Agent 4-13 was at the end of the bar. Average man in average clothes. No facial hair. He reportedly liked to keep it clean. I’d observed him order a tasteless beer. Some corporate wash that was more alcoholic water than anything that would actually fit the definition. He needed it for courage I suppose, as now he was just scanning the crowds around him.
Neon lights spelling out “Parabellum” hung across the room’s expanse. The bits and bobs adorned on the moving bodies refracted many colors illuminating obscured shapes among the walls of flesh. They were dressed in variety. Starting with retro gear of the early 2000s era. Then moving to the super modern, electric textile, clothes touted by social leaders all adding to the light show. All skin and neon. And that’s why 4-13 stuck out. A symbol of the common that, in this context, left him unique among the extensive variety around him.
Parabellum was a modern bar in the full sense of the word. A very popular spot for the local night owls all around Green City. A joke of a name of course. Though not intended that way from the start. The club fit its title though, as Parabellum means war, and this place embodied that. The daily war of managing your human needs against that of more productive endeavors. Something I sometimes stepped outside of, as made clear to at least a handful of people here tonight. And normally I would have gone with them; but there could be no distractions. Though at least now it was confirmed that I blended in well enough.
Despite the action in the room, I made note 4-13 was not making any moves toward the crowd. Yet I knew he lived alone. A reason we picked this individual I remind myself. That trait was important for our purposes, of course. It was in his file. Though the small panel indicating a cybernetic implant on his head was new. With a cursory look over, the processors in my own cybernetics quickly identified the make and model.
It was a budget series dopamine regulator. Just a simple drug administration system. Likely not prescribed. Though commonly used by low level corporate workers due to the rampant waves of depression common in the field. I logged this development and made my decision. This was the one we wanted. His mental profile managed to fall right into the sweet spot for this operation. Operation Real Sun.
After some time and a few more drinks on my part, a status message appeared in the right corner of my vision. The breach had finally finished. The hardware embedded in my head had completed the spoofing of 4-13’s phone and retrieved his GPS’s authentication token. While I didn’t think he’d delay his journey home, it always payed to be careful at this stage. Grabbing my long coat from the hook under the bar, I slid one of the bartenders a corporate identifier and made my way to the exit. As I passed 4-13, I noted he appeared dejected. I resolved to execute the next part of the plan with speed in case he left Parabellum earlier than his usual schedule would suggest.
Stepping outside into the blurred neon and noise of the street, I found the incessant rain had started again. Pulling my coat on and raising the hood, I stepped onto the sidewalk. Here I began following the arrow in my eye that appeared projected on the concrete below me. I always liked that feature. It became very convenient when visiting a new city for an operation. You’d never get lost, and here to get lost was to lose the contract. Flowing through the crowds I passed many things, but none extraordinary to my eyes. Once a man had explored one of the megacities, he had explored them all. There was nothing new under the sun. Just repetition of the same over and over and over again with different coats of paint. Or grime. Or blood.
And there were always the people. The good ones, the bad ones, and those who didn’t fit either side cleanly. Even they were not different. Some were just people doing their best to survive and some were doing their best just to make it hard for the others. But they were all the same no matter where I went. Different shells, but the same goals and aspirations without the realization that the roles they strove for were already filled. Without the clear knowledge that there are too many of us for the world to care about an individual. No room for the nurturing that nature gave us in the past. No room to maneuver unless you’ve planned it from the very start. And yet, here above all, the corporations reign through their megacities and even they are all the same. They all have different names that separate them, but the same goals that keep them striving for total control. A mass swirl of chaos and violence tinted by the neon in the street from a hospital sign filled with the previous, lucky, victims of their operations – but in the end, it’s all the same.
These thoughts occupied my mind as I followed the arrows projected on the pavement and my mind moved back to the operation at hand.
