Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The night is slashed with beams of white light and the sky is spotted with technicolour detonations.

“Who does that? I ask you. Who does that?”

I don’t know how Mitchell can talk and run at this speed. I shrug in reply and keep going.

We pulled up in the panel van at the designated staging point: under a bridge a klick from the target. From there we moved to the edge of their secondary perimeter and commenced insertion. It was textbook, fully planned out, tactically vetted to hell and gone.

Except for one thing: nobody bothered to check if they had a tertiary perimeter. Where it starts, I don’t know. I suspect it’s a couple of klicks out. Which means Mitchell and I are around three-quarters of the way through it and far from safe.

“We’re nearly two klicks out, man. Let’s find some transport.”

He’s the boss. I wait as he scopes out the driveways of the neighbourhood we’re running through. All modern grid saloons; easy to track and useless off gridded roads. Punching the air, Mitchell points toward a vintage Merc. Ideal.

I’m just about to run after him when my suspicions regarding the tertiary zone stop me in my tracks. Which is the thing that saves me as Mitchell dives into the Merc, slams the door and the killing vapours hide him from view. A flytrap – dummy vehicle, wood and cloth interior, organo-molecular acid sprays – this far out is a new level of vicious.

Some very old training surfaces and I run back toward the target. Without pausing to give them time to triangulate, I dive into the culvert we crossed, letting all my gear pull me down to the bottom of the murky flow.

Taking the oxygen bottle from the medical kit, I ditch the rest of my gear, slow my breathing and let the water take me. Just another chunk of waste on the way to the Solent.

Six hours later I’m lying on the sun-warmed sands of the Isle of Wight. Stripped to my trunks, there is nothing to betray me when I present myself to the local police just after sundown. I tell them a sorry tale about having my car stolen while I spent a day on the beach. They will find it where I left it two days ago, when I was picked up for the job. I’ll get assisted transit to it, after they’ve checked it and found it clean. It’s a hire car, after all.

Then back to bonny Scotia and enough of this sorry Police State infested with paranoid private military companies. Whatever they were protecting, they can keep it. I’ve just retired.

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