One, Two, Three

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Edited 1536590483
One She walks through the room, her face grave, intent, eyes flickering about. It's not the actual room. A set of micro-drone infiltration units and at least two agents with body cameras have done visual scans of the site. Approximately 95% of the room surface has been mapped. There are the inevitable odd angles where one can see wireframe, but none of them are critical save possibly the gap under the desk. Sloppy, that. She steps across the room, ignoring the ghost shadows of occupants during various times of photography, trying to ignore the flatness from different light sources, different sun angles during the day. The curtains are thrown open, giving a glorious view to the north of the triangle of Pico Naiguatá. It, too, feels strangely flat, composited from multiple drone and satellite sources. The room itself, she notes, is elegant. It feels like a room of power. The ceiling is high, painted with a false trim to make it look taller. The desk, before the windows, is old, wooden, highly decorated. Spanish colonial, most likely. There are hints of gilt in the decor. Atop the desk, a shadow forest of stacks of papers, telephone, recharging cables, a stone sphere, a pistol lying in the open, almost solid in its immobility (Sig Sauer P226, as the report indicated). She crosses the room with careful grace turning as she does, trying to feel it. A chandelier above. Bookshelves to the left and right, again in heavy wood, embedded into the walls. The titles demonstrate they are all for show. A door to the far left from that desk. It's labeled "WC" when she pulls up the annotations. The double-doors in the center are closed, but she's familiar with the second floor foyer beyond them from floor plans she's already reviewed. Two elaborate chairs in front of the desk. To the right of it, more cushioned chairs with small tables beside them, a place to relax and confer, rather than sit behind --  The desk. It's the locus, the lynchpin, the focus of the room. The furniture and its arrangement is part of that, but even the architecture makes it so. Who sits behind that desk is the master of every conversation, every meeting, as much as if it were a golden throne upon a dais.  To the left of the doors (from the perspective of the occupant of that desk) is a large, dark painting of men in the outfits of Spanish conquistadors -- a  Velázquez, she thinks. On the other side, incongruous, a series of two-sheet movie posters: two from Mexico, one from Venezuela, all films about narcotics traffickers. Of course. "Conclusions," asks a voice, cold, demanding. "A center of opulence. A center of power. Intended to intimidate, to secure rule, to control others." "Yes. Of course. What more?" She considers. "Per the floor plan, only one entrance and exit, through the main doors. That seems sloppy. It doesn't show in the intel, but I would suspect a secret egress from the WC." "What more?" She looks at the focal point of the room, cocks her head. "The desk is old. It appears solid. It would probably provide cover from gunfire coming in through the main doors, especially if reinforced." "What more?" "I have researched the current occupant of the villa. He is a killer, both personally and those whose lives are destroyed by the drug cartel he runs. He is proud of this, considering himself a successor to the European conquerors of this land, and a member of the anti-heroes of narcocinema ." "What more?" Everything else she has in mind is trivial, of little value until connected to something else. "I -- have no other significant conclusions at this time." A long silence, as she continues to move through the room, examining details -- book spines, the lamps, the bronze of a pair of horses on a table against the far wall. She's trying to make the space her own, as she's learned she can do. If she can do that, she can fill the space with her mind, understand it fully. It's ... hard. This is not real, just a holographic display. There are no echoes. No subtle currents of air. The shadows are wrong. If she closes her eyes, the space has no presence. The voice continues after endless seconds. "Points of attack." She considers. "The doors. Blow them open, flash-bangs to disable those within, Lines of fire should be straightforward, unless --" "Yes?" "The desk is a natural defensive point. Even if not additionally reinforced, it would withstand normal automatic weapons fire for a time. There are likely additional weapons in the drawers, as well as contacts for guards, reinforcements. Other furniture could be used for defense, but is likely not substantial enough to do so." "Why not?" "The paranoia of power. He would not create defensive bulwarks that could be turned against him." "So the threat to him is from within." "He has competitors. They might attack. I have not had a briefing on other interior defenses to the building, nor to the compound as a whole. But even without that there is always in such organizations the trouble of disloyalty, of lieutenants deciding they are strong enough to take the throne. Lacking a purpose, a strong ideology, individual greed and pride --" "Insufficient!" The word lashes across her like an almost physical blow. She drops to one knee, bowing her head. "You think too linearly. How to enter the installation. How to approach the building. How to enter. How to make your way to the second floor. How to force the doors. How to overcome the defenses he has prepared. A simplistic series of events in a chain. You are far more intelligent than this." "The scenario --" "Recite the scenario. "Hector Ortiz, narco-trafficker. Owns a mansion and surrounding land at a given address on the outskirts of Caracas. Scenario goal: to --" She pauses. She's only 13. "-- eliminate him." "Why?" "He kills people. He destroys lives. He steals wealth from the poor --" "-- and the rich. And he destabilizes the corrupt governmental order. Why should he be eliminated?" "Drugs, narcotics are an evil unto