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Business As Usual
In which I kill somebody.
I eyed the two-lane country road, twenty yards below me.
“Target is four minutes out,” came Oscar’s voice through the plug in my ear.
“Roger,” I said, low toned.
Combat mics are designed to pick up soft voices. Of course, I was the only human being in about two miles of the spot. I’d made sure of that when I first arrived.
I double-checked my handiwork on the tree. It was already dead, leaning slightly toward the incline and the road. A storm had recently passed through, as the lightening-scorched poplar a hundred feet to my right showed, so the set-up was more believable.
I had weakened the base of the dead tree with a focused energy lance, and now all it would need was a concentrated mental shove. The age of the tree, and the lightening in the area, would both discourage anyone from analyzing for psionic scorches.
“Target three minutes out,” said Oscar.
I knelt at the base of my tree, the better to see the road through a gap in the foliage. My form-hugging combat suit protected my knees from the damp grass.
“Any word on the escort?” I asked.
“Armored SUV, three bodyguards, one driver,” said Oscar, from the data pulled up on his computer screen in the command center at Langley. “Chase vehicle about eight minutes behind, looks like, so you’ll have to hustle.”
I nodded to myself. The branches I had tossed onto the curve of the road fifty yards away would look like storm debris, and would make the car slow down.
“Three bodyguards,” I muttered. “Oil sheiks are paranoid, huh?”
“I think anybody who makes it onto our list is paranoid,” Oscar answered. “After all, it’s not just the United States he’s ticked off over the years. I’m sure there are some rival oil kings who’ve lost minions or trade deals to him. Maybe he’s responsible for that ambassador we lost in the Middle East. I don’t know; they don’t tell me these things.”
I adjusted my goggles, switching to thermal vision to make sure no stray cars were coming. The last thing I needed at the moment was a civilian blundering in to the set-up.
“Not my problem. I don’t make the big decisions,” I said.
My handler of many years said nothing. It’d been a standing inside joke between us: we don’t get paid enough to decide who should die. That’s for the bureaucrats who run the Agency to do. Got a complaint? Go talk to Congress.
Car engine. With a directed psionic ping, I received feedback in one of my goggles for movement telemetry.
Sure enough, they were moving around the corner. They slowed at the tree branches, and lumbered carefully around the curve.
“American car,” I whispered to Oscar.
“It’s a GMC. Are you sure –?”
“Look, the spooks have been tracking them for weeks. Yes, it’s the right car. Go for it!”
The SUV cautiously picked up speed. The driver was being careful, given the hilly terrain.
Digital overlays in my goggles gave me the timing. With all the technology, this job was hardly a challenge —
I lanced the tree, giving it an energized shove with my hand for good measure. The tree crashed into the road, and the SUV plowed into it, squealing as the driver tried to apply the brakes.
As I sprinted down the hill from my hiding place, I was already feeling out the lock. Very standard stuff…I mean, couldn’t a corrupt Arab tyrant invest in a little more complicated door lock?
At the touch of my finger, an electrical pulse overrode the car’s computer, and I yanked the rear door open.
My other hand cracked the top on the vial, and nonlethal gas blew into the car. My glance flitted between the unconscious faces
“Target ID?” I hissed, checking with another psionic pulse that every heart was beating.
“Guy in the middle. Chase car is picking up speed; hurry.”
“Did you do a biometric –”
“It’s the guy in the middle, Shadow! I know my job.”
Holding my breath, I leaned into the car and un-clicked his seat belt. Touching – Ruthless Oil Despot was imitating American culture, with a very nice tailored suit.
With an energized heave, I flung him through the windshield. A psionic pulse, and my Heads Up Display flashed a confirmed death.
I relocked the door and sprinted back up the hill. There was nothing left to do. The tree left no traces. The car lock was un-breached.
And there were no collateral deaths.
“All right, Shadow. HUD says we’ve got a confirmed target elimination.”
I started the hike back to my car, pulled off the road and hidden on the other side of the hill. As I forged deeper into the trees, I heard the chase car’s engine purring around the corner.
“I guess the Middle East will be safer, now,” I said. “Though I can’t help wondering that they’d stage his death on American soil.”
Oscar said nothing for a moment. “Politics isn’t my game,” he said at last. “Especially foreign politics. It’s not our problem.”
Again, I nodded to myself, raising my goggles to see the variegated greenery around me unobstructed. A chipmunk popped its head out of a fallen log, stared at me, and ducked back in again.
With thermal vision, I’d be able to see his heat signature. But what would be the fun of that?
Besides, sometimes chipmunks and I both had to hide.
Kimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.
She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.
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