Year 17

Chapter 11
Harbinger FM

by E.Escher - 9th Jan 2017
Brian kept off the main roads, and stashed the F12 in a car park beneath a hotel. He slipped the valet a handful of Twenties with quiet instructions to park it somewhere out of the way, so nobody would mess with it.

He felt... uncomfortable... with the way things had played out. The hit on Colin was a bad do, but he wasn't a man who could just pick and choose who he killed. He had a part to play, he had obligations. Sure, somehow he'd gone two years without having to actually kill anybody, which was a pretty sweet deal for a professional assassin. He'd picked up paychecks for hits that were practically impossible. He'd established a near-supernatural reputation, greatly extending the influence of his superiors, but that was all about to end. After he killed Colin, he'd have to go back to working for a living. The organisation would be disappointed, and he had no idea what he'd tell them if they were to ask.

Luckily for him, the organisation didn't much go for personal contact. His superiors were faceless, nameless, green text on a computer screen. They were the decoded messages his computer pulled from a worthless internet radio station, Harbinger FM, the Voice of the Night, speaking a litany of the unsuspecting dead every night.

That was how they sent out their orders, controlling a network of assassins and spies all over the world. He could go weeks, even months without a mission, but the pay was good, and he used the free time to hone his skills. He spoke half a dozen languages, could field-strip an assault rifle in pitch darkness, and hit a grape with a knife from thirty feet.

His unarmed combat was a little rusty, but he could look after himself, and he made sure he never went out without a weapon, a spare weapon, a couple of backup weapons, and at least one other nasty surprise. Unarmed combat, in his opinion, was the last resort of the incompetent.

Last night the radio had given him quite a shock. The harbinger had spoken, and somehow it can come up with the name 'Colin Campbell'. The follow-up codes were short and to the point. No words, just letters and numbers.

'HT3' suggested that Colin was a "hard target", meaning he was combat-trained. The numbers suggested a threat level, with five denoting another assassin. Somebody had ranked Colin a three, which Brian had already surmised; you didn't get far in this job if you couldn't recognise a fellow killer when you met one.
'1S' meant he had one shot. If he alerted the target, they would go to ground, and he'd never get another chance to take them out. That sounded about right.
The third and fourth segments, '1C' and 'OA' meant 'one chance' and 'opposing agent'. If he alerted the target, or botched the hit, they would go to ground and he'd never get another shot at them. 'Opposing agent' was ambiguous: it could mean that the target worked for another agency, or it could mean another agent was on the scene working to protect the target. Either way, it always made things more interesting.

But why Colin? Who was he? How did they even know he existed? He was nobody!

Unless he was more than Brian's good luck charm. Unless there was something to it, and somehow they'd cottoned on. Had Brian's run of good fortune attracted too much attention? Was Colin the real target, or this an indirect strike at Brian himself?

Did they think they were making him kill his best friend? Brian didn't have any friends, or none that he especially cared about. His superiors knew that. They would never have contacted him if he wasn't a cold-blooded sociopath. Was this a warning that they had their eye on him? Did they fear his recent run of good fortune? They must have investigated, they must have realised he hadn't been the one to kill the targets.

He wondered what the report must have looked like. How did they react, upon reading it? He couldn't believe the odds himself. He'd been on the edge of twenty-four inexplicable deaths. Accidents, suicides, spontaneous illness, falling objects, the list went on, each fatality more improbable and unlikely than the last.

And every time, Brian had arranged to meet with Colin for a drink at some place nearby. If somebody from the organisation had been watching him, he'd effectively signed the other man's death warrant. A warrant he himself was now ordered to enact.

Well, too bad. A shame and all, he'd had a good run while it lasted, and now he'd finally find out if Colin really was his good luck charm. If the strange deaths carried out after this job, he'd know he'd been wrong all along.

In theory, he only had to arrange a meeting, and Colin would die by the same mysterious circumstances that had claimed the rest of his victims. It was actually quite exciting.

