The line moved glacially slow - not that Carlos had ever seen a glacier. Of course, he read about them on the solar network. One of many spectacular geological features which, while not limited to Earth, was unlikely to found in the hollowed out interior of an asteroid. The young man staffing the sandwich bar looked bored and appeared to work as slow as possible. “Robots,” Carlos muttered, “Where the hell are the robots?”
Behind Carlos waited a shorter, perky lady with cropped black hair. Carlos watched her out of the corner of his eye. Although he was certainly no champion athlete, Carlos had no trouble with the ladies. This one might be worth a pick up. Behind her was an older gentleman with his wife. Unlike Carlos, who fidgeted in impatience, the older couple seemed completely serene and at peace.
The line moved.
“Sir, welcome to Express Sandwich. What can I replicate for you this lovely afternoon?”
Carlos briefly wondered about the nature of the concept “afternoon”. Theoretically, of course, it was clear: based on the rotation of a planetary surface, the light from the sun would appear and disappear at regular intervals. These intervals (days) were further divided into various portions. The so-called “afternoon” was the portion in which the light was still full intensity, but would soon begin to fade.
“Patty melt,” Carlos gruffly responded. Robots, damn it.
“Here you are, sir,” the kid replied, “That will be one and a half credits.”
Carlos tapped his PayCard to the register, and the debt was settled. Although Carlos tried to stay calm, thinking of foolish things like Earth, he found it increasingly difficult to steer thought away from the opportunity in front of him. He was on his way up. Carlos would become, if not famous, then certainly wealthy.
Carlos turned away, noting again the lovely lady waiting behind him. She flashed him a smile, so alluring, that he barely noticed the small metallic cylinder in her hand. Surely not a...
She was too fast to think about, though. Carlos deflected the motion of her hand deftly, without even dropping his sandwich, and the end of the cylinder brushed against the gentleman waiting behind her. Without wasting a breath, Carlos and the woman ran. Carlos wondered, vaulting over a railing and taking stairs three at a time, whether he was more afraid of the woman, or the response of the authorities.
Below him, he heard the older lady cry out, “Martin! Martin!” She grabbed hold of him, as he slumped down onto the floor. An innocent victim. Even Carlos didn't like innocent victims.
More importantly, though, was a lovely young lady who had just tried to kill Carlos. Where was she now? Carlos dived into a darkened, dead-end corridor and pulled a silenced plasma pistol with his free hand. In the distance, he heard the screams of the patrons in the food court as they realized there was death among them. But here in the darkness, Carlos heard only the sound of his heart.
“Sir! Stop right there.” The officer called loudly.
Ontario stopped. He didn't turn, but he then again he hardly needed to. Local security traveled in pairs, each wearing light composite armor and carrying a standard issue plasma pistol. Sure, one of them might have an extra toy, like extended spectrum vision enhancement, but that didn't matter right now.
“Place your hands on your head, and turn around slowly,” The other officer called. In pairs, always in pairs.
At this point, both officers would have their pistols out. They would have already called for backup. In this part of the community, another pair or two of officers could be expected in five minutes. Plenty of time. Ontario slowly moved his thick hands onto his shaved scalp. The muscles in his neck rippled. Still facing away from the officers, he smiled.
The table was green, a strange muted green plastic. Five chairs, plastic, cracked and off-color blue, sat around the table. A bright bulb overhead illuminated the table, chairs, and nothing else.
Thomas thumbed through the file and glanced at his watch. Five minutes. Although he had never worked with any the people he expected to show up, they had all come with the highest recommendation and, most importantly, the most reasonable price. He needed able professionals who wouldn't mind giving him an equal share without equal risk. Thomas smiled. Business as usual.
A heavy metal door swung open, then quickly closed. Thomas set down the file, as the first arrival entered the light. She was lovely, really, lovelier than he had expected. A little short, perhaps, but Thomas wasn't picky about appearances. He wanted results.
She sat down, the harsh light glinting sharply off her jet-black hair. She stared at Thomas intently, feverishly. Not the fever of a woman engrossed in desire or emotion; but the cold logic fever of a woman who knows what she wants and will do anything to get it. She smiles. “Who do I have to kill to get a sandwich around here?”
