CHAPTER 25 - Power Creep (1)
The night air remained quiet. Even the insects seemed to be holding themselves still as the pervading silence overtook the area. Like a chill that could reach deep into the bones and freeze one solid, that hush enveloped the world.
One lone figure fought against that stillness as he lay prone on a hilltop. The matte-black weapon in his hands aimed at the compound in the far distance, near the ever-unreachable horizon.
‘I hate how this crap feels on my skin.’
‘I’ll clean you properly when the mission is over.’
‘You bet- Target acquired. On your toes, Fenrir.’
Alex nodded. His eye peered through the scope of the rifle covered in light-absorbing temporary paint. Over his vest flowed camouflaged robes, similar to those worn by videogame-esque wizards. Thick goggles with multiple lenses covered the upper half of his face, capped by the heavy helmet atop his head.
Through the night vision enhancing optics, Alex found his quarry. An older man in formal attire stepped outside of the stately mansion and lit a smoke.
Alex spoke, his voice carrying quietly over the throat mic.
“Alpha-7 to Zulu-6, I have eyes on the target. Requesting confirmation, over.”
There was a brief pause, then the click of his earpiece activating. Slight static preceded the deep male voice.
“Zulu-6 to Alpha-7, the bird has spotted the worm. Additional heat signatures present. Take a clear shot when it presents itself. Out.”
Alex frowned and looked up. The infrared light could be seen blinking in the sky over the mansion. A stealthy drone, like the eye of some mechanical god, was looking at the same sight as he was.
He returned his gaze to the scope and watched as the man took another drag of his cigarette, the red light illuminating the surroundings clearly through the enhanced night vision.
His finger found ALICE’s trigger and began to squeeze.
Two children, no older than ten, ran out onto the balcony, and the man turned around to smile at them.
Alex hesitated. For half a second, his finger paused.
‘We won’t get another chance like this.’
‘… I know.’
Alex woke with a start, cold sweat covering his body. His mind kicked into overdrive as the unfamiliar surroundings greeted his eyes.
The tent jostled softly in the night breeze, the sound of rustling barely covering up the sound of someone calling his name. He grabbed ALICE and got out of the sleeping bag. He slipped on his boots, instinctively tucking the hem of his trousers into them before tying the laces and tucking them as well. His bare torso felt the perfect temperature of the night, and he decided not to throw his shirt on.
He grabbed a few magazines and walked outside. Treya was waiting for him, but she averted her gaze when she saw his naked chest. He shrugged the reaction off, moving forward to clap her on the shoulder.
“Midnight shift, it is. Go to sleep; I got this.”
Still not looking his way, Treya nodded, and he swore he could see her cheeks flushing with color.
‘You’re such a tease, Fenrir!’
Alex didn’t even bother to respond as Treya entered her own tent. He listened to her preparing to sleep for a few seconds before looking around. The city could no longer be seen, and the distant mountains seemed so much closer than they had yesterday morning.
They were well outside the guards’ patrol area, so camp security fell to the party itself, just like it had for the last three days.
Snoring rose from Quinn’s tent. Loud and unabated, Alex almost thought the guy needed a CPAP, given the volume. He tried to focus on that sound in an attempt to force the dream from his mind.
‘You know it had to be done.’
’Alex…' ALICE’s voice sounded pained as she called out to him through their telepathic link.
‘Do you ever wonder if there could have been another way?’
‘Yes. Then I remember the promise we made.’ Her reply was immediate.
Alex sighed as he lifted her to his cheek. The action seemed to calm his nerves, and soon, a deathly stillness overtook him.
A stillness very similar to that night, so many years ago.