Smoke and Mist
The boy who became the Silver Wind- a shadow, a ghost, a traitor…
He clutched the handle of the dagger tight; in the other, he held the tranq-gun. He was bad at shooting heavy arms, but this thing he could manage. The gun in his left was light and no bigger than a small Glock.
Crouching behind containers from which the sweet stench of rotting stuff erupted, Kellan glanced around the corner.
A fat rat screeched next to him and started attacking. Cursing, he kicked out his leg, trying to hit that beast but it was too fast.
He didn’t need that right now. The guards could find him if that thing didn’t stop making a scene. He couldn’t use the tranq-gun for the ammunition was much too precious and scarce to be wasted on some rodent.
Another rat joined the first one and when this one bit itself into his gear, he was only happy that it was silent now. His gear was a dirty white suit. Everything about it was light so it wouldn’t weigh him down. He needed to be fast and agile.
From the left, he heard another shrill screech that made him roll his eyes.
Groaning quietly, he flipped his dagger and it turned into a long, slim sword. He made quick work of the rats- fat beasts that were the size of small dogs. The whimper as they died rang in the silence of the night.
No guards were in this section of the grounds. His eyes closed, he took a deep and shuddering breath.
This was making him nervous. He’d done something similar to this before but still, this was a whole new level. So many things could go wrong but at the end of all those things he could see himself either dead or imprisoned for the rest of his life.
Despite his weak legs, Kellan pushed himself up and staggered towards the opening to the yard. He knew the layout; he had studied it closely for weeks. Other than that, he knew that the plans had been absolutely accurate and up-to-date because he had copied them right from his father’s office.
That had been one hell of a mission.
His father had been in and outside his office more than usual and Kellan had barely managed to scrape together his guts to go in there and snatch the plans from his father’s computer. Kellan had gathered the passwords months ago but he hadn’t been sure if they hadn’t been changed meanwhile.
In the end, he had just rushed in and transferred the data onto his chip. That had been on the last day in the last hour of his visit before he had to be back to Voxus for his courses.
He had accomplished that mission with a fluttering heart and his guts in knots.
Now, though, now was different.
He was at the Chicago Research Base on New Earth. The streets outside the walls were covered in rubbish and dirt, rats rummaging through stuff lying on the floor.
The stained and broken shacks belonged to the outcasts of society- to the poor and ill. People the society wanted to forget about.
Inside the walls, it looked like a whole new world. The streets were cleaner. Almost licked clean. Except for the places hidden out of the public’s eye. Like this space between two buildings where Kellan thought about his next move.
The air was still a polluted mess. The ripe scent of decay wafted over the walls and carried the smell of dying people to the inner city. A city made of glass and steel.
Towers sharp enough against the evening sun to cut the air. Towers like blades piercing the sky.
Trains whooshed through the air, following the railways built in the sky. The streets on earth were for other vehicles that drove on wheels or were hovercrafts.
He heard those cars and crafts even from here. The night was calmer than the day- obviously. But Chicago was still a loud and busy city these days. Even with the rats and diseases, people loved to seek entertainment.
The chatter and laughter of young people rounding the corner outside the walls of the research center drifted to his ear. Kellan envied them. Their lives were so easy. Nothing to fear. Unafraid of making failures that could destroy their reputations; make their lives hell.
They could go about their day, making money, spending money, having fun. And Kellan? Kellan had to become a son who brought his father glory and honor. He had brought none of it. Not yet. Would probably never.
His very existence was a joke. His father had made that clear more than just once.
Still, he hoped that one day his father would smile at him in approval. Maybe this mission and the weapon Sky tried to develop would gain him just that. He had to become a traitor first to become the savior. Sky had said so just before Kellan had boarded the passenger ship. The kiss still burned on his cheek. Uncomfortable was a word too weak, too tame to describe how it had felt. Despite everything. Despite who they were and what they were.
A silent ticking noise interrupted his thoughts.
It was time.
His every move from now on would be timed so he rushed forth and made for the fire escape. With enough speed, he jumped and caught the last rundle. Letting out a shaky breath of relief, he pulled himself up. His sword clashed against his hip in a silent thud with every movement.
He caught another rundle with the other hand and started climbing the ladder as silently as he could. He reached a small section that went around the building on which he could walk and changed onto that. Pressed tightly against the wall, he hurried to a lock that was used for air conditioning. The side plate could be removed for repairing work, so he quietly opened it. Or rather tried to.
