Jor stood in the bakery. There were tasks that needed to be done and his employees would be arriving soon. But he couldn’t work. Callion was out there, waiting. He knew that the man would not give up. Not now that he had found Jor again.
He shook his head as he stared around at the kitchen. He had worked so hard on this bakery. He had worked so hard on this life. He would not lose it now just because one man wanted him to start killing again. It did not matter that that man was one of the most powerful in the Solar System. It did not matter that he would likely be dead within an hour if he did not accept the job. None of that mattered.
Jor was a free man for the first time, free of worries, free of hatred, free of the desire to kill. He would not give up that freedom, not to the murderous crime lord.
He took off his apron and hung it on its peg. Brushing the flour and dust off his hands he checked the glass. Callion was gone, but he knew that he would still be watching. Well, he couldn't let his employees fall into Callion’s clutches.
He walked over to his computer and pulled up the work message group and sent out a mass message to avoid work for the next three days. They would still get paid, but only half shifts as he would need the rest of the money for the getaway. He made sure to stress that they were all excellent employees but they would be in danger if they showed up before then.
Hopefully in three days time he would be off planet and he could turn ownership over to David, the current second in command. He closed the computer and pulled on his coat. He couldn’t leave out the front exit, Callion would see him going. Nor could he leave by any of the other exits unless he wanted to have to kill thugs.
Fortunately Jor had another way out.
He opened the largest oven, and crawled to the back of it. He pressed the top two screws in at the same time, and slid the panel down. It opened onto a small tunnel, grimy from the smoke and grease of the baking goods. It smelled faintly of sourdough bread and stale cookies. But it was a way out.
Jor closed the oven door behind him and blinked a few times until his eyes adapted to the lack of light. Then he crawled into the cramped tunnel and slid the panel closed behind him again. Then he pressed the small button on the wall that would send a report to the police of a suspected breaking and entering at these premises. With luck the police would scare Callion off for a time. With a lot of luck they would catch Callion and his men actually breaking into the bakery, and arrest them. Of course that would just result in dead policemen likely, but Jor could not worry about that right now.
How could he think like that? This was not the Jor who had opened a bakery. This was the old Jor, the artist Jor, the dark horrible Jor. This was not the Jor who had fallen in love with…
Naci. What was he going to do about her? Callion would likely know that he was involved with her. So he couldn’t continue with her, or else she would be in danger. But he couldn't leave her either. Could he?
It would tear him apart to leave her, to flee into the night. But if he left word then he’d have to explain. He’d have to tell her why he was going, and he couldn't face the look on her face when he told her who and what he was. He could not face that.
But was was he to do about her? He resumed his crawl through the darkness. What was he to do about Naci?
The sniper sat on the stool in the music store. Naci’s latest song drifted through the test headphones. He…missed her. Hearing her voice was painful, but he had not heard it for a long time. He had not listened to her music in a long time. It brought up painful memories.
He looked at the screen on the wall in front of him. It was showing the album covers of all of Naci’s songs. If he could just find the right one. The one that had been almost entirely black.
And there it was. And there he was, at a terminal behind the sniper and slightly to the right. He was average height, but wide of shoulder and square jawed. He held himself like someone who knew how to kill. He was not the most subtle of tails.
Which means that I was supposed to see him. So where is the one that I am not supposed to see?
The sniper had been looking for the second tail for the past hour, ever since he had spotted the first one. But the second tail was good. The sniper had not been able to pin down anyone as the tail. There were too many, and too few, suspects.
He turned his attention back to the music. It was good to listen to her music again. Yes. he would purchase copies of her songs. He stood and waved the attendant over.
“Yes, I will take a copy of every song you have by Naci Mallar. You can copy it directly onto this” He handed over the hard drive section of his headset.
“Of course sir. You do realize sir, the cost? It is-”
The sniper passed the man his card, who paled a bit at seeing the blank square “Put it on my card”
“Of course sir”
The man hurried off to do as the sniper had asked, so he stretched, flexing his muscles one by one. It felt good to limber up like this.
“Here you go sir” the man handed him back the hard drive and the card.
“Thank you very much. You have been most helpful”
He stalked out the door as fast as he could. The man jumped at the sniper’s sudden departure, and pulled the earpieces off. The sniper ran out into the street and turned left. He had passed a good lift shaft, closed for maintenance. He could confront the man in there.
He turned the corner into the alley and leapt into one wall. He tensed his muscles. He had to time it just right.
As he landed against the one wall he pushed off again, flinging himself towards the other wall. He did this again and again, bouncing up between the buildings. He reached the top and flung himself over just as the man ran into the alley below. A second nondescript man ran in after him. The two conferred for a moment, before the nondescript man ran out and headed towards the second alley. As expected.
The other man headed for the opposite end. The sniper ran along the balconies, pacing him. He had to leap from one to the next, but that was no issue.