In the food court, the commotion was beginning to die down. Carlos quietly tucked away his pistol. The woman, whoever she was, was apparently not in pursuit. He checked his watch. Shit. If there was one thing people could say about Carlos, it was that Carlos was never late.
The door opened again. Even in the darkness, the shear size of the figure imposed on the room. The door closed. Thunk. The frame of muscle and strength entered the light. With a clunk, a police-issued plasma laser fell on the table. Ontario sat down, and eyed the other too with confidence.
“You have a job?” he asked.
“Yes,” Thomas replied, to both of them, “I think we're expecting one more now, I'll wait for him, and one more a little later. She's already been briefed.”
“What's the pay?” the petite voice seemed to be in complete contrast to Ontario's gruffness and size.
“Who are you?” Ontario asked.
She looked at him. His size, his strength, his reflexes. To an ordinary man, hell, to a trained soldier, they would be formidable. But Tina was none of those things. “Call me Tina,” she said, “and, ” returning her attention to Thomas, “what's the pay?”
“Equal division,” he said, “One hundred thousand credits each.”
“Just about enough to buy me a sandwich,” Tina smiled.
With another clunk, the door opened.
“You must be Carlos, then,” Thomas said to the darkness. For a moment, there was pure silence. Then Carlos stepped into the light, staring at Tina with daggers in his eyes.
She smiled innocently, and nodded to his sandwich. “I just love patty melts.”
The four sat around the table, leaving one empty seat next to Thomas. He opened the folder.
“The target is very high value, and well protected. Our target is the President of the Solar System.”
“Ha!” Tina scoffed. “The Solar President lives in a bunker asteroid, protected by layer after layer of guards. The entire asteroid is off limits for half a light-minute in all directions, secured with constant monitoring and military spacecraft.”
“That's correct,” Thomas replied. “However, we are facing a unique opportunity. To celebrate the opening of his latest community, Gonli, the President is for the first time in years leaving his asteroid and will stay for 24 hours in the Gonli's high end resort hotel.”
“The Marble Hotel?” Carlos asked.
“The same,” Thomas nodded. “Although his security will be extremely tight, the Gonli community will still be open to the public as usual. In fact, I have information that the Marble Hotel itself will still be allowing public stays. They're calling it the 'Stay with the President' package.”
Ontario scowled. “I do not like fancy hotels.”
“You don't have to like it,” Tina interjected, “You just have to deal with it.”
Thomas nodded absently. “A friend of mine with connections inside Central Security...”
“No one has connections inside Central Security,” Carlos interrupted, “There has never been any known breach, at any level, of Central Security.”
Thomas stared at Carlos. “As I said,” he sounded the words individually, “We have information from inside Central Security.” Carlos shrugged, and Thomas relaxed. “The information contains the layouts of the hotel floors, including where guards will be posted, what their rounds will be, where the President will be, and where Central Security command posts will be.”
Tina whistled, and Ontario smiled.
“That's gold,” Tina whispered.
“Yes,” Thomas acknowledged, “If we use it properly.”
“What's the plan, then?” Ontario shifted. Less talk, more action.
“The plan,” Thomas smiled now, “is up to you. Let me brief you on what we know.”
“The Hotel has fifty guest floors. The main entrance is at the top of the hotel, above the first guest floor. The bottom four of these floors are fully reserved for the President and his staff. In order, floor 47 will be occupied by staffers, assistants, and off-duty Central Security officers. There will be two on-duty Central Security officers monitoring all access to floor 47. Approximately three-quarters of the available rooms on the floor will be in use; the remainder will be vacant. Vacant rooms are part of the security sweep done by the on-duty officer. Floor 48...”
“Wait, so how does this sweep work?” Carlos injected.
“As I said, there are two on-duty officers at all times. One officer will man an armored station at the elevator. The other will walk a patrol route through the hall, which includes entering and briefly inspecting all un-occupied rooms. When the patrol officer returns, he switches places with the desk officer and the patrol begins again. This occurs for four hours. At the end of four hours, a relief pair of officers arrives and the team switches out.”
