Year 18

Chapter 18
Dinner Date with Destiny

by E.Escher - 2nd Feb 2017
Brian was livid. On an unconscious level he'd been prepared to learn something important about the universe, but not this. This was crazy. This was bullshit. Zombies from the future?

How the hell did that relate to his 'angel of death' theory? It made no sense at all, and the girl from the bank kept harping on about coincidences being a side-effect of the universe trying to fix itself, or something like that. Whatever.

There had to be some way he could turn the situation to his advantage, turn Colin's own freaky power against him. Brian wasn't a fan of improvisation in the same way he wasn't a fan of unarmed combat; if you had to improvise, it meant your plan had failed, and Brian despised bad planning.

The girl seemed like a free-wheeling crazy person, content to let events take their own course and trust that a lucky coincidence would keep her safe from harm. Either that or she was so smart Brian was utterly out of his league and didn't stand a chance, but that was no way to approach a job.

His mission was still to kill Colin, nothing had changed on that front. The girl had more or less confirmed that Colin was the cause of the circumstantial deaths, so he was about to tear up his own meal ticket. That was no particular problem, in fact it would be nice to get back to basics. He worried a moment, wondering what his superiors would do when they figured they'd paid him years of bonuses for kills he'd had nothing to do with. Claiming credit for a natural death wasn't explicitly forbidden, but was perhaps unprofessional. It wasn't like he'd made any such claim, though. The coded message to confirm a death was literally that: "target death confirmed". He hadn't done anything to say he'd killed them himself, and if the organisation took retribution now they'd look like fools. They'd assumed he had been responsible, and the smartest thing to do would be to stick with that story.

After all, for the past couple of years they'd had access to an operative who could reach any target, and make their death look like an accident. You couldn't put a price on that, or the power that such a reputation brought.

His own personal worth was about to take a nose dive. It might even be that he was about to become an embarrassment, which was a bad thing to be. Reputation was important to his superiors, and they never took any potential loss of face lightly. They'd kill him without a second's hesitation, or they'd try. They'd send somebody, certainly, but Brian was confident in his own skills.

Try to kill me? he growled to himself. I'll kill you first.

He supposed every assassin asked the question sooner or later: what if they decide they're done with me? Do I fight back or try to vanish? Brian's solution was to do both. First he would disappear without a trace, possibly fake his own death, or leave some false trails, and then he would set about tracking down his elusive and mysterious superiors.

Recognising his peers was the problem. He knew the names (fake) and faces (disguises) of many of his rivals, agents and operatives in many different organisations. Some were government-sponsored, some were not, and he believed he was better than any of them. If it came down to a duel of assassins, he told himself, he was ready for anyone and anything.

Except, of course, that was a lie. He didn't know the names or faces of his colleagues, and anybody could be taken down by a sniper's bullet, or wiped out by an indiscriminate bomb. Any stranger on the street could pull a gun and shoot him in the back. There were procedures to avoid making it easy, and he habitually stayed away from windows, checked his own cars for suspicious devices, and wore a lightweight Kevlar vest beneath his jacket. He watched windows and rooftops wherever he went, partly just to pick out good vantage points for himself, should the need ever arise. He was a professional, but his job was also his hobby. If somebody wasn't paying him, he'd just be a serial killer.

The only difference between him and a deranged psycho was the paycheques, but that was fine. He wasn't in the job to make friends. The organisation liked to keep their operatives isolated, so there was no conflict of interests, no chance of the agents unifying against their mysterious leaders. He could have met several of his fellow agents, might even have killed a few, and he wouldn't know. They could be keeping tabs on him, or getting ready to kill him, and they probably wouldn't know that he was part of the same team. It was all very childish.

He arrived at the site of one of his lockups, a small office building that he had a key for. He let himself in, went directly to the stairwell and started climbing. You couldn't get to the roof unless you used the stairs, so nobody ever went up there. The roof-access door was still shiny and new, and he let himself out onto the top of the building to take in the scenery. He wasn't particularly high up, but there weren't that many tall buildings around, so he had a fairly commanding view of the surrounding area. If he'd had a rifle he could take out anybody he wanted, for half a mile around. He half-closed his eyes and daydreamed. He wasn't far from Colin's house, here. He could see a chinese takeaway down the road, the one he'd recommended to Colin, back when he'd been trying to force the man to try out foreign food. It had been a fun diversion, and he'd chosen the Golden Path just because it was close. Any kind of walking distance would give Colin too much reason not to go, and in the end he'd turned his nose up at most of the food options and settled for a bag of chips.

That's how all Colin's food experiments went. He looked at the menu, and picked something english. At best, he'd pick something that came with chips.

