Chapter 1: I Do Not Doubt Now
As we walked the street of the abandoned city, we saw a body. A woman trampled to death in the madness of the night before. Stephenson warned me that if anyone ever wielded Sky Fall, they could kill anyone they wanted, and no one would ask questions. I doubted then. I do not doubt now.
-Jay Nichols, Secrets of the Sky Fall
They picked the girl because despite being almost thirty, she could still pass for nineteen, and she’d killed before. There were other factors as well. They had to be sure she was someone the boy would respond to. Several were interviewed and sent on preliminary missions to make initial contact. She provoked the strongest response.
Now, the two danced and gyrated against each other in the rented factory. It was a poor choice to hold a concert if anyone cared what the music sounded like, but that didn’t interest this crowd of college students. They were here for the drugs, reckless dancing and possible hookups in the after haze.
A live band played loud music through multiple speakers throughout the area. The thick cement walls and heavy unyielding metal of the printers the dotted the area reverberated the noise into an indecipherable cacophony. Even the rhythm of the crowd seemed uneven as some heard the music from the speakers, and other heard the reflection from the walls.
The girl led her date to the center of the room through careful tugs, presses and occasionally drifting away from him and seductively writhing as she waiting for him to draw closer. Instinctively, she touched her ear as though to activate her ear piece, but nothing was there. The team knew going in that it would be too loud. She ran her finger through the boy’s hair and entwined them behind his head, then pulled him close, until his lips touched her neck. She could feel him begin to kiss her skin. She took the moment to check in with her team.
Several massive men dotted the room. They danced but it was out of rhythm, the sluggish odd dance that is often mocked of in stereotypes of white people. As she made eye contact with each of them, they all gave a singe nod, then lit up a glow stick around their writs. Each held it high in the air. They waved and bobbed their hands to the music. It was common to see such a thing at raves and rock concerts, and several others members of the crowd were doing it as well. Only if one were to see the scene from a bird’s eyes view would it stand out. A perfect geometric shape of upheld blue wrist bands, all at key positions in the room.
The signal was clear. The mission was a go. She pressed her body into the boy and weaved around him like it was part of the dance, until she was behind him, running her hands over his body. She stroked them across his chest and over his stomach. She kept the pressure firm to ensure he didn’t turn around. Then the smell hit the crowd.
Not everyone noticed, but enough did. The stink crinkled their noses and their enjoyment stopped long enough for them to notice other things. She couldn’t see them, but she knew what would happen. The metal scaffolding that held the stage lights would tilt, the metal screeching, straining. Then the music would stop for just a moment, just long enough for someone to shout, and others to scream.
The silence hit. All the speakers flipping off for a few well-chosen moments. A voice boomed through the room, “It’s falling!”. A crackle of electric sparks showered down over the crowd and ignited several screams then the voice shouted again, “Run.” Then the music blared through the speakers once more.
The boy tried turn, but she grabbed his face pulled him in for a kiss. Her other hand held him in his twisted awkward posture until she could drive her knee into the back of his.
He tilted off balance and grabbed for her, but she’d practiced this moment many times and was just out of reach as he fell to the ground.
As the crowd began to swarm past her, she followed the training, avoiding damaging the Fit-Bit on his arm, and kicking him in the face as she ran past. The others would try and move through the crowd and do the same.
The mob jostled her as she ran with them. Others fell. Her own panic rose as her feet were kicked and a hand shoved at her as others tried to keep their balance. Then she burst through the doors, outside and the crowd spread out. A few strides across the pavement and she was safe. Sweat dripping down her arms onto the concrete.
The echoing screaming seemed distant and faint without the concrete to trap them now. She pulled her phone from her pocket to check the heart rate of her target. The screen was cracked, and it wouldn’t turn on. She glanced around for the other members of her team.
The crowd that had escaped the building began to circle it now, watching. Among them she spotted a man who had signaled from the stage. He met her eyes, removed his bracelet, snapped it in half and tossed it to the ground. The target was dead.
She looked around for the others. They were already dispersing into the parking lot. She would wait. There was small chance that the Fitbit had broken off and was simply no longer tracking his heartbeat. It was her job to make sure the boy never made it to tomorrow.
The police, fire department, and ambulance arrived. They secured the building, and brought out three body bags. The boy had to be in one of them. He’d never emerged from the factory. She gave her statement like everyone else and headed toward her car. On the ground she stepped on a discarded newspaper. It was a college campus paper discussing one of the worst tragedies at a night club, and all the signals that the crowd had ignored. The team had put that article in the papers of all three colleges that might attend this concert. They wanted to make sure it was fresh in the minds of the people; how they should react. Whoever had hired her knew what they were doing. It was one of the most complicated hits she’d ever done, but seeing the after math it was clean. No one would ever know what really happened tonight.
Jay Nichols stood in the empty printing factory. Streaks of grey wove through his dark hair. Age had taken some of his muscles mass, but he’d kept his shape. The occasionally scuffle with Alvero’s men was a constant motivator to keep him on top of his training. But he’d also learned from Stephenson the importance of blending in. Too fit, too well groomed, and people remembered you, so he bought his clothes too large and they hung loose and mis-fitting around him. His athletic body covered in saggy folds. He lowered himself to one knee and his jeans bunched up around his ankles, the hem dirty from dragging on the ground.
Strewn around the factory were torn and damaged boxes. They seem to leak propaganda as campaign posters, and banners, spilling their red, white and blue over the gray cement. The floor was marked with countless scuffs from the rubber soles that stampeded over it. A week ago, his research assistant died here along with two others.
The clicking of heels on stone echoed through the room and he looked up to see Alice standing beside a pillar. Her blonde hair and blue eyes as bright as ever, but there wrinkles around them now.
He tried to meet her eyes, but she averted her gaze. “You followed me here?”
She shrugged. “You think it was Alvero?”
“Maybe. Or Miguel, or Costly, or all three. Hard to say.”
Alice gestured to the room. “Why them?”
Nichols pointed to where he guessed the body of his assistant had been found. “I him warned not to use the internet to search for Sky Fall, but that’s what his generation does.” He touch the floor as though examining the floor closer. “The other two might just have been collateral damage, but I’m still looking into it.”
“So, what now?”
Nichols took a deep breath and scanned the room. “This has gone on too long. I know what Alvero has and what he has threatened, but I don’t care anymore. I think it’s best if we take him off the board.”
“That won’t be easy. He has an army.” She took a few steps closer. “You have a plan for us already?”
“No.” He turned to face her. “And there is no us. I still don’t trust you.”
Her lower lip tightened. “I sorry it hurt you, but it was the only way I could think of. I’m sorry you can’t forgive me, but I wouldn’t do it differently. I could help you with this though.”
“Part of the problem with you Alice, is that I don’t know what you want. I can never guess at what you’ll do. You’re not on my side. You’re on your own side of everything.” Nichols rose to his feet. “Even now I can’t understand what you’ll get out of helping me. So I have no way of knowing if you’ll turn on me.”
She folded her arms. “I never turned on you. I just left you out of the plan. There is a difference.”
Nichols shook his head. “No. I’d rather go alone than have you at my back.”
Her eyes seem to widen as she looked at him. “I took care of Emma. You said you’d forgive if I did that, but you haven’t.”
“We’re having this conversation because I forgave you. But I still don’t trust you.”
Of all the chapters in the book this one I outlined the least. I continue to wonder if this is where it should stop, or if it starts where it should begin.