Author : Waldo van der Waal
“Did anybody see you?”
The tone of voice left no doubt with Neville Fox that his answer would have a profound impact. He studied the face of the man before him. General John G. Cooper was not a man to be trifled with. The tattoos on his forehead distinguished him as a combat veteran, and the ocular implant, linked to the Ministry’s infinite resources marked him as a member of a very small group of men that held the keys to everything in the known universe.
The mission was a routine one. Or so it had seemed at the time. Fox had received his briefing directly from the General, before being escorted as usual to the Ostium – the machine that had shaped everything for eons.
“They might as well have called it Deus,” he had thought silently to himself as he arrived at the sealed entrance. The guard hardly glanced at him.
He placed his hand on the biomat.
“Neville Fox, MA329941. Mission 019.”
The holographic door dissovled soundlessly, revealing the interior of the Ostium. The room he entered was cramped, dimly lit and musty. He took off all his clothes, the laser rings and aural connectors, and placed the items on a metal rack. Next he took one of the fully charged Return Keys from the charging dock, activated it and swallowed it. If you want to take something along, it has to be inside you.
“Neville Fox, MA329941. This is Mission 019. Please lie down.”
Fox had never met the Ostium operator. He didn’t know if it was a he or a she, or even if it was human. But he always obeyed. And this was his 19th mission. One more after this, and he would not have to worry about credits ever again.
He rested his head on the cold, metal indentation, and placed his arms and legs into the molds. The transportation device itself was a barren stretch of platinum, with the indent of a male form on its surface. But underneath, it was linked to electronic wonders that would’ve escaped the human race for eons, had they not made Contact when they did. And then came the pain.
It felt as if every atom of his body was sucked from his very bones. Downward, into the platinum below him. Neville Fox ceased to exist.
At the very same instant, he arrived at the coordinates that the mission required. And then it was into the familiar routine: Find clothes, blend in, acquire a weapon, complete the mission. Talk to no one if it can be helped, and above all – make sure you aren’t seen at the wrong moment.
Everything had gone smoothly. Clothing, a weapon, concealment on a grass-covered hill. Then the wait, which was mercifully short this time.
He had peered down the busy road from his hiding place. Identified the target in the open-top car, coming slowly down the street, in between the thousands that line the road with American flags. Aim. Breathe. Wait. And then the shot.
Fox hadn’t even waited to see the result. He knew he had killed the target. Tearing the clothes from his body even as ran, he paused only to place the rifle into a deep hole near his hiding place. A hole that would cease to exist in only a few seconds. He manipulated his adam’s apple, activating the Return Key where it had lodged. In downtown Dallas a man who was never there, suddenly ceased to exist.
He met the General’s gaze squarely. “No sir,” he said confidently, “No one saw me.”
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