Cockroach 3

I had no need of tracking when it came to Hale – for a man who spent most of his life tracking people and working up timetables from patterns of behaviour he was not very good at keeping an irregular schedule in place for himself. That was one of the things we had always been taught – the whole idea that variety was the spice of life was a philosophy to die for as far as we were concerned. Hale had grown old and lazy quickly – how this flabby-minded motherfucker had got the drop on me I would never know; it had to mean that the others were way fucking better than he was and their over-compensation dragged up his batting average and made it look good.
The fact that I knew when and where to find this man meant that he had not changed things up in a long time. If they had run a spot check on him his ass would have been canned straight away. He was the weak link in the chain and in our line of work you didn’t brook no entry point by which people could infiltrate your network.
The laziness spoke of arrogance, so I kind of knew that he wouldn’t be expecting anyone to have the balls to try and attack him on his own turf – here he was thinking that he was safe and sound and free to do whatever the fuck he wanted. I stepped out of the shadows and I let him get a good look at me. Now a headless attacker would more than shock most people, would put them seriously on the back foot – but he was in a different line of work and had seen plenty of shit weirder than that. No, the thing that shocked him was he instantly knew who I was and that meant no good news for him.
He lunged at me, I grabbed his arm, pulled him off balance, tripped him, and was on top of him before he could barely form a thought. I pummelled at him, felt his ribs crack under the force of my blows, watched his face swell and burst. But I had to hold back, had to get him out of sight and try and pump him for information before I disposed of him.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – how in the hell does a headless guy interrogate someone for information? Well, the whole deal with the modifications that were made to me is that this whole situation was an eventuality that they planned for, so there were devices in me for just such an occurrence. A vocal processor facing front, towards the enemy, just like a mine – yes, I know your mind went there, so why not use it?
I have never had a problem asking difficult questions and I have always had a certain finesse when it came to extracting information from reluctant subjects. Hale wasn’t reluctant, but I pretended that he was – he had gone soft in the middle but I just made out like he was a hard nut to crack and kept going long after the questions had borne all the fruit they were going to bear. After a while with him there were no more questions and all I was working on were answers; answers to the questions that were my family’s dead bodies.
I am hoping that it takes as little time as this to take the rest of this organisation apart and I hope that I derive as much pleasure from weighing out the justice as I am here. Pulled fingernails, gouged eyes, slices of tongue, pulled teeth, sliced extremities all spiced with screams that an uneducated man might not expect from a trained soldier. All men scream when it comes down to it – when a professional gets to work there isn’t any place for a person to hide themselves, and I am a professional.

Cameraman 3

Click click click – outer perimeter motion detectors trigger rapidfire cameras, feeds push the images through smart refinement software and then they are shunted into image mapping programs, and from there into facial recognition. The machinery has to be there and working fast because what if he were to be asleep when someone tried to attack him, such as now?
The storm shutters had dropped as soon as the security system was awoken so no one outside would be able to see the flashing lights and the soundproofing contained the sound of the alarm.
Strunk was pissed – this shit happening a day after an availability broadcast meant that some fucker was not happy with the idea of paying for what he had. The silver lining was that it meant what he had was valuable. Still, not only was someone willing to launch an offensive against him, but they had used hired help and given out his location. Shit, he did a double-take – they had given out his location. Who the fuck had his location?
He was lucky because his data-uplink to a remote location had been completed ten minutes earlier. He pressed the blaze erase button that was rigged to all of his equipment; climbed into his portable rig and dropped out through one-time tunnel which was set to collapse as soon as he had exited it in a covered location two miles from this, his major base of operations.
He had places everywhere – someone in his line of work needed a string of safehouses because it was their business to piss people off and reap the rewards from that. He’d  have to be patient though – he wanted to make sure that he wasn’t followed because someone already knew way too much. When you are in the business of selling information you are even more guarded about your own – and you are better equipped than most to keep a tight lockdown on what gets out there.
He immediately suspected Harcut, but while Harcut wasn’t the bumbling oaf that most people pictured him as being, there was an element of luck to his current position, and the fact that he had enough muscle to back up his greed. Harcut had smarts but he couldn’t really be said to be possessed of brains and he was most definitely no kind of genius or anything.
By the end of the night he would be relocated and he would be back online. He had business to do – guaranteed money coming in. He needed to be able to pay now for the investigation he was going to have to do into who had double-crossed him.
He shot out into the warehouse, daylight exploding around him. This place had it’s own sealed system and would have told him if it wasn’t safe to use. He’d wait here a little while and then he would be on his way – never to come back to this place that had been home for so long.