“Does your information include officer equipment?” Tina asked.
“Yes. Each on-duty officer will be wearing standard light composite armor, be equipped with a laser pistol, extended spectrum vision goggles, and, perhaps most importantly, a constant video uplink from the goggles to the command post. In addition, each officer will have a button operated radio that links to all other officers and to the command post.”
“I don't think that will be a problem,” Ontario noded.
“The video uplink might,” Carlos retorted. “You can't just kill them and hope no one notices. Someone will notice. And when they do, the President will be secured immediately.”
Thomas glanced around the table, and resumes. “The 48th floor will be empty, except for two officers. These officers will maintain a patrol in the manner I described previously. No other personnel are authorized for the 48th floor. This floor serves as a buffer. The 49th floor is the Big One. This floor contains the President, Central Security command post, additional rooms for off-duty officers, an armory, and plethora of guards. The elevator will be guarded by four officers; these officers will be in heavy armor with plasma repeaters. Down the hall to the left you will find the President's Suite, guarded by two officers; and across the hall, the command post, also guarded by two officers. Down the hall to the right you will find the armory and rooms for officers.”
Ontario smiled. “No problem.”
Carlos raised an eyebrow.
“And the 50th floor?” Tina followed up.
“Another empty buffer floor, with two officers,” Thomas replied. “Below the 50th floor, the hotel has a machinery floor which operates hot water, air temperature and humidity, electricity, communication, and other comforts. This floor also contains laundry facilities and hotel staff support areas. Most of this floor will be shut down for the duration of the President's stay. There will be at least two officers patrolling this floor at all times, with additional officers to accompany any hotel staff that may need to access it.”
“Finally,” Thomas continues, “The community of Gonli controls a final level beneath the hotel. This level contains the artificial gravity equipment, core life support, and community infrastructure systems. Again, this level will have two officers on patrol at all times and be sealed to the usual staff.”
Thomas shuffled the papers in the folder. “That is the extent of the insider information I have from my source. There is also a good deal of public information on security that will be present at the community and hotel during and before the event.”
“A ten light second security will be established around the community asteroid during, before, and shortly after the President's stay. All craft entered the security zone will be scanned for traces of explosives.”
“Is this a remote scan or a boarding party?” Tina inquired.
“Remote scan,” Thomas clarified.
“But if they think you are suspicious, you better believe they're coming aboard,” Carlos added.
“Correct. Either way, there will also be a one light second perimeter which will include a more detailed scan and random...” Ontario coughs “...boardings and individual screenings. If you manage to get past this screening, then upon docking in the asteroid, every craft will be boarded and thoroughly inspected by Central Security officers. That includes passengers and crew.”
“Once through security your movements are largely unencumbered, except the areas I previously mentioned in and below the Marble Hotel. The lobby of the Marble Hotel will also have security, although it's not clear that they will be active in searching persons. Public rooms will be rented on the first thirty floors; Floors 31 through 46 will be closed and presumably completely vacant.”
“No officers?” Tina raised an eyebrow.
“None that I have been informed of,” Thomas replied. “Of course, you must assume that any information we have is incomplete...”
“Or an out-right fabrication.” Carlos retorted, “A real leak in Central Security? That's a stretch.”
“My portion of this,” Thomas stated, closing the folder, “is to provide information and coordination with the principle. Your portion is to plan and carry out the assassination, and then receive your compensation.”
Carlos unwrapped the sandwich and took a bite.
“How is it?” Tina asked.
“Cold,” he replied.
“Ok,” Ontario looked confidently at Carlos and Luna. “I have a plan.”
It's not everyday that the President leaves his bunker, and people are swarming to see him. Luckily, Ontario, Tina, and Carlos were able to book a room in the Marble Hotel. The outer security perimeter is no problem, and with some smooth talking, Tina lands the group's shuttle in the Gonli community dock. Carlos' skill at hiding weapons leaves the officer's frankly spotty inspection fruitless. It's not long before Tina is stretching out in a warm bubble bath in a new room in the Marble Hotel.
