Once The Pilot's briefing is done, I let out a long sigh.
It's not the difficulty of the mission that gets to me. Not really. I knew from the start that there was going to be risk.
Having to kill a man bothers me, but I made my peace with that a while ago. No. What bothers me is David.
I put my face in my hands and let out a quiet growl. It doesn't help.
"Of course it's David," I mutter, unable to keep the bitterness from my voice.
"Why wouldn't it be him? First time I ever open myself up with a guy, and BAM! He's with an anti-assassination-squad! Just my fucking luck!"
I spend a few minutes yelling nonsense at the clouds; hoping no one below is close enough to hear me. It calms me down, just a little.
Still, though. Why'd he have to be so hot?
Fuck it. I'm wasting time feeling sorry for myself. I just need to get this done. I close my eyes, take a breath, and throw myself off the roof.
Freefall is weirdly relaxing when you're used to it; the feeling of your belly rising into your throat kinda goes away, replaced by utter freedom.
If it weren't for the fact that doing so would lead to my remains being splattered across the pavement, I'd be tempted to keep my eyes closed. I've missed this.
It's when I reach the midpoint of the fall that my body enters the shadow of the next skyscraper along. I dip into my power.
When I first came here, I was worried that it might be hard to get The Pilot's attention. Just another minor power user looking to get a boost from a wave-suit.
Those worries turned out to come to nothing. The Pilot's never gotten hold of a shadow-jumper before.
I let myself slide into the shadow slowly, my gathering momentum following me into the void as my perceptions expand out through every space connected by the shade.
I finalize the transition just a foot or so from the ground, giving my body more than enough time to hit terminal velocity.
For a moment, I hang in limbo; not blind, not deaf, but still falling, even while outside of normal space.
I reorient myself; redirect my momentum, and from the web of shadows all around me, I choose my re-entry point.
My form emerges from the side of the skyscraper like a bullet shot from a gun, rocketing my way out above the city streets,
and quietly marveling as my goggles pick out every detail below me in vivid crystal green.
I feel a momentary regret. Flying this way just isn't the same without my wing-suit. I'll have to remember to bring it next time.
Regrets aside, however, I make it across town in good time.
I find Raylund-
Nope. No first names. Hovis. I find my target in an indent at the centre of the city. The topography of the Turtle's back is weird.
The shell is split and cracked in places, and the architecture of the city simply has to work according to the landscape.
In this particular area, one of the scales has split itself partially away from the rest of the Turtle's shell, making for a mile-wide patch of space under a constant cover of shade.
The buildings under here are strange; disorganized; some of the streets coming together at odd angles, some of the buildings merging into one another at the halfway point.
The closer I get to the middle, the more the place layers out; a single,
ground level walkway giving way to layer after layer of wide plazas that stretch between the buildings for whole city blocks at a time like massive, concrete plates. Why not, I guess.
It's not like there's any sunlight here to block out.
It's on one of these plates where I find the target, standing in a concrete pit that looks stuck halfway between a skateboarding pit and the set of a broadway streetfight,
addressing a crowd of some thirty or so men and women. None of them look happy. All of them are armed.
I spot David a little way to the side, already in his wave-suit. He doesn't appear to be paying much attention. In fact, he seems to be texting.
I take a moment to be annoyed that his wave-suit came with pants.
"Friends, be serious," Raylund says, his voice laden with an accent I would take for Norwegian if I didn't already know him to be from the Skylands.
"All of us here know that the demon attacks are on the rise. None of us can afford to exist in isolation.
Your city may have its Pilot and its wave-suits, but if you take my help, you can take destiny into your own hands. Keep pace with the monsters at your doorstep.
Hand power only to those who are truly deserving of it, yes?"
I roll my eyes. God. An idealist. Maybe I won't feel bad about killing him after all. Why are pre-collapse people so weird about morality? You do what works to get by. Simple as that.
Speaking of which, an idea strikes me as I scan the area from my perch. There might be something I can do to even out my chances.
