Digital Raven (digitalraven) wrote,
Digital Raven

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The Man Who Wasn't

And so ends the challenge. Except... it doesn't. I'm really not happy with this one. It's the first stiry that feels entirely like filler to me. There's no essential hook that grabs my mind. That and the title suggests more.

So as pennance, I'm continuing the challenge into tomorow.

The Man Who Wasn't
by Stewart Wilson

The Millennium Dome, London. April 23 2013, 03:42pm

The stained cover still stands, a hollow shell reflecting the hollow promises of the country's supposed leaders. It's cracked and worn, the demolition was long ago written off as too expensive. In the shadows, a man tries in vain to hide his approach. Suit trousers poking out from under a dark coat, expensive shoes. Civil service. There was another person in the darkness only visible to Jack's low-light goggles. Millimetre wave flared up concealed weapons on both parts, and a sheaf of papers under the coat.

This wasn't in his normal line of work. When he needed to kill — and Jack had killed before — he was in the middle of a situation in which other people also wanted to kill him. He had no moral qualms about that, just him and his pistols and the way of the world. Sitting on the other end of a video feed from a sniper platform was stretching his definitions of acceptable. He cranked the inbuilt microphone, listening for the first signs of speech.

“It's here. I don't know why you want the bloody things in paper, but it's all here.”

The other voice was disguised. Radar picked up some kind of vocal modification, which would explain a lot.

“Good. The students at Oxford will riot in three days time. Then you get what you want.”

“But what if it doesn't work? What if we kill people?”

“That's something you really should have thought about before now. You shouldn't be having second thoughts now of all times.”

“You're right. It's for the good of the country.”

“God save the King.”

Jack waited until the figure in darkness was gone and fired two silenced rounds through the civil servant's heart. The platform was already burning, thermite boiling away all usable evidence unless they got government psychics on his trail and by the time they tried that Jack would be well prepared. His normally bright demeanour had vanished, there was no smart quip as he left the pub and began the long walk home.

Home in this case was a rented flat above an Egyptian takeaway. No wallpaper on the walls, bare light bulbs illuminating the two rooms plus shower. All for an extortionate rent, but it's not like the landlord asked any questions, not even Jack's name. That suited everything. He collapsed onto a well-worn mattress and tried to get to sleep. The face of the stooge earlier was burned onto his eyeballs. He'd never been so separated and he didn't like it. Just another reason not to do more of it. Eventually he fell into a fitful sleep.

Jack's dreams were a muddle of symbolism. Wheels turning within wheels, spheres turning within strange geometry. In the middle of it, Jack and his pistols seen from without, a bloody-handed messiah leaping from one wheel to another just at the point where they became spheres or stopped turning altogether. One one final jump, he tripped, and was ground under as the wheel turned into a cog and sharp teeth punctured his body.

He awoke with a start. Sun streaming through the window, there's no way he'd slept more than two hours. That dream was important, he knew. It was the only one he had remembered upon waking for at least five years. Water on his face, still it was there. He caught himself in the mirror and blinked, wondering how the self in his dream had looked so different from his self here. Caffeine tablets and Red Bull, anything to stop him slipping back to that half-tired state. He had things to organise in Oxford.

The drive was pleasant enough, and Jack's car was a comfortable means of travelling. Pink Floyd and Jefferson Airplane on the radio. turned up loud to stop him sleeping at the wheel. There's nowhere for him to stay in the university town but if the shadowy figure was right things would already be in motion. He wouldn't be sleeping. He checked the clips on his pistols and headed for the major demonstration.

No elegant preparation this time. No sniper platforms or hidden cameras. Some part of Jack was sure that this way was the only honest way. On cue, a brick flew into a shop window, the police arrived, Jack was part of the mob, one of the crowd. Everyman. The man who wasn't. The mob trampled the pigs without much trouble and some part of Jack could hear the authorisation to test new crowd control technologies. On a balcony above the fight a student sat, laptop at the ready. This revolution would be televised.

The arrival of a police van shook Jack, and the equipment they pulled from the back was worse. He'd read the white paper, knew a focused pulse weapon when he saw one. He also knew that in twenty percent of cases the strength of the blast fucked with the human body so badly that people dropped into comas rather than just unconsciousness. And they were going to turn it loose on students that the government had convinced the people were “rioting beyond control”. The weapon discharged and fully a third of the assembled crowd fell. The rest threw bricks and rocks, but the fight was dying in them.

Make or break, Jack knew. Let the country be crushed or give it a chance at chaotic freedom. The world slowed as four bullets ruined the pulse weapon and one of the policemen operating it. He was quick to get out of the crowd — he was fighting to protect them and now they were a liability. More bullets, more dead cops. SO-16 got involved, police with an excuse to carry and occasionally shoot guns. More of them died, their weapons unfired. The students, joined by ordinary people who had seen the stories the government were using and saw them for the lies they were, surged forwards. Police marksmen arrived and died in short order, Jack an avatar of death protecting a chaotic mass.

A lucky bullet slammed into the side of his face. The crowd behind him surged and exploded forwards. As he lay dying, Jack knew he had played his part.
Tags: fiction

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