Opening the door to 4-13’s apartment was easy enough. Inside wasn’t much. Just a standard three room configuration. It featured a bedroom, bathroom, and all-in-one multipurpose room. Everything was grey and made of cheap metals. Efficient, but completely devoid of any feeling of life. This contrasted sharply with the musk that was immediately detectable upon my entrance. The smell of someone who was driven ragged. Despite this, I found an agreeable place on the couch in multipurpose room. I was just beyond the view from the door. Here I settled in and waited for 4-13’s return from his ill prepared hunt.
As he entered and found me, his face contorted into surprise. Then fear. A genuine expression of real terror. Eyes wide like an animal in the sights. So of course, he tried to run. But that was expected. Before he could make it to the door, I grabbed him by his jacket and threw him back into where I had been sitting. With the power behind my cybernetically altered arms he flew and crashed into the couch. Lunging forward I pinned him with a cross bar to his chest and pushed my UK-45 handgun to his face.
I finally shouted at him, “Agent! Stand down!”
But rather than reply with anything coherent he just began to babble and beg. With this close proximity, I could smell the remnants of the cologne he must have put on. Something cheap. Like what they advertise on television. Apparently, it was supposed to give off pheromones. Ones that were supposed to draw women in but provided no proof. Though this clearly wasn’t enough to get 4-13 close enough to even begin. But now it was distinctly diluted with sweat and fear.
And he would not stop begging. I did not have time for it, so I played the only card I could think of. Holstering my pistol, I removed the picture from my pocket. The one featuring 4-13 standing next to a woman around his age and a kid. Showing it to the cowering man, he stared at me blankly.
“Who’s that supposed to be?”
“That would be your wife. And your kid. You’re a Militech employee and I’m here to advise in your reassignment as shown in your contract,” I replied holding the picture closer to his face, but I all I received was an expression of confusion.
He stammered out a string of mumbling words and finally, “But I work for Shoshonite Industries. I live here alone.” And after a pause, “sir, I’m definitely not your guy. Please just let me go.”
“The first two, are true. You are currently assigned to be working for Shoshonite Industries, yes. And you do appear to live here alone. But, you are in fact ‘my guy’.”
He just continued his pitiful stare.
I kept up, “You’re a sleeper agent and your name is Charles Mayor. Is that correct?”
“How can you not be sure. It’s your name.”
“It is my name. – But this can’t be true. I don’t remember anything like this. I don’t think I’ve ever worked at Militech and, to be honest, I don’t think I’d even be capable of it.”
Sensing his apprehension, I backed off and let him sit on the couch unimpeded. When he appeared to have calmed down, I handed him a data drive and pointed to the television mounted flush to the wall.
“Plug this in.”
Taking the drive 4-13, or Charles I suppose, stood and slotted the drive into an exterior data port. Immediately, the Militech logo appeared on screen and shortly after was eclipsed by a key pad display asking for authentication. With this displayed, 4-13 turned to look at me.
“Just put in your key code. You always said you’d never forget it.”
Slowly tapping the screen, 4-13 tried to say something, but I chided him back into some expediency. I did not have all night for this. Finally, when 4-13 got around to hitting “enter”, the keypad faded, and a data file’s contents took its place. In bold text at the top was “Charles Mayor” next to a red styled Militech Logo and subtext reading, “Agent.” He turned to me again, but with a different expression this time. It spoke of curiosity. Mainly in the eyes.
“So, Charles. Do you believe me now?”
“Is this my employee record?”
“It says your name doesn’t it? The data is all there; read through it if you want. I’m authorized to leave that drive with you since it has your new mission directives on it. – Just hit the button at the top.”
While 4-13 scanned the information, I sent a signal back to Militech. Two pings. The short and sweet way of signaling a green light.
After a short time 4-13 turned around, “I think I understand. This is exciting.”
I simply nodded. I already knew what was on that mission file; I had a hand in writing most of it. It was certainly clever.
4-13 said, “Do you have my equipment?”
He was clearly curious now. An easy emotion to play against.
“I do,” I said opening my coat and moved to lay out the sought after items. I placed them on the table beside the couch. When finished, I noticed 4-13 admiring what was on the table.