“Do you realize,” she called out to her companions in the main room, “this tub has never been used before? This is a virgin tub!”
Ontario made some kind of remark. “Hey,” she called out, “Don't get any ideas!”
“This is quite the collection,” Carlos remarked.
Ontario's weapon collection is now spread across the bed. All three of them (Thomas, of course, never intended to be along for the dangerous part) will have a plasma repeater and light armor. “But there's going to be four guys with heavier armor, the same guns, and more guys just down the hall.”
“We will have the element of surprise,” Ontario remarked, “They feel so safe, so cocooned, they will be expected nothing.”
“Furthermore,” Tina stepped out of the bathroom, wrapping a towel around her short still-dripping frame, “we'll time the arrival for when one of the teams from the other floor is coming back. They'll be expecting the elevator to open... But they'll be expecting it to open with friends.”
“We'll need access to their radio system, and some way to override the elevator lockouts,” Carlos mused.
“Done and done,” Tina winked. “That weirdo Thomas isn't the only one with friends, you know.”
“I. Hate. Elevators.” Tina intoned, staring into the diffuse lighting in the elevator's ceiling. They had been waiting now for over an hour, listening to routine radio traffic from the security officers ten floors below them.
“Control, group two, we've confirmed meeting group five. Exchange on floor 48 complete.”
“Control, group five, acknowledge hand-off to group two. We're coming home.”
“Groups two, five; control, copy. Group five authorized return to floor 49.”
“That's us!” Carlos interjects. The elevator control panel has been opened, and Tina has attached a small device to the wiring inside. With Carlos' injunction, she tapped a button. The elevator begins a smooth descent.
“The software will report that the elevator is stationary,” she says, “But we'll be on floor 49 in a few seconds.”
Ontario nodded to Carlos, and they both point the plasma repeaters toward the closed door.
“Lights,” Ontario commanded.
Tina tapped another command, and the elevator cabin plunged into darkness.
The doors slide open. Carlos had seen a lot in his days, but the sight of the heavy military armor adorned with Central Security logos was a little much. The cacophony was immediate. The flashing of light from the officers' plasma repeaters. Blood. Tina's blood. A distant, echoing cry. Tina's cry. Tina. She tried to kill me, Carlos remembered, in some cold, macabre humor. But it didn't matter. The high temperature plasma rays burned through Carlos like paper. It's kind of funny, he thought. I didn't expect it to feel this way. I didn't expect it to end this way. He looked at Tina, now motionless, on the floor, in a pool of blood. It didn't have to be like this.
Ontario's battle cry turned into a battle gurgle as blood rushed up his throat and down his chest.
With that, silence again fell on floor 49. A dull haze from the plasma weapons filled the area. The four officers approached the elevator, sweeping their weapons cautiously. The blood of the three bodies now piled inside slowly filled the floor of the elevator, and then began dripping down the shaft.
“Congratulations, asshole.” Carlos took another bite of his cold sandwich, and tossed it down on the green plastic table. “You've killed us all.”
Ontario frowned. “I was sure...”
“That's because you're an idiot,” Tina scolded him.
Ontario stood rapidly, his chair scuttling to the floor. “You want this?” he bellowed.
“No,” Thomas interjected, “no, no. Work this out. The job, focus on the job. Ontario, sit down.”
Ontario glared at Thomas, and slowly sat.
“You have something else to offer, then?” Carlos asked Tina.
“Yes,” Tina stared at the grimy table, then looked in Carlos' eyes. “I have a plan.”
Tina tapped the control pad in the elevator. “Floor 46,” she says.
“What's on floor 46?” Ontario asked.
“Nothing whatsoever,” Tina smiled.
The vacant hallways, still waiting for the final coat of paint and the placing of decorations, stretch out in either direction. Tina led the team, with Ontario scowling, to one of many identical empty rooms.
“Our new home?” Carlos asked, inspecting the still unconnected plumbing.
“Not for long,” Tina replied. “Below us is a vacant room on the support staff floor. In that case, ” she motioned to a small handbag, “Ontario, you'll find a construction laser. Bring it into the bathroom.”
