by Hazlan Zakaria
Image by Graf
Hamid runs as fast as his spindly legs can carry him, his ill-fitting yellow rubber work boots flip-flopping on the floor of the 1Africa Putrajaya Nuclear Reactor Complex executive lounge.
“Ya Allah! Ya Allah!” he mouths, gasping for breath, a computer print-out streaming in his left hand as his right flails a clipboard chart in the air, speeding along the corridors.
His white technician’s coat flapping wildly in his rush, his dull-grey hard hat long ago fell off somewhere along his mad dash from the central reactor control room.
Hamid’s eyes search wildly for the arched doorway to the executive dining area, still panting, still rushing, almost running into some suits on their usual morning break.
His security tag dashes against his chest and sides, swinging on the chain a tad too long around his neck.
On most days, a lowly technician like Hamid would stop, shuffling to the side, allowing the well-heeled executives in their wing tips and Savile Row two-piece suits to pass.
“TEPI! TEPI!” he shouts.
A few of them throw him daggers for looks, Hamid ignores them, staring intently ahead, eyeballs rotating to find his quarry.
Feet grasping the distance, Hamid finally arrives at the end of Corridor A, winded as the yawning entry to the executive dining area beckons him.
He runs unto the marble floors under the gilded plaster ceiling of the main executive dining area, gunning straight for the main table at the other end.
The director of the complex, as is his wont, is having his imported blend of Earl Grey, eggs benedict and french toast breakfast.
“Tuan Director!” Hamid cries out.
* * * * *
The director, a lupine pointy-faced man, looks up from his breakfast, bored and annoyed.
“Yes Hamid? How many times have I told you not to bother me during breakfast?” retorts Mr Ranjit, the plant director. Across from him, his deputy Andrew Fong rolls his eyes and looks on.
“Mr Ranjit, this is urgent!” Hamid belts out, still panting. Andrew throws him a baleful look.
“Oh Hamid! You simpleton! Out with it then, you have already spoiled our breakfast!” snaps Andrew.
“Tuan, reactors number 1, 2 and 6 are in meltdown!” blurts out the control room technician, shoving the computer print-out in Ranjit’s face.
The director blanches. “Are… are… are you sure? Check again!”
“Let me look at the readings, he’s probably mistaken,” says Andrew, his face alternating between disbelief and disdain.
“Sir, I helped design the monitoring systems, I know what I am talking about,” Hamid blurts again, handing the clipboard recording the reactor readings to the deputy director.
“Oh my god!” mouths Andrew silently, as his intellect begins to comprehend the reading on the clipboard.
“Initiate SCRAM! Hamid shutdown the reactors!” yells a rapidly panicking Ranjit, meaning the emergency shutdown procedures for nuclear reactors standard to all nuclear plants.
“We have no SCRAM mechanisms, sirs, you both signed the order to divert the money to pay for all this!” yells back Hamid frustratedly, hands raised to encompass the luxurious executive lounge.
“The containment! The containment walls will keep the radiation from escaping! yells Andrew, panicking, looking at Hamid and Ranjit, almost pleading.
Ranjit pales, slowly removes his glasses and stares blankly at the walls ahead.
“It’s no use… when the minister came to visit during construction, he requested a contribution to his political fund.
“I asked the contractors to pad the inner walls with rubble, the money has gone to the minister’s re-election campaign. There is no containtment…” says the director matter of factly, eyes glazing over.
“Ya Allah…” sighs Hamid, softly mouthing the shahadah as Andrew clumsily crosseshimself, and Ranjit looks at the picture of the Tibetan wheel of life next to that of his family he keeps in his wallet.
A soft gentle glow begins to envelope them as the air suddenly gets hotter, the burning reactors overtaking them, turning living flesh to cinders as it churns the complex to rubble.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, a quarter-mile away, the premier and his wife sit down for breakfast on a terrace in their palatial residence.
“Is it hot in here?” asks the self-declared first lady, fanning herself with a suitable fan for the occasion.
“Yes, dear,” says her husband lazily, head buried in the fuel price-hike schedule he is arranging for the entire year, a gift to the rakyat for once again voting his ruling coalition into power.
There they sit, on the terrace, as the expanding glow from the reactor complex slowly engulfs everything…