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To the Victor…
Chapter 18: Assassination
by Tog
(Part 2 of 3)




Twenty minutes after Mourning’s call, there was a flash on the fire escape outside room 1442.  As the flash faded, a large, green lizard-man in a trench coat crouched low against the wall.  One by one more flashes came, and soon he was joined by a large man in a Minotaur suit, a small girl in a long, black cloak, and a very professional looking woman in a short white dress.

“Everyone ready?” asked Tog.

Epim, Sliss, and Kym all nodded.

“On you, Bud,” said Tog as he nodded to Sliss.

Epim cast a few quick spells, some on Sliss, some on the whole group.  Sliss took a deep breath and teleported into the center of the room.  Once he was fully formed, his back arched and a pulse of electromagnetic radiation disabled any electronic devices in the area and stun any occupants.  Epim had already started a healing spell, to take care of any stray gunfire that Sliss might draw at the start.  Tog smashed through the window followed by Kym, and Epim.  Kym ran to her position at the front door while Epim and Sliss moved to opposite corners of the main room.  Inside the room, no one stirred.

“Right room?”

Kym looked at the evacuation map on the door.  “Yep.”

“Then where is he?”

“No one I talked to saw him leave the building today,” said Epim.

“Look around.  Kym, stay on the door.  Anyone opens it, drop ’em.  Sliss, don’t eat anything.”

The three checked the room and found no indication that the man had fled.  His clothes were still hanging in the closet, and there was a half pack of cigarettes on the dresser.

“Well, if he’s not here, then we wait for him,” Tog said as he sat down on the bed.  Sucks too.  That was a good entry.  I hate wasting those.”

A short time later, Ent appeared at the window with Mourning.

“Still no word?” asked Mourning.

“Nothing yet,” said Epim.  “I’m sort of hoping that Ent might be able to track him down.”

Ent was already running her antennae over the pillow in the room to get the scent.  She moved from the bed to the bathroom and checked the towels, then to the shoes under the bed.  “All same man.”

Most of the group followed her as she left the room.  Epim went down to the front desk.  In the elevator, she mumbled to herself and her clothing changed from her costume to a much more medical looking lab coat and slacks.  By the time she arrived, Ent had tracked the smell to a different room on the same floor.

Epim called from below.  “That room is closed for repairs.  There’s not supposed to be any one in it.  I’m on the way up with the manager and a key.”

The manager slipped the key into the slot and Tog pushed open the door.  Before them was the body of Bruce Holt on a large sheet of thick plastic.  His pistol was clutched firmly in his right hand, and there was an obvious exit wound on the left side of his head.  It was too late for Epim to do anything.

Mourning and Kym entered the room at a hover to make sure there was no one hiding.  Once they were satisfied, Mourning called Captain Pruitt.

~~~~~

The next day, Mourning got a call with the preliminary findings. 

The weapon used was the Agent’s personal .45 ACP, authorized for field use by his supervisor.
A single shot was fired from Agent Holt’s pistol. 
That shot entered his right temple and exited the top left side of his head, just above the ear.
The entry wound was consistent with the barrel of the gun in contact with the skin.
The bullet recovered was consistent with the rifling in the barrel.
The location of the bullet was consistent with Agent Holt being in a standing position when the shot was fired.
The extractor and firing pin marks on the shell casing were consistent with those found on test rounds.
Cadaveric spasm makes it impossible for the gun used to have been in any place other than Agent Holt’s hand at the time of death.
Unexplained traces of a clear, viscous substance found on left hand.  Waiting for analysis.
Unusual grease marks on the back of the right hand between the thumb and index finger.
Unusual choice of attaching the suppressor to the weapon.
Preliminary ruling: SUICIDE
Mourning tossed the report onto the table and let out a long sigh.  “Dead end,” she said when those in the room looked up.

~~~~~

That afternoon, Mourning arrived in the Captain’s office again.  This time alone.

“Okay, Captain.  Is there any way at all that this might not be a suicide?”

“I don’t see how.  He was standing when he was shot.  There is no way for the gun to have been put in his hand later.  Even if someone stood beside him and shot him with his own gun, I have to think he would have done more than just stand there.”

“Why do you think he had a suppressor on it?”

“Maybe because he didn’t want to be found for a while.  He didn’t leave any kind of note either.  It’s unusual, but not really rare.”

“What about the stuff on his hand?”