“What's in the bathroom?” Ontario asked.
“Nothing! Ok, Nothing!”
“According to Thomas,” she continued, “the security checks of unoccupied rooms are brief. They likely don't inspect the room's bathroom, just the main portion. By drilling through the ceiling directly into the bathroom, we can avoid any possibility of detection.”
“What then?” Carlos asked.
“Simple,” she replied, “Rinse, repeat. Drill down into the buffer floor. Then, we can avoid the patrol, find the room above the President's Suite, and well, I've got another trick up my sleeve I can show you then.”
“Ok,” Carlos smiled, “This sounds like it just might work.”
The construction laser sizzled and burned as the layers of the floor peeled away. Soon, the team stared through a small but squeezable gap into an identical bathroom on the support staff floor. This one had apparently functioning plumbing. Carlos dropped down first, slid the bathroom door closed, and motioned for the others. Tina dropped down quietly, but Ontario's large frame stuck, slowing his progress through the hole. “Come on!” Tina hissed.
By the time Ontario finished getting through the hole, Tina's laser had already cut most of the way down another floor, into a bathroom on the buffer floor, floor 48. “Almost there!” she whispered.
Again, the team dropped down onto the floor. “What's below us?” Carlos asked.
Tina shook her head. “Bad news. The only unoccupied rooms above were directly over the officer's quarters. We can't drill down here. We have to get across the floor, to a room above the President's Suite.”
“No problem,” Ontario responded.
“If we're spotted by the patrol, we're done. They'll immediately see us on video,” Carlos warned.
“And that,” Tina smiled, “is why we wait.”
Sure enough, the footsteps of the officer pass soon enough. The team tensed behind the bathroom door as the officer entered the room, scanned, and then shortly left. As the footsteps receded down the hall, Tina nodded.
The team darted quietly in the opposite direction, soon reaching another room. Tina opened the door and the group slid in.
“Ok,” she blurted, “We have only a few minutes before the officer returns on patrol and comes into this room. We are directly above the President, right now. So this is our chance.”
“Let's do it,” Ontario nodded.
“We're going to drill a small hole in the floor here, and insert this,” she pulled a narrow, thin cylinder from pocket. “This is a micro-laser. Just as powerful as a pistol, but a single shot, and only a centimeter wide.”
“Brilliant,” Carlos shook his head. “You're full of gadgets.”
“Let's go,” she put the laser on the floor and turned it on. “In a few seconds this will drill a sufficient hole and then we'll be set.”
Ontario smiled. The taste, yes, the taste of money, of payoff. It's almost here.
Outside the door, suddenly, footsteps.
“Shit!” Carlos whispered.
The door opened.
The officer appears startled, more startled than the group of three strangers hunched over a small machine on the floor. He reaches for his weapon.
A burning smell fills the room, the officer screamed and collapsed. Ontario whipped the pistol around, and placed it back in his belt. “No problem,” he said.
“Big problem,” Carlos cried, “Run! Back to the bathroom portal.”
Running now, the bathroom with the hole back up to the next floor, and the next floor, and then, hopefully safety, seemed so far away. As they ran the other officer rounded the hallway, weapon drawn, and fired. Ontario fired back, and from comical distances the streaks of charged plasma blazed. A bolt hit Carlos, then another, then another. His eyes filled with blood as he writhed on the ground, watching Tina and Ontario continue running. The officer fell, the victim of Ontario's well placed shots.
And just as they arrive at the room, their special room, a posse of officers stormed into the hall, and they fall, fall in a blaze of smoke and fire. And the blood filled Carlos' eyes, mercifully covering him from the sight of their failure.
Carlos swallowed the final bite of his cold patty melt. “Well, Tina, I would like to say you did so much better, but dead is dead!”
“We almost had it. I killed many,” Ontario replied.
“Yes, no doubt. Anyways, that's obviously much too risky. We need something more assured...” Carlos pondered, crinkling the sandwich wrap in his hand.
“And I suppose,” Tina replied, “that you have some improvement to suggest.”