“It’s a Shoshonite Armaments Tex-28 revolver. Fires 5.7×28mm rounds and is suppressor capable; which I’ve included in your package. – It’s already loaded so please don’t shoot yourself with it accidently. You’re an asset here.”
He just nodded so I took my turn to leave. As I walked to the door, I saw 4-13 pickup the picture again out of the corner of my eye. I turned to focus on him. I could see his emotions plainly. He stared into that picture like it was going to come alive then and there. As if he was trying to find a reason not to believe what he saw, but deeply wanted it to be true. A perfect acquisition. And I stepped out into the hallway closing the door behind me.
A short time after I had taken my leave from 4-13’s home, I made a winding way back to the command center that I had set up in a nearby hotel. Officially, I was here on vacation. It was something many people did despite the grime. Unofficially, as is likely apparent, I was here to direct 4-13 to his target. In this case, a high level scientist named Irvine Carbry. Also known as “the Mayor” by his colleagues due to his usual role of overseeing many of Shoshonite’s weapons projects. Primarily at a facility situated directly in Green City where 4-13 happened to work. Unfortunately, the Mayor didn’t take the offer to defect to Militech when he should have. And they really couldn’t have him running around with the rumors that were circulating. Apparently, they were close to a viable energy weapon. The first of its kind. Something that could change warfare. But more importantly, open a new, massive, market.
So, in comes Agent 4-13. Charles. All he has to do is make sure Carbry suffers ‘a fatal accident’ involving a certain Tex-28 revolver and, assuming he’s not caught, grab as much information from the scientist’s recent projects as possible. Simple job when compared to some operations I’ve help orchestrate. Though this one could truly rock the balance of power within the Syndicate. Militech was making a big play here. And of course, it fell to me to make sure it actually happened as planned. That’s what the pay is for, I often remind myself.
Luckily a specialist team had already done a large amount of leg work in Carbry’s facility. They called themselves cowboys. Their attack wasn’t anything too aggressive as these hackers were valuable to Militech. Through their antics I was now capable of viewing and piggy backing every camera system within Carbry’s facility. A key detail that would allow me to monitor the progress of 4-13’s operation. With this hard link installed, I could now act as 4-13’s own guardian angel without ever having to put my boots on the ground.
Of course, the worst case scenario was if Shoshonite managed to trace the signal back to me during the operation. If this happened a kill team would be breaching my room within minutes. And I could not be captured alive. It’s Clause 13 on the contract:
“Under no circumstances can the operative (you) be taken alive for any purpose by any force defined as ‘hostile’ in this contract. In the event of a likely capture, destruction of company material and prompt, subsequent, self execution is required. Stiff penalties will be instated otherwise up to, and including, operative termination.”
Infamous. But a common thing in this line of work. Being as such, I took the opportunity before sleeping that night to create a defensive plan for my room. The main deterrent finding itself in the form of a series of directional anti-personnel landmines and remote explosives. I laid the mines in my room’s entrance and near the windows. The remote explosives were hidden in the ceiling tiles of the hallway outside to catch any kill teams by surprise.
And finally, I was only on the third floor. By design of course. If it came down to it, I could torch the room with a thermite grenade and jump from the window. The plan was to land on an awning below then disappear. There were always crowds around. It wouldn’t be a comfortable landing, but I knew my hardware could stand it.
I was at the computer in my room linked to Shoshonite’s cameras before 4-13 got to work. He showed up on time as usual emerging from the flow of people moving by. I peered at him through the lens of an exterior camera.
He did not seem to be very nervous. This was a good sign. It meant he had actually read the operation plan I gave him. Therefore, he knew the weapon wouldn’t be detected by the body scanners at the entrance. Another gift of trickery from the cowboys.
As expected, he passed by the guards and the sentries without a word. It was his normal nature and he stuck to it. I got the impression he really wasn’t friends with anyone at this facility. Another good trait. It was almost a shame 4-13 was on this operation. With some intensive training, and almost certainly some augmentation, he could have become a real agent. Freelance or otherwise.