The creak that sounded made him flinch. He held his breath and looked around, but no footsteps sounded. With his heart hammering in his chest, he slipped into the tunnel made of metal and pulled the plate back in place.
As soon as he was inside, he glanced at his wrist. He had five minutes to make it to the janitor’s room and leave it. The rotation of guards was taking place right now and thus there were holes in the security for a short time frame of barely a minute.
That minute would be all he had to rush through the upper corridor to the stairs.
Taking a shaky breath, he started to scramble forth and turned right at the first parting of the tunnel. When he stole another glance at the watch, he saw that he was already behind and got up to his feet.
Still crouching, he started to run. Feet over cross. Almost sitting.
Right. Right. Left. Up.
Left. Right. Left. Down.
Straight forward. Left.
Heavily breathing, he leaned against the cold metal of the tunnel. Right in front of the janitor’s room.
When he felt ready to move again, he tried to push the side plate open, but it didn’t budge.
Everything in him froze. Shit. He hadn’t thought about this before.
Damn. This was not planned.
Trying to calm down his starting panic, he tried to think of another way in.
Cursing under his breath, he turned back and right, straight forward, up, left, up, right, right, up.
The guard rotation was over by the time he tumbled out of the tunnel on the roof of the building. The research room he was looking for was underground at the other side of the building across from him. The whole building was shaped like a cross and he’d just manage to get from the middle to the far end. That meant, he had to get through the whole building unseen.
This was sure as hell bound to go wrong.
Before, there had been so many things to take into account. So many things he could fuck up. But now, the list of things that could screw this mission and probably end his life was endless.
At least he found the door on the roof unlocked.
The first corridor was silent except for the coughing guard around the corner. If he could make it to the room in the middle of the hallway…
No, this was a stupid idea. The sterile white walls gave him the creeps. The weird shiver that ran down his spine didn’t help to keep his head together at all.
Maybe he could tranquilize the guard but he sure couldn’t leave him lying around in the hallway.
But what if he walked around like he belonged? His outfit would stand out and he cursed the fact that he hadn’t chosen something else.
He knew that there was a staff room in the hallway underneath…if he could only get there without raising the alarm…
Straightening his back he searched for another way but couldn’t come up with something else…except for…yes, that might even work.
Kellan searched his inner breast pocket for the earpiece and was relieved when his fingers touched the cold material.
Quickly, he fixed the earpiece to his ear and turned a wheel on the edge. Metal spread out from all sides and formed a mask that lay on his face like a second skin. Still, his features became more inhuman. It would look like an Executioner’s mask and his suit was fine enough to make him look like he was one of those governmental assassins. He just lacked the black coat. He could claim that he’d forgotten it somewhere down in the labs, though.
Hoping that his disguise was good enough, he banged the door slightly to announce that he was here. As quick as he could, he ran towards the door in the middle. His feet made no sound. Then he sauntered on from there as if there was no rush at all.
Bracing himself, he rounded the corner and saw the guard looking up. The man glanced him up and down before he nodded slightly. More to reassure himself than to communicate with Kellan.
“Bloody business,” the man muttered.
An acknowledgment of what he was, a good-luck wish from someone who knew what his profession was. He had heard it a few times before and thus knew what he had to answer.
“For it is my duty.”
With that, he passed the first obstacle.
He managed to get past a few more guards and when he was almost at the elevator down to the labs, another Executioner stepped around the corner.
Everything in Kellan tensed up.
Walking as straight as someone who belonged here, he entered the elevator and sighed in relief, when it closed. But his relief was short-lived.
A black gloved hand slid between the elevator’s doors and motioned down until it reached the sensor. The doors slid wide open again to reveal the Executioner. Regarding the built, it was a man.
As usual, he towered over Kellan by at least two heads. The black coat clung neatly to the muscled arms and the silver mask was crafted from a rough grid patterned metal. It looked much different from Kellan’s own mask but it wouldn’t give him away since every Executioner had a personalized mask anyway.
“Ya new in here, right? Ain’t seen yer face before,” the man asked him in the typical soldier’s tongue, making Kellan want to curse the stars.
He took a silent breath and braced himself for a fight. A fight that would inevitably break out as soon as his cover was blown.
“I come from the governmental ship,” he said tersely.
“I see…checking on us, don't cha?” the man further asked.
How long could an elevator ride possibly be? Luck was certainly not on his side since the other man was on his way to the laboratories too. He would have loved nothing more than banging his head against a wall. Only, he couldn’t. Not with the Executioner at presence.
“Getting some documents. Finished business, “ Kellan hoped this answer was enough.
