The sniper sat by the docks. Not that he could watch all of them, but this was where you would come to book transport on one of the ships. He could watch this corridor by himself, especially from up here on the catwalk. It was amazing how little people looked up, how few of them realized that there was a whole other world just above their heads below the next level of floor.
He shook his head at them. So much ignorance. They bustled about, living their lives with never a thought for what else might be out there, who else might be out there, what else they could do. Just shuffle, shuffle, nothing. Shuffle, shuffle, nothing. No wonder he had taken to killing for pleasure. That life was pointless.
No a tiny part of him said What about Naci? That was not pointless at all.
He squashed it under the weight of the years, the hundreds of kills, the dozens of near death experiences between then and now. He would not be distracted.
In his ear the Arcernment police channel buzzed, little tidbits of information. He had set it to that before, waiting to see if heard anything about the artist, but had long ago stopped paying attention, although he did still listen with one part of his mind.
He switched it to the news and continued his search among the people. The man with a briefcase looked nervous; he likely was preparing for some adultery. Foolish people; could they not see that their happiness rested with one person?
But he would not be distracted. Not today. Not right now.
He continued his search until something on the news caught his attention. The announcer sounded more excited than he had in months.
“...has declared war on the Old Earth Council. Fleets are being mobilized and anything that can fly is being commandeered and outfitted for the war effort. We’ve been told that the Colony Leadership has expressed their confidence in a quick war and a decisive victory over Old Earth despite their greater prestige and long standing military. They have not been preparing like we have, and they do not have the people, the resources, the money, or the technology that we do. It will be a swift war. This is James Lawson reporting for the Colony News Network; we’ll be back with an exclusive interview with the Ministers right after these breaks.
“Have you ever felt sad? Depressed? Well, new studies show-”
The sniper muted the feed. It was set to turn on again at certain keywords, but for now he needed to think.
They were at war? With Earth? That had been his home once. But not anymore. He wondered if his old house would be destroyed in the fighting. It had survived three fires, two wars, one revolution and a family of five generations. It would be a shame if it was destroyed now. Not that he would ever see it again anyways. It was not his home anymore.
As he adjusted to the news, he saw the people below begin to react, some with tears, some with joy, some with utter silence and confusion. Likely the sad ones had family in the army or livelihoods depended on free trade, the happy ones had could make profit from the war, and the stunned ones had been following the news carefully before this. There had been no warning at all.
The sniper went back to looking at the crowds. His position would change little with the war. He would still be expected to kill people for Callion, still be chasing the artist, still be trapped. The war didn’t matter, except to make it easier to find the artist. She would not be allowed to get off the Arc once the day was ended; a declaration of war meant an end to civilian transport except for the richest and most powerful.
That meant that the two of them were stuck here. He could stay the rest of the day here, but he doubted that she would be able to get aboard. She did not seem the type to follow the news, and as soon as the news was announced tickets would have been gone. He could tell from the frustration evident in the way the people below were starting to stalk out of the hall.
He stood from his crouch and began to disassemble his rifle. He was just sliding the last piece into the case when the sound came on again in his earpiece.
“Callion who is serving as Minister of Special Forces on the Arc Colony. What do you have to say about the war effort Minister?”
“Well James, may I call you James? Well, I can assure you that the Arc will contribute our finest agents to this war in just a short time. They are currently tying up some internal affairs issues, but when they are finished with that they will be ready for deployment anywhere that the Colony forces need them. We will crush the Earth Fleet”
“A bold statement Minister. May I ask what mission they are currently on?”
“You may. They are currently hunting down the last mass murderer in the system to run free; the Butcher of Calton. She will be captured within the week as my agents close in on her. Then we will have freed the Solar System of the tyranny of fear from this monster just as we will free it from the tyranny imposed by the Old Earth Council”
“You heard it here first ladies and gentlemen. The Arc’s top agents are hunting down the last of the criminal masterminds out there and then will be turned to ending this war quickly and efficiently”
The artist lay on the bunk, listening to the radio broadcast. So the Arc was at war was it? Well that was fitting, as she herself was at war. But she was at war with just one man while the Arc was at war with a whole planet. She wondered which battle was more important.
And now Callion was sending his best men after her was he? Who was this Callion anyways? She seemed to remember the name from a long time ago, but she couldn’t remember when. But if he was sending all his top agents after her then she needed to finish the sniper quickly.
“How goes the watch?” Lian marched down the stairs, a tray of food in her hands.
“It is not a watch, and it goes dismally. Can you not get a screen?”
“If I got a screen then they would be able to track me more easily. I would have to splice more cables. That would make it easier to find me”
The artist lay down again and stared at her leg.
“Maybe we can do something while I am resting here”
“Find the sniper. Examine his weak points”
“And how would we do that?”
“Report something to the Arcernment, something that will bring him to you looking for answers. When he comes, talk to him”
“That might work, or it might get us both killed”
“Well, it was just an idea”
“But why? What would you want me to say? What would you want me to ask?”
“Understand him. Know who he is. If I know who he is, what motivates him, then I can defeat him more easily. Now I need sleep for my implants to do their job. Go Lian. Do what you will”
The artist rolled over and closed her eyes. She waited until she heard Lian climb the stairs and close the door behind her before rolling onto her back and opening her eyes again.
“Who are you sniper? Who do you serve?” her eyes glittered in the darkened room.
The sniper finished putting his rifle away and slid the briefcase into his satchel. He couldn't appear suspicious, not right now.
He stepped into the stairwell and began his descent to the ground floor. He had someplace to be.
The streets passed by. Shops, people, deceit, greed. They had no meaning to him.
But the man following him did. He had noticed him when he had turned into the ticket hallway. The man had stared at the stairs he had taken for a few minutes, moving around but keeping an eye on them. Then he had looked up, his eyes had widened, and he had run off. The sniper had known that he would see the man again, so it had come as no surprise to see him in the crowds.
He would have to do something about this man, but what?
He turned down an alley, cutting closer to his destination. He would not be able to find a place without any people in Dockside; there were just too many people here. He couldn’t deal with the man in a quiet place out of the way. It was either deal with him here, or let himself be followed. He didn’t like the idea of the second option, or at least not until he knew who it was that was following him and who he represented.
So he had to confront the man somehow. But how?