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Publisher: Piers Platt
Genre: Sci Fi/Thriller
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A light flickered on the edge of Rath’s peripheral vision: his internal heads-up display had an incoming message.
<Urgent: mission update>
<New target: Deputy Ambassador Sorgens>
<Original target is not to be harmed>
Rath felt a bead of sweat form at his brow. He smiled at another group of guests and offered them his tray of canapés, simultaneously advancing through screens in his heads-up display to find a photo of Sorgens in order to identify him.
Okay, got it.
“We’re all done, thanks,” one of the guests told him.
“Of course,” Rath said. “Sorry.”
Guess I lingered a little longer than a normal server would have. He stepped away from the group, spinning slowly in place as if planning which group he would approach next. There’s Sorgens – far side of the room.
Rath stopped at three other groups of party-goers, working his way around the outside of the room in a looping curve, careful to avoid heading directly for the Deputy Ambassador. As he left the third group, he rearranged the napkins on his tray, as if straightening them, and surreptitiously jabbed one of the canapés with a tiny hypodermic needle, before slipping the needle back into his sleeve. Then he turned and headed for the Deputy Ambassador, but a security guard cut in front of him. Rath changed direction smoothly and headed for a different group, but he kept Sorgens in his line of sight. The security guard was leaning in close to Sorgens, covering his mouth to whisper in his ear. Rath dialed up his audio implants.
“… credible threat. Intelligence is rated ‘High Reliability,’ so we’re taking it very seriously,” Rath heard the man say. The Deputy Ambassador blanched, his face turning nearly as white as his tuxedo shirt. “I’d like to get you out of here right now, sir.”
Sorgens turned to the other guests, and made his apologies. “I’m sorry – I’m afraid duty calls, there’s an urgent message that needs my attention.” He headed toward the room’s exit, closely followed by the guard.
Want a snack before you go? Rath thought, chagrined. He broke away from the group he was serving and walked briskly toward the kitchen, which was in the same direction Sorgens was headed.
Let’s hope the kitchen has another exit close to wherever Sorgens is headed.
Rath ducked inside – to his relief, he saw an exit at the far side of the crowded room. He dumped his tray into the first trash can he saw and elbowed through the servers and cooks, heading for the door.
“Hey, watch it, asshole!” a busboy protested, spilling several plates onto a steel countertop.
Rath ignored him and continued toward the back of the room, pushing through the swinging door. Sorgens was just disappearing through a side door halfway down the corridor, while the guard positioned himself outside the door. That looks like a restroom. Rath walked toward the guard, who was watching his approach closely, hands behind his back.
Probably got a pistol in a belt holster back there, Rath decided. So much for the frontal assault.
Instead he took a sharp right turn down a side corridor, disappearing from the guard’s view. Mechanical plates implanted within his face shifted, obeying Rath’s commands, while his hair greyed, and his skin tone lightened. In the space of three seconds, he looked exactly like his original target. He turned on his heel, and stepped back out into the main corridor, looking both ways before appearing to notice the guard.
“You,” Rath pointed at the man, “have you seen my deputy around here?”
“Sir?” the guard asked, confused. “Oh, yes, Mr. Ambassador: Deputy Ambassador Sorgens is right in here.”
“Ah, excellent,” Rath said, walking up. He was at least two inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter than the real ambassador, but people were slow to notice body type differences – if the face and hair matched, such discrepancies were usually dismissed. Rath’s voice matched the Ambassador’s as well. As ever, hearing another man’s computer-generated voice from his own lips made Rath’s skin crawl. “Let me just have a word, and then you can get him out of here,” Rath told the guard.
“Of course, sir,” the guard said, holding the door open for him.
Rath let the door close behind him, then strode over toward Sorgens, who was standing at a urinal along the wall. Sorgens looked up and saw Rath.
“You heard about the threat?” Sorgens asked.
“I did,” Rath replied. “Glad to see you’re on your way out of here.” He called up the targeting module in his heads-up display, and slipped a pen out of his pocket. The implement was known as a ballistic pen, built out of reinforced titanium for use as a close-quarters weapon, and modified by Rath to include a nerve toxin coating, for a faster kill. As Sorgens zipped himself up, Rath’s eye implant overlaid an anatomical model on his image, matching it to fit his size and body orientation relative to Rath, highlighting his bone structure and major organs. Sorgens turned away from the wall, and Rath stepped forward, putting his full body momentum behind the thrust. The pen punched between two ribs, directly into the highlighted outline of Sorgens’ heart, while Rath covered Sorgens’ mouth with his other hand, stifling his shocked gasp of pain. Rath left the pen embedded to minimize the bleeding, and, still covering Sorgens’ mouth, he grabbed him under the arm and dragged him silently across the room into one of the toilet stalls. He propped the dying man on top of the toilet, pulled the door shut behind him, and walked over to the sink, where the ambassador’s reflection stared back at him.
Need to wash this blood off my hands. But my guess is that guard is supposed to escort Sorgens out of the building, so it’ll be an easier exit if I pose as him.
“Everything okay, sir?” The security guard was pushing open the door.
Rath reacted instinctively, and bent over the sink, splashing his face with water as he shifted his hair and face to match Sorgens’. He stood up and reached blindly for the paper towels, and dabbed at his face as he completed the transformation. When he opened his eyes, the guard was eying him in the mirror.
“Ready to go, sir?” the man asked.
“Yes – let’s get going,” Rath told him. The guard glanced at the closed stall door and Rath tensed himself in readiness, but the man simply turned and walked back out into the hall, checking in both directions before motioning for Rath to follow. That was close, Rath thought, falling into step as they headed off down the hallway. He’s going to be pissed when he finds out he personally escorted the killer out of the building.
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