Luckily, it seemed so because the other man nodded curtly. Only a second later, the elevator halted and both of them exited the broad cabin. Since Kellan had already typed in his destination floor, he couldn’t ride the elevator on to somewhere else now just because he didn’t want the other man around. The less suspicious he seemed, the better it was for his well-being.
They walked down the corridor in silence. Little shivers ran down Kellan’s spine. He was nervous. Why didn’t the man leave him alone already?
“Looks like ya need a new coat, brother. Target seem ta have struggled. Blood’s splattered all over yer fancy suit,” the man chuckled and promptly took his elbow to steer him into another hallway.
Kellan felt the urge, to rip his arm out of the grasp but didn’t act on those urges. He fought back all the uneasiness that bubbled inside him and tried to keep pace with the much bigger strides of the other.
When they reached a room further down a corridor which was supposedly in the opposite direction of where he should be by now. But shaking off the Executioner would prove a mistake. As long as he didn’t draw any more attention, he’d happily oblige.
He sent a silent prayer up to whoever would listen and hoped this wouldn’t blow his cover.
There was only one way to find out, right? Running was no longer possible since the door closed behind him. The only way was forward, so he went forward.
The tall man went into a walk-in wardrobe behind a ceiling-high weapon display and returned with a black coat that was smaller than the man’s own. Obviously, since it was for Kellan.
“I..err..gotcha a lady coat…Sorry bout that. Think it gonna fit ya tho,” he shrugged apologetically and came around to stand behind Kellan.
His neck prickled with the uneasy awareness of having someone dangerous at his back. The urge to whirl around and shove the other man away from him was strong but he tried his best to ignore it.
Compliantly, he let the other guy help him into the coat which surprisingly fit well enough despite it being a little tight around the waist.
Kellan was about to turn around and thank the Executioner when he felt a strong hand on his hip. Only seconds later- he was given no time to react- the other man’s body was pressed up against his backside. That alone was unseemly enough and his heart began to beat in a harried rhythm.
Had the man been flirting with him? He didn’t know. At least, he hadn’t picked up anything that could hint at that. But he wasn’t the most experienced in this matter anyway. Maybe Kellan himself had thrown off weird signals that had encouraged the Executioner.
Struggling to stay calm, he willed his heart to slow down its frantic beating. He didn’t dare to say a word. Not even as the man took off his mask and put it on a table next to them. Not even, as he reached for Kellan’s own mask and then hid it back by twisting the mechanism at his earpiece.
His hand though reached slowly for the tranq-gun which was less drastic and a lot more silent than the Glock. He picked at the side of the cold steel and plucked a tiny square from it- a square that would send a shock through the body he would press it against.
Turning around, he put his hands on the other man’s chest and looked up at a broadly smiling face. There was nothing cruel about the man’s face. His expression seemed open, almost tender as he looked down at Kellan.
He took in everything he could- the dark skin that was so deeply brown it seemed almost black in the dim light of this room; the thick and long dreadlocks that were bound at the back; thick eyebrows and dark amber eyes that seemed partially black; thick lips that were slightly reddish in the center; white teeth as he smiled. There were also thin silver wires leading to his left eye over his cheek under his skin, indicating him as a cyborg. Kellan couldn’t see how far those modifications went though.
“Xander Montanari,” the man’s voice sounded raspy and slightly hoarse as he introduced himself. “Ya don need ta tell me yer name. Know ya’ll lie anyway. Men like ya…all mysterious and probly very important. Always gone when yer wake. Tho, yer different, not yet ran from ta black man.”
He came even closer and before Kellan knew, he pressed the miniature taser to the other man’s thigh instead of his neck. The body went limp at an instant and Kellan could barely grab him in time.
“Don’t scream or I’ll stun you again…this time for real,” he warned and the other nodded.
He made for the door but stopped short at the handle to turn around.
“That’s not about you being black…its…you’re interfering with my mission. It won’t harm any of us…but…,” instead of speaking further, he flashed his small badge that showed Earth’s banner and the sentence IVSTITIASVMVSLEXSVMVS (‘Iustitia sumus, Lex sumus.’) which was ancient Latin for ‘We are justice, we are law.’.
It showed the Executioner that he was one of the highest ranking servants of the government and it would probably help to shut the other man’s mouth about him being here since telling anyone might result in Xander Montanari’s death.
“I’ll leave ta Reapers soon anyway. Ya can be sure of ma silence,” Xander said, still smiling at him.
