested, secrets unravel and there are blindsides and double-crosses galore."
–Lily Oz, All The Written Worlds
"Learn this kid’s name, read his books."
–Michael Grant, internationally bestselling author of GONE
“The Cut Out is the best book Jack Heath has written so far. It is a fast-paced, relentless action adventure full of spies, secrets and double-crosses.”
–Sue Osborne, Library Monitor
The Cut Out was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award and was a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book. Learn more at jackheath.com.au/the-cut-out.
The Fail Safe
Fero Dremovich has one goal – to escape from Kamau. He’s surrounded by spies, and he can’t pretend for much longer that he doesn’t know. It’s only a matter of time before one of his many enemies kills him.
His escape plan goes off the rails when he stumbles across the renegade spy Dessa Cormanenko. She wants his help to prevent a nuclear war.
If Fero joins her team of revolutionaries, he will probably die. If he stays in Kamau, he will probably die. If he escapes into Besmar, he will probably die.
Fero is running out of time to pick a side…
The Fail Safe will be published in August 2016. Learn more at jackheath.com.au/the-fail-safe.
About the author
Jack Heath is the pen name of an internationally bestselling author. He wrote The Cut Out, the Countdown To Danger series and fifteen other action-packed thrillers for young people, which have been shortlisted for multiple awards and published in several languages around the world.
In the course of his research he has trained with firearms, performed street magic, visited morgues and prisons, travelled through Russia and read only books by women for a year. When he’s not touring schools, libraries and festivals around the world, he lives in Canberra.
For more information, visit jackheath.com.au.
In Case Of Emergency: an action-packed short story by Jack Heath / Young Adult / Actions & Adventure / Thrillers & Crime have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on23 votes