themselves. They destroy lives. They deviate minds from reality. They are the literal opiate of the masses. They placate the population, preventing them from seeing their oppression." "There may be appropriate applications, on individual or even population bases. They are a tool, and, as such, can be highly dangerous to the user without guidance. Be that as it may. What else do you know of this Ortiz?" "I -- I have researched his personal life -- he is abusive to the people around him, capricious and murderous, killing and crippling and defacing --" "Irrelevant!" She keeps her face to the floor. Her eyes casually scan the image of the massive Persian carpet upon it, though her knee is clearly on concrete. She feels a deep shame in her failure. "I have no answer, beyond what I have said." "You have neglected the Great Mission." "I --" "You sought only externalities, thus you failed to consider our own interests. Mr. Ortiz became aware of the Caracas Cell in December. He knew of my interest in his nation. He let his greed overpower his wisdom, and raided the cell, killing our people, stealing weapons and equipment." "I --" The information had not been in her briefing information, or the research she'd done in addition to that. She knew that the Caracas Cell had gone dark, not the reason. That was not surprising -- it would not do to let such a blow against her father be made public -- but she should have known. "I did not research properly. We must --" She pauses again. "-- strike back." "Correct. Such an affront cannot be allowed." "Nor may his --" She pauses, surprised by her boldness. "-- his other offenses." "Of course. Though -- his sins in this part of the world are nothing unique. Strike such scum down, and others will come to fill his place. Until the world is reformed, that is the sad truth." "Then --" "But assaulting me -- us -- directly, cannot be tolerated. An example must be made." After a moment, she nods my head. "He is evil. He hurts the hurts. He stands in the way of the Great Mission." "Yes. And you will have the opportunity to rectify this situation." She kneels. "How may I serve, Father?" "You shall eliminate him." A thrill, a rush of adrenaline, an excitement, a chance to get Father's favor, a chance to strike directly ... and there's no question that Ortiz deserves elimination. She's seen his files, the men, women, even children he's killed or had killed, or let go with mutilations and disfigurement to serve as a warning -- let alone the poison he's spread across the Americas. And if he's opposed Father, then all the more reason to see him -- -- but -- "Father. I am your servant. But I am not ..." A flush of shame. "I want this done. And I want it done right. But a frontal assault -- I am not ..." She stops. She cannot say the words. I am not strong enough. I am not brave enough. I cannot do this, with any guarantee of victory. "You doubt yourself, Daughter." Is his voice the slightest bit softer in those words? "Yes, Father." "This attack on this compound you envision, you worry it would fall short." "Yes ... Father." Her face burns. She is lower than the dirt in her failure, in her inability. "You have not correctly evaluated the situation." What?  She's missed something. "I have failed you, Father." "No. Not ... yet." "I cannot --" All she can envision is leading troops to the slaughter. I am not ready. But -- "-- how can I serve?" "As I said, you think in a linear fashion. Think ... outside the box." She stands again, casting her gaze about her. She is within the room, the hologram of the room, feeling its elusive, illusory space. A rectangular room -- a box. Doors in and out, but those have been considered. Backtrack the escape from the WC? Break through the floor (an explosive?) or the ceiling? Both imply infiltration. Complex. Difficult. Am I up to -- Her eyes fall on the desk, the leather chair that sits behind it. Where Ortiz sits. She steps to the desk's front, looking at that chair, considering the angles of attack -- No. Is it that simple. The window behind -- She steps around the desk, looks out that window. The drapes are occasionally closed, but ... the view is spectacular. Both to impress others and for his own pleasure, Ortiz would leave the curtains aside when he could.  The jungle, the mountains, the isolated buildings. She calculates angles, distances. Illumination. What would be visible at what perspectives. There . It's within the fenced compound, but -- "The --" She calls up the compound map labels. "-- garage, to the northeast. The rooftop would provide a proper angle and range for a sniper." "Recommendations?" "A small team could infiltrate, assuming a priority for the survival of the assassin. Achieve the proper vantage point, covering for anyone using the garage. A night-time shot -- the window is not properly angled for other locations outside the fence, not with the trees at the north fence. A good shot could eliminate Ortiz." "Yes. A correct analysis." The words trigger a feeling of joy, of pleasure at her success. "My recommendation is Conway. She has the training --" "No. Conway is occupied in Eritrea." "Venizelos, then. He had Navy SEAL experience. Ortiz' pistol, he took it from a SEAL team that tried to take him out in Cúcuta. He would have that additional motivation." "Venizelos could perform the job. He is not the best resource." It's clear he has someone in mind. "Who, then, Father?" "You." * * * The spring night air is hot, humid, oppressive, but she is cold. The Direct Action team (from the Barranquilla Cell -- they cover most operations in northern South America, especially with the destruction of the Caracas Cell) is below her, around her. The building is secure. The caretaker, and the Ortiz soldado assigned there are both dead, their blood staining the concrete of the main vehicle bay. The team could handle any likely attack against their position. But she has to hope such an attack doesn't happen, since it would abort her -- -- mission. She looks through the scope of the Dragunov. She's well