The target only seems to have two other guards besides David, and neither of them has any significant protection, as far as I can see.
His suit is supposed to be a balance between strength, speed and physical durability. A close-combat powerhouse. He's the only real threat here.
"Pilot," I murmur. "How do I turn the goggles back into a phone."
No response. Instead, the goggles simply melt off of my face, trailing down along my skin in a cold, semi-liquid mass that makes me shudder as it goes.
Particularly when it brushes against a nipple. A second or so later, though, the phone is back in my hand.
A quick examination with my free hand tells me the rest of the mask seems to have stayed in place. I wonder briefly if it's changed my hair color.
I flip the phone open, and pull the scrap of paper with David's number from my pocket.
This is underhanded.
I do not care.
I need to kill this man.
I would also like a boyfriend.
I dial the number.
A few hundred feet away, the imposing figure in the red combat suit jumps slightly as his phone plays a snatch of upbeat pop. Several of the gangsters turn to glare at him.
I am proud to say that I manage to completely stifle my giggle.
David makes an apologetic gesture to his employer, then backs off a short way to answer his phone.
"Hello?" he asks. "I'm at work. Who is this? How'd you get my number?"
I take a deep breath, surprised at the sudden rush of nerves.
'Come on, Liam. You were having sex with him an hour ago!'
"Uh," I mutter. "Hey, David. Sorry. You busy?"
"Liam?" he glances back towards the Target, then makes some unnecessary move to muffle the conversation with his free hand. "I mean, uh. Yeah. A bit. What's up?"
"Oh, nothing much," I murmur, still scanning the area, this time sizing up the distances between patches of shadow. The lighting around here isn't great.
I should be able to cross most of the distance in an instant. It's just the last forty feet or so that will really be an issue. I sigh.
'Guess I'll just have to see how fast this suit is, then.'
Before David has much of a chance to reply, the Target clears his throat.
"Mr Volke," he says. "I trust your private life can be put on hold for the next short while, yes? My protection was paid for at a premium."
David blocks the phone so I can't hear before he answers.
"Yes, sir. Sorry. I'll make them go away, just give me a second."
I scowl, not sure quite why it feels like my dignity was impugned. Surely I'm worth more than his employer.
... I am investing way too much in a random hookup.
David uncovers his phone.
"Look," he mutters. "Liam, sorry. It's awesome to hear from you, but could you ca-"
"I wanna send you a sexy picture," I cut him off. "Pretty please? I'm already three fingers in."
I hate myself for saying 'pretty please', but for what it's worth, David does hesitate.
"... You are?"
I grin, then let out a low, slightly exaggerated groan.
This time, it's not just the target who turns to look at him. This time, I don't quite stifle the giggles.
"Can you find someplace private?" I ask, throwing in a moan for flavor. "I wanna show you real bad."
David glances at his boss. Then at an alleyway some twenty feet to his left. Then back at his boss. He returns the phone to his ear, and does not move.
"Okay. I'm somewhere private."
"I swear to God," I mutter. "If one of us dies here, it's your fault."
I hang up the phone.
David hears the line go dead, and stares down at his phone, likely confused. For my part, I'm no longer watching.
I access my new power pulling a pair of long, neatly serrated combat knives into being, one in each hand. I test their weight, and take a breath.
It's going to be the first time in a while that I've killed a human being. Even longer since I did so with a knife. It's not a feeling I relish becoming familiar with.
My perch is two storeys up. By launching myself off of it, I should able to build up a decent starting speed before shifting into the shadows once again.
If I choose my re-entry point right, I should be able to end it before anyone has time to stop me.
That's blue sky thinking, though. Plans almost never go right. I consider other options. Ways to maximize my advantages. Really, it'd be best if I just waited for the target to leave the light.
Then I could be in and out in the space of a single breath.
Maybe I should target the streetlights first. There are only two of them, spaced some forty feet apart. If I can shut them both off, then I win automatically.
I doubt anyone here could stop me in the dark.
That should work.