Foxtrot (Part II of III)

This is the second installment of this week’s round robin story. Be sure to read Part 1, written by the amazing Amy McLane, first so this makes some sense. Is it a love story? The jury’s still out.

Foxtrot

The thought swirled through the Mask, returning countless confirmations. Foxtrot is live.

My boots scuffed the floors that had belonged to Thomas Castello. I walked the rooms he’d called home. Impressions remained despite the plasti, the joining. Corners once laced with warmth echoed cold. Here there had been laughter. And there, tears. On the mantle, the photo he’d pressed his lips time and again. Young and blonde, the woman’s eyes radiated life. On the kitchen counter, a half-eaten roast beef on rye. Castello had been eating when the parcel arrived. The sharp tinge of mustard lingered on my tongue.

Vapor, all of it. Dust.

The chorus in my head churred, and in a surge of synaptic acid, my mission rang clear.

Penetrate City Centre. Crossload Shadow. Ignite.

I let the door slam behind me, the deadbolt left undone. I didn’t look back.

Diesel exhaust and gutter bilge assaulted my senses. Up and down the avenue a sea of Drones. I slipped easily among them, the black bag at my shoulder. I moved through them like water. Effortless. Their eyes blinded with sleep and brains numbed by noise. Beneath the city we descended and I weaved through them to the waiting train.

Three stops to City Centre. I swayed with the tracks, shuffled through the dance, while the Mask moved me forward. Nearing Heritage Station, a woman three seats down took note of me. Eyes an unnatural blue. The light on her jawbone flashed. Extinguish, came the instruction from inside. The train stuttered to a stop. Stealing closer, I retrieved a vial from my cache of tricks. Then, with the gentlest touch along her temple, I snuffed out her spark.

Salt heals. And salt destroys.

Did her message transmit? My question sent the Mask into a whirl of queries and confusion. The vial stored once more, I exited the train and ascended to the surface, the question still unanswered, the extent of the damage unknown.

City Centre hit me in a barrage of light and vibration. The chorus swelled inside to counter, to buffer, to press me further toward my intent. My feet trampled the concrete and decay. The statues that once towered over Victory Square lay crumbled, neglected. I stepped over the hand that had held the scales. Stupid Drones. So easy to sway. The Pures knew a distraction sustained would render them weak. The cleanest kill.

Verify destination. I’d reached the fountain at the center of the Square. Aliens mingled through the Drones, extending their supposed good will. The longer I stood there, the more their numbers grew. My trick had been too slow. A military guard paced to my right, weapon perched at his side. He took no notice, his eyes not registering my presence as he scanned the moving masses. Threadbare is the veil that secures those who sleep.

Destination verified, came the Mask’s reply. Commence sequencing. I closed my eyes and felt the rush of chemicals set my synapses to fire. Information surged through my cells, translating code to impression. A lithe silhouette. Edges traced in darkness and hedged in by light. I scanned the Square, my mind open and eyes searching.

And then I saw her, standing atop an iron bench. Staring at me.

The Shadow.

To be continued…

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