It was hot. The heat from the ground sent waves into the humid air. It was so hot that sweat drops would seep out of a person who stood still and evaporate the instant it made contact with the atmosphere. The police were exposed to this weather for nearly an hour. Twenty police officers stood outdoors in front of the first phase of the International Finance Centre, a nearly cylindrical building, while another eighty stood guard in its air-conditioned lobby. The steel-framed structure stood 689 feet above ground, its roof spiking up with aluminum tiger claws.
Among the twenty sentries was the highest-ranking officer of the on-site team, senior inspector Rodriguez of the London Police Force. He was five-eleven and 28, wore a standard navy police uniform, and had a Glock 18C machine pistol strapped in his belt holster. A rookie stood beside him, a man of five-eight and armed with a regular Glock 17. His knees shook and his teeth were grinding as he kept his hand near the gun holster.
Rodriguez stared at the rookie for a brief second and looked back straight ahead into the glaring sun. “First big assignment?” he asked without looking at the young police constable. From inspection, he thought he should be a recent high-school graduate, probably as young as eighteen. Too young, for a mission of this caliber.
“Umm, yess sir. True,” he answered hesitantly. Only his lower jaw moved as he spoke, his upper lip seemingly fixed in immobile state.
The senior inspector smiled and narrowed his small eyes further; his prediction was true. “Are you prepared?” he asked firmly.
“Umm, prepared for what… sir? I’m actually not too sure what this assignment is about.” He finally attempted to look at Rodriguez, but the senior was still staring into the distant horizon. The setting sun wasn’t directly shining into their eyes because the buildings blocked the view, but some light rays did manage to reflect off windows and strike into their location. “I just met with the senior police superintendent today and he told me to come with you, sir.”
The senior inspector frowned. Not only was the kid a rookie, but he also didn’t know what was going on. He would be a dead man if he hadn’t stood next to him. “Never mind,” he said as he patted the young constable on the shoulder. “It’s starting already.” Rodriguez took out his communication device and ordered Teams 2 through 5 to join them outside.
At first, nothing could be seen. Only a faint rumble of noise could be heard. The noise grew louder until it was clear it was a rioting code. “Curse the SDE’s! SDE’s! Curse the…” The front-line rioters finally revealed themselves as they entered from Connaught Road and Jubilee Street. Shiny objects were held in their hands. They couldn’t be seen clearly as the blinding red glitter of the 5pm low sun became the police force’s second opponent.
“Put on your sunglasses!” Rodriguez ordered. Everyone followed his command.
With the surroundings dimmed down, the objects in the rioters’ hands were revealed. They were eight-inch long wrenches. Rodriguez knew that this assignment wasn’t going to be easy; luckily he was prepared. He turned back to face the four teams, who were now within thirty feet. Each team consisted of 25 members, one of them being a police inspector, who carried a Remington 870 shotgun. The regular members of Teams-2 and -3 had 9mm handguns. Team-4 carried H&K MP5 submachine guns and Team-5 held M4 carbines mounted with M203 grenade launcher instalments. Team-1, Rodriguez’s team, had Glock 17 handguns.
The senior inspector looked into the eyes of the approaching rioters. The crowd of 900 were less than forty feet away. Most of them held their heads up high as they stared down at Team-1’s handguns. They stopped chanting their code before they spat gum in the direction of the police. Rodriguez wouldn’t take that kind of attitude. “Come forward, Team-4.”
The 24 members stepped in front of Team-1 and formed a straight line, barring the intruders’ path. They carried their MP5’s with shoulder straps. The team’s inspector held his Remington 870 with the muzzle pointed at the ground.
The front-line rioters saw the submachine guns and stood still. They were fourteen feet away from the police and only four feet away from a thick red line etched onto the concrete pavement.
The red line, known as the riot line, was located 180 feet from the International Finance Centre (Phase 1), surrounding the building to form a large circle when viewed from the sky. The riot line marked the beginning of the rioters’ restricted area, specifically used for SDE and Government headquarters. Within the area, building operators of One IFC have the responsibility of terminating rioters, as well as anyone they deemed to be a threat, with Cold Chemical Lasers. These lasers were made of liquid nitrogen blasted at 1000 psi. It could blast through stainless steel since the impact was equivalent to a six-inch diameter bullet shot from close range. The rioters’ restricted area was enforced by the Hong Kong Basic Law two months ago in early April 2009, due to the outbreak of increasing riot violence since March 2009.
The front-line rioters were tall and bulky, unlike typical architects or designers. They weren’t all holding wrenches. Some of them held aluminum baseball bats instead. This wasn’t favorable for the police. From his previous experience with rioters, Rodriguez knew that not only did they increase the effective range, but they also increased the impact force because of centripetal moment.
“Attention. Remain calm,” the senior inspector announced on his megaphone. His voice was authoritative. “All protestors stay back. Do not cross the riot line under any circumstances.”
The crowd didn’t make a sound or show any acknowledgement of Rodriguez’s words. They just stood with their weapons and stared forward at the street entrance of the building. “Yo, what did you say?” a kid asked from behind the front-line crowd. He shoved a muscular front-line man to the side effortlessly as he made his way to stand an inch away from the riot line. He wasn’t a kid, but his voice was comparable to one. The man was in his early-forties and was large like a football linebacker at a height of six-five. He looked past the heads of the Team-4 members and stared directly into Rodriguez’s eyes. His lips formed a vertical “o” shape. “Yo, were you talking to me?” His pink t-shirt seemed to be tearing from his hulking trapezius muscles, the veins in his biceps thicker than his coarse eyebrows.
Rodriguez stepped in front of Team-4 without bumping into them. He stared back at the large man with a slight sneer. Six years of government service made him emotionless even in the threat of danger. His machine pistol was drawn and pointed at the ground. “You’re the man in charge?”
“Yup, that’s me,” the large man said as he tapped the side of his foot-long machete on his shoulder. Large sweats drops flowed freely from his face, along the grey blade, and fell onto the ground. He held out the large knife and pointed it at shoulder-level toward the senior inspector. “Do you know why we’re here?” His initial grinning face turned into one of scorn.
“I’m not sure.” Rodriguez gave a hand signal and Teams 1 through 3 stepped backwards, leaving space for Team-5’s M4A1 rifles to fill in. He hoped that the young constable he talked with earlier was smart enough to step back along with Team-1.