Brian squinted down the street, and picked out two figures. A man and a woman. 'Can't be,' he muttered. The woman was a brunette, wearing a short dark dress. The man was medium-height, medium build, blonde hair. Colin and the zombie-girl, a few hundred yards away, and here we was with only a pistol.

Well, not for long! He wasn't lurking on rooftops to enjoy the urban panorama, he was up here to collect some equipment from one of several stashes he'd hidden around the city. He ran to a cluster of air-conditioning units and located the broken-down unit on the end, rusty and silent. He yanked the side of the case free, popping the quick-release catches he'd installed in place of the original screws. He'd replaced the rusty screwheads, of course, but they were dummies, just rusty caps glued in place should anybody try to open the thing.

Inside was a plastic bag, held in place with magnets. Inside the bag was an oiled bundle, containing a pair of custom Glock handguns, silenced, with extended 33-round magazines and laserdots sights.

Nobody in their right mind used two handguns at once - it was impossible to aim down two weapons at the same time, but the laser dots offered a solution for that. Brian had fitted guns with differently-coloured lasers: red for the left, green for the right. He'd wasn't a good shot left-handed, but he'd practised enough to know he could easily enough place a shot in centre-mass from ten paces, which was all he needed for his off-hand. He'd stashed these weapons as a last-resort option, ideal for holding an attacker at bay or simply making a lot of holes in something. The silencers were a necessity, purely so that he didn't burst his own eardrums. Even with them the guns were loud, and using two at once made him doubly glad for their protection. He wished silencers worked like in the movies, but they just didn't. Guns went bang, and unless you went for something else, like a crossbow, you just had to deal with it.

He jammed the two weapons into his belt. There was no way to disguise the weapons, with their extended barrels and magazines they looked more like boomerangs that handguns, but it was dark and he figured he could get away with it long enough to pull off one messy job. He was going to mess those two up so bad they'd be all over the news. Then, when the doctors cut them open they'd find the truth, and if it turned out they were something other than just normal human beings that would be all over the news, and everybody would be wondering what they were, and where they came from, and who the hero was that killed them so spectacularly. He'd be famous. It was a hilarious notion.

But if, by some perversion of science, they managed to survive the attack, they'd have a lot of explaining to do.

'Mister Campbell, how is it that you're stood here talking to us when witnesses saw you get shot fifty times, and in fact I can still see the bulletholes in your chest?'

The Golden Path had security cameras. Colin's secret would finally be exposed to the rest of humanity, and the world would be alerted to the presence of time travellers. If things worked out his way the furtive invaders would have their secret blown wide open. They'd have to stop their operations, doing whatever weird stuff they came back here to do.

He ran down the stairwell, through the lobby and out onto the street. His mind was made up, and he was on his way to commit exactly the kind of insane, indiscriminate, amateur-hour atrocity he'd always scorned in the past. It was something you only did if you wanted to kill somebody without anybody knowing they were the target. He had to jog slowly to keep his pistols covered, and if he went any faster he might drop them.

It was a horrible plan, but using what he had at hand it was probably his best immediate option, and he was quietly, coldly angry. Angrier that he had any right to be, if he was honest. He was also a little bit excited, like a kid at Christmas. He'd always kept his kills detached and professional, he was sure it would feel good to just cut loose and kill somebody for himself, up close and noisy and messy.

Colin and the woman were just ahead, he was catching up to them but he wouldn't reach them before they got to the take-away. He could just pull the guns now and open fire, but the range wasn't ideal, and he couldn't be sure of a clean kill. He was tempted to pull the guns and just sprint the rest of the way, and almost decided to do it. Almost.

A Range Rover pulled up alongside him, big low-profile tyres mounting the pavement with a squeal. Brian froze, hands clamped onto his guns, ready to disengage the safety catches and fight. The rear door opened, and he heard other doors opening on the other side of the vehicle.

'Don't do anything rash. We still have need of you.'

He stared into the vehicle's interior, but the windows were tinted, and he couldn't make out any details.

'Get in. Now. We have much to discuss.'

'Oh yeah?' he challenged, feeling oddly belligerent. His nerves jangled with adrenaline, jacked up for a kill. 'Like what?'

'Your future. The future.'

He hissed. 'You bastards. You knew!' He stomped to the car and gripped the doorframe. Inside the car was an ordinary-looking man, slightly grey, a lined face with deep-set eyes and a look of great weariness. Brian eyed the man's pistol, and deliberately kept his own hands in the open. 'I don't know you.'

'Actually, you do. You can call me Harbinger.'
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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