Chess & Violence (A Star Citizen short story)

As he peered through the scope of his Frankenstein of a Gemini A03, its internal image processors were hard at work scrubbing his view of the harsh glare from ArcCorp’s glowing billboards. With the precision device’s night setting active, it had a harder time cutting through the three kilometers worth of rain that stood between him and the empty rooftop that he had been watching for the past three hours. With his heartbeat drumming a slow and steady rhythm that pulsed in his ear and a finger lightly resting on the rifle’s trigger guard, he never looked away from the scope’s display and equally as seldomly allowed his thoughts to wander from the task at hand. Like a predator, he lie coiled in patient anticipation of his killing blow; Because that is exactly what he was.

The kinds of people who’ve seeked out and acquired Clint Draust’s services were not generally the types of folks who are strangers to death for profit, but their methods and motives were rarely ever quite as direct as his own; And this job was no exception. While he was never certain of his employer’s identity, this particular assignment had FlashFire Systems’ top brass written all over it. Some fresh startup company that was born from the new inter-species friendship initiative has acquired a Banu lead engineer who self-identifies as Hauthui. Hauthui is on loan from a Souli out of Geddon and has been tasked with using his guild’s accumulated knowledge to design a xeno-compatible universal weapon mount that utilizes advanced Xi’an stabilization tech that would outperform anything that FlashFire has on the market.

Unfortunately for Hauthui, however, he had allowed his network traffic in an Area 15 bar to get scooped by a local data lifter who was working the region. His name then flagged as a match for an active request on a blacknet site and a sale was automatically generated that led Clint to the deserted rooftop he found himself on. Hauthui was apparently the party hard to relax-even-harder type, so he kept a standing appointment with a relatively highly rated spa for a weekly detox and aromatherapy; An appointment that had to be rapidly approaching, as the spa would be closing soon.

Then, as if in answer to his unspoken anxiety, a blue and white transport shuttle began to circle the facility’s lone landing pad. With the automated grace of an unmanned craft, the pod touched down lightly and deployed its wing-style doors to allow a tall figure in flowing blue and shimmering gold robes to step out. The individual was obviously Banu, but Draust had to wait until his scope could confirm the potential target’s identity before engaging. With a slow leisurely pace, the lanky figure reached back into the transport pod to retrieve a duffel of some sort. The Banu then heaved one of the bag’s straps over a shoulder and turned to return to its full height. As it did so, the alien’s face came into view and Clint’s scope made quick work of the ID check. Target confirmed.

With a barely perceptible rise in his heart rate, the patient marksman pulled up his MobiGlas and opened the management app for the small device he had slipped under the control panel for the Spa’s roof entrance the day before. Keying its activation command, he returned his attention to the scope to watch the door’s input panel begin flashing red. As Hauthui approached the compromised entrance, he quickly noted the non-functionality of the control pad and began to raise his MobiGlas with annoyance for a quick call downstairs to report the issue; Holding his head just-so to keep his expertly exaggerated scowl in-frame for the impending video tirade. Before the transmission had time to connect, however, a complex and unstoppable chain of events was set into motion over three kilometers away; Unseen in the rain amongst the endless cityscape.

Traveling at just over a thousand meters-per-second, the sixteen-gram projectile covered the stretch in two-point-six-nine-seconds; Striking the side of Hauthui’s head with devastating kinetic energy. Clint held his gaze through the scope as his distant target swayed for a moment then toppled to the rain-soaked landing pad with one final spastic twitch, crumpling in an unceremonious heap directly atop the bag he had been carrying. As the assassin counted fifteen seconds off in his head, watching for signs of the banu’s survival, he thought he began to see some movement skittering around amid the darkness underneath the front lip of the landing pad.

Adjusting his view for a better look at the disturbance, he saw the clear shape of a man dressed in all black pulling himself up onto the surface of the now-uninhabited landing pad. With a nervous look around, the mystery guest reached down and shoved Hauthui’s body off of the satchel he had been carrying. After rooting around in the bag for a few moments, the man withdrew a hard-sided silver case and tucked it into the tactical vest he was wearing and stood back up. He then appeared to speak into his MobiGlas before attaching an anchor to the landing deck and descending via cable off of the far side of the building.
As Clint tried to work out the surprising new development in his head, his train of thought was suddenly interrupted by the bright flashing blue and red lights of an Advocacy avenger headed straight toward him with its searchlight active. It was impossible, though. There was no way they could’ve traced his shot so quickly. A thought which was flushed to the rear of his mind as the law enforcement ship began to spool up the barrels of its chin-mounted gatling turret. Amid a surge of adrenaline, the assassin shot to his feet and sprinted for the far end of the rooftop as the loud report of the Advocacy craft’s weapon roared to life with a fountain of orange-red illumination.

The gut-churning concussion of utter destruction seemed to nip at his heels, urging him forward in an adrenaline-fuled dash until he successfully rounded a corner to hide on the far side of the rooftop’s lift access. Before he could parse out the reason for his unexpected survival, an answer presented itself in the form of a large fireball originating from the nearby landing pad; The pad on which he had left his powered-down rental Aurora. With a disgusted sigh and a defeated slump of his shoulders, Clint separated the barrel from his favorite rifle and flung it off the edge of the building as hard as he could. He then ran to the other edge of the rooftop and discarded the second half of the weapon over the edge on that end. With evidence of his deed sufficiently removed from his person, he made a b-line for the button to call the lift while the Advocacy craft began a systematic sweep the destroyed landing pad with its searchlight.

