I have another short story for you this week, though whether more will be added depends on your reception! I do plan to return to my House of Cards-inspired story next weekend and there’ll be plenty more to come.
Rain lashed the rooftops and the air was heavy with pollutants but despite the downpour, he had not moved in hours. His camouflage cloak had power for the remainder of the night, though he hoped to have concluded his mission before the charge began to drain. As it was, he was hidden against a backdrop of grey tiles of a factory, one of countless across the planet, and he stared at the sights below, marvelling that anyone would choose to live in such a place. Paraxin truly was as bleak as they said, between the smog and clouds and the general dullness of the manufactories and the warehouses, he imagined Victorian Earth had been dragged into the 35th century for another shot at glory and fallen far short of even that.
Across the rooftops he saw the shields around the great temple waver, a ship was preparing to depart for the spaceport. This was his chance. With barely a pause he lunged forward and raced against the air currents and the power of gravity using the magslips attached to his boots. If someone looked closely, they might see the disturbances in the cloud, but he doubted anyone would see, not from the ground at least, where the smog and the shadows of the towering factories reduced visibility to almost nothing. The temple priests were too insular to have much time for the outer world in any case.
He landed on the side of the temple, his feet finding their grooves as metal spikes attached, locking him vertically to the building. Climbing rapidly he stopped by an open window and detached a tiny drone equipped with cloaking of its own. The drone scanned the rooms within, tracking the routes of the guards, noting the placement of cameras and sensors, and at last, locating the reason he was here.
The drone darted back to him and he pushed himself inside, disturbing a layer of dust, but not making a sound as he walked. His footsteps were muffled, yet he was cautious and activated the visor on his face to display changes in air temperature and mark the passage of feet along the tiles other than his own.
Security grew ever tighter as he ventured deeper into the temple, yet it not stop him from admiring the soaring arches and gilded domes. He had seen images of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Old Earth and here, amid the dirty industries and crumbling homes of Paraxin, that grandeur had been replicated. Lasers had been installed as a deterrent, and he overstepped them with ease but the closer he got to his target, the more pervasive they became. When at last he could go no further, he detached the drone once more, and set it to work. The device began emanating a pulse, it was unfortunately loud, but there was no other way. Each pulse was stronger than the last until a final devastating surge crashed the building’s security grid and drained his cloak of all power. Though visible now, he was not vulnerable and moved quickly, he did not have long.
There were shouts behind him and he turned to face two guards, catching the outstretched baton of one, deflecting the blow against the wall with enough force to leave his assailant winded. With the moment’s opportunity he turned to face the other and parried a blow aimed at his knee which he brought up and slammed into the guard’s chin, sending him reeling. The first guard came at him from behind and he ducked at the last moment, swinging round behind him and slamming the guard’s head against a pillar. The body slumped and he leapt away, overpowering the second guard and pressuring his windpipe until he too fell into unconsciousness.
Silence followed and he moved on, coming at last to a room filled wall to wall with medical monitors hooked to the frail wreck of a man lying in a bed much too large for him. The screens seemed out of place amidst the ancient mosaics that lined the walls, like an intrusion of science in a place where it was not wanted. The man was high priest of the Seven Temples and dressed accordingly, even now. His hat, a red and gold affair shaped like a pyramid was much too big for him, though perhaps he merely looked smaller given the oxygen mask strapped about his face. The priest showed no alarm but there was live in him yet, he nodded, and the assassin removed his oxygen mask.
“Hello my son, it has been too long,” he gasped, each breath catching in his throat as he spoke.
“You know why I am here?”
“Of course. It is my body, not my mind that fails me. Tell your mother…” his father’s voice failed, but he could not show pity. Now was not the time.
“I know,” he replied without emotion and grasped a tube delivering fluids into his father’s body, inserting a toxin into the stream of liquid. His father began to thrash and blood poured from his mouth but in a moment it was over and there was terrible silence. He leaned over his father’s body and placed a kiss on the man’s forehead. It seemed like the right thing to do, though whether he felt remorse he could not say, his actions had not hit him yet. He turned and walked away, listening for sounds of pursuit. When none came he walked down through the temple until he entered the great sanctum and mingled among the parishioners. The smog was still heavy on the street and none saw him fade into the laneways of the city. As he fled the alarms began to toll but he was already away.
Image: Seung Jin Woo