Then I watched 4-13 make his way to his office. So far, he was following the instructions to the letter. When he sat down, I noticed he still had the picture of the woman and the child I had left with him yesterday. It was good for him to become attached to it, and he seemed to be studying it. Though I was fairly sure he had bought the story, I still had lurking doubts. But ultimately, it’s usually amazing how easy it is to alter someone’s reality.
The key is to find what someone lacks and reveal a way for them to achieve it. 4-13 lacked a family. 4-13 also wasn’t pleased with this, so it created an opening for Militech. An opening for me in this case. The pull of desire for a better life has made people do stranger things. And the idea of double agents within corporations isn’t something unheard of with the prevalence of corporate espionage. Though this was different.
4-13 was not an agent. I think what really sold him though was the data file. When someone truly thinks they’ve done something it becomes real to them. And 4-13 thought he put in the pin that would unlock the file. The same pin he uses for everything else I imagine. The thing is, any key would have unlocked that file. All you had to do was press enter and it would have opened. Simple as that. But when you believe you’ve done something, it becomes real to you. Your reality. As long as no one on the outside breaks that illusion.
4-13 believes. I made sure of that. Or else he wouldn’t be sitting in his office tucking away the picture of the woman, checking the chambers in the Tex-28, and screwing on the suppressor. If he didn’t believe, he wouldn’t have even gotten this far. He would have tried to show the guards at the front door the weapon, and he would have tried to surrender. They would have opened fire without a second thought. Doesn’t matter what he was going to say. The facility was high security and any perceived threat was terminated without question because everyone was ultimately replaceable. Instead, there he sat at his desk waiting for the clock to reach the appointed minute.
And then finally it did; under my watchful eyes. 4-13 closed the Tex-28’s cylinder and slid it back into his coat. Full ready. Hammer primed. I could see it in his face, and he was sold. So, when he stepped into the hallway and made his way toward Carbry’s office only one question remained for me. Would 4-13 be able to extract with any information? Or would he be gunned down before his escape? Either seemed likely.
Making his way down the halls, 4-13 finally stopped in front of Carbry’s door and knocked once. From the camera inside the office, I saw the Mayor look up. He was in a meeting with another scientist from the energy weapon project. Unscheduled. Possibly disruptive for the mission. I quickly ran the second scientist’s face through the database and found her name.
One Eleonore Torø. Brunette, average build. Well placed within the structure of the weapon’s project, but not enough to be considered a critical asset by Militech. A lucky break. And, even more so, not a friend of 4-13. Though a face he would know from the office, so I was curious at how this would workout.
So, when 4-13 was finally called into the office, and shut the door behind him I was not surprised for the brief hesitation. But after a long moment, he looked at the camera in the corner of the room’s ceiling. The one I was watching through.
Then he turned to the room and said, “I guess I quit.”
I watched as 4-13 quickly drew the Tex-28. He fired twice nearly point blank into Carbry’s chest. Each shot tore through the man and the chair behind him. But before 4-13 could refocus, Torø was on her feet. With a lunge she grabbed the weapon and tried to pull it free from 4-13’s grasp. Luckily, she didn’t scream. Clearly a woman of action.
She almost disarmed him, but 4-13 delivered a punch to the bridge of Torø’s nose. When she stumbled back, 4-13 got off a lucky shot from the hip that clipped Torø’s head just above the left eye. The round fully penetrated and became embedded in the wall behind Torø before being met with a slurry of reddish matter. Her body collapsed backward to the floor without grace. 4-13 was left standing.
I could see him crinkle his nose at the smell that was no doubt in the room now. I don’t believe he had ever killed anyone before. Though our instructions were clear: make sure all targets suffer destructive head wounds. The only way to confirm a kill in this community. He didn’t seem to be dejected though, as he jumped the desk that Carbry lay behind coughing. I could see he was still alive. Barely, but breathing none the less.
4-13 shot him. A clean shot to the head. More merciful, and less time consuming, than letting him bleed out. Then removing the data drive I had given him, 4-13 slotted it into the open computer on the late Carbry’s desk. I knew the process of data capture would take at least a minute. Though 4-13 didn’t waste this time. He pushed the revolver’s cylinder open and replaced the spent cartridges. Unskillfully, but he managed it.