Thomas raised an eyebrow, looking at Carlos.
“Yes,” Carlos nodded, “Yes, I have a plan.”
“Four hours isn't too long,” Carlos whispered, as they stared through the tiny laser hole in the bathroom ceiling. “But you know that one of these guys is going to have to take a leak. Or at least, claim to in order to get a break.”
Tina smiled. “It's the only time they turn off their goggle cameras. Their only vulnerability.”
“I think these guys are more antsy than we think,” Carlos noted. The officer entered the bathroom below them, glanced around, and keyed his mic.
“Control, officer Delta-Five-Two, bathroom.”
“Officer Delta-Five-Two, Control, roger. Cleared to deactivate camera.”
Tina inserted the pen laser into the drill hole and with a “pzzt” and a thump officer Delta-Five-Two collapsed. The team had already cut open the ceiling, but simply covered it over so it would not be apparent. The cover lifted off easily, and Carlos dropped through. Quickly and efficiently he stripped the uniform and armor off the lifeless body. Standing before the mirror, Carlos dressed himself, carefully duplicating the exact appearance of the fallen officer. Most of the body was covered in gear, including a substantial helmet, so Carlos' somewhat different appearance would be no problem. A larger problem would be the voice.
Fortunately, Tina had another trick up her sleeve. Carlos pulled a small chip, tied into Tina's radio monitoring system, that analyzed the officer's voice pattern. He attached it to the mic. Tina had given Carlos another small chip we he attached to the camera mechanism. This one, Tina had said, would be her finest achievement. Finally, Carlos shoved the body into the room's linen closet. Stepping back into the bathroom, he gave the thumbs up to Tina and Ontario, who restored the temporary ceiling cover.
Click. Carlos turned on the camera.
Click. Carlos keyed the mic. The moment of truth.
“Control, officer Delta-Five-Two, bathroom complete.”
“Officer Delta-Five-Two, Control, roger. Video feed confirmed. Continue patrol. And, uh, you're a little scratchy. Have your mic and radio checked when you're done with your shift.”
“Now what?” Ontario muttered as Carlos left the room.
“Now,” Tina smiled, “We just wait. These guys, they're all the same. Just watch.”
Carlos did his best to patrol like the officer would. Not too thorough, not too lax. He was on camera... If the folks in control got even the least bit suspicious, the whole thing would fall apart. Soon, though, Carlos found himself back at the main desk, at elevator, floor 48. The other officer was sitting watch.
“Officer Delta-Five-Two reporting patrol clear,” Carlos said.
The other officer nodded. Any facial expression was impossible to determine under the mic and helmet. “Officer Delta-Five-One, exchanging desk position.”
“Officer Delta-Five-Two, confirmed.”
“Control, Officer Delta-Five-One beginning patrol.”
“Officer Delta-Five-One, Control, roger, video feed confirmed. Begin patrol.”
Carlos sat, awkward, uncomfortable, staring at the elevator. Sweat beaded on his forehead. This was all too specific. Too particular. And this was his idea! What was he thinking!? What if... but he would. Yes, of course, he would.
“I hear footsteps,” Ontario said, perhaps a bit too loud.
Tina nodded. Sure enough, here he comes. The one thing about these “elite” officers, she thought, they sure know how to take all the breaks their contract allows.
“Control, officer Delta-Five-One, using the bathroom.”
“Officer Delta-Five-One, Control, roger. Cleared to deactivate camera.”
Zap. Another officer fell.
Tina quickly lowered herself through the ceiling. Ontario, not so much. But he's working on it. She didn't bother to don the uniform. Instead, she attached a chip to camera and a chip to the mic. She pulled out a small control device.
She clicks the mic, “Control, officer Delta-Five-One, all done.”
“Officer Delta-Five-One, ah, control, ah...”
Shit. Shit shit shit. Tina frantically scanned her equipment. What did she do wrong. Did the voice modularizer not turn on? Is the camera replay system in fact not operational? Shit shit shit.
“Officer Delta-Five-One, Control, sorry for the delay. A think a little technical problem on our end. Video feed confirmed. Resume patrol.”