The man came out onto the next street and turned right. They had evidently guessed that he would be heading for the lift shaft and hoped to corner him in the alley. Too bad for them.
He continued his chase, once landing on a balcony that had people on it. They yelped, but he was gone again. The man turned down the alley, and the sniper followed.
He could see the nondescript man walking down it from the other direction. He was looking at something, and obviously wanted to appear absorbed. They both headed for the lift shaft.
They reached it, and stopped, looking over the edge. The sniper tossed a sonic grenade behind them. It went off with a thunderous clap, and the two were thrown forwards into the shaft.
The sniper dropped down after them. He fell into the shaft, so very like the tunnel in his oven, But no, focus on the mission. He slammed his arms out to the sides, scraping his palms along the walls, slowing his descent. He was glad for the gloves he had picked up.
He heard twin thumps from below as the men hit the lift car. They had not been that far below, and he had slowed his speed enough. He pulled his arms in and dropped the rest of the way, landing in a crouch. His satchel, heavy with the weight of his briefcase, slammed into his side.
He stood, and pulled one pistol, approaching the bodies. One moaned. The other lay still. He shot the still one in the leg, just to be sure that he was unconscious and not faking. The body didn’t move. Maybe he was dead.
He walked over to the other one and rolled him over. The nondescript man, likely the more dangerous of the two. He pointed the gun at the man’s stomach and slapped him across the face.
“Don’t move, but wake up. I’ll shoot you if you move, and I’ll shoot you if you don’t talk”
The man opened his eyes and glared at the sniper.
“Nod once if you understand” the man glared at him, and spat. The spittle hit the sniper on the cheek, and slid slowly down. The sniper moved his gun and shot the man in the hand.
The man whimpered, and pulled his shattered hand close to his chest.
“I said nod once if you understand” the man nodded.
“Good. Now, who do you work for?” if he was to have any question answered it would be that one. Anything else could be puzzled out later.
The man looked at him as if surprised to hear the Director’s name spoken “Yes. The Director”
“Why were you following me?”
The man looked at him and clutched his hand tighter.
“Will you promise to let me go if I answer your questions?”
“Why were you following me?”
The man shook his head “I want your promise first. That you will let me go if I answer your questions”
The sniper snarled. He couldn’t not kill the man. But he needed his questions answered.
“I swear I will let you live”
“Then put away your gun”
“As long as you keep it out you threaten my life. Put it away and then I’ll talk”
The sniper looked at the man. He knew that he would try to kill him as soon as he put away the gun. No matter. He could kill the man faster. He holstered the gun.
“Now, why were you following me”
“The Director told us to”
“He always gives reasons. What reason did he give?”
“He told us that you were going to go rogue. He said that you had to be eliminated if you showed any signs that you were about to do so”
The sniper heard a noise above him, back at the floor. He stepped back and flicked the switch that would start to raise the lift back up. It sputtered, and then began to move.
“He said that I was to be eliminated?”
“Thats what I said”
“How long have you been tailing me?”
“Since you failed to capture the Butcher. He said that you had let her go” the man looked at the sniper angrily “Why did you? Why would you betray the Arc? Why would you let a madwoman like her go free? Why?”
The lift reached the alley and the sniper sighed. He didn't want to go through with this.
“I didn’t. Callion lied to you”
The man on the ground shook his head “The Director wouldn’t lie. Not about something like this. You are the best chance we have of bringing the Butcher in; he wouldn’t want us to kill you so long as she is out there unless you really were going rogue. But that doesn’t matter anymore anyways. I answered your questions, so I get to live”
The sniper nodded, and extended a hand to help the man to his feet. As the man reached for his hand he spun, and plunged the dagger from his sleeve into the throat of the man behind him.
The man staggered backwards, gurgling, silenced pistol falling from his fingers, eyes wide as the sniper spun back and grabbed the wrist of the man on the ground. He squeezed, and to the cracking of bones the man’s hand opened, revealing the small pin in the center of his palm.
“You tried to kill me. So now you die”
“I never said that I wouldn’t try that!” the man protested, both hands pulled to his chest as he shuffled backwards.
“No. You didn’t” The sniper raised the pistol of the man he had stabbed and put a bullet between the other man’s eyes. The protests cut off.
He shot the unconscious man for good measure and took their extra clips. He could always use the extra ammo.
He checked the straps on his satchel and walked out of the alley. He needed to go check something. He pulled out his miniaturized portscreen and looked at the message again.
Meet me at coordinates 8991 6574 2314. You will know the building by the cafe across from it. I fear that my neighbour is going to commit treason and war crimes.
It had been forwarded to him by the computer as being the closest Agent who was also the most qualified. There was something off about the whole scenario. But, the sooner he dealt with this the sooner he could get back to his hunt for the artist.He checked his own coordinates, pocketed the portscreen, and began walking. The sooner the better