“The lab says it was some sort of gel, sort of like the stuff they use with a defibrillator.  This stuff was a little different.  It evaporated.”

“It did?  How long would it have taken to disappear from his hand?”

“Lab guesses between one and two more hours.”

“How long had he been dead?”

“About two hours, give or take 30 minutes.”

“I think I’m getting an idea!  Do you have any close ups of the hand the gun was in.  I need to see the marks the slide left.”

“Right here.  What are you thinking?”

“Murder.  I think he was killed by the person that hired him to take out Miller.”

“Wait.  He killed Miller?  Miller died from the dart full of peanut oil.”

“Right but that dart didn’t come from the podium.  You have the video of the attack?”

“Right here.”

“Good.  Slow it down.  See there?  That’s the first volley of darts.  There were six total over a one second span.  See the position of Miller’s torso?  The dart hit him in the stomach; just about in the liver.  In this frame he’s turned away as he’s getting into the car.  In fact, the only time he’s actually got is stomach facing the darts, is when Holt shoves him in the car.  There.  See how he’s bent though?  The only way for the dart to have it him that it could have left a full circle around the site is if it came up from below.  Sort of where Holt’s hand is in this frame.”

“But you can’t see a dart.”

“No.  You can’t.  I think Holt has it in his hand.  I think that’s why they really rigged the acid in the podium.  The stuff that got blown into the tubes from the other darts launchin’ would have been cleared by the jets from the dart in each tube.  Kind of like a revolver chamber will fill up with crap if it’s empty.  If there was one that never had a dart in it, the tube would have stuff in it.  It held 48 darts, and you recovered 48, right?  I’m guessin’ only 47 were launched, and one was placed by hand.  It’s the best way to explain the bruise around the hole.  It also is the only way to really be sure of a hit.”

“Agent Holt has an exemplary record.”

“For how long?”

“Since he joined in 2002.  That’s a long time for someone to plant an assassin on the hopes that someone will come along that you want dead.  You don’t just kill off a guy that’s in that deep.”

“Unless you have to.  Maybe he was going to talk.”

“Maybe, he didn’t do it.”

Mourning frowned.  The Captain had a point there.

~~~~~

Mr. Hastings sat in a high backed chair smoking a large cigar.  To his left was a similar chair, upon which was seated a man concealed entirely in some sort lightly armored exoskeleton enshrouded in a thick, black, mist.

“Are you sure she’s going to be present?” asked Mr. Hastings.

“Not yet.  But the chances are very good he’ll get her to go.”

“You still want me to keep my men clear of it?”

“Yes.  Humans can be traced far too easily for something like this, and we have cause for concern that Martin Flaherty has been compromised.  The only thing of value he could have is your name, so it would be unwise to allow you to participate in something this public.  Besides.  Even your men are not expendable enough for this task.  I will be needing you in a few days for another project in Denver.  They will see plenty of action there.”

“Fair enough.  I just want to be involved.  I want the big man to notice me.  I need him to see what I’m capable of doing when it comes down to it.”

“I assure you, he is aware.”

The pair sat in silence for a moment until there was a light knock on the door.  A third man entered.  He was tall, and sort of handsome, but dressed in jeans and a tank top.  His blonde hair stuck out wildly form under his rearward facing baseball cap.

“Sir.  Hastings.”  He nodded at each.  “I’ve been working on her like you said.  She’s starting to get really mad.”

“Good,” said the man in the full armor.  Do you think you’ll be able to take her out when the time comes?”

“Oh yeah.  Cake.” 

“Good.  You’ll get your chance tomorrow.  Remember she needs to be dead by 6:30 in order to get her body into position.”

The third man turned to leave.  “I don’t have to kill her right away do I?  I mean, as long as she dead by 6:30, nothing else matters?  I can do it at noon?”

“Nothing else matters, but remember, she’s an experienced hero, and she’s going to want to hurt you.  I’m not sure toying with her would be prudent.”

“Ehh, I got her.  Laters”

When the door closed, Mr. Hastings turned to the other and said, “Do you really trust him to kill her?”

“No.  That’s why he got the job.”

~~~~~

“Mourning, you have a telephone call.  It’s Beau.  Would you like to take it, or shall I tell him you’re already asleep?”

Mourning sighed.  “That’s okay Athena.  I’ll take it in here.  Thanks.”

There was a short pause, then a click.  “Hello.”

“Hey, Sweets.  Look, sorry to call you so late, but I just got in.  You know there is a memorial for Miller tomorrow right?”