It made Kellan’s heart ache. Maybe he could have settled this without partially knocking the man out. He felt bad for having overreacted but what was done couldn’t be changed now. He just hoped no other Executioner would come down here and find Xander before the effects wore off. Then, his unwanted accomplice would have to lie through his brains and made up a whole story of how he had ended up limp on the floor.
Kellan nodded his goodbye and stepped out into the silent corridor. He backtracked his steps and soon stood in the hallway where Xander had chosen to give him a new coat.
Instead of turning left, he turned right and went down to the hallways of the laboratories. He turned the little wheel on his earpiece and his mask was covering his face again.
Through the glass walls, he could see a few scientists…he could also see the right computer that held the research results ojn the Phy’vohranians. The Chicago base didn’t use the cloud function that would allow any computer connected to the cloud to download whatever documents there were. This meant he had to get the data from the source.
Without interruption, he strode through the door, through between the working scientists, and all the way to the computer. He plugged in his transfer chip and used the program Sky had written onto the chip to hack into the system where he easily downloaded the data he needed. The files were directly sent to Sky’s lab without leaving any trace on the chip that looked like any other average data-chip.
As fast as he had entered the lab, he exited it. No one took notice of him. Not really though. They knew an Executioner had come in here but that was about it.
Leaving the hallways silently seemed to stretch his luck though because two other Executioners turned right into the corridor where he had left Xander.
He could try to run but despite his boots that were made to be especially silent, the sounds of his feet on the floor would still echo through the hallways.
So he tried to calmly pick up his pace and get to the elevator. That was when he heard the curses and a door flying open.
Closing his eyes and sighing in annoyance, he reached into the pocket of his suit and dug out a smoke bomb. The moment the two Executioners rounded the corner, he looked over his shoulder and let the small bomb drop after pressing the trigger. Smoke erupted from the little metal orb and billowed around him. Kellan heard them coughing and cursing some more but didn’t run. He calmly chose the stairs instead of the elevator and vanished through the smoke, his new coat flying behind him.
He was not proud, nor did he feel relieved that everything had worked out fine. Stealing the passwords, stealing the outlay of the building…that had been criminal enough.
Stealing government issued documents, however, was high treason.
He’d just become a traitor.
He’d just cold-bloodedly exposed two other people to Sky’s smoke that contained poisonous ingredients. They wouldn’t die…but they’d go to the hospital for quite a while.
He shouldn’t have been found out. He should have managed this without leaving any traces.
All he could hope for was, that they hadn’t seen him. He knew that they hadn’t but the tiny voice in his head still told him of his failure.
He typed a code into his wristwatch- a code he’d worked out for a few days. It had cost him a considerable amount of time to work everything out and see that it worked and if it worked now, it would be magnificent.
After he entered the last digit, he simply waited for the chaos to break out.
The lights went out first, then the alarm started ringing and the fire sprinklers attached to the ceiling let water rain from above.
He heard the shouting voices and the running feet. Everyone was trying to get out of the building at once, as the panic spread through the research center. Kellan waited for the first throng of people to rush past him before he followed.
Two weeks later, he was reading through reports in his bed on Voxus. Sky was down in his lab again; merrily using the stolen data to his advantage. He was raving about how this would help him with his breakthrough; how this was going to be his invitation to sit with the greatest scientists of Earth.
All the while, Kellan had listened with his stomach in knots. He had no idea how to feel about what he had done. The guilt was eating on him but not as much as he’d expected it would. The first time, he’d done something like this for Sky, he’d lain in his bed with stomach cramps for a week; sobbing and crying until he was too drained to regret anything anymore.
His greatest fear was, that he soon would feel no remorse at all when he went to do Sky’s dirty business.
Where was the line? Would he have to kill? He didn’t know nor did he want to think about it.
The report he was reading was about the aftermath of what had happened at the Chicago Base when he’d already been on a ship to Voxus.
No one had seen him. The two Executioners were alive but had to recover from the gas attack.
“Like a ghost, this person had come here, messed with our security system and then quietly left. Two of our Executioners had been put out. The only thing they’d seen was his shadow. At least we know where our weaknesses lie.” That was what the head of the Chicago Base had said about the incident.
A ghost, Kellan thought, A shadow, a ghost, a traitor, and soon to be a gladiator in the arena.
He’d signed up for the fights in the arena in Eclipse. He’d leave tomorrow, assume a new identity...a name he’d only be called in said arena…when he wore his armor and held his swords.
He’d trained a lot and he was ready to show all those people out there, that he was no shame, no disappointment but a boy who had survived, who had fought to live. He’d become the Silver Wind.