Played Your Eyes 5: Lobby

Banks sat there in the lobby of the Hilton hotel, slouched in his chair, looking like a drunk that had stumbled in and taken up residence there instead of some doorway purely by chance. Asa had worked hard to try and get him to smarten himself up, but he was actively resistant towards any imposition of order.
Asa was trying to smooth over relations with the ARMY representative who was understandably not impressed. The guy had expressed an interest in walking up to Banks and shooting him in the head and it had taken a lot to talk him down.
‘What is this shit, Ms. Blumen? Granted, at the moment we need a representative of the established press to get our message out there and calm down the country, but looking at him, i have to ask, are we really that desperate? What the fuck is he supposed to be?’
‘He’s a world class reporter – he is used to reporting on war zones. He has lots of experience.’
‘Pull the other one – it has bells on it. He’s washed up – anyone can see it. Can he even string a sentence together?’
‘Oh, yes, he’s quite verbally dexterous.’
‘Christ, do I have a choice?’
‘I’m sure Mr Hent will find him admirably suited to the task.’
‘Ms. Blumen, no offence, but given how strongly you’re defending someone who looks like they have  a whole raft of problems that makes it a miracle they are still here, one has to wonder if you’re just being paid really well, or if maybe you’re on something even better than he is.’
‘Blumen! – Blumen! Can you come over here for a second? I am being hassled by some grubby little oik who claims to be working for this establishment. All I did was ask the stupid fucker for a drink and he starts trying to push me out the door. Blumen – sort this out or I’ll have your job!’
‘Ms. Blumen, I wonder, do you understand how delicate matters are at the moment? Do you believe that our efforts to stabilise the country are going to be helped any by having this drunken buffoon interviewing a representative of our cause? It shows that we are willing to accept your establishment’s insults and that we do not take ourselves seriously, and nothing could be further from the truth. If you were confronted by a situation such as this, what would you do?’
‘Mr Shirk, I can assure you, no matter how bad he looks, when you put him in front of a camera he will perform perfectly. He was apparently always like this before a show and no one ever suspected who saw him on TV.’
‘Apparently? Meaning you’ve not exactly seen this miraculous change occur? Tell, me Ms. Blumen, as a journalist, how reliable is hearsay? Are you really willing to gamble your future on this man?’
‘I don’t have a choice.’
‘Maybe. But we do.’
‘Do you? Aren’t we really in the same boat? Look, if Mr Hent does the interview and it goes wrong and he wants to shoot Banks through the head then who is really going to complain? I’ll be ruined and won’t have anything to lose. The interview can be effectively buried – no one loses.’
‘Hmm, a strangely persuasive argument, even if aall this jumping through hoops is not something I would ever haave wanted to be doing.’
‘One does what one must.’
‘Yes, of course. And I think you need to go and deal with your charge.’
‘Yeah, maybe you’re right.’

PLayed Your Eyes 4: Human Interest

You don’t have to be old to be a veteran these days – barely have to be out of short pants to have been dragged into the war. They aren’t handing out any medals so don’t expect any, but you might get to eat better than anyone else in the country right now.
Sid was twelve, joined up somewhere around Chester when the Midland Boys swung through and razed the place to the ground. He’d been living rough, chased out of his home by his drunken father who said the country was going to the dogs and he was damned sure not going to keep a mangy pup in the house who might turn round and bite him at any moment. It was a common story reiterated a thousand times, more – it bound them close.
He made his first kill in the battle for Cambridge – his tally grew quickly thereafter. He didn’t even think about it now – point, squeeze the trigger, re-sight, squeeze the trigger. A thousand yard stare from a stone cold killer. And Sid felt like he was burned out already – like this PEACE shit was all well and good to talk about, but in truth how did they just expect everyone to shift gears so quickly?
Killing people had given his life some kind of meaning and purpose – it had become as natural as breathing. What was he going to do now they had won? Sure he had heard the plans the same as everyone else, but he found it hard to imagine a day where he didn’t wake up, march, find an enemy and kill them.
He was thinking that he would volunteer for the clean-up operations because there were bound to be stragglers from the other side who just didn’t want to get with the program. People who were the enemy who, like him, didn’t know how to let go of what they had become.
He sparked up, drew deep. He looked around him – who here wasn’t fucked up and lost to the seduction of the war drums? It was messed up, but he didn’t think he wanted it to be over. What would he be without this? What could he ever do after having done this for so long? They had made him and now they wanted to take him apart, and to be honest he wasn’t sure he could live with that; wasn’t sure he was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
For Sid the journey wasn’t over and he felt that it never would be, until he had either killed the last of his enemies, or they had killed him. That made sense to him – the idea that he would go out like that, fighting bravely for something he believed in – that made him happy. He just didn’t understand the other option that they were offering him; they hadn’t built that possibility into him.