Brian thought Colin had once been a soldier, he had all the mannerisms of a military man, long-retired. Which of course made no sense, because Colin didn't look old enough. How much action had he seen to get this way, not a day over forty? It must have been some serious special forces shit, but he never spoke about any of it. Colin was closed-lipped in the extreme. If it weren't for all the things he disliked, Brian could believe the man was a blank slate. He didn't watch much TV, he didn't read the papers, wasn't interested in sports, had no interest in politics.

He had no interest in the world. Or rather, no interest in the modern world. History, now, that was a subject he was passionate about. He could name all the kings and queens of Europe, along with weird little tidbits of period gossip, and he occasionally referred to the United States as "the colonies".

And today, Brian had learned that Colin couldn't drive a car worth shit.

Oh, he was going to die, one way or another, but Brian wanted to test some wild ideas before he did the job. He hadn't slept a wink all night, so he'd had chance to give it a lot of thought. If he was right, and Colin had some kind of metaphysical influence, there was a good chance Brian would die today. Maybe that was the plan. Maybe his superiors wanted him out of the way. Maybe they had their own suspicions, and were testing Colin.

Well, they were all going to learn something today. Brian had put some steps in motion, called in a whole bunch of favours, and implemented the most immediately available items from his personal bucket list. Colin would get a kick out of sharing the experiences, and if Brian ended up dead, at least he was going out on a high.

It was a morbid philosophy, but eminently practical; most of the activities were dangerous, even life-threatening, and if either of them were going to succumb to the fickle hand of causality, this was the best way to tempt fate.

He had half expected one of them to crash their car, and he had more-than-half expected that it would be Colin. Brian had taken bodyguard courses to learn about his opposition, and was trained in all manner of offensive driving techniques. He knew how to predict the reactions of the cars around him, spot which ones had noticed him and which were oblivious. Doubtless Colin had simply blundered along trying to keep up, until the inevitable happened. It was kinda funny.

He hadn't counted on the lucky bastard surviving, though. Especially not given the state of the car he was in. The Porsche had pinwheeled through the air like a child's toy, end over end, bouncing along the tops of other cars and ending up slamming into the back end of a Maersk shipping truck.

According to some witnesses he'd got out of the wreck and walked off, although there was at least one report that he'd been flung from the vehicle in mid-air. The police were still identifying the bodies, but he was pretty sure they wouldn't find Colin.

Brian had missed his one chance, but Colin didn't know he was under attack, and he had nowhere else to go, nobody else to turn to. Brian was his only friend - he'd never mentioned anybody else, and didn't seem to connect easily, so if Brian could get in touch, express his concern for his friend's safety, he could get Colin back out in the open. He'd come running, if Brian promised to explain everything. That was how he had planned to string the day together, dragging Colin from one crazy situation to the next, each time swearing he'd explain everything when it was over.

And then Brian would put a bullet in him, and that would be the end of it. The start of a new chapter.
The curious tale of Colin Campbell
Part One - How did it come to this?, Chapter 1, Earlier that day
Chapter 2, Earlier still
Chapter 3, Making a withdrawal
Chapter 4, August 18th, 2362
Chapter 5, Angel of Death
Chapter 6, Welcome to 2016.
Chapter 7, Denmark, July 2358
Chapter 8, After the crash
Chapter 9, Music of the Spheres
Chapter 10, Denmark, July 2358
Chapter 11, Harbinger FM
Chapter 12, Denmark, July 2358
Chapter 13, Excuses and lies
Part Two - So here we are, Chapter 14
Chapter 15, Quite a ride
Chapter 16, Talking the talk
Chapter 17, Leisurely pursuit
Chapter 18, Dinner Date with Destiny
Chapter 19, Chips with everything
Chapter 20, Harbinger
Chapter 21, Time to leave
Chapter 22, Manchester
Chapter 23, Colin's House
Chapter 24, On the road
Chapter 25, Chateau Harbinger
Chapter 26, Showdown
Epilogue, Debriefing
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