When there was a chime from the computer. 4-13 pulled the drive and looked out the peephole into the hallway. Through the cameras, I could already see across the facility that no one had reacted yet. Perhaps they were used to suppressed gunfire. It was a weapons research facility after all.
Holstering the Tex-28, 4-13 stepped out into the hallway. He quickly walked toward the nearest fire escape. He was still on ground level. It wasn’t what I would have done, but in this case, I thought it was going to work. Except for the smoker standing where the door opened out into an alley way. Of course, it had to be a security guard. But I couldn’t warn 4-13 from here. I only received visual and I wasn’t about to jeopardize the operation for this man.
When 4-13 rounded the corner, he came face to face with the guard. 4-13 responded quickly despite being clearly startled.
“Do you have any extras?”
The armored man smiled and simply said, “Sure,” before handing over a white and red cigarette to 4-13.
“Do you need a light?”
“Ya,” 4-13 replied, “I forgot mine at home today. Rough times.”
“I get that man – here.”
Taking the lighter, 4-13 gestured to one of the nearby buildings and said, “You ever wonder why they bothered to put this place in the middle of the city?”
“No idea,” said the security guard as he looked up at the buildings around them, “it definitely makes it a pain to guard though.”
And 4-13 fired a round through the back of the man’s skull. Right at the base of the helmet and the top of the spine. Very clean. The round didn’t even exit. Probably hit the helmet on the other side. When the man fell, 4-13 turned and ran into the crowds of the city at the end of the alley.
Sometime later, I found myself at the pickup point. I was early. I always show up early. It was located in a rougher part of Green City in a secluded spot under a pedestrian bridge. I checked the chamber on my UK-45 and placed it back into my shoulder holster. Never hurts to be sure.
When 4-13 finally arrived, he was in a different pair of clothes. Something cheap, likely bought them on the way. Not a bad idea. When he made his way to me, I saw hope in his eyes. The kind you see when someone knows their life is about to change for the better. He did believe.
“Good job 4-13.”
“Thanks,” he said removing the data drive from a pocket, “Here’s the data, I hope I managed to get to what we’re looking for because I don’t think I’m going back there anytime soon.”
I took the drive and said, “It should have what we need.”
And here I broke the script, for the first time in this operation. I had to know. I had to know why this man didn’t break down like the others we’ve tried. So, I asked.
“How did you do it?”
“How did you terminate the targets and not break down? I don’t believe you’ve ever killed anyone before that.”
“It was my job. I started thinking about it — what you told me. And I couldn’t find a reason it was wrong. I always felt out of place there, like I wasn’t supposed to be. But then you reminded me of everything at Militech and that was that. It’s just what I had to do to get back to them. – Will I get to see my wife again now?”
And that’s when I drew the UK-45. I fired twice into his chest and one square into his head. Mozambique. He dropped fast, nothing left in the shell crumpling before me. But, the defeat in what was left of his eyes were proof Operation Real Sun could be a success.
Here, leaking onto the concrete around me was the proof that anyone could be turned with proper motivation. Manipulation of the mind by creating a reality that is preferable to their own realized existence. You give them hope, and they’ll fight for it. The sorrier a person, the more likely they are to convert. And this society breeds sadness. Intentionally or not.
And that means these people are truly expendable. For the Syndicate houses billions upon billions of citizens across the galaxy. And on every planet, in every company, there are those who look desperately for something to fight for. All we have to do is create a reality they prefer. A wife, a kid, over an existence alone and miserable. They only have to believe for a moment. For their actions are short, but often of great weight. And so, there is nothing new under the sun. For I know my reality, and I’m still standing.
I chose the side that was winning because I understood these things and I was good at what I did. I am good at what I do. There’s no question about that if you were to look at the records. If anyone’s even kept records. Yet, some would say what I do is evil, but still others would claim I’m doing the work that needs to be done for the greater good. But it doesn’t matter. My masters are on the winning side. So I chose my own fate.