There are two things in this world I know how to do well: create life and destroy it. I'm much better at the latter, though by no means do I prefer it. I was trained to kill without hesitation, without thought, without feeling. I've gotten to a point I wouldn't wish on anybody; the point where the value of a human life can be measured in cost effectiveness over what's behind the human being, on potential threats instead of real actions. I'd hate to ever know that my son or daughter lived this life, but now I don't have to worry about that.
They wanted a machine of war, and they made me. I trained for them, bled for them, and killed for them without remorse or hesitation. Then I stopped working for them, and they killed everything I was inside. Now, they'll get what they paid for.
A tall, flat, rectangular black box sat enclosed in a gaudy blue plastic case in the center of the atrium. Hanging against it was a receiver of the same monotonous color. Some people called this device a public phone, but some people didn't have the culmination of their life's tragic work on the line. They weren't waiting for the one call that would avenge an innocent death.
Across from the phone lay a squat, gray bench, four meters long, obviously mass manufactured by the silvery, metallic material used to make it A man in a heavy trench coat sat calmly in the center of the seat, his eyes fixed on nothing in particular, but watching everything equally. It was a slow night on the fifth floor of the cavernous Main Terminal at the heart of City Center 17's transportation hub. Mr. Black had only seen two or three couples come through the entire night, most snuggling together as they walked to warm up.
The days on Eradinus-IV were sunny and pleasant year-round, but the nights were perpetually cold and unforgiving. Ice crystals formed over every surface during the fifteen standard-hour twilight, and the temperatures were rarely positive before sunrise. Inside of the enormous seven story dome at the heart of the five section complex, everything was warm and comfortable. A pleasant, climate-controlled sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit was maintained through a circulation system that purified the entire building's air supply every eight minutes. The black box beeped six times before halting, and then repeated again. Black walked to the phone and put the receiver to his chin.
"I don't know why I'm doing this."
"It's a measure of your humanity that you are."
"What do you want to know, and make it fast. These lines are only secure for three minutes when calling public numbers before the taps come on."
"I need to send a message. Something that they'll understand."
"Well, I think you can kill two birds with one stone. Five suits were detailed to you today."
"I must have made a lot of friends for that to happen."
"Whoever you pissed off by living is very irked, and very powerful. I've never heard of five suits before. Three's almost the limit."
"I guess it's my stunning good looks and hospitality."
"If you want to send a message start at the Cafe Rosebud, Charlot Hotel, and the small computer store across from the central mall. One guy at the Cafe, one at the Charlot, and three working the computer store. They've got a week to prep before they're officially on your detail. Time's up."
The line went dead. Black had the sudden urge for coffee and cake, and he knew of a quaint little cafe that always had the sweet aroma of flowers around the corner. It opened early and served the best cream fritters in town.
Somehow, life always manages to throw you a curve ball. I don't know when or where it was, but I don't think you're ever supposed to. Sometimes the curve is a noticeable event, almost a ninety degree angle in your life; where everything which was going one way is suddenly going somewhere completely different. I think mine started long before any of the obvious things. You can just feel something change, even if you're not sure what the hell it is. I felt that the week before my wife died. An indiscriminate tingling feeling in the pit of my stomach that just told me something would happen, but not what. Maybe it was the funny little things she'd been doing that week, but there was definitely something there. She'd left a box of Lucy's old baby toys on our bed, and seemed rosy every time she saw me.
Sarah died on a Tuesday, the same day she called and told me she had something important to tell me. The police said her car had been hit by a train, and that she'd probably died painlessly. No matter how many times I've heard that though, I know its a lie. The official report blamed the incident on a careless electrician who'd been working on a control box after a long twelve hour shift; he fixed the problem, but forgot to turn the warning switch back on. Sarah never even knew what hit her. What she'd been wanting to tell me so badly had taken her life as she left work early to meet me for lunch. I never got the message.
Why this all comes to me now I'm not quite sure. Perhaps it's the warm smell of fried dough and gentle scent of rose petal perfume in the air, like the time we went to a small coffeehouse on our first date; or the sound of a couple giggling carelessly in the corner booth, oblivious to the world that they're not participating in at the moment. Maybe it's the clerk behind the glass case full of confectionary sweets; who looks a little bit too much like the clerk did at our little coffeehouse for his own good.
The only thing out of place in my memories was the man sitting across from me. The laid-back twenty-something sipped his coffee slowly, making sure not to get a crumb of food on his starched gray trousers, pressed white shirt, bland silver tie, and matching blazer. His jet black hair was slicked back and sprayed in place, and his nails were neatly cut. The belt attached to his hip was just a little too snug, as though he were trying to make himself look skinnier by sucking in his gut, when instead he should have been wearing a black suit to make his torso look longer. The spook was sitting with his back to the door, probably thinking himself hot shit because he could see anyone coming in the door and have time to react, just like they'd told him to do in OpTran. But there was a kink in his plan, he could only know what to look for if he'd done his research, which he hadn't.
In fact, he was in the process of doing that very thing; staring at the harsh glare of a computer screen while carefully cutting a fritter in half with his fork. The tiny dough ball popped as his prongs breached the crispy outer layer, releasing small wafts of steam from the moist inner cake that had made this hole-in-the-wall cafe famous. You know when I could tell he'd finally gotten to my dossier? It was that split second, as the fork left his mouth and he slowly bit down onto a hot, doughy bite of pastry, that his eyes glanced at my face. In that nanosecond his mind put the picture on his screen and the face sitting across from him together, and they made...me.
It was far too late for him to act, of course. I'd had my pistol trained on him for the better half of five minutes, waiting to see how long it would take him to recognize me in what were to be his last moments in the universe. If it hadn't been for the shattering of his royal blue coffee mug into a thousand little pieces I doubt anyone in the restaurant would have noticed his death as the silenced rounds blew small holes in his chest and throat. The woman in the corner screamed at the sight of a thousand little rose petals splattered against the wall, and everyone inside shuffled for the door.
Calmly, I folded my newspaper around my pistol and walked through the kitchen and out the gray back door caked in the molding remnants of fritter sludge that had been smeared across it on the way to the garbage . A worker stuffing trash into a metallic bin out back stared at me blankly, coldly, and only watched as I disappeared down the alley; most likely unaware of what had taken place on the other side of the door. I crossed a double-laned main street and made my way three blocks to the mid-town bridge, an ornate classical-French styled replica of a Parisian counterpart from centuries past. My watch beeped as I stood leaned on the bridge's balcony, staring into the gently flowing river below. Simultaneously, several people in the city I'd never met died quick, but very painful deaths: one in his hotel room six floors above the bustle of city life, in room 314 as he enjoyed his room service; and three others across town in a small, ONI-operated computer store. I could barely see the Charlot Hotel from my vantage, but the thick black column towering above the skyline told me enough. If the people at the Office of Naval Intelligence hadn't gotten the message before, they were sure as hell going to get it now.
Soon, it will be time for those who delight in anonymously sending others to die at their beck and call to stand up for themselves. Those who cower behind the safety of a telephone will have to meet that voice on the other end of the line. He who laughed to my face as my daughter died, will have to stare into my cold blue eyes as I hold a gun to his temple. Then, I will see what the devil looks like; and I'm going to blow his brains across the neatly stacked pile of reports I know will be stacked on his desk.