Tina dropped the headset back onto the cooling body of the real Officer Delta-Five-One. “Let's go,” she saidto Ontario.
They jogged to the floors lobby, where Carlos still sat, terrified. “Come on, Carlos, let's go,” she called out.
“It's... good?” He asked.
“Of course it's good! The camera replay is sending old footage down to control. They think you're at the desk and other guy is on patrol. Now hurry up. The replay doesn't cover sound, so we only have a few minutes until they figure out something's up.”
Carlos joined Tina and Ontario, tearing off pieces of equipment as they went. “That suit is horrible!” he gasped, “I can't see how these guys wear it all day.”
“Yeah, well,” Tina laughed, “That's why they take breaks all the time.”
They arrived at the room. It looked like any other plain, non-descript room on this floor. But this is The Room. This is The Moment.
“Get out the drill,” Tina commanded.
As Ontario drilled down through the floor closer, closer, closer to the President's hallowed suite, Tina prepared the last of the micro-lasers which will take the final and most important target of all.
“We did it,” Tina smiled.
“We haven't done it yet,” Carlos frowned.
“Oh come on, this was your plan, your idea. This was genius.”
“Drilling done,” Ontario stated, the slightest note of excitement in his voice.
Tina inserted the micro-laser into the hole. She smiled.
“Of course,” Tina countered, “As soon as I push the button, the place would be swarming with officers. How would we escape?”
Carlos contemplated the green plastic table, as if it would have answers or insight.
“Luck, I guess.”
“Luck?” Ontario scoffed. “We fight, or we die. I don't live by luck.”
“Well,” Thomas added, “if you were to perish, you would be unable to receive your portion of the fee. That just leaves more for me and the rest of the survivors, if any,” he laughed.
“I'd like to stay alive,” Carlos added.
“Maybe I can help with that.” The voice is crisp, clear, and all-together un-worldly. A figure, a shadow, shifts near Thomas. In a flash, Carlos and Ontario drew out their pistols, and Tina pulled her weapon, the same weapon, Carlos noted, that almost killed him earlier in the food court.
“Who the fuck are you and how the fuck did you get in here?” Ontario stood tensely, ready for action.
“Please, please,” she motioned calmly, remaining in her seat next to Thomas. “My name is Luna. I apologize for my tardiness.”
“Luna?” Carlos asked.
“Luna is our fifth member,” Thomas confirmed, “She will be completing your team.”
Tina and Carlos slowly sat down their weapons, although Ontario remained concerned.
“As you can see,” she smiled, her pale face barely reflecting the light, “I do have certain talents that you may find unusually useful.”
“Yes... yes indeed,” Tina added with enthusiasm. “This could change everything.”
Ontario sighed and sat down.
“How long have you been here?” Carlos asked.
“Long enough,” Luna smiled. “You all have such great ideas. Really, Carlos, you pulled it off. You just couldn't get your people out.”
“So, do you have an idea? An improvement?” Carlos responded.
“I think I do,” Luna smiled, “I have a plan.”
The room is silent for a moment. Ontario leaned forward, “Well??”
Luna smiled and raised her hands.
The heavy door of the room burst open, and a flood of light streamed in. Stunned, Thomas, Ontario, Carlos, and Tina spun to face the light, as a hail of plasma repeaters filled the room with smoke and fire and screaming.
When the smoke cleared, four people lay dead, expressions of shock and surprise etched forever on their faces. Luna stood slowly. A group of heavily armored officers, bearing the logo of Central Security rushed in and secured the scene.
“Thank you so much,” Luna said to the commanding officer. “I think today you have saved the President.”
“Yes, Captain,” he replied curtly.
As the officers left the room to clear of smoke and haze, Luna steps over the body of Tina. Tina's terrified surprise stared lifelessly into Luna's eyes. “You did have such good ideas. And such fun gadgets, my dear. In a way, I'm sorry.”
In Tina's bag, Luna quickly removed a small, slender cylinder, and drops it innocently into her pocket.