As he stepped through onto the elevator and the doors closed behind him, he calmly reached out to punch the button for street level. Clint then forced his breath into a slow practiced rhythm and mulled the situation over in his head. The contract was awarded and carried out in rapid succession, meaning nobody would have clocked him hanging around, and he made zero external communications regarding the assignment that could have been intercepted by an opportunistic third party. That could mean only one of two things; Either his handler sold him out or the client was playing a double hand to conceal the theft beneath his hit. Made sense to hurry along the closing of a murder investigation with a crispy and very dead murderer to pin it on. Details tend to get overlooked in open-and-shut runs like that, so who would miss an absent silver case? Either way, one of them was going to tell him who tipped off the Advo-cados. Then the tipper was going to get a rare opportunity to experience the sensation of instantly transitioning from terminal velocity into a very dead stop.

_____________________

The doors of the elevator opened into a dingy and poorly lit apartment lobby that sat entirely empty, save for the single widow addict who lay passed out on one of the well-worn benches muttering some nonsense about the government. As he stepped out of the lift and started for the front door, Clint’s exit suddenly became blocked by a pair of heavily armored local security officers who stepped through from the busy street beyond to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as a human wall that seemed to dare him to try and pass. Immediately adopting a swaying and unbalanced gait, Clint did his best to allow his eyes to glaze over as he proceeded toward the armed newcomers. Imparting a slight slur to his voice as he closed his distance to the front door, Clint asked; “Hey, did you guys ever find who nicked my Dragonfly? I swear to Messer it was that bitch Carol Bask-“

“Clint Draust;” boomed the man on the left through his helmet’s external speakers as both men leveled their weapons, “You are under arrest for the murder of a xeno-diplomat. If you do not comply completely, it is within our authority to carry out your summary execution right here and now. Make your choice.”

“Brent who?” Asked Clint as he shakily moved to place his hands atop his head, “I-I don’t know any Brents, but I do know a Brett. You want me to call him up? I think he uses the laundromat you’re talking about.”

The armored man on the right nodded to his partner, saying; “Secure this idiot, then we can call up your friends and claim our reward for his dumb ass.”

“Y’all are giving me an award?!” Slurred Clint with feigned childish delight as one of the armored officers began to approach with his handcuffs at the ready, “It’s about damn time that someone recognizes all the hard work I’ve put into my street magic. I bet the one that got ‘em was-” Then, without completing his sentence, Clint seized the small tear away tab up the left sleeve of his jacket and yanked hard; Pulling free the pin to the custom-made flashbang he habitually concealed there. The small device tumbled out of its stitched compartment and clattered to the lobby floor just as the explosive charge within detonated with a disorienting flash and the heavy chest-punch of a powerful pressure wave.

Clint knew that his foe’s armor would shield them from most of the device’s concussive force, but he was banking on the white-hot light it emitted to buy him the time he needed. Ducking to the right and reaching his left hand to the sheath at the small of his back, Clint pulled his blade clear in a reverse grip and lashed out with his right arm to knock the closer man’s gun out of line. With the muzzle of the officer’s rifle no longer pointing at his face, the experienced assassin was free to close distance to his new target; Expertly guiding the tip of his hardened titanium blade between the armored slats along the suit’s neck joint.

Shoving his knife home with a muted gurgle from within the officer’s helmet, Clint used the weapon as a handle to yank his new human shield into position between himself and the remaining officer. With a gasp of surprise, the armored man in the doorway allowed the muzzle of his rifle to dip with momentary indecision; A mistake that would be his last. Seizing the initiative, Clint drew his dying hostage’s sidearm from its thigh mount on his armor and brought it up to bear. In lieu of attempting to penetrate his foe’s hardened exterior with the small caliber weapon, the assassin instead took aim at the man’s rifle and squeezed off a flurry of rounds.

The ballistic projectiles flew true; ripping into the officer’s gun with a shower of sparks and pulverized plastic that nearly tore the weapon in half. With an expression of fear-tainted shock, the armored man still attempted to level his destroyed rifle at the alleged murderer. Clint didn’t wait around to see if the weapon was inoperable. Instead, he ducked low behind his human shield and roughly shoved the officer toward his comrade as he withdrew his bloody knife from the gasping man’s neck.

The injured officer stumbled back a few steps then fell with his upper body crashing into the knees of the man in the doorway, throwing Clint’s final attacker off balance. Seizing the moment, the assassin sprang forward with his blade at the ready. Using the elbow of his right arm, which still clutched firmly to the first man’s commandeered pistol, Clint hooked underneath the officer’s right arm and wrenched it high enough to reveal the soft fabric of the man’s unarmored armpit. With a practiced thrust of his knife, the assassin buried his blade to its hilt between the officer’s uppermost set of ribs; Eliciting a pained groan from the man that was cut short a moment later at the triple report of his partner’s sidearm pressed firmly to the underside of his chin.

The sudden silence was deafening as the ringing in Clint’s ears came to the forefront of his attention. The flash bang may have blinded his foes, but the concussion did its own number on the assassin himself. Without ever being physically assaulted by the officers, he still had himself a bloody nose and a headache that could kill a kazi. Shaking his head free of the stars still floating through his vision, Clint dropped the half-spent magazine out of his commandeered weapon and sprayed down its handle and frame with an aerosol canister retrieved from a pouch on his pants.

After the solvent had dried, eliminating all traces of prints and DNA from the pistol, the assassin calmly walked over and pressed the weapon into the hand of the clearly strung-out man who still sat slumped on the lobby’s bench; Oblivious to the violence that had just unfolded around him. Straightening with a shrug as he took one final look at the carnage, Clint sighed and said; “You’re in a whole heap of trouble, my friend.” before turning to step out the front door and into the steady flow of people beyond.



To be continued…

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