Pete’s eyes opened as the van skidded to a halt. Beads of sweat ran down his face, and off his chin, falling onto the corrugated steel floor with soft taps that were inaudible over the roaring of the crowd. He heard the countdown and readied himself. Lowered his visor. Checked his weapon. The van doors were thrown open and the intense sunlight blinded him momentarily. The throngs of human bodies were hazy and ill-defined through the cheap plexiglass visor protecting his face. He hopped and the armored car sped away, the white letters denoting a SWAT van faded into the distance. The crowd’s roar, piercing and dull at the same time, made his ears ring. What had started as a peaceful protest had turned into a civilian occupation, and somehow, he was now standing in front of an angry mob, rioting and looting the city for no other reason than politics. Pete hated politics.
He faced the mob, resisting every urge to run for his life, placing the riot shield in front of him and standing tall. Rocks and beer bottles bounced off of the plastic shield as violent protestors flung everything within reach at the line of policemen. The officers looked at each other fearfully. The mob was advancing quickly. Within seconds they would be overwhelmed. The shouts and yells hurt his head. He scanned the crowd, overwhelmed by the anger and rage on the faces of the protesters. Their red shirts sporting political slogans made the mob seem like one huge scarlet blob of violence and wrath. Suddenly, he started. What was that glimmer? He looked back through the advancing crowd, and he saw it again. The metal reflected the sun into his eyes, making him see spots. What is that? He shielded his eyes, squinted and saw it. The pistol, held at eye level, the protester staring back at him, expressionless. Instinct and self-preservation kicked in. He raised the rifle and fired.
The academy had taught him to fire tear gas straight up into the air, to avoid bodily injury, but he had forgotten his training and aimed right at the chest of his assailant. The shot rang out and black powder stung his nose. The crowd’s angry roar quickly disintegrated to screams of terror as the mob scattered, fleeing, turning corners and ducking behind cover. As the police officers advanced, pushing the braver dissidents back, Pete tripped. He looked down as he stumbled and found himself staring into the eyes of a protester, her red shirt turning a deep crimson. She lay on the street; arms outstretched, with a silver camera in her hand. The recording light was still flashing.