“Captain,” an officer addressed Luna, “The General will see you.”
“Very good, thank you,” she replied.
“Captain, your service has been impressive.”
“Thank you, General,” Luna smiled, “I think you'll find the President would be quite safe, except for the officer substitution plan. I'm sure the technicians can come up with a counter-measure.”
“I've already alerted them. I have no doubt we'll have it by tonight. They fell for the 'inside information'?”
“Hook, line, and sinker, sir. Thomas believed I was a turn-coat, a double-agent,” she laughed, “and that I was giving them real information.”
“Well,” the General pondered, “it is real information. The layouts, the officers, everything...”
“Yes,” Luna responded, “someone could right now execute that plan and kill the President's body double. That would be a very sad day indeed.”
“The President would be mortified.” The General smiled. “I believe, however, that he wants to meet you. To personally thank the brave Captain who entered the lair of the enemy and destroyed them completely.”
“I would be honored, sir,” Luna smiled broadly.
The entire solar system was focused on Gonli and the Marble Hotel. The man on the 49th floor, in the President's Suite, surrounded by guards was not, of course, the President. The President did not leave his bunker, his safe house, his asteroid protected by all the navy and the military. It was here that the Captain who called herself Luna was brought, a place where very, very few had ever walked. The most secure halls of the solar system.
Luna wore her nicest dress, walked with her nicest walk, and smiled her nicest smile. The legions of guards stared stone cold back at her. These were the true grunts of Central Security; not the toy guards at the Marble Hotel taking bathroom breaks, but hardened, brainwashed, thought shaped officers. They had only one loyalty: The President.
The big doors opened, and Luna stepped into a well decorated office with vaulted ceilings and a plush carpet bearing his insignia. A rich, red, leather chair turned slowly around. The President of the Solar System. Really, in person, she thought, less impressive without the makeup and airbrushing and photo manipulation of the media. But still, a powerful presence.
Around the room, a number of antique furniture pieces, such as couches, chairs, and bookshelves provided a rich, homey atmosphere. An atmosphere of serious development, of intellectual growth. It was just the environment that worked for Luna right now.
“Captain, thank you,” The President spoke, “Uncovering a credible threat, and eliminating it, really that makes you a shiny star in my eyes. I think you have a strong future in Central Security. I've reviewed the procedure you used, the limited and controlled release of information, the insertion into a terrorist cell. I think it's all great. Again, thank you, Captain.”
“And sir, it means the world to me that you chose to see me in person. I recognize that that is such a rare honor.”
The President smiled. “Together, we will keep this solar system safe.”
Luna smiled, half-smiled, partially smiled. Safe... “Something like that,” she added, absently.
The President looked at her, quizzically.
Luna shifted. A small, metal cylinder dropped down her sleeve and into her palm.
“Weapon!” The President's bodyguards shouted and pulled their weapons, diving to cover him.
The micro-laser fired quickly, Luna smartly honing it on target. The laser burned into the President's skull, and Luna dived behind the couch as the bodyguards fired. Shots tore through the couch, the door burst open, fast, fast, the room filled with officers. They swarmed the President, pulling him out of the room, rushing him to medical care that would be no use what-so-ever. They swarmed the room and the hall looking for Luna... For the Captain that betrayed them, Central Security, the agency that had never had a leak.
“Yes.” The gruff voice answered.
“I'm calling on behalf of Thomas regarding the job,” Luna stated into her communicator. The crowds pressed around her as people discussed, in tones scared, excited, unsure, the apparent death of the President.
“Where is Thomas?” the man responded.
“I've taken over for Thomas,” Luna stated factually, “You deal with me now. The job is done. I expect compensation. I understand the total is 500,000 credits.”
The man paused. “That's correct.”
“Excellent,” she replied. Around her, the people started to discuss the future. Would there be a new President? Would a whole new system arise? What would happen to them? To their families? “I'll come by shortly to pick it up.”
And with that, Luna disconnected her communicator and walked, with a smile, a real smile, a smile that finally she had done something for herself instead of for her agency, through a sea of chaos, a sea of panic, a sea of uncertainty.
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