“Yeah.  I heard about it.”

“I’m gonna go, and I’d like you to come with me.  Hell, bring the dogs too.  They’ll enjoy a night out and I haven’t seen them in weeks.  Then we can crash back at my place for a little dinner.  Whatdya say?”

“What time?  And where?”

“That’s my girl!  Steel Canyon, over by the Atlas Park gate.  It starts at 6 PM.”

“Okay.  I’ll meet you there at about 6.”

“Great!  See you then.”

The call clicked off, and she sat there for a moment, staring at the walls until a heavy sigh from one of the dogs snapped her out of it.

“I know, girl.”

~~~~~

Lista was startled awake by her new tormentor.  It wasn’t the sounds he made outside the door, or even the walk down the steel lined hallway.  It was the cologne.  That sticky, sickly, oppressive cologne.

“Hey, Babe!  Get up.  I’ve got good news for you.”

“You caught some mutant strain of syphilis and will be dead within the week?”

“What?  No!”

“So much for the power of prayer.  What’s your news then?”

“Well there is good news and bad news.  The good news, I’m going to let you out in a little bit.  The bad news is you won’t survive it.”

“Just all of the sudden huh?  Just like that?  Your boss finally decide I’m too much trouble to keep?”

“Something like that.  I’m not really sure why, I just know that it’s got to be tonight.  Here’s the thing.  It doesn’t have to be right away, so we can play around a bit first.  You can go out with a bang, if you know what I mean.”

“Umm.  If those are really my options, just pipe some gas under the door or something.”

“What?  I’m not your type?”

“Look just because they’re incredibly low doesn’t mean I don’t have standards.  Besides, from the way you smell, I sort of assumed that I wasn’t really your flavor.”

“What?

“Yeah.  You know, that perfume you wear says a lot about you.  Basically, it screams ‘not so rough sailor, I’ve got to last all night’.  I’ve got something similar, only mine doesn’t go on with a roller.”

“Are you trying to say I’m into guys.”

She let out a sincere laugh.  “Your words, killer.  Not mine.  But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.  I’ve been known to frequent the vagitarian menu quite a bit.  It’s just that I sort of had you pegged as a pretty exclusive meat-and-two-veg man.”

“Hey, I’ve been with a lot of women!  I’m no gay-boy”

“Okay, sorry I brought it up.  It just all seemed to fit.”

“What did?  What fit?”

“Your girly smell, the way you come in here and brag and talk all tough but never really do anything.  Classic posturing.  You can talk a good game, but I bet when it comes time to walk the walk, there’s a lot of hip rolling.”

“God I can’t wait to let you out of there.  I’ll show you hip rolling.”

“Cool, I’ve always wanted to learn from a master.  Why wait?  The door’s right there.  Pop it!  Or-- or are you used to being the bottom?”

“I can’t.  The boss put a time lock on the door.  It’ll open in a couple minutes.  You know, you have to be dead at 6:30.  I can take you out when it opens, or at 6:29.  I thought I might be nice and wait til the last minute and get it over quick, but now-- now I think I want you to really suffer.”

“As opposed to artificial suffering?  I’ve faked a lot of stuff with guys but never suffering.  I hope I can be convincing for you.  Of course, with your experience, you probably won’t be able to tell whether I’m faking it or not.”

“SHUT UP!”

“Why to you need to do it by then?  You going to some convention or something?  Ooh, is it some gay rights thing?  I’ll sign the petition before you kill me if you slide it under the door.”

“It’s not gay anything!  It’s for some dead politician.”

“You really gonna kill me before you go to a funeral?  That’s messed up.”

“I’m only going there to drop your corpse on the sidewalk.”

“That seems sort of rude.  Can I ask why?”

“Heh, might as well tell you.  We got Mourning’s boyfriend to help bring her in.  Your body falling should stun her long enough for us to grab her.  I’m gonna try and hit her with you.”

“No!”  Lista’s voice had changed from playfully defiant, to genuinely frightened.  “Why her?” 

“Boss says she knows the most, and that chair should crush her will in a day or so.”

“You sure you don’t have syphilis?  It makes you stupid you know.  You’ve got that symptom at least.”

“Sorry, I missed that.  I thought I heard a dead woman talking.”

“You guys don’t really understand what will happen if you try this plan.  You’ve never seen her pissed.”

“You know what?  I’m not listening anymore.  Stupid time lock.  This is the longest minute ever.”

“I bet you hear that a lot.”

“I’m not just gonna kill you, I’m going to humiliate you first!  You’re gonna cry like a baby.”

“Can’t happen.  I have no shame.”

“Time’s up, bitch!”

