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.

To be continued…