within the rangefinder's 1 klick chevron range. Ortiz' office is clearly visible. Poor judgment on his part. It would be difficult to line up a shot from outside is his compound borders. But within it, he is extraordinarily vulnerable. Hubris. Who would dare attack him from within, and without confronting him directly? Nobody without a holy purpose. It would make more sense if the glass on his office window was designed as bullet-resistant. (Nothing is truly bullet-proof, of course.) But, so far as the intel provided, it is not. The light comes on in the room. She forces her pulse, respiration, down to normal. She consider the angles. She thinks of the room, all that she learned. She wonders if Father knew that would become so useful. Of course he did. He knows what I need to know. Hector Ortiz steps to the window. He's not a big man. Wiry. His furrowed, scarred face. Thin mustache. The tattoo on the left of his neck. All visible in the scope. She can see someone else behind him -- a corpulent man in a business suit. The Deputy Minister of SEBIN, one of the country's security agencies. It's not full dark yet -- the Pico Naiguatá from his window is catching the last rays of the sun. It must be a glorious view. Hers is a ... glorious view as well. A useful view. He is clearly visible. Easily in range.  An easy shot. The reticle is lined up. She has distance and windage calculated. She knows the bullet she fires will intersect as required. She's been training on firearms for years. All sizes, from tiny one-shot hold-outs, to gunship chain-guns. Sniper rifles fall into the continuum there, somewhere. She is confident in her ability to hit her target. She's never killed someone. She's perforated targets. She's been on missions where she was armed, where she might have needed to fire. But she's -- The secondary water flow rises to ankle depth, cold with the bitter chill of the deep Pacific, the smell of brine filling the oily, stuffy air of the base. I can hear it rushing in from all the key points, hear the pounding on the bulkhead doors behind me, the screams, Father shouting for me to move more quickly ... I've killed. Just -- not this way. -- she's 13. Almost 14. She wants to do the right thing. She knows what her father expects. And she fully agrees with it. Ortiz is scum. He's a man who destroys lives, by his own order and through the industry he supports. And he attacked Father's base here. That cannot go unanswered. She sees him, standing there before the window, proud and preoccupied with the illusion of power, of invincibility. She knows that a small squeeze of the trigger will -- -- kill a man. Kill a person . She pulls away from the rifle, away from the scope. Her breath comes in short pants.  Killing is evil. To end a life is wrong -- -- except when it is not, comes her father's voice.  The lesson of history: violence, whether regretted or welcomed, is the edge of the knife that drives progress, where guided by righteous motivation. It's unavoidable, from mass warfare to targeted assassination. Rhetoric, the will and the words and the wisdom, are the most reliable long-term tools, but there are times the sword is needed in lieu of the pen. To refuse to take such a step -- It is the dilettante, the casual activist, the one who thinks speeches and letters to the editor and blog posts and tweets will suffice to change the world --  those are the ones who bow to the conventions of the lies of those in power, who wish to forestall violence even as an option to be considered, lest they themselves become a target. One must act with purpose. And without fear. To achieve a righteous end, the most effective means must be employed. Hector Ortiz is an evil man. He hurts others. He orders people's deaths. He produces poison. If I allow him to do it, I am complicit in his actions. She suddenly wonders would Jason would say.  Idiot. He'd never understand. He'd say to call the police, or the army, as if they would come -- or as though they would resolve the problem without engaging in violence themselves. Hell, if that bodyguard of his were here, the man would probably be giving me tips on how to better line up the shot. I've seen his file. Ortiz had his first wife killed, and ordered the deaths of his last three mistresses as well. He had the predecessor of the man he is with right now executed, the body left to be found in in the Fountain Venezuela at Los Caobos Park the next morning -- most of it, at any rate. He had the wife of the Minister of War similarly tortured and killed, a warning to a man with five children to stand down on a plan to raid his operations. And that's not counting the innumerable lesser killing he's committed or ordered in rising to the an uppermost post amongst narcotics traffickers. If there is a person who deserves execution, Ortiz is that person. That is all that is important, all that need be considered, at this locus in space-time. She leans back into the rifle, presses her eye against the scope. Lines everything up properly again. Feels the angles, the space, the volume that encompasses her, the compound, the office, Ortiz. Imagines the arc of the bullet, dragged by air and gravity, pulled by wind, slightly deflected by the materials of the window. She lets out all the air in her lungs. She slowly, carefully, pulls the trigger. * * * The exfiltration goes without a hitch. Father is pleased.  She's pleased as well. Even if that figure in the window continues to show up in her dreams. #Background #Cutscene
[I'm exploring a bit of Alycia backstory here, stuff I've had in my back pocket for a while, and have alluded to at different times, but have never really fully surfaced up until now. Since some of her history may be starting to bubble back up again, I figured I'd get it on (virtual) paper.]
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I'm curious what Alycia will do once she wakes up from one of these nightmares, and realizes that she's in a house with people, rather than a cell. But we'll find out in due course, I'm sure.