The door clicked and Lista took a quick breath and prepared to attack.  She figured her best shot would be to come out hard and fast.  A brilliant light filled the small cell.  Her eyes had been without light for so long that the flash seemed to stun her for the moment.  She was aware of a loud sound that hit her hard, like a wave of air, then everything faded to black.

There was a sensation of being dragged from the cell by her hair, and repeated blows to her face.  As she came out of her stupor, she felt a huge wave of force hit her all over.  She flew back through the air and hit the far wall.  Her head was still spinning, and her vision was blurred, but she could make out a shape.  Another wave of air hit her and she felt her ears start to bleed.  She had to get him to let up, just for a second.  Another wave of air slammed into her, then another.

She heard him inhale for another attack, but this one missed her.  This was her shot.  Her only shot.  She fired one quick bolt of ice that missed his head by inches.  He reacted, but kept moving.  She shook her head to clear it, and took a cleansing breath.  For an instant, he was in sharp focus and seemed to be just inches away.  She fired everything she had.

The first ice bolt hit him in the stomach, and he doubled over.  The second, much smaller one hit him in the top of the left shoulder spinning him slightly.  The third hit his ribs on the right side.  The smaller blast was fired again, this time at his legs.  She watched as his knee buckled and he dropped to the floor, propped up on his right arm.  The final blast was a big one, and hit him solidly in the upper back.  It laid him flat.

She threw another freezing bolt at his unmoving body and encased it in ice, then approached to get a good look at him.

She rolled him onto his back and squinted to make out the features of his face.  She did know him.  As the shock wore off, so did the ice.  He looked up at her and spat, “Well?  You gonna finish me off?”

“That’s usually my line.  You’re just like most men you know.  Thirty seconds of action, I’m all worked up, and you’re out cold.”

She reached down and placed her hand between his legs.  “I’ve got a few questions for you, and I want you keep a few things in mind when I ask them.  If I don’t like the answers, I’ll hit your junk with blast so cold your nuts will bruise the bottom of your liver.”  She chilled her hand slightly to make the point.

“Who is the boss guy here?”

“I’ve never seen him.  Just some assistant that dresses in power armor and goes by the name of Payback or something.  Him and some limey named Hastings.”

“Do you still go by Feedback Loop, or do you have a new name?”

“I go by The Distortion King now.”

“Certainly fits your self image.  Is Beau involved?”

“Uhhh… Who?”

She chilled her hand a little more and pressed it firm against him, “You want an innie?”

“No-no.  The boyfriend?  I think so.  They told me he was.”

Lista encased him in ice one last time, then slid him into her old cell.  She glanced around the room for the way out.  A crack of light off to the side came into focus.  That room opened out into a larger room, with more hallways like the one she had just left.

Finally, she found the exit and carefully slid open the door.  There were no guards.  The hall looked to continue for about a hundred yards, and none of it lit.  She crept along in silence.  She could feel the stone beneath her bare feet, and the rough texture of the wall with her hand implied she was underground.

At the end of the passage, she felt what seemed to be a change in the floor.  It went from a cool, rough stone, to a cold, smooth metal.  Her eyes had begun to adjust to the low light again, and she was now able to make out some of the shapes.  All was quiet, and none of the shapes seemed to be moving.  Still, she waited for some time.  When her eyes had recovered enough, she saw that the room was some sort of two tiered floor with lockers and a large communal shower.  She figured it must have been some room used by the minions for sleeping or maybe training or exercise. 

She approached the lockers, and found they were either secured or empty.  There were no clothes to be had.  A faint beeping came from one, then from another.  Her first response was to flee.  It could be a bomb.  This thought was quickly replaced by something more mundane: the hourly chime on a wristwatch. 

What hour?  If it was 6, she didn’t have much time.  If it was 7, she was too late.  It couldn’t have been 7, she hadn’t been sneaking around for 30 minutes since Loop tried to kill her.  But if was 6, then she had to find a way out in the next half hour in order to get to the rally or whatever.  That was assuming she could find it.

Okay, Lis’…  Be fast, but be smart, she thought to herself, then bolted for the opening she hoped would lead to the surface.







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