Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Another Day on the Block: A First Law: Override Short Story - Part 3

The climb to the top of the meeting site had been tough. There was a fire escape system that when climbed would take someone from the ground floor all the way to the roof, it was that which Tannus had just done and now with the brown, dirty outer block below him Tannus was able to see all the way out to the wasteland.

The journey from his apartment to the outer blocks had been relatively hassle free. Tannus had encountered a few hecklers; kids mainly, they straddled the support girders ahead and shouted obscene comments to everyone including non-humans, the elderly and women. Tannus thought to himself that they probably shouted abuse at anyone who wasn't a member of their gang, or crew, or whatever they called themselves.

It had taken little more than twenty minutes to get across the Block on foot, if Tannus had stuck to the floor it would have been double that due to the twists and turns of the complex roads, but Tannus was not a tourist in the Block; he knew his way across the hanging supports and paths that allowed for more direct travel. He had overheard the local kids once refer to it as running the girders and Tannus liked this expression. When he had first arrived on the Block, Tannus had wondered why it was rare to see people running the girders and why not everyone had used it as their primary mode of transport but when he had first attempted it he learned why first hand. Tannus wasn't sure what was worse between the biting winds that tried to blow the unsure footed from the rails, the acidic rain that ran into unprotected eyes and burned or the thick smog that rose from the countless air vents pouring their noxious chemicals skywards before it too was eventually swept away by gale force winds. One thing that was clear to him was that it would take skill and patience if he was to master the girders and to begin with time was the one thing Tannus had plenty of.

Below him Tannus could see the meeting site for his target. It was a neon lit crossroads that illuminated everything in bright pink, a stark contrast the the grey concrete and muddy brown rain that continued to fall from the Block's eco-bubble. Slowly and carefully Tannus kneeled down before placing his briefcase at his feet. It felt good to unload the weight and with gentle fingers he released the lock causing the case to smoothly open automatically.

Inside the case was a thick layer of protective foam and nestled within this foam were four long mat black cylinders along with numerous other trinkets that ranged from squares to triangles. Gently Tannus caressed each component as he lifted then out of the case and began to snap them together when suddenly he stopped and held his breath. Tannus knew that someone was behind him and based on the sudden footfall he predicted it was no more than fifteen to twenty feet away which would place that person roughly where the fire escape ladder was located. With practiced care and precision he grasped his pistol strapped in it's chest mounted holster and spun on the spot, the gun held aloft aimed at the unknown assailant's chest. The person by the fire escape took a step backwards and yelped and then spoke.

"What the hell dude?" Called the person revealing himself as Brooks, he was wearing the same clothing as before only his head was covered in a dark balaclava and his chest wrapped in a bullet proof jacket. To Tannus he looked less like a Wraith and more like a mercenary.

Tannus thought for a moment, he hated the way that Brooks dressed and he wanted to call Brooks on it, but he knew what Brooks would say; how things were different now, the Wraiths were no longer exclusive to the Hydan and how the contracts they took on were no longer assassination focused or based around the glorification of the Hydan Republic, Tannus would reply that they still had a standard to uphold and that they were the best Special Forces in the Outer Fringe, but Brooks would just laugh and tell him to calm down and relax and that the top brass or whatever he called them would be happy if we did the job in trash bags, just so long the job got done. All of this Tannus knew to be true and so he bit his tongue and said nothing, returning instead to the assembly of the contents of his case.

Brooks stepped beside Tannus and pulled out a single magnifying scope from a pocket and looked through at the cross roads below.

"Twelve Clickers" Brooks spoke in a hushed tone before continuing in an almost whisper "Totally called it".

Tannus hated the term Clickers, it was the nickname humans had given the Kratel, the name referencing their language appearing in the form of clicks and rattles. The Kratel didn't have conventional mouths, instead where both Humans and Hydan had lips the Kratel had rows of insect like mandibles that chattered together, of course the translators corrected this into Tannus' own language but it was still audible and to many including Tannus himself the noise was very off putting. All the same he did not appreciate the term, it was no different to him being called a Bone Head, but he had learned long ago that one thing Humans enjoyed was creating their own words for things that already had existing names, he could not fault them for trying, it was just what Humans did.

With a smile of satisfaction Tannus clicked the final section from inside his case together. Once assembled the instrument was clearly a rifle complete with silencer and long range electronic scope. Tannus brought the rifle to his face, pulled back his hood allowing the dirty rain to splash across his boned scalp and with his goggles fixed over his eyes he stared through the scope.

The crossroads was filled with twelve Kratel just as Brooks had said, each one was roughly five, maybe six feet tall covered by thick dirty cloaks and hoods that obscured their features but Tannus knew that they were Kratel, their visibly naked feet revealing their bone-hard dark brown skin and long skeletal claw like fingers were more than enough to differentiate them from both Humans and Hydan. Tannus thought for a moment that perhaps they could be Reborn, but he wasn't getting any interference on his scope, and the cybernetic technology the Reborn stitched into their bodies always gave off a feedback that even the most basic of electro-scopes would be able to detect. One of the targets turned in the direction of both Tannus and Brooks forcing them to dodge away from the roof ledge for fear of being seen, both Tannus and Brooks were skilled enough in subtlety and espionage and they knew better than most how to avoid detection, but they knew better than to leave things to chance. Tannus had seen enough, the glimpse of the target had revealed all he wanted; with a dark brown, bone like skin and two large, sunken, black eyes set over a row of bug like mandibles, it was clear that these were Kratel. Their mission had begun.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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